Seed balls of African indigenous seed species suitable for the Nairobi region of Kenya are being tested for their potential growth rates.
Photo: © Verenardo Meeme, SciDevNet

Beating plastic bag use in afforestation

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 recently banned the use of plastic bags. And 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.

Kinyanjui, a resident of Nairobi, Kenya, and founder of the charcoal business Cookswell Jikos Limited, has invented portable small seed balls for easy dispersal. Kinyanjui’s idea is to use seed balls instead of the usual plastic bags to grow seedlings. Seeds require nutrition to grow. He has engineered a method of coating each seed with charcoal dust and corn or cassava starch, so that a tiny ball is formed. The coating protects the seed from being eaten up and from pests and diseases.

Kinyanjui says he has the capacity to make one tonne of seed balls a day. So far, since the project’s initiation in 2016, about one million seed balls of different certified indigenous tree species have been dispersed throughout Kenya through partnerships with locals. Kinyanjui’s approach has a germination rate of 60 per cent.

“People use charcoal every day, which means that more trees are needed. 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 to maintain peace among these communities.”

When tree seedlings are grown in plastic bags in nurseries, the roots get squeezed and lack ability to grow fast, explains Kinyajui. Seed balls will enable roots to adapt very easily, and the method ensures less root disturbance.

Kinyanjui hopes to partner with like-minded organisations and youth who herd livestock and can use slings to disperse more seeds in arid lands.


More Information:Cookswell Jikos Ltd

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