Christened “Ecoboat”, the canoe was designed to combat plastic pollution, deforestation and climate change. It is made from around one thousand hermetically-sealed bottles, thick twine and two planks designed to counter waves.
The first seeds of the project were planted in 2011. Ismaël Essome, a young student at the time, was caught short by heavy rain on his way to the university: his neighbourhood was flooded by water and the plastic bottles it carried. Having recently obtained a degree in environmental engineering, he decided to work for an international NGO in which he was responsible for Cameroon’s coastline. This was when he had the idea of giving a second life to the abandoned and recovered plastic bottles that would be used to make floating structures. He then founded his own association, Madiba Nature, specialising in nature conservation and the circular economy. The first dugout was made in August 2016, after spending months researching the right shape and the right fastening materials: both solid and lightweight, it can transport 3 people and a load of 90 kg. Since then, Ismaël has invested in the project, and surrounded himself with a collection team and voluntary fishermen to continue manufacturing dugouts.
He aims to make this invention a viable alternative for the region which lives off of fishing and tourism. The dugouts are five times cheaper than wooden dugouts. Less deforestation, more sustainable local fishing, what more could you ask for! And since he has more ideas, he sees the environmentally-friendly solution as a way of developing eco-tourism on Cameroon’s beaches, where visitors could sleep in bungalows made from plastic bottles and discover the coast aboard his dugouts!
Despite financial, logistical and other challenges, Ismaël’s hard work seems to be bearing fruit since fishermen and tour operators ordered around fifty dugouts last August.