Out of Africa: CIWM and WasteAid’s projectin The Gambia circular economy sustainability

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In the first of a series of three articles on CIWM’s collaboration with WasteAid in The Gambia published in Circular, we meet the people and projects behind the programme and learn about a recent visit to the country by CIWM trustees, starting with the CIWM President, Anna Willetts.

WasteAid is a UK-based international non-governmental organisation (NGO) that specialises in helping countries better recover secondary resources and develop a more circular economy. It has projects in Cameroon, South Africa and, now – with the support of CIWM – The Gambia.

A pilot circular economy network has been established in the west-coast region of The Gambia, incorporating stakeholders with a focus on waste and recycling. This will assist with regional and cross-sector cooperation to help the country move its waste-management plans forward.

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In essence, the network is a “CIWM lite”, raising the profile of waste management in The Gambia and providing a platform for national stakeholders and CIWM members to collaborate.

The Gambia WasteAid CIWM

WasteAid and CIWM Trustees visited the west-coast region of The Gambia in February 2023.

This initiative aims to ensure that a professional network is established in the country, which can be sustained after the project completes. WasteAid’s vision is to deepen and widen its impact in The Gambia and implement collaborative and innovative sustainable resource-management practices.

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WasteAid and CIWM Trustees visited the west-coast region of The Gambia in February 2023. As well as visiting each of the projects, we were delighted to be granted audiences with senior figures in The Gambia who are key players in waste and circular economy developments.

Talib Ahmed Bensouda is the Lord Mayor of Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC) and is tasked with managing waste in The Gambia’s most populous municipality. He told us how, in the past six years, the KMC has set up a formal waste-collection system using a fleet of 24 collection trucks. These transport waste to the local “dump site” at Bakoteh.

It was fantastic to see the improvements that have been made since the Lord Mayor introduced the system, and how the streets in the locality are not now swimming in waste (literally so during the rainy season).

The fast progress that has been made in the short five years that Bensouda has been in office is incredible, along with his understanding of how the population consider and treat waste. This can be improved even more as time goes on, with assistance from the WasteAid/CIWM projects.

We were delighted to be granted audiences with senior figures in The Gambia who are key players in waste and circular economy developments.

It’s not all roses, though. The KMC still faces challenges, such as a lack of mechanics to maintain the fleet and difficulty in getting parts for the Chinese-made equipment.

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WasteAid has a strong collaboration with the ministry of environment in The Gambia. The previous Minister, Lamin Dibba, took part in roundtable discussions with WasteAid at COP26 in Glasgow, on the dangers of open burning.

The Gambia WasteAid CIWMI was great to see this collaboration continue and to meet the new minister for environment, climate change and natural resources, Rohey John Manjang. We discussed her views on waste management, the link to public health and the need for an emphasis on behaviour change.

This is particularly relevant in a country where healthcare is expensive and – for many remote communities – inaccessible. There is no NHS. Waste-management practices are heavily linked to health and hygiene, and Manjang fully recognises and understands that.

The British High Commissioner to The Gambia, David Belgrove, hosted an evening reception at which he described the work undertaken by WasteAid in the region, with input from CIWM. Myself and WasteAid CEO Ceris Turner-Bailes gave addresses to the audience, which included representatives from competition winner Plastic Recycling (Gambia) Ltd, Green Waste Initiative and African Swag.