Here at The Chazuka Project, we love to shine a light on other incredible charities and organisations whose aim it is to improve life for those living on our favourite continent: Africa.
This week, we’ve had the pleasure of chatting to Simon Murungi, founder and CEO of Spreading Organic Farming in Africa, or SOFAFRICA.
Simon is an experienced organic farmer and trainer. He launched SOFAFRICA with one aim in mind: to improve health and wealth by empowering others to farm organically. SOFAFRICA educates both farmers and school children on climate change, mitigation, nutrition, conservation and sustainability. His pioneering work informs others how to turn their smallholding or agricultural land into a viable and commercial enterprise. Equally, as a champion of the organic farm trade, Simon advocates the importance of farm to plate nutrition.
We asked Simon, what do you love about Africa, and why?
‘People here are happy. Being around happy people makes you smile. That’s why you’ll see SOFAFRICA’s social media full of smiling faces. We smile at simple things, and try not to let worries consume us. People here are relaxed, calm. There’s such an incredible sense of community.
I also love Africa because it is beautiful. Stunning, in fact. If you ever experience an African sunset or sunrise, you’ll never forget it. It’s breath-taking, and I’ll never tire of it. Across its 50 countries, you’ll find such diverse landscape: jungle, desert, open savannah and tropical beaches. It’s also the only place on the planet where you can see the big 5: lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and black or white rhino. Increased tourism – to Kenya in particular – evidences just how captivating the continent’s natural environment is. Where else in the world can you find such diverse landscape and magical vistas?
I’m also a massive foodie, and the culinary delights across the continent are unreal. Ethiopian, Moroccan and Nigerian cuisine are probably the most well-known across the world, but the street food here is so rich and flavoursome. There’s always a new influence to enjoy.’
What gave you the inspiration for SOFAFRICA?
‘I feel great pain when I see those I love suffering. Far too often, I saw members of my community and their families going without food. But I knew that if they were knowledgeable about modern farming techniques, and how to sustain them, we could abolish hunger. So that was it. In 2017, SOFAFRICA was born.’
What is SOFAFRICA’s main goal, or hope for the future?
‘It’s simple: to eliminate hunger and poverty. We focus on empowering small scale farmers in Kenya, and across the continent, to farm sustainably and effectively. So often, these farmers acquire small plots of land that are just not suitable for food growth. Their land is often degraded due to over cultivation or soil erosion. Many use inorganic fertilizers, all of which have led to lower food yields and thus an increase in hunger.
It’s not only poor land quality which is causing hunger. People here face innumerable challenges: high population, poor living standards and unemployment. If you are a farmer enduring these hardships, life can be tough. But SOFAFRICA aims to teach all land owners how to grow their own nutritious, organic and environmentally friendly produce.
There is a bigger picture here too. Increased food yields (with surplus produce) generates income. Our goal is to boost the economy, as well as feed the hungry.
SOFAFRICA also aims to educate children, at a young age, how to farm sustainably. If they have this knowledge, then their futures will be so much brighter.’
If you could speak to all of the children in Africa, and give them just one message about the future, what would you say, and why?
Ah, so many things. Does it have to be one?
To answer the question, I’d like to reference an image. One of the most poignant in history. It’s the picture of Mbuyisa Makhuba holding the lifeless body of Hector Pieterson. The terror on his face as he and Pieterson’s sister, Antoinette, try and escape the gunfire of the Soweto uprising. They were merely protesting against the poor quality of their education. That’s it. Yet they had no voice. They weren’t heard, valued or appreciated.
For me, that’s something I never, ever, wish to see repeated. Children are our future. They hold such infinite power in their hands and it is society’s job to nurture that, not ignore it. Many leaders and organisations here know that there is still a great need to improve the education system across the continent. It has to be made a priority. Equally, we need to place great importance on creating and maintaining a safe and conducive environment for children to grow, develop and mature during their childhood. Let’s not forget, 41% of Africa’s population is below the age of 15 years.
Children are Africa’s greatest resource. Africa must be a continent where the talent of the child will be fully developed, rewarded and protected for the benefit of society. That’s why SOFAFRICA has prioritised the work we do in schools as a huge part of our strategy.
There are so many things which we must all work hard to abolish: female genital mutilation, or FGM, teenage pregnancy, early child marriage, cross-border child trade and child soldiers. And there are many things which we must strive to achieve: equality for disabled children, and welfare, dignity and protection for all.
It’s not one thing, but I would tell children that they all matter. That they hold such power and possibility in their hands. And that they can define the future of our great continent.
We all feel so inspired by Simon’s dedication and passion, and we share so many of his values and beliefs. His love for the continent and its people radiates from his words.
Simon and the team at SOFAFRICA are currently supplying disinfectant to local communities, as well as sharing best hygiene practice in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
We’d like to take this opportunity to thank Simon for his time, and wish him every success in the future. If, like us, you’d like to follow Simon’s journey, or find out more about SOFAFRICA, then take a look at his social, and a short video about their journey so far.