Somehow a year appears to have passed since I last posted here… I suppose I’ve just been very busy. I’ve made some changes around Ecologue – I’ve moved the Sustainable East Africa content to a new domain – so check out the Sustainable East Africa website for news about my work (and what’s been keeping me busy all this time)!
I’ll be back with a proper post shortly, but for now, here’s a piece of art by Laurel Burch, which adorns my notebook (as in pulped dead tree bound together (from a sustainable source, of course) not my computer).
Life is chaotic here in Zanzibar, fluctuating wildly from utterly bewildering or tragic to simply spectacular, and everything in between except boredom. It’s necessary every now and again to take a step back and just accept things. Being reminded of it by these words whenever I get out my notebook is a daily reminder.
The Zanzibar Municipal Council (Manispaa) has capacity at the moment to collect only 30% of the waste produced in Stone Town.
But 80% of the waste produced in Stone Town is organic!
All our kitchen waste and cardboard boxes could be turned into compost! Instead, it is blocking up the waste system, and the organic material is what makes waste smell when it rots in uncollected piles in abandoned corners, attracts pests which spread disease – and contaminates the groundwater, which hundreds of people drink.
There are moves afoot to establish some kind of municipal scale urban composting system with different aid agencies and local counterparts exploring the potential. It will be fantastic when it is in place, and Sustainable East Africa, our partners Manispaa Jamii Vikokotoni, and many others are hard at work to find a solution. But this will of course take some time to establish.
However, there is absolutely no reason why we can’t start doing something about it now.
Most of you who live in town probably believe you can’t compost because you haven’t got a garden – but I can reassure you from experience that it doesn’t matter at all. As long as you have a tiny corner of outside space, then you have room to make a compost bin. I will show you how I did it.
I built a cheap and simple bin on my balcony – and it works extremely well. As long as you don’t let it get too waterlogged, and cover kitchen waste with leaves, a layer of soil, brown paper bags or brown cardboard, it won’t smell, and it won’t attract flies.
Top tip: keep a small bucket in the kitchen lined with a paper bag to collect the peelings in, and you can put it, bag and all, straight in the composter, so there’s no mess!
The great thing about composting is that as the material breaks down, its volume gets smaller and smaller, so even quite a small bin will take a seemingly infinite volume of waste. I’ve had mine for over a year and we still haven’t filled it!
Your organic waste will be separated from the rest of your rubbish – so the kitchen bin won’t smell (meaning you don’t have to empty it as often). And if you recycle the plastic and metal and glass as well then you will find you only need the tiniest bin for the rubbish that is left. Honestly – almost all of the waste you produce can – and should be – recycled or composted.
Still unsure? Here’s my compost bin which has been consuming all our organic waste for the past year. And I shared the idea with Suzanne Degeling from Kawa Tours, who tried it out successfully, and she has kindly written a step-by step guide with illustrations so you can easily follow to build one yourself.
As Suzanne did, I suggest you make two. When the first is full, start filling the second, by which time the first one should be ready! If you have a garden – it’s even easier to make a compost bin. Use exactly the same approach, minus the bucket at the bottom. Worms and other useful creatures will move up from the soil beneath and help your compost break down even faster.
Haven’t even got the outside space for that?
If you’re feeling inspired, but have no outside space at all and don’t think this would work for you, how about this easy wormery idea! There’s no need for a square box as big as this: just drill small holes in a bucket and its lid for ventilation, and keep it on a tray. This could even be kept in the kitchen under the sink, as the article suggests. To find the worms to start it off, you will need to visit someone’s garden or a farm and dig a little. But once you’ve got happy worms they will breed rapidly and you can share them with other people.
The trick with any kind of composting is to make sure there’s a good mix of brown stuff, like dry leaves or cardboard, and green stuff, like vegetable peelings and other kitchen waste. It should be damp, but not wet, that flies can’t get to the waste, and that there is plenty of space for air to circulate. If you try it – let us know, and we can share your pictures too!
