Solution Overview & Team Lead Details

Our Organization

green nettle textiles

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What is the name of your solution?

sustainable sting

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Provide a one-line summary of your solution.

production of ecofibre and wooven fabrics from stinging nettle grown on none productive steepslopes currently under degradative farming . f

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Film your elevator pitch.

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What specific problem are you solving?

1.Increased land degradation on steepslopes.

As population increase, local communities are encroaching steepslopes for farming .Clearing of Natural vegetation in these carbon rich ecosystem have led to unlimited problems including: soil erosion,river siltation as well as low productivity and profitability among communities in these areas.on large scale  in Kenya, farming activities in steep highlands has caused  rise in rift valley lakes  and we are on verge of witnessing ecological disaster as salty water Lake baringo  is hundreds of meters away from merging with fresh water L.bogoria.In 2021 ,alone , more than 100 people died in kenya highlands due to landslide with hundreds more displaced, research has shown that these landslide are caused mainly by human activities and clearing of vegetation. large scale clearing of native vegetation ( with our interest being nettle in mountainous sloppy regions ) affect biodiversity as hundreds of insects and small invertabrates that depend on these crop decline in numbers . 

With government initially allowing  community surrounding  forest conserved areas to extract resources from the forest, it have turned into a nightmare as population cut lots of trees for farming and government efforts to reforest these areas is highly affected by the population destroying trees at young age as they see them as  long term benefits alone. These has lad to ban of activities in several forests in kenya  with more than 200000 families affected . We believe in a coexistence  learning from unique relationship from nepal traditional communities and their forest where people around the forest area can profit from natural vegetation ,earn from it and conserve nature .

2. High level of carbon emission ,environmental pollution and carbon credit imported to kenya through importation of 177000tonnes of second hand clothing annually with most of it ending up in dumpsite  and dumpsite fires within an year. These importation apart from pollution have led to death of local textiles industries. Green nettle textiles believes in production of natural ecofibre and clothing from natural ecosystem in a sustainable process in a way that what we ware takes care of nature.

Unlike many players in the industry who focus on ease in production and cheaper options, we have chosen a path in which we embrace , circularity ,sustainability and eco conservation in our brand  and aim to replace the revival of cotton sector in africa whose production leads to more utilization of arable  land and water that could be focused in food production.

With these two scenarios occuring in kenya, Green nettle textile aim to solve the problem of low supply of Eco sustainable textile in kenya market amidst increase supply of non sustainable textiles through engaging population with degradative steepslope to carry out eco conservative farming for economic sustainability  and nature conservation.

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What is your solution?

Green nettle textiles produces eco fibres and wooven fabrics from stinging nettle grown on steepslopes through an Eco conservative  process of biological letting at farmers point.

Through  these , we enable local population with steepslope to protect and benefit from their effort to prevent clearing of natural vegetation, especially nettle which is native in these areas  and helps them reestablish nettle plantation on degraded areas where clearing has being done earlier.

to areas of conflict with government, our work enable locals partner to help in reforestation where government plant trees , locals reestablish nettle plantations as undercover, they benefit from harvesting nettle as they care for young trees.

we do these by: Engaging local farmers in the steep slopes to establish Stinging nettle plantations. For every 3 months we buy nettle stalks which we use for fibre extraction. Nettle shoots and leaves are directed for use in cosmetic and alternative nutrition. Through this we are able to offer sustainable and continuous eco-cash crops to local farmers. The nettle plant re-establishes after harvest and is thus a cover crop all year round which helps in biodiversity conservation as nettle plays host to hundreds of insects and small vertabrates.
We employ innovative biological retting process ,at farmers point, which apart from us getting fibre the farmers get the fermented plant extract which they use as foliar fertilizer and bio-pesticide.
Our nettle yarns are stronger than cotton, versatile than silk and cheaper to produce than wool. The nettle fibre characteristics make it easier to blend with other fibres.
With its regenerative nature, resistance to pests and little water requirements, nettle  fibre has the potential to  replace other conventional fibres in Africa and globally.

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Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?

We  approach  our solution from two angles ;

1. Production landscape where we serve to benefit hundreds of thousands of small scale farmers in Kenya and hopefully Africa who have non productive steepslopes and are looking for sustainable cash crop.

2.Market ; in short term eco conscious middle class population that cares about what they ware, what's its made of and the impact its production had in environmental and community it was produced in and long term market where we have a rare opportunity of revolutionizing textile industry in Kenya and Africa through being market leaders in production of Eco conscious brands . 

