EU: better waste management protects Lake Tanganyika

De EU wil het Tanganyikameer (Centraal-Afrika) helpen beschermen als bron van water, voedsel en inkomsten. Didier Cadelli, coördinator van het project voor Enabel, en Bahati Rhamadhani, afvalophaler, getuigen.

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Rubbish bike

Thanks to LATAWAMA, waste collection is improved. Far right: Bahati Rhamadhani. © LATAWAMA

In this series, we are giving people the opportunity to demonstrate the positive impact of the EU, for each of the 6 priorities of the current European Commission. Today part 4: A stronger Europe in the world.

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Didier Cadelli - Bahati Rhamadhani

Didier Cadelli - Bahati Rhamadhani © LATAWAMA

Lake Tanganyika, which is rich in fish, extends across Tanzania, Burundi, DR Congo and Zambia. As the second largest lake in Africa, after Lake Victoria, it contains as much as 18% of the world's surface water. It is therefore indispensable as a source of water, food and income for many millions of people.

Lake Tanganyika Authority

Unfortunately, Lake Tanganyika is threatened by pollution and overfishing. Therefore, the 4 adjoining countries have grouped together to form the so-called 'Lake Tanganyika Authority' (LTA). Objective: to ensure the protection and sustainable management of the water in the lake and its tributaries.

'LTA has proposed a project to the EU to tackle pollution in Lake Tanganyika,' says Didier Cadelli, coordinator of the Lake Tanganyika Water Management or LATAWAMA project. 'This took place within the framework of an EU programme that targets a fair use and distribution of income from water resources in the three main basins of Africa: the Nile, the Okavango and Lake Tanganyika. At the same time, the programme reduces the risks of conflict in the transboundary management of those water resources.'

The EU agreed and then awarded the LATAWAMA project to the Belgian Development Agency Enabel for a budget of 6.9 million Euros. 'We are implementing the project together with LTA. But since we cover the entire lake basin, including tributaries such as the Ruzizi River and Lake Kivu in Rwanda, we also work with the 'Lake Kivu and Ruzizi River Basin Authority', as well as the administrations of all the towns involved.'

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Map with large lakes in Africa

Map with large lakes in Africa; the elongated Lake Tanganyika is in the centre. © Shutterstock

Databases with reliable data

LATAWAMA has 3 objectives. Cadelli explains. 'First of all, we want to develop a network that monitors the quality of the lake water via a number of reference laboratories. To make this possible, we have developed 2 tools that are key to our project. Thanks to those tools, policymakers and a diverse audience have access to reliable and validated data.'

'Secondly, we want to reduce the human pressure on lake-water quality. Our focus lies on the cities of Bujumbura (Burundi), Kigoma (Tanzania), Uvira (Congo) and Mpulungu (Zambia). There, above all, we are supporting the management of solid waste and the remediation of urban and domestic waste water. Communication and environmental education form an important part of this.'

'As a third and final goal, we want to strengthen the LTA in its coordinating role and in its support of various actors responsible for the management of water.'

Community organisations

In order to reduce the pollution of the Tanganyika water, less waste needs to end up there. And this will only be possible if waste management in the neighbouring cities improves. To achieve this, LATAWAMA supports community organisations that take on the collection of solid waste.

Such community organisations typically consist of up to 10 people: women, heads of households and young people from underprivileged backgrounds. They pick up the waste from people's homes, markets, institutions and so on, and then take it to a collection point. However, these organisations lack the necessary equipment and knowledge to manage the waste properly. And that is where LATAWAMA stepped in.

'Our organisation was contacted by LATAWAMA to collect solid waste in Kigoma and take it to a collection point,' says Bahati Rhamadhani, a mother aged 40 and member of one such community organisation. 'Besides extra material, we also received training to improve our skills and organisation.'

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Lake Tanganyika

View of Kigoma on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. © iStock

Extra material, knowledge and income

Her life has been much easier since LATAWAMA started working in Kigoma in January 2020. 'Every month we get an extra income. That allows us to satisfy some of our needs. We are also grateful to LATAWAMA for the materials we received. As a result, we can now collect the waste more quickly and easily. A major problem is that people mix household waste with stones, bricks and even needles. We are trying to boost their awareness in order to change their behaviour.'

The entire community clearly benefits from the project. 'If the rubbish is collected, there are far fewer illnesses due to poor hygiene. We also protect the environment. And, of course, all the waste collectors earn a little extra, which significantly improves their daily lives.'

Rhamadhani, and with her the many fundraising organisations, are determined to continue the work even after the project ends. 'LATAWAMA has breathed new life into our organisation. The city of Kigoma, for example, now charges a fee to the people from whom we collect waste. This gives us an independent source of income and means we can continue even when the project has ended.'

Circular economy

In fact, there are still many plans. Cadelli: 'In 2022, the project will install new collection points so we can serve new neighbourhoods and collect larger amounts of waste. As such, we avoid the emergence of uncontrolled landfills, or the need for people to burn or bury waste. The collection needs will increase significantly and our example will encourage other community organisations to take action. In the future, we also want to collect organic waste, which we will then upgrade and transform into compost for agriculture and horticulture. We are also studying how to make use of plastic waste in order to achieve a fully fledged circular economy.'

In short, LATAWAMA kills many birds with one stone. Improved waste management ensures a healthier living environment that also benefits nature. The employees see their income rise, which saves them considerable concern. The water in Lake Tanganyika immediately remains much cleaner, so that the fish - an important source of food and income - flourish there and the drinking water is protected. And where there is sufficient drinking water and food, the neighbouring countries have one less reason for conflict. The EU is also contributing to this.

A stronger Europe in the world

One of the six priorities of the European Commission is to make the EU a more active and stronger voice on the world stage. Because the EU has values to defend. For instance, it strongly advocates 'multilateralism' (international cooperation) and a world order based on rules.

After all, 'abroad' is extremely important for the EU: for its prosperity and welfare, health, climate, security... When conflicts rage in other countries, the environment is damaged or poverty is widespread, it can have a negative impact on the lives of all EU citizens.

That is why the EU wants to present itself more strongly to the world as a united bloc. Not only in its foreign policy sensu stricto, but also in its dealings with its neighbours, in its trade policy, in its humanitarian aid, in its security policy and defence, and in its 'international partnerships'. The latter refers to the European development co-operation. Through co-operation and assistance, the EU supports developing countries on their way to economic and social stability.