The tee shirt that helps cool down the planet
In 2007 I spent 3 months working in Tanzania with disabled teenagers and children in the city of Morogoro. I was in between 2 jobs in America and needed a break from the relentless rhythm and demands of the fashion industry. It was my first time in Africa and changed my life in a way difficult to explain. I have almost never felt at home as much as I have there and to do this long to go back.
My experience in Tanzania taught me that with little we can do a lot. One example was a fundraising greeting card collection we created at the Amani center where I volunteered. With the fabric scraps of our local tailor along with salvaged buttons and donated paper, the children and volunteers designed cards that were then sold to tourists at the Dar Es Salaam markets.
Fast forward to 2018 and earlier this year I was approached by Justdiggit to become an ambassador for their cause. I said yes in the blink of an eye after discovering more about their work. Justdiggit is successfully fighting deforestation and gradually building a hydration corridor across Africa. By working closely with communities in countries such as Kenya and Tanzania they have been able to restore fertility to large areas of land, bring back lively hood to families and restore hope.
How? With a shovel. By digging (hence the name) holes into dry land, rainwater is gathered naturally and enables the restoration of crops, nature and its eco-system.
As part of Justdiggit's campaign, creatives and brands have been enlisted to spread the word about fighting deforestation. Out of this was born the fashion collaboration with Antoine Peters and the brand Kuyichi. The concept is simple: statement an organic tee shirts inspired by the Justdiggit's rehydration process.
Discover my interview with Margot Frederiks who handles communication at Justdiggit to understand the collaborative process and a sustainable fashion collaboration was born.
Hi Margot tell us a little bit about yourself and Justdiggit?
Hi Geraldine, I’m 30 years old and I live in the city of Amsterdam. Let me continue by saying: I’ve always loved nature! When I was young, my parents took me to the Dutch forests to hike. They taught me to appreciate green, trees, vegetation, fresh air. But my interest in sustainability got really piqued during the last part of my marketing study when I did an internship at NGO Fairfood. It triggered me and I was determined to work in that specific field.
I was lucky to get in contact with the Justdiggit team at the beginning of 2017 and lucky to start working there in a broad function: communication, organization and administration. Justdiggit was originally founded in The Netherlands in 2010 and is engaged in landscape restoration projects in Kenya and Tanzania. On the program side, we restore entire ecosystems using community based water harvesting, FMNR, agro-forestry and climate resilient agriculture.
We restore entire ecosystems using community based water harvesting, FMNR, agro-forestry and climate resilient agriculture. On the social movement side, we create positive global on- and offline awareness campaigns and education programs to inspire, unite and activate an entire generation to cool down our planet.
How do you work with local communities? Your non-profit organization develops large-scale greening projects to make dry areas fertile again, especially in Africa. I don't think people know in depth what you do with local communities.
Good and important question! Yes we develop and implement re-greening programs, but always together with local partners and the local communities. We believe that projects can only succeed with the involvement of the people living in these degraded areas. There needs to be a clear socio-economic interest for the local communities to keep the projects going long-term. So for example, they digg the water bunds in Kenya with simple tools as a shovel. Besides an allowance, they not only got greener areas in return, it also has a positive impact on water & food security, more biodiversity and a cooler region. Another example are the empowerment projects, where Maasai women start and maintain grass seed banks. While the landscape is being restored, this project increases the resilience of the local community to climate change. Furthermore, the seeds harvested can be used for further restoration projects in the entire area!
You have taken on board art and fashion as a vehicle for change. Could you tell us a bit more about why you see them as a key tool to fight global warming?
Justdiggit wants to create a positive green movement and therefore we like to think out of the box. We have an eARTh project where artists from different countries have their own take on climate change and designed a shovel. The shovel is our icon. As the co-founder Dennis puts it: our shovel needs to get as big as the Apple icon.
We use the shovels as a communication tool for the Justdiggit projects and thereby promote our solution to the world. To inspire, unite and activate an entire generation to cool down our planet. Our sustainable T-shirts are another way to fight global warming.
Which leads me to my next question! You did a recent tee shirt collaboration with Antoine Peters, produced by the Dutch denim brand Kuyichi Pure Goods. The tee-shirt proceeds fully support your cause. How did the collaboration start?
Our co-founder Dennis Karpes helped building Kuyichi into an international and profitable brand in 2001. He stayed in touch with the owners – also owned by our ambassador, tv presenter Floortje Dessing – and we as Justdiggit planned a casual meeting. We felt connected straight away, because our brands feel alike, even though our line of work is completely different.
'We’re sharing the same values and we’re both trying to make the world better with a positive angle: instead of pointing fingers and saying what people are doing wrong, we show them opportunities about how to do it right.'
What was the process to come together with the final design and product ? I'm sure it will inspire our readers on the creative and manufacturing aspect of the tee shirt collaboration.
Antoine Peters wanted to create a design that people like to wear, because they find it beautiful. But when you come closer you’ll discover different icons. This makes the T-shirt a conversation starter. It secretly is a fashionable infographic that shows the different steps in the re-greening projects of Justdiggit.
We have now chosen this design to start with, but we would like to continue the collaboration. There are still plenty of ideas and sketches on the table. To be continued in a next season!
In terms of the graphic art on the tee, I read that the print subtly shows the various steps of the process by which Justdiggit restores ecosystems. What are those steps exactly?
Did you see our animation video already? It explains it even further.
So one of our re-greening techniques is digging water bunds. By opening the dry ground with a shovel, making crescent-shaped circles/dikes, we enable rainwater to infiltrate the ground again. This makes it available for vegetation and seeds in the soil. You see all these steps as icons on the T-shirt.
Nobel Peace Prize Desmond Tutu is one of your ambassadors. He is such an iconic messenger of peace in the world. How did the relationship start?
Our co-founder was also initiator of Dance4Life (that works towards a world without AIDS). Desmond Tutu was the patron of this non-profit organization, so when Dennis started Justdiggit he was smart enough to ask Desmond Tutu to embrace our organization.. and he did!
Do you have suggestions for people who want to fight global warming? Recently we had World Environment Day on June 5th. Are there big or smaller steps you suggest to fight global warming?
You can already help by spreading the word, inspire others, show that you care. We should all do this together. Justdiggit is always looking for collaboration and thereby strengthening each other. We need to start a green revolution together!
What is the next exciting Justdiggit project you can tell us about?
We are setting an ambitious target for two new programs in Tanzania and Kenya: in both cases, we aim to restore an area half the size of the Netherlands. In Tanzania, the Dodoma region, ninety percent of the people depend on the land for their existence.
These are mostly small holder farmers who produce food on their small piece of land for themselves and their families. However, due to poor land management, the yield of the land is low, fertile soil washes away and more and more farmers struggle to produce sufficient food for their families. Land degradation is a major problem affecting their lives and the ecosystem.
We co-developed a program with the LEAD Foundation to show how to improve their land productivity: with simple interventions that cost little or no money and effort, farmers can improve their crop yields, the land will be restored and re-greened. At the same time they will have a positive impact on their environment and the regional climate as we reforest large areas.
Per village, we teach a number of champion farmers these techniques, who continue to spread this to their fellow villagers. But we also reach people directly. With the help of a traveling video caravan, we pass through the various villages where we show an inspiring educational film on a large screen, which we have specially created for this purpose in the native language of the villagers.
| By Geraldine Wharry