Vukani BoMake Continues to Spread its Wings in Waste Management

October 5, 2022
Women use textile waste to clothes, bedding and bags at Vukani Bomake factory.

Women use textile waste to make clothes, bags and bedding at the UNDP-supported Vukani Bomake Project.

UNDP/Mantoe Phakathi

Waste management continues to be a global challenge that poses risks to ecosystems and human life. According to the World Bank’s latest What a Waste 2.0:  A Global Snapshot of Solid Waste Management to 2050 report Global Waste will grow by 70 percent by 2050 unless something is done. Eswatini is experiencing the same challenge. The national waste generation per person is 27.9 g each day based on a waste characterization study conducted under the UNDP-supported Waste Management for Improved Livelihoods and Resilience Project.

In response, in April 2022, UNDP through a partnership with Eswatini Environment Authority awarded a total of E3.9 million ($210 000) to six NGOs under the Waste Management for Improved Livelihoods and Resilience Project. Vukani BoMake, a waste management initiative that was established by Business Women Eswatini in 2020, is one of the recipients of UNDP’s innovation challenge. With grant funds, Vukani BoMake has established a cottage factory that produces masks, bedding, sanitary wear, underwear, and children’s clothing using waste from the textile factories in Matsapha. The cottage factory, which is based in Manzini on land donated by the municipality, hires 40 people including women, Persons with Disabilities, and the youth.

To establish the factory and using the grant, Vukani BoMake procured four containers, 30 sewing machines and furniture.

Speaking at the launch of the factory on 19 August, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative, Ms. Jane Yeboah, described this initiative as a “full circle moment”. She recalled how Vukani Bomake started following the implementation of the UNDP-supported Phatsa Sakho Nawe Campaign, by making reusable fabric shopping bags and selling them to retailers which benefitted over 100 women.

“At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Vukani BoMake responded by using textile waste to make reusable clothing masks which were in high demand yet there was no local producer of this protective material,” said Ms. Yeboah.

She noted that textile waste is often overlooked compared to the more popular ones such as plastic bags, bottled water containers, cardboard, and metal. Ms. Yeboah commended Vukani BoMake for making it their mission to recycle textile waste to produce reusable face masks, sanitary pads, cushions, blankets and clothing. She also appreciated the private sector for its partnership by providing textile waste for recycling.

“This textile waste recycling business is creating business opportunities and income for women, especially those living in rural areas. I was excited to learn that Vukani BoMake has started to export some of its products. This is a true demonstration of what can be achieved through seed capital disbursed through development agencies like UNDP. The recycling business turns problems into solutions, challenges into opportunities and converts trash into treasure,” she said.

Addressing the same event, the European Union Ambassador, Her Excellency Desssislava Choumelova, said Vukani BoMake, a rural project, has proven to be a force that transformed the lives of many women and youth. She said the project is important because it is focusing on three components:

  • Social entrepreneurship and business innovation
  • Empowering women
  • Circular economy

“I stand here proud of this project as it is a pioneer in making Eswatini’s textile industry greener and more sustainable while promoting social inclusion by supporting women cooperatives. This is what is expected to maintain the balance between development and the environment,” said H.E Choumelova.

She also commended the private sector for coming to the party by creating green, sustainable and decent jobs.

In response, Business Women Eswatini chairperson, Ms. Tokky Hou, expressed her gratitude to UNDP for the partnership which she said is helping women, youth and Persons with Disabilities to have sustainable livelihoods. She also thanked the Municipal Council of Manzini for supporting the project with the land.

“We look forward to more partnerships with other stakeholders. We realise the importance of joining hands with others for the betterment of our project and those who benefit from it,” she said.

Mary Mbhamali, one of the women who are working on the project, said Vukani BoMake has improved not only their livelihoods but also their confidence because it has demonstrated that, given an opportunity, rural women and people with disabilities can do something for themselves.

“This project has made us realise that a person with a disability can start a business and hire an able-bodied person,” she said.

The project is making a contribution to conserving ecosystems while reducing poverty.