At Farm Radio International, climate change is an area of increasing focus in our work. We have run and are running projects related to Nature-based Solutions to climate change, conservation agriculture, and climate and weather information services for farmers.
But it’s not only in our projects that we’re thinking about the environment. As an NGO with offices in eight African countries and headquarters in Canada, our office operations have a significant impact on the planet. To mitigate this, we have established a global Green Team, with a network of environmental focal points working to make positive change in their respective offices. Our Green Team members have taken action related to sustainable commuting, paper use, energy efficiency, tree planting and more.
The theme for Earth Day 2023 is “Invest in our planet.” To secure a positive future for our planet, all sectors of society — including businesses, non-profits, citizens and governments — need to collaborate on changing our practices. Here’s a snapshot of what we’re doing at Farm Radio to tackle the climate crisis.
Planting trees in Ethiopia
Before moving to a new office a year ago, Farm Radio staff in Ethiopia planted trees in their former office compound to increase shade. They planted approximately 50 to 70 trees over the course of three years (2020 to 2022). The tree planting was part of Ethiopia’s Green Legacy Initiative, which aimed to plant 20 billion trees over four years as a solution to climate change and deforestation.
All nine staff members in Ethiopia were involved in the planting. According to Mulu Berhe, a Radio Officer and environmental focal point, the tree canopy changed the compound from sunny to “green and lovely.”
Although the trees are now big, the Ethiopia team isn’t around to enjoy them. Since the new office is on the fourth floor of a building, it’s not possible to plant trees, but staff obtained indoor plants to recreate the effect. There are 12 houseplants inside offices and by the outer gate. All staff members help look after the new plants, particularly the office attendant.
Raising awareness about plastic pollution in Uganda
Solomon Talemwa, a Digital Innovation Officer and environmental focal point, started collecting plastic bags to convince his family to reuse bags from the supermarket. With the help of Radio Craft Officer Brenda Mugwisagye Murangi, he collected plastic bags for almost two years. Plastic waste is a significant issue in Uganda, with over 600 tonnes produced every day. Rules and regulations about plastic are weak in Uganda, and the industry has little incentive to change. Indeed, many companies are owned by members of parliament.
It was only when Solomon read articles on upcycling plastic bags into art that he had a eureka moment. In 2021, he worked with a local artist and childhood friend, Kidasa, to turn the plastic bags into a globe. The pair gathered all the plastic bags inside one larger bag, then used a hot knife to shape them into a globe — a technique used in Africa to make footballs from plastic bags. After applying a layer of papier-mâché, Kidasa painted around the outside of the globe to represent the earth. The completed globe measures approximately 44.5 inches (113 centimetres).
“Newton's law of inertia states that an object at rest or in motion will stay that way unless acted upon by a net external force or an unbalanced force. The unbalanced force or the conviction for change is what I am striving for not just in my art projects, but in my lifestyle as well as to my fellow Ugandans and office colleagues,” said Solomon.
Working on the globe inspired Solomon to do more art projects involving plastic. Currently, he’s collaborating with a fashion stylist on making clothing from plastic milk cartons.
Improving waste management in Mali
Our Mali office set up a new system for collecting and disposing of solid waste in April 2019. Staff members decided to focus on waste to make the office more tidy, sanitary and environmentally-friendly through reducing litter in their community.
The Mali team established a contract with a Groupement d’Intérêt Economique (GIE — an economic interest group) to transport their waste to a transfer depot and from there to a final depot outside the city. In the Malian capital, Bamako, a GIE is a neighbourhood-based association that works to earn a profit — in this case, through collecting waste door to door. Though the government contracted a Moroccan company called Ozone to manage municipal waste in 2015, GIEs continue to play an integral role. The groups provide employment to local residents, particularly youth, who may separate recyclable items to sell.
The local GIE picks up the office’s waste twice a week. There are 14 bins in our Mali office: in every private office and in the hallways. Staff members have grown accustomed to the new waste collection system and say the office is now tidier.
Besides the new waste collection system, the team has focused on paper use. They typically use two to four pieces of paper per week. The team reuses this paper for other purposes, like articles explaining Farm Radio’s mission.
Protecting our planet this Earth Day — and beyond
Climate change is a global problem that requires global solutions.
While we each experience the effects of and contribute to climate change differently, issues like environmental degradation, plastic pollution and biodiversity loss affect us all. Unfortunately, those in Africa experience disproportionate impacts.
On Earth Day and beyond, we all have a role to play in combating climate change. Whether by “greening” our offices, or through our projects helping rural Africans adapt to and mitigate climate change, climate is a priority for Farm Radio on Earth Day and every day.