Author: m.t.eiblmeier

Online event: “Stewardship for Circular Economy in urban contexts in Africa” featuring partners from multiple sectors

The sustainable management of natural resources requires shifting to a circular economy in which resources are used more efficiently, waste is reduced, and materials are recycled. During an online learning event organized by NatuReS on October 6th, 2022, partners from the public, private sector and civil society shared their experiences with promoting circular economy practices under a stewardship approach of cross-sectoral collaboration.

circular economy
The shift from a linear to a circular economy implies that resources are kept in the productive cycle as long as possible instead of being disposed after use.

Why stewardship?

The circular economy framework brings a new approach to waste and materials management, considering the whole life cycle of resources, while paying attention to sustainable production, supply and management of resources. Transitioning to a circular economy requires a collaborative effort from all sectors and can only succeed through coordination along supply chains and product cycles. Establishing multi-stakeholder partnerships under stewardship principles has been a successful way to introduce circular economy practices across countries.

While supporting partners in moving towards a circular economy, NatuReS is dealing with cross-cutting and interlinked challenges. How can waste streams be improved in fast growing cities and catchments? How can their impacts on water quality, health, ecosystems and flooding be reduced, while strengthening economic growth? How can waterways that transport waste – and plastics in particular – to the oceans be better controlled? An integrated natural resource stewardship approach combines aspects that are relevant to address plastics management issues and green economic development challenges.

Partner experiences with circular economy partnerships

Mrs. Patience Nsereko, Principal Environment Officer at the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) of Uganda, opened the floor with remarks about the Greater Kampala PET Plastic Recycling Partnership. She pointed towards the importance of partnering with the private sector, namely Ecobrixs, a Ugandan social enterprise working on plastic recycling, to come up with innovative solutions for the country’s plastic challenges. One example is the Innovation Hub, which was recently launched under the partnership at the International University of East Africa (IUEA) in Kampala. Students will be trained in recycling practices and enabled to start their own businesses in the sector. “Since Ecobrixs is already active in the market, we hope that this will help students to think outside of the box”, stated Mrs. Nsereko. Asked about partnership successes, she mentioned the improved cross-sectoral collaboration: “The regulations developed will have a better buy-in from the private sector, as policy recommendations have been actively requested by them.”

Students
IUEA students during the launch of the Plastic Recycling Innovation Hub. Copyright: GIZ/Simon Akena.

Naa Adjeley Kome-Mensah from the plastic recycling company and “African start-up of the year 2022”, Kubik, gave an input about their involvement in the Partnership for Circular Value Chains in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The company turns low-value plastic waste into building material. Under the partnership, waste collecting small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are trained in waste segregation and business management, as well as provided with collection tools, to enhance their efficiency of supplying plastic within the value chain. Kubik will then purchase the plastic for their production from these SMEs. A special focus lies on the empowerment of women, many of whom are working as informal waste collectors, capacitating them to become a formal part of the value chain.

plastic waste into building material
Naa Adjeley Kome-Mensah explaining the transformation of plastic waste into building material. Copyright: GIZ

The Lusaka Water Security Initiative (LuWSI), represented by its acting coordinator Mr. Kasenga Hara, who is also the Senior Inspector at the Zambian National Water Supply and Sanitation Council (NWASCO), is promoting circular economy practices as a means to increase water security in Lusaka. By protecting wellfields from solid waste pollution, for example, the water quality in the area is increased. The involvement of communities is key in this regard according to Mr. Hara: “It takes quite some energy to bring all partners on board, but without the increase of communities’ decision-making power, the partnership efforts are meaningless.”

Local solutions to global challenges

Partners from all sectors have come up with different local solutions to promote the circularity of value chains. What unites them is the realization that sustainable local solutions are only  possible through the multi-sectoral collaboration under a partnership. Examples include the “Green Spaces” in Lusaka, where community members, mainly women, are turning organic waste into methane gas for cooking, compost as organic fertilizer to grow tree seedlings and vegetables, and as food for the production of black soldier fly larvae which is a good source of proteins for animals. This project was presented by Ian Matimba from People’s Process on Housing and Property Zambia and Alice Phiri who is a community member from Zambia Homeless and Poor People’s Federation. Different LuWSI partners committed to the green spaces, be it through resource mobilization, accessing the organic waste, capacity building or negotiating with local land owners and authorities.

