by Natasha Arendorf

Putting Africa on the map

SA social innovation start-up shines internationally

SA students win international prizes
Students are seedlings of change

An innovative South African gardening product has attracted a lot of attention internationally – making it through to the final rounds of two prestigious international competitions and gaining invaluable experience and global exposure along the way.

 

The Reel Gardening/UCT Graduate School of Business team beat over 2000 teams from 355 universities across 150 countries to make it to the final of the prestigious $1m (approximately R9.8135,00) Hult Prize, sponsored by the Clinton Global Initiative, in New York. Before that, Reel Gardening also made it to the final of the Global Social Venture Competition in the US.

 

Dr François Bonnici, Director of the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the GSB, who has been supporting the team since 2012, said he was extremely proud of them and said they had put Africa on the map in terms of social innovation. 

 

“It is fantastic to see an African team participating in this global event. In the past, African teams have not featured much in these global competitions, because they do not get the support or sponsorship they need from institutions and aren’t encouraged to enter such competitions.”

 

The Reel Gardening–UCT team was formed in November last year during the Student Social Venture programme (SSVP) hosted by the UCT GSB’s Bertha Centre and student-run Net Impact Chapter. Reel Gardening is the brain child of Claire Reid, who developed a practical and convenient vegetable seed pack that enables low-cost and low-maintenance vegetable production, making it ideal as a food source for families in low-income areas with poor soil, limited space and little resources.

 

Reel Gardening has been operational since 2010 and the seed packages are sold in various stores and have been used in over 150 community gardens and in various projects at schools around South Africa.

 

“The company is amazing in so many ways, especially for people who struggle to put food on the table for their families. It has so many benefits; the seed costs a seventh of the price of fresh produce in stores, it also overcomes barriers of language and literacy and the 80% savings in water is a major help to someone who has to walk two kilometres to get water,” says Moore, who has now joined the Reel Gardening team on a consulting basis following the completion of her MBA and focuses on strategy. 

 

The seed strip includes organic fertiliser and requires very little input from the planter. Seeds come already correctly spaced apart and are virtually guaranteed to germinate and flourish. As founder Claire Reid said in one interview, “It is fun, easy and simple.”

 

“The competition has given Reel Gardening a lot of exposure, an opportunity to take the time to plan, make valuable partnerships and think ahead,” says Moore, referring specifically to the 7-week incubator programme in Boston, in the US, to which all finalists of the Hult Prize were invited to. This led up to a high-profile final event attended by former President Bill Clinton where all of the teams pitched their ideasto an international jury, which included Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Muhammad Yunus and executives of the United Nations’ World Food Programme. “The competition has also shown how the Bertha Centre so effectively fosters social innovations and brings the lectures quickly from theory to actionable steps,” says Moore. 

 

Moore says one of the best things about the competition was how it got over 10 000 brains – there were about 11 000 students from various universities in the teams that entered the competition - working on topics around innovation and social development, creating a field of social enterprises.  

“Having a winner from the first year do so well and make it to the final for the Hult Prize has given the programme a lot of credibility as well as attract attention to the great work done by the Bertha Centre,” he says.

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