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.
We have now built tanks for spirulina cultivation at several locations in Kenya. The construction and cultivation is carried out together with local partner organizations, locals are trained in cultivation and the spirulina is given to the local population. In this way, we want to ensure the sustainability of our projects.
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, it has been independently responsible for the development of the site. This location served as a pilot project in which we were able to gain a lot of experience.
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
In February 2019, we opened 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. Our long-standing partner and local contact is Zachuas, Chairman of the Inua Village Group.
The Inua Village Group is 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 schoolchildren and mixed into their daily breakfast (porridge) to ensure a more balanced diet(https://www.facebook.com/villagetoglobalfoundation/).
In Ebukanga, we have further developed our original breeding facility and adapted it to the different conditions. We have installed a solar-powered circulation system (paddle wheel), which ensures gentle, slow mixing of the pools. We have also built a drying chamber in which spirulina can dry more efficiently. A translucent roof was also built over the tank to protect the microalgae from possible contamination by rain.
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 have the team at Inshape Fitness Limited and our local operations manager Edward to thank for this new opening. In 2019, he contacted us and told us about his vision to open a spirulina farm in Kizingo, 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. Because Spirulina is rich in protein and other nutrients, it offers a great opportunity to combat the effects of malnutrition in this population.
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. From May 2021, it provided a regular and high-quality harvest of spirulina. In addition analyzed the spirulina and successfully certified the purity of the product. This enabled the superfood to be sold in various places in Mombasa and Nairobi, such as gyms, and the income covered the running costs of the facility, including the salary of Edward, who works full-time on the farm. Our goal was to distribute spirulina to medical facilities so that it could be used in medical nutrition therapy for children suffering from protein-energy malnutrition and anemia. We also wanted to work with Edward to turn the Mombasa facility into a training center to introduce more local residents to the craft of spirulina cultivation and increase production. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine led to a global fertilizer shortage and a sharp rise in fertilizer prices. After a few months, these exceeded our local financial resources, so we had to discontinue our spirulina project in Mombasa with a heavy heart. Our partner there, Edwards, has returned to his home in Kisumu.
Thanks to his boundless motivation for our project, we have succeeded in launching a new project in Kisumu, Buheri farms. The aim is still to combat hunger and malnutrition with sustainable cultivation methods.
Location 4: Buheri farms in Katito
Together with our long-standing partner Edward Kute, we have launched another project in Katito, a small town in Kisumu County near Lake Victoria: Buheri Farms.
Buheri Farms has existed since 2017. This is a vegetable farm that is run using sustainable technologies. Since 2017, we have implemented various processes together with Edward to make management more sustainable and ecological. Drip irrigation minimizes water consumption, seven ponds store up to 300,000 liters of water and shade nets reduce the damage caused by strong sunlight.
By 2030, Buheri Farms should be a successful, regional company that is operated sustainably using climate-resilient technology.
In addition to growing various vegetables, plans are underway for our first spirulina tank on site.