BY CATHY AMUTENYA
As a broader extension to the Eco-Entrepreneurship Training and Membership Programme, the Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF) Environmental Awareness and Climate Change Project in partnership with the Namibia Business Innovation Institute (NBII) at the Namibia University Science and Technology (NUST) recently hosted an eco-entrepreneurship excursion and information session on 22 August 2017. Participants included twenty-nine eco-entrepreneurs from the central regions of Namibia with innovative business ideas related to recycling, aquaponics, sanitation, renewable energy and many other sectors. The event was aimed at building on the eco-entrepreneur’s existing knowledge and skills and to expose them to the opportunities that exists in waste management as well as the sustainable means growing plants and using water.
Entrepreneurs aspiring to venture into recycling visited the City of Windhoek Solid Waste Management Division and the Kupferberg landfill site. Prior to visiting the landfill site, Mrs. Estelle Heine, Manager for Customer Education, gave a breakdown on the different types of waste that exists, where it is generated from and the systems in place to manage waste in Windhoek. The entrepreneurs gained insights into how businesses can capitalize on the existing business opportunities that are available in waste management as such opportunities are not only available in recycling but also in the collection, transportation and public awareness around waste management.
At Kupferberg landfill: City of Windhoek personnel took time to teach the eco-entrepreneurs about the different types of waste, systems and business opportunities that exists in waste management. (Photo: Lorima Cook, 2017)
At the Kupferberg landfill site, Mr. Eliphas Kahorere, a civil engineer on the site, dissected the various waste management processes and sites. Through the tour, he greatly expressed that 60% of the recyclable waste was not supposed to be at the landfill site as they had to be recycled from home. This further proved that a great number of business opportunities are available in this sector. Moreover, he expressed that tyres are one of the main challenges faced at the landfill site. He challenged the entrepreneurs to come up with interventions to solve that problem and generate income for themselves and create jobs for others in the process.
The second excursion targeted entrepreneurs aspiring to be organic gardeners and climate-smart farmers. The group visited the aquaponics garden hosted at the Hope Initiatives Southern Africa (HISA) Organic Gardening Project in Kilimanjaro. The initiative uses an aquaponics system specially designed to grow leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale. The system makes use of nutrients from the waste of fresh water fish to grow the vegetables, while the by-products from the plants oxygenate the water cycled back into the fish tank. The team at HISA pride themselves on adopting a green lifestyle which is evident in their use of organic agricultural practices and applying a natural and home-made pesticide by combining chili, salt, onions and vinegar through a spray-method.
The management and gardening team at Hope Initiatives Southern Africa (HISA) centre in Kilimanjaro settlement provided eco-entrepreneurs with an opportunity to see first hand what an aquaponics system entails, share tips on organic gardening and the see the benefits of aquaponics. (Photo: HSF Climate Project, 2017)
The participants were also exposed to a water recycling approach as the HISA centre also makes use of a grey water system. The system used is a commercial system that takes water from the showers, kitchen and bathroom basins, filters out large particles and renders the water suitable for gardening purposes.
After eye-opening experiences at the different sites, eco-entrepreneurs participated in an information-sharing and networking session at the House of Democracy in Windhoek West. The first of three presentations was made by the Executive Director of the Desert Research Foundation of Namibia (DRFN), Dr. Martin Schneider, who provided insights on the different ongoing initiatives at DRFN including a biomass to energy project and the combating bush encroachment project. The second presentation was made by the Head of Corporate Communications at the Environmental Investment Fund of Namibia (EIF), Mr. Lazarus Nafidi, who explained how eco entrepreneurs can access green loans and grants. He also provided examples of some of the green business startups the EIF has supported in the past and what defined their success as entrepreneurs. Lastly, the group heard from the Head of SME banking at Nedbank Namibia, Mr. Nelson Sisisky, who provided information on the services and products the bank offers for entrepreneurs who wish to pursue commercial sources of financing.
The event concluded on a positive note with some entrepreneurs expressing their gratitude to be a part of the event which they saw as creating a supportive platform for strengthening their knowledge and skills on the business and environmental aspects of their startups. One participant said “the event was informative and I really got to fully grasp the importance of eco-entrepreneurship for our country. I have learnt a lot and will use that information to transform my idea and inspire others”.