A blueprint for waste management in Africa
Many African countries lack the skills, resources and funds to efficiently control and manage waste - a threat to the environment and people's health. An EU-funded project involving European and African partners has provided practical solutions that policymakers and communities can use to resolve a common problem.
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Inadequate waste collection services and recycling systems, hazardous dumps and environmental damage – and the resulting risks to health – impact the lives of millions of Africans.
To help, the EU-funded IWWA project has provided a blueprint of the practical steps countries and regions in western Africa could take to design and implement integrated waste management systems for local communities. The blueprint includes recommendations on training, waste reduction, collection, sorting, recovery, reuse and recycling of valuable materials, and disposal methods.
Part of the researchers’ work involved developing free software that communities can use to assess their needs as part of a waste management strategy. In parallel, they developed an online network for use by waste experts, researchers, businesses and policymakers to share experience and skills.
The project, which included partners from universities, research and education institutes in seven African countries, also developed a curriculum for training the next generation of waste management experts on the continent.
Since the project ended in May 2012, at least three towns in western Africa have started the process to establish waste management systems based on IWWA’s blueprint. The towns – Obuasi and Mankranso in Ghana and Lakota, Ivory Coast – are now looking to secure funding from international bodies to proceed with implementing them.
“IWWA has promoted the development of appropriate waste management policies and implementation strategies at the national, regional and local levels as a means of improving the living and health conditions of Africans, while protecting the environment,” says project coordinator Mirko Hänel of TTZ Bremerhaven, a research institute in Germany.
He adds: “The network between Africa and Europe that resulted from the project has helped us to learn from our mutual experiences.”
The project focused its research on a representative sample of cities and towns in Ghana, Nigeria, Côte d'Ivoire and Senegal, but the blueprint can be adapted for any community in Africa and beyond, says Hänel.
After the project ended in May 2012, TTZ Bremerhaven took IWWA’s blueprint and adapted it for regions and countries in south-east Asia and Latin America, he adds.
“The waste streams may be very different as we found out in Asia, but IWWA’s guidelines can be adapted to the practical needs of almost any region or country,” he says. “About two thirds of the problems were similar.”
IWWA began by mapping the major barriers and waste problems in western Africa. Regional assessments allowed the project partners to tailor the research to conditions in the target countries.
The team found insufficient waste collection, inadequate transportation, and treatment and disposal practices were damaging human health and the environment in the target countries. Recycling was not a major consideration. The analyses provided by the project’s African partners of the current situation in the management of the most relevant industrial waste categories are noteworthy.
The researchers also analysed the best waste management practices in Europe and in other countries and on this basis made recommendations on the most appropriate technological and organisational solutions for western African countries. They also made recommendations on management and planning strategies.
Next, they organised information and training workshops and seminars to disseminate the results to policymakers, waste management experts and researchers.
“The participation of stakeholders during the whole project helped to ensure that the proposed measures will reach the relevant actors able to implement them,” says Hänel.