Kenyan innovation takes plastic bags out of forestry
A four-month-old Moringa tree (Moringa oleifera), an indigenous Kenyan specie, sprouting from Kinyanjui’s farm. The tree is used to make tea and has medicinal value.
Teddy Kinyanjui shows Maasai grass specie sprout. He says that grass seed bank is diminishing due to overgrazing, especially in Northern Kenya. With his seed balls innovation, he hopes to help restore grass cover.
Seed balls of African indigenous tree species suitable for the Nairobi region are displayed in an open space for testing their potential growth rates.
Seedlings in plastic bags, which have been banned by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources in Kenya. According to Kinyanjui, the plastic bags squeeze the roots of the seedlings, preventing them from growing naturally.
Maasai grass sprouting from seed balls in Kinyanjui’s farm in Runda estate in Nairobi, showing their potential in the field.
Bags of small, portable seed balls for planting African red Acacia and Cinder species suitable for dry land areas. The seeds are certified by KEFRI.
An assortment of indigenous trees at Kinyanjui’s home in Runda estate, in Nairobi. He says all trees were replanted from seeds obtained from the same piece of land.
A grass species (Enteropogon macrostachyus) propagated from seed balls with nutritive cover made of charcoal dust and cassava starch. The starch gives the plant the first nutrients it requires to grow.
Dry soil showing the impacts of climate change in the arid lands of Northern Kenya, an area with few trees. Kinyanjui says his simple technology can help African communities adapt.
Kinyanjui has come up with a homemade technology of producing charcoal from maize cobs, coconut and trimmed branches. Tree waste can be used instead of cutting trees to make charcoal, he says.
- Kenyan innovator replaces plastic bags for developing seedlings
- Seed ball method used to disperse about a million seedlings since 2016
- Made with homemade charcoal, has 60 per cent germination rate
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Plastic bags are known for their environmental impact. They slowly release toxic chemicals once in the soil, for instance, and find their way into the guts of animals that often choke and die as a result.
Kenya banned the use of plastic bags in 2017. And thanks to a 43-year old Kenyan, Teddy Kinyanjui, an innovative afforestation and reforestation method for developing seedlings without using plastic bags is in place.
A resident of Nairobi and founder of Cookswell Jikos Limited, Kinyanjui has invented small, portable seed balls to grow and easily disperse seedlings. He is working in partnership with Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI), which certifies seeds.
This photo gallery shows Kinyanjui’s ingenuity in using the seed balls instead of the usual plastic bags.
When tree seedlings are grown in plastic bags in a nursery, he explains, the roots get squeezed and this limits their ability to grow fast. The seed ball method enables roots to adapt easily, with less disturbance.
“Good environmental management is, therefore, crucial for peace among these communities,”
Kinyanjui says he has engineered a method of coating each seed with charcoal dust, and corn or cassava starch, to bind each ball so the seeds are protected from prey, pests and diseases.
He says he has the capacity to make one tonne of the seed balls per day. So far, since the project’s initiation in 2016, about one million seeds of different species of certified indigenous trees have been dispersed throughout Kenya through partnerships with locals and with a germination rate of 60 per cent.“People use charcoal every day, necessitating for more trees. Climate change has also caused community conflicts, especially among pastoralists in Northern Kenya who fight over pasture for their animals,” says Kinyajui. “Good environmental management is, therefore, crucial for peace among these communities.”
He hopes to partner with like-minded organisations and youth who herd livestock with slings to disperse more seeds in arid lands.
“We would [also] like people to see the value of this simple technology as a contributing factor in combating and adapting to effects of climate change, as this is the cheapest way to encourage tree planting, especially in arid and semi-arid areas,” adds Kinyanjui.