UNDP-GEF Small Grants Programme Promotes Fabric and Paper Bags to Save Environment

by Aimal Khan, Afghanistan, ELP 2014

Faced with the growing threat of plastic glut in provinces from Herat to Helmand, Nangarhar to Mazar, and practically every city, small town and village, this Global Environmental Facility Small Grants Programme supported project in Kabul is showing the way towards a shopping life with fancy, re-usable cloth and paper bags.

With $50,000 USD assistance from the UNDP-Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme, Accessibility Organization for Afghan Disabled (AOAD) started a small Self-Help Group enterprise comprising of 35 disadvantaged women who were carefully selected from homes in the inner-city areas of Kabul. These women had seen death and destitution during the long years of civil conflict in the city.

Still, most Afghans take plastic bags for granted. Public awareness is important to educate people about how plastic is turning out to be a major pollutant in our country.

Mr. Abdul Khaliq Zazai, the Executive Director of AOAD and the driving force behind the ‘green’ shopping bags initiative, believes that the project would contribute to bringing the desired change in the people’s behavior. He is working very hard and recently received another grant to replicate the same project in Mazar-e-Sharif.

The center became operational in August this year. The trainees have shown great potential for learning the measurements and cloth-cutting techniques to make the cloth bags. These women have been taught not just to tailor bags, but also to mentor others in their acquaintance. Now the project has completed and it has created a good market linkage for the re-usable cloth bags. These poor women are supplying bags to the market and they are very happy because they now have this opportunity for a sustainable livelihood.

Decades of conflict have had a devastating impact on Afghanistan’s people, economy and environment. Disputes over the management of natural resources such as land, water, timber, minerals and drugs underlie and drive many of these conflicts, and often serve to further aggravate existing ethnic, political and regional divisions. The plastic shopping bags menace is serving to add another dimension to the rapid degradation of the natural resources in the country.

Since their introduction some 30 years ago, billions of plastic bags have created a modern menace that often winds up choking rivers and drifting in oceans. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has already issued calls for outlawing these bags worldwide. “A reusable bag is better for the environment regardless of what it is made from, as long as it is used at least four times, according to a 2004 study by the French retailer Carrefour”.

I dream of a day when all shoppers will go green in the cities and provinces in Afghanistan, seeking greener shopping bags and banishing plastic from their lives.

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