Monday, May 20, 2024

Backyard garden founder gets international honour

Backyard gardens have been given the thumbs-up by the Junior Chamber International which has pronounced the Motswana woman who conceived their idea one of ‘Twenty Most Outstanding Young Persons of the World.’ However, in order to make the list of the final top 10, Keneilwe Moseki will need ‘like’ votes from as many Facebook-connected netizens as possible.

Her profile on the JCI website says the following about her role in conceiving the idea of what are now popularly known as backyard gardens: “Focused on her community and the environment, Moseki started an urban community empowerment project where low-income families were taught how to develop backyard gardens to increase their food supply. The government picked up her project and it is now a widespread initiative across the country.”

Her own version, which she shared with Sunday Standard, is that backyard gardening came into being through Somarelang Tikologo’s Urban Community Empowerment Programme and was subsequently funded by the United Nations Development Programme through its small-grants scheme.

“Afterwards, we started lobbying for its adoption on a large scale. We suggested to government that if it took it up, it would ensure food security at all levels. The project was later entered for a competition at the Shanghai Expo in China and was the only one from Africa. Although it didn’t get the first prize, it got special mention and its success inspired the government to take it up,” Moseki says.

The JCI contest recognises young and active people between the ages of 18-40 who have distinguished themselves in their chosen vocations.

Armed with a degree in urban and regional planning and NGO experience on project planning and environmental management, Moseki is the chief executive officer of Somarelang Tikologo, one of Botswana’s main environmental groups. Moseki’s profile says that through this position, she has initiated environmental awareness and conservation programmes. It was through Somarelang Tikologo’s lobbying that the government introduced legislation to regulate the use of plastic carrier bags. In a recent interview with Sunday Standard, however, Moseki expressed grave misgivings about the delay (on the government’s part) to start collecting the plastic bag levy, seven years after it was introduced.

“She also focuses on refugees in her country and developed an initiative teaching them how to earn an income through green crafts production while also managing waste in their camp and nearby neighbourhood,” her profile reads.

Moseki’s was among 10 local nominees whose names were forwarded to the Africa office where a panel voted her the best candidate. Her name was then passed on to the JCI headquarters in the United States where she competed with nominees from over 150 countries. She managed to make it onto the shortlist of the Twenty Most Outstanding Persons in the World. Six nominees on that list are fellow Africans, five from Zimbabwe and one from Madagascar. Moseki is in the ‘Moral and/or Environment Leadership’ category alongside two other nominees, one from the United Kingdom and the other from Panama.

In addition to the online voting, there will also be the traditional final judging panel that is comprised of representatives of select partner organisations and the JCI president. Facebook-connected readers can vote for Moseki by visiting the JCI website ( and pressing “Like” below her biography. The closing date for voting is August 20, 2012.

JCI’s Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World Programme is in its 30th year and this year’s winners will be honoured at the JCI World Congress scheduled for Taipei, Taiwan in November. Whatever happens after the closing date, the 32-year old Moseki will get the Botswana national award next month because she beat her local competition hands down.


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