Botswana: Paper-making and wood-painting project

Date: July 11, 2013
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Chobe District Council
Presenter: Regina Mojaphoko (Chief Housing Technician)

Chobe, as a fishing area, provides fishing as a source of income for the community especially women, since they are the ones mostly involved in small business. Unlike most areas in Botswana, Chobe is not a farming area due to the high number of wildlife, and the community relies mostly on the fishing business for income. However, because of the regulations on fishing (e.g. no fish can be caught for selling during the breeding season) which came as a response to climate change, the women are usually left with no source of income.

This project provides an alternative to the fishing business, and also addresses the issue of waste management.

Relation to the SADC Protocol

The project is an empowerment initiative, as it targets unskilled and unemployed members of the community, therefore addressing Article 17 and 19 of the SADC gender protocol. Article 14 on gender equality in training is also achieved because the council does not only focus on a certain gender but selects both men and women as beneficiaries of the programme, with a high number of beneficiaries being women.


This is where different decorative antiques and ornaments are made using dry wood from the forest, and paper pastry made from newspapers, flour and cooking oil. This practise is good because it reduces the amount of waste that has to be taken to the landfill and compacted into the ground. It also reduces the amount of waste that could be burnt in households that do not pay for refuse collection, therefore reducing the amount of gases being emitted into the atmosphere that pollute the air and damage the ozone layer. The project also reduces the amount of paper waste that could be all over the streets, on trees and other plants, affecting their growth by reducing their amount of air intake. Through this project we all benefit.

The project is set to reduce the amount of gas emitted into the atmosphere due to the burning of the waste paper and wood. It also reduces the amount of paper that goes out into the stream due to lack of collection, sometimes because the council does not have resources. The wildlife is a often a challenge because animals overturn the rubbish bins and some people do not want to pay for their waste to be collected, resorting to burning.

The process was set up to empower women who are unskilled and unemployed so that they continue providing for their families. The project aims to reduce the rate of economic gender-based violence by economically empowering the women.


The project aims to reduce the amount of gas emitted into the atmosphere, and to reduce the amount of paper in streams due to lack of council collection services. It also aims to empower women with economic development skills and create employment for unemployed community members. Indirectly the project will reduce the levels of Gender-Based Violence through capacitating women with income-generating skills which enable them to be independent and less vulnerable to abusive tendencies.


The project was to reach out to unemployed women who are mostly already beneficiaries of the council so that they graduate from the food basket programme. The project is also set to target women who are exposed to prostitution, working with organisations like Tebelopele, which works on the issue.


Two women called Maggie and Leya started this project. The council recognised the significant impact that they were making on the environment and decided to use them to teach women in their communities. The council then decided to identify some of the beneficiaries of the food basket programme who could be enrolled from the ten villages into this training which was facilitated by Maggie and Leya. The training started first in small villages such as Lesoma and Mabele. When the training was complete, representatives from the different villages were then capacitated with training skills to train others in their communities so that they could form working teams.

Main outputs

The project was initiated using minimal resources, and depended on members going the extra mile to ensure high impact. This has resulted in the project founders sometimes using their own resources and working extremely long hours to serve their community. Main outputs included coordination and resource mobilisation, revision of the council’s waste management policies, and the appointment of environmental police persons.

Main outcomes

The environment has progressively improved, with domestic waste burning also being reduced. The project has come as a learning curve to the council on the issue of waste management, requiring revision of waste management policies which are in progress, taking into consideration issues of climate change and its effects on gender and gender development. The council has since employed the environmental police persons to bring to law on anyone who burns household waste, and households that create dumping sites in their backyards instead of using refuse collection.

The beneficiaries believe the project has brought to them a sense of independence which they never thought they could have, and this has brought hope into their lives. The facilitators of the project, who had been beneficiaries of the “train the trainerÀ sessions have since grown confidence in themselves and now believe that they can proceed to training other members of their communities who will become beneficiaries. The process also involved some lessons on reading and writing which the beneficiaries say helps them to assist their children who go to school.


We had resistance from other community members who did not want to pay for refuse collection although they could afford it. Intervention of the police department assisted. The facilitators felt the council wanted to take their idea and leave them with nothing, but they later learnt that the council was instrumental in providing them with this business opportunity. Some of the beneficiaries could not read and write, so in each group we identified one person who could read and write fluently. Those households who are already council beneficiaries (food basket recipients) were identified and provided with waste bins without charge.


We learnt that it is important to teach environmental studies and practices to people at an early age, because many of our practices come from what we learnt during those periods. Environmental competitions will be introduced to the primary schools, involving the community as well. Most waste items are useful in their own ways. A study needs to be made to find out how other waste items can be reused to reduce the effects of climate chance and create a sustainable development.

Replication and sustainability

The project can be replicated both in the country and the region because it addresses the issue of creating a sustainable environment using paper and wood, the most available items all over the globe, to sustain the economy for the less privileged in our communities. Newspapers are indispensable. Although 98 per cent of the newspapers contain news, this information can be accessed online. However, the editors do not provide the vital information online, which almost 100 per cent of the reading community has an interest on, especially the classifieds section. Both the working class and others buy newspapers for this part. And that’s what keeps their business growing.

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