eco products

Water Conservation, using Absorber & Okoamaji

By Organix Ltd

How can we conserve water?

Organix has two products, Absorber & Okoamaji. Both products can reduce watering frequency, help with aeration, reduce leaching, and uniform germination of seed planted crops.

Watering frequency is reduced depending on the type of soil and weather conditions.
Sandy soils require more water then loamy or clay soils. During hot weather, plants loose a lot of water through their leaves due to transpiration. On average Absorber & Okoamaji can reduce watering frequency by 50%. Suppose you are in a hot area like Turkana and need to water your trees daily during the hot months of January and February. By using Absorber you will only need to water every other day; not only saving you water, electricity or diesel but also it will reduce leaching. The more water you apply the more leaching that occurs. If the water pH is high and there is sodium and bicarbonates in the water, then you do not want to apply too much water. This will keep increasing soil pH as well as the concentration of sodium. Then bicarbonates will build up hindering nutrient uptake by the roots of the plant.

Help with Aeration in soil? The process of continuous absorption and release of water from the Absorber & Okoamaji particles leads to expansion and contraction which will create air pockets in the soil leading to good rooting. With any plant, good feeder roots are the basis of good plant health leading to higher yields.

Leaching reduction? The particles of Absorber & Okoamaji will absorb nutrients dissolved in the water and will release with water. These nutrients may have been washed down in the soil if there was no Absorber. The nutrient use efficiency is increased as a result.

Uniform germination of seed planted crops – small amounts of Absorber when applied with seeds will ensure uniform germination and a healthy start of the plant. In case of a dry spell happening immediately after germination, the chances of mortality will be reduced.

Where can Absorber be used? Tree planting, fruit trees, coffee, tea, landscaping, vegetables, cereals like maize, wheat , …. Pretty much on any plant

Absorber Flier 1003-1 lo res.jpg
Absorber Flier 1003-2 lo res.jpg

The Big Four

By: Organix Limited



THE BIG FOUR, sounds like a phrase used to describe something positive, right? Like the Three musketeers, the G7, the Big Five, the Eight Wonders........

Reality check. From this side we confirm that the so called four are pests. Call them Aphids, Mites, Whiteflies and Thrips -  major sap feeding pests that extract a huge financial toll on tomato, kale, spinach, cabbage, cucumber, beans, orange, mango, capsicum, flowers, the list is long. Mites are not insects but small versions of spiders, while thrips are small winged insects, though difficult to see their wings with the naked eye. Whitefly are small flying insects that are white, as their name imply. They leave a sticky film on plant leaves. Aphids on the other hand, have excellent camouflage that makes them hard to spot. Bottom line is that behind their distinctiveness they pose great potential for damage – every farmer’s dread.  A farmer will not sit around the fire to listen to 'The Big Four' tales.

Whiteflies on the underside of a leaf

Whiteflies on the underside of a leaf

To address the farmer's pain points brought on by these four and others, Organix has within its range of botanical remedies, one that is extracted from the neem tree. The solution which is known as Achook has a low pre harvest interval of eight hours which means that one can ‘pluck and serve’ on the same day! Achook controls insects and nematodes by inhibiting their future generations. Aphids, Mites, Whiteflies and Thrips (and other pests) eggs will not hatch, their larvae will not turn into pupae, pupae will not transform to be adult and their adult will lose ability to lay eggs – long term effect.



in 100ml pack. Applied rate of 1ml per litre water for most crops

To maintain efficacy of Achook for longer periods, the farmer should employ an integrated pest management approach.  The idea is to rotate the methods used so two successive generations of pests aren’t exposed to the same product or the same method. Achook is effectively used in conjunction with other safe methods, that way ‘The Big Four’ are less likely to evolve and become ‘The Mighty Four’.

Whiteflies knocked out after Achook foliar spray

Whiteflies knocked out after Achook foliar spray

Sustainable Charcoal Making and Value Addition for Improved Rural Livelihoods and Nutrition

Cookswell Jikos/Woodlands 2000 Trust

By Teddy Kinyanjui

Background: Cookswell and Barefoot Soulutions

Barefoot Permaculture has designed and created an outstanding demonstration permaculture farm in Turkana East near Lokichar. We were invited up to the farm last November to help train their staff on how to sustainably prune tree branches to make eco friendly charcoal for baking and cooking the farm produce. We also conducted a training session on how to make wood vinegar by condensing the smoke during the charcoal making process to make an organic pest control agent.

The current charcoal making industry and techniques around Nakukulas Village  Turkana East: The charcoal industry in and around Nakukulas Village is a reasonably small but vital business. This is especially true for more vulnerable groups as dry season charcoal making is an important drought coping mechanism that generates much needed emergency income with very little capital expenditure. Traditional charcoal making in this area is heavily reliant on pruning branches from the indigenous dryland trees, mostly the acacia tortilis, or using dead wood from trees that are intentionally bark ringed, burned, or destroyed in floods (see Photo 1). The more common method of charcoal making in this area is to use goat manure, due to the lack of grass and sandy soils, to cover the wood to make a traditional mound type kiln to make charcoal. 

