Mayana residents clean Okavango River for free

By Olavi Haikera

MAYANA: Four unemployed women and a man from the Mayana village east of Rundu are voluntarily cleaning the banks of the Okavango River within their area on a weekly basis.

The women started collecting and picking up solid waste along the banks of the river in 2010 after realizing that the fauna and flora along the river were being destroyed by litter and by people harvesting reeds and grass from the river banks.

The river is a source of livelihood for most residents in the Kavango East and West regions, and is also used by animals.

Daniel Sipipa, Fransina Katura, Bernadete Katoroli, Inocentia Muyambo and Pauline Kahana pick up solid waste on the river banks twice a week – on Wednesdays and Saturdays – at no charge.

They conduct their cleaning-up campaigns on foot, collecting refuse such as plastic and glass objects, cans and other solid waste, and then take it to dumpsites.

The group is offered assistance in the form of plastic refuse bags provided by the Namibia Nature Foundation (NNF).

An environmental and community activist in the Mayana village, Joseph Mbamba said the group has also been conducting awareness campaigns among the over 2 000 Mayana villagers on the impact of pollution on the river.

He told Nampa on Wednesday that the group also disseminates information to community members on how to be ‘nature-friendly’, as well as how to utilise the river sustainably to ensure it also serves future generations.

Mbamba said before the clean-up campaign, the banks of the river around the Mayana area was unpleasant as it was littered by locals who dumped waste as well as bathed and washed their clothes in the river, while car-washing was likewise conducted in the river.

This was attributed to a lack of information on the impact of polluting the river.

After four years of awareness campaigns, community members around the Mayana area are beginning to understand the impact of land and river pollution, he said.

“Some vehicle owners are now washing their vehicles about 15 metres away from the river because they now know that the water is shared by both humans and livestock,” said the environmental activist.

He stated that keeping the river clean has immense benefits for the local community as it has resources such as reeds and grass, which have for years been used to build traditional homesteads, and of course water.

One of the group members, Fransina Katura told Nampa on Thursday she volunteered to take part in the clean-up campaign after realising that the river was polluted with solid waste as locals regard the river as ‘an ideal dumping ground’.

She was further encouraged to voluntarily take part in the initiative after attending several workshops on sanitation, where they were made aware of the importance and benefits of keeping their surroundings clean.

Katura said after the workshops, they started conducting awareness campaigns such as door-to-door information sessions with fellow residents on keeping their environment clean, something which seems to be paying off.