Shooting for SoilCares in Meru
I never set out to shoot farmers specifically, but many documentary projects I’ve worked on have gravitated towards spending time with people who work hard to make sure we have locally grown food on our tables. Two weeks ago, I found myself riding shotgun in a SoilCares-branded ProBox headed to Meru, on what was my latest project documenting farming activities in Kenya.
The journey to Meru started in August 2015, when I received an email from SoilCares, an agricultural technologies company based in Netherlands. They wanted to purchase some of the images I’d shot of Kenyan farmers. Since I didn’t have the rights to do that, I proposed to shoot fresh images for them and they agreed!
On email, SoilCares told me, “We were considering sending a photographer from the Netherlands because so far we only got very poor quality products. But your work with those farmers in Kitui is exactly what we want to reflect in our pictures.”
Fast forward several months, hills, twists, bends and bumps, and I was in Meru, meeting new farmers and telling the SoilCares story.
Our first stop was the Farmers’ Centre’s Soil Testing Laboratory in Meru town, where farmers bring soil samples to be tested for nutrients.
Once a soil sample is received, it is taken to the laboratory where it is analysed. Being given a step-by-step demonstration of the process left me feeling I should have been more attentive in Chemistry class.
After one or two days, the results are then sent to the farmer via email or print out, informing them on nutrients their soil may be lacking.
The following day, we visited a farmer in Nkubu whom I’d call a Kenyan hero for one main reason: the average age of the Kenyan farmer is 60 years. Yes, 60. What does that mean for our food security in the next ten or even five years? So when I see someone my age farming and happy while doing it, I consider them a hero.
Here, we got a first look at a new Soil Scanner which is set to be launched in the market later this year.
“Using Near-infrared technology, the Scanner measures the amount of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium in your soil and determines the pH and organic matter level. In addition to the soil analysis results, you are sent appropriate and personal fertiliser and lime recommendations on your smartphone within a minute.” No need to go to a laboratory and wait for a day or two to receive your results.
Enterprising farmers can actually purchase the Soil Scanner and charge other farmers in the locality a small fee for the ‘portable soil testing lab’ services.
Once the Soil Scanner launches, SoilCares will have representatives at hand to demonstrate how it works.
Find out more about the SoilCares Scanner here.
From Nkubu, we hit the road back to Nairobi, and took in a rare daytime view of Mt Kenya’s snow capped peaks from Timau.