Diving into the deep with Aaniyah Omardien, founder of non-profit The Beach Co-op: Green Route

In this week’s Lockdown Life I catch up with Aaniyah Omardien, water wonderer and founder of eco-NPC The Beach Co-op in Cape Town.

Lockdown Life is a series that I launched during lockdown. Catch up with Cape Town Eats founder Pamela McOnie, designer Das Lyon, Cape Town Vegan Garth Tavares, Faithjuice owner Joy-Anne Bromilow and Twyg founder Jackie May

By Aaniyah Omardien, The Beach Co-op

“I have lived in Cape Town for most of my life, except for two years from when I was eight and my dad was contracted to work in Saudi Arabia.

I turned 42 this year (2020) and had one of my best birthdays ever during lockdown! I hiked the Cape Fold Mountains from Simon’s Town to Smitswinkel Bay in sunshine and rain!

I have always felt happy and free in nature and wild spaces – both blue and green spaces. And I suppose this connection to nature is what led me to studying environmental science. I was lucky enough to have parents that taught me to swim and enjoyed taking us to the beach, even though some of the beaches we visited in my early years were not open to people of colour. I attended Wynberg Girls High School after Madiba had been released and the school was opened to all races. There I met my wonderful geography teacher Mrs Wilding who also coordinated the school’s hiking club. She introduced me to the wonder of hiking in wild spaces like the Cederberg.  I have been hooked ever since. My mom also played a key role in sparking my interest in eco-conscious living. She recycles glass, tin and paper and re-used our dishwashing water on our little veg patch. She encourages us to waste as little as possible.

Where do you live? Do you share your home with anyone? Any pets?

I live in Lakeside, which is about eight minutes’ drive from Muizenberg, my local surf break. I live with my husband Riyadh – we will be married for 20 years next year in January – my three sons and Sanele (our House Executive who has lived with us during lockdown). We have a little pet tortoise named Torteletta.

When and why did you start The Beach Co-op and what did you offer pre-lockdown/during lockdown?

The Beach Co-op (TBC)  is not-for-profit company that evolved from the work of a group of volunteers that started collecting marine debris at their local surf break, the rocky shore at Surfers Corner in Muizenberg, Cape Town in 2015.

Pre-lockdown we offered many beach cleanup and tidal pool events. We hosted 59 cleanups in 2019 alone, collecting six tons of waste and reaching over 3 000 people. During lockdown we have not been able to offer cleanups but some of our team participated in beach surveys led by Professor Peter Ryan (our scientific advisor) to learn more about the amounts of litter arriving on beaches in the absence of beachgoers and beach cleaning (both formal and informal). We also participated in a few webinars related to marine plastic pollution.

Our annual #PlasticFreeMzansi campaign with our partner Twyg has had to move online. We have developed a #RefashionPlastic project with five South African designers that have created new products by upcycling plastic and other materials. Five changemakers have been showcasing these designs and promoting our message to encourage people to be more aware of their plastic use, and to work on solutions with communities, retailers and manufacturers.

What has been the effect of lockdown on The Beach Co-op?

Although we have not been able to host events we have taken the time to register our Dirty Dozen Cleanup™ methodology with the Marin Debris Tracker app. You can now organise your own cleanup and help us by logging the items you collect on the app. We will be hosting a few cleanups in the upcoming months, but they will be for restricted groups because of the need to follow strict Covid-19 protocols. The app will help us maintain the recommended social distancing requirements by eliminating the need to hand out clipboards and pencils to record data at the registration desk.

We also took the time during lockdown to compile our very first annual report, which we are very proud of. Thank you to all our supporters and partners for making what we do possible. We have also submitted proposals for ongoing funding for our work.  

We are keen to continue working with ocean communities to protect, restore and regenerate our marine ecosystems. In a time of Covid-19 we will have to find novel ways to keep going.

Aaniyah Omardien and her youngest son. Photo: Supplied

Lockdown Life:  Five Favourites

Aaniyah shares her five favourite green spaces and places in her area

Our garden was our sanctuary in the first weeks of lockdown. We spent so much time clearing out, pruning, replanting and harvesting guavas there. Our compost pile was also miraculously ready to be used and so we potted new plants and started a new compost heap.

When the lockdown regulations allowed for exercise between 6am and 9am, we walked, cycled and pram pushed our way to Zandvlei and Muizenberg. There is a big park in our neighbourhood and while we avoid the play area with slides and swings the other end of the park has boulders and a tree to climb.

More recently we have been climbing our local mountains – Elsies Peak and Steenberg mountains. We drive to the beach when we go for our surfs at Muizenberg.

What gets you through a lockdown day?

Definitely doing some form of exercise.

What do you appreciate most about lockdown?

The time we have had together as a family.

What makes you happy?

Being able to surf, snorkel and hike in open spaces again.

How do you see the world post-lockdown (if lockdown ever lifts)?

It will be challenging, so many people have no work or food. We believe that our commitment to our values, goals and objectives remains steadfast and our creative and innovative approach to bringing about change will stand us in good stead in a post-COVID-19 world.

The Beach Co-op


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Published by Melanie Farrell

Founder of Green Route ZA - the path to eco-conscious living. I live in Cape Town, South Africa.

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