Qala Phelang Tala is a South African social initiative focusing on sustainable living environments for the poor. It aims at an appropriate housing technology using recycled products, such as plastic bottles and car tyres, and food gardens. The fundamental concept of this form of housing is that of Michael Reynold’s “Earthship” Biotecture (http://earthship.com/).
Practically orientated, QPT implements several methods such as recycling, re-using, re-purposing, (rain)water harvesting , or gardening with the so-called ‘greywater’ system with the help of volunteers in local projects. Other products which have been tested through the QPT initiative: solar power, pneumatic products, wind energy, and alternative sanitation options.
The name Qala Phelang Tala is derived from the Sesotho language, which is one out of 11 official languages in South Africa. The direct translation means ‘start living green’. The aim behind this naming is to influence the perceptions and practices in housing, sustainable human settlements, and water, energy and food security through practical examples or possibilities.
Qala Phelang Tala (QPT) was founded on 15 June 2012 as Qala Tala by activists Thabo Olivier and Anita Venter in Bloemfontein in the Free State Province. The founders are experts in low-cost sustainable housing, planning, food security, local economic development and social development, we are combining Thabo’s political skills with my academic skills to achieve social change
Thabo and Anita both have been building up regional, national and international connections for their initiative. Thabo has been municipal councillor in Mangaung for several years and gained political celebrity through an unorthodox move to a shack in Batho Township during the Soccer World Championships in 2010, catching attention of the media . He wanted to attract attention that most families in his ward were in desperate need for decent houses. Since then, he has been busy promoting the Qala (Phelang) Tala Project, for example at the Sustainable Building Conference that took place on 15th and 16th October in Cape Town, South Africa .
Anita is a lecturer at the University of the Free State where she is in the final stage of her doctoral thesis on sustainable housing development . Her professional skills include academic knowledge on sustainable enterprises and development, community engagement and her practical skills include alternative building methods. An academic institution, such as universities, must, according to her, take community responsibility more seriously . Moreover, her commitment to QPT and sustainable housing includes finding a sustainable low cost model that can be replicated and rolled out on scale, because the current practice of low income housing development in South Africa is not sustainable. “Realistically, this is a twenty-year commitment from my side, but to change perceptions and put more sustainable models in place you have to start somewhere” .
They were joined in 2013 by Tjaart van der Walt who is a post-graduate Town and Regional Planning student at the University of the Free State and has won the price as Best Master student in Regional planning (2013). Tjaart, is a self-proclaimed community activist, co-founded the Qala Phelang Tala initiative, and is an active member of the Clean and Green Free State Campaign. He is involved in various community initiatives and projects and has a passion for social justice and pro-poor development. Tjaart is committed to change and lead the town planning landscape in South Africa to be more sustainable.
They are supported by a host of partner institutions and change agents in the community as well as hardworking Volunteers4Change.
Franky and Danie Van Antwerpen “the Van Antwerpen Brothers” are QPT`s main builders for change. They have been wandering South Africa for many years, doing odd jobs, gaining technical skills which has proved invaluable for QPT, and started becoming passionate about sustainable building methods.
Lately the Hlalele Brothers, Lucky and Mokete, born and raised in Botchabelo Township and currently residing at Canaan R&D site have been mentored by Thabo. They have also now started their own entrepreneurial enterprize specializing in urban food gardens.