Over 120 local youth and migrant returnees in Ethiopia’s town of Dire Dawa have started earning an income from a plastic recycling and compost production project that also aims to lessen the allure of irregular migration.
The waste management project is one of 28 community-based projects in Ethiopia funded by the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in the Horn of Africa (the EU-IOM Joint Initiative) to target some of the drivers of irregular migration.
The initiative aims to address environmental and public health problems caused by large amounts of unmanaged plastic and organic waste.
Seven months into the project, 50,000kg of plastic bottles have been collected while 200,000kg of organic waste have been converted into compost.
Dire Dawa lies on the main migration transit route to Djibouti and onward across the Red Sea to Yemen, with the Arabian Peninsula being the intended destination. Congestion and environmental degradation in the town are major contributors to irregular migration, in addition to youth unemployment and a general lack of livelihood opportunities.
Positive Action for Development (PAD), a local NGO, is implementing the waste removal project with support from government partners. The latter’s contribution includes technical input and transporting the collected waste to the project site.
“The recycling and compost business was chosen because of its multiple advantages that include employment, waste management, and environmental protection,” said Ato Girma Admasu, executive director of PAD. “The very innovative nature of the project - generating wealth from waste - has a big environmental protection potential for Dire Dawa city.”
As the project got underway, a cooperation agreement was signed with a private plastic recycling plant and with an association of farmers, to facilitate market linkages.
Recycling companies based in Dire Dewa now have a ready source of plastic, while farmers have access to large stocks of organic fertilizer. Furthermore, the project has great potential for scale-up.
In terms of one arrangement, a private company provided moulding machines and in turn buys back plastic that has been sorted or moulded into bottles.
Project participants received training that also covered entrepreneurship, saving, branding, marketing and working with the equipment provided. Among them is 29-year-old Yohannes. “I am a returnee. I spent two years in Djibouti almost living on the streets, working random jobs. I was addicted and living in limbo.”
Yohannes lives with his three brothers and mother who earns an income from selling bread and injera (a sour fermented flatbread, traditionally made of teff flour). The responsibility of keeping his brothers in school rests on Yohannes’ shoulders.
"My plan was to go the Gulf countries but while in Djibouti I heard about the deaths of some of my friends who had set out before me intending to cross the Red Sea. So I came back with no money, but was very grateful to reunite with my family."
Yohannes continued: “It was a very difficult time of my life and so I joined this project. Now, together with other members, we work hard and have already started producing compost for the market. I have big dreams for this project, I know soon we will make it big.”
About the EU-IOM Joint Initiative
Launched in December 2016 and funded by the European Union (EU) Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, the programme brings together 26 African countries of the Sahel and Lake Chad region, the Horn of Africa, and North Africa, the EU, and IOM around the goal of ensuring migration is safer, more informed and better governed for both migrants and their communities.