Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Father's Day with Awava!

Don't forget, Father's Day is on the 21st of this month!! Awava has plenty of gifts for the man in your life! Pick one of our fun and funky ties to spice up your dad's suit, or if he happens to be a grill master, choose from our excellent assortment of awe inspiring aprons and oven mitts! Please visit our website and check out our fantastic assortment of gifts for him!

Recycling in Uganda

by Kate von Achen

Recycling and reusing are practices which have been instilled in me since birth, really. My mother is an environmentalist, used to be one of “Nader’s Raiders”. I have frightening memories of our electric trash compacter. As a kid I thought it was a monster. Once full, one of my parents would push the button and the most awful sounds of crushing glass and metal would come out of that pea green iron beast. I have fond memories of walking around the countryside in Kansas, where I grew up, with my mother and sister picking up trash and singing Beatles songs.

Recycling in the United States is so easy. In Lawrence, KS there are myriad drop off points for newspapers, cardboard, cans and Wal-Mart is doing its part by providing the largest recycling center around, taking anything imaginable. In Brooklyn, recycling is basically mandatory and they pick your recyclable items up along with your trash. Where those items end up, well, that’s up for debate. Michael Moore asserts that they end up in a landfill in India while others believe such things truly are recycled and turned into new post-consumer waste products. Bottom line, recycling makes us consumers, obsessed with packaging, feel better.

When I moved to Uganda in 2007 I found myself seriously discouraged by the amount of trash littering the entire country. It broke my heart to throw out water bottle after water bottle, newspaper after newspaper, can after can, until one day I realized, hey! You can recycle in Uganda. In fact, the recycling and reuse of products in Uganda could quite possibly have a deeper and more sustainable impact than our recycling in the US!

There are various things I have found that can be recycled and reused and they often provide an income, be it small, for the local population as well!

We all know that glass bottles for beer and sodas are reused. You pay a deposit on the bottle and when you return them, you receive your deposit. This is great! Those shillings really do add up! If you don’t care about those shillings, place the empty glass bottles out separately from the rest of your rubbish and someone who could likely use the money will return them for some cash.

Plastic water bottles of all sizes are reused here. In the trading centers and taxi parks you’ll notice people selling milk and juice in old water bottles. They get used again, washed out, and refilled with beverages and sold. The larger 5L bottles are also used to keep the larger stocks of liquids in as well as used for jerry cans. Brilliant!

Aluminum cans are also recycled. Go to Owino market in Old Kampala and you see people melting down the aluminum to make hangers, jewelry and whatever else they can think of and selling them from market stalls!

Cardboard boxes of all sizes sell in the market. When I ship things to the US, I often pass by Owino to purchase a broken down cardboard box. This helps ensure the box is being reused while also creating livelihood for the entrepreneur selling more of our rubbish.

For the above items I simply rinse containers and put them in a separate bag from the rest of my rubbish. Instead of throwing everything into the “dumpster” near my flat, I set those items to the side so people can just grab them without riffling through the garbage for those hidden treasures we call rubbish.

Recycled paper products are found all over Uganda. Keep a bin with your old paper scraps in it and donate it to Papula Paper via Uganda Craft (on Bombo Road near Bat Valley—just down from City Oil) or to Paper Craft.

Also, if you drink ½ as much coffee as I do, it would be worth it to keep a bin for coffee grounds. If you have a garden or potted plants, or know someone with such things, coffee grounds provide wonderful nutrients to the soil (though Uganda’s soil is already stellar) and helps keep ants and other pests away. Click here for more information!

Also, if you’re interested in using grounds in your garden or compost but don’t drink much coffee, please email me at katevonachen@gmail.com and perhaps we can work out a deal with some of the Kampala coffee shops such as Good African Coffee, 1000 Cups, BancafĂ© or Java’s!

Food waste can also be composted. Now, composting takes a tad more effort than the other Earth-friendly activities listed, but it is wonderful again for garden mulch. For more information on successful composting, please visit Composting 101.

