Charcoal balls tackle Kenyan reforestation

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Kenya has a problem with deforestation. The country cuts down an estimated 5.6 million trees and shrubs a year. The trees provide food, shelter and fuel, but without them wind and soil erosion turn large areas of the country into dustbowl. A local startup called Seedballs Kenya may have a solution. To make replanting easy and affordable, they have developed seedballs – a way for anyone to plant trees with almost no effort.

Seedballs look like large, black marbles. Each one contains a single tree seed surrounded by nutrients and coated in a charcoal shell. The charcoal protects the seed and protects it from insects or animals. When it rains, the water washes away the coating and allows the seeds to germinate. Seedballs Kenya is a business collaboration between two Kenyan companies, charcoal stove maker Cookswell Jikos and Chardust Ltd., which recycles waste into fuel briquettes.

The seedballs make planting trees as easy as throwing a ball onto the ground. Seedballs Kenya encourages ‘guerilla gardening’ such as having school children seed their local area using catapults. They have also persuaded local helicopter charter companies to keep bags of seedballs under the seats. Passengers can help reforest Kenya by throwing the balls out of windows while they fly. The seedballs cost around $6 USD per kilogram (about 450 seedballs) to purchase.

About 2 million seedballs have been planted in Kenya over the past year and a half. According to Seedballs Kenya, around half the seedballs will germinate and eventually become mature trees. As the trees grow, their roots help to anchor the earth and stop further soil erosion. This product joins other reforestation projects. These include a cocoon to help trees grow in arid conditions and an urn that helps trees grow from ashes.

Takeaway: Local startups often do a far more efficient job at addressing issues in their area than bigger corporations. The flexibility and experience-based knowledge of smaller companies streamlines the development process and makes sure resources are sent where they are most needed. What other benefits might smaller startups have over bigger, more established businesses?

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Spotted by Rachel Davies, written by Springwise.
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