The WasteAid UK team has recently returned from The Gambia where, in partnership with the Arkleton Trust, they ran a three-day workshop on community waste management.

With 30 participants from The Gambia and 30 more from Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Cameroon and India, the discussion was lively and the exchange of experiences and ideas very helpful.

The first three days of the seminar were run by funders, The Arkleton Trust. Following a tour of local projects that have benefitted from Arkleton support, the group got down to discussing the interesting question: What makes a community resilient? Among the many responses, a few common themes emerged: sanitation and environmental protection, youth employment and gender equality.

Community waste management offers a way to tackle all of these key issues, particularly using the approach promoted by WasteAid, which focuses on providing training and employment for young people and women. When a community is clean and safe, and the vulnerable in society are valued, a community can become resilient. Without these factors in place, children get sick, young people emigrate, and the community cannot properly develop.

Waste dumps blight the community and represent a loss of opportunity

Waste dumps blight the community and represent a loss of opportunity

WasteAid hosted the second three days of the event, starting by asking everyone to write the word for “waste” in their language on the board. In groups, they then explored where waste comes from and the different types of waste that occur, for example from schools, hospitals and clinics. By this stage, everyone was familiar with the concept of “waste” and its existence as a human-made problem.

The group discussed the global waste crisis and how it is a worldwide problem that affects us all, through economic, health and environmental impacts. The Global Goals for Sustainable Development served as a base for further discussion, as participants explored out how waste is linked with each of the 17 Goals.

The second day of WasteAid’s programme covered understanding what materials are commonly found in waste and what can be done with them. Having identified the opportunities, the group then talked at length about how to get different types of people to change their attitudes and behaviours towards waste management, so that it becomes a collective positive activity for the whole community.

Pierre Kamsouloum, the Cameroonian who has developed an approved construction product from waste plastic, gave a presentation and demonstration of his process. Everyone was fascinated and impressed in equal measure, as using little more than the most basic of tools, Pierre turned flexible plastic waste into solid paving tiles. One of the local groups, Plastic Free Gunjur, has been collecting flexible plastic from the streets of Gunjur for years – and storing it, waiting to find the right use. Now the volunteers are trained in how to convert this waste stream into a valuable and popular product, and they cannot wait to get started!

Alheou from Plastic Free Gunjur with his first plastic paving tile

Alheou from Plastic Free Gunjur with his first plastic paving tile

Isatou Ceesay and her team from the Women’s Initiative The Gambia (WIG) also participated in the event. Isatou delivered an inspiring presentation on her mission, and the team from WIG then demonstrated how to convert woody wastes such as coconut shell and peanut shell into charcoal briquettes. They were first introduced to the technique on a WasteAid training course a couple of years ago, and they have certainly mastered it now, giving clear and simple step-by-step instructions to all the participants.

Joko making her first charcoal briquette - she would now like to start a small briquetting business in her village

Joko making her first charcoal briquette – she would now like to start a small briquetting business in her village

Other demonstrations included making compost from organic waste, crocheting bags from plastic waste, and producing fashion items from ring pulls and bicycle inner tubes. The WasteAid team was busy throughout, documenting every last detail to help populate the Guide to Community Waste Management that is due out in October.

Finally, WasteAid delivered Masterclasses in business development and community engagement, making sure everyone felt inspired and equipped to make change in their own communities.

Thank you to the Arkleton Trust, Isatou Ceesay and WIG, Pierre Kamsouloum, and all the participants for making the event hugely valuable and entirely unforgettable. WasteAid is already working on proposals with new partners as a result of this unique, international summit.

Hello from The Gambia - an international team of trained community waste managers!

Hello from The Gambia – an international team of trained community waste managers!

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