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Climate change in Kenyas Red Zones

Marisela Moraa’s current work of helping pastoralists and farmers mitigate climate change in Kenyan semi-arid areas started while she was researching for her master’s degree thesis at the University of Nairobi. “I am the founder of Easytech Farm Solutions Limited, a company whose main goal is to champion climate-smart agriculture to enable farmers to improve their productivity and adapt to climate change, as well as create resilient food systems. We work with pastoralists and agro-pastoralists in Kajiado and Laikipia counties,” Moraa, who is a PhD student in 2023, said.  

While working on her master’s thesis, Moraa discovered that pastoralists are more vulnerable because they live in the so-called ‘red zones’– the arid and semi-arid lands characterized by hot temperatures. To Moraa, that meant the death of livestock – hence collapsing livelihoods. “The chain of problems further goes down to deadly diseases and lack of opportunities for women and children. When I thought of producing a way to address climate change adaptation, my project was officially born.” 

In 2021, Moraa was selected to participate in a programme by an Italian organization. The opportunity allowed her to implement her proposal in a country different from her native Kenya. Choosing Burkina Faso, Moraa and her team implemented hydroponic projects focusing on women in Ouagadougou.  

“We focused on women because they are both caregivers and because they can impact other 100 women or more. The project is currently ongoing in Burkina Faso, and we are happy to have made an impact. Back to Kenya, we started with the hydroponic fodder project to address the same challenges as in Burkina Faso,” Moraa said, adding that they have an open farm for communities to learn about this initiative. 

Hydroponic fodder is produced by growing seeds without soil, and with extremely little water; within six-seven days, the seeds are sprouted, the seedlings will be up to 30-35 cm tall and provide highly nutritious fodder. 

“Our product is hydrophobic fodder, which is grown in environmentally controlled hydroponic units. It involves controlling the temperature and the amount of moisture. Our prototype proved that this product can be consumed by livestock, even after spending a year on the shelf, which makes it viable in terms of adaptation to climate change,” Moraa explained.  

Moraa’s immediate market is the Kenya pastoralist community. She notes that according to records by the Kenya Bureau of Standards, Kenya has 14,164 pastoralists. Because the start-up cannot reach that big number, Moraa and her team have identified a service obtainable market of about 165 pastoralists reachable within the period of the next two months. “We are hoping that these pastoralist communities will help us scale up our project to the wider Kajiado and the surrounding counties.”   

Moraa believes that, so far, Easytech’s greatest milestone is managing to enter the international market through the Burkina Faso project. Moraa also lists being able to attract farmers and other stakeholders as another milestone. “Now we have two main farms which we have been developing; and two of them are contributing to revenues. That we have been able to open our farms into learning centers is also an achievement. We have been privileged to partner with international agencies like EIT Climate-KIC and KCIC Consulting Limited. And we are also hoping that soon, we are going to have other partners.”  

To be able to scale their model demonstration farm, Moraa appeals for funds. The start-up’s current farm is located on leased land. She is looking at a future in which the firm owns around 20 acres of land, which comprises a training center. She also wants to spread to new markets. “We are focused on the Iraqi and Saudi markets and the whole of Kenya and the East African region,” she said. 

To gain new skills and break barriers, Easytech Farm Solutions Limited in November 2022 applied to take part in theAdaptation and Resilience  ClimAccelerator in Africa. This programme, initiated by the climate innovation organization EIT Climate-KIC, is an African-wide accelerator project for start-ups to innovate, catalyze and scale the potential of their climate solutions. The initiative is funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Ireland (Irish Aid). All the 16 start-ups that were selected had demonstrated solutions that address physical climate risks or build the resilience of communities.  Local partners, Kenyan sustainability consulting company KCIC Consulting Limited (KCK) and Senegalese based enterprise support organization Concree SAS, mentored the start-ups for five months through tailored business coaching, and professional guidance on finance. They also supported the firms to define the climate impact potential of their solution and prepare for future investment opportunities. Each of the firms received a grant of €2,500. 

Moraa is excited by the progress. “We are happy to have been given the chance to make a pitch and we are looking forward to the journey. KCL Consulting will support our venture by helping us buy the raw materials we require to make more fodder. As we speak, KCL is already supporting us with marketing, incubation and implementing our model. Our dream is that by the end of this program, we shall be able to scale up our production and enter the market,” Moraa concludes.  

The mentorship helped her define what exactly Easytech Farm needs to remain sustainable going forward. “We are also looking at scaling our own technologies. For example, we would like to have more irrigation systems. We are looking for investors who can fund us with around US$100,000 – which would help us implement our development model.