NOT only has conversion of waste into manure helped municipal authorities to become cleaner, but it has also created opportunities for employment and earning revenue
By Gerald Tenywa
PATRICK Ocen, a resident of Lira in northern Uganda, does not leave farming to the mercy of nature. He nurtures his crops with organic manure and is rewarded handsomely.
“The yields on my farm have doubled since I started applying the manure to my garden,” Ocen said, adding that with bountiful harvest of maize and the blossoming garden of bananas, he is better off than he has ever been. “I have more food and income and farmers who come to my garden get encouraged to replicate this for prosperity.”
Ocen gets his manure from a landfill constructed by Lira Municipality to convert solid waste into compost in the neigbourhood of one of the fastest growing urban centres in the north.
This is one of the 12 municipalities that are benefiting from a World Bank funded intervention through the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).
“The waste which was causing damage to the environment in municipalities is now being turned into something useful,” says Dr. Gerald Sawula, the NEMA deputy executive director.
In addition to increasing the productivity of agricultural land, the compost has created triple advantages for the municipal authorities.
Not only has conversion of waste into manure helped municipal authorities to become cleaner, but it has also created opportunities for employment and earning revenue by minimising emissions that fuel climate change.
Sawula pointed out that turning waste into manure does not release methane, a green-house gas which traps heat escaping from the earth, causing global warming.
This, according to Sawula, has created an opportunity for urban centres to earn money, pointing out that global effort to curb climate change under the Kyoto Protocol and the UN Framework to Combat Climate Change created incentives to reward those who minimise release of greenhouse gases.
“Selling compost and earning money from carbon emissions will greatly assist municipal authorities to meet their obligations of cleaning the filth from urban centres,” says Sawula.
He was speaking during an inspection of environmental activities in central, eastern, northern and mid-western Uganda.
Over the last decade, the World Bank has released $37m to the environment sector in a project for capacity building that is winding up this month.
Uganda’s compost initiative is the first intervention of its kind globally to reduce climate change by avoiding release of waste gases from decomposing waste.
Waste compost makes economy greener
Sawula says by reducing emissions and relying available resources that are always neglected such as waste is part of sustainable use of the environment, which is also referred to as the Green Economy. This, Sawula says includes practices that do not destroy or damage the environment, but seek to use it in a more efficient manner.
“We are now living in a healthier environment,” he says, adding that this will also help tourism, which is an engine of growth to thrive. “When visitors come they will not encounter mountains of garbage or the foul smell that used to engulf most of Uganda’s urban centres,” he says.
Fred Onyai, the monitoring and evaluation specialist at NEMA pointed out that manure will enhance organic agriculture. This, he noted, will enhance Uganda’s hold as the biggest producer of organic products.
The compost plants also provide green employment to at least 25 people in each municipality, which will be sustained as long as carbon trade remains alive.
Fort Portal becomes cleanest town, Mbale fights for lost glory
Gladys Mirembe, the Fort Portal municipal environment officer says the compost project has catapulted them to fame as the cleanest town in Uganda since they now collect at least 60% of the waste they generate.
Less than half of the garbage was being collected prior to the intervention of the World Bank funded initiative, Mirembe said.
As Mirembe and residents of Fort Portal bask in glory, Rhoda Nyaribi, the Mbale municipal environmental officer believes Rome was not built in one day.
“We can only do so much at a time and we will get back to the glory days,” says Nyaribi adding that Mbale used to be the cleanest town in Uganda and the region.
Currently, Mbale collects 70 tonnes of garbage as opposed to 30 -40 tonnes before the intervention of the World Bank funded intervention, Nyaribi said.
A new Water and Environment Sector performance report, 2012 shows that most of the towns and municipalities assisted by the World Bank have doubled the garbage they collected every day.
The report also points out that they all the towns collect at least half of the garbage collected every day.
Challenges undermining the compost initiative
While the mountains of waste in the municipal councils are disappearing, the authorities are stuck with stockpiles of compost.
“We are not doing well when it comes to selling the manure, says Mirembe, adding that the farmers’ attitude is to blame. “The farmers believe that their soil is still fertile and there is no need for fertilisers.”
At the compost sites visited by the team evaluating the World Bank funded initiative, piles of manure were visible in Mukono, Jinja, Mbale and Lira.
As a way out, municipal authorities want NEMA to intervene by working with the National Agricultural Advisory Services to provide market for the manure.
Another challenge that is stretching the municipal authorities is the delay in the release of funding from carbon credits.
The municipal authorities have had to increase funding of the operations of the landfills by many folds hoping that they will recover their money when the carbon money comes.
This, according to Sawula, is because of the bureaucracy encountered in the carbon trade. “We are waiting for a team of validators to come and assess,” says Sawula adding, “We cannot do much apart from taking the right steps until they come.”
As we left Hoima, I overhead my neighbours saying that what we had encountered can be summed up using a slogan, “think globally and act locally.”
Ocen does not know anything about Agenda21, which is the blueprint to sustainable development environment, but the benefits are being harnessed in his village. As Ugandans, there is pride that our towns are becoming cleaner and healthier.
At a global level, polluting industries in the developed countries are meeting obligations of paying people like Ocen and the municipalities that are doing something to reduce dangerous emissions.
Green economy starts with proper waste usage