What problem are you trying to solve?
Land degradation threatens ecosystems and the people who depend on them, especially the poor. Many of the poor people in the world still depend on agriculture as their source of life and income, making their land their most valuable resource in need of protection from erosion. As their land degrades, their food production reduces, their water sources dry up, and in a worst-case scenario, they are pressured to move to more hospitable areas. The erosion process is characterized by a downward spiral: less vegetation means less water holding capacity, which again leads to less vegetation. This eventually results in a greater risk of erosion, so that new plants hardly get the chance to take root. Issues related to landscape degradation already affect more or less 1.5 billion people, impacting the food production of local farmers. In particular, the poorest who only have a limited amount of resilience due to constrained access to capital, education and other resources.
What is your solution to this problem?
Ecosystem Kickstarter aims to break the downward spiral caused by landscape degradation and aims to enhance food security by producing and distributing biodegradable cardboard structures to restore degraded landscapes. While existing erosion measures are often expensive and/or labour-intensive, our product is low-cost and easily implementable, making it accessible for poor farmers as well. The product can provide a pathway out of extreme poverty for those who need it most. SDG 15 recognizes that efforts to restore degraded areas benefit both livelihoods and biodiversity. Because we aim to go beyond the positive environmental and social impacts of the product alone by combining a well-designed product with a holistic, sustainable and inclusive way of working, Ecosystem Kickstarter could also make a considerable contribution to other SDG’s, such as 1, 2, 6, 8, and 13.
What is your latest update on your innovation?
This year we run several tests (both in the lab and in the field) in order to explore how different vegetation and soil types react with the cardboard structure. Thereafter, the plan is to execute a big pilot project from Aug-Nov in Uganda to test the prototype. Although the innovation is not yet financially sustainable, we are looking for ways to further develop our business model. Ecosystem Kickstarter strives to create a circular business model in which the cardboard structure does not only cause resilience in natural ecosystems but also in local production facilities, focussing on using local biomass and workforce at hand. Since we are in the product development and testing phase, we are currently relying upon a subsidy granted to us by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency. We have also spotted the potential for the product to be used in the humanitarian sector. In the near future, we aim to look into the possibilities of the product to improve ‘the lives on hold’ in refugee camps.