National Youth Authority, Kumasi Metropolitan Secretariat
Concerned with the increasing numbers and plight of street children on the streets of Ghana’s major cities, Kwaku took a bold step in the year 2008 to help protect and improve the rights and lives of out of street children in Kumasi with the goal of helping the children by returning their dignity to develop into respectful citizens of the society and educate them in such a manner that they can find suitable jobs to build up their future lives this led to the birth of his Recnowa Initiative. Kwaku Kyei initiated the Recnowa Initiative with his own funds, setting up of the project secretariat, identification and recruitment of first and second batch of street children beneficiaries and was responsible for overall project management, supervision, financial and technical support for project implementation.
A 2011 White House Honoree, Kwaku is a graduate of Valley View University and a consummate social entrepreneur who has over the past 15 years developed and successfully managed and still manages several micro businesses both in Ghana and the United States with a plethora of shrewd investments in social enterprises where his passion lies. He is skillful in policy implementation, setting up of micro enterprises and training of beneficiaries in Business and Financial Management. His personal qualities include team building, project leadership, administration and accountability. Prior to settling down as a social entrepreneur, Kwaku was the Special Assistant to the Deputy Minister of Ghana’s Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development having earlier on served on the cabinet of the Mayor of Kumasi as the Director of International Relations of the City of Kumasi with special interest in the promotion of the Kumasi-Charlotte and Winston Salem Sister Cities Program and the participation of young athletes from the city to the annual International Children Games worldwide. He currently serves on the boards of various local and international firms including the Boards of the Africans in the Diaspora Fund, Ghana Islamic Microfinance and Kumasi Zoological Gardens.
The project sought to create opportunities to remove street children from the streets by creating sustainable livelihood job skills and a platform for inspiration and giving the often ignored a chance to engage in creative endeavors whiles at the same time contributing in the fight against plastic waste in the city of Kumasi by upcycling waste into high fashion goods and empowering street children in building their self-esteem, leadership and business skills so that they can initiate community development projects and hold leadership roles within their community’s whiles participating in the financial management of their households.
To rescue some of the millions of plastic trash creating serious environmental havoc from the waste stream in Kumasi, recycle them and turn them into high fashion goods.
To create direct employment opportunities for 100 street children who will be trained and employed as plastic waste recyclers and processers to keep the city clean.
To provide direct employment opportunities for another 30 street children who will be trained as high skilled artisans to add value to the rescued plastic trash to create fashionable goods.
To distribute recycled plastic waste products, raise awareness of environmental problems among the general population and encourage the responsible recycling of plastic packaging material.
To be use as a model project for the management of plastic waste and street children employment creation opportunities for other cities in Ghana and other developing nations.
The project trains street children from challenged communities in the city of Kumasi where I have served as the City’s Youth Director of the National Youth Authority a statutory government agency responsible for youth development for the past 10 years. Over the last five years I have been amazed at how the project is making a strong impact in the lives of street children by creating sustainable livelihood jobs skills for them and removing them from the streets whiles fighting the menace of plastic waste creating environmental havoc in the city hence my decision to nominate the project.
The project removes street children plagued by instability from the streets, empowers them economically and give them the opportunity to develop the skills required for a lifetime of self-sufficiency so they will never have to return to the streets again.
Although the issue of street children is a worldwide phenomenon, it is even more precarious in developing nations where lack of adequate social infrastructure and socio-economic program threatens the developmental needs of these unfortunate ones while the consequences of the growing numbers of street children are a problem, these children are not responsible for their predicament. They are turning to the street because of the failures of the education system, parental negligence and abuse growing poverty In Ghana it is estimated that there are 33,000 children living on the streets in the country.
According to a Research conducted by the Department of Social Welfare. According to the research, 75 per cent of all street children live in Accra and Kumasi, with 71 per cent of them being illiterate. It is against this gloomy situation that the Recnowa Initiative is been instituted to contribute to reduce the menace of street children in the city of Kumasi.
The Recnowa Initiative is an Economic Empowerment for Street children to Turn Plastic Waste Into Wealth. The project seeks to reduce some of the mountain of plastic waste scattered all over the city of Kumasi, turn this waste into opportunity and reduce poverty by upcycling these plastic trash into eco friendly high fashionable products such as home décor, jewelry, tote bags, footwear etc whiles creating employment opportunities for street children some of who will be engage as sachet collectors to keep the city clean and hygienic and creating employment opportunities for others who will sew the plastic waste into different usable products. The project will provide employment opportunities for these talented tailors and seamstresses and enroll them in our paid employment entrepreneurship academy that will add value to their skills and set aside a percentage of their salaries to be paid to them into an investment pool that will make savings for them to set up their own small scale businesses after working with us where they would also be exposed to on the job entrepreneurship development like business management, accounting, marketing, etc. The uniqueness of our project will be our commitment to use much less energy than traditional recycling .We will keep the plastic in its original form and color with no dyes and the sewing machines that will be use to sew them will be powered by solar thus achieving a green way of making fashion from waste that do not cause pollution. Our beneficiaries will be street children with high energy and enthusiasm eager for the opportunity to earn income to help support their families but needing support and training to thrive.
