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An Eye from Above Ndirande: Mapping Plastic Waste and Mosquitoes Under SPACES Study

Sustainable Attitudes to Benefit Communities and their Environments (SPACES) study started drone mapping within Ndirande township in December 2021. The study which aims at assessing the impact of plastic waste on the environment and health, has drone imagery as one of its components. Two types of drones, the eBee and DJI Mavic will be used throughout the study to take aerial images and data that will help in identifying and assessing waste piles within the study site.

SPACES is being carried out in Ndirande township, which has been identified to represent other townships within Blantyre central business district (CBD). The study will be implemented in small phases and is expected to run for about four years. It will include monthly field visits to the study site to collect and characterise wastes from different sampled dumping sites and water sample collection for entomological assessment on mosquitoes.

During the drone mapping missions, community members were also involved to help in sharing information about the study to their colleagues and to ensure the safety of the equipment used. These included Community Advisory Group (CAG) and community police forum members, and chiefs. Community police forum members were in different hotspots within the township to report any activities related to the drone flights including sightings, and community members’ reactions towards the flights. Apart from helping in identifying waste pile site, the information from drone imagery will also guide on the entomological sampling of open waters associated with plastic wastes which are breeding sites for mosquitos.

Speaking during the briefing meeting at one of the take-off and landing sites, CAG member for Ndirande Mrs. Inadi said, the study is important and timely because of the level at which plastic wastes are accumulating within Ndirande. She believes at the end of the study, problems associated with plastic wastes, including malaria cases, will be reduced from the solutions that the study will find.

Research Assistant for SPACES Rosheen Mthawanji said, “Overall, the activity was a success. Ndirande welcomed us well, and we were able to meet the objectives of the exercise. Community members were very enthusiastic and cooperative. Drones, in general, are a very touchy subject, however, the community, especially the children enjoyed the display. It was also nice to see the Police and other stakeholders playing a huge role in the proceedings.”