Godfrey Ssemanda's Story
Godfrey Ssemanda is 52 years old and lives at Lambu landing site. This is located on the banks of Lake Victoria, of which he has been a resident all his life.
Godfrey is known as a "Collector's Collector", which is an individual who collects plastic by buying it from other people who have collected plastic initially. He then sells the bulk amount of plastic to Eco Brixs, which in turn he is paid for.
He feels strongly about collecting and recycling plastic, as he is a fisherman of over 28 years and often sees pollution dumped in Lake Victoria, which harms the fish and contaminates their breeding area. He worries there is pollution entering the Great Lake from the four different countries that border the lake, as streams and rivers feed into it.
Godfrey learnt the fishing trade from his mother when the trade was booming. However, the lake is now heavily polluted and there is a lot of congestion as the communities around the lake have grown. Eventually, this led to Godfrey's fishing business struggling and the prospect of poverty became real. He worried about how he would support his family.
However, Godfrey started collecting plastic to substitute his income until the prospects of his fishing business improved, but collecting plastic has gone so well that he now fishes and manages his collection business, which he has been doing for 18 months since Eco Brixs expanded to Lake Victoria.
Godfrey has learnt about plastic pollution from Eco Brixs' environmental education programmes. He now mobilizes his friends and colleagues to collect plastic waste as well, as he feels strongly about using plastic to earn an income, as well as cleaning up the region where he grew up.
“The first sign that things had gotten more difficult was a reduction in fish production. Eco Brixs came in and taught us the dangers of plastic pollution, which was a reality because by that time most of the fishing areas were choking on plastic waste.”
Collecting plastic has helped Godfrey earn more money to educate his children, with his eldest being a university graduate! The whole experience has improved his livelihood, allowed him to save money, and allowed him to invest in his fishing business.
Godfrey has established a network of other plastic collectors who sell to him before he sells the plastic on to Eco Brixs, with his network including 15 people that clean up plastic waste from 9 areas: Kazilu, Kabasisi, Kunya, Ensi Eganye , The Genocide Memorial Site (locally called Bahutu), Kakyanga, Nansere, Lambu and Kikonoka.
Some people do call Godfrey mad for trading in plastic waste, but he is content with life as he is able to feed and support 8 family members and help clean up the region and lake where he has grown up. He also feels a part of a bigger movement as he has joined The Uganda Recycling Association, which is Eco Brixs union for people who collect plastic.
On top of being a plastic collector, Godfrey is also incharge of Eco Brixs' "Game-Changer", a fishing boat made out of 100% recycled plastic waste. This has become a tourist attraction at Lambu landing site and has inspired other fishermen to collect plastic and helped raise awareness about the dangers of plastic waste amongst the whole community.
"Championing the proper disposal of plastic waste at Lambu landing site has given me a sense of comfort knowing I have contributed to saving Lake Victoria and the planet from plastic pollution and carbon emissions"
- GODFREY SSEMANDA