British charity turns mess into an opportunity in Gambia


From Bakoteh dumpsite to Kotu Kuwareh, waste is the least scare thing any observer sees in The Gambia.

Worst, perhaps, of all the dumpsites in the country, which has given the authorities nightmare is the Bakoteh dumpsite.

In July this year, Yankuba Colley, the major within whose control the dumpsite falls, has met an Italian company call JMP Company Limited to sign a project designed to rehabilitate the long-festering Bakoteh dumpsite.

While signing the 2.2 million Euros contract with the chief executive of JMP Company Limited, Mario Pratolongo, the Mayor Confessed: “The management of waste in general continues to be a major challenge for

Bakoteh Dumpsite

Bakoteh Dumpsite

my council with problems experienced throughout the stages of waste management, i.e from the collection point to the main dumpsite at Bakoteh.”

But the British charity, WasteAid, appears to have turn that mess into an opportunity in the Brikama Municipal Council.

In the Brikama municipality alone, a city about 42 min drives from Banjul, around 350 tonnes is produced every day, according to WasteAid UK.

Brikama is one of the largest cities in the Gambia, lying south of the country’s capital, Banjul.

It is the headquarters of the BrikamaLocal Government Area (formerly the Western Division), being the largest city in the division with a population of over 57,000.

Its Area Council, local authorities, has eight tractors that could only, on a good day when all vehicles are working; have the capacity to collect 40 tonnes of waste.

“We then looked at the capacity of the area council, private sector and community groups to collect waste. This was a real eye-opener: most of the country’s waste is simply not collected, being left to local communities to deal with,” the charity said.

To increase waste diversion, the charity said it has built a training centre in Brikama to host local waste entrepreneurs, take in waste from the nearby market and demonstrate benefits of the technologies more widely.

“The site has been refurbished with covered areas, secure storage, running water, toilets and showers. Entrepreneurs will be able to develop their businesses, and it will host the briquetting and plastic recycling operations,” it said.

The charity is also building a composting site using a range of locally appropriate techniques along with a mulling site to produce animal feed and manure from fish waste.

The charity added: “We have helped Women’s Initiative The Gambia to train others on appropriate techniques, and the group has now trained 15 waste pickers.

“The word will now be spread to five other communities, and they will be provided with reprocessing kits to start management of their own waste in their communities – key when you have to deal with your own rubbish.

“All of this recycling activity creates jobs and distributes wealth – we are now paying D5 per kilogram for people to bring us waste plastic and organic waste. This creates an incentive for individuals to collect waste, helping to fill in that collection gap.

“So how do we get everyone else – local communities and private individuals – to collect the waste? Quite simply, WasteAid UK makes it worth their while by selecting a variety of simple reprocessing technologies to start turning rubbish into resources.

“Perhaps our biggest success has been in organic waste briquetting. We found that around 40% of municipal waste is organic and the major source of fuel for cooking is locally made charcoal, which is a major cause of deforestation in Gambia and neighbouring Senegal. Joining these two problems together, we started to research the potential for widely available carbon-rich organic wastes. From this, in partnership with local partner Women’s Initiative The Gambia, and using a basic briquetting technology developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s D-Lab, we started developing charcoal briquettes.

“It has gone much better than we ever dared hope. Widely available wastes, including mango and cashew nut leaves, coconut waste and paper, are carbonised in a simple oil drum set-up. Oxygen access is reduced and the drum left for around 30 minutes, then mixed with cassava starch, pounded and briquetted.

“Leave these to dry for couple of days and they can be used on stoves or to brew attaya, the potent local tea. The waste is widely available, the technology is simple and demand for the end market is widely established. What’s more, the business case is watertight: our research shows that a profit of D1,000 (£15) a day can be made – in a country where a labourer earns D1,500 a month.”

The charity said it has also looked at simple plastic reprocessing, using a technology developed by the Living Earth Foundation, to develop flooring tiles.

“Each slab contains around 2.5kg of LDPE, widely used as plastic bags and water bags. Our analysis found that around 20% of all waste in the area was plastic and 60% of this plastic was film LDPE. The slabs retail for around D30,” it said.


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