Maa Enterprise is coordinated by Gaudencia. She is exploring potential micro-enterprises, piloting them at HQ and determining what has the potential to be scaled as income generating opportunities for families. Her report below details the projects that she has begun:
a) Biogas project
We identified Amiran Kenya as the expat supplier of biogas systems in Kenya but upon visiting them they referred me to Keilot Kenya who works in partnership with them. They source their systems from Israel. We made payment and had the system installed and connected to the kitchen. It’s since been in use for cooking in the TMT kitchen. The plan is to use the gas not only for cooking and lighting but to power small machines like a chicken brooder, chaff cutter and irrigation water pump. Also looking at a model where the gas can be produced, packaged and sold to the community. A company in Germany sells systems that include a backpack for storing gas. TMT currently spends around $100 per month on LPG and will buy the biogas leading to self-sustainability.
b) Grow bags
The Maasai diet comprises mainly of milk, blood and meat. Vegetables are missing from the diet since they do not do any farming. To improve nutrition in the community, we are supporting women to start kitchen gardens for vegetables that they both consume and sell. We have identified 9 women groups to work with in piloting grow bags. The vegetables planted will be used both for home use and sold at the market by the groups.
We started this project by identifying and fencing the planting site so as to keep animals out and also purchased grow bags and good quality seeds from Amiran Kenya. We thereafter prepared the nursery and grow bags which entailed preparation of soil by mixing soil, manure and sand and watering and planting. When the seedlings were ready they were transferred to the grow bags. Currently the vegetables are almost ready for harvest.
Since the Mara community does not conduct any farming, Nairobi and other neighboring towns are the primary sources to purchase produce. Thus, Mara community, and camps and hotels operated in the community pay high product prices. Also, they are not able to obtain fresh and healthy produce because of long transportation distance. Therefore, produce from the hydroponics unit will ensure a steady supply of fresh vegetables to both the community and tourist camps/hotels.
Hydroponics is a way of growing plants in water and without soil. Hydroponic vegetables are grown in a closed system in which their roots are submerged in water. This water is fortified or “spiked” with nutrients, such as potassium, magnesium and phosphorus. We purchased our system from Hydroponics Africa and had installed and vegetables planted. The crops are planted in cups filled with pumice stone and suspended in a tube filled with nutrient infused water. We planted three types of vegetables; lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower.
d) Mushroom Farming
Mushroom farming can help reduce vulnerability to poverty and strengthen livelihoods through the generation of a fast yielding and nutritious source of food and a reliable source of income. Since it does not require access to land, mushroom cultivation is a viable and attractive activity for rural farmers. Small scale growing does not require any significant investment. Mushroom cultivation can directly improve livelihoods through economic, nutritional and medicinal contributions.
Mushroom farming is becoming popular and a job creator for many young people in Kenya. Its known that many of the mushrooms presently under cultivation in Kenya (Oyster, Button, Shiitake and Ganoderma) , rank above all vegetables and legumes (except soybeans) in protein content, and have significant levels of B and C vitamins and are low in fat. They are rich in antioxidants, lean proteins and essential vitamins hence are a good substitute for red meat. Research has shown that they reduce serum cholesterol, inhibit tumors, stimulate interferon production and possess antiviral properties.
The consumption of mushrooms can make a valuable addition to the often-unbalanced diets in the Maasai Mara as well as improve livelihoods when sold to the local tourist camps. The challenge is the sensitive production process given that they do not grow in soil. The most appropriate and cost-effective structure for mushroom production is a grass-thatched mud house. Materials needed to build this house are easily available locally and the construction process is one that the Maasai people are familiar with. Once the house has been constructed, wooden shelves are installed to increase the vertical space.
Research has shown that there is a huge shortage of mushroom supply locally which makes the product very expensive. A kilogram of button and Oyster mushrooms – in the Kenyan market– goes for $100 and like vegetables, the camps and hotels get this from Nairobi the capital city.
Mushrooms are grown utilizing agricultural wastes, e.g. cereal straws, maize stocks, bean stock, Cotton husks, maize cobs, coffee husks, coffee pulp, paper waste, papyrus, water hyacinth, banana fronds etc. We have purchased wheat straw in readiness for planting this week. Mud thatched houses are the most favorite since they create the right climatic conditions. Our mud walled house is now complete and ready for planting.
Mushroom house Spawn/seed
A number of proposals were prepared and submitted, with one being successful. The Rotary Club of Niagara on the Lake funded the hydroponics pilot project.
We have also sought a partnership with Digital Frontiers – a South African organization that would help us digitize content/curriculum for the business simulator skills development program. We have two curriculums that we are considering digitizing; the ILO curriculum and SBS business curriculum. SBS have been trying to digitize their TOT curriculum, a venture that has proven slow and difficult so they do not advise us to digitize but are willing to support best they can. Digitized content will enable learners acquire skills through online lessons thereby increasing and expanding our reach.