By Mantoe Phakathi
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is supporting the Kingdom of Eswatini to address one of the most pressing issues that the country is facing – waste management.
This follows the announcement of the E9 Million ($600 000) award from the UNDP COVID-19 Rapid Facility to the Kingdom of Eswatini in February which gave birth to the Waste Management for Improved Livelihoods and Resilience Initiative. Eswatini Environmental Authority is leading the implementation of the project on behalf of the Government.
Speaking at the Initiative’s inception workshop, UNDP Resident Representative, Ms Rose Ssebatindira, said waste management was further worsened by COVID-19-related waste which requires appropriate handling and disposal.
The workshop was presided over by the Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Hon. Moses Vilakati, as a guest speaker, attracted experts from the government, representatives from the private sector and partners from the waste management sector. The workshop's main objective was to solicit inputs from the stakeholders on the implementation plan.
“The solutions to our waste challenge require a collective effort and innovative thinking by all stakeholders across the waste value chain,” said Ms Ssebatindira.
She said, although the project has a short timeline for implementation (January 2021 – June 2022), it is envisaged that it will create a platform that will facilitate the sharing of innovative ideas, collaboration, inform policy for sustainable financing resulting in lasting improvements in the waste sector, spearheaded by women and youth.
Ms Ssebatindira emphasised the importance of developing inclusive business models and establishing a financing facility to enable small businesses in the waste sector to continue to access funding from financial institutions, development agencies and the GEF Small Grants Programme implemented in partnership with UNDP, beyond the Initiative timeframe.
She said this Initiative comes at an opportune time to support Eswatini’s Green Recovery Path, highlighted in the Nationally Determined Contributions, which recognises the interlinkages between the environment and the economy by strengthening economic, social, and environmental outcomes.
“This is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals which recognise that individual SDGs cannot be achieved on their own, but through a nexus approach because of their interconnected nature,” said Ssebatindira.
Addressing the same meeting, Hon. Vilakati expressed the government’s gratitude to UNDP adding that the organization has partnered with the Ministry on several initiatives aimed at sustainable development including the Phatsa Sakho Nawe campaign.
On the Waste Initiative Project, Hon. Vilakati said sound management of waste is fundamental in meeting the country’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement which advocates for the reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions.
“In terms of the national greenhouse emissions inventory the waste sector contributes up to 5 per cent of global greenhouse emissions,” said Hon. Vilakati.
He said the nature and complexity of waste in Eswatini has been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic where new streams of waste in the form of disposable masks are indiscriminately littered all over the country.
“It must also be noted that conventional approaches to solid waste management which focus on collection and disposal have proven unsuitable over the years,” he said.
Hon. Vilakati assured the nation that about E5 million (USD360,000) of the total project grant from UNDP has been set aside to support six innovative waste management projects, 50 per cent of which will be allocated to women and youth projects.
“It has been observed that informal waste pickers recover about 20 per cent of total recyclable waste, thereby diverting hundreds of tonnes of waste away from landfill and into recycling streams,” he said.
He noted that if municipalities were to perform this service alone, it would cost the government about 20–30 per cent of the average annual budgets allocated to local urban governments.
Hon. Vilakati further noted that the implementation of this project, as outlined in the project work plan, will yield substantial improvement of the informal waste pickers' working conditions and incomes, thereby improving livelihoods.
(Mantoe Phakathi is the Communication Specialist at UNDP Eswatini)