Wednesday, April 24, 2024

How these Homa Bay women are turning wastes into wealth

The bright sun rays piercing through the skies lights up Homa Bay Town Central Business District.

Inside a small room in one of the commercial buildings, Christine Osano and her colleagues are putting final touches on their merchandise.

Wednesday is the main market day in Homa Bay’s main market, and Ms Osano and her colleagues have to be fast in order to meet their target for the deliveries in the market.

The merchandise includes; shopping bags made from water reeds and beads, key holders, table marts and decor products majorly made from plastic and wine bottles.

Apart from the money I get from training the women groups, I also earn from selling some of the products I make here like key holders, table marts and shopping bags. I can get at least Sh500 from the sales in a good day

Christine Osano

In a corner, a group of young women are making table marts and key holders using beads, some are painting wine bottles while some are sewing threads around plastic bottles.

In another corner, shopping bags made from water reeds and water hyacinth are neatly arranged. Next to them are flower vases and decors made from plastic and wine bottles.

Not too far are beautiful and unique stools and tables made from used car tires and water hyacinth.

Wastes provides job opportunities

This is the room which hosts Aviana Echo Arts and Decors.

Since 2021, Ms Osano, a single mother of one in her twenties has been crafting these merchandise, while at the same time as a handwork trainer.

Here, she instills skills on crafts in which plastic waste is used to make a number of products which are then sold in the nearby markets.

They collect used tyres, straws, wine and water bottles among other plastic wastes which they use to train women groups to make decor products, tables, stools and shopping bags among other products.

I haven’t been lucky to get a school to teach since I graduated. I was tired of being idle and so I decided to begin my training with WA WA on handwork. I am a fast learner and so I was able to learn on how to make a variety of things. Because of my good work, I joined Aviana as a co trainer

Beryl Bala

“Apart from the money I get from training the women groups, I also earn from selling some of the products I make here like key holders, table marts and shopping bags. I can get at least Sh500 from the sales in a good day,” she stated

“I nolonger have to depend on anyone for financial support. I can comfortably foot my bills on my own. My level of confidence has also increased. I now know my rights as a woman and I can defend myself,” she added.

Beryl Bala is in her mid-twenties, and a single mother. She holds a first degree in Education Arts.

“I haven’t been lucky to get a school to teach since I graduated. I was tired of being idle and so I decided to begin my training with WA WA on handwork. I am a fast learner and so I was able to learn on how to make a variety of things. Because of my good work, I joined Aviana as a co trainer,” she said.

She continues; “A lot has changed in my life since I started working with Aviana. I am able to provide for my baby and myself. I have joined chamas where I do my savings.”

Beryl Bala (seated) and Vivian Awuor with some of the merchandise made from wastes

From her interaction with the women groups as a trainer, and being able to depend on herself financially, she admits that this has boosted her level of confidence and dispelled the fears she used to have.

“I make money from selling the products we make here and also from the trainings we do. I may not be doing what I learnt in the university, but I am happy I have something to keep me busy and earn me a living,” she said.

Green enterprise

As a way of joining hands to reduce plastic waste pollution in Homa Bay town and its environs, Aviana Echo Arts and Decors uses plastic wastes and other waste materials to do value addition and make decor and other products from them.

Vivian Awuor is the founder of Aviana Echo Arts and Decors which is a green enterprise based in Homa Bay town.

As they say, behind every action, there is a motive.  Ms Awuor narrates what really motivated her to start this green enterprise in the 2020.

“The year 2020 was really a tough year for most people due COVID 19. As a psychologist I used to receive a lot of women who would come for me for counselling and for financial support. I really didn’t have much to offer and that’s how I started offering my skills on handicrafts as a form of therapy,” she said.

“Aviana Eco arts and decors is a social green enterprise that was started in October 2020 with the aim of conserving the environment through arts and crafts. It was also established as an economic empowerment venture to offer alternative source of income to vulnerable youths and women,” she adds.

Some of the furniture made from water hyacinth, old tyres, and reeds

The main objective of the enterprise is to advocate for clean and healthy environment by reusing waste materials, while at the same time promoting financial empowerment to the beneficiaries.

“We do value addition to these wastes. For instance, we decorate the wine and water bottles by painting or weaving a thread around them to make flower decors which can be used for house, office or wedding decors,” she says.

“For disposed tyres, we paint and decorate to make them into tables, stools, and storage ottomans, while for plastic containers we reuse them for flower vases,” explained Vivian.

They also make alternative shopping bags which are durable and more environmental friendly.

“We weave eco shopping bags from water reeds, beads and little canes. These bags are durable and biodegradable compared to the shopping bags we are currently using which pollutes our environment because majority people do not reuse them and disposes them anyhow” she said.

“We also make marts, chairs and stools from water reeds and water hyacinth. We harvest the reeds and water hyacinth from the lake and dry them to make such materials. By this we help clean the lake from these dangerous weeds which usually pollutes the lake causing unusual color and foul smell once they start decomposing,” she added.

Threats of mismanaged wastes

According to Willis Omulo, a Climate Change Ambassador and environmental conservation expert, the changes observed in Lake Victoria waters such as the bad smell and unusual color is as a result of liquid wastes being disposed directly into the lake or rivers that feeds into the lake.

He says the lake waters is fast polluting, and becoming dangerous to the lives of both humans and other aquatic life such as fish.

He says solid wastes, which consist of plastics and polythene bags remains another headache in the lake.

The government should move from linear economy waste management to circular economy waste management which is more sustainable for it involves the recycling of wastes. This will help to minimize pollution

Willis Omulo

Studies shows that plastic wastes take approximately 1000 years to decompose and even when it does, it turns into microbits which finds its way into the lake and rivers and thus posing a great danger to the fish which consumes them.

Omullo says that recent studies show that humans consume a sim-card size of plastic every day and this puts their health in jeopardy.

He says empowerment of environmental conservation is the only sustainable way to manage Climate Change as it helps in creating jobs while at the same time managing waste.

“The government should move from linear economy waste management to circular economy waste management which is more sustainable for it involves the recycling of wastes. This will help to minimize pollution,” said Omullo

Awuor says her team occasionally gets invites from women groups to train them on how to weave baskets and marts, and beading.

She says there is an urgent need for sustainable waste management and recycling as well as replacement of non-biodegradable products made from polythene and plastics.

“This can be achieved through tapping on the creativity of the young people like us,” she says.

Her dream is to have her initiative expanded and made more sustainable to enable them achieve their objective of creating a clean and healthy environment for all.

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