So COVID19 hit us, right in the kidneys where it really hurts. Economies worldwide are smarting from the disruptions which forced many people to hole up in “Safety”. All rushing to stock up on tissue paper and hand sanitizer, in an effort to flatten the curves which were all so wavy and steep. The COVID pandemic has had its up and downs, but for the organic industry especially in Kenya (I can only speak for Kenya), it has seen a greater demand for healthy chemical free food, just ask Sylvia’s Basket and she’s bound to have some inspiring financial records.
But we’re digressing, lets get to the matter at hand. The message of Let Thy Food be Thy Medicine and Thy Medicine Thy Food, really struck home. Many people are consciously transitioning into healthy chemical free food a.k.a Organic Food and they’re reaping the benefits.
Let Thy Food be Thy Medicine and Thy Medicine Thy Food
Food has always been a hot topic in Kenya (pun intended), and that’s why this interesting book is sure to have your mind salivating.
The Barefoot Guide to Surviving COVID19 is written by the Natural Food Barefoot Guide Writer’s Collective, a group of highly influential food advocates from Africa. Key among the writers is our very own Peter Mokaya CEO of the Organic Consumers Alliance.
COVID19 is a deadly disease which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives to date, it is sad that despite the damage the pandemic has had on the health and welfare of the human race, many are still divided on how to handle it. The Guide appreciates the magnitude of COVID19 but is keen to emphasize on the role of diet in strengthening our immunity.
The beauty of the book (aside from the great graphics and illustrations) is the easy language and story telling format it takes on which makes for a delightful read. The book focuses on indigenous African dishes which are available (depending on you locale) in open markets. It has 5 Chapters each very important to read which take the reader along the lives of different characters and holds your hand while explaining some highly technical topics but in a very laid back manner. The Guide is neither too technical nor is it over simplified to be of little use to those with background knowledge of the topics discussed.
The book is written by Africans for Africans and presents African solutions to Global problems
It explains the misconceptions that exist in the food industry while giving tangible solutions. From issues of negative impacts of high fat and calorie diets , to how to start your own garden are covered. The book paints a realistic holistic picture of the ordinary citizens quest for healthy food for their family and the challenges in misinformation that exist while giving feasible solutions to the problems presented.
The book is written by Africans for Africans and presents African solutions to global problems. It is a must read and the information contained is priceless. The COVID19 Pandemic is still raging, its not too late to change neither is it too late to improve.
The Guide is currently Free to Download on the Organic Consumers Alliance (OCA) Website
DEADLINE : September 30th 2020
PROVISION OF SERVICES FOR KOAN PROJECT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM DEVELOPMENT
1.0 About KOAN
Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN) is a national membership organization for organic agriculture in Kenya. KOAN was formed to coordinate, facilitate and provide leadership and professional services to all members and other stakeholders in the organic agriculture sector in Kenya. KOAN Membership is derived from farmers, traders, exporters, service providers (extension officers, certification bodies) and research institutions. The organization goal is to develop key competencies, skills and strategies in the areas of Organic Production; Marketing; Standards and Certification; Training, Extension and Information Exchange; Networking, Policy and Advocacy. In order to effectively dispense its mandate of availing quality organic produce to consumer’s at the most convenient way, KOAN would like to develop an in house project management and tracking system. The aim is to develop a dynamic system that has functionality of CRM, project tracking, task management and reporting to Kenya Organic Agriculture Network
2.0 Services required.
KOAN is looking for a service provider to develop a project management system for the organization and pillar implementing partners in Ecological Organic Agriculture Initiative (EOAI). The system will be used to manage donor projects in line with the acceptable project management benchmarks and methodologies and profile ease monitoring of project activity progress on real time basis.
3.0 System Description
The KOAN Project management System is envisioned to be a holistic platform which allows for tracking of projects and project activities in line with donor grant contracts for KOAN and its partners. Initially, it will be created to incorporate 3 partners in Ecological Organic Agriculture Initiative with a possibility of expanding in the future to cover more partners. It should provide most of the features acceptable in project management and go above by providing tracking and alerting capabilities from Goal, outcomes, outputs and activities.
The Kenya Organic Agriculture Network is looking for a custom project management software developed in line with KOAN operating principles, procedures, systems and constraints. The system should be interoperable with other existing KOAN custom systems and allow for customization based on arising needs. The system also needs to be agile and flexible.
The Systems should have the following minimum features;
- Project planning and scheduling-
Shared timelines to activate experience and creativity of entire teams to collaboratively create and visualize a project plan. A process where one can easily define the project goals, objectives and specify the work to be done/activities related to this scope. Analyze the required activities and create a detailed plan that shows how and when the project will provide the deliverables defined in the project scope.