Above: Typical charcoal making kiln covered with goat manure

The advantages of this system are as follows;

1.     Flexibility – variable sized kilns can be constructed at a lower cost (from reduced labour) then with other types of traditional earth kilns;

2.     High calorific value - Goat manure kilns can create a potentially higher calorific value charcoal than kilns covered in pure soil due the energy provided to the pyrolysis process from the manure itself.

3.     Low impact - the traditional tree pruning methods (removing branches and leaving the tree intact) have less impact then clear cutting whole swathes of trees as seen in other parts of Kenya.

The disadvantages of this system are as follows:

1.     High smoke production - the process produces very noxious smoke for the kiln operator (much more so then a soil/metal kiln);

2.     Labour intensive – hard, dry wood must be cut which requires transportation to the kiln site due to insecurity as well as the transportation of the goat manure;

3.     Inefficient combustion – Potential for high loss of charcoal to ash and flare-ups from strong winds (blowing the goat manure off and increasing oxygen flow to the combustion). This scenario is dangerous to livestock and children.

4.     Lack of local government recognition - local charcoal producers’ associations can help with upgrading skills of the charcoal producers, better access to markets, and increased exposure to charcoal making technologies and reafforestation practises .

5.     Loss of vital soil nutrients - burning manure as well as the growing propensity to kill and use fully grown trees as the demand for charcoal in the growing towns of Kitale, Eldoret, Bungoma and Lodwar increases. 

The Sustainable Charcoal Making and Use Demonstration

On the 6th of November 2017 we conducted a sustainable charcoal making and value addition course at the Akiro Amana Farm outside of Nakukulas Village.

 This included the following activities;

1. How to use and operate a Cookswell charcoal kiln.

2. How to make a batch of charcoal using smaller tree branches and building off cuts.

Above: Charcoal making demonstration with the Barefoot Solution team using a Cookswell Jikos kiln.

3. How to harvest wood vinegar (liquid smoke) using the Cookswell Kiln smoke condenser. (See Appendix II for how to use the wood vinegar)


Above: Harvesting wood vinegar (liquid smoke in a Cookswell Kiln.

4. How to coppice trees with correct tools so that one does not damage the trees when processing the feedstock and where/how to cut branches to make charcoal without killing the tree.

Pruning trees for feedstock for the kiln (left) and feedstock after pruning

5. Charcoal and farm produce value addition and improved nutrition using a Cookswell Charcoal Oven to bake, roast or steam food.

Above: Baked quiche and roasted sweet potatoes in a Cookswell Charcoal Oven.

Above: Roasted squash and baked bread in a Cookswell Charcoal Oven using the branch charcoal.

Further recommendations:

1.     We recommend that the charcoal making activity, especially processing the feedstock, undergo a small localized cost/benefit analysis to further investigate true local production costs in regards to labour versus output.  To this end I would suggest that the harvesting of branches and cutting them up be timed and the wet and dry weight of the wood and final charcoal and wood vinegar production be recorded over a 6 month period of intensive charcoal production. This data can then be used to extrapolate future industry growth.

2.     We highly recommend implementing options for value addition to the charcoal production. For example, opening a small bakery for value addition to the charcoal and to the food crops. A business bakery training course can be organised from the based in Nairobi who have had many years experience setting up profitable community based bakeries all over Kenya. 

The wood vinegar production also has the potential to be a very lucrative alternative bio-pesticide, seed germination enhancer and food flavouring and meat preservation industry. Further testing of various types of vegetation (especially dry/wet season sap variance in some trees) for multiple uses in the Turkana eco-system and if possible laboratory testing by University of Nairobi/Crop Nuts should be able to provide further insight into this

We would like to extend a very hearty thanks to the whole team at Barefoot Solutions for this very interesting experience demonstrating our products and expertise in a new part of the Kenya.  

Keep up the great work!

Come visit us in Turkana for a full hands- on experience on our demonstration farm by applying for our apprenticeship program here.

Appendix I

Kiln Instructions.



Appendix II

Wood Vinegar Resources

What is wood vinegar?

Recovery of chemicals from the vapours given off when hardwood is converted to charcoal was once a flourishing industry. However, as soon as the petrochemical developed, wood as a source of methanol, acetic acid, specialty tars and preservatives became uneconomic. But with the advent of higher prices for organic food and organic living, wood vinegar is making a vigorous globally resurgence. 

Wood vinegar is another name for pyroligneous acid and is the crude condensate of smoke that consists mainly of water. 

The non-water component consists of wood tars, both water soluble and insoluble, acetic acid, methanol, acetone and other complex chemicals in small amounts. When left to stand, the pyroligneous acid separates into two layers comprising the water insoluble tar and a watery layer containing the remaining chemicals.

