Mutare — The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) has urged institutions of higher learning to lead climate change mitigation through research in waste management to address the growing regional waste challenges that has led to rampant land pollution.
Speaking during the launch of Marymount Teachers College tree nursery project recently, EMA Manicaland Planning and Monitoring Officer, Ernest Marange recommended that colleges and universities lead research and innovation in waste management.
Marange said when waste management is guided by empirical evidence it is easier for innovative ideas to be adopted and mainstreamed as sustainable intervention measures, effective activities and actions required to manage waste from its inception to final disposal.
"There is need for tertiary and institutions of higher leading in research areas, so that we can address environmental challenges. As such, I urge you as Mary Mount to conduct a waste management survey for this institution. This will enable you to set up your waste management targets.
"Such interventions that are evidence based provide practical solutions at local levels, first, if feasible it can be rolled out nationwide," said Marange.
Marange said research aimed at improving waste management will garner support from government which is calling for the setting up a line of waste streams, while he also applauded the institution for the tree nursery project initiative.
"With research, it help with information about waste streams that are prevalent and need to be dealt with, as well giving you answers about where the waste is coming from, its quantity and sorts of waste being dealt with.
"This information is vital as it will enable the college to measure its progress and achievements. It also provides clues for coming up with other innovations that resonates well with types of waste available.
"The waste survey informs you of the quantity and quality of waste, waste streams and ways to handle such types of waste," said Marange.
In Africa, available data indicates that plastic is a waste stream of growing concern for the continent as it estimated to consist of 13 percent of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), mostly plastic waste which is dumped on land.
Despite this, there are several opportunities to leverage waste as a secondary resource, as only 4 percent of waste generated in Africa is currently recycled by typically marginalized informal reclaimers, despite the bulk of waste recyclable.
An average waste collection rate of 55 percent (68 million tonnes), nearly half of MSW generated in Africa remains within cities and towns dumped onto sidewalks, open fields, storm water drains and rivers.
Marange noted that gone were the days when waste management was always regarded as the prerogative of local authority.
"Given the new approaches to development that have been adopted across the world, there is now need for public participation in waste management.
"We encourage everyone to participate in issues of waste management in our respective areas dotted around Manicaland. Everyone must learn how to store their own waste and to transfer only enough waste that is absolutely of no relevance to you.
"If any waste can be recycled and or reused by the user before disposal then let it be until we have reduced the amount of waste in our communities," said Marange.
Marymount Teachers' College Principal, Petty Silitshena said the tree nursery project was one of the many projects for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) which was incepted in 2019, to mainstream African Agenda 2063, to increase capacity building for sustainable development.
She said it's driven by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education policy known as competency based curriculum that focuses on transformative education which emphasizes on knowledge and skills application.
Silitshena said while the nursery project addresses climate change, it provides tangible local interventions which can be scaled up instead of just paying lip service to a pressing global challenge through reuse of plastic waste.
"ESD had a change project dubbed integrating 21st century competences in teacher education through recycling, reducing and reusing popularly known as the three Rs. Back then we experienced a challenge of litter at the college hence the change project was meant to solve that problem.
"The ESD committee has launched the tree nursery project in the hope of integrating 21st century competences in teacher education. We want our students to be relevant when they go out in the field after attaining their diplomas. The competences that we are nurturing are that of research, problem solving, critical thinking and collaborating," said Silitshena.