By Papu Haroon, CEO, Kilifi Moringa, Guest Blogger
I returned from four days at the Skoll Center for Social Entrepreneurship, Said Business School, Oxford University. As the Kenya representative in the Chivas Venture - a global competition to find and support the "world's most innovative social enterprises" - Chivas Regal set up a four day "Accelerator course" to prepare us - 27 global finalists - for the million-dollar Final that will be held in Amsterdam latter this year.
Why was Kilifi Moringa selected?
Kilifi Moringa supports hundreds of smallholder women farmers to grow Moringa and sell the seeds back to them. The seeds are turned into oil for the cosmetics industry, allowing us to connect the poorest women to the most affluent women in the world and feed hundreds of children.
At the training we were taught about "Theory of Change" - for you to solve a problem you need to address it's causes or its "downstream" effects.
Awesome as they are, my co-finalists are focused on "a Product" - with a neat line between a problem and a solution - straightforward, linear, with a start (a problem) and a finish (a gadget). Great, for one problem.
But ours is not just one challenge, they are a myriad of challenges - degraded soils, low farm productivity, no cash crops and no spare cash in the pockets of farmers. It is a circle, not a line. Without farm inputs farmers perpetuate their slash-and-burn practices which leads to soil degradation.
We are building a model - a circular path, with "products" - starting with the seeds we buy, from a tree that feeds farmers. We turn those into oil for sale and make animal feeds, biogas and organic fertilizer from the by-products, all of which return to farms. We buy more seeds with the money and begin again.
Which one is "the Product"? The distinction fades, like "start" and "finish" on a circle. Only a model can do that - solve them all, in one full-turn. Products, with their neat starts and ends, cannot. Models "scale up", where products just come in a bigger box. Models restart and renew themselves after each cycle. Products... well, that’s what “shelf-life” is all about.
In the jargon, it's called a "Circular Economy", and it is the reason why Kilifi Moringa is different, important, and why we belonged in Oxford.
I don't claim all the credit. Moringa is, after all, the Miracle Tree. People have known that for thousands of years. But perhaps that knowledge was buried under an avalanche of shiny new gadgets our consumer world loves so dearly. Maybe we've found it again, in rural Kilifi.
Give us a chance to show the world that sustainable solutions can transform the lives of rural poor in Africa. Please take a minute to support Kilifi Moringa by voting via the link provided https://www.chivas.com/en/the-venture/finalists/people/ke-papu-haroon .
Kilifi Moringa is supported by AECF, to find out about the work we have supported please click to view a video