A committed environmental activist, Jocasta Tshomarelo Bobeng uses creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship to further her cause.
In 2011, Bobeng started an environmental conservation project in Lerala and Letlhakane East, through which she worked with 20 orphaned and out of school youth to educate people about environmental conservation.
They distributed and planted trees in various households in the area, and also made sure that the trees were well taken care of. Her team also used theatre and song to teach people about conservation, encouraging them to plant trees and warning them about the dangers of deforestation.
However, Bobeng realised that they were encouraging people not to cut down trees for firewood, but not offering them alternative sources of energy. These households could not afford to use cooking gas and electricity.
“That was when I went on the internet to research about alternative sources of fuel.
I learnt about a group in Tanzania that was manufacturing paper briquettes, and using them to cook as an alternative to firewood,” says Bobeng.
Through an organisation called Legacy Foundation, Bobeng was able to go to Tanzania for training on how to make paper briquettes. Upon her return to Botswana, she transferred her new skills to the 20 youth she had been working with.
After receiving government funding, Bobeng later relocated to Shakawe to set up a paper briquette manufacturing business. Through her company, Lady J Briquettes, Bobeng manufactures and sells her materials to the public as an alternative to firewood.
The business collects waste paper from local schools, shops and government departments to make the briquettes. This recycling of tree products saves large areas of natural forest from degradation. “We are only returning the paper to its original form, and using it as a substitute for firewood,” Bobeng explains.
She also believes the briquettes save lives, as women and girls are often attacked by wild animals and rapists when they go out alone to the bush to collect firewood. “They don’t have to go out to the bush anymore; they simply walk into any shop and buy paper briquettes at very affordable prices,” says Bobeng.
The business has now expanded into manufacturing chilli bombs from the recycled paper, a natural method used to scare away elephants, and deter them from destroying farmers’ crops.
“We work closely with Eco-Exist, an organisation that does research on peaceful coexistence between elephants and humans,” says Bobeng. Bobeng’s growing business has employed three permanent and two part-time individuals.
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