MINUSMA and the Koyra Cinaro Group: A Partnership for Sustainable Waste Management in Mali

5 Jun 2023

MINUSMA and the Koyra Cinaro Group: A Partnership for Sustainable Waste Management in Mali

The sustainable management of natural resources and pollution prevention are priorities for the United Nations (UN), which is actively implementing measures to reduce the environmental impact of its peacekeeping operations across all countries hosting such missions.

Exemplary solid waste management in Gao

In Gao, a city nestled within the semi-arid landscape of northern Mali, the MINSUMA regional office has taken innovative measures to manage the mission’s solid waste. Since 2014, MINUSMA has contracted the firm Ecolog to undertake solid waste management, with a recycling target set at 10%.

Through this contract, the regional office in Gao supports a local Economic Interest Group (EIG) known as Koyra Cinaro (translated as “Building the City” from Songhai, a local language). This enterprising group transforms waste materials into new objects and converts food scraps from MINUSMA’s canteens into compost.

Job creation and social impact through waste management

This ongoing partnership has allowed Koyra Cinaro to engage in job creation, bringing prosperity to the local community. To date, the group employs 15 permanent and 20 seasonal workers; with all positions being filled by residents of Gounzoureye, a village located some 30 kilometers from Gao. According to Amadou Traoré, President of the EIG as well as the driving force behind this green alliance with Ecolog, most of the employees are ex-combatants or returned Malian migrants; and waste recovery has allowed them to realize their dreams while fully reaping the benefits of peace.

One such case is Yéhia Cissé, who has been working for Koyra Cinaro for nearly two years. Previously, he spent six years traveling through the Sahel region between Niger and Côte d’Ivoire, facing the constant threat of terrorism. Returning almost empty-handed to Mali, his employment within the recycling sector provided him with a fresh start and for once, promising prospects. Although he admits that his new occupation can be physically demanding, Yéhia Cissé is proud to be able to provide for his family, ensuring that their essential needs such as transportation and food are fully met. His work involves manually compacting aluminum cans before they are transported to the foundry, where after being melted down, they can be turned into new recycled objects. “I bought a motorcycle and animals to feed my family,” he testifies. “Being at home with them, is better than all those long journeys I had to do in the past to provide for my family”.

The Koyra Cinaro facility sprawls across two hectares, organized as an assembly line, with teams assigned different duties based on skill level, final product or treatment stage. In simple terms, encompassing the whole spectrum of waste recovery: from waste deposition to final transformation.

 The section dedicated to food residue management inevitably catches the visitor's eye. One to two tons of food waste are transported onsite by Ecolog every week, where they undergo meticulous treatments to only retain compostable waste.

From its facility located at the heart of an agricultural commune known as Gounzoureye, the EIG sells the rich, organic compost to farmers throughout the region at a price well below market rates. “A 20 kg bag is sold to farmers for XOF 3,000. It's a proactive policy that we know contributes to the development of the region,” explains Amadou Traoré.

To demonstrate the effectiveness of their compost to all visitors, the EIG boasts its own small orchard where they have tested it on blossoming lemon, moringa and cashew trees. However, its impact is even more evident within the MINUSMA regional office in Gao, where the agricultural productivity of the small plots of land maintained by the officers is easy for anyone to see – and eventually savor. Throughout the camp, these parcels overflow with a variety of vegetables, while the vibrant green trees appear full of vitality.

Koyra Cinaro has no intention of stopping there. Amadou Traoré has grand plans to expand their range of entrepreneurial activities, this time to the benefit of natural gum producers; who play a key role in the local economy by growing the acacia trees from which the gum is derived.

Mr. Traoré, conscious of the importance of this project for the local community, has put that plan into action by requesting MINUSMA’s support to obtain a borehole that will supply water for the acacia tree plantation. Acacia is indeed a water-intensive tree species, yet the borehole will perform a double function that will serve to improve the living conditions of local residents.

Every day, the EIG will source enough water to maintain the site's ongoing operations; but also for the consumption of neighboring communities and internally displaced persons (IDP). Another positive impact, he explains, is that the new project will generate employment opportunities for all residents of the commune as well as for the family members of current employees.

Before this partnership with Ecolog, the MINUSMA contractor, the EIG Koyra Cinaro faced difficulties with maintaining ongoing operations due to a lack of raw materials in the region. Ultimately, they found that abundance came from recycled waste.

First International Zero Waste Day

Observed every 30 March 2023 in accordance with the United Nations General Assembly resolution 77/161, this day serves to promote initiatives that advance the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These include sustainable development goals 11 and 12, which cover all forms of waste, including food loss and waste, extraction of natural resources, and electronic waste.

“As part of the decade of ecosystem restoration, a tree uprooted during the camp construction was replaced by 10 plants, to enhance the Mission's emissions reduction plan,” explains Mamadou Kanté, the officer in charge of the Environmental Unit at MINUSMA in Gao.

In the semi-arid region of Gao, which receives only 231 millimeters of rainfall per year, MINUSMA has installed a wastewater treatment unit that feeds into the onsite irrigation system and is also used in construction.

The consequent impact is a reduction in the water consumption derived from the conventional network, estimated at between 20-25%. This method also helps reduce water pressure in the town of Gao, particularly during the dry season. In line with this approach, in September 2019, MINUSMA also funded the construction of a wastewater discharge site with a settling pond, for the benefit of the Gao residents.

MINUSMA's commitment to renewable energy and sustainable development

Through resolution 2100 in 2013, MINUSMA was the first peacekeeping mission to be vested with a comprehensive mandate on environmental management. As a result, it prioritizes the use of renewable energy sources through the installation and acquisition of solar streetlights, solar energy emergency products, and more. Such approaches are not just reserved for MINUSMA’s field offices: the mission’s headquarters in Bamako are currently implementing a pilot project for a photovoltaic solar farm.

Throughout its smaller field camps, the mission installs photovoltaic systems to replace diesel-powered generators. MINUSMA has signed the Compact on Renewable Energy in Peacekeeping jointly with several countries, including Mali, as part of the High-Level Dialogue on Energy. This document also complements Sustainable Development Goal 7 on sustainable energy for all and is in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change.