Curing the Planet: Reversing Deforestation In Kenya One Seedball at a Time
Our planet is indeed dying, and there’s nothing that brings this aspect closer to reality than watching David Attenborough’s latest documentary, “A Life on Our Planet.” At 93, there’s nothing Attenborough hasn’t witnessed regarding our planet, climate, and changing weather patterns. He’s not the only one worried about our world’s status; there are so many organizations and individuals such as Seedballs Kenya, working day and night to keep the earth’s pulse running.
In Kenya, one man has uniquely taken this challenge. Teddy Kinyanjui, a local, co-founded Seedballs Kenya to fight deforestation in the East African country. Kenya, like many African countries, has a forest cover that is below 10%. The government is losing 5.6 million trees and shrubs in a year. Kinyajui, through his seedballs technology, is set to reverse the toll deforestation has taken on the forest cover in the country.
“Trees are important. They offer food, shelter, and fuel, but also protect plant life from soil and wind erosion that’s quickly turning the Kenyan countryside into a dustbowl.” Kinyanjui explained in an interview with the BBC.
So, how does this unique seedball technology work?
Tree seeds are coated with a charcoal shell, which prevents them from being eaten by animals and insects. This tiny, black marble-sized pellet is the key to re-generating the vastly destroyed forest in the country. One seedball can give rise to a million trees if It grows into a mother tree, especially in an area that has been degraded and overexploited.
Unlike anything you have seen before, Kinyanjui’s seedball technology takes an unconventional method of dispersing the seeds. They are spread over the air by an airplane, through catapult competitions by local schools children, and even regular distribution by hand.
What makes Seedballs Special?
A seedball is simply what it means in literary text, a seed inside charcoal coating. The charcoal coating is made from charcoal dust mixed with nutritious binders. Seedballs Kenya is focusing on reducing the cost of planting various useful indigenous plant species.
The charcoal coating, a biochar coating, protects the seed from insects, rodents, and birds, as well as climate extremes until the rainy season starts. Once the seedballs get soaked, they will help retain the moisture around the seed, encouraging germination.
The seeds are 100% natural and GMO-free, sourced from Kenya Forest Service, which has a stock of about 220 tree species that have been locally collected from 600 localities around the country. Seedball Kenya also uses the provenance data to help guide them during their distribution efforts.
According to the founders of seedball Kenya, aerial seeding through airplanes and helicopters are perhaps the most effective ways to get the job done quickly. By using GPS technology, they can disperse the seeds exactly where they are needed.
The company has also reached out to several helicopter charter companies and requested them to help the reforestation initiative by keeping a bag of seedballs under the seats so that their passengers can also participate in the campaign. Aerial seeding can help disperse about 20,000 seedlings in one trip, making it the most effective method so far.
Conventional methods of reforestation rely on labor-intensive techniques when it comes to planting the seedlings. The beauty of seedballs is that they can be dispersed by anyone, anywhere, quickly and easily. The seedballs also don’t require any maintenance. They only need to lay dormant until the rainy season begins.