The ‘Waste its Mine its Yours’ project started out 2 decades ago to address the unemployment, socio-economic hardships and the significant health -and environmental impact of waste in the community of Melkhoutfontein, situated in the Stilbaai, Hessequa region, of the Garden Route in South Africa.

The community was characterised by high unemployment levels, particularly among women and youth, poor waste management and situated between 2 waste dumpsites and tonnes of waste. With the proximity of the community to the ocean where tourism is the main industry, the project was developed with the community to intercept the waste having negative impacts on their lives, to develop a new local economy using the waste and developing local tourism service providers to facilitate sustainability.

With the intention to tackle and sustainably address the health -and environmental challenges, the project embarked on waste awareness programmes. This was complemented by purposed training and skills transfer, adding value to waste and innovated it into a resource to make unique marketable products and crafts to feed in to the tourism supply chain.

From its inception of the multi-disciplinary integrated socio-economic project we called ‘Waste is Mine its Yours’, the goal was to create a new inclusive, gender balanced generation of crafting enterprises through purposed training and skills transfer to facilitate social -and environmental well-being and sustainable self-sufficiency.

The trained -and empowered crafters -and peripheral community enterprises at Melkhoutfontein, are the outcome of a protracted programme of enterprise development opportunities, spanning over 20 years, which ranged from protracted community engagement, socio-demographic surveys to identify needs, the establishment and training of tourism services enterprises, product -and destination development, and then moved into protracted vital waste management phase.

The outcome of the project spanning over 20 years, was accomplished in close collaboration over a period of 10 years with the University of Brighton UK in terms of purposed skills – and knowledge transfer in design -and crafting with waste, and research, and supported by The British Council Developing Inclusive Creative Economies (DICE) programme.

By using the waves of waste repurposed into ‘cool, creative products and art’, empowered crafters, designers, waste collectors, processors and marketers, a pathway of environmental rehabilitation into a range of diversified work -and enterprise opportunities and an increasingly pristiner environment.

As the craft range and offering is diversified and further complemented by a carefully combined group of trainers in purposed Enterprise, Customer Care, Statements in Plastics and Jewellery and further crafting processes, resulting in new innovations, re-purposing and adding value working with
more waste are evolving.

The ‘Waste is Mine its Yours’ project has evolved into what is now called a blueprint for sustainable development and a duplicable, scalable model.

Highlights of Dreamcatcher’s evolving ‘Waste is Mine its Yours’ project at Graced Land Wasteland-Graced Land Melkhoutfontein.

  • The project is turning out to be a best practice case study for sustainable socio-economic development;
  • The outcome of the project, has lead to Dreamcatcher recently honoured with requests for collaboration by the Western Cape Department of Education, which feeds into the National Department of Education. Says Haroon Mahomed, Chief Director at Western Cape Education Department (WCED) for Curriculum and Teacher Development: ‘The Department of Education WCED is collaborating with Dreamcatcher in terms of this case study as part of the the development of the E3 (Entrepreneurship, Employability and Education programme) with the aim to strengthen meaningful youth integration, economic and social life.’
  • Students, researchers, and decision makers researching sustainable ways to address the environmental -and health impacts of waste and poor socio-economic challenges, visit as a model to view on site and to interface with the local community crafters from waste;
  • A growing trend of visitors who aim to positively impact and contribute to local communities and contribute to solve the global challenges of poverty, unemployment and environment, concerned about the impact of waste on the environment, of which the transfer thereof, dumping, burning and landfilling are contributing to global warming are visiting to engage the crafters and to support the local economy on their travels;
  • The project offers an appealing, lasting solution to local unemployment, empowering economic democracy within the community and greater Stilbaai resort area through effective waste management; promotes ongoing resource and knowledge sharing between locals, visitors, universities and education facilities, and serves as a development model for sustainable development, turning challenges of waste and poverty into solutions..
  • Finally after 10 years! the community crafters, now empowered with skills and knowledge and developing their own designs, producing crafts, make and sell to visitors.
  • The final project phase is currently in planning. The crafting workshop will include an environmental training room, sales outlet and providing space for the newly trained crafters, of which predominantly women and youth, to make crafts in their own purposed spaces. Their material is drawn from the waste in their local environment – and also intercepted at the households via a well-executed and managed local recycling scheme, before it reaches the ocean environment.
  • The environment is much more pristine, with the crafters and tourism enterprises as proud, economically liberated enterprises, of whom predominantly women and youth, with a sound knowledge of waste management and environmental stewardship.
  • Extensive engagement -and research continues between Dreamcatcher and the University of Brighton, with offers and requests to duplicate to other communities and to share knowledge.

So, what now?

  • Contact us today to sign up to get involved, to add a visit to the Wasteland – Gracedland in Melkhoutfontein to your next trip to South Africa. You can Paint, Plant; help gather Materials for Craft Product. Become part of the miracle which is unfolding with each visitor turning a waste land into a graced land in the community of Melkhoutfontein!
  • We need financial help in this final step to construct the craft development and visitor centre. Support our crowd funding campaign to support the development of a craft centre in the community of Melkhoutfontein, South Africa.

