Malnutrition is still one of the biggest problems in many regions of the world, as it is in Kenya. Because the situation in the north of the country is particularly dramatic, we began our fight against hunger there.
In the meantime, we operate another site in Ebukanga in addition to our first site in Nariokotome. Both sites are operated in collaboration with local partner organizations, locals are trained in cultivation, and the spirulina is given to local people on site. This also ensures our sustainability.
Location 1: Nariokotome
In April 2017, we laid the first stone for our pilot farm in Nariokotome. Nariokotome is a small village in northwestern Kenya in Turkana County. The living conditions here are very difficult. Turkana is one of the hottest, driest and poorest regions in the world. Temperatures of over 45°C and extremely salty groundwater make it almost impossible to practice conventional agriculture. This results in serious consequences for the inhabitants: 91% of the population is underweight and 1 in 4 children die before the age of 5. The protein deficiency is mainly responsible for this. In addition, the average daily income does not exceed the equivalent of €1.50. These extreme environmental conditions, which are a major problem for conventional cultivation methods, are optimal for growing spirulina.
That’s why we decided to set up our first spirulina farm right there. For our pilot farm, we are working with the “Missionary Community of Saint Paul the Apostle” (MCSPA). This organization is present in several countries and is always an important support for the people living on the ground. In addition to members of the mission, locals from the village were also fascinated by our idea from the beginning, such as our current farm managers Joseph and Thomas. Joseph in particular was immediately enthusiastic, as he has always been interested in biology. Both men have found a job they love with Thriving Green.
Since building our first pool in April 2017, we have expanded and developed the site. For example, a net now protects the Spirulina pools from sand that could be blown in by the wind. The spirulina is then dried in the sun. We obtain the water we need from a groundwater pump on the site. Due to the very high salt content in the groundwater, it is ideally suited for the cultivation of our algae. Cultivation enables the villagers to provide themselves with sufficient nutrients and thus counteract the problem of malnutrition. After commissioning the site and training the farm managers, the project was handed over to MCSPA in 2019. Since then, this organisation has been independently responsible for the development of the site.
I take care of the spirulina every day. In the morning I open the Spirulina palms and look whether there’re any intruders like dust, dirt or insects that I need to remove. When I see that the Spirulina is ready for harvesting, I prepare and get all the necessary materials for the harvest. Then I take the Spirulina out of the basins and dry it. It’ll be ready on the next day. Otherwise I stir the Spirulina several times a day to make surer the top layer doesn’t burn in the sun.
Learn more about our Farm Manager in our interview.
Location 2: Ebukanga
Since February 2019, we have a second location in Ebukanga, in western Kenya, not far from Lake Victoria. Unlike in Nariokotome, the landscape here is much greener. Although it is possible to grow corn, agriculture is characterized by frequent crop failures and the diet is still quite poor and one-sided, especially among the poorer population. This not infrequently leads to health problems. That is why we decided to build a spirulina farm there as well.
In Ebukanga, we work with the “Village to Global Foundation”, a local organization that is committed to positive local development in many areas. The Foundation places a special focus on school education and the local community. Within this framework, they are also active in various nutrition projects. The cooperation has resulted in the first pool on the school grounds there in the spring of 2019. The spirulina extracted from it is distributed to the school children and mixed into their daily breakfast (porridge) to provide a more balanced diet.
For our second site, we have further developed our original breeding facility and adapted it to the different conditions. For example, there is now a solar-powered circulation system (paddle-wheel), which ensures gentle, slow mixing of the pools. Moreover, the spirulina can be dried in the new drying chamber in a protected and efficient way. And last but not least, our pool got a translucent roof, which protects against possible contamination by rain.
Link Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/villagetoglobalfoundation/
Location 3: Mombasa
After successfully establishing our first two locations in Nariokotome and Ebukanga, we were able to partner with Inshape Fitness Limited to open another location in Mombasa in the spring of 2021. We owe this new opening to the Inshape Fitness Limited team and our local farm manager Edward. In 2019, he contacted us and told us about his vision to open a spirulina farm in Kizingo in Mombasa.
Mombasa County has a population of over 1.3 million people. About 40% of this population suffers from malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies, with 10% dependent on government food assistance programs and support from benefactors such as Mombasa Cement. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has made the situation even worse. Job losses, food shortages in the country, and increases in staple food prices make it difficult for families to afford more than one meal a day. Because Spirulina is rich in protein and other nutrients, it offers a great opportunity to combat the effects of malnutrition in this population.
Two and a half years have passed, and a lot has happened. Edward’s enthusiasm and motivation for the project, his knowledge about the Kenyan market, his network, our financial support and the experience we gained establishing our first two farms made it possible to build the first basin in November 2020. At the beginning of 2021, we implemented the seeding culture into a small test basin and successfully cultivated it. Therefore, production in the large cultivation basin began in April. Since May 2021, it delivers a regular and high-quality harvest of spirulina.
Let’s talk facts and figures: Up until now, the plant consists of a large cultivation basin measuring 4×15×1m. About 300 g of spirulina can be harvested daily, which gives us about 2.2 kg per week or about 8.4 kg per month. At the moment, the work on site is in Edward’s hands. Every day he is busy for a few hours with the day to day activities of the farm.
In May 2021, the spirulina was analyzed and the purity of the product successfully certified. This allows the superfood to be sold in various locations in Mombasa and Nairobi, such as gyms, supplement clinics, and grocery stores. The revenue covers the facility’s day-to-day expenses, including the salary of Edward, who works full time at the farm. Our goal is also to distribute Spirulina to medical facilities so that it can be used in medical nutrition therapy for children suffering from protein-energy malnutrition and anemia. The demand of spirulina by far exceeds the supply. In the long term, Inshape Fitness Limited wants to work with Thriving Green to expand production. Also, we are working together on turning the Mombasa facility into a training centre, recruite employees, familiarize them with the craft of spirulina cultivation and increase production. Thereby, locals will have more access to the superfood spirulina and to the jobs that will be created in the centre.