Creating employment for youth through plastic that is removed from Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria, also known as Lake Nyanza1 is one of the African Great Lakes. It is Africa’s largest by area and the world’s largest tropical lake2. Lake Victoria is the source of the longest river in the Uganda, also the disputed longest river in the world3. The River Nile has been described as the ‘donor of life to Egypt’.4 Fishing has been the major economic activity around the lake for decades. Between the 1950s and 1960s, Nile perch and Nile tilapia were introduced in Lake Victoria to supplement local fish that had reduced due to over fishing.

Micro plastics however, have been in use around the world for the last sixty (60) years6. Their abundance in the lake is highest in areas of the lake associated with more intensive human activities. There’s growing concern about the survival of fish in areas that have been polluted. Gastrointestinal tracts of locally fished Nile perch (Lates niloticus) and Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) have been examined for plastics and Plastics have been confirmed in 20% of fish from each species.7 Unemployment, low standards of living as well as risk to public health is the result of the pollution.

Richard Kimbowa, the director of Uganda Coalition for Sustainable Development, said that economically, it is bad to deplete the Nile perch. “It is a source of foreign exchange for the country as well as employment." H.E. Y. K Museveni said that 21 factories were processing a total of 36,614 tonnes of fish per year, worth $144m (about sh517.3b) and that today, the surviving factories earn only $123.1m (about sh441.5b). He added that they were employing 5,600 permanent workers, and the ones surviving today are employing 2,200 permanent workers.”

As Creative Youth Agency, we are engaging youths in removing plastic waste from Ggaba landing site in a bid to save the Lake. We, together with the leadership of

Ggaba through the chairman Mzee Ssebina, have engaged and empowered the youth to not only remove the plastic, but also benefit from it. Mr. Ssebina says the people in the region believe “enyaanja tejjula” which directly translates to “a lake doesn’t fill up”. This has prompted the people to dump waste in it and also use it as a “flying toilet”.

We continue to remove waste from the lake as well as the trenches. Through our sensitization and financial assistance, the youths will continue to make crafts out of the retrieved plastics. Some youths are already supplying the plastic to recycling factories. We are educating the community about diseases such as cholera that arise out of dumping waste. The perception about hygiene is changing and dust bins are increasingly being adopted by the population.