Upcycle Africa
Upcycle Africa is an organization focused on re-orienting and re-educating African communities towards a greener future. Through the process of upcycling, a community can reduce its waste accumulation by transforming useless products, materials or energy into something functional. Sustainable development is a well-known concept that involves achieving economic growth in the long term. Upcycle Africa is proof that the goals of a greener industry and profitable entrepreneurship are not mutually exclusive.

Waste Crisis in Africa

Waste management in Africa has been a problem since the rise of industrialization and urbanization. The uncontrolled accumulation of waste in both urban and rural areas continues to skyrocket as the population continues to increase. The African population is the fastest growing among all continents, with an annual growth rate of roughly 3.5%. The growing number of people puts more pressure on waste management efforts because of inadequate infrastructure across a large portion of the continent.

Moreover, Asian countries such as China have banned plastic dumping in their own countries so Africa has become the new destination for waste trade. Countries like Kenya and Senegal received 1 billion tons of waste when China banned waste trading. The main problem with waste in Africa is that waste collection and proper treatment are often insufficient – more than half the waste generated is not collected. Africa has 19 of the 50 largest uncontrolled dumpsites where waste is regularly burned and poorly manipulated. People living nearby have to dig through the waste to make a living and are living with constant exposure to dangerous health risks. Prolonged exposure can result in the development of diseases such as asthma, tuberculosis and diabetes.

Sustainable Development is the Answer

Eradicating poverty sustainably has become a priority even though traditionally, the idea was that the least developed countries (LDCs) could not afford to develop their economies without polluting. Over the years, a shift in mentality has led to the acceptance of greener economies and practices. Many have come to the realization that there will be no future economy in case of mismanagement and overuse of the environment and its resources. This is especially true in Africa, where 15% of the continent’s GDP is agriculturally based. Hence, the livelihood of millions of people depends on the preservation of the African natural environment. Waste management is essential for sustainable development; it not only leads to the collection of waste but also prevents further damage to the environment.

Upcycle Africa in Action

Upcycle Africa’s goal is to transform waste-related problems in Africa into employment opportunities. To achieve this it focuses on three programs.

The first, Zero Waste Campaign, addresses the principal problem of waste accumulation in African countries – waste pollution. Upcycle Africa believes that to achieve more effective results, the emphasis should be on specific communities. Understanding how waste can be economically beneficial can be difficult, so improving education is one of the core objectives of the program.

The second program, Waste to Wealth, focuses on cleaning up spaces and encouraging the population to embrace these practices while rejecting the uncontrolled dumping of waste.

The third program, Business Development, is all about green entrepreneurship. A transition to a greener economy starts with initiatives that focus on providing sustainable products and services as well as greener production processes. Upcycling is the perfect way to start this transition, as it transforms a huge pollution problem into a source of job creation.

One of the most successful projects Upcycle Africa has undertaken is the building of houses with plastic bottles in Uganda. Uganda’s rapid population growth makes it difficult to ensure decent housing for everyone. Through this initiative, Upcycle Africa has managed to educate communities about the importance of protecting the environment while also creating something useful. The constructed houses are affordable and highly resistant to earthquakes. In 2021, Upcycle Africa also announced their partnership with Engineered Waste to Energy Solutions for the World (E.S.E.S), an organization committed to generating energy from waste.

Through these initiatives, Upcycle Africa is one step closer to transforming waste collection into an economically beneficial practice in LDCs.

– Carla Tomas
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

India’s waste management
The first half of 2022 saw India being the second-highest methane emitter in the world. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that is almost 84 times more potent in warming the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. According to data that Kayrros SAS analyzed from images that the Sentinel-5P satellite sent, about 78 out of 82 units of methane released in India during the first six months of 2022 were primarily from landfills, livestock, agriculture and sewage. These toxic emissions from open-air landfills are not only adding to the problem of global warming but are also becoming an increasing health hazard for people living near the dumps. These people are mostly from lower-income groups living in the slums, with little to no means to move to another location or change anything about their current situation. The problem does not lie with the landfills per se, but with India’s waste management system.

Deficiencies in India’s Waste Management System

Organic waste that decomposes without the presence of oxygen produces methane. According to Bloomberg, in Indian landfills, about 60% of the waste is organic, such as leftover food, peelings of vegetables, livestock manure, etc. However, the lack of segregation of organic material at the source and the failure to use the waste for composting is a massive setback in solid waste.

