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Kenyan recycling firm mixes kitchen waste to boost urban farming

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At a backyard farm in Nairobi, Sprout Organic, a locally owned company, mixes animal bone meal, seeds, foliage, dry leaves, twigs and kitchen waste like banana peels, to concoct a composite that is sold to urban farmers to grow food in squeezed spaces.

Ted Gachanga, an agronomist who co-owns Sprout, and runs the business from his Nairobi residence says their product resembles black cotton soil. Worms are usually added to the mixture to help it mature, a process that takes about four weeks.

A 20 kg bag sells at 3,500 shillings. Gachanga said demand had risen by 10% during the pandemic, which has cut incomes and impinged food supply chains.

“People started realizing that they can make better use of their spaces to grow their own produce, even if it’s just a few veggies like skuma (kale), spinach and also like the regular herbs that you can use as a garnish or dressing on your salads or food, “said Gachanga.

Close to 15,000 people in Kenya have been infected by the COVID-19 disease since the first case was reported in mid-March, official data showed. Economic growth has slowed down sharply, with many job losses in sectors like tourism.

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Sprout employees three staff, and its owners say that although their technology is not new, they have patented the formula for the composite. They hope to expand production beyond Nairobi to cover other towns.

Urban farmer Francis Wachira, 71, used to make a living by renting out tiny tin shacks he built, but the coronavirus pandemic meant his tenants could no longer pay him.

Now he sells the produce from his plot, such as kale, spinach and herbs, and says he earns around 1,000 shillings ($ 9.23).

“We are making good money out of this,” he said.

Saying he makes about 10 dollars every day from his produce.

Owners of Sprout said that although the technology is not new, they have found their own formula.

“We have seen tremendous growth in people taking interest in planting in their balconies or in their backyards. We have created systems that will aid them in this endeavor. So, actually anybody can be an urban farmer,” said agronomist, Michael Kanywira. “

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