Seedballs are a form of direct seeding, where the seeds are coated within a ball of clay or other materials such as biochar and then spread by various means. They are mostly used in reforestation, but can also be used to improve pasture, establish mixed improved fallows, wind breaks, wood lots, for biochar or charcoal production, etc.
Thanks to Teddy Kinyanjui of Kenya Seedballs for kindly supplying most of these photos. Teddy is the son of Dr. Maxwell Kinyanjui who invented the popular Jiko stove (a fuel-efficient cooker which reduces fuel wood collection and deforestation, and produces biochar). Teddy and his sisters have continued their father’s legacy.
Environmental degradation can be due to many causes, including prolonged and repeated droughts, fuel wood collection, and poorly managed livestock grazing for example, all of which reduces the vegetation cover and exposes the soil.
These problems may then be exacerbated by heavy flooding rains which can cause massive erosion gullies and the loss of precious top soil.
The end result may be that natural vegetation and previously productive agricultural land turns into dongas and dust bowls. (donga is a South African name for an erosion gully).
Charcoal production is a major cause of deforestation in Kenya (and elsewhere in Africa) and the Kenyan government has recently banned the sale of charcoal. This may seem like a good thing, but around 80% or more of Kenyans use charcoal for basic cooking and heating, and alternatives need to be found, or charcoal needs to come from legitimate and sustainable sources. One possibility would be to use Zai holes and arborloos (see the “Arborloo” page on this site) to grow fast-growing plants such as Sesbania sesban (in wetter climates and soils), bamboos, and possibly Acacia holosericea, Acacia torulosa, or similar, (in drier climates/soils). Perhaps the Kenyan government could subsidise legitimate and sustainable wood and charcoal production in Zai holes and arborloos. In the mean time, people will probably simply adapt and clandestinely barter charcoal.
Seedballs have great potential for reforestation around the world, following the example set by the Kenyans. “One seedball has the potential to grow another million trees because if it becomes a mother tree in one area that’s been over-exploited and very degraded, it will start re-seeding some of these places,” says Teddy, co-founder of Seedballs Kenya.
Music: Space Camper by Dhruva Aliman
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