Cameroonian invents boat made from plastic bottles to offer poor fisher folks chance to earn a living

Michael Eli Dokosi November 29, 2019
Ismaël Essome Ebone and his plastic boat via One Young World

The menace of plastic waste littering confronts many African cities. From clogging city drains to being an eyesore, they serve as a nuisance, but Ismaël Essome Ebone from the Cameroonian city of Douala proffers a solution.

Ebone aware that fisher folks were unable to purchase wooden canoes to undertake fishing because of high prices and seeing hundreds of plastic bottles float after a downpour, decided to kill two birds with one stone.

He decided to build boats from the plastic bottles to clean up the environment and also offer a cheaper alternative for fisher folks to own boats to make ends meet.

Ebone came up with the ‘EcoBoats’ idea 2011 even while a student. Unsure himself, he tested his new invention on water and stunned himself and observant fishermen watching from the shore, when his boat floated.

Photo Credit: Ismaël Essome Ebone

That success led him to invest funds into launching his nonprofit Madiba & Nature: a charity dedicated to collecting plastic waste from around the region and turning it into boats for ecotourism and fishermen in need.

Thanks to the success of his venture, the Cameroonian organization recently installed the nation’s first ever EcoBin for collecting, sorting, and recycling waste materials.

“The EcoBin makes it easier to collect plastic bottles in a smart way and avoid polluting rivers and the ocean in Kribi and Douala!” reads the nonprofit’s Facebook page. “From plastic waste to EcoBoat and EcoBin, the revolution is on the way.”

Ebone collects plastic bottles of various shapes and sizes, uses codes to bind them together to produce various sizes of boats that can be used for tourism and fishing.

He works with other youth to produce the boats that also contribute to promote sustainable artisanal fishing and ecotourism, through the provision of recycled ecological canoes for neighbouring communities.

Photo Credit: Think Beyond Plastic Foundation

A few years after launching Madiba and Nature, the youth have worked in collaboration with a community of 250 in Kribi, in the South region of Cameroon who are progressively adopting the use of ‘Ecoboats’ in fishing and ecotourism.

Ebone, who studied Environmental Management and Natural Resources at the University of Douala, has various awards for his ‘EcoBoats’ invention.

Challenges include efficiently collecting plastic bottles in Cameroon’s economic capital, Douala, due to lack of collection and transportation mechanisms. However, coming up with the novel plastic boat away from the traditional wooden and fiber glass boat is a big step.



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