By Habiba Wakio
Baraka pouted at his fishing net. Today’s capture was not pleasing, just like the previous ones. He was the breadwinner of his family, and the money he would earn from selling the fish would not be enough for three meals. His family would have to settle for one meal so that he may save some money for rent. The debt at the shop where they took food stuff on credit was piling up. The day before, his net had captured many plastic bottles and tins, leaving less room for fish. It had been an awful night. He seemed to be having no luck today either. Having faced this predicament for more than a month, he was getting impatient and thinking of what other job to do. The price of commodities was very high. How could he survive on such a paltry income? He dabbed his handkerchief on his forehead. Having succeeded his father’s fishing business, the sea was all he knew. He enjoyed it out here in the water every night doing what he loved the most. He had learned from the best. His father had been the best fisherman of his time. Smiling at the boat, he remembered the first time his father had allowed him on his boat. He had been excited to have his first fishing lesson. After throwing the hook, his stomach had been in knots. He held the hook tightly and stared at the sea, willing the fish to take the bait. After what seemed like forever, he felt the hook move in his hand. It was shaking! Surely something it must have caught something. He called his father enthusiastically and sure enough, they pulled out a fish. His very first. His mother was the first to narrate the story to the neighbours.
“Caught anything yet?” His younger brother Baya asked, joining him from the boat which had given him a lift.
“No,” replied Baraka.
Baya had volunteered to join him since his fishing partners had refused to come, having lost hope.
“There is no use going out and coming back empty-handed,” one of them had said.
“Yeah,” agreed the other. “I better find something else to do.”
“But nothing,” interrupted the first one. “If you still want to go, then do so.”
“You have our blessings,” said the second one.
Baya was also here, hoping to have his first fishing lesson.
“The sea is full of waste. I am not having any luck,” Baraka complained.
“Maybe we can do something about it,” said Baya. “Think of how we can get rid of the waste.”
“Beach clean up,” Baraka suggested.
The waste dumped along the sea shore was washed into the sea by the waves, he concluded.
He thought of the jua kali industry and how it did a lot of recycling. Then it hit him. He could recycle the waste that posed as a challenge to him and a threat to marine life. If his late father were still here, he would really be proud of him. When he got home, he called his friends, Binti, Rashid, Sharon and Maua, and told them his idea. They were excited to start a youth group that would be involved in getting rid of waste which would then be recycled. Binti was a photographer, Rashid, an illustrator, Sharon, a social media influencer and Maua, a graphic designer.
The group met in the morning wearing gloves and gumboots. Sharon had managed to get a good number of volunteers after posting about the beach clean up and how important it was to save marine life. Baraka’s two fishing partners also joined them. Binti took photos of the volunteers as they went about their work while Rashid made a sketch of a waste-free environment to be posted online. Later, they began making artefacts, bowls, sculptures and jewellery from the collected plastic bottles with an aim of selling them to earn an income for the group. While some were busy making artwork, others planted tree seedlings in the tins collected.
Baraka was glad to be contributing to change in his area.