New green technology to boost rural economies

Most fertilisers today are produced in large-scale, centralised facilities and then shipped to rural areas in emerging markets such as Kenya. Due to the added transportation costs, rural farmers often pay much more for their fertilisers than the rest of the world. This adds to the cost of food production and drives small-scale farmers into a cycle of poverty. Over time, chemical fertilisers also acidify the soil, reducing crop yield and polluting nearby water sources.

A Kenyan innovator has developed a new fertiliser production technology that can be implemented in rural villages with locally available resources and labour. The innovation uses a novel chemical process called oxygen-lean torrefaction – this works to convert crop residues into carbon-rich forms that enhance the nutrient level and water retention capacity of the soil.

From the initial production, post-harvest yields have improved by 27% for 3,500 smallholder farmers, resulting in a net income increase of around 50%. With production taking place at the village level, communities can also benefit from a £100,000 annual boost to their local economies.

The project has also had important environmental benefits – recycling crop residues as opposed to open field burning has helped to reduce particulate emissions by more than 95%. In this case, more than 6,000 tonnes of crop residues have been recycled, saving the equivalent of 8,400 tonnes of CO2. With the recent COVID- pandemic throwing many international supply chains into disarray, there are plans to further expand the project so small-scale, rural farmers can be best supported.

Safi Organics has developed locally-run carbon-negative fertiliser production for rural communities that prevents soil degradation, protects food security, and increases income of smallholder farmers.

Mr Samuel Rigu, Safi Organics Limited

Safi Organics: decentralised, customisable, and carbon-negative fertiliser production for rural communities using locally available resources and labour

Project leads: Mr Samuel Rigu, Safi Organics Limited, Kenya

Delivery partners: Royal Academy of Engineering, UK and the Kenya National Innovation Agency

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