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Protecting Ugandan Water and the Environment: Flipflopi sails around Lake Victoria on path towards a circular economy and to beat plastic pollution

● The Lake Victoria expedition - setting sail on 8th March - is encouraging cross-border collaboration in the region to address climate change and plastic pollution

The Flipflopi expedition is part of the Uganda Water and Environment Week supporting them in their mission of “ensuring water and environment security for socio-economic transformation of Uganda”, with a focus on concrete solutions to the world’s greatest water and environment related challenges, starting with the climate crisis and including rising water levels, water scarcity, food security, health, biodiversity, and impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest freshwater lake, is said to be dying’, facing a myriad of environmental and social problems that could impact the 40 million people living in the region

Flipflopi, the world’s first sailing dhow made from 100% recycled plastic, is embarking on a world-first expedition by circumnavigating Africa’s largest freshwater ecosystem – Lake Victoria – taking its vital message up-stream and calling for an end to unnecessary single-use plastic threatening the region.

Lake Victoria, supporting 40 million East Africans, symbolises the catastrophic effects of climate change, and has been under increased pressure from mismanaged waste and pollution, which threatens the health and livelihoods of communities.

A recent
study estimated that 1 in 5 of the fish in Lake Victoria had ingested plastic. Another recent study ubiquitously recorded microplastics in surface waters in several sites of Lake Victoria. At the heart of the plastic waste problem is the linear ‘take-make-dispose’ model of consumption, as products get manufactured, bought, used briefly, and then thrown away.

The Flipflopi project is an African initiative showcasing alternative uses of plastic waste and the possibilities of circular economy approaches. Over a three-week period, Flipflopi will circumnavigate the lake from Kisumu, Kenya, to several locations in Uganda, finishing in Mwanza, Tanzania, to bring attention to the environmental problems affecting the lake, inspiring communities to adopt circular-waste solutions and facilitating cross-border discussions around how to beat pollution.

Aligning with Uganda Water and Environment Week (UWEWK) 2021 and supported by Ugandan Ministries of Water and the Environment and several other stakeholders, Flipflopi sails into Ugandan waters on 11th March to bring the region’s attention to the need to conserve our waterways, protect livelihoods and save the environment.

Flipflopi’s Lake Victoria expedition will include some 10 stops around the lake that will engage school children, community leaders, conservationists, business leaders and policymakers, demonstrating alternate uses of waste plastic, highlighting other circular waste models and calling for an end to single-use plastics.

Ali Skanda, co-founder of the Flipflopi project and builder of the world’s first recycled plastic dhow, said:

“Flipflopi was built to show the world that it is possible to make valuable materials out of waste plastic, and that single-use plastic really does not make sense.

“By sailing around the lake, we hope to inspire people to create their own waste-plastic innovations and adopt circular waste management solutions that help build greener businesses, whilst also taking plastic out of the environment. Together with communities across the Lake Victoria region we hope to bring awareness and innovative solutions to beat pollution and support a green recovery in East Africa”

Flipflopi is just one example of an African circular solution to the global pollution problem.  In Kisumu on the shores of Lake Victoria, CIST Africa are making hand sanitizer from invasive water hyacinth.

Innovators like Sanergy are turning Nairobi’s untreated organic waste into organic fertiliser for crops, feed for livestock, and fuel briquettes for energy.  In Uganda, the women who set up Reform Africa are turning plastic waste into sustainable and waterproof bags, whilst providing school children in rural areas with bags for free. In Tanzania, a collective of local artisans known as ‘Made by Africraft’ are introducing youth and the unemployed to developing sustainable handicrafts to create a livelihood.

Flipflopi and its partners hope to showcase all these innovators and more as they sail around the lake, and inspire communities and businesses to adopt these principles too.

By sailing around Lake Victoria, Flipflopi expedition aims to:

Highlight the impact of pollutants on the lake environment and human health
Engage communities on circular economy principles relating to both plastic and non-plastic pollutants through demonstrations, education and sharing experiences
Engage businesses and policy makers in the wider East African region to discuss alternative models and circular solutions required to beat pollution and drive a sustainable recovery

By bringing widespread attention to the lake region, Flipflopi and its partners will support regional consensus in the adoption of new policies that will help drive a sustainable recovery in East Africa. As part of the expedition, the team launched a petition calling for a regional ban on single-use plastics.

Flipflopi is being supported and joined by a set of key players including the Governments of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, UNEP, The UK’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), the French Development Agency (AFD), EU, UN Live, as well as private sector including Africa’s leading Law Firm, Anjarwalla and Khanna.

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