Reel gardening making a real difference

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The United nations declared 2014 the International Year of Family Farming as an initiative to promote small-scale food growing as a response to concerns about world food security. Family farming preserves traditional food products, contributes to a balanced diet an represents an opportunity to boost local economies.

But someone was already already ahead of the game – a young South African architect and entrepreneur, Claire Reid from Johannesburg, South Africa.

It all started n 2002, when, at the age of 16, Claire found herself sitting in her vegetable  garden with a tape measure between her knees and centimetre marks drawn on her fingers. She knew she wanted to grow vegetables to sell to her parents for extra pocket money but was frustrated by the wastage of seed and fertiliser and her inability to get the seed to stay in the soil at the correct depth and distance apart.

So, Claire decided to devise her own solution. Taking strips of newspaper, she then placed the seeds on the strips at the right distance apart before encasing them using a paste made from flour and liquid fertiliser.

She entered her ‘Reel Gardening’ project into the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists in 2002 and the response was overwhelming. Ronnie Kasrils, then South Africa’s Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry, requested information on the water saving abilities of this new form of planting and with the help of the University of Pretoria Claire was able to conclude that her method saved up to 80 per cent of the water consumed during germination. She then went on to win the International Stockholm Junior Water Prize for South Africa, the Woman in Water Award for Scientific Research below the age of 35, and The United Nations Environmental SEED award.

Reel Gardening is a biodegradable colour coded paper tape that encases organic fertiliser and seeds at the correct depth and distance apart, takes five minutes to plant, uses 80 per cent less water and will provide hours of joy and months of  food.

A lack of funds initially prevented the commercial development of her idea, but then with a loan from Anglo Zimele she was on her way. Reel Gardening opened its doors for business on the 12th February 2010 and soon began to expand using a handmade manufacturing process to align with Claire’s dream of maximum job creation through a product that will enable people to feed themselves. Reel Gardening initially entered the retail sphere with a range of 27 products – the custom branded and corporate products followed.

Claire continued to find a way to get Reel Gardening into the rural areas for which it was designed through the invention of the ‘Garden in a Box’, for which Reel Gardening won the inaugural SAB Foundation Social Innovation Awards in 2011.

Now Reel Gardening has spread its wings with products now available in the UK and the USA. Find out more.

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About Author

Peter has a career in publishing and conservation spanning more than four decades. His most recent project has been the development of Untold Africa, a meeting place for intelligent, engrossing and entertaining dialogue for a global community of like-minded people - people who share a common passion for the wild places of Africa, the creatures that inhabit them, and the breadth of African culture. See more

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