Sadrach Nirere, founder of the End Plastic Pollution initiative and Coordinator for Fridays for Future Uganda, has partnered with fellow activists and youth volunteers on various projects and initiatives throughout Uganda in an effort to raise awareness, hold corporations to higher standards, and end plastic pollution in his home country and beyond.
Question: Can you tell us about your Adventist background?
Answer: I was born in Uganda to an Adventist family. My father is a local church elder. I believe in God and live a prayerful life.
What got you interested in environmentalism?
I am born victim to this crisis. I come from a farming district and I know what it is like to grow up with a climate system that is breaking down and an environment that is degrading. As a kid, I knew nothing. Our education is not that informative about what is happening. Upon joining university, I learned more through a local environmental NGO, which later I joined as a volunteer communications coordinator. Now I have four years of active participation in promoting environmental protection practices.
How does being an environmentalist connect with your Adventist faith?
As an Adventist, I believe we are a unique carrier of the truth. In the book Country Living, Ellen G. White emphasizes the need to preserve and protect our natural environment more so in times when little of it is left. She called us to embrace the spirit of loving nature’s gifts for they give life. Genesis 2:15 points out an important role given to man. The Lord took man and put him in the garden to work it and keep it. Our lives survive on the food we eat, the water we drink, the plants that make oxygen, the land that bears the food, the rain, the winds, the animals, insects, none of these should ever go extinct on our watch. As we carry the message of hope, we carry a message of resilience, courage, and strength to do what is right and protect what was given to us by God.
How is Uganda impacted by climate change, biodiversity loss, and plastic pollution?
From my own village you can see the extent of damage caused by extreme climate conditions. With the increasing global heat, our water sources are drying up, our crops are failing, our health is at risk, yet even worse is happening. As we suffered the pandemic, people in western Uganda were facing serious floods that displaced over 200,000 people. In the eastern region, heavy storms caused landslides, these claimed the lives of people, destroyed their homes and crops. During the dry season, we now experience a prolonged dry spell. We have frequent droughts and a desertification condition eating us from the northeast into South Sudan.
Continuing deforestation, wetlands degradation, and clearing of natural cover for industrial space, farmland, or settlement are signs of how far we have lost our biodiversity.
Plastic pollution is increasing as companies both local, multinationals, and importers flood the market with all sorts of plastic packaged basic goods. Through our work we have exposed the extent of reach by plastic waste in Uganda and it is heartbreaking. Plastic waste is now found in our rivers, lakes, villages, and almost everywhere in our environment.
Why did you start End Plastic Pollution?
I started the End Plastic Pollution initiative as a movement to demand greater corporate action and responsibility from companies that produce plastics. At this moment, the amount of plastic being produced is too much. In just Uganda, Coca-Cola company produces 4 million plastic bottles per week. At this level of production not even their recycling plant can handle the waste. Our individual actions are undermined as companies continue to produce plastics with minimal or no responsibility towards the plastic pollution problem they create.
Were you anxious about starting an environmental organization? How many people are part of your group?
I was not anxious starting this because I was well prepared. I’m an international business student and hold a diploma in sustainable business. Together with the team of fellow activists at Fridays For Future Uganda, we made sure that we rolled out a locally informed campaign tagged with activities in our own communities.
As the End Plastic Pollution initiative, we have 152 active youth volunteers, over 2,500 students in six active plastic free schools and two universities. We are involved actively in six communities both urban and rural. You can read more at https://endplasticpollutionow.blogspot.com.
You’re currently raising money to turn plastic bottles into water sources. Could you tell us more about that project?
After collecting plastics through cleanups, we decided to find an idea that can help us repurpose and reuse the plastic bottles. Now through the Water For All Project we are working together with youth from Equal Aqua Uganda to construct Water Tanks using plastic bottles as “ecobricks.” The students are collecting the plastic. The parents at home don’t throw the plastics so children can bring them to school. Our communities are involved, and we have designated small plastic bottle collection points. We are now having schools benefiting in Kiboga and Kyankwanzi Districts.
How much money do you need and what will you do with the funds?
We are seeking $5,000 (USD). With those funds we’ll be able to help schools, hospitals, and communities access clean and safe water.
Each water well / water tank will have capacity to hold 10,000 litres. With each constructed tank, we will be preventing 4,500 plastic bottles from going into our environment. We need cement, sand, iron bars, stone/gravel, solar energy panels for lighting around water sources and pumping out water, water taps, hand washing areas. Due to COVID-19, hand washing soap and sanitizers will be provided for schools.
Where can readers donate?
Kindly donate through https://www.gofundme.com/f/water-for-all-and-endplasticpollution.
What is something you wish Adventists around the world knew about plastic pollution in Uganda?
I want fellow Adventists to know that the plastic pollution crisis is real, and it is happening. Plastic waste can now be found floating on Lake Victoria, the world’s second largest inland fresh water body. We have collected plastic from River Mpanga. Deep in my own village, you see plastic littered alongside the dusty roads. Every day our natural world is disappearing before our own eyes. For my country, it is worse. We cannot handle the burden of plastic waste. That is why it is ending up in our environment or burnt in landfills which is causing health risks and leading to climate change.
You can help be part of the solution to the problem.
For readers on social media, where can they find you on Twitter and Facebook?
Sari Fordham grew up in Uganda, in a house surrounded by jungle. She traces her passion for the environment from that early connection with nature and from her family’s Sabbath walks. She has become increasingly committed to sustainability and to the importance of saving wild spaces, and has started a free environmental newsletter called “Cool It.” (You can sign up here.) She teaches creative writing at La Sierra University and lives in Riverside, CA with her husband and daughter.
Photos courtesy of Sadrach Nirere.
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