Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Hon. Moses Vilakati, and UNDP Eswatini Resident Representative, Rose Ssebatindira. Photo credit: UNDP Eswatini

By Mantoe Phakathi

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has allocated $600 000 (E9 million) to the Kingdom of Eswatini for sustainable waste management.  The support, extended through the UNDP COVID-19 Rapid Financing Facility, is for the implementation of the Waste Management for Improved Livelihoods and Resilience Initiative in Eswatini. This project will also create business opportunities for the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).

This support comes at a time when the country is currently witnessing the impact of Cyclone Eloise and the COVID-19 pandemic which is not only slowing development progress but also reversing gains made.

Addressing a virtual press conference on Feb. 18, UNDP Eswatini Resident Representative, Rose Ssebatindira, said it is important to integrate entrepreneurship and climate change actions to better mitigate and adapt to multiple shocks as an important green recovery pathway from COVID-19. The press conference was held jointly with the Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Hon. Moses Vilakati.

“One of the most pressing issues facing the country, as it responds to the pandemic, is the management of COVID-19 waste,” Ssebatindira said, adding: “The disposal of used masks, testing kits and reagents require a management system that will prevent littering and re-infections while generating income.”

She said this initiative is in line with The Kingdom of Eswatini’s COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan and is designed to address the impacts of COVID-19 through innovative low-carbon solutions to enhance green economic recovery. It is also in line with UNDP’s inclusive economic growth strategy as outlined in the Country Programme Document (CPD 2021-2025), underpinned by the principle of “leaving no one behind”.

The Waste Management for Improved Livelihoods and Resilience Initiative takes advantage of lessons learnt from a UNDP-supported “Waste for Jobs” pilot project – at Matsapha Town Council – that benefited 114 households. It also draws inspiration from the no single-use plastic bag campaign, “Phatsa Sakho Nawe”, an initiative supported by UNDP and implemented by The Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Affairs and the private sector, towards keeping Eswatini clean.

“There are indicative signs of positive behavioural change towards single-use plastic bags from this campaign as reported by Eswatini Observer, in its February 03 edition that ‘Vukani Bomake women project generated over E80 000 from the sale of reusable shopping bags, as an alternative to single-use plastic bags, in less than three months’,” said Ssebatindira.

In response, Vilakati acknowledge the challenge brought by COVID-19 to which the Ministry responded by setting up a committee to help mobilise climate finance available globally. This initiative is a result of one of the six proposals that were successful.

“This project will develop an inclusive strategy to strengthen waste sector policy, legislation, institutional coordination and capacity building,” said Vilakati.

He also said, among the outputs of the project, is a study that will form the basis for recyclable materials from household, commercial and industrial facilities to identify business opportunities in the waste management to attract more funding to the sector. The 18-month project has a strong bias towards women and the youth who form the largest group among MSMEs.

Mantoe Phakathi is the Communication Specialist at UNDP. Email: mantoe.phakathi@undp.org

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