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By Citizen Reporter

Journalist


Changing the world: Meet SA’s eco-innovators

beVisioneers brings together environmentalists from around the world and shows young innovators who to benefit the environment.


They’re dreaming – and planning – big. They want to change society with their innovative ideas which range from “growing” insects as an alternative livestock feed to building “energy sharing” for ordinary people.

They’re among 30 South Africans whose projects have been chosen for a global fellowship of 100 young innovators from around the world who share a strong personal vision, clear motivation and a viable project to benefit the environment.

Funded by donations from Mercedes-Benz, and designed and implemented by independent nonprofit education pioneers, the DO School Fellowships, beVisioneers is building the world’s biggest global fellowship for young environmental innovators, with plans to expand to 1 000 ecopreneurs per year from around the world in 2025.

These young South Africans are people we will be hearing more about in the future.

Linda Kaumphawi

Linda Kaumphawi, 27, is a BA environmental management graduate who grew up in Winterveldt, a township on the outskirts of Pretoria.

“Unfortunately, we relied on an illegal dumping site to get rid of our waste,” she recalls.

“I wanted to come up with a solution that involved communities managing their own waste, instead of waiting for provision from elsewhere.”

This led Kaumphawi to conceptualise Evergreen Solutions, a comprehensive, multipronged approach to waste management.

One part of her plan is a new type of waste bag for people without access to multiple bins.

“It is a refuse bag that incorporates two compartments within a single bin, enabling the separation of organic, wet waste from inorganic, dry waste,” she explains.

“The purpose of this design is to promote waste segregation at the source, which is a critical step in effective waste management and recycling.”

Kaumphawi envisions different colours or labels indicating the purpose of each compartment and these compartments will be separated upon disposal.

A local university helped with a feasibility study for the bag; now she’s looking for a manufacturer.

Kaumphawi is also developing a digital marketplace called e-dumpsite, which will create a circular-economy marketplace for waste.

“The platform serves as a connection between waste sellers and buyers, with a particular focus on manufacturers.”

Maya Zaken

Maya Zaken is 25 and chief executive of Philafeed.

Having grown up in Johannesburg and with a Bachelor’s degree in philosophy, politics and economics and Honours in economic science, the 25 year old is not your typical farmer.

“I was once so disconnected from food as a whole,” she muses.

“However, as I delved deeper into understanding food systems and the tremendous time, labour and effort invested in producing just one cucumber, my appreciation for food and food systems has grown immensely.”

Zaken and her partner, Jason Fine, breed the black soldier – an insect which is “like tiny recycling machine” and devours all sorts of organic matter, like food scraps, manure and even compost”.

“The larvae are a nutritious food source for animals, making them a sustainable alternative to traditional livestock feed.

“Frass is a term used to describe the waste material excreted by the black soldier fly larvae after they consume organic matter. It serves as a natural fertiliser and can help plants grow healthier and stronger.”

Debbie Mogale

Debbie Mogale is 24, an economics graduate working in Fintech.

She also runs an active nonprofit, the Debbie De Foundation, which donates disposable sanitary pads to girls and women in marginalised communities.

Mogale envisioned a new type of menstrual product that could be beneficial in multiple ways.

“My project idea aims to curb menstrual poverty – when young girls are unable to attend school because of their period – and improve waste management in rural communities by producing reusable sanitary towels,” she says.

“What makes the model stand out is that we aim to [use] the project … as an extra-curriculum in schools by teaching young girls and women how to sew their own reusable pads.”

Mogale and her team of 20 volunteers have begun sewing trials of the reusable sanitary pads.

Mogale hopes the beVisoneers programme will give her the boost she needs to take it to the next level.

Buyiswa Twala

Buyiswa Twala is 22, a school assistant as well chief executive of Agrigreat Solitech & Envirocare.

Twala was volunteering at a nonprofit starting farms in schools and teaching children how to farm when the idea that would become Agrigreat Solitech & Envirocare came to her.

She was tasked with creating fertiliser and compost from organic waste, which proved more challenging than anticipated.

“I came to the realisation that the soil in the informal settlement we were working in was extremely damaged and barren and unable to produce proper vegetation,” she recalls.

Undeterred, Twala got to work.

“I was able to formulate and experiment, using different kinds of waste and organic material, eventually working out my own formula which, to an extent, repaired the soil.

“And soon enough, the soil was able to produce the healthiest and biggest vegetation it ever could.”

Twala quickly realised there was scope for her solution to have a broader application.

“I thought how this scientific specification could help farmers with no knowledge of farming and informal farmers and youth in start-ups without training or formal farming education navigate soil preparation easily, because each batch would be scientifically specified to the crop’s nutrient needs,” she says.

“I collected vegetable peels and food waste from school tuck shops, then moved to local informal food stalls in my area to get compost material.

“I am supplying two small farms and a garden currently.”

Nthabiseng Mabetlela

Nthabiseng Mabetlela is a 23-year-old mathematical sciences student who has been involved in numerous projects working towards innovations that benefit both the planet and the people who call it home.

She won an innovation award for an ecofriendly battery she conceptualised as part of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund’s Efeng Bacha leadership programme, and in 2019, she was part of MIT Global Startup Labs.

Her Aorta Project is a peerto-peer energy trading platform which she conceptualised to connect homeowners who have solar panels to tenants who don’t.

She aims to create a digital network that will enable communities to become self-sustaining without having to rely on Eskom or use fossil-fuelled generators.

“The idea came to me during a time when my community had to go through four days without power,” she recalls.

“My neighbours across from me and down the road had solar panels and I just remembered thinking, ‘Why can’t they just give me their power?’, and I think this was my Eureka moment.”

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