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Homegrown Hero – Jambiani fisher Makame and his bottleboat

Homegrown Hero – Jambiani fisher Makame and his bottleboat published on No Comments on Homegrown Hero – Jambiani fisher Makame and his bottleboat
Eco hero - Jambiani fisherman Makame Ali
Eco hero – Jambiani fisherman Makame Ali

When this Zanzibar fisherman started building a boat from plastic bottles, his neighbours thought he was mad.

But now, Babu Makame is the one laughing, as the boat he built from plastic bottles lets him go fishing whatever the weather, leaving his neighbours watching wistfully from the shore whenever the sea is too rough for their traditional boats.

The fishing village of Jambiani is a picture-perfect paradise on the quiet East coast of Zanzibar. A palm-fringed, white sand beach overlooks an azure lagoon to the fringing coral reef, which teems with marine life.

The reef and lagoon provide the sole livelihood for most families, who fish in the lagoon and on the reef from traditional wooden dugout canoes.

However, when the trade winds of the western Indian Ocean blow too strongly, the waves breaking on the reef can make it too rough for the small boats to sail out of the protected lagoon to the reef itself, where the biggest and most profitable fish are found. Zanzibar’s traditional canoes are heavy to paddle, and at risk of capsizing in heavy seas.

As local fisher Makame Ali grew older, he worried he would no longer be strong enough to paddle his heavy canoe. Concerned about supporting his large family, he looked around him for a way to make a lighter boat, and came up with the idea of using plastic bottles.

Makame's first bottleboat (photo copyright Peter Bennett 2012)
Makame’s first bottleboat Copyright Peter Bennett 2012

His bemused neighbours thought he was losing his mind along with his strength. They told him it would never work, and when his first bottleboat came off its mooring in a storm and was lost, they expected him to give up. But Makame was undeterred, and simply went back to the workshop to build a better model.

While the first boat was built exclusively from plastic bottles, he has refined the design into a sophisticated sit-on-top kayak. The backbone is an old windsurf board, with plastic bottles for buoyancy, and electric conduit to make it stronger and more hydrodynamic. The blades of his paddles are carved from a plastic yellow jerrycan and lashed to a pole, and another adapted jerrycan behind the seat serves as a keep box.

bottleboat on the beach 2
Makame’s new homemade recycled fishing boat

Makame now earns his living from Bottleboat III.

Makame can paddle his homemade, recycled canoe quickly through the surf where others dare not go, for fear of their small canoes taking on water faster than they can bail it out.

The open design of Bottleboat III means water continually flows through the keep box, keeping his catch alive and healthy, so he can keep fishing all day while other boats must bring their fish back to shore. His boat is so lightweight, buoyant, and easy to paddle, that he is still proudly supporting his family, while his contemporaries have had to retire.

Not only is Bottleboat III lighter, more efficient and more resilient than traditional boats, with wood prices rising, Makame’s recycled kayak is cheaper to build.

Although many in the community are still wary of the unconventional watercraft, local Jambiani environmental ambassador Okala and his colleagues are proud.

Bottleboat
Bottleboat III ready to go fishing

‘Some local people see he thinks differently, and think that means he’s not clever. But they don’t realise that he is cleverer than any of them. Some people are afraid of his boat and reluctant to try something new. But he doesn’t care what they think. On stormy days, he is the one outside the reef, fishing, while they are stuck on shore. We think he is very smart, and hope he can set an example of sustainability.’

Makame now plans to expand his business by building more bottleboats so that he can take tourists on snorkelling tours making it a completely emission-free boat excursion.

‘I know where to find the big octopus,’

he said.

‘I think tourists would like to come and see that – in a boat made from bottles!’

bottleboat in the ocean

Free guide to Waste in Zanzibar now available on Ecologue in English and Kiswhaili!

Free guide to Waste in Zanzibar now available on Ecologue in English and Kiswhaili! published on No Comments on Free guide to Waste in Zanzibar now available on Ecologue in English and Kiswhaili!
Free download of education guide - cover
Education and awareness guide to waste in Zanzibar

It gives me enormous delight to be able to share with you a fantastic education and awareness guide to waste in Zanzibar available to download free from Ecologue in English and Kiswahili.