Our ‘Waste its Mine its Yours Projects’, Dreamcatcher works on minimising the Impacts of general consumer waste which includes waste generated by visitors on the local environment and health in township communities. We place special emphasis on importance of re-use and how it can impact positively on local quality of life. We pioneer projects which use waste as a valuable resource, encouraging re-use, conserving energy and water and managing the impacts of waste in the community, with the community.

We are committed to pioneering models for sustainable solutions to enable a circular economy, especially with the aim of poverty relief,  by engaging and working with local township communities, in South Africa. We reach out globally to develop innovative outcomes based projects with partners, to grow the local economy sustainably and build knowledge globally. In doing so, we create jobs, social entrepreneurs, improved local economy, local environmental quality and sustainable living. we are excited and proud of our latest exciting project working in partnership with the University of Brighton in the United Kingdom: The new craft and design project, Wasteland – Graced Land  –  is currently hailed  a workable model with merit to share wider afield, including beyond the borders of South Africa, into the heartland of communities – especially those living in poverty on low income and unemployed.  Our pioneering project is developing crafts and the skills necessary to manufacture crafts from recycled items and items available IN communities. The project also uses the invader plant specie ‘Acacia Cyclops’, which has destroyed large areas of natural habitat in the community and the region, in the designs. The initiative is empowering crafters who have signed up in the community of Melkhoutfontein, in the region of Hessequa, Garden Route,  South Africa, to ‘Trend up their Trash‘ by turning it into a resource to sustain themselves, whilst we are simultaneously contributing to the environment to eradicate and use the invader specie.

See further examples of our work in the Dreamcatcher communities below:

  • Waste management – Recycling brings Hope to women and their Communities in South Africa Over 50 registered Dreamcatcher Foundation entrepreneurs, community leaders and waste professionals, in what are known as township communities across South Africa, were involved in the ground breaking waste awareness project “Waste: Shamina – Shawena – Waste: It’s Mine – It’s Yours”.
    The project aimed to increase awareness of waste issues within communities with a focus on the impact on public health and the environment.Historically townships have been densely populated communities with residents living in close proximity. Waste behaviour in township communities has been closely linked to the legacy of the Apartheid system. The dumping of waste in communities was a way of expressing opposition to the Apartheid system and in addition was a protest against the lack of infrastructure caused by forced removal of citizens. Over time this behaviour manifested itself into negative perceptions towards waste, the local authorities -and lack of co-responsibility for waste in the community. Waste and litter in communities became a way of life. In large parts of South Africa there remains a poor awareness of waste issues and an inadequate collection and treatment infrastructure.The “Waste: Shamina – Shawena – Waste: It’s Mine – It’s Yours” project involved training and skills transfer activities which were run over 3 years. The women and men (called Kamamma’s and Bhuti’s) were empowered with skills and knowledge on how to manage waste better where they live, raise awareness to mobilize their own communities and to develop an environmental ethos where they provide their micro tourism services. It is important to note that participants represented 13 diverse cultures and are involved in a host of projects in their communities to uplift those who live in poverty and harsh socio-economic circumstances. Collectively they engage with over 15, 000 people in their communities. Local Authority staff, which included bin men and waste managers, were invited and involved in the project. As a trial, youth from the Dreamcatcher Foundation Communities -and Social development programme attended some further bespoke training (see Project: Waste is Mine its Yours).
  • Reducing carbon emissions and energy use – Utilising the energy of the sun, which if in abundance in South Africa and using energy saving light bulbs, has many benefits for the Dreamcatcher Kamamma’s and Bhutis:
    • They are reducing their environmental impact and their carbon footprint through reduction of emissions from wood and coal burning, as well as use reducing use of energy from gas and electricity.
    • Electricity -and power is very expensive in South Africa. Through saving money on utility accounts and increasing their profits, the Kamammas have more money to at their disposal to increase quality of life, that of their children and community.
    Saving energy and water - Solar Geysers
    • Saving money on purchase of light bulbs and have switched to using energy saving light bulb.
    • Drawing on the many hours of natural sunshine, , installing Solar Geysers at the Homestays and Cook-up venues in South Africa has been our BIG dream and goal. We have applied, via Dreamcatcher Foundation Netherlands to Wilde Ganzen to help with grant funding and their contribution will be match funded by initiatives by Karin Bloemen and the Middemeer Ladies event day.
  • Using rainwater to address Food poverty – Vast areas where our community engagement and socio-economic development projects are run, are situated in areas impacted by protracted drought. With water in short supply and expensive, where it is on tap, each drop is used for household use with no incentives to grow food, which once again is expensive to buy. Our current project, running in tandem with the composting project, is to conserve the rain water in conservancy tanks when it does occur, transfer skills to grow food and edible herbs in small patches in cyclical fashion using this conserved water. The first positive impacts of this initiative are starting to show great promise and interest to get back to basics: making nature work to ensure the crops.