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Flipflopi Lake Victoria Expedition Impact WORLD'S FIRST RECYCLED PLASTIC DHOW CIRCUMNAVIGATES AFRICA'S LARGEST FRESHWATER LAKE TO BEAT PLASTIC POLLUTION IN EAST AFRICA

Executive summary

Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest freshwater lake, is prime for engagement on the ‘blue economy’ and the role that a circular economy can play in protecting the freshwater ecosystem where millions draw their livelihoods and sustenance from.

Whilst the global plastic pollution discourse is predominantly focused on the impact to our oceans, the reality is that the major source of marine pollution starts upstream and single-use plastic products are ubiquitous.

Over a four week period in March and April 2021, the now well known world's first recycled plastic sailing dhow - the Flipflopi - accompanied by a team of 20+ people, led major events across three countries (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda) meeting business leaders, community leaders, conservationists, policy-makers, academics and school children, in order to highlight the impact of plastic pollution on the lake and other environmental challenges it faces, and what we can all do about it.

“This is boat building being used to create a very powerful scaling and multiplier mechanism for grassroots recycling…their fresh, original idea provides a compelling platform for communication, education and policy engagement.” Dr Toby Gardner Stockholm Environment Institute & Director of www.trase.earth

This report documents our activities and demonstrates our results in the context of the expedition's overarching goal – to take the message upstream to engage inland communities on plastic issues & the circular economy and to lobby for region wide legislation on single-use plastics.

Like the 2019 Clean Seas expedition, the Lake Victoria expedition 2021 demonstrated that the Flipflopi dhow innovation is a powerful platform to accelerate engagement with community members, policy-makers and the media around plastic pollution.

By running an event series in multiple locations in lakeshore and ocean-dwelling communities, Flipflopi is able to ignite local, national and regional interest rapidly across geographies, accelerating existing grassroots movements, and creating an elevated platform for policy makers and the media to discuss plastic pollution and circular solutions.

The report findings

  • Running Flipflopi event series ignites media attention, policymaker and public engagement quickly and efficiently across multiple locations - from fishing communities to cities.
  • Following expeditions, it's important to continue to support these activated grassroots campaigns (artists, activists, recyclers) and engaged policymakers in each location to sustain and accelerate public awareness around plastic pollution, influence policy change and inspire circular economy solutions.
  • Scaling up plastic boat building innovation through knowledge transfer and ongoing R&D will trigger further circular economy engagement with lakeshore and ocean-dwelling communities across different geographies.

This report covers:

  • Campaign highlights
  • Lake Victoria Expedition: Impact
  • What's next: Flipflopi strategies and activities
  • Partner testimonials

Highlights

  • The world's first recycled plastic sailing dhow completed a historic expedition circumnavigating Lake Victoria
  • Sailed ~1000km in 4 weeks to tackle plastic pollution
  • Ran 10+ events in three countries, bringing together thousands of school children, creators, campaigns, policy makers, and the media
  • 100+ news articles and broadcast media including UNEP, CGTN, AFP, Xinhua, the British Government, All Africa, and Kenyan, Ugandan and Tanzanian national media
  • Tens of thousands of school children engaged in talks and recycling workshops
  • Several East African leaders made commitments to tackle single use plastic including Kenyan County Governors and the Queen of Buganda
  • Launched a plastic recycling centre in Kisumu and a youth eco-education centre in Mwanza
  • Undertook the first surface to deepwater analysis of microplastic presence in Lake Victoria

Why Lake Victoria? Africa’s largest freshwater lake is dying and requires urgent action

  • Lake Victoria supports >40 million people and is the source of the River Nile that flows to 400 million people in Africa.
  • Lake Victoria symbolises the catastrophic effects of human activities and climate change, including flooding, overfishing and water pollution.
  • A 2015 study found that 1 in 5 Nile Perch in the lake had ingested plastic.

Impact: the expedition proved again Flipflopi is a compelling platform for the media and public engagement around plastic pollution

Launch of Flipflopi Lake Victoria Expedition in Kisumu | Photo Credit: Umber Studios and Flipflopi
  • The expedition was covered in 100+ news articles and broadcast media including UNEP, CGTN, AFP, Xinhua, EuroNews, Geo and All Africa.
  • Extensive Kenyan, Ugandan, Tanzanian national media coverage - print, online and broadcast reaching millions of Flipflopi’s East African target demographic.
  • 15+ articles and radio interviews and national TV coverage with French speaking media.
  • Expedition was filmed for children’s TV series N*Gen, expected to reach millions of children in Kenya, Nigeria, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Uganda.

