Name: Liberia Munduru
Refugee Youth Recycle Plastic Waste to Conserve Soils and Water Points at Rhino Camp Arua Settlements - Experience Shared by Liberia Munduru
With my working area that has centred on the plight of refugees in Rhino camp settlement, I identified the challenge of plastic waste management on land and waters. This is one area that has not been tackled in the refugee settlements.
Uganda hosts a total of 1,293,582 refugees and asylum seekers as at 30th June 2019 (Uganda refugee response report 2019). These are settled in 14 areas in the country with the largest population of about 57.4% living in West Nile sub region. This population is dependent on natural resources such as land, water, forests and wetlands in the rural communities of West Nile. In Arua, two settlements of Rhino camp and Imvepi host 13% of the refugee population with majority women, children and youth hailing from South Sudan.
With the intense pressure on natural resources, refugees are conflicting with host communities on natural resources for survival, there is increased degradation of soils, water, tree cover leading to high temperatures, low water table, drought, irregular rainfall patterns, low crop yields, heavy winds that cause intense destruction to the temporary houses and food crops among others. With support from CARE International in Uganda, Rural Initiative for community West Nile, a local NGO based in Arua district in West Nile Sub region initiated climate action with 5 refugee youth (each group having 20-30 members) on plastic waste recycling for resilience and livelihoods.
An estimate of up to one tone of plastic waste is generated from the refugee settlements in West Nile sub-region daily; much of this waste comes from the packages of sacket waragi, packing bags, food raps, broken chairs, utensils, soda and water bottles among others. Currently, plastic production is at a very high rate because it’s cheap and affordable to everybody in the community. New plastic is even cheaper than recycled plastic in the region. The used plastic is littered in gardens, water points (River Nile is about 15kms from the refugee settlement), homesteads and waste collection points thus affecting crop yields, free flow of water and dirty environments among others. The initiative of plastic waste recycling was identified to reduce circulation of plastic waste in the different areas.
One of the youth groups that I work with, “Destined youth group in Ofua 2 village has been collecting plastic waste every Saturdays to make building materials. A group member, Ms. Nensah Tabu 18years old in senior two testified that this has reduced the waste in the environment.
“We have so far collected over 50 sacks of plastic waste in two weeks’ time and recycled. The challenge of waste remains due to littering of the environment with alcohol sachets in the trading centres” She said. Some soils in Ofua zone Rhino camp refugee settlement are infertile due to the littered plastic waste which affects water infiltration when it rains leading to poor yields. When we continue with the project, it will improve on soil fertility.”
The groups trained also engage in growing trees (fruit and other tree species) to generate income, food as well as create mechanisms for survival.
Peter James, a youth has produced over 50 pavers and ventilators and he says they have ready market in Arua town.
The youth group has only two moulds that were offered by RICE-WN during training time but with the proceeds from the sale of the materials we make, plan to buy more moulds of different shapes.
Oliver Lugala another youth group leader in Ocea talented youth group in Rhinocamp refugee settlement is happy that recycling of plastic waste has become a source of employment and resilience for the members. “Plastic waste in Ocea has been a huge problem, Ocea is a big trading center which has a huge population of both refugees and host communities doing business in the market thus a lot of plastic is generated. We collected 29 sacks of plastic in one hour when we first started the project he says”
The talented youth group has also started recycling the plastic waste in their area.
“I used to lay bricks in South Sudan and the knowledge received will help me to produce building materials even when I return to our country”, Lugala said.
The community in Ocea is appreciating the efforts of the group that is reducing plastic waste in the settlement he added.
Plastic waste takes up to four hundred years to degrade according to a study done by science advances (vol 3. No.7 July 2017). Most of the refugee youth are idle at the settlements and engage in alcohol consumption, creating conflicts in night clubs among others. The initiative of engaging the youth in plastic waste recycling is to empower them economically (creating employment) as well as resilient livelihoods.