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Strategic Technologies for Development at HELP Center for Ecology Research and Training

Interns are invited to dedicate up to 15% of their internship time to green technology field research, documentation and research writing. HELP will provide hands-on and peer training in the same.

Some of the areas most strategic to HELP at this time are:


Forestry Research

Background Statement: HELP International is well on its way to producing the two-penny tree. HELP calculates that one billion trees per year are required for Africa alone if five seedlings are planted for every mature tree harvested in Africa. No tax base or aid system can support the provision of this number of trees at current tree seedling production and field installation costs. HELP has therefore embarked on aggressive research to create the two-penny tree which will be 1% of the current cost of producing/planting tree seedlings.

1.   Low Cost Tree Proliferation Research

o   Floating Tree Nursery
Continue to refine HELP’s highly successful low-cost, low-maintenance outdoor floating 100,000 tree nursery.
Research will test the capacity to use open water bodies and water troughs for creating floating portable tree nurseries that are 100% maintenance free. A related part of this experiment will measure the efficacy of using living mulch grass varieties in the tree container roots in the nursery to eliminate the need for weeding in the nursery. The same tree container roots with installed living mulch will be field tested to see if the living mulch in the container root resulted in lower maintenance/higher survival rates for forest installations in the field. Extend the floating tree nursery model to farm dugouts with wildlife surround.

o   In-ground Styrofoam Block Tree Nursery
Assess the performance of drought-resistant tree seedlings nurtured in in-ground Styrofoam blocks.

o   Container Tree Bunching System
Continue to refine HELP’s innovation of keeping container root tree seedlings out of ground, healthy, growing and ready for planting during all growing months of the year. Develop improvements to the water control system.

o   Pine Tree Bunching
Optimizing conditions for the Pine bunching nursery (heeling in bunches).

o   Tree Mulch Research
Assess, document and research tree planting experiments using a wide range of mulching techniques and waste materials as mulch.

o   Natural Tree Proliferation Using Fence Line Techniques
Create straight tree row installations without actually planting any trees or seeds.

o   Direct Tree seeding Experiments
This involves a system of placing tree nursery containers with premixed soil under trees that are dropping seeds. Past trials resulted in over 2,000 spontaneously produced elm seedlings ready for field planting.

o   Harvesting Seedlings from Forest Beds and Backyard Spontaneous Nurseries
This research involves identifying forest floors and community backyards that happen to be natural nurseries for thousands of tree seedlings per year. The practice involves plucking the seedlings out of forest floors, lawns and gardens where they would normally die of drought, lack of light or be cultivated under, and placing them into nursery containers until they are field ready. This practice bypasses the need to harvest or buy tree seeds and bypasses the manual seeding process.

o   Protecting Spontaneous Growth Tree Seedlings
This research involves protecting thousands of trees that seed into grassed semi-arid areas but which normally quickly die of dehydration. Research will build on past trials that placed plastic mulch of various sizes around select spontaneous growth seedlings allowing them to survive and become mature trees bypassing the need for tree nurseries all together.

o   Cultivation and other Disturbance Research to Promote Natural Proliferation
Experiments create conditions in the wilds such as a depression/moisture furrow using a simple rock tooth or one-way plow thereby breaking the permanent cover and creating a moisture trap where seeds can be direct planted/broadcast OR create similar conditions under old growth trees for self-seeding to occur.

o   Larger field trial on private land using cultivated strips to promote spontaneous tree proliferation.

o   Cracks Technology to Create Spontaneous Tree Proliferation
Research aimed at replicating natural proliferation seen in ‘unplanned’ areas next to restaurants and on street curbs.

o   Efficient Tree Seed Collection Research
HELP is researching simple techniques to collect millions of seeds per minute using existing adapted technology and techniques. Basic seed bank of cottonwood, maple and elm tree seeds has been established at HELP by this purpose.

2.   Phytoremediation Research

o   Effluent Irrigation Research
Test the most suitable application rates of black water, grey water, urine diluted water, and regular river water on poplar tree and acute willow saplings.

o   Bioremediation of Hydrocarbon Saturated Soils
Test the capacity, rate and toxicity limits of varieties of trees in metabolizing spill residues of crude, used oil or other hydrocarbons.

o   Salinity Contaminated Soils Remediation
Measure and document soil salinity reversal using trees indirectly as hydraulic control agents using equipment that measures changes in resistivity/electro-conductivity over time.

3.   Water Absorption Research

o   Research how tree buffers along rivers create sustained flow by testing the limits of water absorption on similar land areas in heavily treed land, zero-tree grassland and in soil beneath mature dead trees.

Horticulture Research

HELP is researching super high yield and drought resistant vegetable production by developing simple root training techniques that could be applied by anyone. Research that began in 2009 with 60 tomato plants expanded to field trials with 1,000 tomato plants as well as cabbage plants. A number of community partners are also participate in the research in their own gardens with plant stock provided by HELP.

Further research will:

1.   Continue trials growing vegetables directly into non-cultivated permanent cover with the aid of mulch.

2.   Create a floating vegetable garden based on the principles of HELP's innovative floating tree nursery.


Recycling Research -Technology, Product and Market Development

1.   Recycled Styrofoam Market Development

o   Create HELP web site marketing page to promote sales of Styrofoam beads in specific oil industry applications.

o   Develop styrofoam bead bags for gymnasium and home use.

o   Innovate new uses for Styrofoam beads.

o   Industrial production trials of safety products created from recycled Styrofoam.

