An elderly man, Joel Oenga, from Kwale County, took it upon himself to clean the Indian Ocean by recycling the waste and making furniture.
The father of four noted that the desire to recycle is rooted in his need to reduce the effects of climate change and create employment for the youth.
In an interview with Kenyans.co.ke on Friday, March 17, Oenga lamented that his efforts to reach government officials, including the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), for funding had hit a dead end.
Joel Oenga in Kwale County making furniture from ocean waste
File “I wrote to NEMA and universities to involve them in the idea but none of them has reached out to me,” he stated.
He makes furniture, including seats, beds, lamp stands, carpets, and tables going for about Ksh25,000 adding, “The products are durable. They can last for about 30 years unless you burn them.”
Oenga noted that the idea came to him in 2020, during the pandemic, while he was working as a caretaker of a home in the area.
According to the innovator, this is not his first attempt at recycling waste products. In the 2000s, he used plastic waste to make shoes and sold them to customers in Botswana.
“While in Nairobi, I used to collect plastic papers and made carpets, I tried to approach government officials and pitch the idea but they were unresponsive,” he added.
Oenga noted that his environmentally friendly idea has been praised by tourists frequenting the famous Africa-shaped pool in the area.
He disclosed that finishing one seat while working alone took about one week.
However, he lamented the government’s ‘misplaced’ efforts to curb climate change in the country and beyond.
“I see our leaders attend climate change forums across the world and nothing is done. They should begin at the grass root, you will never see a president in the ocean collecting the waste, it is people like me,” he stated.
“Nothing is impossible, I am thinking of using hair to make products. This will create more jobs for Kenyans,” Oenga concluded.
Several seats made by Joel Oenga in Kwale County
One of the seats made by Joel Oenga from Kwale County.