India generates “62 million tonnes of municipal solid waste (MSW) annually.” Out of the 43 million tonnes of MSW collected, about 31 million tonnes end up in landfills while only 12 million tonnes undergo treatment. This is an abysmally small percentage.

An important player in the waste segregation process is the informally trained waste or rag pickers coming from the nearby slums. These workers, however, do not receive proper instructions on how to separate the trash into different categories. In fact, they often end up burning the waste in open areas for warmth on cold nights, causing pollution, according to Recycling Magazine. Moreover, these workers do not have adequate gear to protect themselves from hazardous and unsanitary materials, exposing them to skin and blood infections.

According to The New York Times, “a few hundred thousand people earn income” from waste picking in Delhi. The government, therefore, doesn’t restrict the informal recycling sector from operating in fear of political backlash from them.

The lack of publicly available bins, poorly covered garbage trucks and widespread littering by citizens only adds to the problem. According to Recycling Magazine, the government introduced solid waste management rules in 2016, which focused on recovery, reuse and recycling. However, there has been no proper enforcement of the guidelines to date.

Consequences of Improper Waste Management

One of the most infamous dumps is the Ghazipur dump near New Delhi, spanning an area larger than what the Taj Mahal covers. On March 22, 2022, the Ghazipur dump leaked an estimated 2.17 metric tonnes of methane in an hour, according to Bloomberg. Besides causing fires, pollution and landslides, the landfill is also a breeding ground for tuberculosis and dengue.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Owais, a citizen living close to Ghazipur said, “Most of us have health problems. There’s no government health center in our community and many people don’t realize that pollution from the dump is what is causing health problems.”

The Deonar landfill in Mumbai, India is Asia’s largest dumping ground – the size of 268 football fields. Nine thousand metric tonnes of waste ends here daily but the litter neither undergoes segregation nor processing. The stench and smoke from the garbage are the cause of many heart and respiratory diseases in people living in the nearby slums.

According to the Tata Institute of Social Science, there is a high case of malnutrition and tuberculosis among nearby residents. Their life expectancy is around 40, compared to the average urban life expectancy of 73-74. Farha Shaikh, a 19-year-old waste picker in Deonar, stated in an interview with BBC that “Hunger will kill us if not illness.”

The Centre for Science and Environment in Delhi released a study in 2020 which concluded that there are 3,159 garbage dumps in India holding 800 million tonnes of waste. The sizes of these rubbish mountains are only increasing with time with no concrete plans of converting them into sanitary landfills anytime soon.

The Efforts to Improve India’s Waste Management System

In 2019, the government submitted a report that listed recommendations for Solid Waste Management (SWM) in India. Some of the key recommendations were converting landfills into parks, installing more Waste to Compost plants in the country, and formalizing the informal recycling sector. In 2021, the government submitted a report containing the actions taken on those recommendations. One significant progress made by the government was an improvement in the door-to-door collection of garbage and processing the solid waste.

A report that NITI Aayog and the Centre for Science and Environment released in December 2021 highlighted successes in improving India’s waste management system.

Three cities have “adopted a ‘zero-landfill model’ of development,” which focuses on reducing the volume of waste through recovery and recycling, thus eliminating the need for new landfills, The Print reported. One of the cities, Ambikapur, has pulled off 100% collection, segregation, and treatment of waste, while another city in Maharashtra achieved a 100% rate of collecting and processing sanitary waste. Using solar power and radio frequency technology to collect and treat garbage is also proving to be a success in some Indian cities.

Although there have been recent developments and improvements, more source segregation and awareness campaigns could further improve India’s waste management system.

– Anushka Raychaudhuri
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Waste Collectors in the Philippines
Informal waste collectors in the city of Puerto Princesa in the Philippines, in collaboration with the Eco-Kolek initiative by Project Zacchaeus (PZC), are developing a safer, more organized method of waste collection and disposal for their community. The Eco-Kolek project allows waste collectors to voice themselves and become more involved in their local communities.

Plastic and Poverty in the Philippines

Single-use plastic products are low-cost and easy to produce; the high production rate of single-use plastics in the Philippines has led to a large percentage of plastic pollution coming from the country. The Philippines produces 2.7 million tons of plastic waste annually and roughly 20% of it pollutes the ocean. As a nation of more than 7,500 islands, the coastal areas of the country are especially susceptible to the negative impacts of ocean plastic pollution.