This guide was produced by ACRA and compiled by Ulli Kloiber, Conservation and Education Manager at Chumbe Island Coral Park.

There are sections on different kinds of waste, and different things you can do with them – including a fantastic, really simple, easy-to-follow guide to composting (Kiswahili).

There are also sections contributed by various Zanzibar  projects, organisations and businesses involved in recycling and education about waste (including Sustainable East Africa).

Free download of guide - Takataka katika Zanzibar - Kiswahili
Also in Kiswahili!

Congratulations to ACRA and Ulli for a phenomenal publication and essential resource for anyone doing environmental outreach in Zanzibar and thank you so much for giving me permission to make it available online here on Ecologue.

You may be wondering why am I raving so much about this book in particular? Well the thing is – an education resource is only any good if it is used. You can compile all the pertinent information in the world into the most comprehensive resource – but if nobody ever uses it, then you may as well not bother. And I love this book because I have seen first hand that people want to read it. The information is presented in an easy-to follow, simple, straightforward and relevant way, and is all about Zanzibar.

And when I gave a copy to members of the PLCI Environment Club (SEA partners) during a clean-up day recently in Vikokotoni – every time I looked, a different student was reading it.

See!

101

123

154

156

161

163

164

166

168

So what are you waiting for? Get it now!

Eco-forum now on Ecologue to share sustainable solutions

Eco-forum now on Ecologue to share sustainable solutions published on No Comments on Eco-forum now on Ecologue to share sustainable solutions

Edit: URL updated and social-media registration options now operating – apologies to anyone who encountered bugs yesterday. If there are any problems, please let me know!

I have now created a discussion forum on Ecologue, where we can share ideas and best practice in sustainability.

I have started topics on composting and sustainable seafood. But if you have a sustainable project that you are proud of and would like to share – whether it’s a rainwater catchment system, recycling bin set up, solar power system – or anything – then please let us see. I will showcase the best ideas on the blog to give you exposure.

And if you have any questions about how other people are solving a particular problem that you are stuck on, then start a conversation about it and see who can help.

There’s an extra bonus for any hotels who are working towards RTTZ (Responsible Tourism Tanzania) certification: participating an online environmental forum is one of the criteria used for evaluating eligibility for sapling-level certification, so join the conversation and tick that box.

There are few sustainability challenges experienced in Zanzibar that have not been solved already by someone, somewhere, so I hope this forum will help us avoid reinventing the wheel and enable everyone concerned about sustainability to find the solutions they need (and that work) that bit more easily.

Zanzibar Sustainability Directory now online!

Zanzibar Sustainability Directory now online! published on 2 Comments on Zanzibar Sustainability Directory now online!

I have created a Sustainability Directory for Zanzibar (and the Swahili Coast), including links for sustainable initiatives, NGOs and projects, and information about how we can live more sustainably.

I hope it will be a useful resource for everyone in Zanzibar who is interested in the environment, recycling, sustainability and other related issues. – Check it out here.

This is just the start, and I know I have missed many exciting and important projects, so I hope you will help make the resource as comprehensive as possible by suggesting additional links I might have missed through the form provided on the Directory page, or contact me if the information about your initiative is incorrect.

Recycling collection point now open in Stone Town!

Recycling collection point now open in Stone Town! published on No Comments on Recycling collection point now open in Stone Town!

Did you know there is now a recycling collection point in Stone Town? Sustainable East Africa together with partners Manispaa Jamii Vikokotoni, and with funding from SMOLE / GoZ Dept Environment, have built two recycling trolleys for Vikokotoni!

So you can now take all your plastic bottles and cans to our recycling trolley outside Barclays in Darajani!

Materials collected will be upcycled locally where possible, or if unsuitable, will be sold for their scrap value to exporters to provide sustainaable funding for Vikokotoni’s community clean-up programe.

