What if design could bring nature back into balance? Architect Roel Rutgers found that the Sub Saharan ecology is threatened by the alien invasive Prosopis tree that outcompetes local species. He decided to utilise design to make this hated tree a root of the biobased economy.
The devils tree
The Dutch architect Roel Rutgers came into contact with the Prosopis tree in Namibia. He discovered that this tree, known among farmers as the Devil's Tree, was destroying the African landscape and decided to use the wood of the hated Prosopis to make furniture. This allows him to design products from an authentic type of wood and at the same time protect the biodiversity in Namibia, by bringing nature back into balance.
The Prosopis was brought from South America to Africa in the 19th century and causes a major problem not only in Namibia, but also in the rest of Africa. The globally active International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) calls this tree "one of the worst invasive species" on the planet. The Prosopis needs a lot of water and as a result large plains become dry. Due to its aggressive and fast way of growing, other plant species do not get a chance to live. The Prosopis throws the ecology out of balance: plant species die out, animals lose their food, and food chains collapse. In Africa, the Prosopis has no natural enemy.
A social enterprise
Tabled Design is a social enterprise where people work with love for craftsmanship and materials. Not a factory, but a workshop. In his search for experienced furniture makers, Roel ended up at Hope Village, an orphanage in Windhoek where children born into poverty are lovingly raised. The young adolescents who have to leave the orphanage have little prospect of a hopeful future. They have no education and their chances on the labor market are limited. Sometimes they carry a criminal past with them. Roel offers these young men a new perspective by training them in the Tabled Design workshop. From him they learn the basics of the trade, such as handling machines and tools and working steel and wood. They work every day on the Tabled Design furniture with precision and an eye for detail. In this way they learn valuable skills to provide for themselves and improve their chances in the future.