January 30, 2023

Komaza was founded by American scientist Tevis Howard in 2006 and it is the largest forestry company in Kenya with over 22,000 farmer partners and 8,000 ha of forest under management. 

It plants over 1,500 ha with 5,000 farmers annually accounting for approximately 40% of commercial tree plantings in Kenya.

Its innovative technology transforms underutilized smallholder land into thriving micro forests, providing wood to an under-served market, and driving social and environmental progress.

Komaza 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 “micro forestry” model represents a paradigm shift in the industry from large, costly plantations to distributed partnerships with local farmers. 

The rate at which trees are being cut down is happening at twice the global average rate in Africa.

The implications of that reality range from increased exposure to climate change risks and hobbling biodiversity and conservation efforts.

Komaza provides smallholder farmers with seedlings and technical guidance to plant and cultivate trees in exchange for payment.

For farmers who are mainly focused on subsistence farming, the upside includes optimizing underutilized vast pieces of land, earning extra income, and getting access to the market through Komaza’s wood processing and sales operations. 

Essentially, farmers supply land and labor while Komaza provides seedlings, support, and harvesting services. 

Planting and harvesting trees under its sustainable model, Komaza believes, can plug the local supply for industrial wood and cooking fuel and offers a sustainable alternative to rapid, unbridled deforestation which forces loggers deeper into forest reserves.

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By working with smallholder farmers, Komaza also sidesteps the cost-intensive model of maintaining costly plantations.

How it Works

Field Extension Team

The Field Extension Network teams provide on-farm training and support. 

They collect data and monitor the trees and everything is coordinated through their tech platform.

Most of their field staff are tree farmers themselves and are their most important brand ambassadors. 

By hiring locally, they immediately tap into local social networks and deep on-the-ground logistics knowledge.

Komaza is also a leading employer in the region, providing valuable work opportunities and intensive professional training and capacity building. 

They also offer good salaries and benefits and work hard to build positive, productive team cultures.

Risks

This is a low-risk enterprise for farmers as it is one of the founding principles of Komaza.

It isn’t a loan either since they give farmers the seedlings. Farmers do have to set aside land for the crop, but this isn’t prime farmland generally, other than trees, not a lot else will grow on it. 

Additionally, growing trees improves the quality of the land.

Payments

Once the trees are harvested, processed, and sold. 

They harvest twice – once to thin the crop to allow the best trees to thrive, and again when the trees are fully grown. 

Their field team and remote management technology regularly monitor and measure the trees, so they know when they’re ready.

Their specialized team cuts the wood, then they ship it to their centralized sawmill for processing.

Eucalyptus Trees

Eucalyptus is one of the most efficient biological machines for growing wood – plus, when used properly, it can help restore highly degraded sites. 

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Komaza is therefore committed to preserving and restoring the natural environment and has worked with leading foresters and conservationists to make sure our planting is responsible and safe.

Founders

Tevis Howard

Tevis Howard

Tevis Howard is the current Founder and CEO of Komaza. 

He previously worked at KEMRI-Wellcome Trust as a Research Associate.

Tevis Howard attended Brown University.

Investors & Funding Rounds

Novastar Ventures, AXA Impact Fund, FMO, Mirova, Ceniarth LLC

Komaza has secured the first close of $28m of the company’s planned $33m Series B equity financing. 

With continued investment and support from their Series A lead Novastar Ventures, this financing round was co-led by Novastar LPs AXA Investment Managers through the AXA Impact Fund: Climate & Biodiversity, and the Dutch development bank FMO, with further participation by Mirova’s Land Degradation Neutrality Fund.

With this latest funding closed, Komaza is well on its way towards its goal of planting one billion trees by 2030, benefiting over 2M farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and doubling existing tree cover across all operating landscapes.

Komaza plans to leverage its Series B funding to expand from its first site on Kenya’s coast to two additional sites across East Africa. 

The company will invest in additional wood manufacturing facilities to expand its line of high-quality, sustainable building materials.

Komaza plans to add a new direct-to-farmer app to drive enrollment and increase farmer access to best practices. 

They will also build off of their success with a recent remote sensing and AI pilot for automated monitoring of their farms.

Main Competitors

Agworld Pty Ltd: This is a software solutions provider that offers a data capture and management platform for the agricultural industry.

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Telesense: It is an AgTech company providing environmental monitoring and control solutions for the food and grain industry.

Compass Minerals: This is a leading supplier of highway deicing products, helping to keep roads safe in the U.S., Canada & UK.

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