Recent data shows that about 23.7% of Filipinos lived under the poverty threshold in the first quarter of 2021 while about 10% lived in extreme poverty, unable to meet their basic food needs. Because single-use plastics are an inexpensive way to purchase everyday necessities, like soap and toothpaste, impoverished communities produce and purchase these plastics in abundance.

Project Zacchaeus and Eco-Kolek

Project Zacchaeus is a social enterprise in the Philippines that develops specialized products and services and trains local citizens to become “servant leaders” in their communities. The organization focuses on communities in need and tailors strategies that aim to alleviate poverty in each area.

Eco-Kolek is an initiative of Project Zacchaeus that educates and provides relevant resources to waste collectors. The project’s goal is to bring a sense of safety and organization to the practice of waste collection and to elevate waste collectors in the Philippines to “Eco-Warriors” and community leaders. The program takes place in Puerto Princesa on the island of Palawan in the Philippines to “help bridge the gaps of waste management.”

How Eco-Kolek Helps Locals Improve Waste Collection

Women make up a large number of informal waste collectors around the world. In the Philippines, women commonly turn to waste collection to earn extra income for their families. In Puerto Princesa, local women hold many leadership roles in waste management.

A waste collector gathers improperly disposed waste and sells it to collectors for a profit. Through the help of Eco-Kolek, the Eco-Warriors can earn an income by learning other relevant skills, such as bookkeeping. With the help of the Eco-Kolek program, the waste collection has become more than just a job — it has become a way to practice and improve leadership skills and become active voices in the community. The Eco-Warriors have become integral to curbing plastic pollution in Puerto Princesa.

In March 2022, USAID’s Clean Cities, Blue Ocean program provided the Eco-Warriors with vehicles to make waste collection more efficient. The agency donated “five bicycles, two motorcycles with sidecars and one four-wheeled multi-cab” to the Eco-Kolek program. These vehicles will help the waste collectors reach about “3,000 households in Puerto Princesa.” The Eco-Warriors who will drive the vehicles will also receive free training and courses on driving and vehicle maintenance.

Eco-Kolek aims to reduce ocean plastic pollution by helping waste collectors in Puerto Princesa maintain a more efficient and sustainable method of waste collection. The program professionalizes the job of waste collecting by making it safer and more organized. Eco-Warriors receive education on waste disposal laws and how to most safely dispose of solid waste. Eco-Kolek provides the resources for local waste collectors to unite and more effectively help themselves and their community.

– Melissa Hood
Photo: Flickr

Women Waste Collectors
In developing countries where the most impoverished people live alongside garbage heaps and landfills, many earn livings as waste collectors. Although women waste collectors significantly outnumber male waste collectors, they face inequalities and disproportionate economic and health impacts in comparison to their male counterparts.

Plastic Waste Exports to Developing Countries

Wealthy countries often export their plastic waste to developing countries. The United States shipped close to “1.5 billion pounds of plastic waste to 95 countries” in 2019 alone. Developing countries welcome this waste as these nations receive trade incentives for accepting plastic waste exports from other countries. Plastic waste, therefore, stands as a source of income and a way to ease the suffering of a country’s most impoverished populations.

However, many developing countries lack the facilities and recycling programs to manage plastic waste effectively. The consequence is that the waste piles up and pollutes the surrounding environment. Individuals also resort to burning the waste, a practice that emits harmful dioxins into the air.

The environmental and health consequences of plastic waste disproportionately impact people who live and work in or around plastic waste dumps. In many countries, the informal waste collecting industry goes unregulated because they do not recognize waste-collecting as official employment. Because of this, there are often no protocols in place to ensure that waste collectors conduct their jobs safely.

The situation intensified in 2018 upon China’s refusal to accept foreign plastic waste, prompting countries to divert waste to other nations in Asia and Africa. The world openly burns roughly “41% of waste,” however, in some cities in Africa, as much as 75% of waste disposal consists of burning rather than recycling.

Waste Collecting as a Livelihood

The low value of plastic waste means women waste collectors remain stuck in a cycle of extreme poverty. In Nakuru, Kenya, waste collectors average a daily income of less than $2 per day “before accounting for expenses such as storage or transportation.” In terms of plastic specifically, in Nairobi, Kenya, waste pickers receive less than $0.05 per kilogram of plastic.