To explain these,Africa population is on increase at an estimated 2% per annum. By 2035, it's estimated around 2 billion people will be living in Africa. Increase in population increases demand for clothing. Notably, the middle-class population is on a steady rise and research has shown a direct correlation between increase in middle-class population with the increased demand for eco-social conscious goods. Eco fibre production process leads to community livelihood improvement. With the availability of eco-fibre and clothing in Africa being too rare, we  are  working  to increase its  availability  and  also    remain globally connected  . World major fashion brand are pushing for sustainability and most of them has set a sustainability department in their company.For the last few years of existence, we have being able to reach some companies and we are working with their sustainability departments for research . Though accounting for 15% of our business, hand craft and hand wooven products are sold directly from our website and we have had clients from 15 countries.

Consumption of sustainable apparel has grown by 508% between 2016-2018 with the trend shifting upward as people are becoming more conscious about what they wear and current fight of climate change were fashion serve as the second most pollutant in the world. kenya imports 1.6 million tonnes of second hand clothes per year, 50 % of which can be made with nettle sustainable fibres, we target on long run to reduce direct importation through local making and sourcing.  with us working with global brands in material research, we aim to produce products to global standards and partner to target part of $50billion sustainable fashion market which is greatly affected by lack of sustainable fibre. Coming from Africa ,we are placed to be leaders in sustainable fashion,thanks to favorable climate that would allow year round production of fibre as well as abundant steep-slopes and affordable labor that will ensure  fibre production has no effect to food production whose demand increase with increase in population

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How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

We are experienced, diverse and proven to be effective at global stage in the field of sustainable textiles and social innovation 

The founding team came to initiative at different level and on different purpose. Jonah was doing phytoremediation project research on waste land when he met Jackie who was doing community empowerment on wasteland productivity with no definite crop,susan joined these group when she was doing conservation research of disappearing springs and biodiversity in water towers ,esther as  nurse joined as she was trying to fight microstarvation and iron deficiencies among marginalized women in Kenyan coast and dried stinging nettle became the 1st option.sophia previously trained teenage girls in hand knitting and weaving as form of self reliance and became part of team as she is inspired by sustainable fashion and future of conservation. Jonah mwangi waithaka:Founder and C.E.O of the venture.Biochemist by profession farmer by passion and highly experienced in social entrepreneurship.he serves as overall head of the venture with his main roles being strategy development,design innovation and coordination of business activities Jackline murimi: chief operations manager .Trained accountant by proffesion,trained and experienced social entrepreneur with 4 years experience in social entrepreneurship and innovations.she aids in design innovations and business partnership as well as internal business coordination Susan macharia:biologist by proffesion and chief conservation officer in our venture,leads production and monitoring Esther muthoni :nurse by professional,heads partnerships and relations and offset of non fibre masses Sophia wambui: talented knitter and weaver and leads textile production and community training The team is working close with local farmers who does the primary fibre letting reducing the need for in factory fibre processes.

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Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

Support local economies that protect high-carbon ecosystems from development, including peatlands, mangroves, and forests.

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Where our solution team is headquartered or located:

Nairobi, Kenya
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Our solution's stage of development:

Pilot
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How many people does your solution currently serve?

1500

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Why are you applying to Solve?

To be great, you need to walk with great people and if they trust you at tender age then you will be great, 

MIT SOLVE is a power house of great ideas , being part of it gives credibility to those who know you and beyond.we dream to counted among those who are great .

our main challenge currently is acquisition of decortication line and milling machine which will standardize production and lower the cost of extraction to 33%.  with adequate financing we shall be able to acquire these within a short time.apart from financing, mit will give us a global exposure which is key to driving conversation about the need for sustainable fashion that is produced with circular benefits to the society.with textile being the second most pollutant in the world,climate change mitigation on top, mit will place us at a better point to scale and impact on the most affected continent on the earth as well as place us in lead position to advocate of changing clothing to be within planetary boundaries. being a global award , association with mit  will give us credibility among future investors who shy away from  investing in early stage ventures due to risks involved. mentor-ship and networks acquired will be key on our scale pathway.

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In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

Business model (e.g. product-market fit, strategy & development)

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Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

jonah mwangi

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More About Your Solution

What makes your solution innovative?

PRODUCT: stinging nettle is the only plant fibre that can match cotton in softness,its stronger than cotton with unique property of being hollow in structure that makes it fit for usage in both summer and winter clothing thanks to the hollow structure found in it.

Its cheap and easier to produce when compared to wool,versatile And durable than silk and softer than bamboo.these makes nettle a superior fibre which can be blend with other fibres to improve their quality.

PRODUCTION LANDSCAPE: we produce our nettle fibre from steepslopes which are considered wasteland ,involving community in conservation as well as biological extraction of fibres.apart from fibres,the initiative have circular benefits in environmental conservation , community empowerment and contributing in community well being as nettle shoots and  leaves are directed for use in alternative nutrition and cosmetic industry.our landscape balances future needs as we separate food from clothe production as demand for both increases,saving more land and water for food.