Most are the sole bread winners in their family and this will be the only source of income to provide for their children and family.
We believe that the most important step to ending poverty and streetism is to create employment and income opportunities. The Recnowa Initiative seeks to do that by engaging and providing opportunity for street children in our community. Street Children from slums communities who are unemployed or under employed and receiving wages that are demeaning and can best described as ‘hand to mouth’ without any form of savings, insurance or any form of security that can guarantee them secured future will be empowered by this project.
AGFUND PRIZE EVALUATORS’ COMMENTS:
MS Kajol Menon
Kwaku Kyei a consummate social entrepreneur founded Recnowa Initiative in Kumasi, Ghana in 2008 to address two challenges facing the city of Kumasi- the problem of street children as almost 75% of Ghana’s street children live in Accra and Kumasi and the problem of plastic waste as an astonishing 30 tons of plastic waste is generated daily in Kumasi. The projects innovation lies in juxtaposing the two problems to come to a winning solution.
Recnowa Initiative aims to take street children off the streets by creating sustainable livelihood & income generating skills through up scaling of plastic waste creating environmental hazard in Kumasi.
Kwaku Kyei lends his vast experience in successfully developing and managing several micro businesses and investing in many social enterprises to create a truly well conceived and finely executed project in Recnowa initiative. Summary of Evaluation Criteria:
Innovation related to AGFUND mission, values and objectives:
Recnowa Initiative aligns with AGFUNDs mission & values in its basic goal of poverty alleviation, environmental conservation and empowering vulnerable groups to lead a dignified social and economic life. Its innovation lies in achieving it with a creative sustainable solution, which is not aid-dependent.
Project design and management:
Recnowa Initiative owes much of its success to its well-conceptualized design; this in turn was due to participation of major stakeholders such as representatives from- street children, Water Sachet Producers Association, Waste management Department, Dept. of Social Welfare, National Youth Authority and Ministry of Women and Children affairs, in project design & planning. Recnowa realizes the importance of each partner in being part of the solution towards addressing the problems facing street children.
Relevance to the theme of the AGFUND prize:
Recnowa addresses the issue of street children in a unique way. It not only creates employment opportunities for street youths as plastic waste processors, recyclers and trains some of them as skilled artisans to convert the plastic trash into high fashion item for sale in local and international markets but also builds their self esteem, business acumen and leadership skills an important step in their journey towards a socially and economically productive life. One feels Recnowa as relevant to the theme of Prize needed to have more focus on the child- rights as an important focus area as also on health hazards of dealing with waste.
Recnowa Initiative is win-win in many ways. The most telling impact is Recnowa’s ability to provide employment opportunities to 130 street youth at 1.5 times the minimum wage who in turn have a ripple effect on the well being of their families so indirectly affecting many more. The novel aspect is that Recnowa does this while removing dangerous plastic waste, reducing land pollution, improving sanitation and earning the goodwill of the community. Thus the project makes important contribution to community environmental conservation, income generation and removal of vulnerable children from the streets. Is there somewhere a stereotype being continued-waste on the streets to be removed by ‘vermin’ on the streets?
Recnowa targets street children from challenged communities in the city of Kumasi, Ghana. In the first phase 40 street children were trained -30 as plastic waste recyclers and 10 as artisans. Similar trainings were conducted in subsequent phases. A total of 10 plastic waste mobilization centres were established, each centre managed by a group of four street children. The young representatives were not only a part of the project design phase but played a significant role in subsequent implementation and management of the project.
Successful implementation both in terms of poverty reduction outcomes as well as mainstreaming of beneficiary support processes provides a strong argument for replication of the project into other parts of Ghana and the developing countries. As a large number of street children/youth world over live off rag picking the Recnowa model could definitely be adapted.
Efficiency of financial management:
The financial statement for the year 2012 suggests an efficient and well-run project.
Fulfillment of project objectives:
Recnowa Initiatives main objective was to create livelihood opportunities for street youth while cleaning the city of Kumasi by removing plastic trash, recycling them into high fashion products. The project was more than successful in fulfilling this objective. However it was felt that the project could do more towards raising awareness on environmental problems associated with plastic waste as also on rights of vulnerable children and youth.
Recnowa has used the best of business practice to create a self-sustaining project, which meets the project development objective of poverty reduction. The project design also lays great emphasis on capacity building and process strengthening-overall objective being that at the end of the implementation period all stakeholders including beneficiaries would have increased their capacity enough to turn plastic waste into viable products for sale. Hence the process aspect of the project is of equal relevance. Beneficiaries would also need to understand distribution and marketing of products to keep the project sustainable.
Environmental and social impact:
The project is committed to fair trade, production of high quality eco-friendly goods and building the capacity of street youth towards providing them livelihood options. The projects environmental & social impact also lies in the fact that Recnowa is committed to use less energy than traditional recycling by keeping the plastic in its original form and color with no dyes as also using solar powered sewing machines thus achieving a green way of making the products. It is also committed to planting a tree for every laptop bag sold and has planted more than 1000 trees in the past 2 years. Recnowa is a high social impact project. Besides contributing positively to community environmental conservation, income generation and taking vulnerable children off the streets Recnowa benefits include: poverty alleviation, increasing capacity of community to address to socio-economic problems, strengthening social cohesion and fostering emergence of community based activities. Key to its project design is partnership with key stakeholders and inclusion of vulnerable groups such as street girls and families of street youth.
