University waste management project boosts agriculture, health among local community
Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2019/06/university-waste-management-project-boosts-agriculture-health-among-local-community/
By Douglas Olum
“A deteriorating urban environment is the enemy of sustainable development. Protecting the environment is not an alternative to economic growth—it is a precondition of efficient, economic development.”
In respect to this United Nations sustainable development goal, the Uganda Christian University (UCU) Faculty of Science and Technology’s Department of Engineering and Environment, has a project focused on waste management. With the assistance of a $3,000 grant from UCU Partners through the university’s Institute for Faith, Learning and Service, the department built a prototype of two composters and an incinerator to help conserve the environment while also boosting agriculture and health in a low-income community in Mukono.
“People knew that they had the wastes, and they were concerned about its possible implications, but they did not know how to manage it,” Kenneth Econi Yikii, a teaching assistant and demonstrator at the department, said during an interview, “But from the time we set up that pilot project, there has been very positive response from the community that people want more of it.”
Rodgers Tayebwa, a lecturer at the department, said the project was conceived after an assessment that revealed the need among the community around the university.
“We realized that a lot of solid wastes were being produced but, while the community could use the wastes for boosting their agricultural output, they were being disposed as unwanted materials,” Tayebwa said.
Under the project, 10 students were selected based on a concept writing competition organized by the department. Their concepts were then merged with ideas from their lecturers to generate the designs for two plastic and metallic composters (double-decker composters), and an incinerator. The design came after a series of processes, including mapping the area, a baseline survey, waste characterization and selection of the pilot households.
At least 40 households were selected for the waste characterization process to determine the kinds of wastes most produced in the area. Bio-degradable wastes (dead organisms, kitchen waste, etc.) were found to be the most, followed by plastics.
At least two composters and an incinerator were installed in Basiima Kikooza village, in the outskirts of Mukono town. This village was chosen after being identified by local authorities as the most vulnerable to the outbreak of hygiene-related diseases such as cholera because of their poor waste management. About 30 households are now benefitting from the project that has not only improved their health, but also their agricultural yield.
The beneficiaries dispose of their bio-degradable wastes (unwanted material that can rot), and continuously turn them from time to time to ensure oxygen circulation, until they are ready for transfer to the second decker that transforms them into organic manure. From there, they are collected and spread directly into the farmers’ gardens.
According to Yiiki, the bananas and bean crops in the farmers’ gardens look greener. There are no flies gathering around in large numbers to feast on household wastes like food. Plastics and polythene bags, which do not easily decompose, are sorted and either incinerated or sold out to companies that recycle them. This has increased the household income of the members who sort out and sell recyclable items while reducing the potential breeding space for mosquitoes, which may transmit malaria.
When the monitoring team last visited the project site in February, the farmers had already collected manure at least twice from each of the composters since their installation in January.
Tayebwa said the involvement of students has been key for their learning, and was also highly appreciated by the community. He said as they continue to monitor the pilot project, they hope that more funds will be availed for the same project in future so that they are able to reach out and give back to more members of the community surrounding the university.
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