Kenya’s Green Nettle Textile is making use of stinging nettles to produce a sustainable textile for clothing, while providing opportunities for smallholder farmers to boost their livelihoods.
Stinging nettles are resilient and low-maintenance plants, which are considered weeds, grow easily in Kenya. Using stinging nettles as a raw material, Green Nettle Textile are turning the stalks of the plants into a linen-like fabric which is sting-free.
The Sustainable Sting project sees nettle plantations established in partnership with local communities on steep non-arable land. While the nettle stalks are turned into a linen-like fabric, the leftover leaves and shoots are then sent for use in cosmetics and nutrition.
The Kenyan company recently won €150,000 (£128,700) from the H&M Foundation for its inspired use of stinging nettles as textile fibres.
Green Nettle Textile is also hoping to grow the stinging plant in barren areas to make an environmentally-friendly alternative to conventional fabric and create income for farmers in Kenya.
Nettle is a hardy crop and the only remaining vegetable during an extended dry spell in Africa.
Green Nettle Textile say: “Stinging nettle conserves biodiversity by habitating different insects and animals with endangered Aberdare Chameleon being important in our beachhead region
Stinging nettle is a multipurpose plant, the green nettle textile concentrates on stalks for fibre extraction, nettle leaves and the shoots are directed for use in cosmetics and alternative nutrition industries.
“Our project has benefits beyond the current generation. With the success in nettle eco-fibre production, we will reduce the need for conventional fibre and in turn the amount of greenhouse gases produced during conventional fiber production. Our eco-fibre is dyed using natural plant dyes.”
It is expected that 200,000 smallholder farmers across Kenya will benefit from Green Nettle Textile’s Sustainable Sting project.
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about sustainable lifestyle and green living for publications, and offers content services to planet-friendly businesses. Find out more at Rosamedea.com