Although informal industries such as waste-collecting are challenging to monitor, according to a study in Ghana of women waste collectors in the plastic value chain, women who work as plastic waste collectors typically earn less than men. These women also have less power in the workplace, compete with men for the most valuable recyclables and lack equipment such as pushcarts, storage facilities and personal protective equipment. In Ghana, 74% of women working in plastic waste facilities have the lowest-paying positions (such as washing and sorting) and only 7% of women work in positions that allow them to make decisions.

Chemicals in Plastics Disproportionately Harm Women

The chemicals added to plastics during manufacturing come with known human health risks and some that disproportionately harm women. Body fat is an ideal storage site for bioaccumulating and lipophilic chemicals, and because women’s bodies store more fat than men’s, exposure to these chemicals leads to higher concentrations of absorption in women, even when the exposure rate is the same.

Chemicals that cause endocrine disruption (a process that changes the body’s hormonal system) can cause cancers, congenital disabilities, immune disorders, reproductive disorders, neurological disorders and developmental problems in women, fetuses and children. Endocrine disruptors (EDCs) such as bisphenol A, phthalates, dioxins, lead and cadmium are present in plastics used for food packaging, electronics, textiles, cosmetics and more. EDCs are an urgent international health issue, especially for developing countries where people are unable to protect themselves against high levels of exposure.

WIEGO Empowers Women Waste Collectors

Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) is an international organization dedicated to improving the conditions of people (especially women) who work in informal industries, such as women waste collectors. WIEGO has formed a partnership with Latin American waste collector movements, as well as organizations and institutions, to form the Gender & Waste project, “a collaborative project involving waste pickers.”

The Gender & Waste project works to empower women by highlighting gender-related discrimination among waste collectors and addressing the needs of women who work in this role. The Gender & Waste project offers educational workshops, toolkits and videos to both raise awareness and empower women waste collectors. The Gender & Waste project has empowered women waste collectors in Latin America to “mobilize more collectively and demand that gender be a key issue on the agenda of the national movement.”

In areas of the world where the government recognizes and supports waste collecting, such as in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, waste collectors generally “have higher incomes than other informal workers.” By empowering women waste collectors to unionize, initiatives like the Gender & Waste project help to improve working conditions, promote personal safety and ensure higher incomes. Safer working environments and higher incomes for women waste collectors safeguard the health and well-being of women and empower them to rise out of poverty.

– Jenny Rice
Photo: Flickr

How Improper Waste Management in Vietnam Impacts PovertyOne of the top contributors of plastic pollution in Southeast Asia, Vietnam is among the several nations struggling to properly manage and dispose of waste. This problem has unfortunately affected the lives of many of Vietnam’s impoverished who work as garbage collectors. Researchers are now conducting studies to understand the potential hazards and consequences associated with improper waste management, providing insight into how improper waste management in Vietnam impacts poverty.

The Waste Problem in Vietnam

Vietnam currently generates about 13 million tons of waste every year. In the past, the country has broken records by producing 38,000 tons of waste “in a single day.” Vietnam’s administration now finds that waste production increases by 10-16% annually and that the nation mismanages about 85% of its garbage. This is problematic because as waste builds up over time, it negatively affects environmental conditions and contributes to pollution. Today, garbage is still piling up in Vietnam’s poorly constructed landfills and the technology incorporated to treat waste in these areas fails to meet basic sanitary requirements.

Vietnam’s Waste Collectors

Waste collecting is an occupation generally held by Vietnam’s lower class, a job that many see as undesirable. In Vietnam, many people have a very negative outlook on the idea of managing garbage for a living because of how unrewarding the endeavor is and how little it pays. As a result, those who find themselves working as waste collectors face significant prejudice and social stigmatization from their communities. While waste collectors often endure discrimination in their communities, they also have to live with harmful side effects that stem from living and working in poor and unsanitary conditions.

Health Effects

In order to determine the effects of waste management in Vietnam, researchers conducted a study by interviewing waste collectors from several cities and provinces, such as Hanoi, Thai Binh, Nam Dinh and more.  Participants were of various ages, with some as young as 30 and others as old as 65. The results showed that respondents suffered from musculoskeletal disorders and commonly felt side effects such as aches and fatigue. Some participants lived with gastrointestinal illnesses and had diseases such as dermatitis. Other symptoms include tension, insomnia and depression.