Growing stinging nettle alone without considering its value as a fibre and value delivered from shoots and leaves helps in absorbing 1000kgs of atmospheric carbon dioxide per acre per season which is equivalent to 3 tonnes per year, if these happens in nature( conserved carbon rich steepslopes) growing stinging nettle(maintaining its plantation ) has more value than reforesting areas and definitely gives more benefits economically to local population and nature from products that we produce from it .

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What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and how will you achieve them?

During our piloting stage ,we were able to engage  200 farmers with extreme steepslope to establish stinging nettle plantation which was a success till we stopped as production of fibre was hard with little access to machines . we learn successful pilots and post pilot we have being able to engage on an intermittent basis 400 farmers with60 women trained in knitting of customized orders we have .these number wont change in the next 1 year.

however The team is currently running research in a bid to produce clothing fit to make t-shirts from stinging nettle. On finalization of eco clothing production, we shall tap to partner with H&M who are monitoring our quality and production capacities. we target to engage atleast 100000 farmers to establish stinging nettle plantation on 25000 acres of extreme steepslopes when the company becomes technologically ready. these will be able to conserve environment as well as offer livelihood improvement to the local population

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How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?

we engage local communities with non productive steep slopes to establish stinging nettle as a commercial crop. to understand our impact, we measure the increase in farmers earning prior and after our engagement. employing biological letting process which happens mostly at farmers point , we are able to offer farmers more earning and despite us getting fibres, farmers get fermented plant extract which they use as foliar feed. these is indirect impact which we as a team  are working on the most effective way to measure it. we have a conservation impact which we are working o way to measure. by establishing stinging nettle on steepslope, we conserve environment and prevent soil erosion.nettle plays host to more than 100 species of insect with admiral butterfly in Kenya being one at risk of extinction. by establishment of stinging nettle in its native areas, we are able to contribute to biodiversity conservation which is hard but important to measure.

 Growing nettle alone without considering the economical and social benefits contribute to carbon sink of 1000kg per acre per season /3000kg/year. These makes nettle a potent crop to fight global warming and more important as we grow it in regions where reafforestation is going on to protect young trees and ensure local community benefits. we measure our carbon absorption  cycle mainly from acre of land under nettle.

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What is your theory of change?

we engage local community with steepslopes to reestablish stinging nettle plantation which are native crop in these area.for every 3months,green nettle textiles buy nettle stalks for bre extraction. Nettle shoots and leaves are directed for use in alternative nutrition and cosmetic industry. Nettle grows naturally ands reestablishes itself after harvest through rhizomes,these offers cover crop preventing erosion as well as offering continuous ecocash crop to locals who currently got non. with us employing biological extraction of bres at farmers point during letting, apart from us getting bres ,farmers get fermented plant extract which they use as foliar fertilizer to reboost production.

Nettle plantation offer host to different insects and small vertebrates ,these aid in conserving biodiversity.with nettle being hardy,it’s the only standing vegetation remaining during extended dry spell offering food and shelter to diverse insects and small mammals .on scale,we shall able to reduce demand for cotton bre whose production uses lots of green house gases emitting chemicals and takes up more land and water that can be used for food.

Taking reviews from a closure match up of our activity, we have worked closely with traditional communities in Nepal who for centuries have being depending entirely on alloy(himalayan nettle) for survival, from our experience and pilots , we were able to borrow factors that will enable successful eco dependency of people to nature and somehow influence nature by proper utilization and repurposing of degraded lands .

We have worked to improve on processing process learnt from Nepal, reestablish effective growth  and bank on favourable climate in kenya and Africa that can support all year round growth to establish a lasting industry of nettle eco fibre .

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Describe the core technology that powers your solution.

Nettle fibre processing is an 11 steps process with decortication and letting being the key to other processes that remain almost the same irregardless of these 2 steps. Green nettle textiles employ our own co developed mechanical decortication and enhanced biological letting process which is designed to occur at farmers point t give locals much benefits and company only acquire preprocessed fibres.

From that point, we shall be able to use all Will you be able to use existing manufacturing to develop nettle fibres with little customization.

The resultant yarn can be incorporated in targeted textiles production line without further modification of the process or machine

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Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new business model or process that relies on technology to be successful

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Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Manufacturing Technology
  • Materials Science
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Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?

  • 1. No Poverty
  • 12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  • 13. Climate Action
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In which countries do you currently operate?

  • Kenya
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In which countries will you be operating within the next year?

  • Kenya
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Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?

For-profit, including B-Corp or similar models

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How many people work on your solution team?

4

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How long have you been working on your solution?

4 years

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What is your approach to incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusivity into your work?

The team is currently as inclusive and diverse as possible with representation from different carders in terms of gender, age, training, passion education level and vision.

We strive to employ basically based on skills, experience and fit to position regardless on tribe, disability ,sexual orientation or gender.

Where applicable we appreciate partnership to acquire services which necessary doesnt need us developing internal system like weaving.

These ensure we are inclusive and have alot to offer interms of returns to the local community

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Solution Team

 
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