Tell us about the social impact of your innovation. Please include both numbers and stories as evidence of this impact
KOMAZA creates lasting economic, environmental and social impact. Since 2008, we have planted more than a quarter-million trees with 1,000 families in Kenya. Within the next two years, KOMAZA will have planted more than three million trees with 10,000 farmers. Our impact will be felt across East Africa by the end of the decade.
We currently work with families who make less than $300 per year. With a KOMAZA farm, a family earns more than $5,000 over ten years. Although agroforestry requires a long-term delivery model, we harvest our trees in phases to provide regular revenue. We also intercrop our trees with short-term crops, such as cowpeas, to immediately boost income and nutrition.
KOMAZA generates further economic impact through local jobs. To date, we have created nearly 100 new jobs, and 93% of our positions are filled by Kenyans. Beyond wages and performance-based bonuses, we invest in professional development. Recently, we sponsored our Experimental Farm Manager, Wycliffe Etemesi, in attending an agroforestry course. He wrote a letter about his experience, which you can read about on our blog: http://komaza.org/blog/?p=111.
Our farms also dramatically impact the environment. By 2020, we will have planted more than 50 million trees that will sequester millions of tons of carbon dioxide. These trees avert families from cutting down indigenous forests and stem desertification. We also teach farmers how to reduce erosion and enrich the soil. Already, farmers like Kanze Kithi have seen their barren land transform into rich, grassy tree plots. (Read more here: http://komaza.org/blog/?p=204.)
Ultimately, KOMAZA will achieve its greatest impact in the way we translate farmers’ earnings into social change. When harvest time arrives, we will give farmers the knowledge and access they need to make sound investments in things like nourishing meals, school fees and interventions like water purification systems. In this way, we help farmers build the foundation for lasting development.
Problem: Describe the primary problem(s) that your innovation is addressing
Our farmers have been born into lives with almost no opportunities. Their dry, degraded land is their only asset, and they use what little money they have to buy seeds for subsistence farming. Unfortunately, they cannot afford improved drought-resistant crops; fertilizer and other inputs are out of the question. In the end, their crops often fail. Low rainfall, recurring drought and infertile soil make traditional farming almost impossible in Africa’s semi-arid land.
Because families cannot earn enough from their farms, they must extract wealth from the environment to survive. Driven by poverty, families cut down indigenous trees to sell as firewood and charcoal. Without trees, semi-arid soil cracks, dries and is washed away by rain. Deforestation exacerbates food insecurity, climate change and desertification while drought grows more frequent. Over time, farmers’ land becomes even worse.
Families are trapped in a vicious cycle: extreme poverty drives environmental destruction and causes even greater poverty. The economic challenge our farmers face is at the core of a wider set of challenges. Families must find a way to transform their only asset – their land – into a sustainable source of income. Of course, farmers have no access to cash crops and fertilizers, no knowledge of agricultural best-practice, no access to value-added processing equipment, and no access to profitable markets. They have many acres of barren land, but no hope of utilizing it effectively. Families remain trapped in extreme poverty.
Actions: Describe the steps that you are taking to make your innovation a success. Include a description of the business model. What might prevent that success?
Our farms deliver unprecedented income to families while KOMAZA retains costs-plus to enable self-funded growth. We recognize that per-farm profitability increases dramatically with economies of scale. Our impact also increases as we plant more farms. Thus, we are strategically investing in rapid growth in the short-term. Planting with many farmers now requires us to delay our break-even point and temporarily increase our donor-dependence. As a result, however, we will be able to attain economies of scale more quickly and establish greater profits for our partner families and program as a whole.
Within the next three years, we will have more than 10,000 farmers with three million trees. Their small-scale plots will reforest more than 5,000 acres of dry land. To reach our ambitious milestones, we must raise substantial philanthropic support and build a strong Board of Directors, Local Advisory Board and a wide public support base. Financial resources and expert guidance will power agricultural R&D on our experimental farm while we expand to new families. As we grow, we are recruiting and training outstanding local and international staff. This team will create the operational, management and financial systems that ensure our day-to-day and long-term success.
We have more than doubled our reach this year, and we are prepared for potential obstacles on the path to continued progress. Like many early-stage social enterprises, our primary challenge is raising adequate funding. While we will ultimately become self-sustaining, we currently need to leverage our proven results and comprehensive business plan to attract donors, advisors and new board members. To overcome agricultural challenges, from drought to poor maintenance, we are testing new interventions, diversifying crops and expanding field staff for stronger farmer support. Finally, to find qualified staff willing work in a rural region on a modest salary, we offer professional development and many other benefits, and we recruit with an emphasis on national staff and systems-based experience. The steps we are taking now will build the foundation for effective long-term growth and impact.
Results: Describe the expected results of these actions over the next three years. Please address each year separately, if possible
In Year 1 (2010), we will plant with 1,000 new families (reaching 1,500 total). Our farmers’ plots will include half a million trees on 1,000 acres. To complete Year 1 activities, we will secure at least $750,000, including modest earned income. We will also raise $1.5 million for Year 2. Meanwhile, we will strengthen our Board of Directors and Local Advisory Board. To bolster profitability and environmental impact, we will conduct R&D on rainwater harvesters, short-term crops and alternative, indigenous tree species (read more at http://komaza.org/blog/?p=180). We will also begin GIS mapping and SMS-based field reporting. Finally, we will recruit exceptional staff to develop operational infrastructure, including systems and policies for management, human resources, financial control, ICT and administration.
In Year 2 (2011) we aim to plant with 2,500 new families (reaching 4,000 total). Our farms will cover over 2,000 acres with 1.2 million trees. We will engage our Board of Directors and support base in pursuit of $2.5 million in funding for Year 3. We will also receive our first large influx of earned income. In the field, we will saturate our first Rural Cell (unit of operations) and begin expansion into new divisions. We will also roll out interventions tested during Year 1, and we will explore opportunities to improve our model with carbon credits, Forestry Stewardship Council certification and environmental conservation. We will establish performance M&E to measure our impact. To manage the year’s expansion, we will hire a COO, CFO and other high-caliber local and international staff.
In Year 3 (2012) we plan to plant with 6,000 new families (reaching 10,000 total), likely also launching a first replication in a new country. As our earned income increases, we will maintain a fundraising target of $2.5 million for Year 4 and begin exploring opportunities for alternative financing mechanisms. We will drive a major push in wood value capture and provide families with socially beneficial opportunities to spend their new income flows on life-changing investments. We will continue building an extraordinary team and operational systems to support our growth.
If your innovation seeks to impact public policy, how?
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