BHEKANI Sikhosana is a man on a life-long mission to “save” planet earth.
BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
So serious is the mission — presented to him in his “sleep” — that he decided to quit his job and put on hold his marriage plans.
“If I fail to do this, you will all die,” said a jovial Sikhosana during a media visit organised by the Cultural Information Trust (CIT), recently.
Sikhosana, the third born in a family of 11, picks plastic bottles as well as empty beer cans in and around Mawabeni business centre to make an amazing artistic scenery that has a striking resemblance to a Lunar Park.
Born on February 26, 1974, Sikhosana said he was instructed by his ancestors to resign from his job at Vitafoam and move to his rural home in Mawabeni near Esigodini in Matabeleland South and construct a unique art attraction that would not only bring people to the area, but also serve as a waste plastic management practice.
“Before I started, there was litter everywhere. It was an eyesore. I pick everything that is plastic bottle and make good use of it,” Sikhosana said,
“I pick these empty plastic bottles from Mawabeni business centre and I start designing all these things in my head. As you can see, there are bedrooms, dining rooms and sheds where you can just relax during the day.”
Sikhosana embarked on the venture five years ago on the left side of the road at Mawabeni business centre before moving to his rural home — situated a few kilometres from the shopping centre.
In so doing, Sikhosana protects the environment, something he is aware of.
“I know that I’m protecting the environment. Ever since I started doing this, you will hardly come across plastic containers or beer cans in this area,” he said.
Plastic waste remains a challenging issue in Zimbabwe and the world over because of its non-biodegradable nature.
Global statistics show that 10% of all human-generated waste is plastic and five trillion plastic bags are used each year, hence the magnitude of this waste stream.
Approximately 1,65 million tonnes of waste is produced annually in Zimbabwe, of which 18% is plastic, according to the Institute of Environmental Studies.
More than 15 countries in Africa have either banned plastic bags completely or charge a tax on them, and some of them include Kenya, Mali, Cameroon, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Malawi and Morocco.
Plastic bags and bottles clog sewer reticulation systems, resulting in constant sewer bursts and exposing communities to health risks such as cholera.
Plastic bags also lead to the death of livestock such as donkeys, cattle, sheep and goats, which die after ingesting them.
“If the environment is polluted with different types of waste, we realise that we are creating a breeding environment for vectors and we end up having diseases,” said Environmental Management Agency (EMA) Matabeleland North provincial manager Chipo Zuze-Mpofu.
Lupane State University lecturer and climate change expert Keith Phiri said Sikhosana’s mini Lunar Park could be used as an educational centre.
“That is a good example of how litter can be put to good use,” he said.
“That can be a learning centre that instead of throwing litter haphazardly, it can be put to good use, it can be turned into decorations, flowering pots among others.
“We are concerned about SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) as well, maintaining and keeping the environment clean and avoiding pollution.
“So that can also be a centre for educating communities on how they can live in harmony with their environment.”
The world over, Zimbabwe included, countries are faced with a serious challenge of climate change, partly caused by irresponsible waste management.
Irresponsible waste management contributes directly to climate change by adding carbon-based particles into the air, which are produced during the burning of petroleum products, experts say.
The result is warmer air, creating a disastrous greenhouse effect.
Plastics also originate as fossil fuels and emit greenhouse gases from cradle to grave, according to a May 2019 report titled “Plastic & Climate: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet,” released by the Centre for International Environmental Law, a non-profit environmental law organisation.
In August 2018, a team led by Sarah-Jeanne Royer, a post-doctoral scholar at the Centre of Microbial Oceanography of the University of Hawaii, released a study documenting that the growing volume of plastic accumulating in the environment may be contributing to climate change.
These impacts are a result of the exposure of plastic to solar radiation and the slow breakdown, or degradation, of plastic in the environment.
To strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, countries adopted the Paris Agreement at the COP21 in Paris, which went into force in November 2016.
Phiri said government and non-governmental organisations, especially in the art and craft sphere, should fund projects such as the one championed by Sikhosana “to an extent that the person is given a workshop where it’s not just a tourist attraction, but where he can sell some of the products and be given an opportunity to go to trade so that his talent is not just localised.