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Backyard Mechanics

Waste oil in “backyard” garages

In Windhoek’s townships, informal auto-service businesses represent significant opportunities for income generation and job creation, especially for unskilled and semi-skilled workers. However, these businesses cause serious environmental damage through practices like the illegal disposal of waste oil and solvents and the uncontrolled dispersal of chemicals from spray painting. The resulting surface water contamination harms the health of local residents and threatens an already-scarce water supply.

Since 2010, Bremen has supported the project "Backyard Mechanics - waste oil in backyard garages" in the Katutura township of Windhoek. Following an environmental study, project partners conducted a workshop in 2010 for local auto mechanics that was attended by Bremen’s Senator for Construction, Environment and Traffic. The first exchanges of specialists from Windhoek to Bremen took place in 2011. To deal more intensively with the waste oil problem, a project under the umbrella of the Municipal Partnerships for Sustainability programme (NaKoPa) was approved by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) for 2015 and 2016. The project aimed to sensitize backyard mechanics to environmental concerns, address the illegal disposal of used oil and other toxic substances, and increase the mechanics’ willingness to contribute to a solution. Since the end of the project in 2016, the city of Windhoek has continued to conduct awareness-raising activities.

In addition to engaging with backyard mechanics, the partnership set up a demonstration site to improve the quality of surface water in a Katutura township garage. There the project team designed and built a wetland basin with an oil trap. This implementation serves as a model for possible solutions at the source of pollution.