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Meet Siyanda Sopangisa

Teaching kids how to canoe in Khayelitsha

Portrait of Siyanda Sopangisa

Siyanda Sopangisa and his brother Akhona founded the Khayelitsha Canoe Club in 2013. In Khayelitsha Wetlands Park, located in the heart of Cape Town’s largest township, he has been teaching children how to swim and canoe for ten years while also cleaning the river of plastic waste.

This initiative is truly unique and creates entirely new experiences because very few people in the townships know how to swim or have the opportunity to engage in water sports.

Siyanda’s commitment is particularly impressive because it is completely voluntary, and he often faces setbacks such as vandalism. Despite having no income himself, he tirelessly continues and serves as a true role model in his community.

Turning a threat into a resource

Making biochar with a kiln

Last year, Siyanda was almost forced to give up. The Wetlands became overgrown with invasive water hyacinths, making canoeing nearly impossible. Now, Siyanda has found a way to turn the problem into a resource in collaboration with dooiy.

The 15 members of the canoe club harvest the fast-growing water hyacinths and carbonize them into biochar using a self-built low-tech kiln provided by German NGO Char2Cool. The biochar, in turn, serves as a natural high-performance fertilizer for the surrounding community gardens.

Thus, the members of the canoe club not only protect the native fish and plants threatened by water hyacinths but also make an active contribution to the climate. By removing the water hyacinths from the water, they prevent a significant amount of methane emissions that would typically occur during the decomposition of water hyacinths.

Touristic Experience

Additionally, the canoe club is developing a touristic experience based on cultural exchange and environmental education, aiming to create a sustainable income for approximately 15 households.

Picture of a touristic experience

Siyanda from Khayelitsha ZA

“Tourists can join locals from Khayelitsha in harvesting water hyacinths, learn how biochar is produced, and witness its use in the gardens of local initiatives. Furthermore, the women in our canoe club create various woven products from water hyacinths, such as baskets and mats, which will also contribute to income generation.”

Book an adventure, create impact

If you would like to support Siyanda, consider booking a tour with him when you visit Cape Town or donating to further develop his initiative. We think Siyanda is a very inspiring change-maker and runs an incredible project in his community.

Check out the Khayelitsha Canoe Club profile on dooiy. We are super happy to have Siyanda on board as a community ambassador!

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