Impact: public engagement and community mobilisation

“The important thing is to just start with small steps and engaging people one by one. It is possible that we can create a future generation that will care enough to save the world!” Leader of the Jinja Scouts movement
Flipflopi Volunteer, Katharina Elleke, leads a recycling workshop on Rusinga Island | Photo Credit: Umber Studios and Flipflopi
“Our planet was not given to us by our parents. Instead it was loaned to us by our children and grandchildren. It’s up to our generation to do something about our climate.” From Hilda Nakabuye founder of Fridays for Future Uganda
  • 6 local community events, engaging 100s in recycling and lake safety workshops.
  • 4 events in the cities of Kisumu, Mwanza, Kampala and Dar es Salaam brought together business leaders, policy makers, and the media.
  • 100s of school children attended Flipflopi talks and recycling workshops.
  • 30,000 school children engaged on social media.
  • Launched a new youth eco-education centre (Mwanza) and community recycling centre (Kisumu).

Impact through 'artivism': activism through art and culture

“We believe that art can play a major part in environmental education, combining the talents & innovation of communities and giving them ownership in tackling this issue." Ephraim Kapungu, British Council Tanzania
Dancers from Nantea Dance Company perform in front of an art installation created out of discarded plastic bottles | Photo Credit: Megan Lee and Flipflopi
"The suffocation of the Nile perch was my alarm as an artist to act. The fish is a symbol to end plastic pollution. People will not fail to understand it, even those who can’t read will see the plastic in the fish, and what that means for humans eating it." Arinitwe Peter, Ugandan artist

Impact: Inspiring innovation and locally grown ‘circular economy’ solutions

  • Convened a network of 50+ recycling businesses and entrepreneurs to showcase solutions and inspire innovation.
  • Ran 7 circular economy eco-markets attended by hundreds of community members.
  • Launch of new Flipflopi plastic recycling centre in Kisumu.
  • Inspired local leaders like Jinja City Mayor to champion the creation of waste to wealth economies.
“This is not waste. This is raw materials we get for free. Why are we throwing away raw materials? In Jinja it’s finally time we do something with these plastic bottles. We must stockpile them. We must find the market...Can’t we take these bottles back to #CocaCola ? It’s up to them to take responsibility.” Jinja city mayor elect, Kasolo Alton
Various exhibitors showcase their products as part of Flipflopi's eco-market exhibitions around East Africa | Photo Credits: Umber Studios, Megan Lee and Flipflopi

Influencing policy change: National leaders made commitments towards ending single-use plastics

“Lake Victoria is my lifeline and I don’t want to see it die. If countries are not ready to take the step on banning single-use plastic, we as counties may have to bite the bullet as something urgently needs to be done.” H.E. Anyang' Nyong'o, Governor of Kisumu County
Kisumu County Governor, H.E. Anyang' Nyong'o gives his address at the Lake Victoria expedition launch in Kisumu | Photo Credit: Umber Studios and Flipflopi
  • Received national support from the Governments of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania and multi-lateral support from UNEP, FCDO, AFD and the EU.
  • The UK Government expressed their support and alignment to take the global plastic pollution message to COP 26.
  • In Kenya, 2 county governors made commitments to tackling single-use plastic
  • Presented a draft Bill in collaboration with law firm - Anjarwalla and Khanna on a proposed ban of specific single-use plastics to the Kisumu County for their consideration and review.
  • In Uganda, the Queen of Buganda signed the petition calling for an end to unnecessary single-use plastic in East Africa.
  • The Government of Uganda led plastic pollution discourse and included plastic in the government agenda during Water & Environment week.
  • Read more about the Kampala event here.
  • In Tanzania, a plastic pledge was launched to encourage businesses to take action to eliminate single-use plastics. Read more about the Tanzanian leg of the expedition from the Mwanza and Dar es Salaam events.

Influencing policy change: the expedition brought into focus the need for regional consensus to ban single use plastics

The Nnabagereka of Buganda, Queen Sylvia Nagginda, visits the Flipflopi in Kampala | Photo Credit: Umber Studios and Flipflopi
  • Drafted a white paper on the state of single-use-plastic legislation in East Africa in collaboration with Sustainable Business Inclusive.
  • Ran a series of webinars with business leaders and policymakers to deliberate on policy, regulations, and bans to eliminate unnecessary plastic in the East African region
  • A public petition to ban specific single use plastics across the EAC has gathered over 9,000 signatures
  • In collaboration with Anjarwalla & Khanna, drafted a bill - the prohibition of manufacturing, importation, use and sale of single use plastics bill 2021 - that will shortly be taken to the East African Legislative Assembly.
  • Presented a draft Bill in collaboration with Anjarwalla and Khanna on a proposed ban of specific single use plastics to the Kisumu County for their consideration and review

