I think it is a great indicator of WasteAid’s current workload that January has already passed in a blur of project launch ceremonies, project planning, impact reports and monitoring visits to our current programmes. The start of 2022 has been so busy for WasteAid that it is only now half way through February that I am sitting down to write my first CEO’s Update of 2022.
WasteAid starts 2022 as a much-changed organisation. In terms of size and scale, we have never been larger and our impact has never been greater. In the first quarter of 2022, we are launching three new programmes: our CIWM-funded Circular Economy Network in The Gambia; our intervention to tackle plastic waste in Aswan, Egypt, generously supported by Dow Packaging; and a programme to reduce waste and offer increased livelihood opportunities to the most vulnerable in both Cameroon and in South Africa funded by Bunzl Plc.
In addition to these projects, the staff of our Proud Partner, Biffa Plc, have pledged to raise funds to construct a Materials Recovery Facility in Douala to allow WasteAid to support even more waste collectors and collections.
We are faced with a global waste crisis which shows no sign of relenting and therefore neither will our response – despite many of our growing team being engaged on current projects, we still found time to explore new partnerships and continue to develop new projects that we believe will tackle some of the worst effects of the waste crisis and showcase the opportunities that can arise from waste.
For myself, the biggest highlight of 2022 so far has to be my visit to The Gambia to launch our Circular Economy Network, funded by the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, and also to follow up on the progress of our EU-funded climate change initiative in partnership with Kanifing Municipal Council. It was fantastic to finally pay a visit to The Gambia, which has been at the heart of WasteAid’s programmes since the beginning. The scale of the waste crisis is sobering and there are very real issues that urgently need tackling, starting with some of the most basic elements of a waste management system.
However, it was inspiring to meet key individuals and organisations that are really committed to solving the waste crisis in The Gambia. I was delighted to meet with the Minister of Environment once again, His Excellency Mr Lamin Dibba, and to hear his thoughts on how WasteAid’s work could support The Gambia. I was also honoured to meet with the members of the National Environment Agency, Kanifing Municipal Council, and Banjul City Council who are very much aligned on the need for WasteAid’s work and who are key collaborators in our latest project. Finally, I was hugely grateful for the support of the British High Commission. High Commissioner David Belgrove and his team could not have been more supportive of our work and we are so grateful to him for lending us his beautiful residence garden to launch the Gambian Circular Economy Network.
It was equally encouraging to meet those who will directly benefit from WasteAid’s programmes. I had the pleasure of spending a morning with women gardeners from Bakau Women’s Garden who will be benefitting from WasteAid’s composting project, sponsored by the EU’s Global Climate Change Alliance+ initiative. The project is truly circular in that WasteAid (in partnership with Kanifing Municipal Council) will be taking organic waste from markets and training women to turn this into compost, which will in turn be used to increase crop yield. It was important for me to hear first hand the benefits that this project could bring them – allowing small scale farmers greater financial security and income generation, as well as reducing waste and reducing reliance on potentially damaging and expensive chemical fertilisers. The gardens were absolutely beautiful and painstakingly tended to by the women. The WasteAid team in The Gambia is doing a fabulous job and we have such an opportunity to deliver real impact.
Finally, I would like to welcome Jessica Stickland, who has joined WasteAid in the new role of Head of Development. Jessica is focusing on helping the team grow our impact in partnership with other organisations and businesses.
The next few months will see exciting developments taking place in Cameroon and The Gambia, and our plastic recycling initiative start to take shape in Egypt. WasteAid has a lot of potential and we’re excited about what the future holds.