So for those of you (which admittedly should be all of you) who have been aching for ways to cut down on the rubbish which seems to consume this astonishingly gorgeous country, please take head of some of my suggestions above, and by all means, if you have others please share! If you have been living in or visiting Uganda for long enough, you see firsthand the destruction that global warming is causing. While heavily industrialized countries are “more to blame” than less developed countries, the people of developing countries are often the most profoundly affected. That said, everyone, regardless of geographical location or economic status can do their part to halt or even reverse the destruction to our amazing planet at little or no effort.

The Awava Project Kicks Off with First Grantee!

by Hanna Schwing

The Awava Project (TAP) is Awava's fledgling sister organization. Currently funded out of pocket by founder Kate von Achen, TAP aims to award grants to women entrepreneurs in Uganda, provide skills training in areas such as computer literacy, marketing and accounting, and help form a network of independent Ugandan women business owners.

Grace Muttara is TAP's first grantee. Grace founded Flavor Botanicals Enterprise to grow fresh herbs and market them to restaurants, supermarkets and individuals throughout Kampala. She is currently growing basil on land managed by her auntie and is looking for land in Kampala on which to grow more fresh herbs, including rosemary, thyme, cilantro, parsley and dill. TAP supports Grace by providing funds for start-up costs, starter seeds and materials for accounting. TAP also guides Grace in the use of accounting materials, purchasing affordable packaging and labeling for the herbs, marketing Grace's products, and producing and selling pesto from unsold basil.

Last Tuesday, I visited Grace and her auntie at their farm in Luzira for her first harvest of basil. I met Grace at the Bugolobi trading center, bustling in the middle of the day, and we took a matatu (minibus) to Luzira, where we found two boda-bodas (motorcycle taxis) to take us the rest of the way to the farm. It had been raining for most of the morning, and at one point we needed to get off our bodas to carefully walk across a muddy road that was under construction. When we arrived at the farm, Grace's auntie and cousin were busy roasting simsim and ground nuts (sesame seeds and peanuts) to grind and sell to a nearby school.

Grace's family greeted me, and after we rested shortly in the living room, Grace, her auntie and I crawled under the chain-link fence around the farm. On a small patch of land, raised to allow the soil to drain, stood several rows of basil about one foot tall. I started picking off a few leaves and asked Grace if I was picking them correctly. She very frankly told me that I was not, so I watched her quickly pinching the stems about an inch below flowering groups of leaves and started to mimic her. When we were done harvesting the basil, Grace's auntie offered Grace and me a bowl of freshly roasted simsim and groundnut. After eating, Grace and I headed back to Bugolobi to meet with Kate to count the bunches of basil and discuss how to store it.

We decided to wait to sell to restaurants and supermarkets until we knew how frequently the basil could be harvested and how much could be expected at each harvest. Kate and I then embarked on a guerrilla style marketing campaign around Kampala, sending out mass emails to friends, talking to a friend who manages a restaurant, even peddling basil at yoga classes. When half of the remaining basil were wilted and our individual marketing contacts were exhausted, I picked out the healthy leaves and made pesto to sell.

Working with TAP, Grace has been able to access resources to found her business. As soon as Grace produces a regular supply of basil and we have made connections with supermarkets and restaurants, she will be responsible for storing and distributing the basil as well as making and storing pesto to sell. Within six months, she will be running her business independent of TAP's financial support.

While 10% of Awava's annual profits go to supporting TAP, TAP is primarily funded out of pocket for the moment. Because TAP is currently funded out of pocket, we are limited in our ability to support Grace, and we cannot take on more clients. If you'd like to support TAP, you can purchase Awava products at www.awavamarket.com or donate directly to TAP via donate@theawavaproject.org .

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Celebrate World Environment Day by Taking 30% Off our ENTIRE US Stock!

Hello everyone! This Friday is World Environment Day and Awava is celebrating and supporting by giving 30% off our entire stock this Friday through Sunday at www.awavamarket.com! Simply enter coupon code: WED before checking out!

Awava promotes the reuse of materials as well as the processing of organic, Ugandan grown raw fibers for their products to help promote a sustainable income, a sustainable Earth and a sustainable peace!

For more information about the history of World Environment Day or special celebrations going on in your area, please click here!