Science: Furthering plastic pollution research on the lake

"Science is important as it helps communities understand the extent of pollution and take action based on available data. We've found plastic on remote islands in the lake, showing that this problem is massive and that it requires a regional approach to tackle it." Bahati Mayoma, Researcher Flipflopi Lake Victoria Expedition
Flipflopi co-Founder, Ben Morison, puts together deep water equipment for microplastic research in Lake Victoria | Photo Credit: Umber Studios and Flipflopi
  • There are very few studies exploring the impact of plastic pollution on Lake Victoria, and none which explore from the surface to deep water.
  • Throughout the expedition, microplastic research was conducted on the lake in collaboration with the University of Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and Northumbria University (UK).
  • Northumbria University are now conducting a microfibre analysis of the lake from surface to deep waters.
  • Bahati Mayoma at the University of Dar es Salaam investigated the presence of microplastics around Lake Victoria through the use of Manta Trawl.
  • The Flipflopi Project and Northumbria University are developing a toolkit for people to build their own water sampling kit based on the water samplers designed and used on Lake Victoria.

Safety education on the lake

The Flipflopi visits Kaunguli village in Uganda | Photo Credit: Umber Studios and Flipflopi
  • It is estimated 5 people (mainly from fishing communities) drown each day due to dangerous weather conditions and lack of safety knowledge.
  • RNLI donated 1,000 waterproof phone pouches for local fishermen which were given out during Flipflopi fishing community events and provided educational messaging.
  • BBC Media Action trained journalists in 4 local radio stations around the lake to report on climate issues and broadcast safety educational messages to the local fishing communities.

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What’s next? The expedition ignited and accelerated local circular economy movements across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

Flipflopi post-expedition strategies focus on supporting 3 organisational pillars of Innovation, Education, and Influence. This includes supporting activated grassroots campaigns (artists, activists, recyclers) and engaged policymakers in each location, advocating for regional policy change, and setting up and sustaining community innovation and recycling centres.

Flipflopi post-expedition strategies focus on supporting 3 organisational pillars of Innovation, Education, and Influence.

1. SCALING UP BOAT BUILDING INNOVATION

“This is boat building being used to create a very powerful scaling and multiplier mechanism for grassroots recycling…. their fresh, original idea provides a compelling platform for communication, education and policy engagement.” Dr Toby Gardner Stockholm Environment Institute & Director of Transparency for sustainable economies

Following the success of 2 regional expeditions, Flipflopi is starting research and development to scale up traditional boat building with recycled plastic and accelerate impact around the world.

Heritage boat building school, Lamu aims to bring plastic boat building techniques to the world
  • Setting up a Heritage Boat Building School & Plastic innovation centre in Lamu, the cultural home of the dhow, to introduce new techniques of plastic boat building into the boat-building and ocean-dwelling community.
  • Development of open-source toolkits to take plastic boat building innovation and knowledge to other emerging consumer economies.
  • Work has commenced on building a new ocean-faring recycled plastic dhow, double the size of the existing Flipflopi, capable of sailing around the world.
  • Round-the-oceans expedition and 2 year event series expected to reach billions in emerging consumer economies including Africa and India.
Sketch of Flipflopi Kubwa - new boat building R&D project

2. SUPPORTING LOCALLY GROWN CIRCULAR ECONOMIES THROUGH INNOVATION CENTRES

Flipflopi helps support waste management and plastic recycling centres. The centres produce raw material that can be sold into industry, or the local economy in the form of construction materials and handicrafts. By giving waste value, these centers make plastic part of a local circular economy, triggering important attitude changes to littering and recycling. Flipflopi community centres and partners now include:

  • Lamu heritage boat building centre and recycling centre (TakaTaka Heroes).
  • Kisumu Plastic recycling centre (Dunga Hill Camp, Plastiki Rafiki)
  • Mwanza environmental education centre (My Mark My City, EMEDO).
  • Diani waste management and innovation centre (Kwale Recyclers).
A workshop held at the Flipflopi-Kisumu Innovation Hub | Photo Credits: Umber Studios and Flipflopi

3. SUPPORTING LOCAL CHANGE-MAKERS FROM SOURCE TO THE SEA WHO CAN DRIVE CHANGE FROM THEIR COMMUNITIES

Focusing on the most primed and engaged partnerships on the Indian Coast and Lake Victoria, Flipflopi is supporting new artivist and public engagement campaigns to drive sustainable change within local communities. Activities include:

Supporting ongoing artivist campaigns and movements like Ggaba beach, Kampala with #EndPlasticPollution, Infonile and Arinitwe Peter
  • Ongoing partnership with Naam arts and innovation festival in Kenya.
  • New partnerships with artivists and activist groups in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
  • New Tanzanian coordinator to kick off campaigns in Mwanza and Dar es Salaam.
  • New international partnerships including University of Portsmouth

4. INFLUENCING POLICY CHANGE IN EAST AFRICA

Regional consensus is needed to tackle plastic pollution and overcome disparities in plastic legislation. Flipflopi together with strategic partner Anjarwalla & Khanna is calling for an end to unnecessary single-use plastics in East Africa through an advocacy and governance campaign.

