Best practices from VIA Water's project Hydroponics in upscaling and communication
“Peter is one of our early partners in the VIA Water Programme. He is living in a neighbourhood near Nairobi, where he has a small company for agricultural supplies, specialised in ‘hydroculture’, which he exposes on his demo farm. Attached to his message was a photo of him with the president of Kenya, showing full attention for his vertical garden that could fit in every minor open space in slum areas. Also for us this is a moment of joy, as we have been accompanying Peter on his journey to develop the rather expensive and trendy vertical walls into a system that is affordable for the urban poor. When he sent us the first ideas, he intended to grow rice in the city. We did discourage that, as we thought that growing vegetables and herbs in the high-density areas would be more appropriate. Peter got full support of our business developer to get his idea fundable from our innovation fund. Peter is a typical example of what we intend to do with our VIA Water programme. Assisting smart people and organisations in bringing their raw ideas to clear plans that will finally result in scalable products and approaches with a high impact on people’s lives". Shares our expert Dick Bouman of Aqua for All proudly.
Peter Chege Gichuku is running the VIA Water project ‘Hydroponics for urban low income groups’, in Kenya. Now, Peter and Hydroponics are celebrating more successes, as he secured 500,000 USD from USAID for pro-poor hydroponics.
Peter does not only have a successful business plan, but also knows how to attract customers. He and his team are one of the most successful at VIA Water in reaching out to the press, and they are benefiting from it. We have interviewed Peter to share some of his best communication practices, which contribute to his success.
‘I did not know there was a power in the press’, shares Peter Chege Gichuku.
Peter continues to explains why reaching out to the press is so important for them. ‘We benefit a lot from the fact that the press likes to talk about innovations. For us, it is a form of unpaid advertisement and a great way to invest in our network.’
There are also possible pitfalls in reaching out to the press: ‘We also have to be very careful with the media. They come whenever they want, but you want to prepare the information, make sure that the information you give to different people fits their public and sends the message you want out there. Also, if we are not careful, everybody will start hydroponics, but they will do it wrongly. They don’t know the details of our work and how long it took us to develop it up to this quality. It can hurt the company if others do the same, use your name, but fail in quality.’
Peter has great advice for other VIA Water projects: ‘The media is helpful for a start-up, you are doing things differently, and this has news value. Once you have a good product, and you know it’s innovative, you can approach the media. There are so many programmes and institutions that are interested in this kind of news. Contact different media to tell them what new things you bring to get your name out. Once the news is shared, people will come and start buying. Make sure you are ready for that!
Peter cannot help to share an important thought with the other VIA Water projects – something we all need to keep in mind: ‘Start with the consumer. Target people and potential customers, ask what they want. Sometimes you solve a problem that is not there.’