Meanwhile, Mavuuno opened accounts with two banks to assist farmers who were too poor to afford even the least expensive Penn State greenhouse design.
“We train them on financial literacy, they’ll open an account with us and then we’ll give them loans,” Kamau said.
Farmers have three sizes to choose from — 18 by 20 feet, the same size but taller, and 26 by 49 feet. The sizes cost the Kenyan equivalent of about $636, $700 and $1,620.
Most of the designs use local wood, and in most parts of Kenya, blue gum, an evergreen tree, is used to build the greenhouses because it is easily available, Mehta said.
While Kamau and Mavuuno Greenhouses work to help farmers in East Africa, Mehta and his students are working to advance the project in Cameroon and Haiti.
While it has found a partner in Cameroon called Jola Venture, the program is still figuring out which company in Haiti best fits the program’s standards, said Mehta and his students.
“The first big step is finding that person who is going to care about it and make things happen on the ground,” said Everleigh Stokes, one of the students participating in the project.
“We might have students going to Cameroon in the summer and maybe Haiti as well,” Mehta said. However, because of insufficient funding, these trips have not been confirmed.
Regardless of funding, a 2013 program fellow will be in Cameroon for six months starting in January to work with Jola Venture on standardizing operations, Mehta said.
“I’m extremely excited for Cameroon,” Gilliam said. “I think it’s going to be a booming success.”