Clark junior introduces his native Swaziland to recycling, composting

Student uses $10,000 stipend from Davis Projects for Peace to make his dream come true

Clark University junior Bonginkhosi (Petros) Vilakati ’13 spent the summer establishing a recycling and composting program in his native Swaziland with the help of a $10,000 grant he received this spring from Davis Projects for Peace. 

Vilakati’s project proposal, “Recycling for Peace-Swaziland,” stated that “the Swazi environment is being destroyed everyday due to soil erosion resulting from deforestation; accumulation of waste from inappropriate disposal of used material, as well as water and air pollution. These issues, if left unaddressed, will ultimately lead to the complete destruction of the environment in Swaziland, and what used to be ‘peaceful Swaziland’ will be no more.”

His plan: to establish a recycling and composting program at Esigangeni High School, a school he says had “inappropriate disposal of used material, including paper, cardboard, tins, [and] plastic as well as compost material.”   The recycling program would enable students to recycle plastic, glass bottles, tins, cardboard, paper as well as other recyclable material. The composting program would allow students to dispose of their compostable food in an environmentally-friendly way instead of haphazardly tossing it on the ground.

Vilakati said that the school administration, faculty and staff immediately supported his project; he was excited to learn that other students from the Swaziland United World College National Committee were going to assist with the project. 

“Bringing these bright minds to my home area was a dream come true for me,” he wrote. Vilakati thought not only would they be a great asset in implementing the project, their presence would go far in inspiring and motivating the students at the high school.

The official launch of the recycling and composting project at Esigangeni High School was attended by Swaziland Environment Authority's Information Officer Isaac Gcina Dladla and two other Swaziland Environment Authority's representatives; the area's chief, Sipho Dlamini; Ex-minister of Public Works and Transport Elijah Shongwe; and 28 Swazi students from the Waterford Kamhlaba United World College of Southern Africa. Member of Vilakati’s family, along with students and teachers from Esigangeni High, members of the school committee and the general public also attended.

“It has been an awesome experience doing the project in Swaziland, a country that has just recently seen the introduction of the recycling and composting concept,” said Vilakati.  “I am positive that the project is going to very beneficial to the community, especially because the availability of the recycle centre will ensure that all waste is disposed of correctly, thus, there will be a great decline in land pollution.” 

Vilakati said that the school's administration, on the request from the community chief, has opened the centre to the rest of the community, so that everyone in the community can start recycling at home and will be able to transport their recycled material to the recycle centre for pickup once a week.

Vilakati was thrilled that his project, which was intended just for the school, has now been broadened to cover the entire village.

All of the volunteers pose in front of the Recycle Centre

All of the volunteers pose in front of the Recycle Centre

“It is a new beginning for the people of Esigangeni community,” he said.  “Together, they are turning the scales, and impacting positive change around themselves. I am very glad to have been a pioneer of this wonderful change-making process.”

Vilakati kept a blog of his experience at

Vilakati is from Mbabane, Swaziland.  He is a member of the Class of 2013 at Clark; he majors in biology.  He is cultural chair for Caribbean and African Students Association (CASA) and president of the Clark University Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (Campus Christian Ministry –CCM).   Vilakati came to Clark as a United World Scholar.   

Other Clark students who have received funding from Davis Projects for Peace include: Amanda Mundt ’13 in 2011 for “Lekol Dete for Restavek and Free Children in Les Cayes;” Anuj Adhikary ’10 and Joseph Kowalski ’10 in 2010 for “The Energy for Education Project;” and Chelsea Ellingsen ’10 in 2009 for her project “Seeds of Change.”

The Davis Projects for Peace initiative was renewed for 2012 thanks to philanthropist Kathryn W. Davis. Davis launched Projects for Peace on her 100th birthday in 2007 and has renewed her commitment every year since. This year, nearly $1.25 million will be awarded in $10,000 grants to 123 winning proposals. These projects will be completed over the summer of 2012.