Tonny Wamboga sweeps his hand over a field of hollow grass stalks as they shuffle in the breeze. “This is where we got the idea.”
This grass, called luseke, was the inspiration for Tonny and the Our Roots Africa team to create a plant-based, biodegradable drinking straw.
Our Roots Africa is based in Kampala, Uganda. Tonny Wamboga, a Social Business Scholar and communication leader of the company, says, “Our goal is to produce plant-based alternatives for single-use plastic.”
Using the locally grown luseke, Our Roots Africa produces 5,000 straws each week. Their target audience for the straw is environmentally-conscious individuals, restaurants, and hotels worldwide.
Our Roots Africa is addressing a widespread environmental crisis: each year, “8-12M tons of plastic pollution make it into the world’s oceans. Straws are one of the most widely reported plastic items found during beach clean-up” (Our Roots Africa).
As they connect with places to buy and sell their product worldwide, Tonny says that the next goal of Our Roots Africa is to create more products such as stir-sticks, learning tools, and bath sponges that will replace common single-use plastic versions of these items.
While creating more products that cause less environmental harm, the company will also reintroduce luseke as a profitable crop to support farmers in the Kampala area. Luseke matures quickly and grows year-round, providing financial stability to these farmers.
Tonny was a member of the Because Accelerator in 2019, where he received training and mentorship to develop his innovative product.