  • Draft Bill calling for the prohibition of manufacturing, importation, use and sale of single-use plastics.
  • Flipflopi, together with Anjarwalla & Khanna, are seeking support and sponsorship of the bill by the leaders and policy makers engaged during the expedition.

5. INSPIRING CIRCULAR ECONOMY INNOVATION ON A GLOBAL SCALE

  • Discussions in place with the partners to take Flipflopi plastic innovation campaign to COP 26 to inspire global leaders to embed circular economy policies.
  • Ongoing partnership with UNEP to continue the momentum of the Flipflopi campaign.

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Testimonials

Kenya

“Just have a look on the way the Nile perch is fed with waste in the lake Victoria. You will agree with me that if the trend continues this fish species will be threatened with extinction” - Dr. Juliette Biao Koudenoukpo, UNEP Director and Regional Representative for Africa

“Flipflopi is a great African example of the circular economy in action; we are proud to see it start this new journey around Lake Victoria, a shared resource that we must do all we can to protect” - Joyce Msuya, Deputy Executive Director of UNEP.

"There will be no blue economy without Lake Victoria and there will be no Lake Victoria if we continue to devastate it. On behalf of the CECs around Lake Victoria, this is a dream come true. Seeing 2 Governors come together to start something. Lake Victoria has become the largest septic tank in Africa. It's better that we start now than not start at all. " - Dickson Oruko Nyawinda, CEC Member for Water, Sanitation, Environment & Forestry, Homa Bay County

Uganda

“We must ask ourselves critical questions. Do I need that polythene bag? Do I really need to use that bottle? Changing plastic consumption habits can go a long way to reduce plastic waste.” - Nnabagereka of Buganda, Queen Sylvia Nagginda

“Yes it would be fair for us to take personal responsibility of the plastics that us as manufacturers in Uganda create.” - Morgan Bonna, Uganda Water and Juice Manufacturers Association

Tanzania

"Congratulations for the mission accomplished amidst the challenges. What a great team of partners who each did their bit excellently... I am sure UNEP know they have a trustworthy and credible partnership in the Flipflopi initiative." - Clara Makenya, National Coordinator and representative for UNEP, Tanzania

"What a wonderful example of multi-partner working – and in what we can all agree were extraordinary circumstances. It was a pleasure to be part of the wonderful Flipflopi initiative and bring British Council engagement to both the Mwanza launch and Dar es Salaam events. Wonderful to see so much youth engagement on an essential issue – plenty of food for thought on what more we can do collectively to raise awareness on plastic pollution, especially building momentum in the lead up to Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) and COP26!" - Cat Sinclair-Jones, British Council

"Congratulations on such an impressive and successful expedition! The amount of work that everyone put in was incredible. Cat said it well - an extraordinary boat, navigating an extraordinary expedition in ‘extraordinary circumstances’! Huge admiration and heartfelt gratitude to all partners involved that made this project a success. Indeed I look forward to working with you on future collaborations in this year of climate action!- Laura Blizzard, Head of Economic and Trade Policy, British High Commission

"Hongera sana, the Flipflopi is finally back home in Lamu after two years of revolutionising East Africa's approach to plastic. Thanks for this great initiative that has brought us all together, that has shone the light on local recyclers and organisations which has made sustainable living accessible to thousands of people and for giving young people like me the voice and platform to fight for our future. The Flipflopi is indeed incredible and leaves a very colourful footprint everywhere it goes." - Maliha Sumar, My Mark My City

International

“We wanted to hear more about the Flipflopi Expedition because we felt it was an inspiring initiative that didn't just involve a beautiful boat made of waste plastic, but importantly, involved working with local and regional communities, partners, policymakers and businesses. Ben amazed, energised and inspired everyone with the Flipflopi project - what an incredible approach to advancing long-lasting, meaningful change in tackling an urgent, global issue.” - Camilla Tham, Anthropocene Manager, The Natural History Museum, London

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About the Flipflopi

We are a circular economy movement based in East Africa whose vision is a world without single-use plastic. We showcase alternate uses of waste plastic and the viability of a circular economy in Africa through our education programmes, our innovation hubs and our advocacy and governance programmes. Visit our website.

Special thanks and acknowledgement to all our partner organisations, and individuals without which none of this would have been possible and through which the African led #plasticrevolution continues to grow.