Photo: Did you know there is now a recycling collection point in Stone Town? Sustainable East Africa together with partners Manispaa Jamii Vikokotoni, and with funding from SMOLE / GoZ Dept Environment, have built two recycling trolleys for Vikokotoni!  So you can now take all your plastic bottles and cans to our recycling trolley outside Barclays in Darajani!   Materials collected will be upcycled locally where possible, or if unsuitable, will be sold for their scrap value to exporters to provide sustainaable funding for Vikokotoni's community clean-up programe.

Takataka inanua samaki wetu! Plastic waste is killing our fish – Infographic by Sustainable East Africa

Takataka inanua samaki wetu! Plastic waste is killing our fish – Infographic by Sustainable East Africa published on No Comments on Takataka inanua samaki wetu! Plastic waste is killing our fish – Infographic by Sustainable East Africa

I’ve been working on the following infographic to share as a leaflet with people and let them know the impact plastic waste can have on the fish we depend on for food and livelihoods. What do you think?!

(approximate) English translation below the graphic

Waste is killing our fish! Do you like to eat fish?Are there fishers in your family? Do you know what this is?  Fishers use plastic bait like this to catch fish. If fish eat these ... what do you think they do with these? This fish ate a plastic gun! When fish eat plastic, it blocks their stomachs and kills them! Marine and coastal litter is killing our fish! Don’t dump waste in streets or on the beach. Keep our coastal communities CLEAN! Let’s clean up Zanzibar together ... to protect our fish and fishing!
Taka taka is killing our fish!
Waste is killing our fish!
Do you like to eat fish?
Are there fishers in your family?
Do you know what this is?  Fishers use plastic bait like this to catch fish.
If fish eat these … what do you think they do with these?
This fish ate a plastic gun!
When fish eat plastic, it blocks their stomachs and kills them!
Marine and coastal litter is killing our fish!
Don’t dump waste in streets or on the beach.
Keep our coastal communities CLEAN!
Let’s clean up Zanzibar together …
to protect our fish and fishing!

 

New section on Ecologue – all about Sustainable East Africa

New section on Ecologue – all about Sustainable East Africa published on No Comments on New section on Ecologue – all about Sustainable East Africa

If you’ve been wondering what work Sustainable East Africa, the NGO I founded here in Zanzibar, is doing, you can now read all about our programme, partners and activities on Ecologue!

So to learn how waste plastic water bottles helped provide water for a rural community, how young school leavers are earning sustainable income for the first time, or how a community transformed its streets to become clean and healthy – have a look around!

Start here!

SEA around the web

Cleaning the beach with T-shirts (and other unfortunate ideas)

Cleaning the beach with T-shirts (and other unfortunate ideas) published on 5 Comments on Cleaning the beach with T-shirts (and other unfortunate ideas)

Shortly after I arrived in Zanzibar three years ago, I coordinated a training workshop for members of a fantastic local NGO, JAMABECO. They were seriously motivated and had implemented a successful environmental awareness and clean-up programme in their village of Jambiani on the east coast of Unguja, Zanzibar. Our objective in the workshop was to plan beach clean-ups in ten new communities around southern Unguja. I was very excited and felt it was going well.

I asked the participants to tell me what equipment they would need to hold the clean-ups, expecting answers like ‘gloves’, ‘bags’, ‘rakes’.

The very first answer knocked me sideways:

‘We need T-shirts.’

T-shirts?

How? What? Had they misunderstood the question? The number one thing you need to clean a beach is a T-shirt? Why on earth?

But the nodding heads around the room told me they were absolutely serious.

The problem, I came shortly to realise, was this.

Although they had carried out numerous beach clean-ups and other activities in the past – they had always had sponsorship from overseas donors to carry out the events. And donors need evidence to show how money was spent, and evidence of things done. They need visibility. Also pictures of happy African kids. Also the budget has to be spent by the end of the quarter. So let’s have a big flashy event! Lots of photos with the aid agency logo visible! What could be better than lots of people and cute happy kids in T-shirts splashed with your logo? And a clean beach! Fantastic! Everybody have a cookie!