The effect of waste management on health is alarming because the most disproportionately affected people, the waste collectors, usually come from low-income backgrounds. This is significant because many waste collectors cannot afford healthcare and go about their days aware of this fact, exposing themselves to hazardous materials for the sake of a meager income. Waste collectors endure such work as their most significant priority remains financially supporting their families, no matter the risks. These circumstances illustrate how improper waste management in Vietnam impacts poverty.

The Role of Other Countries

As it turns out, nations such as the United States are partially to blame for the waste management crisis in Vietnam. This is because the U.S. and other well-developed countries engage in trade by exporting waste to less-developed nations. Notable recipients of these types of exports include nations in Southeast Asia, like Bangladesh, Thailand and Vietnam.

Though Vietnam receives a large amount of waste from the U.S., it did not import as much plastic before 2018. In previous years, states would send most of their waste to China and Hong Kong, which were the two largest recipients of these exports at the time. In December 2017, however, China implemented a plastic ban, meaning that the U.S. could not send as much waste as it previously did. As a result, the United States started reallocating the garbage that would have gone to China by sending it across multiple smaller countries.

Before China’s ban, Vietnam received nearly 49,000 tons of waste from the U.S. between January and June 2017. Between January and June 2018, Vietnam imported more than 71,000 tons of garbage, a near 50% increase from the previous year.

What Can be Done?

As much of the waste that Vietnam generates is plastic, many believe the country’s best option would be to find ways to reuse and recycle disposed materials. One example of this would be to turn plastic into products such as aerosols, which can have several applications in different industries. Vietnam can also learn from countries such as the United States by setting up material recovery facilities where people drop off recyclable items. Workers can then palletize these materials and deliver them to other recycling centers that turn plastic into smaller pellets, which there is a large market for.

Alternatives for Vietnam are to potentially consider new materials that could replace plastic. Many enterprises now produce biodegradable plastic and could help Vietnam by providing an eco-friendly solution. That way, the country could see a reduction in waste generation over the next few years. Similarly, Vietnam could also offer incentives for businesses to produce or switch to using biodegradable materials.

Although many of these solutions can positively impact Vietnam’s people, starting them up can be expensive. For this reason, Vietnam’s government is opening the country up to different industries with the hope of establishing business relations with other nations. If Vietnam successfully implements new policies and alternative solutions, the government can dramatically improve the lives of many of its people.

– Eshaan Gandhi
Photo: Unsplash

Hunger and Poverty in the UAETo alleviate food insecurity and poverty and reach the 2030 goals of the Agenda for Sustainable Development, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is using technology to increase the efficiency of farming and irrigation techniques. Throughout 2020, the UAE explored new and innovative solutions to reduce poverty and hunger. Solutions such as drone mapping, mobile applications and AI crop sensors have been crucial for mitigating food scarcity and eliminating hunger and poverty in the UAE.

Drone Mapping

Drones provide a solution to effectively map agricultural areas. Drone technology grants valuable agricultural information to farmers in order to better assess agricultural progress. Drones are able to collect important data such as soil type, salinity and livestock numbers as well as information on farming facilities. According to the company Falcon Eye Drones, drones speed up this data collection process, which typically takes years.

Moreover, farmers can use the information gathered to create agricultural plans. Drone mapping also helps with the allocation of resources. With more information about soil quality, farmers can effectively plan how to distribute water and chemicals for maximum impact. Drones also allow for crop monitoring, enabling farmers to predict agricultural outputs well in advance. Drone mapping saves resources and increases agricultural output, effectively helping to reduce hunger and poverty in the UAE.

Mobile Applications

The FreshOnTable application is another innovation reducing poverty and hunger in the UAE. Through the digital application, users can purchase produce from local vendors and have it delivered straight to their door. This process drastically cuts the carbon footprint normally attached to food distribution. In the app, users are able to see the source of their food and choose from a variety of options.

According to Gulf News, this application also reduces food waste by giving customers the option of choosing “imperfect vegetables,” which are just as healthy as the more aesthetically pleasing options. By cutting down on food waste through technology, FreshOnTable provides a solution to food insecurity.

AI-based Sensors in Irrigation

AI-based sensors monitor the surrounding temperatures of crops to improve irrigation. The sensors can also test the level of humidity and water content in the soil. Irrigation systems are employed more effectively with AI-based sensors in use. Irrigation sensors limit water waste and help with sustainable water use.

Farmers have more knowledge of the soil quality and water content of their land, allowing for a smoother irrigation process. In turn, the process helps maximize crop output because farmers use the information gathered to make data-informed agricultural decisions.

The Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority implemented a study between 2011 and 2013 to analyze the efficiency of smart irrigation systems that utilize AI technology. The results prove that the technology decreased water use by 10% in comparison to other estimation-based methods. Thus, smart irrigation systems are able to increase sustainability, save on costs and improve profitability for farmers. With better agricultural output, food insecurity is reduced.

The Future for the UAE

Overall, these technological innovations stand as examples of how technology can help solve hunger and poverty in the UAE, two deeply interconnected issues. Without drone mapping, the UAE would spend years collecting environmental data that can drastically improve agricultural outputs. In addition, food waste would be much higher without mobile applications to bridge the gap between farm and table. AI sensors maximize agricultural efficiency by reducing resource wastage. As countries strive to reach the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, technology-oriented solutions will help accelerate progress, bringing the international community closer to eliminating global poverty.

– Samuel Weinmann
Photo: Flickr

Zero-Waste SolutionsThai researcher Sorawut Kittibanthorn is looking into how to transform the nutrient component found in chicken feathers into a powder that can be turned into a protein-rich source of edible food that can be used in a variety of dishes. Prototypes including his version of chicken nuggets and a steak substitute have received some positive feedback. Kittibanthorn feels chicken feathers have the potential of becoming an alternative food substitute that can reduce poverty and food insecurity. Kittibanthorn and others are determined to promote zero-waste solutions in an effort to reduce global waste and promote sustainability while addressing global poverty and hunger.

Chicken Feather Waste

The poultry market is a booming industry. Chickens are one of the most commonly consumed meat products in the world and poultry is a cultural and economic staple in many countries. The bird feathers, however, produce mass waste. In the U.K. alone, chicken farms discard around 1,000 tons of feathers per week. Few companies have taken notice of the potential behind these unwanted goods. Feathers have a high source of keratin protein, making the feathers ideal sources of insulation, plastic or animal feed. The findings of Kittibanthorn are unique and shift the conversation toward a multi-pronged solution in combating global hunger using creative solutions.

On top of reducing waste, Kittibanthorn maintains the idea that chicken feathers can be repurposed for elegant, elevated dining. The destigmatization of food waste is not completely unprecedented in the culinary world. Michelin star chef, Massimo Bottura, utilized a trash-to-table dining model in 2018 by recovering surplus ingredients to make nutritious and delicious meals for a community. Food waste is a largely uncomfortable issue around the world and the U.S. alone generates 40 million tons per year. By utilizing solutions similar to Kittibanthorn and Bottura, many countries could work toward resolving the issue of world hunger through zero-waste solutions.

A Zero-Waste Future

Utilizing chicken feathers as a zero-waste solution to combat poverty would fall in line with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, which include seeking to end hunger and improve nutrition. In the context of agricultural initiatives, chicken feathers open the conversation on the collaboration between innovations like feather-based foods and organizations that promote crop diversity.

The Borgen Project spoke with Rodrigo Barrios, strategic partnerships manager at the nonprofit organization, the Crop Trust. Barrios explains how crop diversity includes two elements of action: use and conservation. Barrios told The Borgen Project about the organization’s program called The Food Forever Initiative. The Food Forever Initiative seeks to enlighten the community with crop usability by connecting chefs to less popular crops and giving chefs the agency to promote agrobiodiversity. Barrios says that promoting crop diversity would also help reduce poverty. In a similar fashion, Barrios states “we identify all biodiversity, internationally, that is fundamental for food security and nutrition and agriculture and we ensure that the gene banks are funded in perpetuity, provided they are up to standard.” The Crop Trust’s goals align with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. The organization seeks to build more funding to support long-term conservation initiatives as zero-waste solutions.

The Road Ahead

The practice of repurposing materials that are typically disposed of, such as chicken feathers, has great potential to reduce poverty and push for more sustainable market practices including zero-waste solutions. Trends and practices related to repurposing materials would promote ethical decisions in the private sector, help communities with nutrition security and connect agronomics to crop supporting initiatives.

Danielle Han
Photo: Flickr

Many people in poverty find ways to create income for themselves and their families. Some choose to work in a factory or sell fruit at the local market. For others, having income comes from sifting through garbage dumps to find sellable materials. There are some very large garbage dumps located in Sub-saharan Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. Due to waste distribution throughout a dump site, many people can sift through to find sellable items. These items can range from everyday plastic waste to copper byproducts. This type of work can be dangerous due to injury from objects in the dump or burning things that create toxic fumes. For this reason, charities such as Children of the Dump create opportunities for children in these situations to receive an education.

