By Mark Kawalya
Komaza is a forestry firm that works with a network of smallholder farmers in Kenya, teaching them best practices in forestry so they can benefit from the profitable timber market. The company’s goal is to engage farmers in the business of timber selling in a manner that is sustainable and doesn’t deplete the natural forest cover.
The firms’ digital infrastructure, using AI and satellite data, drives up enrollment and access to forestry guides which farmers can access by using the firms’ mobile app on their phones.
The company uses a model that directs its activities toward small local farmers as opposed to owners of larger plantations and runs on the basis of partnership between Komaza and the farmers.
Komaza’s blueprint provides for an 80% cost savings when compared to traditional plantations for each acre planted, yet it also opens up more land for forestry activities.
Additionally, the company is deploying recent remote sensing and AI technologies that will be instrumental in the automated monitoring of farms. Its forestry model works in line with the interests of local communities, bearing in mind the ultimate global objective of mitigating climate change.
The company has more than 400 field workers who use mobile apps to monitor and track the progress of each tree planted under its program by more than 5000 farmers over the last five years. Komaza is using digital infrastructure and high scale operations to guide its farmers’ product trees that are of the required standards and can meet the high demand for timber in Kenya and the region at large.
So far, the firm has planted commercial-grade forests in Kenya’s coastal region of Kilifi and Central Kenya and has ambitious plans which will initially plant one million trees each year. Similarly, Komaza plans to unlock investments worth $400 million by planting one billion trees by 2030.
The partnership works in a way where farmers set aside one acre of the land for planting trees, with Komaza supplying the seedlings and any other input required for the trees to thrive at no cost. With most of the farmers in Kenya engaging in fruit and vegetable farming at a subsistence level, Komaza is intensifying efforts to encourage the farmers to intercrop their gardens to increase productivity and diversity.