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The challenges of building a resilient farmers’ community in Africa




In the news

November 14, 2022

Audrey S-Darko is a researcher and farmer from Ghana. She is the founder and CEO of Sabon Sake, a start-up that provides farmers with the tools to fight land degradation and improve their livelihoods. The start-up uses a circular approach to provide climate-resilient agricultural solutions that accelerate the regeneration of degraded soils and boost agricultural productivity.

Audrey S-Darko won the EIT Climate-KIC Climate Launchpad competition in Ghana in 2019 and participated in ClimAccelerator. This week at COP27 in Sharm-El-Sheikh, the entrepreneur won the US State Department’s Climate Entrepreneurs Pitch Competition, and a $50,000 prize that will help him grow his business.

We talk to Audrey S-Darko about how her company is helping farming communities in Ghana and sub-Saharan Africa build resilience and adapt to climate change. She explains how Sabon Sake helps farmers transition from conventional farming to practices that help regenerate topsoil, increase biodiversity, improve the water cycle, improving ecosystem services, supporting biosequestration, increasing resilience to climate change, and enhancing the health and vitality of agricultural soils. This is called regenerative agriculture.

Anne-Sophie Garrigou: Can you introduce Sabon Saké to us?

Audrey S-Darko: Sabon Sake is a climate technology company that connects regenerative agriculture with carbon finance. We focus on working with smallholder farmers primarily in rural landscapes and helping them transition from conventional to regenerative agriculture.

With our demonstration farms that are grown from scratch without any chemicals or synthetics, we show farmers the benefit of applying regenerative farming practices to the food crops they grow.

We also help them play a role in climate change mitigation and adaptation by storing carbon in the soil when preparing their land or planting their crops.

ASG: What are the major challenges you are trying to solve with Sabon Sake?

ASD: One of the main challenges that we are trying to solve is the ability of farmers to cope with droughts and low yields and to be able to grow crops as consistently as possible, regardless of weather conditions and the climate change.

We try to ensure that the farmers we work with are able to produce enough food and reduce the shortage of food supply for the community, which means that yields must be consistent and farmers must have access on the support of the ground to enrich the landscapes. .

ASG: How many farmers do you work with?

ASD: The farming communities we work with grow food not only for themselves but also to supply local markets. People in urban landscapes buy produce at the local farmers’ market to resell in cities. Local farmers are therefore the primary food producers in urban landscapes.

There are 7,200 farmers within our Regenerative Farmer Network. They are farmers who understand the impact of climate, they have witnessed it, they know the importance of transitioning from conventional to regenerative agriculture, and they are excited to adapt well to thrive in the climate crisis.

ASG: How does Sabon Sake help build farmer and community resilience?

ASD: We help the farming community build their resistance to drought and restore degraded landscapes by applying our soil mixes, Sabon Terra, to their crops. Sabon Terra means to make the earth new. We use the biomass waste from the communities to create the soil. It is a circular model. We use the waste that comes from the community and turn it into value-added products, which is our soil.

This biomass waste would normally be burned or dumped, increasing emissions. We recover this waste by using it to recover our carbon soil. Our product has properties that enhance drought resistance and help lock carbon into the soil. This is what we call sustainable biochar production. We simply convert biomass waste into biochar, a soil mix that helps restore the landscape from drought.

The second way we build resilience is through the training in food regeneration practices we provide to farmers. These practices help restore soil moisture, build more drought-tolerant landscapes, and better plant resilience.

We also empower women farmers to grow more food and participate in large-scale farming activities and understand the need to grow food themselves and have access to learn how to do so.

ASG: You mentioned the carbon financing component of the project. Can you explain how it works?

ASD: Farmers do not earn much money from their agricultural activities. As we build a network of regenerative farmers who understand and apply regenerative farming practices, we connect them with companies who are passionate about multiplying their climate impact.

The money is channeled to them to incentivize them with their climate adaptation practices to ensure the landscape is drought resistant, to harvest rainwater, not to spray chemicals or pesticides, to restore the soil through diversity, to store carbon in the soil, etc.

ASG: You participated in the EIT Climate-KIC Accelerator. How was it?

ASD: It was very instructive. It was great because we get a lot of training and knowledge on how we can build more resilient business models and how we can create impact within the communities we work with. It was super cool to also understand what it means to be a climate-smart business and why it’s crucial right now. Not only to survive as a business, but also to enable customers who pay for our products or those who partner with us to survive and thrive.

It has helped us transform our business model from a simple profit-driven model to one that takes climate change into account.

ASG: You just won the US Department of State’s Climate Entrepreneur Pitch Competition at #COP27. Congratulations! How will this help you build your business and where do you see yourself in five years?

ASD: I see myself as capable of building a grassroots movement through farming communities that understands what it means to be regenerative and is empowering no less than 5,000 communities around the world, equipping them with the tools and resources to be regenerative , to be able to feed themselves and others.

And on the policy side, I consider myself an advocate where I’m able to support and help create increasingly impactful policies that positively affect rural farming communities, policies that empower the farming community to make more money, prosper as farmers, and policies that make them feel like growing food for the world is the best thing there is.

Find out how EIT Climate-KIC helps the most ambitious challengers achieve near impossible climate goals by visiting our COP27 homepage. And if you want to know more about the sessions that EIT Climate-KIC will participate or host during COP27, visit our dedicated activities page.