Dr. Donald C Kaminsky
Kwaku Kyei from Ghana is the nominee for the individual prize. The Project Title is Recnowa Initiative. The Nominator is the National Youth Authority, Kumasi Metropolitan Secretariat. Kwaku is a graduate of Valley View University. He is a social entrepreneur who over the past 15 years has developed and managed micro businesses in the USA and Ghana. Kwaku was the Special Assistant to the Deputy Minister of the Ghana Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. He currently serves on the Boards of Africans In Diaspora Fund, Ghana Islamic Microfinance and Kumasi Zoological Gardens. He is a 2011 White House Honoree. In 2008 he initiated the Recnowa Initiative with his own funds, being responsible for the overall aspects of the Project.
The principle objectives of the Project are to create opportunities to remove street children from the streets by the creation of sustainable livelihood job skills, while at the same time contributing in the fight against plastic waste in the city of Kumasi. This is a model project for the management of plastic waste and street children employment creation opportunities.
I have truly been impressed by this project, its objectives and its achievements. It was very difficult to decide whether this project or the one in Cairo should receive the most points and receive the Prize. My preference would have been to call the appraisal a tie, but feel that AGFUND has one Prize only to offer. Thus in spite of my high regard for this project, decided that the person in Cairo, for reasons that I will explain in that appraisal should be the prize winner.
Summary of Evaluation Criteria:
Innovation related to AGFUND mission, values and objectives
This project scores high points in regard to innovation related to AGFUND. It is an excellent example of education/training and human development in the reduction of poverty. It is innovative in its design and involvement of many actors from the private and public sectors. The creativity required and challenge of producing high fashion products from plastic waste which are attractive to local and international audiences is unique.
Project Design and Management:
Kwaku has expertise and experience in training in Business and Financial Management. His qualities include team building, project leadership, administration and accountability, all put to use in this project. A design which helps to resolve employment opportunities for street children and simultaneously a major problem of municipalities ( in this case plastic waste disposal) is one worthy of consideration worldwide. The creator of such a project deserves recognition.
Relevance to the theme of the AGFUND prize:
Reduction of poverty, training and creation of youth employment for street children are directly related to the theme of the prize.
The results of this very well managed project are to be admired. The objectives were to: to create direct employment opportunities for 100 street children who would be trained and employed as plastic waste recylclers; to provide employment opportunities for 30 other street children who would be trained as skilled artisans to add value to rescued plastic trash to create high fashion goods; to encourage the responsible recycling of plastic packaging material and raise awareness of environmental problems; and to rescue some of the plastic trash creating environmental problems in Kumasi. The objectives have been met. All of the street children have gainful employment. Other ancillary benefits have been accrued. It is reported that since the inception of the project about five years ago, the Recnowa initiative has rescued about twenty million plastic wastes.
130 street children have been taken off the streets, removed from street life and the poverty cycle, trained and employed. The city has less plastic trash which benefits the communities in general.
Similar needs are acute all over the world for plastic trash disposal. Surely there are street children populations everywhere who are looking for a mechanism to get out of the streets and have gainful employment. The potential problem I see is where are those persons who have the same enthusiasm for the development of social enterprises like Kwaku ; and are willing to take on the significant challenge of working with street children and trash.
Efficiency of financial management:
The only financial record provided is one of a Statement of Financial Position as of 31 December, 2012 which shows the Recnowa Intiative to be in a deficit position demonstrating the financial fragility of a superb effort.
Fulfillment of project objectives:
The project objectives were all fulfilled with excellent results.
The statement of Financial Position raises concern for sustainability of the project as presented, only time will tell. Capacity has been built for 130 street youth to work in plastics recycling and the production of the ability to turn plastic waste into useful and even high fashion items. Part of the process of the project was to assist the street children in creating market opportunities locally and internationally.
The obvious environmental impact of this project is a major outcome of the project and has been given the highest score of any application being evaluated.
Ms. Tien Sapartinah
This project has a straight forward approach to the street children problems encountered in the city of Kumasi, Ghana. The project objectives, target beneficiaries, the parties involved up to the project’s.
Impact is very well defined:
In addition to the project’s success in promoting the livelihoods of the street children through the recycling of plastic waste into useful and marketable product, Mr. Kwaku Kyei, the initiator of the Recnova Initiative has been also successful in embarking to some added values in cleaning the waste from the Kumasi City. While the tree planting program for every lap top bag sold, has been gradually help to restore Kumasi to its glory as the Garden City of West Africa.
Mr. Kwaku has also been successful in involving the street children in the decision and planning process in all its Input-Process-Output cycle. He also develop good partnership and networking with the Government as well as with National Youth agency, in order to develop the enabling environment of his initiatives.