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Easy urban composting solution: No garden? No problem!

Easy urban composting solution: No garden? No problem! published on 1 Comment on Easy urban composting solution: No garden? No problem!

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.

What are you waiting for? Download a .pdf guide to building your simple composting bin here!

Rooftop composting is easy
Rooftop composting is easy

 

Just add kitchen and garden waste and let nature do the work
Just add kitchen and garden waste and let nature do the work
All you need is a bucket or bowl, some wire, and some cardboard
All you need is a bucket or bowl, some wire, and some cardboard

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.

 

14 easy and free sustainable solutions you can start today!

14 easy and free sustainable solutions you can start today! published on No Comments on 14 easy and free sustainable solutions you can start today!
Save 1.5 litres water per flush!
Save 1.5 litres water per flush!

Becoming more sustainable can sometimes seem like a lot of work – but there are so many things we can all do very easily, that cost nothing, and may even save money!

I have therefore compiled a list of 14 very easy and free Zanzibar-appropriate ideas that any of us can introduce at home or at work immediately, without any need for special training or special equipment or anything complicated at all. There are ideas to save energy, to save water, to reduce waste, and more.

I’m sure you have more ideas of your own, so please share them in the comments below.

Let’s all do something to make a difference today!

Recycling collection point now open in Stone Town!

Recycling collection point now open in Stone Town! published on No Comments on Recycling collection point now open in Stone Town!

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.

Photo: 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.

Henna-handed: A lesson in listening, learning and shelving our assumptions

Henna-handed: A lesson in listening, learning and shelving our assumptions published on 2 Comments on Henna-handed: A lesson in listening, learning and shelving our assumptions

Amid the hustle and bustle of (relatively) cosmopolitan Stone Town, Zanzibar’s only city, people of all nationalities mingle on every street – camera-toting tourists lost in the winding bazaars will inevitably encounter groups of young local children playing games in the street, looking adorable, and the children are accustomed to being photographed. If you raise your camera to ask permission to take a picture (courteous photographers always ask), the children will more than likely pose enthusiastically – and love to look at the image on the back of your camera afterwards. In fact, starting to take photographs will often result in more and more children emerging from nearby buildings to get in on the action.

Step away from the tourist areas, however, and taking photographs becomes a different matter altogether. Young children in rural communities may never have seen a white person before, and be terrified at the very sight of us. In particularly isolated regions of the country, there is even a cultural belief that to take a person’s photo is to take a piece of their soul. To photograph a person uninvited is therefore perceived as a gross personal violation and one of which travelling photographers should be extremely aware. If you raise your camera to indicate a request to take a photograph in such an area, the potential subjects will raise their hands to the camera (children may even run away screaming). In these cases the message is abundantly clear: no photographs. However sometimes the message can be more ambiguous: perhaps one person will nod permission and pose, but the person next to them will raise the palm of their hand in front of the lens to say ‘no’. I’ve accidentally taken photographs like this, and I delete them.

The other day, in Stone Town, I was sitting in a café working, when some children from the neighbourhood came and stared in through the window a couple of feet away from me. I know these kids by sight as I pass this way most days. Adorable as they are, they were getting a bit persistent in trying to engage me in conversation and I was trying to concentrate.

There are bars in the café window through which the children were peering, and I joked on facebook (I was distracted from my work by this point!) that their staring made me feel as though I were an exhibit in a zoo. I was tempted to roar at them. They then started playing peep-bo with me to get my attention, and the temptation became unresistable. Smiling, I treated them to my best fierce animal impression. They jumped, and then burst into peals of laughter.

My concentration thoroughly broken, I got out my camera to take (with their enthusiastic permission) a couple of photos of them. I showed them the pictures, and more children came to the window till there were about five little faces entreating ‘Picha picha!’ So I took more, showing the pictures as I went along.

Then, to my astonishment, one of the girls raised her hand in front of the lens, front and central in the picture. I lowered the camera and looked at her for clarification. In shamba (rural areas) this would be expected, and photographs unwelcome – but these kids were urban, they knew me, and were soliciting my attention, not the other way round; moments earlier she had had no problem. What had changed? What had I done?

The other children continued to call out to me: Picha! Picha! But she was still waving the palm of her hand in front of my face. I lifted the camera to photograph the others but leave her out… but she only called out louder. What should I do?

Now, I like to think I know a bit about the Zanzibar culture. I like to believe that I am culturally sensitive, relatively experienced at local nuances, and that I know how to read the signs. I usually feel as though my Swahili (rudimentary though it is) is enough to understand the general tone of the message people are trying to convey. But here, I was baffled. How had I upset her? What had I done wrong?

At long, long last, realisation dawned. I’d been overthinking completely. I finally picked up on what she was calling out:  Heena! Heena!

I had completely misunderstood her: I couldn’t have got it more wrong.

‘Heena’ was what she was saying to me: and heena was what she was showing me! Her hands had been painted with henna, a traditional custom in Swahili culture for Eid, the celebration of the end of Ramadan a few days earlier.

And she was just a little girl, showing me her beautiful Heena and asking me to photograph her pretty hands…

So I did.

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All photographs ©Nell Hamilton

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