Indawo, Abantu, Injongo e Khayelitsha

Lechelle Goslin

In November 2019, Busiswa Nomayi (Busi), a resident of Griffiths Mxenge, a ward in the Khaeylitsha Township of Cape Town, participated in The Umvoto Foundation’s Stewardship Training Course, delivered in partnership with the Edith Stephens Nature Reserve and Communitree. Inspired by the week-long workshops on water systems, environmental rehabilitation, and stewardship, and seeing the environmental challenges in her own community, Busi decided to act.

Busi was concerned about the health impacts of rubbish in the streets of her community, particularly for the children and the water systems. In the same month as completing the Stewardship course, Busi and four other women started a clean-up project. They call themselves Indawo, Abantu, Injongo e Khayelitsha which means Place, People and Purpose in Khayelitsha. The groups mission is to revitalize street space, stop the invasion of rubbish, and create a beautiful environment.

With the support of The Umvoto Foundation, the team was able to secure wheelbarrows, rakes, spades, safety boots, gloves and masks, and brooms to sweep along the streets and pavement.  Starting early in the morning, Busi and her group clean the streets every Saturday. The group typically collects hundreds of bags in just a few hours. To get the garbage out of the streets in a timelier manner, a local non-profit Help Up who support ongoing river and water way clean up, arranged with the City of Cape Town for a truck to come immediately after Busi and her group are finished collecting the garbage each day. Help Up also sponsors Busi’s team with tools, materials and a weekly stipend. An example of different NPOs helping collaborate.

After several weeks of Busi and her group cleaning the area, local residents have noticed their work, going so far as to let other residents and visitors know that dumping garbage in the area is illegal. Busi and her group are not stopping at cleaning their streets, they have a more ambitious vision. Edith Stephens and the Communitree organization will help the group “green” the large areas of pavement by planting trees and indigenous plants, including along the fence of the local school. Busi believes that by creating a beautiful natural space, residents will have more respect for their local environment. More than that, Busi believes that this sense of pride could lead to greater change, reduced crime and a stronger, more positive sense of community.

To create greater awareness about their work, Busi and her group are looking to partner with local artists to incorporate their art into the group’s cleaning and beautification projects. To date the group has cleaned two streets and hope to expand to other areas of the community. Key to this expansion will be more people from the community joining their efforts, something that Busi believes their initial work has started to encourage.

The group is also working on different ways to recycle construction rubble dumped at their clean-up sites into benches, permanent waste bins and other infrastructure that can benefit the community and further support their efforts. Busi and her group are also planning on reaching out to local schools with a focus on getting young people more involved. Busi wants to encourage gardening along the street and the development of a composting program. Local vegetable sellers have offered to help them by providing what they don’t sell to be used as compost. She is also hoping that young people will join in on the weekends to learn about recycling and helping to pick up recyclable bottles and plastics.

The team is also looking for different ways to generate revenue for their ongoing equipment needs, such as gloves, masks, plastic bags, everything they need to collect garbage. The group wants to be able to provide incentives for community members to participate. As a start the team has been collecting clothes and other used good with the hopes of setting up a small thrift store.