Abdul is Oromo, from Oromiya, a regional state in Ethiopia. He’s been encouraging his community to live sustainably, as East African community liaison consultant to Environment Victoria’s GreenTown program, and through everyday conversations with Oromo friends.
Abdul’s role in GreenTown is to help Environment Victoria translate sustainable living messages to Flemington’s East African community, made up of people from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia. He also organises GreenTown environmental education activities for the community, including field trips and community workshops and promotes GreenTown (and sustainable living tips) via 3ZZZ ethnic community radio.
When he gets home he puts lots of these green living ideas into practice, taking a walk around his garden each night to see how things are growing, before he takes off his shoes to head inside. Abdul’s veggie garden bursts with salad lettuce, tomatoes, cabbage, carrots and more for his family. He can keep it happy thanks to two rainwater tanks he had installed, with a third on the way.
Water saving is just normal for Abdul’s family – his wife uses a bucket in the sink when she washes salad vegetables, and his son Birra uses a small bucket of water to wash his hands. Abdul attached his air conditioner’s water pipe to the rainwater tank, so he doesn’t waste the discharge water – “nothing is wasted” he says.
Some of his passion for the environment goes back to growing up in Oromiya. He says he remembers Lake Haramaya (also known as Alemaya): “I used to cross this lake by boat to get to school. Now it is dry. There is a change coming.”
According to Abdul, many migrants who come to Victoria experience the newness of life in a wealthy consumer culture and “want to buy everything when they come here! They’re not thinking about things like energy efficiency, energy saving – they want to buy cheap things, but don’t think about the cost of running the appliance”. He encourages them to think about the cost over the appliance’s lifetime – sometimes the best environmental choice is to buy something more expensive that is better quality and will last a long time, or is more energy or water efficient and so will help the environment.
Abdul has also been encouraging his friends to buy solar panels, to help reduce greenhouse gases and also to eventually save money on home power bills. But while lots of East Africans have invested in rainwater tanks, solar panels are more of a challenge, even when he explains the government incentives that are available. He knows that non-English-speaking communities find it hard to access government messages, or programs like solar power or water rebates, so is constantly explaining these to his community.
But soon he’ll be happy to be able to also show them an example – the first solar panels that he knows of on an East African home in Werribee.
Story by Domenica Settle