Our ongoing projects focus on empowering local communities through conservation initiatives that protect the endemic animals and unique ecosystems of the Simien Mountains National Park, Ethiopia. We run on small grants from generous private foundations and on donations from people like YOU! Please donate here to support these conservation projects!
Problem: A) Plastic waste. B) Unemployment. Considering that the 29,000 tourists that visit the SMNP annually stay an average of five days and drink 2 bottles of water a day, we can expect nearly 300,000 plastic water bottles to be discarded in the park every year. Additionally, unemployment leads to increased livestock grazing, land cultivation, and tour guide saturation in the park.
Solution: Recycling of plastic bottles into goods to be sold at the local market and souvenir items to be sold to tourists. We are opening a small-scale recycling workshop in Debark, the gateway town for the SMNP, that will ultimately produce materials and goods fabricated from plastic bottles discarded in the park by tourists and residents while providing employment and revenue opportunities for residents. This project has been selected by the Arizona State University chapter of Engineers Without Borders as one of their international projects, with intellectual support from ASU’s Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Service. We have paired with two community leaders in Ethiopia—Tariku W/Aregay in Addis Ababa and Shiferaw Asrat in Debark—to facilitate the success and long-term sustainability of this project.
Thirty-two students from the Arizona State University chapter of Engineers Without Borders have spent the past year (September 2021-May 2022) training with professional engineers and plastic experts to plan the construction of recycling machines. Students worked with our community partners in Ethiopia to determine which plastic items will be most useful for the local communities and successful in the local markets: housewares (e.g., cups, bowls), building materials, and children’s toys. Students have been optimizing the shredder (produces flakes from plastic bottles), extruder (produces plastic lumber-ready materials from flakes), and the injection machine (a machine that receives the plastic flakes from the shredder and renders a single product using a pre-designed mold).
In the next year (September 2022-May 2023), ASU students will build and troubleshoot these machines on campus and our community partners in Debark will set up workshop infrastructure at Debark University. Students will travel to Ethiopia in September 2023, where they will pair with engineering and ecotourism students from Debark and Gondar Universities to construct the machines and initiate the recycling program. Ownership and maintenance of the recycling workshop and its products will be governed by a local consortium of interested parties, and a portion of all proceeds will be placed in a fund for machine and workshop maintenance. We anticipate that ASU students will take annual trips to continue to learn about the nuances of international project development and execution.
Cost: Approximately 41,000 USD for year 1, with expected diminishing annual costs starting at ~15,000 USD as the project becomes self-sustaining.
Problem: Enormous accumulation of rubbish at campsites and along tourist trekking paths. Rubbish diminishes the tourist experience, harming the tourist economy, and poses a health risk to the endangered SMNP wildlife.
Solution: Monthly clean-ups. We pay 76 people from local communities to collect rubbish once a month. Clean-up teams are assigned to various campsites and trail areas, and are supplied with latex gloves and reusable barrels for rubbish collection. With the help of the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA), rubbish is responsibly disposed of in the nearby city of Gondar.
Cost: Approximately 800 USD/month (41,680 ETB). This includes stipends for workers, gloves, and disposal fees.
Our clean-ups are only possible for as long as we continue to receive donations. With your help, we will try to support this program for as long as possible.
Rubbish pit renovation
Problem: Campsite rubbish pits are shallow and open, attracting wildlife and allowing rubbish to be strewn across the landscape. Trash foraging alters wildlife behavior & ecology and poses extreme health hazards.
Solution: Renovate rubbish pits. Working with EWCA officials, we are making new, deeper rubbish pits with custom-fit covers that permit trash disposal while preventing wildlife access. One pit (Chenek campsite) is complete, the rest to follow. All local labor is used.
Cost: $3500 USD in materials, transport, and labor.