Sboniso Phakathi

Sboniso “Spoon” Phakathi is a charismatic, 24-year-old eco-warrior who, literally, walks the talk.

Born in rural KwaZulu-Natal and a Maritzburg College matriculant, Phakathi joined private anti-poaching unit, Protrack, in Hoedspruit in 2008 and discovered a natural love for the bush. In 2011, he saw his first rhino carcass: a horrific, heart-wrenching sight that, for him, highlighted an urgent need to educate the youth about what was happening. When he met former game ranger Paul Jennings and learned of his plan to do just that through his “Rights for Rhinos” walk from Musina to Cape Point, Phakathi grabbed his walking shoes and, together, they hit the N1.

Over three months, the pair walked 1 700 kilometres, visited 25 schools and spoke to 16 000 children. Their mission? To educate children that no environmental factors are linked to the rhino’s threatened extinction. It is purely a fate caused by human ignorance and greed – and one only humans can change.

During his walk, three children inspired Phakathi to start the Green Kidz Initiative (GKI), a Hoedspruit-based non-governmental organisation that provides environmental education to under-resourced schools. By teaching children about nature and its interconnectivity, Phakathi hopes to foster an environmental consciousness essential to protecting our planet’s longevity. Understanding that the future of our planet – and the fragile existence of animals like the rhino – lies in the hands of our youth, he’s teaching them to make the environmentally-conscious decisions needed to protect the planet for themselves and their future.

GKI also forms part of Rhino Revolution, a community-based initiative that has helped rhino killings in Hoedspruit diminish from an annual 32 to one. As a man on a mission to help save the planet “from the youth up”, Phakathi lives by one question: “If my life is a message, what message would I be sending?” Our answer? Hope – and inspiration.

Lu Larche