RAISING AWARENESS OF COVID-19 IN INFORMAL SETTLEMENTS
Cities Alliance was one of the first organisations to conduct outreach and social mobilisation on preventing the spread of COVID-19 in Greater Monrovia’s informal settlements. In response to the outbreak, we launched an awareness and outreach campaign in 50 communities across Monrovia and Paynesville.
Starting 25 March, social mobilisers began driving through the communities with loudspeakers disseminating messages about basic hygiene practices, waste management, and the potential impact of the virus outbreak on women. 750 posters, with educational messages about preventative measures and waste management in public spaces, have also been distributed.
The outreach targets mainly informal settlements, where existing conditions such as overcrowding, informality of work, and a shortage of services make it difficult for residents to engage in social distancing and adhere to hygiene and lockdown procedures.
SUPPORTING CBEs TO KEEP WASTE WORKERS SAFE
Waste pickers are at the frontline in fighting COVID-19. On 10 April Cities Alliance Liberia donated protective equipment to the National Association of Community Based Enterprises (NACOBE), including masks, gloves, and handwashing kits, while also providing megaphones and reflective jackets to coordinators for the dissemination of information in the communities. 40 CBEs benefitted from the donation. In Greater Monrovia, the Community Based Enterprises (CBEs) continue to collect waste from households, but their work is being challenged by the lockdown restrictions, limiting the time for collection and the inability of customers to pay for the service due to the economic downturn. We are currently developing a set of additional prevention resources to help CBE’s decrease their risks. The new materials will be made available in May 2020.
Against the background of the current Coronavirus pandemic, the Liberia Country Programme is striving to provide a comprehensive support to the most vulnerable communities. While all of our waste related activities in response to the crisis are funded by the EU, Cities Alliance is also actively supporting the Liberian Government, through the provision of 225 handwashing stations for the markets in Greater Monrovia, with funding from Comic Relief.
MEDIA WORKSHOP: REPORTING ON THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF WASTE MANAGEMENT
On 28 February, Cities Alliance hosted a workshop in Monrovia for the media. 23 Liberian journalists took part in the event, which focused on waste management from the climate action perspective. While the issue in Liberia is often discussed in the context of sanitation and health, less is known about its impact on the environment.
Hannah Geterminah, a Liberian journalist who has reported on environmental issues since 2018 was one of the participants. The workshop helped change her views on waste both as a person and a reporter: “Before, I bagged my waste and waited for the waste collector to take it to the reinforced bins as instructed by the city corporation. As a result of the training, my attitude towards waste has changed,” she noted. “I often separate my waste, reuse some items, and always reduce my consumption to avoid creating more waste. I am able to salvage other items such as plastic bottles to reuse before the door-to-door collection takes place.”
She is now using her reporting to convey the environmental and financial opportunities of waste management. “In my writing, I am able to show how converting waste into energy prevents deforestation,” she noted. She also recommends that journalists receive some support to pursue more stories on waste, environment and pollution, including protective gear to prevent exposure to hazards while visiting waste sites as part of their reporting.
The training was part of the EU funded waste management projects being currently implemented by Cities Alliance in Liberia.
MOBILISING AND EMPOWERING WOMEN IN THE WASTE SECTOR
Liberia’s women contribute significantly to the national economy. They engage in street vending, petty trading, domestic labour, subsistence farming, seasonal agriculture, and waste management, among others.
Despite their important role in the economy, they face significant challenges such as lack of access to credit and banking services, limited financial literacy and business training, limited social protection and childcare options, social exclusion from management, exposure to health risk and hazards, deplorable work and living conditions, harassment, and discrimination. They also tend to be more vulnerable; 77% of Liberian women are self-employed, compared to 40% of men, and 65% of informal laborers are women.
To help Community-based Enterprises (CBEs) address some of these gaps and empower women, Cities Alliance organised a training on gender in Monrovia on 6 March. The training focused on gender concepts, equality, gender mainstreaming, and gender-based violence. It included both men and women, who engaged enthusiastically; 92% of female participants shared personal experiences, made suggestions, and offered solutions for empowering women in the waste sector.
Male participants shared personal stories supporting women’s inclusion and equality. “We need to empower our women as leaders,” said one of them.“At first I prevented my wife from doing any work or business, but through her persistence she became self-employed and supported our family equally.”
LIBERIAN BUSINESSES BENEFITTING FROM HOME BIOGAS UNITS
The Tropicana Beach and Resort in Paynesville is one of ten Liberian businesses that has benefited from a home biogas unit. The system is allowing the hotel to save money on the purchase of cooking gas and manufactured manured used to fertilise its garden.
The Tropicana used to purchase cooking gas and the delivery was often delayed due to its distance from Monrovia. The resort also struggled to manage the food waste generated by its restaurant each day. “A lot of food waste would spill over from the bins and cause ants to gather and roam around the lodge. But as a result of the home biogas unit, that waste has been reduced and we are also using the gas produced from the waste for cooking,” said Seaborn Kwesi Carter, operations manager at the resort.
“I am very careful not to include acidic food waste such as lime or vinegar to the home biogas unit because it will destroy the bacteria and prevent the conversion of the waste to gas,” said Eric Dubhrey, responsible for feeding the biogas unit. He was trained by Cities Alliance team to ensure the maintenance of the system.
The home biogas units are anaerobic digesters made of biodegradable materials and bacteria that converts food waste into methane gas and liquid slur fertiliser. They provide between 1.5 and 6 hours of free, clean cooking gas daily and produce a natural bio-slur liquid fertiliser. The ten pilots in Greater Monrovia are part of the Implementing Waste-to-Energy Innovative Approaches project, funded by the EU.