Specific Farm Uses for Wood Vinegar:

The Appropriate Technology Association of Thailand recommends the following wood vinegar/water solution rates for various farm uses:

• Repel nematodes – Tomatoes, 1:500 (apply to the base of plants); strawberries, 1:200 (apply to the base of plants); and black pepper vines, 1:1500 (apply in place of water).
• Repel insect pests – Cabbage and Chinese cabbage, 1:1500 (apply in place of water); corn 1:300 (spray onto leaves).
• Control of fungal diseases – Tomato and cucumber, 1:200 (spray onto leaves).
• Control of root rot – Tomato and cucumber, 1:200 (apply to the base of plants).
• Reduce incidence of chili pepper flowers aborting – 1:300 (spray onto leaves).
• Improve flavor of sweet fruits and stimulate development of crops. Mix solution rates of 1:500 to 1:1000. Wood vinegar prevents excessive nitrogen levels, improves plant metabolism and contributes to higher fruit sugar levels.
• Stimulate compost production. A solution rate of 1:100 will help increase the biological activity of various beneficial microbes and can decrease composting times.
• Combat bad odor. A wood vinegar solution of 1:50 will diminish the production of odor-causing ammonia in animal pens.
• Supplement for livestock feed. Mixed with livestock feed at rates of between 1:200 and 1:300, wood vinegar can adjust bacterial levels in the animal digestive tract which improve the absorption of nutrients from feed.
• Enrich garden soil. Use a strong solution of 1:30 to apply to the garden soil surface at a rate of 6 liters of solution per 1m² to enrich the soil prior to planting crops. To control soil-based plant pathogens, use an even stronger rate of application. 

Composition and Characteristics of Wood Vinegar

Nikhom reports that wood vinegar yield per metric ton (2200 lbs.) of air dry wood is appx. 314 kg (690.8 lbs.). The product contains approximately200 components. 

These include:
• Alcohol (methanol, butanol, amylalcohol)
• Acid (acetic, formic, propioinic, valeric)
• Neutral substances such as formaldehyde, acetone, furfural, valerolactone
• Phenols (syringol, cresol, phenol)
• Basic substances such as ammonia, methyl amine, pyridine

He also describes quality wood vinegar as having the following characteristics (most of which may require special laboratory instruments or methodology to determine):
• pH of approximately 3.0
• Specific gravity between 1.005-1.050
• Color ranging from pale yellow to bright brown to reddish brown
• Transparent
• Smoky odor
• Dissolved tar content: less than 3 percent
• Ignition residue: less than 0.2 percent by weight

Your own homemade wood vinegar will vary depending on the feedstock used, moisture content and carbonization time. We recommend you do trials before large scale use.

For more information about wood vinegar - please see these links below:





Saponification inna di Nation

Using Cinnabar Green products on our drylands permaculture farm

By Sven Verwiel

The thought of having ecologically sound showers and baths is becoming more of an attraction to many of us. Most folk think of eco showers as water and energy saving devices. This is very true. The technology linked to these designs has improved immensely in recent years and it is becoming a norm to fit them into modern housing….

From our perspective however, this can be taken a step further. Simply because water and energy saving isn’t enough. In areas where water is scarce or expensive – which by the way, is nearly everywhere nowadays – water efficiency of the actual shower or bathtub, should be coupled with garden design. Surrounded by food and functional plants; climbers bearing fruit and beautifully smelling flowers, sugarcane, lemongrass, pumpkin, watermelon, banana, cassava, papaya, palms, and bamboo are but a few of the beneficiaries of well-designed shower tolerant species we have worked with to date.

Banana circle eco shower design | Amana Farm Turkana

Banana circle eco shower design | Amana Farm Turkana

Let’s cause no confusion here – a well-designed grey and black water treatment system is not what I am referring to. Not here anyway. Water treatment systems are massively important, but their complexity scares most of us. I am simply referring to showers, hand basins, and bathtubs. Systems that don’t deal with too many fats nor human waste.

Now of course there is the element of being conscious about what you put down your drain. But as long as you’re not one of those who thinks washing their hair twice a day and lathering up with half a liter of body wash is the way forward, then eco shower design is a perfect way to re-use your run-off effectively without technical designs or expensive filtration systems – and this is especially true for dry climates – where soils are hardly ever saturated with water.

We have found that Cinnabar Green’s selection of natural soaps works a treat. Not a single species we have trialed in our outdoor showers have shown any sign of being negatively affected by the soap itself. This in part may be due to good shower design, but on the whole, their products are completely legit. Nearly every decent lodge you visit in Kenya, uses their products – and for good reason. John and Penny Horsey run an amazing business. Both keen farmers and environmentalists, their farm on the foothills of Mount Kenya grows an impressive range of herbs and scented shrubs. I was blown away by their amazing property; a 70-acre parcel of paradise with a forest of indigenous trees, grasses, shrubs – an impressive 7-acre farm, a beautiful house, and a well-run factory. I had the suspicion it would be an amazing operation and had visions of wandering through their fields and factory with a strong concoction of spices and herbs creeping up the old nostrils – and that’s exactly what it was.

Heavily mulched beds | Cinnabar Green Farm

Heavily mulched beds | Cinnabar Green Farm

Drip Irrigation | Cinnabar Green Farm

Drip Irrigation | Cinnabar Green Farm

As you do, I left the lovely couple in peace and parted with a good 20 liters of natural shampoos and body wash to last us the rest of the century.


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