Beating plastic bags use in afforestation

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Plastic bags are known to disrupt the environment. For instance, once in the soil, they slowly release toxic chemicals. When animals eat them, they often choke and die.

Kenya, this year, banned the use of plastic bags. But thanks to a 34-year old Kenyan, Teddy Kinyanjui, an innovative afforestation and reforestation method for developing seedlings without using plastic bags is in place. He is working in partnership with Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI), which certifies seeds.

“Good environmental management is, therefore, crucial for peace among pastoral communities.”

Teddy Kinyanjui, Cookswell Jikos Limited

Kinyanjui, a resident of Nairobi, Kenya, and founder of the charcoal business Cookswell Jikos Limited, has invented portable small seed balls for easy dispersal.

This photo gallery shows Kinyanjui’s ingenuity in using seed balls instead of the usual plastic bags to grow seedlings. Kinyanjui says he discovered that seeds require nutrition to grow. Seeds require nutrition to grow, and Kinyanjui has engineered a method of coating each seed with charcoal dust and corn or cassava starch to bind each ball to protect the seeds from prey, pests and diseases.

He says he has the capacity to make one tonne 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. His approach has a germination rate of 60 per cent.

“People use charcoal everyday necessitating for more trees. Climate change has also caused community conflicts, especially among pastoralists in Northern Kenya who fight over pasture for their animals,” Kinyajui says. “Good environmental management is, therefore, crucial for peace among these communities.”

According to Kinyanjui, when tree seedlings are grown in plastic bags in nursery, the roots get squeezed and lack ability to grow fast. Seed balls will enable roots to adapt very easily and the method encourages less root disturbance.

Kinyanjui 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,” Kinyanjui says.