Key deliverables to include- Gantt charts and Timelines
Daily up to yearly timeline; Real-time updates; Integrated task management; Multi-project timeline report; Follows-precedes relationships; Fully customizable columns and filters
- Product roadmap and release planning
Create easy ways to plan, visualize, and communicate product/project roadmap. Ability to share product roadmap with stakeholders, get feedback about ideas and break it down into a detailed release plan. Align product roadmaps with company’s corporate strategy and create buy-in and transparency across all teams.
Key deliverables to have
Project Status in progress bar; Multi-project roadmap; Analyze status, priority, assigned person; Scoped based on user permissions; Compare estimated time and actual time; Document key information in wiki
- Task management and team collaboration
Task management software to easily create, assign and manage work. Allow the project manager to stay always on top of the latest development. Create a dynamic task list to provide an overview of all the work that has to be completed. See the progress, who is working on which tasks and what tasks have an approaching deadline. Ability to transition easily to project planning by activating the Gantt chart and setting dates as well as relationships between tasks.
Key deliverables to have;
Inline editing; Integrated Gantt chart; Custom permissions; Email updates; Custom fields; Custom workflows; Create your own view; Export as PDF, XLS, CSV;
- Use of Project Management Methodology Boards (KANBAN, AGILE, SCRUM)
Ability to have boards for: managing tasks, developing new features, prioritizing activities, monitoring risks, planning sprints or releases, spreading ideas, anything! Flexible boards which can be configured to user needs, easy to get started and fun to work with.
- Time tracking, cost reporting and budgeting
The system should make time tracking easy. Stay on top of project budgets and costs spent. Create custom reports for accurate, current insight into project performance and allocated resources. Plan the cost for each project phase, and see how much of the allocated budget has been spent at a glance.
Key deliverables to have;
Project budgets; Custom cost types; Project-based hourly rates; Dashboard; Share cost reports; Custom fields; Custom permissions; Export as CSV; Integrated project management features;
- Project wiki
Ability to collaboratively create and maintain a project wiki. Manage project documentation, references, guidelines, user manual at one central place and create a knowledge base for projects and share it with team and other stakeholders. Ability to easily insert, edit and format texts (e.g. copy and paste from Word), include tables, pictures, links, and other references to the System (e.g. work package tables, Gantt charts or tickets). Have all changes at one site, or export texts (e.g. in Markdown). Create detailed navigation structure with a side menu, table of contents, and site hierarchies.
- Types of users:
- KOAN Project Staff
- Project partners
- Contractors working for KOAN
- Technical expertise:
- Project Managers/ Officers need to be conversant with project management principles and practices
- All users’ needs to have minimal technical expertise (need to know how to use the mouse and keyboard)
This program will operate in the following operating environment for the client and the server
- Apple Mac OS X (Universal)
- Linux/Unix (Source code)
- Microsoft Windows (Installer)
- Web browser (universal)
The system shall be available online through company VPN
The system shall be installed on the company server (Window Server 2010) .
4.0 Time frame
The estimate start date is October 2020 with final hand over expected not later than 4 months from the signing of service contract.
5.0 Expertise required
KOAN is therefore looking for a qualified consultant to undertake the services indicated above. The consultant should have the following:
- Incorporated Company – with Tax compliance certificate
- Formal training at a degree level on computer literacy or related.
- Have a profile of at least 3 CMS and Object Oriented Systems similar to the specifications in question he/she has developed. This should be supported by contact persons and contacts of the clients.
- At least 5 years’ experience in the field of developing mobile based applications and web based systems with end to end functionality.
The prospective consultant is requested to send a financial proposal indicating daily rate of payment, number of days that he/she will take and total cost inclusive of taxes.
7.0 Technical approach
The consultant should send a proposed technical framework for developing the application.
The technical framework and budget should be sent to KOAN not later than 10th September 2020 COB on email@example.com For any enquiries call 0728 772 805
Cities are largely dependent on the rural areas for food. Unwittingly, they usually are the final and most important component of the complete city food system. In a nutshell, the food system is simply an economic system, that facilitates production, aggregation, processing and distribution of food to city dwellers; with proceeds flowing back through the value chain actors’ and even further back to input manufacturers. However, it is much more complex than that it seems. It has effects on soil structure, fertility and water-holding capacity; resilience to climate change, crop, animal and human productivity; food security, health and biodiversity; social capital, employment generation, gender; and general national development. It is therefore apparent, that it transcends geopolitical relationships, politics, governance, social and cultural aspects.
