by Robert B. Fishman
For Sadrach Nirere, giving up is not an option. He likes to laugh and remains optimistic in the fight against the climate crisis and plastic waste. In his home country Uganda, the 26-year-old founded the Ugandan branch of Fridays for Future and the End Plastic Pollution movement as a student. Since his bachelor's degree in business administration in 2020, he sees himself as a “full-time activist”. He says with a laugh that he doesn't have time for a permanent job. He lives from occasional jobs for social media campaigns and other online jobs. “I can get by with that.” More than his own situation, he is concerned with the vast amount of plastic waste in Uganda's rivers and lakes.
The tall, friendly young man was lucky, which is rare in Uganda, that his parents were able to send him to a high school in the capital Kampala in the early 2000s. Many cannot pay school fees of around 800 euros a year for their children. “Most of us live on less than one euro a day,” says Sadrach. "Many children drop out of school because they have to earn money".
“I enjoyed life there, the big city, the many possibilities,” he remembers. But he quickly noticed the downside. Plastic waste clogging the sewer system and floating in Lake Victoria.
As a student at the university, he looked for fellow campaigners and founded the initiative “End Plastic Pollution” and Fridays for Future Uganda, which, like its sister organizations in other countries, fights for more climate protection.
"The climate crisis hits us more directly than the people in Europe"
"The climate crisis affects us here much more directly than the people in Europe," says Sadrach Nirere. As a child, he experienced first hand how the weather affects the harvest on his parents' farm. Whether he, his parents and his sister had enough to eat depended on the yield. After bad harvests, his parents had to give up farming. There used to be regular rainy and dry seasons in Uganda. Today it is too dry, then heavy rain will put the land under water again. Floods destroy crops. The masses of water wash away the soil. During the drought the wind blows the valuable arable tops away. Landslides and other natural disasters that are more common in the climate crisis hit the poor in particular. Some families lose their homes and all of their possessions in landslides.
"Volatile" human rights
Many felt powerless and resigned. But Sadrach Nirere is certain that the environmental movement is touching "more and more people in Uganda". "We are reaching around half a million people through initiatives in 50 schools and universities." The young man calls the human rights situation in Uganda “volatile”: you never know what will happen if you organize a demonstration, for example. After the climate strike in September 2020, the police arrested and interrogated many activists and confiscated their posters. "Most were under 18," says Nirere. The police asked why they took part in the protests and who is funding the protests. Then she would have been brought back to her parents. Nobody from End Plastic Pollution or Fridays for Future is currently in prison.
"We are expressly not turning against the government," added Sadrach Nirere. The protests were directed primarily against companies like Coca-Cola, which pollute the environment with their plastic packaging waste. This threatened with extremely expensive lawsuits. This has not happened so far.
Hardly anyone in Uganda escaped the flood of plastic. “Above all, the common people can only shop at the street kiosks. You can only get everything there in plastic: cups, plates, drinks, toothbrushes. ”Instead of an organized recycling system, there are so-called waste pickers. These are poor people who collect rubbish in landfills, on the street or in the countryside, which they sell to middlemen. “They get maybe 1000 shillings for many kilos of plastic,” estimates Nirere. That's the equivalent of 20 cents. This does not solve the problem of plastic litter.
"We turn to the polluters," says Sadrach Nirere, "the manufacturers" - and to the people in the country. “We are all human beings, including those in government and those responsible in companies. We have to work together if we want to prevent people from destroying their own livelihoods. "
Demanding corporate action / responsibility to #EndPlasticPollution
on Gofundme: https://www.gofundme.com/f/water-for-all-and-endplasticpollution
Fridays for Future worldwide: https://fridaysforfuture.org/
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