Overview of achievements with a backdrop of the women from the green spaces showing the black soldier fly larvea produced from organic waste. Copyright: People’s Process on Housing and Property Zambia

Andy Bownds, founder and CEO of Ecobrixs in Uganda highlighted the establishment of the Plastic Recycling Innovation Hub at IUEA as an important achievement which was made possible through the Greater Kampala PET Plastic Recycling Partnership. Together with NEMA, the company strives to create a platform for informal waste collectors under the partnership. This is key to  empower the whole supply chain. At the moment, they are jointly establishing the Uganda Recycling Association made up of informal waste collectors. In the long-run, the aim is to create a fair-trade plastic recycling system in which it is possible to trace back under which conditions plastic has been collected and recycled. Thus, transparency and accountability along the value chain can be enhanced.    

plastic upcycling Uganda
Examples of products made from recycled plastic. Copyright: Ecobrixs/Andy Bownds

Finally, Takele Dessisa, Director of Research & Consultancy Services at the Addis Ababa Cleansing Management Agency in Ethiopia presented the manual baling machines developed and piloted under the Partnership for Circular Value Chains in Addis Ababa. Reacting to the fact that waste collectors need a way to efficiently store and transport the light yet voluminous PET plastic, yet do not have regular access to electricity, partners jointly developed manual baling machines. These are designed to be also handled by women and people with limited physical strength. A prototype has been tested at selected waste collecting SMEs and is currently being adapted according to feedback. Waste collectors can store and transport baled PET more easily and including at higher prices, which enables them to enhance their operations and hence their income. Through this intervention, partners aim at enhancing the efficiency of the plastic recycling value chain in Addis Abeba, thereby reducing the amount of plastic waste polluting the city’s  soils and water bodies.

manual baling machine
Waste collectors in front of the prototype manual baling machine. Copyright: GIZ/Meron Tadesse

As different as the solutions to promote circular economy practices shown during the event were, they all have one element in common: without cross-sectoral collaboration, they would not have been possible. The stewardship approach of taking joint responsibility for shared natural resources has proven successful in the showcased examples.

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Launch of partnership wetland conservation activities in Uganda

Wetlands serve as the ‘kidneys’ of the earth. They store and purify water, protect areas from flooding and are a vital habitat for fish and other wildlife. Once a wetland is degraded, it can’t maintain its ecological functions which poses risks to human health, biodiversity, and environmental security.

Partners under the Commercial Flower Farms Integrated Catchment Management Partnership have joined forces to combat the degradation of wetlands around Greater Kampala. On 28th of September 2022, Nature Uganda, a civil society organisation working for the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable management of natural resources, officially launched their activities under the partnership in Mpigi District. The focus lies on the conservation of the Semagimbi wetland.

Conserving Semagimbi wetland together

Mpigi District belongs to the Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area and hosts the Semagimbi wetland. This wetland has been heavily degraded by encroachment, land use change, a growing population and pollution from nearby industries.

Map of Semagimbi wetland
Map showing the status of Semagimbi Wetland system (Source: Wetlands Department, MWE 2022)

To support the conservation of the wetland, Nature Uganda is implementing a variety of activities under the partnership in Mpigi District. These include:

  • Development of a wetland management plan for Semagimbi wetland
  • Demarcation and environmental restoration of 10 km of the wetland
  • Establishment of wetland management committees
  • Identification and promotion of alternative livelihood options
  • Sensitization campaigns on sustainable use of natural resources
  • Engagement of schools around the wetland on solid waste management

Launch Event organized by Nature Uganda

partnership group photo
Attendees of the launch event including local district leaders, Nature Uganda, private sector representatives and schools of the area.
© Nature Uganda

During the launch event, stakeholders from the Ministry of Water & Environment (Mr. Benard Arinaitwe, Ass. Commissioner Wetlands), Mpigi Local Government (Ms. Maria Lubega, Deputy Resident District Commissioner; Mr. Emmanuel Ssempala, Deputy Chief Admission Officer; Ms. Aisha Nakirija, Vice-Chairperson; Mr. Tony Mwidyeki, District Natural Resource Officer), Religious and Cultural Leaders, students and a representative of the private sector (Mr. Victor Embati, Quality Assurance Manager Fiduga/ Dummen Orange) came together at Mpigi District Local Government Headquarters to be introduced to the activities led by Nature Uganda and to give room for discussions. Finally, participants visited Semagimbi wetland to showcase issues on ground.

The Executive Director of Nature Uganda, Achilles Byaruhanga, highlighted: “We have in plan many interventions, which include working with schools around the Semagimbi wetland. By sensitizing them on proper waste management ways, we believe these children can help us pass this information to their parents.”

wetland field visit
Executive Director of Nature Uganda, Achilles Byaruhanga, next to Semagimbi wetland, explaining issues affecting the wetland to local leaders and attendees of the launch event. © GIZ/Alisa Knoll

With the project officially launched, the stage is now set for the implementation of activities in Mpigi district. Jointly, partners will support the conservation of the wetland to ensure it can serve its ecological function for generations to come.

Read more about the launch on Nature Uganda’s website here: Nature Uganda rallies partners to restore Semagimbi Wetland. – Nature Uganda

Launch of Innovation Hub for transformative plastic waste recycling and job creation in Uganda

To promote resource efficiency and protect the integrity of natural resources, a shift to a circular economy in which products are reused and recycled instead of being wasted, is crucial. Therefore, an innovation hub for plastic recycling has been launched on 28th September 2022 at the International University of East Africa (IUEA) under the framework ofthe Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area PET Plastic Recycling Partnership. The multi-stakeholder partnership supported by NatuReS strives to improve the sustainable management of PET plastic in GKMA by developing an inclusive green recycling sector.

