When you visit the Bekezela informal settlement located on Carr Street in Newtown, one of the first things you may notice is the tons of recyclables stored in bulk bags just underneath the M1 highway bridge. However, what you may not observe from a first glance is an organised and fully integrated community just a few meters away, built around the waste collection industry. Bekezela informal settlement is home to around 500 homeless people, the majority of whom are waste reclaimers who have all come together to build a better life for themselves and their families around recycling. When Safripol visited the site earlier this year, we were pleasantly surprised to meet many hard-working friendly men and women waste reclaimers, who are everyday environmental heroes, and mums and dads to kids wanting a better future. We also discovered a fully fletched community, with housing, ablution facilities, community vegetable gardens, and a creche, all of which was set up by the waste reclaimers themselves.
During the Covid pandemic this community was badly impacted as the recycling industry came to a stand-still during the initial lock-down period. Luyanda Hlatshwayo, a community leader and co-founder of the African Reclaimers Organisation (ARO), said that during the Covid lock-down the community started a community vegetable garden to provide fresh produce like spinach, and tomatoes and onions to the reclaimers and their families.
Additionally, the reclaimers wanted their kids to receive early childhood education in a safe environment while they were out reclaiming, so they rallied together with partners and built a creche.
One of the needs identified in the Bekezela community was for agricultural and shade netting for the community gardens and the creche.
Safripol approached its partner Plusnet-Geotex and together we have sponsored agriculture nets for the Bekezela community gardens and much needed shade netting for the creche. JVC Shades also came on board to ensure that all of the nets were properly and safely installed.
According to Luyanda, “the shade net covering for the creche has created a comfortable learning environment for our kids, and the vegetable gardens are now protected from the elements, which means they require less water while giving us good crop yeilds”.
He also said that the support from Safripol and its partners have instilled new hope in the community.
Let’s plastic responsibly.