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Protect, sustain and work with mother earth by transforming the future of Kenya farming.

Provide advanced microbial technology for soil rejuvenation that addresses the root of agriculture's greatest challenges.

Photo of Mary Kimani
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Plant Grow Limited

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

None

Website of Legally Registered Entity

www.plant-grow.com

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 1-3 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Nairobi

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Kenya

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Uasin Gishu County

What country is your selected Place located in?

Kenya

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

During my University, I did a case study on farming practices in Uasin Gishu County and most of my colleagues hail from the same county. Hence, we understand and we are familiar with people, culture, potential and exactly what is required to transform the farming sector in this region being the most lucrative agricultural area in the country. 

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Uasin Gishu County is one of the 47 counties of Kenya in the North Rift Region. It is located on a plateau and has a cool and temperate climate. Uasin Gishu is largely a cosmopolitan region, with the Nandi people of indigenous Kalenjin communities having the highest settlement. Apart from Kalenjin sub-tribes, other communities with a notable presence in the county, especially in urban settlements include Luhya, Kikuyu, Luo, Kamba, Kisii among others.

 Although traditionally pastoralists, modern Kalenjin communities are mainly large scale wheat and maize farmers earning the county a name for being Kenya’s breadbasket. Dairy farming is also done on a large scale in most parts of the county. Various food and horticultural crops also do well in this highly arable land. The county has 1728 operational fish ponds covering 486,000m2 with annual fish production of 593,000kg. 

The staple Kalenjin food is Ugali . This is a cake-like, starchy food that is made from white cornmeal mixed with boiling water and stirred vigorously while cooking. It is eaten with the hands and is often served with cooked green vegetables such as kale.

Kalenjin ethnic groups are renowned for exceptional performance in sporting activities, especially athletics. Uasin Gishu is referred to as a county of champions and long-distance marathon super-stars owing to their prowess in international athletic sports performances. Other communities living in the county are entrepreneurs, mainly operating businesses in urban centers.

Most population in Uasin Gishu county being farmers their hopes is to increase yields and to get a ready market for their produce this will prevent them  from the farmers' vicious cycle of poverty. They also hope to get affordable and sustainable inputs.

The Uasin Gishu County farmers on the issue of diet are encouraged to grow and also consume more traditional food crops for food security.



What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

2955

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

1163186

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Current 2020

Environment: Decrease in land size, the increasing population growth in the county, has continued to exert pressure on natural resources, especially land. Such pressure and continued subdivision of land through inheritance, has resulted in a very small piece of land whose commercial viability is low. Declining soil fertility due to continuous tiling of the same land coupled with the overuse of fertilizers and chemicals. Due to land resource constrain, many farmers in the county continuously engage in their farms for agricultural production without room for soil nutrient replenishment. Climate change has also widely impacted on agricultural productivity in Uasin Gishu County. The county is largely a rain-fed area therefore, failure or delay of rains or any climate disorders e.g. floods, droughts affect the agricultural production negatively.

Economics: Increase in the cost of farm inputs is a great threat to agricultural production by farmers in Uasin Gishu County. To make matters worse, many farmers in the county do not apply enough fertilizer and other productivity-enhancing agronomic practices and technologies on their farms due to the high cost of such inputs. Poor infrastructure including poor rural roads, markets and transport systems that result in high transaction costs for farmers and inaccessibility to input and output markets are among the main concerns for the sector. 

Diets: Soil quality is directly linked to food quality and quantity. The current food system threatens the health of people and the planet: agriculture accounts for 70% of water use and generates unsustainable levels of pollution and waste. Risks associated with poor diets are the leading cause of death in the county. Thousands of people are either not eating enough or eating the wrong types of food, resulting in a double burden of malnutrition that can lead to illnesses and health crises.

Culture: Uasin Gishu County farmers' attitudes and desires are influenced by society culture. Even if the benefits of other methods are explained to them, their strongly held attitudes may make it difficult for them to change.

Technology: The excessive use of chemicals with the help of machines reduces the fertility of the land. Lack of practical knowledge the farmers cant handle the machines properly. While the cost of maintenance is very high.

Policy: High-interest loan, Inaccessibility to credit especially for small scale farmers and especially women has limited the range of activities, the type of technology used and the scale of operations that a farmer can adopt on his farm

Future 2050

There will be intense soil pollution due to overuse of chemical fertilizer that will have completely altered soil's biodiversity, reduce soil organic matter and soils' capacity to act as a filter, this will have an effect on the water we drink, the food and the air we breathe. With this on our way will have minimal to no production to feed the growing population and with no carbon-sequestering escalating the climate change.

The government's deregulation bill will be at the expense of public protection which will compromise long-term survival.



Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Our vision is to have soil microbes’ inoculants as the future of a good agriculture system. To realize this stunning potential, farmers would need to adopt certain game-changing farming practices that restore depleted soils, largely through spurring the activity of the soil microbiome, a web of microscopic life that includes fungi, nitrogen-fixing bacteria and trillions of other bacteria that promote plant growth. Like the microbes that live in and on our bodies, helping us with everything from nutrition to immune responses, soil microbes are allies. 

Research has shown they can help restore degraded soils. This capacity gives soil microbes the potential of revolutionizing agriculture. Healthier soils produce higher crop yields, hold water more effectively, sequester more carbon and allow for increased agricultural productivity on existing land.

Secondly, soil microbes can help plants tolerate hot temperatures and drought brought about by climate change. Plants treated with soil microbes have a deeper root system and their shoots grow more quickly. Consequently, under drought stress, plants inoculated with microbes can more effectively take up water from drying soil and maintain near-normal shoot growth rates resulting in increased crop productivity.

soil microbes improve overall plant growth. Increased productivity and income would power a virtuous cycle, enabling poor farmers to invest even more in the sustainability and productivity of their farms. The use of soil microbes to improve soil health and mitigate climate change would be invaluable.