Launch of Recycling Hub
A commemorative plague at the Plastic Recycling Innovation Hub launched at the International University of East Africa. Copyright: GIZ/Simon Akena

The Innovation Hub is a collaboration between IUEA, EcoBrixs, a Ugandan social enterprise working on plastic recycling, and NatuReS. EcoBrixs buys plastic from waste collectors, which it then recycles into a variety of new products such as bricks, pavers, fence posts or face shields.

Aware of the environmental impact of plastic waste and the importance of recycling in preserving natural resources, partners also recognize recycling as an opportunity to boost the local economy through employment and the production of other useful products. The hub aims to form a generation of empowered and skilled young Ugandans, capable of tackling Uganda’s plastic waste management challenges innovatively and collectively.

Therefore, the hub creates a space for plastic waste reduction through triggering and supporting recycling innovations. IUEA students will be the trainees, benefiting from the opportunity to explore and learn practical techniques in recycling from plastic waste recycling experts. EcoBrixs will, for example, provide the hub with the necessary know-how, skills and trainers.

Training the youth for innovative green jobs

However, the plastic recycling innovation hub will even go a step further and contribute to addressing some of Uganda’s youth employment challenges. The trainees will additionally gain employment and entrepreneurial skills. This will assist them in using and creating employment opportunities in Uganda’s recycling sector, which represents a goldmine of untapped possibilities. In fact, Uganda generates 600 tons of plastics waste daily according to the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA). This waste is currently handled by just over 30 registered recycling companies, working on a very small scale due to technical and resource constraints as revealed by the Global Green Growth Institute’s “Kampala solid waste value chain mapping” report. These figures demonstrate a huge potential for further recycling and opportunities for recycling startups to thrive.

Students
IUEA students during the launch of the Plastic Recycling Innovation Hub. Copyright: GIZ/Simon Akena.

By fostering a green jobs education approach that focuses on supporting circular economy initiatives, the Innovation hub will thus encourage the students to pursue green jobs and better manage plastic waste, building a workforce for a sustainable and inclusive future. This is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 12, which focuses on environmentally sound waste management through prevention, reduction, recycling, and reuse, as well as SDG 8, seeking sustained, inclusive economic growth and decent work for all. The Hub further contributes to Uganda’s green Jobs Programme, which aims at creating green and decent jobs to enhance labour productivity and reduce poverty through the promotion of innovative skills development and the enhancement of productivity and competitiveness of workers and enterprises.

The hub is expected to result in the following annual outcomes:

  • 300 students trained in plastic recycling annually.
  • Through research and development of joint ventures with trainees, two prototype products are developed from plastic waste and brought to market per graduating year.
  • After graduation, 80% of trainees find employment in waste management and recycling.
  • At least 60 tons (5 tons per month) of plastic waste are recycled sustainably.

The Hub training modules have been integrated into the university’s curriculum. This, as well as partner commitments, will ensure the hub’s long-term viability and sustained outcomes.

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Author: Simon Akena, GIZ-NatuReS Uganda

South African city uMhlathuze nominated for the Green Economy Change Champions within Local Government Award

The City of uMhlathuze in South Africa’s Kwa-Zulu Natal province has been nominated as one of the five finalists for the “Green Economy Change Champions within Local Government Award” for the initiative on the use of drone technology to improve water management and assess non-revenue water. The aim of the awards is to showcase successful sustainability initiatives that have been implemented or are in the process of being implemented by municipalities across South Africa. The awards are jointly hosted by GreenCape, a non -for-profit organization that drives the widespread adoption of economically viable green economy solutions, and the German Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom.

Why drone technology for improved water management?

The city was concerned about high unaccounted for water losses recorded for two suburbs within their water supply network. To this end, the leveraging of drone technology proved to be a viable and innovative solution to help the municipality assess the cause of the increased water demand and losses. Through financial support from NatuReS as part of a contribution to the uMhlathuze Water Stewardship Partnership (UWASP), the city received a drone and had three of their municipal officials trained to obtain a drone license to operate it.

The use of drone technology in the two pilot suburbs revealed that the increase in population was the main driver for increased water demand, and that illegal and unbilled connections were the reason for the high unaccounted water losses. With the information obtained, the municipality can now understand the extent of water losses and improve water supply planning in the respective areas. Similarly, this allows them to deploy the right interventions for reducing demand and upgrading infrastructure to address unbilled consumption. Finally, water supply for communities can be improved.

Arial view, taken by the drone, of one of the communities which formed part of the initiative © Dawid Dirks

Celebrating the Municipal Green Economy Change Champions

The award ceremony will be showcased during an online event on the 12th October 2022 at 10:00, where the winning initiative will be announced. To join the event live, register here. To learn more about the Green Economy Change Champions within Local Government, click here.

We wish the City of uMhlathuze all the best!

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