Columnists Features

Turning wheels towards eco-friendly spaces

HANDBAGS and other items made from recycled plastics and other materials by Chikumbuso, a community-based enterprise.

LILLIAN BANDA, Lusaka
IT HAS become abundantly clear that there is an urgent need to conserve nature and natural resources so that future generations can benefit from the earth’s resources. It is for this reason that many programmes targeted at educating the general public and encouraging them to actively participate in environmental sustainability are in place all over the world.

These measures call for among other things developing habits and lifestyles that help to reduce pollution in the air, land and in water bodies.

Reducing the amount of waste that is being produced by using things that can be used more than once and ensuring proper disposal of hazardous waste materials is key to the realisation of a cleaner and safer planet.
Simple steps such as opting to carry a reusable shopping bag instead of getting new plastic bags whenever you go shopping or using an improved brazier which uses less charcoal for cooking can help to lower pollution levels as well as promote sustainable use of natural resources without lowering your lifestyle. Such seemingly small steps can have a huge impact on the environment.
It is good to note that some private individuals and corporations are already taking steps towards protecting natural habitats.
“There is a wealth of information online and other communication channels on a wide range of information about how to protect the environmental and ways by which different stakeholders can play their part,” says Chansa Chali, a resident of Lusaka who is an ardent supporter of the use of smart technologies for development.
Chali, who is a teacher of science and mathematics at one of the private schools in Lusaka has advised stakeholders to invest more in sensitisation programmes that aim at reaching out to the masses with information on the benefits of the use of eco-friendly technologies in everyday life.
“Such information should be packaged in a simple and straight forward manner so as to generate the public’s interest in these innovations and encourage a culture of using eco-friendly tools in our daily undertakings,” he says.
And Chikumbuso, a grassroots project in Lusaka’s Ng’ombe that provides an alternative lifestyle to the most vulnerable women and children in the township is already taking steps aimed at conserving natural resources and protecting natural habitats.
The organisation runs an income generating project that involves making a range of items from recycled plastic materials. Items made from recycled plastic materials include handbags, purses and bags for carrying bottles.
The project has turned recycled plastic containers into mini vegetable gardens where tomatoes, onions and some other vegetables are cultivated. It is a balcony arrangement kind of garden which demonstrates that lack of land for a backyard garden is no longer an excuse.
The organisation also uses rocket stoves, which are eco-friendly to prepare food for over 500 project beneficiaries. These energy efficient stoves only require a few pieces of wood to prepare a meal.
“We are a community of people that seek to promote environmental sustainability as well as empowering target groups with the appropriate tools for them to make decisions that help to reduce their carbon footprint.
Sustainable use of natural resources is beneficial to both people and their surroundings. On our part, using rocket stoves to prepare meals have proved to be not only cost-effective and efficient but also good for the environment. We feed about 500 people a day, so it would be costly to use charcoal or electricity,” explains Chikumbuso School headteacher Gertrude Banda.
Ms Banda further says the organisations has set up plastic bag collection points in selected schools and business places.
“We explain to them that we use the recycled plastic bags to make various handcrafts,” she adds.
The Chikumbuso Women and Orphans Project, began in 2005 as a response to problems and challenges as a result of HIV and AIDS.
A lot of families in the community had been devastated by HIV and AIDS and they found themselves without any means to earn money to care for their growing households.
Chikumbuso runs a community school that provides free education from nursery through to grade seven. The school also provides lunch and various after school activities for children who are beneficiaries of the project.
The organisation also runs capacity building programmes, income generating activities and community building programmes for widows and single mothers.
Chikumbuso means remembrance. The organisation is a safe haven for children who find themselves in circumstances that would either end or sidetrack their education. The children are given food, clothing, and shelter.
The women have a micro enterprise through which they make purses, wine carriers and other fashion accessories using plastic bags.
This business gives them a stable income and a way to provide for their families with dignity. The aforementioned items are sold both locally and internationally.
The handbag project began with just a few recycled Shoprite bags, a crochet hook and a pair of scissors.
Today, Chikumbuso which comprises widows and vulnerable youths has grown whereas their skills as artists, entrepreneurs and handcraft designers have improved over the years.
The women who have benefitted from Chikumbuso now provide home-based care and support to senior citizens within the community who are often on the verge of destitution. These senior citizens receive material support in the form of food, mattress and other items.

 

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