Cleaning up the environment. One donkey at a time

Eliot Chisango didn’t come to South Africa to make a better life for himself. He came to enrich the lives of others. Having arrived in Limpopo after completing his studies in Zimbabwe, the environmentalist aimed to develop conservation projects that would build community. A humble, unassuming man, he found his answer in the meekest of creatures. Donkeys.

Chisango picked up a job with the P.E.A.C.E. foundation, which specialises in community upliftment, and began to investigate the rural area where he was stationed to determine the best way of helping its people to help themselves. He soon learnt that the community was already dependent on the services of a collaborator. They used donkeys for transportation. Inspired by the hardworking animals, which in most parts of the world are treated with contempt or outright abuse, Chisango decided to design a project around them. The obvious environmental concern for the area was pollution. And the donkeys provided the answer.

Chisango set up a buyback recycling centre and offered the community the opportunity to earn money by collecting and delivering waste. This was the founding premise of his Donkeys 4 Development project, which provides people with carts to be pulled by their industrious donkeys. Chisango has driven home the message that the animals should be cared for properly, and the community has been delighted to oblige, with each owner undergoing training and allowing her animal to be monitored. Chisango has helped a community without changing it much at all. By teaching people to better use the tools around them, he has empowered them to solve a devastating environmental issue.

Christelle Pretorius