Payatas Dump

Looking more specifically at Manila, the city has a garbage dump that’s named Payatas Dump. The garbage dump allows people in poverty to sift through it to find items to sell. People collect the items, wash them if needed and then sell them for a minimal amount. Some people don’t just work in the dump, but also live near it since transportation can be expensive. The shelters created near the dumps are made from surrounding garbage and house several people in a confined space. In 2017, the Payatas Dump was closed, and many people lost their livelihoods. Some asked garbage truck drivers to dump garbage into the streets to scavenge enough for a small meal. This type of work doesn’t just appeal to adults; many children work in the dump to earn money for their families. As a result, many children of the dump are unable to have an education and some will sift through garbage their entire lives.

Children of the Dump

Children of the Dump is an organization created to aid children and their families who sift through garbage for money. The organization is partnered with another charity located in the Philippines and relies heavily on donations. Due to the lack of opportunities for these families, Children of the Dump provides three different programs:

  1. “Cashew Early Years” – Donations to this program go toward providing a free meal and half a day’s worth of education for 100 kids aged four to six.
  2. “Grapevine Outreach” – Donations to this program are given to families so children can attend local schools. This type of program gives children the opportunity to have an education rather than working in the dump.
  3. “Mango Tree House” – This program provides a place where displaced children can live and go to school to grow up in a nurturing and educational environment.

There are several success stories of children who were a part of Children of the Dump’s program. Two students, Danny and Jamaica, participated in the programs at very young ages. The two went on to become college graduates and are working full time.

Sifting through garbage dumps can be a way for people in poverty to earn income. However, it can prevent children in the dumps from having time to get an education because they are looking through garbage to earn money for their families. Children of the Dump works to ensure kids have access to education, helping students like Danny and Jamacia work toward future economic success.

– Brooke Young
Photo: Flickr

sanitation in algeriaAlgeria is a former French colony in North Africa. Libya, Tunisia Niger are on its western borders. Morocco, Marius and Mali are on its eastern borders. About half of the population lives in urban areas concentrated near the Mediterranean sea. Algeria is a member of OPEC and the Arab Maghreb Union, a regional organization. During the 1990s, the country experienced a civil war between Islamist terrorist groups and the Algerian army. While the army’s victory ensured greater stability, Algeria continues to face challenges such as sanitation. Here are ten facts about sanitation in Algeria.

10 Facts about Sanitation in Algeria

  1. Diseases: Poor sanitary conditions place Algerians at-risk for diseases. In 2018, Algeria experienced a cholera outbreak with 217 cases. The cases were concentrated in Algiers, the capital. Government responses included testing the water supply daily for pathogens and requesting 5,000 diagnostic tests from the WHO. By way of comparison, cholera has been virtually eradicated in the United States with most cases in the U.S. originating from international travel.
  2. Rural-Urban Divide: Urban Algerians are more likely to have greater access to sanitation than rural Algerians. Three percent more rural Algerians do not have access to basic sanitation (i.e sewers, latrines and septic tanks) than urban Algerians. This rural-urban divide continues when comparing lower classes. Algeria’s urban poor experience 10% more sanitation coverage than their rural counterparts. To help address the challenges associated with rural sanitation, the African Development Bank established the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Initiative in 2003.

  3. Hand Washing: While the majority of Algerians are able to practice proper hygiene by washing their hands, disparities exist among rural and urban communities. Currently, 83% of Algerians are able to wash their hands. This is slightly higher than what is typical in the region. However, there is a 14% gap between rural and urban Algerians; only 73% of rural Algerians are able to do so.

  4. Recent Improvements: Over the last decade, rural Algerians have gained greater basic sanitation. From 2000 to 2017, basic sanitation coverage increased by approximately 10%.  Today about 70% of Algerians have access to basic sanitation.  This is relatively high for the region as an average of only 50.2% of individuals have this service region-wide.

  5. Access to Toilets: Similarly, the number of rural Algerians openly defecating has substantially decreased.  From 2000 to 2017, this percentage decreased by 12.5%. Today only about 3% of Algerians experience this level of deprivation. This is substantially lower than the regional percentage of 10% of rural individuals.