I am sorry that these materials are only in English at the moment, I will upload Kiswahili translations as soon as they are ready! If anyone is interested to help out with translations of these kind of materials, I would love to hear from you. In the mean time, for anyone with a garden, there is a fantastic Kiswahili guide to making compost that you can read or download here.
There are also sections contributed by various Zanzibar projects, organisations and businesses involved in recycling and education about waste (including Sustainable East Africa).
Congratulations to ACRA and Ulli for a phenomenal publication and essential resource for anyone doing environmental outreach in Zanzibar and thank you so much for giving me permission to make it available online here on Ecologue.
You may be wondering why am I raving so much about this book in particular? Well the thing is – an education resource is only any good if it is used. You can compile all the pertinent information in the world into the most comprehensive resource – but if nobody ever uses it, then you may as well not bother. And I love this book because I have seen first hand that people want to read it. The information is presented in an easy-to follow, simple, straightforward and relevant way, and is all about Zanzibar.
And when I gave a copy to members of the PLCI Environment Club (SEA partners) during a clean-up day recently in Vikokotoni – every time I looked, a different student was reading it.
I have started topics on composting and sustainable seafood. But if you have a sustainable project that you are proud of and would like to share – whether it’s a rainwater catchment system, recycling bin set up, solar power system – or anything – then please let us see. I will showcase the best ideas on the blog to give you exposure.
And if you have any questions about how other people are solving a particular problem that you are stuck on, then start a conversation about it and see who can help.
There’s an extra bonus for any hotels who are working towards RTTZ (Responsible Tourism Tanzania) certification: participating an online environmental forum is one of the criteria used for evaluating eligibility for sapling-level certification, so join the conversation and tick that box.
There are few sustainability challenges experienced in Zanzibar that have not been solved already by someone, somewhere, so I hope this forum will help us avoid reinventing the wheel and enable everyone concerned about sustainability to find the solutions they need (and that work) that bit more easily.
I have created a Sustainability Directory for Zanzibar (and the Swahili Coast), including links for sustainable initiatives, NGOs and projects, and information about how we can live more sustainably.
I hope it will be a useful resource for everyone in Zanzibar who is interested in the environment, recycling, sustainability and other related issues. – Check it out here.
This is just the start, and I know I have missed many exciting and important projects, so I hope you will help make the resource as comprehensive as possible by suggesting additional links I might have missed through the form provided on the Directory page, or contact me if the information about your initiative is incorrect.
Did you know there is now a recycling collection point in Stone Town? Sustainable East Africa together with partners Manispaa Jamii Vikokotoni, and with funding from SMOLE / GoZ Dept Environment, have built two recycling trolleys for Vikokotoni!
So you can now take all your plastic bottles and cans to our recycling trolley outside Barclays in Darajani!
Materials collected will be upcycled locally where possible, or if unsuitable, will be sold for their scrap value to exporters to provide sustainaable funding for Vikokotoni’s community clean-up programe.
I’ve been working on the following infographic to share as a leaflet with people and let them know the impact plastic waste can have on the fish we depend on for food and livelihoods. What do you think?!
(approximate) English translation below the graphic
Waste is killing our fish!
Do you like to eat fish?
Are there fishers in your family?
Do you know what this is? Fishers use plastic bait like this to catch fish.
If fish eat these … what do you think they do with these?
This fish ate a plastic gun!
When fish eat plastic, it blocks their stomachs and kills them!
Marine and coastal litter is killing our fish!
Don’t dump waste in streets or on the beach.
Keep our coastal communities CLEAN!
Let’s clean up Zanzibar together …
to protect our fish and fishing!
If you’ve been wondering what work Sustainable East Africa, the NGO I founded here in Zanzibar, is doing, you can now read all about our programme, partners and activities on Ecologue!
So to learn how waste plastic water bottles helped provide water for a rural community, how young school leavers are earning sustainable income for the first time, or how a community transformed its streets to become clean and healthy – have a look around!