Owen Kataparo Muhenje, an Awareness Ambassador for vikela.earth, previously hiked 960 kilometers in an effort to raise awareness on the preservation of the Kunene River Valley’s biodiversity. A humble goat farmer and tour guide from the Himba tribe in Namibia, Owen has become a true eco-warrior on a mission to garner support for a campaign to mitigate rapidly accumulating microplastics in the ocean.
So what are microplastics?
Each year, humans pollute our water systems with about eight tons of plastic. This plastic eventually makes its way to our oceans. While some of the plastic that washes up on our beaches and can be picked up and sorted, other pieces will join one of the five great garbage patches, large islands of plastic debris floating in our oceans. Other pieces will become microplastic in our oceans.
The ocean environment and UV rays from the sun will break down large pieces of plastic into microplastics. However, due to their small size, it is easier for them to mingle with ocean life. Fish will ingest them by accident while feeding, they can even be small enough to be eaten by plankton. Being at the bottom of the food chain, other fish will often eat this plastic too. If not eaten, the plastic will pass through the plankton’s digestive system and sink to the bottom of our oceans.
Studies around the world have found microplastics in every corner of our oceans. Some of the plastic found is still large, like plastic bags, but the majority are small, unseen particles.
Owen is concerned that the life-threatening danger posed by microplastic pollution is being overlooked. Plastic pollution is one of the biggest concerns facing our oceans and our planet. It is in almost everything we use and will remain long after our lifetime.
In January 2022 Owen and friend, Joseph Kafunda, started a walk from Walvis Bay to Torra Bay, Namibia. The intention was to cover 396km in 26 days, stopping to engage fisherman and communities to discuss ocean waste and create awareness about the harm microplastics are doing to our oceans and aquatic life. This however had to be abandoned at the Ugab River after being warned that desert lions were active just across the river. It was decided that it would be too dangerous to continue.
Owen prefers to travel light, with no support crew and minimal gear. Carrying just a blanket and a bottle of water he picks up rubbish along the route, but then must rely on chance meetings with people along the route to dispose of the collected rubbish.
Owen is planning a second walk along the Skeleton Coast, once again to pick up rubbish and inform communities and fishermen about the consequences of plastics to marine life. This walk is planned for the 26th of March starting at Swakopmund traveling north along the coast to Mile 108. The walk will take 10 days and will cover 165km.
One of the challenges Owen and Joseph faced on the January walk was disposing of the rubbish that was collected, relying on the chance meeting of travellers with the means, to take the rubbish to areas where it could be disposed of properly. Thus, the plan for this next walk is to make
use of a truck, (Toyota Hi-Lux 4x4) to travel with the guys to take the rubbish
off them and dispose of it.
Owen approached an associate who will provide the vehicle and accompany him and Joseph at a cost of NAD38 000,00, (approx. R38 500,00) for the 10 days. This, to cover fuel and other expenses.
Owen has requested an amount of NAD8 000,00, (R8 300,00) to cover his and Joseph’s own costs.
Owen and Joseph must take time out of their respective businesses to undertake this campaign, which means that neither of them earns an income during this period.
Please consider a donation: https://www.backabuddy.co.za/champion/project/owen-is-saving-our-oceans