Small Land, Big Harvest in low-income areas.

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Eric Mbugua and his sister Veronica Kamau founded Verics 5 years ago after they witnessed inadequate healthy food production in the urban low-income areas.  They also acknowledge that urban slums have little space to spare for home farming let alone commercial.

Verics is a simplified hydroponic system solution that uses water and nutrients solution on pumice instead of soil, to grow healthy, leafy vegetables and fruits including strawberry, tomatoes, parsley, capsicum, kales, lettuce, spinach and cabbage. They also make hydroponic fodder for animal feeding. The set up uses very little space convenient for backyards, balconies and rooftop with a guarantee of an abundant harvest.

They make the systems from locally available materials like pipes, poles, wire mesh and timbers. Making them affordable and simple for local small-scale farmers as compared to other complex hydroponics systems in the market. Water used in the system is very minimal. The system needs a single person to maintain it. Furthermore, it is less time-consuming.  It only takes 30 minutes to complete the work.

Eric joined Somo Entrepreneurship Bootcamp in Cohort 6. He says The Somo Project is the first Non-Governmental Organization to work with him. He says it took him two years to get the correct system to use. "I almost gave up at some point. Thank goodness I didn't. It is now paying off." Eric rejoice.

A complete standard greenhouse set up with Verics hydroponics system costs Kshs. 430,000 (USD 4,300). The cost is mostly for the materials since the maintenance cost is very minimal. The least amount Verics has charged is Kshs .50,000 (USD 500). For training, they charge Kshs. 3000 (USD 30).  

He plans on training more farmers, youths and his community on hydroponic systems to make them embrace it more. He advises youths to engage in hydroponic farming.





 

Meet the Man behind Pig Feeding Going Green in Riruta.

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Animal farming is among Kenya's leading economic activity. In Riruta, Nairobi, most residents indulge in pig farming. However, pig feeding is a challenge. The farmers are forced to buy leftover foods from hotels and garbage collection points which is toxic for the pigs. They get rejected at the pork processing factory causing loss to their business. 

Timothy Odongo,  the founder of Lisha Nguruwe Swahili for "feed the pig" and a resident of Riruta, felt the farmer's frustration. He previously worked for a garbage collection company where he noticed some farmers would miss out on buying the garbage feed for their pigs. 

Timothy makes readily accessible, affordable, sufficient and healthy hydroponic fodder in his low-income community.
He buys a kilo of barley seeds for Kshs.35 (USSD 0.35) to produce four kilos of fodder, enough for two pigs. It is economical compared to commercial feed that cost Kshs. 45 (USSD 0.45) per kilo for feeding one pig.

He joined the Somo Entrepreneurship Bootcamp in cohort 6. He is proud that he learnt the essence of record keeping, marketing, branding as well as the need to network. "I can easily pitch my product,"  he says.

He is excited about the partnership with Somo. He plans to acquire at least 21 trays each costing Kshs. 800  to produce 100kg of pig feed and embrace new technology for more effective, efficient production.

Timothy advises his fellow youths to cease opportunities to start social enterprises that would impact positively in their livelihood and the communities at large.
 

Gurudumu, Recycling Old Tires to Home Furniture.

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Simon Muya is among our five recent successful trainees to join the Somo Project Entrepreneurs. He founded Gurudumu, meaning tyres in Swahili. Simon creates furniture from recycled tyres such as chairs, tables, and footrests. He was inspired after he witnessed the 2007/ 2008 election violence, where people burned tyres in protest.  He decided to employ idle youth to make art out of these tires instead of burning them.

He comes from Githurai, a low-income community in Nairobi. He came across Somo’s website and decides to visit our Korogocho Hub. He applied for the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp and he was accepted to join cohort 6 for training. He says he used to be scared to do business. He was clueless on how to go about it. The training has instilled confidence in him. He is ready to be an entrepreneur and he will withstand all the challenge that may come with it.

He was inspired after he witnessed the 2007/2008 election violence, where people burned tires in protest. He decided to employ idle youth to make art out of these tires instead of burning them.

So far, he has been able to sell 3 tables at Kshs. 2000 (USD 20) each. In addition, a tire table with a glass top would sell at Kshs. 5000 (USSD 50), one with fabric at Kshs. 3500(USD 35) and one made of jute rope at Kshs 4,000(USD 40) depending on size. His main challenge was capital for marketing and for setting up a workshop. Currently, Simon makes his furniture from home. He says, “Customers don’t trust you, when you don’t have a physical working place to come see your work and make purchase.”   

