WasteX Lab: Scaling zero waste solutions to impact millions
Enabling a circular economy by equipping young entrepreneurs and social innovators in Zanzibar
Zanzibar President, His Excellency Hussein Mwinyi, inaugurated the Annual Farmers Exhibition. I had the good fortune to meet with the President and explain the innovative processes I am using for my business, Asili Fertilizers.
Arafa Hamad Bakari, a 27-year-old trailblazer in Zanzibar, aspires to build a sustainable future for her community. Her innovative solution involves composting solid food waste into organic fertilizer. UNICEF met with Arafa at the Zanzibar Annual Farmers Exhibition to discuss her innovative waste management business, Asili Fertilizers.
Arafa is one of the top 10 innovators emerging from the Blue Innovation Challenge run by the Zanzibar UNICEF UNDP Waste X Lab, an initiative launched to address environmental challenges in Zanzibar, including marine pollution and waste management.
The UNICEF UNDP Waste X lab is a center of excellence (CoE) situated within the State University of Zanzibar, training young innovators in launching circular businesses by providing training in solid waste management with state-of-the-art equipment.
After completing the WasteX Lab waste management and circular economy training, Arafa officially registered her innovative solution and business, Asili Fertilizers, which creates organic fertilizer using domestic and hotel food waste, cow dung, leaves, and other organic materials.
In Swahili, asili means “natural or traditional way of living”, Arafa explains. Today, the young entrepreneur’s company has two part-time employees, and young women in the community see her as a role model.
Poor waste management significantly impacts children’s health, education, and future prospects. About 60 per cent of solid waste in Zanzibar is not adequately managed, with a significant threat to children of exposure to toxic substances. Currently, 100 million children globally are highly exposed to air pollution caused by poorly managed waste.
40 groups of solid waste management operators are benefitting from innovations incubated in Waste X Lab. The lab has enabled the employment of 1,070 young people, of which 59 per cent are young women.
Waste X Lab has partnered with the national government and the University to engage young people in climate innovation by creating supportive policies, investing in infrastructure, raising public awareness, and creating new green jobs.
By 2025, the global waste management market is expected to reach 530 billion USD; in Africa alone, recycling and waste recovery is expected to generate 8 billion USD annually. Asili Fertilizers is a successful example of how empowering young innovators can position an island like Zanzibar as a national and regional leader in contributing to a cleaner environment and fostering long-term socio-economic benefits for its residents.
This year, my sales are much better. I feel blessed that many farmers buy large quantity of Asili fertilizer. I want to contribute to the future of waste management solutions for Zanzibar. As young leaders, we must continue to focus on the future we believe in.
Waste X Lab is a UNICEF Global Climate Innovation Portfolio solution being scaled to neighbouring countries in the region.
About UNICEF Climate Innovation Portfolio
The UNICEF Innovation Global Climate Portfolio identifies, validates and scales transformational and frontier innovations that respond to key programmatic challenges that, if solved, will unlock faster progress for a climate-secure and resilient future for children and young people. The initiative Innovation30 – Young Climate Innovators Shaping the Future sources transformational solutions developed by young people under 30 years.
UNICEF is ambitious and intentional about the meaningful engagement of children and young people in innovating and shaping environmental policies in disaster risk preparedness and risk reduction.
The Global Climate Innovation Portfolio aligns with a diverse partner network to champion impactful solutions, especially with and for communities in the over 190 countries where we operate. With a shared purpose, we catalyze increased investments to source, pilot, iterate and scale solutions to help transform communities and build hope in addressing the global climate crisis.
Read more about UNICEF Global Innovation Portfolios.
Read more about Waste X
Learn more about Green Shark Challenge
Learn more about Blue Innovation Challenge