The demand for affordable foods in the cities grows at the rate of population growth modulated by changing tastes and cultural diversity. There is also a similar increase in enterprises to meet this demand, driven by desire for profit. These enterprises span across the provision of needed inputs and equipment, through aggregation transport and distribution to the consumer industry of retailing and restauranting.
Opportunity for gain abounds, since people must eat. In modern times, interest to make money has overridden core needs of sustainability, health, fairness and care. The consequences are manifest in depleted and poisoned soils, loss of biodiversity, exponential increase in non-communicable diseases, oppression and exploitation of the producing communities and urban poor.In their current state, city food systems are not sustainable and are failing to meet food and nutrition needs for all.
Increasing demand for food is linked to greater, intensified and extensive use of synthetic agricultural inputs. Ultimately Modern farming has been equated to desertion of nature for production needs. It does this at a high cost to the environment and resultant loss of resilience among the poor. The cost of biodiversity loss or for ecosystems services is not met by the current system. Approximately 60% of the ecosystem services examined in the Millennium Ecosystems Assessment are being degraded or used unsustainably (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment – Synthesis, 2005). Finally, nature has started to fight back. Now even FAO has recognized the need for “production intensification through ecosystem management” (Plant Production and Protection Division, www.fao.org/ag/AGP). That ideally, consumers should care about what they eat is produced, how safe and nutritious it is, has come as a revelation to many.
Despite this “revelation” agricultural production tends to follow the same old cue. It seems as if the only approvable model of agricultural production in the developing world must ape that in developed world – meaning greater intensification and mono-cultural production dependent upon stronger push for more synthetic input. It is thus easy to predict the outcome. With nature fighting back, more inputs must be made available for less production until vast portions of hitherto productive land lies in waste. Examples abound globally and locally.
The following article appeared on the Kenya Organic Food Festival and Exhibition 2018 Proceedings
The Organic Agriculture industry is full of Opportunities, but information about how to access these opportunities has not always been straightforward, particularly in Kenya. Organic Certification seems to be a grey area in terms of available information. This article is for
A person looking for ways to certify their farms as organic
A person looking for ways to get their produce to market and need certification.
A person looking for general information on organic certification.
If you fall in one or more of the above categories then you’re in luck. The information has been packaged with you in mind.
Third Party Certification:
In this case, the certifier who is a certification company checks the system of production, handling and processing against the organic standards and once he confirms that the system conforms with the organic standards, he issues a certificate and allows the farmer to use an organic mark. The farmer in this case can therefore sell his or her products with an organic mark in the market. Where a farmer or a group of farmers are selling their products in the international market, it is mandatory to go through this type of certification due to the statutory requirements in destination countries such as European Union, United States and Japan.
Third party certification is normally expensive since it is conducted by companies which have profit motives. In some case, where a farmer wants to sell their products in overseas markets, the companies accredited to undertake certification for such markets are from those countries. This means certification by these international companies where they sometimes bring in inspectors from those countries is expensive. In Kenya, there are several international certification companies that do operate. They include ECOCERT, IMO, Soil Association, Control Union, Ceres, Ugocert and Africert.
Where third party certification is being done for domestic or regional markets, local certification companies undertake certification using the East African Organic products standard(EAOPS). These companies are much cheaper than the international companies since they work with local staff. Once they complete the certification process, the farmer is allowed to use the organic mark (Kilimohai mark). The local companies that undertake certification include Organic consumers alliance, Acert, Encert and Nesvax Control.
Participatory Guarantee Approach (PGS):
Where farmers are selling their products in the domestic market, and within a short supply chain, this approach can be used. PGS is a transparent and well elaborate system that integrates participation of all actors in the chain to guarantee integrity of organic products and compliance with organic standards. PGS systems includes a functioning internal control system integrated with the principles of shared vision, transparency, trust, horizontality, participatory and learning among participants. PGS is cheaper compared to third party certification and well is suited for smallholder groups who sell their products locally or in farmers markets. To develop a PGS, farmers need to develop internal rules and clear management systems and procedures which comply with East Africa Organic Product Standards. They also need develop a mechanism of verifying compliance of every member with the internal rules and defined consequences for non compliance with internal rules which are implemented. Every member of the group should take a pledge to follow the rules and participate in the activities of the group including trainings.
Groups willing to develop a PGS system can contact Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN) for training. KOAN is also in charge of assessing and approving PGSses which have been developed. Currently there are 3 groups which have approved PGSses and are participating in the market.
