UPCYCLING TO A CLEANER, GREENER MALAWI

Partners are crucial for Lilongwe Wildlife Trust to carry out our mission to save wildlife, campaign for conservation justice and inspire people to value and protect nature in Malawi.

Two such valued partners are leading the way to a cleaner, greener Malawi through upcycling – taking waste products and creating value for organisations and households alike. And they both have outlets at the entrance of our wildlife centre: Kawandama Hills Plantation and International Conservation and Clean up Management.

Though Malawi will eventually need to move away from charcoal, and another of our projects is helping to work exactly toward this – right now only 9% of Malawi’s population has access to electricity and up to 95% use wood or charcoal for their household energy needs. Until our people can move away from needing wood to cook and keep warm, sustainable charcoal can help form an important first step in protecting our forests.

Cue Kawandama Hills Plantation. They established themselves in 2009 to produce lemon eucalyptus essential oil for the creation of natural insect repellent. This tree – the Corymbia citriodora – produces leaves and woody biomass. The leaves are distilled in Northern Malawi, at a facility that has virtually no pollution of any kind. At four years of age, the trees are cut down to just trunks to create the sustainable charcoal. Once chopped, this species puts out new shoots from its stumps and the trees start to regenerate. This then allows leaves and wood to grow in the next four-year cycle. Since the charcoal is from trees that are raised, planted and tended on the same plantation they are considered sustainable and renewable. The Forestry Department granted Kawandama Hills Plantation the first sustainable charcoal license in Malawi back in 2015 and, in 2016, the initiative was expanded through the support of USAID.

To assist Kawandama Hills Plantation with their mission, LWT agreed to place a sustainable charcoal container outlet in the parking area of our wildlife centre.  Their employees are always present during our daytime operating hours to sell both 5kg bags for 3,500 mwk and larger 15kg bags. Most people buy their charcoal on the way home at dusk so our wildlife centre is well placed for such purchases being located between Old Town and City Centre.

In addition to Malawi’s energy deficiencies we also have a significant waste problem. There is a lack of awareness surrounding recycling and a lack of access to waste management structures. This means that most people, regardless of their location or socio-economic status, don’t practise responsible waste management.

International Conservation and Clean up Management (ICCM) are a Malawi registered social enterprise dedicated to effective education, practical waste reduction and the ethical recycling or reuse of resources. They’re developing waste management hubs throughout Lilongwe. These provide convenient and affordable ways for communities to recycle their waste while also creating spaces where people can come and learn about the importance of waste management, and how to generate income through waste innovation. 

For the last few years our wildlife centre has provided a space for one such hub. Every Thursday and Saturday from 9am until 5pm people can stop by the far end of our car park on Kenyatta Drive to deposit any amount of recycling for just 2,000 mwk. All proceeds go towards ICCM projects.

1 in 3 people worldwide have no choice other than dump or burn their waste, which can lead to the spread of disease, polluted waterways and adds to our global climate crisis. Promoting upcycling can go a long way to creating a clean and waste free Malawi. From the deposited recycling, ICCM produce recycled greeting cards, paper jewellery, glassware from bottles and weaved plastic bins for office spaces and events. The wildlife centre gift shop sells some of these recycled wares made by neighbouring communities.

LWT also utilises some of the raw materials. When school students visit the sanctuary and opt to do an educational module we sometimes create eco bricks together. This is where we can use all types of plastic bags and thin plastic packaging deposited at the wildlife centre by pushing them tightly inside plastic bottles to create structures in a mud brick style. The cardboard, egg cartons, newspapers and magazines dropped off also become some of the briquettes created by a women’s cooperative in one of our own education programmes. Like Kawandama Hills Plantation’s sustainable charcoal, these briquettes can be used for household needs instead of wood.

Help us to protect Malawi’s forests and waterways. Drop off your recycling at the sanctuary any Thursday or Saturday and encourage those reliant on charcoal to purchase through Kawandama Hills container outlets.