Flipflopi finds its place in the lakes

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020 00:00 |
Flipflopi founders Ali Skanda (from left) Dipesh Pabari, UNEP Regional Director - Africa Juliette Biao, Edwin Wanyonyi, KWS Director, Strategy & Change and David Ombisi, UNEP officer - Africa office at KWS headquarters. Photo/PD/KENNA CLAUDE

UN, Tuesday

Early last year a dhow – a traditional East African sailing vessel – travelled over 500km south down the coasts of Kenya and Tanzania, calling in at nearly a half-dozen ports along the way.

It’s a trip made by many boats. However, the Flipflopi was a dhow with a difference.

Rather than the traditional wooden construction, the 10-metre, seven-tonne vessel was made entirely from waste plastic collected on Kenya’s beaches.

The crew of the Flipflopi are partners of the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Clean Seas campaign, which aims to encourage a movement among governments, the private sector and civil society away from single-use plastics and towards a circular supply chain.  

A year-and-a-half on from its successful first trip, the Flipflopi is now embarking on another expedition, this time a voyage around Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake.

“The rationale behind this is to take the message upstream,” explained Dipesh Pabari, co-founder of the Flipflopi project.

He says more than 90 per cent of ocean plastics originate in eight major rivers, including the Nile, part of which begins in Lake Victoria.

Message of attention

Kenya is one of several countries in Africa that have, in recent years, stepped up their fight against plastic waste.

Last month marked the three-year anniversary of the country’s stringent ban on single-use plastic bags.

Last year, Kenya joined other nations to sign a global agreement to stop importing plastic waste, a move opposed by the chemicals industry.

In June this year – following a presidential directive – Kenya banned other single-use plastics, from water bottles to disposable cutlery, in national parks, beaches, forests and conservation areas.

Despite these measures, however, plastic pollution remains a significant problem in the East African country, both on the coast, where the Flipflopi project supports local waste management initiatives, and on Lake Victoria.

In just one clean-up almost five tonnes of plastic was collected on a 5km stretch of beach in Lamu, Kenya.

The lake, which spans three countries – Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania – supports over 40 million people.

However, it has been under increased pressure from mismanaged waste and pollution, which has impacted the health of communities and threatened the survival of the lake.

“The Flipflopi expedition to Lake Victoria takes a simple but critical message to the attention of governments, local authorities, stakeholders and communities in the region – save Lake Victoria before it is too late,” said Juliette Biao Koudenoukpo, UNEP’s director for Africa.

 “The destruction of this vital source of water means putting millions of peoples’ livelihoods at risk.

We need to act urgently to reverse the environmental degradation that is having a grave impact on the lake and all those who rely on it.” 

September 19 was World Cleanup Day, an annual event to mark the global problem of solid waste.

This year’s Cleanup Day also sees the release of a new animated film that tells the story of the Flipflopi. 

Celebrated Kenyan actor John Sibi-Okumu wrote and narrated the film, which was directed by award-winning animator Kwame Nyong’o.

Meanwhile, the Lake Victoria chapter in the Flipflopi journey will begin with the arrival of the boat at the KWS Impala Park in the Kenyan city of Kisumu on September 22. - United  Nations

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