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Kenyan Non-profit Changes Gears to Yield Better Results for Farmers

Kenyan tech-enabled forestry company Komaza recently announced it has secured US$28 million in Series B funding. However, the company started out life as a non-profit, which chief executive officer (CEO) Tevis Howard says is harder work, and can mean teams lack the focus to achieve long-term large scale impact. Komaza transitioned into a for-profit entity in around 2014, and Howard says the shift has served to give the company real focus. In the non-profit arena, he says it is easy to get distracted by short-term impact – such as improving one farmer’s livelihood – and to lack the long term, large-scale impact that is often very abstract. Komaza works with smallholder farmers to repurpose degraded agricultural land to plant and harvest sustainable wood for industrial and commercial use. The company uses artificial intelligence (AI) and satellite data to map existing tree growth and real-time mobile apps on the ground to track farmer progress, and has so far planted six million trees with 25,000 smallholder farmers. The company’s “microforestry” model represents a paradigm shift in the industry from large, costly plantations to distributed partnerships with local farmers.