On this day, around the world, hundreds of thousands of people have participated in ‘World Clean-up Day’, taking time out of their busy schedules to pick up rubbish and clean up their local areas. Here in Botswana, these generous deeds have not gone unnoticed. Working and living in the Okavango Delta, it is our privilege to experience one of the world’s last true wildernesses in all its glory. But it is at stake. Pollution, in all its forms, is spreading rampantly across the world’s surface, even here. Over the last decade, we have seen an unprecedented increase in the amount of plastic both in the Delta, and in the towns surrounding it. So, today, we decided to take action.
A sample of rubbish collected, in celebration of #WorldCleanupDay2020. Photo credit: Hannah Gormley.
Working in the Okavango Delta, it is our privilege and our responsibility to safeguard the environment to preserve it for future generations. Not only will these future generations experience its unrivalled beauty, but the Delta is also the key to Botswana’s sustainable development and therefore its economic prosperity. For hundreds of thousands of years, the citizens of Botswana existed in harmony with the Delta’s constant fluxes and limited resources. Today, however, some of the materials we are most familiar with have changed this relationship forever. Many of these changes are fantastic- plastic has revolutionised how we carry water and store food, glass how we stock medicines, and metals how we build safe houses. But these materials also come at a price.
OB, Angie, Bettie and Kim harvesting waterlilies from the floodplains, a highly nutritious plant in an otherwise nutrient-scarce environment. Photo credit: Hannah Gormley
Plastic pollution takes over one-thousand years to break down, while aluminium and glass have their own severe drawbacks. Therefore, working within the Delta, we take constant care to ensure that we place as little environmental strain on our surroundings as possible, with stringent recycling initiatives and anti-littering policies. However, wherever humans go, rubbish follows, and some inevitably falls through the cracks. That is why, on this day, we organized a team clean up from our current base. There may not be much litter, or big pieces of litter, but it is arguably the small pieces that are the most dangerous, as animals may swallow and choke on them. We organised a competition for who could collect the most rubbish, and we were amazed at the results.
OB with her chocolate reward. Photo credit: Hannah Gormley
In just half an hour, and in a pristine location, we collected a hessian-sack full of small bits of rubbish, from shavings off plastic pipes, to small nuts and bolts, plastic labels and rope. It demonstrated what you can achieve when you work together and, despite organising chocolate for the winner, the competition was so fierce that we all shared it instead. We hope that this exercise will no longer be a one off and instead will become ingrained in all of us, to remind us that plastic has no place here in the Okavango Delta. But we knew that wasn’t enough. In Maun, where our operations are based, there is a fantastic organisation set up by generous citizens who donate their time to weekly clean-ups at 8am every Saturday morning. In celebration of World Clean-up Day, we donated 200 bin bags and 10 pairs of reusable gloves to their fantastic cause. In addition, Andy, our co-founder, got the local schools involved so they had even more feet on the ground. Maun Waste Warriors – thank you for everything that you do.
Senabi, Zacks, Sam, Tsapo and OB show off their collection! Photo credit: Hannah Gormley.
So, if you’re still reading this blog, then thank you for bearing with us, but now we have a favour to ask of you. On this day, we ask our friends, families and followers to take a moment out of their busy schedules to go outside and collect whatever rubbish you may find. Whatever the size, everything you pick up will make a difference and better our planet. It’s future lies in all of our hands.