Uganda’s Largest Refugee Settlement Set to Benefit from IOM’s Electronic Waste Management Project

A broken solar lantern brought to CTEN for repair. Photo: IOM/2022/Abubaker Mayemba 

KAMPALA –The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and partners have formally launched a project to transform management of solar electronic waste in Bidibidi Refugee Settlement situated in Uganda’s northwestern region.

The project “Greening Humanitarian Responses Through Recovery, Repair, And Recycling of Solar Products in Displacement Settings” seeks to give new life to disused solar lanterns and batteries, whilst creating jobs, supporting livelihoods, and providing business opportunities for refugees and host communities.

Bidibidi Refugee Settlement is home to an estimated 270,000 refugees, most of whom have fled the violence and insecurity in South Sudan. 

The project will enhance environmental sustainability in the settlement by minimizing improper disposal of solar products and to provide evidence to replicate in other settings, and to scale up beyond solar products and to other types of e-waste. 

The partnership will sensitize communities on proper electronic waste disposal and provide solar repair services. 

“Through the innovative approaches focusing on repurposing reusable components from broken solar products, this project is greatly going to contribute to reducing e-waste in Bidibidi,” said Sanusi Tejan Savage, IOM Chief of Mission in Uganda.

“The lessons from this pilot are going to influence future interventions that will focus more on the environmental sustainability of solar items.” 

Solar products are increasingly being used in displacement settings as part of efforts to promote clean energy solutions.  Electronic waste is responsible for air and water pollution, environmental degradation through hazardous metals and other elements, as well as causing problems to human health.  Yet, e-waste contains materials of significant value, and therefore recycling can bring with it enormous economic opportunities. Trade, repair, and recovery of materials from e-waste can act as a source of livelihood for many people.

The establishment of collection and repair centres will not only ease access to repair services, but also create jobs.  BRIGHT and TEOSS will train seven technicians in testing, repair, and assembly of lithium-ion batteries. 

TEOSS will also install a “Batlab” - a solarized mobile container built upon Aceleron’s patented technology. Here, lithium batteries from unrepairable solar products will be reassembled into battery packs for powering homes, businesses, or other facilities. 

“Some people resort to using some of the components like batteries to charge their phone batteries and others keep them under their beds which puts their health at risk because the products contain hazardous minerals like cobalt, lithium, and manganese.  Communities will be educated about the dangers of poor disposal of solar products,” noted Peter Batali, the Executive Director of CTEN. 

Through workshops with key stakeholders from the government, humanitarian agencies, and the private sector, Solvoz and IOM will share their experiences that will help green humanitarian procurement policies and solutions to the solar e-waste challenge. 

The first phase of the project, conducted in 2020, included a needs assessment that analyzed e-waste management conditions in five refugee settlements and camps in Uganda and Kenya, as well as a market dialogue with the private sector, helping to shape the approaches for the pilot phase in Bidibidi.

The project is funded by Innovation Norway and is being implemented by IOM in partnership with BRIGHT Products, Solvoz, and Total Energies Offgrid Solar Solutions (TEOSS). Locally, it is being co-implemented with the Community Technology Empowerment Network (CTEN). IOM received 5,300,000 NOK (about EUR 554,600) to finance the costs of the project in different locations, including private sector engagement, innovation and operations.  

For more information / media enquiries, please contact IOM Uganda Public Information Officer, Richard M Kavuma,  | cc | Tel: +256 312 263 210 | +256 772 709 917

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