Kenya 27 December 2022 Local Innovation and Technologies

Photo Credit: Kimplanter Seedlings and Nurseries

In rural Kenya, farmers are adapting to a more arid and extreme climate as a result of climate change by choosing drought-resistant seedlings and varieties of vegetables, fruits, herbs and trees. 

As climate change causes more extreme weather conditions in Kenya, many people across the country are struggling to adapt to the lower rainfall and more frequent droughts. Not surprisingly, the impact is being felt hardest by those in farming communities, for whom low volume and quality yields present an increasingly serious threat to their livelihoods.

Carolyne Mwangi, founder of Kimplanter Seedlings and Nurseries, believes a solution lies in the form of drought-resistant seedlings. “Our main objective is to ensure farmers get better yields from the seedlings they buy from us and multiply their produce. Once they have bought our seedlings, we advise and offer after-sale services to them for free.” 

The enterprise, which believes agriculture Is the key to a growing and sustainable economy, buys certified seeds from reputable companies, and then sows them in propagation trays, before nurturing them to maturity. The drought-resistant seedlings propagated by Kimplanter are selected varieties adapted to dry and hot conditions, and low soil moisture content. When they are ready, it sells the seedlings, vegetables, fruits, herbs and trees to everyone from smallholder farmers and owners of small-scale kitchen gardens to large-scale farms.

The new drought-resistant seedlings from Kimplanter have enabled Peter Gathoni, a farmer from Juja farm, to extend his planting and harvesting seasons. "I can now plant even when the temperatures are high and my crops will tolerate it, whereas previously, we had to put down our farm tools because the crops could not withstand the heat. Currently, the market supply is constant and consistent thanks to the drought-resistant seedlings."

In addition, to help farmers improve their production and get maximum value yields, the company provides them with farm inputs and agronomy support on the best crop management practices. Today, the female-owned and youth-led company, which began life as the founder’s hobby in 2014, with just one greenhouse and a single member of staff, now has a capacity of 1.5 million seedlings every month. 

The National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP), a five-year plan launched in 2018 to help Kenya to adapt to climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, has served as a model for Kimplanter's objective to boost food security and production. The company also has an afforestation plan, producing tree seedlings – including exotic, indigenous, and fruit trees – and campaigning to encourage farmers to integrate trees into their farms through planting campaigns. These trees act as windbreakers for the crops and reduce soil erosion resulting from heavy rain and flooding. 

Through farm visits, telephone calls, text messages, and social media platforms, the Kiambu-based company has since 2018 served 24,000 smallholder farmers, of whom 6,500 are young people. This equates to a market share of 10% in Kenya, with most of the farmers based in the Central, Eastern, and Rift Valley regions of the country. 

Carolyne is passionate about the role that Kimplanter can play to help empower young people to earn a sustainable income and livelihood through farming. “We have launched a campaign, Unalima Young Initiative, in Ruiru to sensitize the youth on the benefits of venturing into agribusiness,” she explains. 

“In addition, we are partnering with schools to help students set up kitchen gardens and hope that through such initiatives, we can shift their mindsets to positively view farming as a form of food security.” 

To deliver on its goal of meeting food security in Africa, Kimplanter sought to raise additional financing in the form of grant capital to grow the company. In 2020, it was among the 200 beneficiaries of the agribusiness program funded by the European Union and Danida. Through business coaching and mentorship in the AgriBiz program, the company was able to market its products and create business networks.

With the funds received from the Global Center on Adaptation and the Africa Development Bank grant in 2021 through the Youth Adapt program, Kimplanter expanded its geographical reach, and today has three branches: Ruiru in Kiambu Country, Makuyu in Murang’a County, and Rombo, in Kajiado County.

Looking ahead, the company hopes to automate the entire plant raising production process by using innovative technologies. 

“Kimplanter is already enjoying the benefits of this program, and we look forward to automating our seedling process,” adds Carolyne. “This will help increase our production and create more job opportunities for young people.” 

In the future, the company also hopes to scale up by undertaking research to develop new varieties of drought-resilient seedlings that will enable farmers to adapt to weather-related effects of climate change.