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Concrete made from plastic; biogas from human waste; sanitary pads from banana peels. Staiy shares how innovative sustainable projects in Africa set an example for the rest of the world and empower their own communities.

Words By Dina Abedini Niknam


For this week’s #SUSTAINABILITYWEDNESDAY, Staiy wants to highlight three sustainable projects in developing countries. This time around, our focus will lie on Africa. We want to start by raising awareness for three of many innovative accomplishments in the field of sustainability in Africa as well as to give credit where credit is due. At the end of the day, we are all striving towards a greener planet, hence it only makes sense to champion those of us who are taking the lead and the necessary steps forward. 

First let’s take a trip west to Ghana. The sustainable project we at Staiy chose to focus on was what is now the Nelplast Ghana Limited. What we really want to highlight throughout this article is the level of brilliance and innovation. Starting off with Nelplast, this industrial company is the brainchild of Mr. Nelson Boateng. An engineer by degree, Boateng came up with a way to break down plastic waste, and then use it to make concrete blocks. Nelplast’s mission is to be a leader in plastic recycling and innovation, all the while working for the benefit of both the environment and the people. “Our vision is to go beyond the ordinary […] This we believe requires dedication and innovation without compromising on environmental issues” nor the “health and safety standards at the workplace”.

To the east in the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, we find Shitaye, Tigist and Friends. At first glance, it is a regular local eatery, so what makes this restaurant so intriguing? It is the fact that they have secured the unofficial title of the country’s “first environmentally-friendly restaurant”. This sustainable project runs entirely on biogas which is made using human waste collected through a nearby public bathroom. According to Youmatter, biogas is made in the absence of oxygen, which makes this process an anaerobic digestion. “Simply put, there’s a fermentation process that breaks down organic matter, turning what once was waste into a source of energy that can be used to heat, cool, cook, or for regular electricity production, once it’s burned.” Jane Wharton, writing for The Reporter Ethiopia, says that the process takes about a month and produces not only gas, but also slurry that is “taken to nearby farms and used as crop fertilizer”.

The 15 women who work at the restaurant run the show, with Tigist Eshetu as the team leader. Eshetu told The Reporter Ethiopia that the women’s “lives have completely changed for the better since the restaurant came” and that they are able to send their children to school as well as maintain a balanced diet in their own homes. The Emmanuel Development Association (EDA) is the local NGO that established the restaurant. Tessema Bekele (PhD), Founder and Executive Director of the EDA, shared that “The EDA believes in a community-led and community-driven approach […] it means the community is empowered and they make the positive changes in their own community […] They just needed a start. But after that, they now decide their own destiny instead of someone else deciding it for them.” Staiy wants to take a moment to applaud this way of thinking and once again highlight the real stars of this sustainable project, the ethiopian women: Shitaye, Tigist and [their] Friends.

Lastly, going further south, we saw Sylvere Mwizerwa make heads turn in 2013 with his sustainable project idea. At that time, Mwizerwa was the Rwandan country head of operations for Sustainable Health Enterprise (SHE). In this role, Mwizerwa tackled the lack of affordable hygienic products available to the girls and women of his community by using banana waste. He worked “with more than 600 banana growers, mostly women and girls from poor communities, to produce” his product. Moreover, he provides them “with the necessary banana fibre extraction skills. Today they are able to produce banana fibres and sell them to SHE, which are then transformed into the fluff to make sanitary pads”.

Mwizerwa even added that the Rwandan women and girls involved would be able to open their own franchises as they “will be taught basic accounting skills in order to empower them to run their own businesses. Since then, Mwizerwa has accomplished a lot with his various sustainable projects, from working to benefit women coffee growers as deputy director of social enterprise at Sustainable Harvest Rwanda Limited/Relationship Coffee Institute to now helping first time entrepreneurs run their businesses as part of Village Enterprise. Once again, Staiy salutes the education and empowerment of the community that is involved in this project.

To learn more about sustainable projects in Africa, as well as accomplishments and innovations of the african community, you can go to She Is Africa, Sustainable Aid Enterprises, and The United Nations Development Programme.