For a farmer to be certified or to be in an approved guarantee system, it is required that the farmer:
- Has adequate physical separation of his or her organic operation from non-organic operation;
- Has adequate records to demonstrate compliance with the standards;
- His/her farm is inspected/peer reviewed at least once per year;
- Undergoes a conversion period before full organic status
Certification system also requires that:
- The farmer knows and understands the organic standards;
- Signs a contract or takes a pledge;
- Needs to be committed to, and capable of, implementing an organic agriculture system;
- Establish records of his operation;
- Accepts inspection/peer review and certification procedures.
Contacts for local certification bodies:
Name of Organisation: Organic consumers Alliance
Contact Person: Dr. Peter Mokaya
Address:14360-00100 GPO Nairobi
Name of Organisation: Encert Limited
Contact Person: Musa Njoka
Address: P.O. BOX 74510-00200, NAIROBI
Telephone: 254 724 910 240
Name of Organisation: Acert services Limited
Contact Person: Susan Njoroge
Address: P.O. BOX 1175 Thika
AGROCHEMICALS AND ALTERNATIVES PROJECT- Transitioning farmers from Agrochemical reliance to safer and sustainable options.
The projects aims at providing alternatives to commercial agrochemicals which are harmful to human, animal and environmental health. The study focuses on Agrochemical use in Murang’a and Kirinyaga, making a comparison between Organic and Conventional Farmers. The project has several components;
Component 1 : Farmer Survey to catalogue pesticide use in both Murang’a and Kirinyaga Counties
Component 2 : Screening of ToxicBusiness Documentaries in both Murang’a and Kirinyaga Counties. These documentaries were developed by the Route To Food Initiative
Component 3 : Development of SafeInputs Database which is a platform with commonly used pesticides and the alternatives available. the Database will serve to transition farmers and other users to safer options following the Integrated Pest Management methods.
Component 4: Media and Publicity of the three components.
This article appeared in AFRONET ISSUE NO 3 JANUARY TO JUNE 2020
Organic agriculture has the potential to generate significant incomes for households, thus potentially uplifting smallholder-farming households from poverty cycles and food/nutrition insecurity. Through various interventions, the number or farmer and land under organic cultivation has been constantly growing in Kenya. With land under organic cultivation increasing from 4,894 hectares in 2016  to 172, 225 hectares under organic in 2019, the writing on the wall is clear, organic is the future of sustainable farming.
The commercial appeal of organic farming has led to a rising number of entrepreneurs eager to rake in the money, caution should be exercised, organic farming should not be viewed as a purely commercial interest, in fact most successful organic farmers started off as subsistence farmers growing only for their own consumption. Through initial struggles to get their processes and practices right, they eventually saw the business opportunity in supplying others with such products. They were able to persevere through the initial disappointments and change in mind-set required to transition into organic. They were able to understand their own farms and create harmonious balance. Any seasoned organic farmer will tell you, no two farms are alike; each has its own set of challenges and character, much like human beings.
For the few out of the many who successfully convert to organic production systems, commercialization of their agribusiness endeavors, pose considerable challenges. Without formal organic market access, most farmers are resigned to selling their produce to undifferentiated conventional markets, where premiums for organic produce are lost. Many organic farmer actually regress back to conventional farming habits due to lack of market access.
This is a paradox, many retailers would like to have organic produce as part of their grocery portfolio, but find it hard to source. The needs is there but there is a mismatch in capacity to fulfill those needs. On closer observation of the problem, the following is clear.
- Retailers are looking for organic produce to sell, the produce has to be of specific quality standards, and not just anything will go. The visual appeal has to be of equal or greater quality than conventional produce. They will be competing for the consumers’ attention and nobody wants to pay a premium for poor quality products. Yes, consumers can be fickle, even organic consumers.
- Consistent supply capacity has to be proven before a retailer takes the risk of opening up a new line of organic products. For retailers, especially big supermarkets, a new product line is a big investment. It involves the physical set up, the capacity building of staff ( all staff need to be sensitized on what is organic, nothing puts off a consumer faster than retail staff who don’t know what they are talking about), the branding and marketing. Going organic is as much a strategic choice for retailers as is the physical positioning of beverages and snack items. They are always looking for crowd pullers and with the increasing focus on healthy foods and lifestyles, organic food is high on the consumer and health totem pole. Therefore, a retailer requires assurances that the line of business is sustainable, in the retail business empty shelves drive away customers.
- Farmers may not necessarily have the requisite skills sets to meet retailers’ demands. Quantities of particular produce maybe available during certain seasons and then they disappear when the product is out of season. Same with quality, it is easy to have high quality produce in the beginning of the season, but maintaining such standards consistently may prove too much for unseasoned farmers.