Simon plans on opening a fully equipped furniture workshop at Githurai and employ more idle youth. Thanks to the partnership program with the Somo Project. He will be able to get the funding and marketing he needed to kick start his dream journey.

 

Eco- Friendly Diapers for mothers in Korogocho

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As mothers,it is never easy to choose which diaper is best for one’s baby. This dilemma becomes even harder in the low-income communities, where mothers struggle constantly to make ends meet.Back in the days diapers were not common. Most women used napkins for their infants which served as a good alternative and it served most mothers and babies well though it had its con of that most babies would wet through them.  Then, there was the other group of women who opted for neither. These are the mothers who used to rub it off with phrases like “Huyu ni mtoto, anaeza tembea uchi”, “Let the baby get fresh air from the tight clothing.”

 

Our recent graduates from Somo’s Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, Hilda and her daughter Diana,have come up with affordable, environmental friendly washable diapers. Their product has helped mothers curb the health conditions that arise from poor hygiene.  It all started out when she saw her neighbours’ children walking without diapers and the mess that came with it, after they needed to go out. She was worried for their health with the poor sanitation in Korogocho, an informal settlement in Eastland Nairobi. Therefore, she asked a friend for a sewing machine and made her first five pieces.She gave these out to the neighbors and then soon,the idea to turn it into a business.  First she borrowed her friend’s machine again, made 10 piece and selling, slowly building it up until she was able to buy her own machine. She sells the diapers at Kshs. 50 (0.50 USD) and it can be used for one month. Hilda says she sell 60-80 pieces a day but on a good market day she can sell upto 1000 pieces. She also gets orders to supply the diapers in wholesale, from mothers who also go and re-sell them in other low-income communities like Dandora and Kayole.

 

Hilda says she is happy to have joined the program as it has taught her a lot. “I used to do business in a ‘Juakali’ way, I would make the diapers, go to the market to sell then come home without making a record of my transactions.” Now, she knows better. She also says, she has learnt how to brand her business, the growth potential of her business, and how to beat her competitors. “I can now talk in front of people and pitch my idea” She excitedly adds.

 

Hilda dreams of having her own workshop.The workshop would be a dream come true to her.She will use it as a training center to teach other girls and mothers on making the diapers, just like she did to her own daughter, Diana.

Forging gender parity in low-income communities

Forging gender parity in low-income communities

Most women in low-income communities are still excluded from many projects aimed to bring about economic, social and political change. In 2017, the World Economic Forum published that the global gender gap will take about 200 years to close at the current rate of progress. Fostering  gender equality, not only benefits women but the community and the world at large. Women make up 54% of the urban population globally, usually have primary responsibility for child rearing (especially in the global south), and make up 35% of the workforce in sub-Saharan Africa. More resources need to be invested in women to bring about sustainable change.

Somo, has been partnering with female led  enterprises being built out of low-income communities since 2016.  We have developed specific programs focuses on the women we work with.  We hold discussion seminars to discuss the issues they are facing and confidence trainings.  

Apart from initiating programs, we have dedicated ourselves to  partnering with businesses that give women a conducive environment to be in charge of their lives. We are partnering with women entrepreneurs whose businesses enable women to search for and secure employment. Two examples are WeeCare and El-Elyon daycare, a daycare in Kibera and Githurai respectively. $15 a month or $0.5 a day).

Leo, founder of  El-Elyon seeing the need for affordable educational toys, created stuffed letters and animals to help children learn. Caro founded WeeCare to teach early childhood education and educate young mothers on the importance speaking and reading to their kids early.  Carol works with multiple women’s groups to help them implement educational activities with their kids into their hectic schedules.

Another example is Afriknit dolls, a business that give the African Women an opportunity to give their children an identity from childhood through african themed affordable dolls.  Susan, a trained tailor and fabric technician, and her partner, Meshack, created Afriknit Dolls to address the lack of African-inspired dolls available in Nairobi. By using fabric waste from local tailors, they are able to create a sustainable and affordable product. With the business they train and employ vulnerable youth in the production of their dolls.

We partner with entrepreneurs that give women a safer way for women in Kibera to access healthy foods such as Twalalishe farm in Kibera.   Twalalishe not only provides food but facilitates training on the same). With all of our businesses we help them create a platform that can successfully hire female employees. Both Mwangaza Candles and Bounty Nut, candle and peanut butter businesses in Mathare focus on providing single mothers in Mathare with employment.