Edible Garden Sprouts from Plastic Waste in Ethiopia

© Heinrich Böll Stiftung
Kebreab Demeke's sculpture/garden in Harla, Ethiopia.

In many parts of Ethiopia, the clay pots long used for carrying water have been replaced with plastic jerry cans, which lighten the load of the water-toter, but often end up as trash littered across the landscape.

In one village, though, the jerry cans (called "jerekinas") have found new life as a colorful, functional sculpture that grows food at a local school.

Container Gardening
Artist Kebreab Demeke made his "Climate +/-" sculpture in collaboration with residents of the village of Harla. The five-meter-high cube of latticed sticks is covered primarily in old, unused jerry cans collected from local families, with a few traditional clay pots interspersed among them.

Edible plants native to Harla or suited for the area's climate grow in the containers, tended by the school's environmental club. Demeke also plans to organize a workshop to develop new, easier-to-carry clay containers.

© Heinrich Böll Stiftung
The 'Climate +/-' sculpture under construction.

"'Climate +/-' is an installation about using something negative to find something positive," Demeke says. "When the jerry cans are simply thrown away, it is destructive to the environment. But everything destructive can be used for something positive."

Defining A 'Good Life'
The Ethiopian artist's work is just one of around a dozen projects commissioned by the Heinrich Böll Stiftung, a German environmental foundation with offices around the globe, as part of SurVivArt, an attempt to define a "good life" in different countries.

"Sustainability can emerge from a wealth of simple interactions, but it is also a question of how the basic needs to a good and decent life are met," the foundation writes on its project website.

Participating artists' interpretations of this theme in their own communities -- from theater performances on gender roles in Ethiopia and the impact of climate change in Lagos to sustainable fashion and furniture design to collaborative video installations -- will be on display from Feb. 5 to 24 in an exhibition at Galleries Meinblau and Mikael Andersen in Berlin.

Tags: Artists | Arts | Berlin | Ethiopia | Exhibits | Gardening | Germany | Recycling