“We are responsible for our own actions, if we want to live in a clean and safe environment we must take action.” Amina passionately shares with a group of Village Health Team (VHT) members gathered under a canopy of trees in a local school for their regular twice a month meetings.
It is not hard to see Amina’s passion for the environment as she later tells us. Twice every month, this group of community volunteers from various villages in Jinja City, meets to discuss air quality and air pollution in their community led by Amina. Today, the debate is heated, there has been an increase in garbage burning in the community and they are concerned about the air pollution that comes with it.
“We need to do more, we need to sensitise the residents on better ways of waste disposal,” one member says. “I have been helping subsidise the garbage collection fee for the residents in my community,” another member adds, offering a solution. “I have been encouraging my neighbours to sort their waste, have the plastics in one place ready for collection by the waste disposal company, and dispose of the kitchen waste especially food peelings like banana peelings in their gardens for compost,” another member shares.
Amina uses this chance to encourage the rest of the members to adopt some of the suggestions. She also gets more members to download the AirQo App, “The App will help you know the quality of air -of locations of interest to you in realtime,”
Last year, with the support of the Wehubit programme of Enabel, AirQo not only deployed a physical network of low-cost air quality monitors in Amina’s City - Jinja City- but also developed a customised analytics platform and mobile application, providing residents and authorities access to actionable data and evidence to act and tackle air pollution, a major environmental and health challenge in Jinja - an industrial City. Since then, Amina who is also an Environmental Officer in Jinja City has taken it upon herself to make a change in her community. “It is my passion to have a clean environment.”
After two hours, the meeting is done and the members resolve to encourage their community members to avoid burning waste and encourage them to sort it. “Meeting with the VHTs and discussing air pollution is one way of us collectively making a difference in our City,” Amina tells us. “The AirQo App has helped me know the quality of air that I am breathing especially in my home, I pass on the same knowledge to the VHTs who in turn can sensitise their communities using evidence.”
Later on, Amina invites us to her home within the City. Amina’s dedication to her environment is clearly evident in the way she has made major changes in her home to protect the health of her family by reducing exposure to air pollution. Perhaps her biggest change yet. “When the AirQo team sensitised us more about the effects of air pollution, I adopted better cooking practices so as to protect myself and my family. As a mother, the health of my children comes first,”
Amina has made it a point to ensure that she cooks in an open-air place designated purely for cooking just outside her house, and she has ensured that her neighbours cook outside too. “I am saving to buy a gas cooker,” she smiles “However, since we are currently using charcoal stoves to cook, we decided to build a designated place for cooking so that we avoid cooking inside our houses when we want to light up the stoves, we take them outside the houses, to reduce our exposure to pollution. We have also stopped using plastics to light up the stoves.”
She says she has seen a drastic change in her neighbourhood. “We sort our waste and every week I personally clean our drainage system, picking up plastic bags and disposing of them well,” she says.
As an Environmental Officer, Amina uses her access to air quality data via the AirQo data platform to see the quality of air in Jinja City. This year, the City adopted an ambitious plan to plant trees in schools, streets and open spaces around the city and in the communities to improve air quality.