But what happens next? Here we had a workshop full of people brimming with concern about environmental degradation, dedicated to taking action, giving up all their free time to the cause… but feeling completely unable to implement any activities to do something about it until someone would come along to pay for it.  They want nothing more than to organise clean-ups monthly, or even weekly, but they can’t afford T-shirts, so it can’t be done.

The thing is – a T-shirt is a shortcut. Poverty in Zanzibar means that people in rural villages typically subsist on less than a dollar a day. Keeping your family adequately clothed is a huge challenge, and one new t-shirt represents a few days’ income (if you even have a job). Giving out T-shirts amounts to a substantial incentive to participate. And this means no further encouragement of less tangible benefits is required, everyone will be there with bells on. Huge turnout! Job well done!

The reality is that in rural communities, people often tolerate litter and dirt because they have never been taught that there are costs. In addition (though it is slowly changing) there is essentially no waste collection service and nowhere to take it. Exactly what are people supposed to do with their rubbish except leave it on the beach?

A friend of mine who has a hotel in the same village told me a similar story. Adjacent to his beach hotel is a small patch of indigenous woodland. The community had been using it as a waste dump and causing both he and his guests some distress. To reach out to his neighbours he offered them a little money to clean the waste and take it away, and they did so with alacrity. The next day, however, he woke aghast to find the place full of rubbish again and the villagers knocking at the door, asking for money to clean it again.

It comes down to finding the right incentives. When people are poor, creating jobs seems an obvious solution. But when you examine it from an economic perspective, if you pay people (or give them T-shirts) to clean the beach, you are telling them that the resource they have which is worth something, that is valuable, is a dirty beach. Hold your big clean-up, give out T-shirts, or pay neighbours – whatever. There is no incentive whatsoever to actually keep it clean. Far better, surely, to ensure it gets dirty again quickly so people will come sooner with more T-shirts and more jobs.

And when you go away, the people like JAMABECO who do care, very much, about the state of the environment, are left feeling they can do nothing about it.

So how can we do better?

Back in my workshop, we spent the next days focussing on alternative motivation techniques. We had breakout sessions – Imagine you’re speaking to a mother, a teacher, a hotel owner – why should they care? What are the benefits of a clean beach? Forget about marine biodiversity or the baby birds starving on oceanic islands thousands of miles away. Those things matter of course, hugely, but to whom?

Keep it locally relevant. Talk to people about what actually matters to them, day-to-day.  Talk to mothers about the health of their children – if there are dirty nappies (diapers) on the beach where you are also collecting shellfish to feed your family, they’ll get sick. If fishing is your livelihood, and there is plastic in the ocean, fish will eat it, it blocks their guts and they will die. If you work in a hotel with a dirty beach, tourists will be disgusted and will leave, so support your community initiative to clean the beach, lend them wheelbarrows, buy gloves, let them wash their hands in your hotel afterwards. Breathing fumes from burning plastic increases risk of diseases like cancer and lung disease. Top tip: if you really want to pull the emotional heartstrings, stress links to impotence and infertility.

And do you know what? It worked.

The volunteer peer-to-peer educator team went out and spent the next few weeks introducing ideas of environment and sustainability into new communities, and, armed only with information about the locally-relevant dangers posed by pollution, motivated enormous participation in the clean-up events. Literally thousands of people turned out to participate, and collected several tonnes of waste, and were offered no incentive other than knowledge of why it would be worth it.

And it wasn’t a one-off: the new communities formed environment clubs, committees and NGOs themselves. Clean-ups became monthly and in one community even a weekly event.

And do you know what else happened?  A few months later JAMABECO invited me to attend a beach clean-up event in a community in the north of the island, outside the remit of our partnership and not in the budget. They were so fulfilled by the success of the new approach, so proud of themselves and empowered by their new-found skills, that they funded and organised it themselves.

Yes, this approach is more complicated, and yes, it takes longer and you’ve got all that cash that has to be spent by the end of the reporting period… But bribery-by-T-shirt as a sole-incentive fosters dependence, inhibits creativity, demotivates and disempowers. It misses the point.

As it happens, I have to admit that our project was donor-funded, so – though we kept it top secret till after our successful clean-up events – they got a T-shirt too.

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