To ensure that smallholder farmers benefit from new biological products, we will do research to map out the diversity of microbes in different crops and climates. We will develop cheaper methods to grow the microbes on a scale that would be available to millions of farmers.

We are joining hands with other private sector companies, public research institutions and governments to undertake the research and product development needed to serve poor farmers across the county and Kenya as a whole.

 We will invest in understanding and harnessing the many benefits presented by the trillions of microbes that exist in healthy soils. As researchers as we will continue to develop promising new biological products, we will educate and guide farmers to better steward the populations that already exist in their soils. At a time when climate change is threatening our ability to sustainably grow food, protecting the soils that are home to our allies-soil microbes-is a game-changer.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Exploiting the interactions between soil microbial communities and crops is a relevant approach that will increase food production for the growing population at the lowest environmental costs, in the current scenario of global change.

Soil microbe inoculant is Climate-Smart so the people of Uasin Gishu County will experience more productive and resilient in the face of climate change while reducing emissions, both for crops and livestock. improved livelihoods and creates more and better jobs, including for women and youth. boosts agribusiness by building inclusive and efficient value chains and improves food security and produces enough safe, nutritious food for everyone, everywhere, every day.

New farming endeavors promise to battle the opposing problems of both malnutrition and obesity. To create better crop diversity for human health and food security. More environmentally friendly farming techniques offset climate challenges and protect local ecological systems while securing the food and water supply.

Microbes inoculant work to improve soil fertility. By not using pesticides, farmers will allow groundwater to maintain greater quality and cleanliness. These methods will encourage biodiversity in crops, maintain more natural environments in and around farms, and create better habitats for flora and fauna.

Another positive development in farming will be the rapid expansion of farmers' markets. Farmers' markets allow small farmers to interact directly with consumers this will be brought about by the awareness we will be creating in the county educating farmers on the good supply chain. The food system remains within the local economy by being locally produced and eliminates the need for long-distance transportation. The opportunity to purchase locally grown food proves invaluable as the demand for it rises. 

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Agriculture is imperative to human survival—providing nutritious food, clean air and water, and maintaining the soil resource. Soil health is an indicator of system performance in rejuvenating and enhancing the soil’s ecological, environmental and economic services. Its economic value is an integral part of the system’s returns and benefits. we are taking in a systematic approach that reflects the mechanism by which we develop and maintain healthy soil as the foundation for productive and sustainable agriculture.

The major outbreak of the green revolution is a deterioration of the physical, chemical and biological properties of soil due to excessive use of agrochemicals to maximize crop yield. Presently, sustainability and health of soil are of great concern and that’s why we are looking for alternatives of agrochemicals. We are harnessing organic amendments and microbes inoculants for their efficient use as biofertilizers and biopesticides

When people think of microbes, many of them picture germs and diseases. But most microbes are beneficial, and we literally could not live without them. For too long we have ignored the benefits of a healthy microbiome in agriculture. The explosion of interest in beneficial microbes for food production is exciting and portends a future when agriculture is less reliant on chemicals. The future of food is below our feet in the invisible universe of the microbial world. We envision in 2050:

Technology: Plant Grow will improve farmers' profitability, environmental sustainability, and consumer health through the use of natural microbiology and computer technologies for optimizing beneficial microbes to agricultural and water remediation applications. Thanks to advancements in DNA sequencing and machine learning, we are able to single out microbes that can be beneficial to the way we grow food. Our microbial tech will work through a process that iteratively and selectively breeds generations of microbes, guided by DNA fingerprints, to arrive at a predetermined microbial solution in a concentrated form of at least 1×107cfu/ml (colony-forming units per milliliter). This will be utilized as bioinoculant for sustainable agriculture as biofertilizers, biopesticides, and biodegrades.

Environment: With our soil microbes inoculants, plants will absorb nutrients much more efficiently, thus reducing the need to inject more chemicals into the soil reducing attendant runoff into the water stream. Farmers will no longer need the chemical fertilizer we use today, and we will eliminate as much as 90% of the chemical insecticides and fungicides. This is how Plant Grow will harness tech and enhance biodiversity to help farmers sustainably feed the growing population.

Economy: With our vision, we will open the vast untapped potential for farmers, investors, and entrepreneurs to improve the efficiency of food production and consumption. From precision farming to an efficient food supply chain, our invention will bring major economic, social, and environmental benefits. With new enterprises created there will be more jobs and greater disposable income among the people by significantly transforming the industry that employs most of its citizens by increasing crop yields, reducing food waste, mitigating climate change, and naturing biodiversity.

Diet: Research indicates that there are some amino acids and antioxidants important for human health that can only be produced by soil microbes the likes of fungi and bacteria, meaning that they only get into the human food chain through a connection to the soil. Food security is no longer just about having enough food, it is also about having nutrient-dense food so we can solve the twin crises of malnutrition and obesity that we are finding among people. By inoculating microbes back to the soil our vision will enhance all the food are nutritious and of quality, as we believe healthy soil is directly linked to food quality and quantity.

Policy: There will be a task force represented by different stakeholders in the food system to review the food system annually and use the information to shape a better approach. Government subsidies will not be given to non-organic farming practices. we also envision to work together with the county extension officer to train and create awareness of the importance of healthy soil by working with soil diversity, which will mitigate most of the predicament Uasin Gishu county people are going through from climate change to poor crop production. 



How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Website

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Nice project all the best!

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