Mafraq – As part of a large-scale, multi-pronged solid waste management initiative, Oxfam’s two-year presence in the Mafraq region has already created an inspirational solid waste management model within the governate. Solid waste management, commonly known as trash is any unwanted material thrown away or discarded. Oxfam’s work in Mafraq has started to meet solid waste demands in a way that links vulnerable Jordanians and Syrian refugees to long-lasting skills development, practical on the job training, dignified work, decent income, all while bridging refugee communities with their host community counterparts.
In Mafraq, Oxfam’s “Your Environment, Your Home campaign” (called Bei’tak Baytak in Arabic), is a model of social cohesion and environmental progress.
“Oxfam has played a tremendous role in helping our community manage litter and raise awareness about the environment while creating jobs and reducing levels of unemployment,” said Mr. Hasan Fahed Akrhebah, Um Jamal’s Mayor. “We’re really grateful for Oxfam’s unbelievable efforts and the positive impact this initiative has had.”
Shortly after a successful recycling pilot project in the Za’atari Refugee Camp saw a reduction of solid waste in landfills by 20% from recycling cardboards, metals, and plastics, Oxfam turned a crisis into an opportunity by simulating components of the model in the neighboring city of Mafraq, where the blame for the increasing load of solid waste caused serious rifts between refugees and their host community.
Oxfam leveraged the critical timing of local policy changes using the opportunity to meet the demands of the waste challenges in neighboring municipalities of Um Jummal, Za’atari, and Mansheyeh. In these municipalities, commercial waste (i.e. waste produced by business enterprises) that would otherwise pile in landfills is now recycled in the recycling plant run by Oxfam. Specifically, it is transported to local facilities to be sorted, separated, and processed by vulnerable workers who, unlike before, now receive a source of income, skills training and mentorship.
“The hardest thing I encountered when I started working collecting litter was that people would make fun of me, even my husband was against it,” said Najah, a local Syrian woman who works at the plant. “That was a long time ago. Perceptions have changed so much that now everyone keeps asking me how to apply for a job and to recommend them.”
Using an incentive-based volunteering scheme (also called cash-for-work), both Jordanians and Syrians have been able to access jobs within the host community – ones that are designed to not just fill short-term demand but provide the requisite skills training for longer term work opportunities in the green job sector. Additionally, by creating linkages with local recycling companies, doors are open for potential future opportunities as a result of the networks made between refugees and local companies.
“Collaboration with and empowerment of local partners is at the core of Oxfam’s development work,” said Nivedita Monga, Oxfam Country Director. “We deliberately and strategically chose to engage with local community-based organizations Zwadeh Alkhair, Rabyeh, and local municipal authorities in order to ensure meaningful, grassroots partnerships were being forged between refugee and host communities while also supporting the local municipalities.”
Oxfam is currently the lead agency providing solid recycling services’ and running an awareness campaign to the host community of Mafraq and, as with all its programs, ensures gender equality is at its core.
To date, almost 90 people have been employed in Oxfam’s Mafraq incentive-based program on a rotation basis. Almost 30 percent of them are Syrian. So far this year, the initiative has collected 120 tons of recyclables (including, aluminum, cardboard, plastic, and metal).
This is just one of a series of initiatives Oxfam has launched as part of a large-scale initiative that aims to increase environmental literacy and sustainability in the country. Chief among them are an online information resource center tailored to link communities to local services; a first of its kind report that sheds light on existing public behaviours and perceptions towards recycling in the country; as well as a social media campaign that has leveraged local celebrities who shape public opinion to help raise awareness about the importance of recycling.