For more than twenty years, Peter Chandi coordinated agricultural programs in the Embu Diocese of the Church of the Province of Kenya (Anglican). His hands on “learning by doing” approach made him popular with the farmers and earned him much recognition, not only from the church, but from the Kenyan government as well. Around six years ago, however, Chandi decided it was time to strike in a new direction.
He started a company called Organic Africa which deals mainly with the production and sale of organic fertilizers. With shops in Embu and Runyenjes their main products are BM Organic Booster, BM Bio-fertilizer, and BM Bokashi. BM stands for Bioactive Micro-organisms, which are a selection of species of micro-organisms beneficial for plant growth. These micro-organisms are harvested and bottled in liquid form to produce the BM Organic Booster, which in turn is used to activate the making of compost. Chandi introduces his products at agriculture seminars and trains the farmers how to use them. “I train them to use the product,” Chandi explains. “They find its working, so they buy it.” Though happy to sell his ready-made compost and bokashi, he goes a step further by teaching the farmers how to make their own compost using his BM Organic Booster which accelerates the fermentation process to just three weeks and enhances the potency.
Farmers are constantly sharing their success stories with him. For example with coffee, they say they are able to reduce spraying and yet bring in a healthier harvest and a higher grade, which commands a better price. With its ability to control pathogens in the soil, the BM products are also popular with flower farmers. Business has been good; so good in fact that his shop sometimes stands empty as he and his staff of fifteen struggle to keep up with demand.
It was not always this way, however. Chandi tells of how, “when I introduced people to using these ideas for making compost…they thought I was crazy, but today, everybody seems to be taking it seriously.” It was at ARI that he himself had his first organic farming experience and in the beginning he was highly skeptical. What changed his mind was to actually do it for himself on the ARI farms and see good results with his own eyes. Back in Kenya the meaning of organic for many farmers is connected only with organic certification. Though Chandi will introduce organic farmers to certifying bodies and organic markets, his emphasis is on sustainability. With the motto of “Together We Live,” the company’s aim is “to promote sustainable agriculture through organic farming and sustainable environmental management practices.” “Let’s go to the soil,” he tells the farmers. “Let’s feed the soil. Then the soil will feed the plant and the plant will give us food.”