2.   Grain Bag Recycling and Process Development

o   Innovate less labour intensive methods of precision cleaning, cutting and re-rolling recycled grain bags by identifying or modifying existing technology or by working alone for with HELP partner Stewart Steel to create new simple technology for the same.

o   Industrial production trials of new products manufactured from used 10 mil grain bag plastic.

3.   Toilet Waste Neutralizing and Nutrient Recovery

o   Solar dehydration/urine diversion toilet for safe neutralizing of toilet wastes.

o   Adapt cabin micro-flush and outdoor toilets to evacuate into hygienic toilet-fed outdoor terrariums.

o   Build methane accumulator to produce a low to zero-cost methane cooking fuel for infomal settlements. This would save forests cut to produce charcoal for cooking and greatly improve environmental sanitation when toilet wastes thus become valued for methane production.

4.   Paper Recycling Technology and product development

o   Refine applications and processes in the use of HELP’s newly invented paper mill.

o   Develop paper pulp, handmade paper and other products from the paper pulp.

o   Experiment with incorporation of other waste materials such as straw, grass and cereal husks with paper pulp to create value added products.

o   Research markets for above mentioned products.


Appropriate Technology Construction Research

1.   Fiberboard Research

o   Improve HELP’s simple fibre board manufacturing system to create 4 x 8 sheets of fibreboard by creating forms and simple press as well as utilizing augmented solar drying of the panels

o   Research incorporation of a variety of waste fibres to test the relative strength of paper pulp fiberboard with different fibres.

2.   Brick Press Research

o   Test the incorporation of a variety of waste materials and fibres in a bid to lower the amount of cement and related costs necessary to create a commercial construction standard brick with HELP’s three tonne stabilized soil brick press.

o   Carry out accurate compression and shock tests on the above.

o   HELP is utilizing the above mentioned brick press and compressing paper pulp to create 100% paper bricks as well as paper pulp with cement to make papercrete for testing for construction applications.

3.   Plastic Moulding Devices and processes for manufacture of bricks, posts and plank
Research methods to overcome the need for excessive energy consumption for low-cost plastic extrusion and develop methods that do not require extrusion.

4.   Cardboard Mulch Pads for Trees
Create mass production of simple bio-degradable cardboard tree mulch pads.

5.   Solar Heating Technology and Techniques Development
Install and test the economic benefits of a homemade solar heating panel in-line with an electric water heating system for camp showers.

6.   Upgrading Traditional Construction
Carry out a project to retro-fit the interior of an existing traditional mud and thatch structure at HELP to be sanitary, comfortable, and climate proof (meeting modern comfort expectations and aesthetics).


Soil Amendment Production Research and Development

1.   Vermiculture Research

o   Using indoor and outdoor covered vats, past research at HELP has proven, that the red wriggly earthworm can inhabit and survive Saskatchewan winters in outdoor below-ground pits in climates that have reached minus 40 degrees Celsius.

o   Additonal research would test and compare the efficacy of common local earthworms in waste food digestion compared to the red wriggly earthworm.

o   Test the efficacy of earthworms to bio-remediate toilet solids or toilet solids mixed with other food residues.

o   Design and operationalize community-size low-cost food waste processing using vermiculture.

2.   Composting Research and Development

o   Construct zero maintenance industrial scale composting area.

o   Research composting rates at HELP’s current zero maintenance composting areas for horse manure, and compost areas for leaves and grass clippings including ‘soaked’ area and outdoor ‘pile’ composting. Design has been widely discussed between HELP and urban municipalities. Adaptation of rural manure composting design is contemplated.

3.   Root Development Research Using Various Soil Amendments

o   HELP requires additional research to be carried out to scientifically compare root development with granulated styrofoam compared to perolyte, vermiculite, sand, peat moss and other inert materials.

4.   Experimentation with Alternatives to Peat Moss

o   In the interests of promoting zero waste and permaculture, HELP wishes experimentation to find local alternatives to the use of peat moss as a soil amendment agent. HELP has specific alternatives in mind which it wishes to test.

o   Refine the process for handling, milling, outdoor/indoor soil mixing, packaging and marketing of waste Styrofoam and soil/Styrofoam potting mixes.

5.   Soil Milling or Screening Research

o   HELP wishes research to develop more efficient methods of screening and mixing several tonnes of soil per year than the current method.


Electricity Production Research

Research methods of small scale electrical power generation focusing simple or borrowed/adapted technology on renewable or from-waste energy sources.



Water Works Research

1.   Create a filtration, water storage and pumping system for recycling brown water from laundry washing machines for recycling for use in toilet flushing.

2.   Create a low cost natural filtration system to filter river water for use for laundry, bathing, and dish washing.
Sand/clay filtration is contemplated.

3.   Rain Water Harvesting
HELP is wishing to carry out Research and Development to:

o   collect roof top rainfall.

o   re-construct large concrete culverts into above and below ground cisterns.

o   use simple receptacles to collect, filter and dispense rain water for domestic and irrigation use.


Permaculture Grass Cover Development

Research is required to convert long grass human use areas requiring high maintenance to resilient low maintenance grasses.


Documentation of HELP’s leading edge innovations in agro forestry in Kenya

Research is required to identify and document through research of HELP archives, proposals, reports, and through interview of HELP staff, major innovations in agro forestry achieved in HELP’s nationwide agro forestry program in Kenya.



Research and implementation is required to market new products created from recycled materials.



Research in patent application and follow through of HELP inventions, technologies and processes.


 © HELP International 2014