  6. Rural Sewers: Disadvantaged Algerians have increased access to better sanitary facilities. Since 2000, approximately 14% more poor Algerians gained access to sewers. Notably, this positive trend is true of rural Algerians. Since 2000, 17% more rural Algerians gained access to sewers. Today about 60% of this demographic has sewers.

  7. Regional Access to Sanitation: As a whole, more Algerians have better sanitation facilities. In the last decade, sewer availability has increased by about 14%. Today, about 83% of all Algerians use sewers. This percentage is higher than the regional percent of 58%.

  8. Drinking Water: In 2000, few Algerians had access to quality drinking water facilities. The majority of Algerians gain drinking water from pipe-improved water. Notably, this is true for both rural and urban Algerians. To address this issue, the Algerian government established L’Algérienne Des Eaux (ADE), a public company, in 2001. To further remedy this problem, the Algerian government established a program to create more extensive water pipelines to Médéa, a city in Northern Algeria.

  9. Students: Most Algerian students have access to basic sanitation and safe drinking water. Currently, 98% of Algeria’s primary students have basic sanitation; 87% have safe drinking water. This is a remarkable achievement as regionally only about 8o% of all students have basic sanitation and 74% have safe drinking water.

  10. Drinking Water Improvements: Most Algerians have access to safe drinking water. 93% of Algerians have basic access to drinking water. This is true of both urban and rural areas with only a 7% gap between the two categories.

These ten facts about sanitation in Algeria reveal that Algeria has overcome substantial challenges.  While most Algerians have access to some level of sanitation, drinking water and hygiene, there remains a higher risk for waste-related illnesses such as cholera. Furthermore, while there remains a persistent gap between its rural and urban citizens, the country’s overall coverage and sanitary facilities have improved since 2000. With sustained effort by the Algerian government and the African Development Bank, Algeria can overcome the remaining obstacles to better public health.

– Kaihua Tymon Zhou
Photo: Wikimedia

UNICEF’s WASH Program
According to a joint report from the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO), one in four of the world’s health care facilities does not have adequate access to clean water and sanitation services, including sewer access. This means that about 2 billion people face a lack of clean water in their communities globally. Luckily, UNICEF’s WASH Program is in place to help remedy this.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

In 17 out of 69 impoverished countries, at least 20 percent of medical facilities had no water service at all in 2016. Therefore, by going to these facilities, there is a risk of further infection. Ironically, the condition the facility is attempting to remedy could worsen. In developing countries, people often have a concern that they could become sicker after visiting a hospital. UNICEF’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) program aims to bring water and means of sanitation to these at-risk health care facilities to create immediate benefits and establish an element of trust between medical facilities and the general population of impoverished countries. By doing so, projections determine that poor communities should increasingly report to medical professionals when they have a health concern, and many poverty-linked, poor-sanitation-caused diseases will receive better treatment and be better controlled.

UNICEF’s WASH program promotes education, fixing systemic issues and training. However, it mainly goes about achieving these goals by addressing issues on the ground level. Simply put, impoverished communities typically do not have easy access to sanitation measures and fresh water. Therefore, WASH has set out to directly fix the issue by installing facilities that can directly bring free, clean water to people in need. In certain areas that especially need better sanitation and water access, the program goes so far as to build physical water facilities.

How it Works

The facilities consist of a solar-powered borehole well that pumps clean groundwater from within the earth into 24-liter storage tanks above ground. These tanks keep the water clean and usable for whenever communities need it. There are no restrictions on the use of WASH facilities. Those who need it can use it to wash their hands, fill up bathtubs and draw water from their households, etc. In addition to supplying usable water to these communities, the WASH program also installs latrines. The latrines make use of the newly-supplied groundwater to reduce the amount of open defecation in impoverished communities.

WASH in Nigeria

A WASH facility in north-central Nigeria has seen exceptional progress after its installation. Like many poor Nigerian communities, there was little to no health care coverage. Further, the water was dirty and soil-transmitted helminths infected the area due to unsanitary defecation. Even the schools were a breeding ground for disease. Just by bringing clean water, WASH brought the rural community from an unsanitary village to an “open defecation-free” location. In doing so, they also slashed the prevalence of poverty-linked diseases.

UNICEF’s WASH program operates in coordination with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030. Two out of the 17 SDGs directly apply to WASH’s mission. First, ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Second, ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. By making direct, measurable progress towards these goals, the U.N. can garner further support. Therefore, the world will be able to meet more SDGs, making the world a better place for everyone in the very near future.

Graham Gordon
Photo: Flickr