Therefore, a stalemate of sorts persists, the farmers have the produce in plenty, but the retailers cannot take it and will not take it. Nobody gains anything and the masses are denied access to safe food.
Well, the Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN) has been working on the problem for a number of years. Attempting to bridge this market-supply gap. Through trial and error several things have been established but not limited to,
1) It is not enough to introduce farmers to retailers and vice versa, there has to be some added capacity for the farmers to be able to reach the quality standards of the retailers. Here issues of marketing and branding emerge. Gone are the days when just saying something is organic will sell. Consumers are looking for branded merchandise, something they can trace back to the source.
2) Retailers need assurance of regular and consistent supply. Farmers cannot operate as individuals; marketing collectives need to be established, farmers need to take control of the process.
3) It is not enough to have a marketing collective; a planting calendar needs to be established. To ensure consistency and reduce internal competition a system for growing what and when needs to be developed. This system needs to take into consideration what the market wants and in what volumes.
4) The prevailing agroecological conditions need to be observed, what can be grown with least effort should be grown, farmers need to avoid problem crops (pests and diseases, access to quality seed, etc.). Farming is an enterprise, if the costs of growing particular crops outweigh the market prices and leave little margins for profit, then they cease to be viable and should be abandoned until prevailing conditions change.
All viable lessons. KOAN’s latest attempt at streamlining the organic supply chain in Kenya currently involves farmers from Machakos and Murang’a counties. Murang’a supplies most of the vegetables while Machakos supplies the fruits creating a healthy balance. The project supported by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) started in 2018 with 90 farmers, 45 from each county with 3 retailers interested. This number has since grown to 200 farmers and 6 retailers.
With the experience gained from previous attempts, KOAN first selected entrepreneurial and market ready farmers. The farmers were taken through the usual capacity building sessions with particular emphasis on managing expectations as well as conveying the importance of professional conduct in approaching business. Retailers were also involved in order to eliminate any casualness, the gravity of the whole system needed to be appreciated. This was not business as usual and everybody on board got the message. Initial meetings were organized between farmers and retailers. This was mainly to get the farmers to grow exactly what the market required. KOAN engaged field coordinators to assist the farmers in aggregating their products. The coordinators served as the nodes between farmers and retailers. The farmer marketing collectives would eventually absorb them.
Proof of the pudding is in the eating. Sales began in the month of November 2020. By December the volumes had considerably increased and February 2020 saw the highest volumes traded since. By this time two farmer cooperatives had been formally registered, i.e. the Murang’a Organic Growers Cooperatives Society and Machakos Organic Cooperative Society. With increase in confidence, retailers also started demanding for more, the current volumes were inadequate. This warranted the increase in farmer supply base. More farmers recruited into the cooperative and supply volumes ramped up. Projected volume for supply had the situation remained constant would have been northwards of 10 tonnes monthly since the volumes had been growing by 30%monthly.
As with any worthwhile endeavour, challenges will be encountered and for this particular system, the COVID 19 pandemic struck hard. With limited movements and reduced consumption, most households are keeping a firm grip on their expenditures. Hotels and restaurants closed their doors to clients, retailers reported significant dip in consumer spending. These were by far the biggest buyers and significantly reduced their demand. The situation might seem bleak but it has also revealed opportunities.
- Nairobi cannot be the only market for organic produce, with increased sensitization more viable markets can be cultivated closer to home. This will also lead to increased profits for the farmers with transport cost reduced substantially.
- Third party traders and retailers need not be the only outlets; the cooperatives can develop their outlets and market their products as organic. This is a reality in other sectors, Fresha Milk, a popular brand in Kenya is owned by Murang’a Dairy Cooperative Society.
- Post harvest preparation and Value addition needs to be part of the system. Today there might not be a market, but the situation might change overnight.
The story is not at an end yet, with the support of KOAN, the cooperatives are exploring the above options. Although demand from Nairobi still exists, the COVID19 pandemic revealed how fragile the system is. A pivot is needed, to where and what? Only time will tell. Watch this space for updates.
 FIBl and IFOAM, The World of Organic Agriculture, The World of Organic Agriculture, 2016 <https://doi.org/10.4324/9781849775991>.
 FiBL and IFOAM, The World of Organic Agriculture, ed. by Helga Willer and Julia Lernoud, The World of Organic Agriculture Statistic and Emerging Trends 2019, 2019 <https://doi.org/10.4324/9781849775991>.
The following article appeared in AFRONET ISSUE NO 3 JANUARY TO JUNE 2020