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A strip of new land

Young people, start-ups and universities: the social challenges build new production chains and community development. In South Africa.

The interest in social entrepreneurship and the positive impact it can have on companies attract the attention of young students of business schools, curiosities that universities nourish creating social business programs applied to global social issues.

The University of Cape Town offers MBA students a commitment on the  field to work on business plans, on strategies and on financial models of  South African social enterprises.

Reel Gardening is a start-up that has developed new agronomic products,  easy to use and cheap, making the self-production of food more accessible.  Launched in 2010, the company based in Johannesburg produces strips of  biodegradable paper containing seeds, nutrients and organic fertilizers. The sown coils, which are sold at a dollar per meter, can be planted in the  ground or placed in a newspaper or a shopper with little soil in case of lack  of arable land.

All you need is the light of the sun and the right amount of  water. The strips of paper use eighty per cent (80%) less water than conventional means  of gardening as they retain most of the water and are indicated in those  areas that are difficult to irrigate. Simple instructions, understandable even by those who cannot read, are printed on paper with natural inks. Each  tape has a different colour: it indicates the depth of sowing, thus  eliminating the need to understand the more technical aspects such as crop  rotation. The coils contain different selections of seeds, depending on the season and alternate organic vegetables and flowering plants to attract pollinators and discourage vermin. Compositions of tapes can be used to equip 100 square meters plots of land, lowering the risk of non-germination for natural causes such as wind or birds.

Reel Gardening and the University of Cape Town are working on several community projects in poor areas, where there are water shortages and  low levels of education. In addition to growing their own food, communities can increase their income by selling the products in excess.

A social phenomenon associated with the spread of the coils of seeds is the  rapid development of community gardens and school gardens in the townships of Cape Town and Johannesburg to entice the younger generation to take care of food sovereignty in areas where water is scarce.

In Italy the soil is fertile for social innovation, too: the homegrown business schools have involved students on social innovation, focusing on policy-making and the Social Innovation Agenda, an initiative of the former Minister Profumo, promotes social innovation among young people.

Italian version here