A drive to remember: ECOaction at work in the Covid-19 lockdown

By Reagan Kandole, Mia Perry, Vanessa Duclos, Raihana Ferdous and Deepa Pullanikkatil

The Covid 19 pandemic continues to expose the most vulnerable people in Uganda’s communities. As the country transitioned towards a total lockdown, banning public transport, strict regulations on the labor force and only essential services — monitored by the health and security sector — the progress and gains made by community initiatives like ECOaction have been threatened. ECOaction is a non profit organisation that creates income and livelihood opportunities for the most marginalised urban youth and women through innovations in waste management. ECOaction is located in Banda, an unplanned settlement of Kampala City, Uganda. The organisation works with the most vulnerable groups of plastic collectors, mainly elderly women and young adults, and provides them with alternative markets for recycled products. ECOaction also builds the capacity of its beneficiaries around waste management and environmental conservation. One of the main challenges in our community right now is that they are not able to sell any of the plastics they collect to the recycling companies during the lockdown, which means they have no money to pay for food to feed their families.

For most of the women we support, the main source of income is collecting plastics and if they cannot move around to collect and sell these bottles, then they are not able to feed their families. Even with the government’s attempts to distribute food to the most vulnerable, not everyone will be able to access that support and there is an urgent need for more basic supplies to be distributed. Otherwise, there is a risk that many people will die of starvation, malaria, stress and many other diseases”. Reagan Kandole, Executive Director of ECOaction.

The photo story below depicts the journey that ECOaction’s team took, despite public transport bans and distancing policies, to reach out to this community


Translation into arts

By Vanessa Duclos and Reagan Kandole

Reagan Kandole, Executive Director of ECOaction, an NGO based in Kampala, Uganda, shares with us how the current worldwide crisis coverage inspired him to translate information into arts – channeling the doubts during the lockdown into creativity. If you want to get in touch with the artist, you can do so here.


Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

Skills Development for Community Youth

ECOaction has partnered with a local girls school, Nabisunsa Girls School, to motivate youth in the community to reduce, reuse and recycle! Reagan has described how their school grounds have been transformed into a colorful urban garden with greenhouses for growing crops.  It is hoped that the skills that these pupils will gain through this experience will help the youth tackle unemployment.

Dr Grace Lubaale of Kyambogo University spoke to The Daily Monitor, a Ugandan newspaper praising Reagan's community work, outlining that:

“Instead of many educators clinging to old and increasingly ineffective methods of teaching, it is better to use innovative teaching methods. This will help to produce a type of students that think outside the box, who can use what is available to bring about something new,”

“The amount of rubbish we create is constantly increasing because we have no proper disposal policy and if all our students are trained on how to manage this waste, they can extend the knowledge to the bigger communities,” says Reagan Kandole of ECOaction village, Banda.

Read More at: http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/Education/Students-recycling-plastic-for-innovation-/688336-4729956-gpvfb8z/index.html

_____________________________

Read more


A 'short and sweet' visit to the SFA Hub, Kampala

By Molly Gilmour, SFA Administrator, Glasgow

From the 14th to 17th May, Sustainable Futures in Africa Principal Investigator Dr Mia Perry and Sustainable Futures in Africa  (SFA) Glasgow Hub Administrator Molly Gilmour traveled to Kampala, Uganda for what can only be described as the definition of a ‘short and sweet´ meeting.

Tuesday 15th May 2018: Makerere University

On May 14th Mia and I arrived to the University Guest house where we stayed during our visit. Arriving at almost midnight, we could still see the buzz of the city – people sharing meals by the road, small traders bustling around the city’s streets, a city that felt inviting, warm and friendly.

We spent the morning having coffee with Alex and Anthony, SFA Hub Coordinator and Administrator respectfully, when we then walked to the College of Education and External Studies. It was fantastic to see where my counterpart, whom I work so closely with, spends his 9-5. After having the privilege to meet many of the respective Makerere University Deans and Heads of School, we embarked on a SFA Uganda hub meeting. At this meeting  we caught up with network plans which have developed, especially those that were made during the recent meeting at the University of Glasgow – which our Ugandan partners were unfortunately unable to attend due to (what I would describe as draconian) UK Immigration authorities. We looked back at recent events in order to look forward; how can the SFA network develop - concerning research as we ask ‘how can we develop methodologies through arts based practices’, and ‘how can we ensure the core coordination of this network continues’, as it was evident through our short visit how imperative SFA Administrator Anthony is to our Ugandan colleagues.

That afternoon SFA spoke at the weekly lunchtime seminar. It was attended by both students and academic staff from across the college. PI Dr Mia Perry spoke about the SFA Network and shared a presentation about the methodologies created and used by SFA. This had a fantastic impact on the attendees, as PhD students enquired as to how they could undertake a PhD placement with the network, and the Dean of Education outlining that he will introduce the SFA ‘Reporting Back Method’ to the Board of Directors  for the Makerere University Graduate School.

Wednesday 16th May: ECOaction

One of the highlights for me - So many serendipitous moments, uncomfortable moments, moments of realisation … dancing and laughing moments...

