Change language

For decades, coffee was Kenya's largest export, and it still supports the lives of 600,000 farmers there. But disease and low prices have wiped out nearly 60% of production. Coffee-growing families in the Mount Kenya region that could pay their children's school fees 20 years ago are now struggling to make ends meet.

Francescah Munyi's mother is one of those farmers. That's partly why Munyi started KOFAR, a company that converts biodegradable waste into compost, which she sells to farmers like her mother to boost yields. By filling a critical market gap, she expects to double sales in 2019 and now serves 6,000 farmers. And Munyi is not the only entrepreneur making a difference.

Moses Kimani, founder of Kenyan precision agriculture company Lentera Africa, is working with farmers to create new ways to fight pests and disease — boosting yields by nearly 50% on some farms — while eliminating chemical fertilizers. Lentera harnesses new technology, from drones to weather monitoring apps, to precisely identify which inputs and techniques are best for each plot of land. Lentera Africa and KOFAR are at the forefront of Kenya's growing restoration economy, led by entrepreneurs that revitalize degraded land while turning a profit. The opportunity to invest in restoration is larger than you might think. Every $1 invested provides up to $30 in economic benefits. Lentera has already created 10 full-time jobs and is helping 4,000 farmers — with both large and small parcels of land — to boost their yields and incomes.

But Kimani had faced serious challenges scaling up to reach more farmers and restore more land, even though his team has the ambition and a profitable business model.
A Missing Middle Keeps Restoration Businesses From Scaling Up
There are relatively few investors that fund companies seeking finance between $20,000 and $200,000 in Africa, since this range is too large for microfinance and too small for institutional investors. This creates a "missing middle," where businesses have limited options. But that's precisely the amount of capital that most restoration businesses in Africa need at their early stage of growth.

Most African restoration businesses face other barriers to attracting investment, too. Their founders often lack the confidence to compellingly tell their businesses' stories and explain their unique value proposition. Restoration entrepreneurs, usually based in rural areas, often work in isolation from the start-up networks that tend to concentrate in cities. Investors are also wary of funding businesses that take longer to mature, but restoring land takes time. Further reading following the link above