Phyla: Pongamia’s Impact on Africa’s Food Security and Economy

 Phyla: Pongamia’s Impact on Africa’s Food Security and Economy


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“We’ve moved from farming to technology,” Gene Khorommbi Likhanya, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Madimbo Agri Group, said. “Phyla is a solution where we’re looking at revolutionizing the art of how things are done.”

The Pongamia tree, celebrated for its adaptability and capacity to thrive in challenging conditions, has emerged as a valuable source of high-quality charcoal, oils, biodiesel, and Jet A1 aviation fuel. 

“It’s a wonder plant that we will be commercializing,” Gene said. This ambitious agricultural initiative is set to be introduced into rural communities, promising to generate thousands of job opportunities within the next five to ten years. 

“It will change the face of agriculture. It will be something totally different.” 

Addressing global challenges, Gene emphasizes the green aspect of the project. Pongamia trees, known for their air quality enhancement, provide a sustainable solution to climate change, fostering a healthier ecosystem.

This comprehensive project also encompasses soil restoration processes. “We fix the soil at the same time. We don’t take from the soil.” Gene explains, “The good we will be doing through Phyla will change the landscape of Africa and food security.”

According to Gene, this project is a crucial step in the path that leads Africa to become the food basket of the world. Phyla continues to grow and to include new sectors in the market; “We’re moving [to] space where we will be creating plant-based proteins.”

On the twenty-third of November, 2023, Phyla Nurseries SA received their permit to import Pongamia cuttings and seeds to drive the project forward. “From something that started as a concept, now all of a sudden it’s a reality. It’s exciting – we all share the excitement.”

“The engineers are extremely excited about the extraction of the oil. So yes, lots of excitement all around.” Focusing on the sustainability of the project, Gene is positive that this project is bound to last for the long term – without destroying the planet. He notes that it is of the utmost importance to take note of what you are investing in. “Inevitably the oil is going to finish…then what are your options?”

Although there is still lots of work to be done in this industry, with 100,000 hectares planned to be populated by these Pongamia trees by 2030, Gene’s focus is set on breaking records and putting Africa on the map of major technological advancements. “I think that’s the big focus for now, is how do we reproduce at record time to create those plantations of Pongamia in Southern Africa?”

“What went through my mind [when we received the permit] was a really great joy for what’s coming, or what’s possible for such ground breaking technology. And out of all the places in the world; South Africa. I think it’s quite a big deal, and setting the tone for [the rest] Africa.”

Teagan Cloete

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