On garbage, plastic, and drought in Angola

Plastic bags in Matala (Huíla). Photo © Ruy Llera Blanes, October 2020.

Landscapes like the ones in the photo above – taken near a market in the commune of Matala (Huíla) – are, unfortunately, recurrent in the Angolan countryside, especially around commercial activities such as markets and sales. From this perspective, the problem of garbage and waste, both in Angola and in the world context, is not exclusive to urban landscapes, but increasingly a phenomenon that intersects all types of landscapes. This is the case, for instance, of pollution caused by plastics and micro-plastics in local ecosystems, or even in the local food chain of animals such as goats.

It is in this context that, for example, the UN Environment Program in Africa recently warned of the effects of excessive use of plastics in marine systems on the continent.

It is also in this context that environmental organizations are promoting environmental education and cleaning campaigns, such as the Angola Sem Plástico (Angola Without Plastic) project, promoted by the philanthropic organization EcoAngola throughout 2021, with the support of the European Union.

In the framework of environmental disaster situations such as drought in Angola, it is commonplace to point out this phenomenon of plastic pollution as an example of the lack of environmental knowledge and awareness on behalf of local rural communities, who insist on practices that are harmful to the environment. Another example often mentioned from this perspective is the traditional production and roadside sale of artisanal charcoal along Angola’s roads, a practice that produces or accelerates deforestation and desertification processes – which in a context of drought is of particular concern.

Coal for sale on the Cahama-Xangongo road (Cunene). Photo © Ruy Llera Blanes, June 2021.

However, the discourse of blame against local communities can have the perverse effect of hiding other, more fundamental reasons for the accumulation or acceleration of pollution and environmental disaster processes. Namely, the absence in Angola of a minimally efficient waste collection and management infrastructure, the absence of a green economy idea or project, and the continuous lack of responsibility of government entities with regard to environmental education.


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