Young Seychellois conservationist inspired by educational visit to Comoros Islands | 31 October 2019
A young Seychellois conservationist from the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles (MCSS), Rebecca Filippin, participated in a site visit and learning exchange on waste management in the Comoros Islands towards the end of September.
Organised by the Tropical Biology Association and funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), the visit aimed at building the capacity of civil society organisations (CSOs) funded by CEPF who are working across the Madagascar & Indian Ocean Islands (MADIO) hotspot.
The exchange involved five visiting grantees representing five CSOs from Comoros, Madagascar, Seychelles and Mauritius, with the objective of enhancing the transfer of skills and knowledge on waste and environmental management.
Ms Filippin was hosted by Banda Bitsi, a Comorian environmental association that works to promote youth and female entrepreneurship opportunities that support the protection of the environment.
During the site visit, grantees engaged in several activities, including a knowledge exchange with staff of Banda Bitsi on their ‘Comoros Zero Waste 2023’ project. The objective of this project was to demonstrate that most waste can be recycled by simple processes and technologies, which are used on various sites to generate added value.
Delegates visited the Banda Bitsi Centre, where beneficiaries from the local community showcased recycled waste products, such as necklaces, waste bins, flower pots and chairs.
Ms Filippin also visited a waste-sorting and recycling centre and also visited the towns of Itsambouni and Iconi, where delegates learnt more about the initiatives being taken there to manage waste locally.
Waste management and the accumulation of garbage remains a devastating environmental problem in Comoros, with Ms Filippin witnessing first-hand how waste is often thrown into the riverbed or along the seashore. The ensuing levels of pollution allow pathogens to multiply continuously, with diseases such as dengue fever, malaria and cholera multiplying in certain areas through the lack of waste treatment.
In spite of these challenges, the site visit and learning exchange demonstrated the concept of the ‘circular economy’ in action, as well as its ability to empower local communities.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation defines the circular economy as an industrial system that is restorative or regenerative by intention and design, and aims to look beyond the current ‘take-make-waste’ extractive industrial model. As part of the move towards a more circular economy, the concept is based on the three principles of: 1) designing out waste and pollution, 2) keeping products and materials in use, and 3) regenerating natural systems.
Ms Filippin observed that what was recycled in the Comoros had the added objective of creating jobs for the local population. The project also served as an educational purpose, raising local public awareness on waste management, recycling and protecting the environment at large.
Feeling inspired by the visit, Ms Filippin hopes to further develop her idea of re-purposing waste that is found on the beaches of Seychelles, by turning it into art.
Commenting on her experience, Ms Filippin said:
“In Seychelles, we seem to have a habit of throwing things away because we don't need it anymore. If we could open our eyes more to the possibility of re-using items that we call ‘trash’, we would be helping our environment with less trash ending up in the landfill. There are so many things that can be recycled, and nowadays, there are a lot of people that re-purpose trash for art or to re-build something that can be re-used. The possibilities are endless. We need to start thinking more about recycling, and not just talk about it.”
Commenting on MCSS’ commitment towards recycling and repurposing materials, MCSS scientific coordinator, Rabia Somers, said:
“As a conservation NGO, we strive to re-use and recycle materials wherever possible; we collect and recycle PET bottles, glass bottles and cans from our partner resorts, as well as on beach clean-ups that we undertake during our monitoring. We are always keen to sort through marine debris for any materials that we can re-use, such as the recent landfill sorting day organised by the Aldabra Clean-Up Project, where we collected buoys and rope for our coral restoration and terrapin monitoring activities.
Site exchange visits such as this one to the Comoros provide young conservationists in the region with a broader understanding of issues of environmental management and innovative economic solutions that empower communities. While waste management in the Comoros is incomparable to that in Seychelles, both are small island developing states that have to grapple with land space and infrastructure to support the increasing amounts of waste generation in the face of development. It is imperative that we shift from a linear to a circular economy, for the benefit of both people and environment.”
MCSS is a Seychelles-registered non-governmental organisation which promotes the conservation of marine and terrestrial environments through education, research and the implementation of a number of programmes. Current activities include long-running monitoring programmes on turtles and terrapins, coral restoration as well as several grant-funded programmes and projects.
The accompanying photos show some highlights of Ms Filippin’s visit to the Comoros.
Contributed by MCSS