Walking through the slum-like-squatted area of Kampala, the smell of burning plastics and the dust being kicked up by school aged kids reminded me of my former missions with Save the Children and Médecins Sans Frontières; Something I wasn’t expecting which brought both a sense of familiarity and discomfort. Yet, arriving to the bright, warm and safe space which is ECOaction, and hearing the music, seeing the dancing, I felt right at home! Reagan welcomed us wholeheartedly as we arrived; Mia, Anthony, Alex, Vincent, Richard and I.  Reagan, as accurately reflected in his projects, is an energetic, warm and a colourful character.

Sitting in a room, one constructed by the community of recycled bottles, Reagan facilitated an introduction to SFA, SFA’s partners and introductions were conducted around this room. We met with Nilotika Cultral Ensemble, who performed for SFA partners alongside the community’s youth. Nilotika Cultural Ensemble shared their experiences of working with Western Organisations, and one member shared the challenges he endured during his previous partnerships with a quote ‘I am asked to sign at the expense of my culture’, that the financial stipulations by Western funding bodies allow for little/no autonomy for African partners. Being in this space as a University of Glasgow representative, an institution who have historically wholeheartedly embodied these extractive partnerships, I was faced with discomfort, but also the realisation that these partnerships must change: That there is a lot of work to do in building both trust and real relationships. There were countless examples of these damaged power relations throughout the three day visit which I experienced, and will continue to reflect and learn from.

The evening was spent conducting ‘strategic planning’ with key stakeholders at ECOaction. More will be shared come on this in the coming months!

Thursday 17th May: 32 Degrees East

Another cool, colourful and creative space in Kampala, SFA Partner 32 Degrees East is a multi-purpose resource centre including hosting artist in residence, meeting centres and art studios. Mia and Is final day, Thursday, was spent on future planning. What future research projects is SFA going to undertake next? What funding is best suited? What partners will be involved? Anthony and I, the SFA Glasgow and Uganda research administrators, created communications strategies and Impact toolkits for the research hubs.

Mia and I finished the day sitting by Victoria Lake with Richard, Alex, Twine, Reagan and Arnold conducting ‘Knowledge Exchange’ on ‘how to take the perfect selfie’


ECOaction

SFA partner Reagan Kandole founded a Waste Management Education Project “ECOaction” where he engages the youth and the community in handling waste

We’re a registered environmental, non-profit organization, currently located and operating within in Banda, one of Kampala’s slum areas.  Since 2011 we support disadvantaged youths and women from this area, through multiple activities, aiming to build sustainable livelihoods as well as new and additional income opportunities.

Over the last seven years, our main beneficiaries and partners have been a group of garbage collectors, who lived in the Banda area. This community consists of 106 individuals, mainly single mothers and children, who collect and sort garbage, like plastic bottles or scrap metal, for saleable items. For specific activities, the group was always joined by several other, unemployed youths from the area. Some of the activities carried out have been: engaging in urban farming (kitchen gardens and poultry); briquette making from biodegradable waste; composting; greenhouse construction; construction of children’s playgrounds; building bathroom shelters out of plastic bottles; public art installations; school libraries or conduction of waste management workshops.

The outcomes, especially given the very few available resources, have been impressive and have led to a significant improvement of the livelihoods of the involved people and their environments. Unfortunately our community was then suddenly displaced in 2017, as the landlord decided to develop the land and evicted everybody within a week of notice. Since then the community members are dispersed and live under extremely vulnerable situations.

But this unforeseen event also gave us, as a very young organization, the chance to evaluate and review our structures and processes. To learn from the experiences we’ve made and to identify the necessary steps to sustainably implement the concept of Zero Waste and make it available to everybody. Because our vision includes, but yet goes far beyond, the improvement of individual livelihoods. Our goal is to create an environmental movement in Uganda which promotes the benefits of an eco-friendly society beyond trash, and where empowered and responsible citizens live in harmony with their environment.

Vision Statement:

An empowered and responsible society where citizens live in harmony with their environment, while sustainably creating new job opportunities for the most marginalized urban youth and women through innovation in waste management

Mission Statement:

Creating an environmental movement in Uganda which promotes the benefits of an eco-friendly society beyond trash through capacity development, community empowerment, innovation and partnerships across sectors.

For more information and for more colourful and creative photos check out the ECOaction

https://www.facebook.com/524175797672978/videos/1711759998914546/

 

 


This January, SFA ran a Community Awareness event in Kampala, Uganda, to develop a deeper understanding of the impact of plastic waste on the environment and community life.
UG1
In the recent years, Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, has witnessed an alarming growth of waste that equals to 730,000 tons a day, of which only 1% is currently recycled. SFA researchers from Makerere University and representatives of the Ugandan Art Trusts met the local community in Banda, Kampala city, to find possible solutions to plastic waste disposal through the art and culture practical tools. This event was hosted by EcoAction, a non-government organisation led by Reagan Kandole, an eco-artist and lecturer at Kyambogo University.
The participants gathered in the community space, designed out of plastic bottles, to find the answer to the question on how cultural practices can help to address the problem of waste disposal. The community members came out with some sketches on waste management, followed by the group discussion facilitated by the SFA researchers from the Makerere University.
At the end of the workshop, the community came up with various solutions on waste utilisation that we would be happy to share shortly.

ecoAction

EcoAction works in the field of waste management and environmental problems that threaten the health and quality of li
fe of the communities in the region for many years.  One example of a recent project delivered by EcoAction involved the local community in the creation of a mural aimed at educating community members about different recycling practices.  For more information, please visit the EcoAction website.