Namibian entrepreneur receives green fellowship

Tjatjara is the founder and chief executive officer of Flushh, a social enterprise tackling the sanitation crisis in Namibia by turning human waste into valuable biochar that can be used as fertiliser.

Through the fellowship, Tjatjara will receive seed funding and strategic support to advance adequate sanitation for all.

He is the first Namibian to receive the award.

Tjatjara is one of 20 fellows selected by the leading global fellowship programme for emerging social entrepreneurs to receive an US$80 000 (about N$1,2 million) stipend, as well as leadership development to support Flushh's growth.

Since 1987, Echoing Green has accelerated the work of some of the world's best and brightest social innovators. This fellowship cohort is the second of two for the year, as Echoing Green works to mobilise funds to proximate leaders working closely with their communities through the Racial Equity Philanthropic Fund.

Tjatjara joins the ranks of fellows that include former United States first lady Michelle Obama (1991), political commentator Van Jones (1994), and the organisation's own president Cheryl Dorsey (1992).

“We are proud to partner these proximate leaders who are bringing creative new solutions to address centuries-old inequities in healthcare, legal justice, economic opportunity, and more,” said Dorsey in a statement.

“The innovations advanced by this class of Echoing Green Fellows have the potential to sustainably improve the lives of millions of people around the globe,” she said.

“The perseverance and courage demonstrated by these bold social entrepreneurs is truly an inspiration to all of us who strive for a more equitable future.”

She said this year's class of fellows was selected from a pool of more than 1 300 applicants working in over 100 countries. These new fellows are driving social change with and for their communities in countries that include the United States, Australia, India, Malaysia, Saint Lucia, South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, and now for the very first time, Namibia.

For 35 years, Echoing Green has been identifying emerging leaders with the best ideas for social innovation and setting them on a path to lifelong impact.

For the fourth class in a row, 100% of this fellow class identify as black, indigenous, or people of colour, Dorsey said.

Growing up as an orphan in the Kavango East region, Tjatjara experienced the indignity of not having access to a toilet when he returned to his home village to visit his grandmother. This was his call to action, and it has greatly influenced the way his company tackles the sanitation problem for landless people in the Kavango East.

“The work of many social innovators such as Kaveto is to take risks that help us all to ask new questions, envision new possibilities, and create a more just society,” said Zeka Avelino-Tjiwana, a community leader from the Tumweneni informal settlement.

Flushh builds eco-toilets from locally sourced materials to create a clean and hygienic environment that restores peoples' dignity. This approach allows the company to create jobs in the communities and improve public health.

In 2019, Flushh was the winner of the Total Start-upper of the Year award by TotalEnergies.

Commenting on receiving the fellowship, Tjatjara said: “As young black people, we have the power to positively shape our society for the better; with the right support and systems to propel us forward, we can do big things.”