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Biochar to clean up Klein River

A project to clean up the Klein River and transform local farming methods is underway.

The ReStore Klein River Estuary project is spearheaded by Luke Boshier, a sustainable development pioneer, who has been working on this project for over a year. It’s aim is to clean up the Klein River by reducing chemical fertilizers on farms neighbouring the Klein River and deal with water pollution at the source.

ReStore Klein River produces a biochar based fertiliser that has been acknowledged by the Intergovernmental panel of climate change (IPCC) as the one product that can actually become CO2 negative when put into the ground.

Boshier says a gram of Biochar has a surface area that can cover a football field. “That is the holding capacity, it becomes a room, billions of rooms in the soil where microbes work the soil. It is neutral and stabilises everything.”

Biochar is, however, costly to produce. Boshier says if they can get the buy-in from 1 000 people between Hermanus, Stanford and Tesselaarsdal who are willing pay R250 a month and join their club, they can give the fertilizer to farmers who cannot afford to buy the product. “They are cross-subsiding the farmers, who get their fertilizer for the year. In return they get a green card and qualify for discounts at partner farms.”

He says the second problem is to get the Biochar in the soil. He found a solution by adding chicken manure and now produces a pellative product. “When it’s in the soil, it lasts forever as it’s 80% total carbon, a mixture of organic and fixed carbon. You can apply it as a mulch to your soil. ” He works closely with Dr Johan Straus from Elsenburg who uses this product as his product of choice. “At Elsenburg they want to move away from chemical farming.”

Boshier explains their product is made from everything within the watershed environment and is called ReStore.”

Boshier says the project they’ve embarked upon is “massive” from the concept of getting the community involved to help clean up the river up to employing locals to harvest invasive aliens for the product. “If we can increase the soil’s holding capacity, the farmlands can become more profitable and we can create jobs. It will reduce the amount of nutrients entering the river which makes its way down to the estuary and creates algae.”

He says the Klein River watershed is very unique because of the diverse agriculture along the 80 km river way and some very important fauna and flora species. “It is regarded as the fifth most important estuary as there is also a small puffer fish that only exists in Walker Bay and it comes up the river to spawn, which it can’t do now because it’s been closed.”

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