Just throw, wait and grow

February 6, 2019

Large scale aerial seedballing by David Sheldrick.

Seedballs makes reforestation in Kenya cheap, easy and fun...

Deforestation is a growing problem in Kenya, as it is in much of Africa, turning grassland, woodland and forest into barren, erosion-prone dustbowls. A contributing factor to the deforestation taking place is the informal charcoal business as people desperate to make a living are cutting down indigenous trees and turning them into charcoal.

Now two social entrepreneurs in Kenya have joined forces to turn this problem on its head by using charcoal dust left over from the charcoal manufacturing process to encase indigenous tree and grass seeds. The chardust casing, mixed in with nutrient rich binders, protects the seeds from insects, rodents, birds and animals until the rains arrive and the seeds can germinate and begin the process of re-vegetating the barren earth.

The seedballs are easy and cheap to transport and spread, by hand by plane or by catapult. They are sown by school kids, community greening programmes and farmers, informal seed ‘bombing’ or aerial reforestation. At least half of the seedballs will germinate and grow, beginning the process of protecting and regenerating the soil, building up a natural seedbank for the future and restoring the natural vegetation cover.

Seed germination rates in the wild vary from species to species, hence the importance of the protective chardust casing. Some species like the Nandi Flame and Slala (Markhamia) require little more than a few rain showers and can sprout within a week or two. Whereas Acacia seeds can take years to germinate as they are adapted to a harsh environment and must wait for the right conditions before sprouting.

1 year and 2 months Sesbania growth.

The seedballs are the size of marbles and are cheap and easy to spread, lowering the cost of planting trees compared to the traditional methods of transporting seedlings in trays or bags and digging holes.

People are encouraged to sow seedballs in appropriate areas where conditions are right and they are not competing with agricultural crops or other land uses.

Seedballing in Tsav.

The tree seeds are sourced from the Kenya Forestry Seed Centre which has a stock of seed of around 220 tree species collected from more than 600 localities (provenances) around Kenya. The charcoal dust is sourced from charcoal vending sites around Nairobi.

Seedballs Kenya was established by Kenyan born and raised Teddy Kinyanjui and Elsen Karstad, a Canadian national and long time resident of Kenya. Their vision is to contribute to the reforestation of Kenya and other African countries to improve soil cover and fertility.

Seeds of various indigenous grasses and tree species can be ordered from Seedball Kenya, and are packaged in fully biodegradable paper bags.

Seedballs Kenya has sold in excess of 2,8 million seedballs since September 2016, and has recently started exporting to Congo.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram