Indawo, Abantu, Injongo e Khayelitsha

In November 2019, Busiswa Nomayi (Busi), a resident of Griffiths Mxenge (ward in the Khayelitsha Township of Cape Town) participated in The Umvoto Foundation’s (TUF) 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 Training 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 revitalise street space, stop the invasion of rubbish, and create a beautiful environment.

With the support of TUF, the team was able to secure wheelbarrows, rakes, spades, safety boots, gloves, masks and brooms to sweep along the streets and pavement.  Starting early in the morning, Busi and her group clean the streets every Saturday. To get the garbage out of the streets in a timelier manner, a local non-profit Help Up, who support ongoing river and waterway clean-ups, 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. 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 have a vision beyond just cleaning their streets. To create greater awareness about their work, in September 2021 Busi and her team (with the support of TUF) partnered with a local artist and incorporated transformative art into the group’s cleaning and beautification projects in the form of a sponsored mural. The response to the mural has been overwhelmingly positive. This includes the landowner, the many residents who offered their signatures in support of the mural, as well as the adjacent school that overlooks the mural. In addition, the group have also started planting vegetation in the street to further beautify their space.

The team is looking for different ways to generate revenue for their ever-expanding team and ongoing equipment needs, such as gloves, masks, and plastic bags. Recognising this need, the team decided to start a second-hand stall to fund their efforts. The team had been planning this for a while, and finally started their first stall in December 2021. The stall is set up along the street where they do their clean-ups, and right across from where the TUF-funded mural was painted by local artist SethOne. To assist this cause, TUF held a clothing drive in collaboration with Umvoto Africa in Muizenberg.

Currently, Busi, her team and TUF are in discussions with the City of Cape Town to setup a recycling initiative, which will include training and will provide another revenue stream for the group. Busi also hopes that young people will join in on the weekends to learn about recycling and help pick up recyclable bottles and plastics.

Ultimately, the team 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.

The Indawo Abantu Injongo e Khayelitsha initiative, which began as weekly clean-ups in 2019, has transformed into a blueprint for community empowerment and community self-reliance. This bottom-up approach illustrates and advocates the importance of community-led projects. The team continues to work hard as a force of positive change in their community, and we are eager to see the positive changes they continue to make.