The Green Africa Youth Organisation(GAYO) Uganda, a youth-driven NGO that builds capacity to protect the environment and support sustainable community-based development has called for an effective circular economy management and bolstering resilience against climate risks.
Addressing the on Ecologiq Conference in Australia Betty Osei Bonsu, the Country Manager of GAYO Uganda emphasized the urgency of investing in youth, recognising them as today’s leaders rather than waiting for tomorrow.
Osei Bonsu emphasized the importance of sustainable practices that extend beyond environmental benefits to address pressing social and economic disparities.
She also advocated for a legacy mindset, and alternative products- designing products for the long term and thinking about their next life.
While sharing GAYO’s incredible environmental, economic and social impact as they lead Africa’s shift to a circular economy, Bonsu said that Australia can draw inspiration from this journey of getting away from large-scale infrastructure projects to grassroots projects that can collectively create a sustainable and resilient future for our children.
She noted that her efforts to fight for environmental conservation and protection were derived from her childhood story of waste recycling by the poor.
“As I reflect on my childhood in the heart of a rural African slum, I am transported back to a world where waste wasn’t a choice; it was a lifeline. I lived in a community where discarded waste were bought at a lower cost in the market by the poor. I couldn’t help but notice that those with more abundant means had the luxury of choice, a choice to discard, a choice to waste. It was in this experience that I came to the realization that: the marginalized had always been the unsung heroes of recycling, while the rich often held the privilege of squandering resources without a second thought to discard, “Osei Bonsu said.
She added that the global waste crisis and its impact on communities presents a multifaceted challenge with far-reaching impacts on communities.
“Our daily waste generation surpasses the capacity of waste management systems, exemplified by Ghana, where a UNDP report reveals that over 12,000 tonnes of waste are generated daily, yet only a mere 10% of it is effectively collected and disposed of. This alarming statistic underscores a critical issue in waste management.”
Bonsu pointed out that the repercussions of waste reach across multiple domains, encompassing health hazards, environmental degradation, and resource scarcity.
“Often, we overlook the fact that waste sent to landfills merely awaits, and does not magically go away. The issue is exacerbated by plastic waste, as the global statistics reveal that out of approximately 90 billion tonnes of plastic materials extracted and utilized for manufacturing annually, a mere 9% undergoes recycling, exacerbating the crisis.”
She challenged governments and humanitarian agencies to prioritize youth-led initiatives, adding that such prioritisation is crucial for realizing the objectives and commitments laid out in the Paris Treaty.
“If you look at a story like that of the Green Africa Youth Organization (GAYO) that began a few years back as a student-led initiative has now grown to encompass nearly 50 employees, engage over 7,000 volunteers, support 10 community grassroots projects, and empower more than 10,000 young individuals across the African continent with projects replicated from Ghana to Uganda, Kenya, Botswana, and Mali,”Bonsu said.