19 / 08 / 2021

How Chelsea Village is ramping up sustainability at its Mogadishu based camp

On August 19th the world commemorates the humanitarian cause with World Humanitarian Day which is a UN led initiative that was started in 2009. A  specific theme is chosen annually, which drives the conversation online and through events held across the globe. For 2021, the focus is on slowing down the effects of climate change as well as securing the future of our planet. With this in mind, we chatted to our General Manager Costa Yiannakis about the sustainable measures being taken at Chelsea Village where we frequently host members of the international humanitarian community.  

Recycling and environmental awareness has become an important theme within Chelsea Village. What are some of the ways that staff and guests are implementing conscious changes?

Costa: Our team has adopted the 3R’s mantra, ‘Reduce, Reuse and Recycle’, and have made the conscious decision to actively remind each other of this message at any opportunity. Our staff play such an important role in the Chelsea Village experience, that their adoption of this has filtered down to the guests organically. While we have a few reminders in and around the camp (such as posters to be water wise in our bathrooms), guests are influenced positively by the energy of our staff who are approaching their day-to-day activities with a more sustainable mindset.
We have also started to supply our clients with reusable solutions. Dealing with people in leadership positions has been a real eye opener as we have seen how they have the ability to not only improve the welfare of their teams but also that of the planet. The key is to get buy in, ownership and accountability from each person. We are actively focusing to energise people and work with those who are happy to be change agents and ambassadors of the environment.

This has obviously not occurred without some resistance and there will always be nay-sayers and pessimists who I like to refer to as “distractors”. This is a natural programming we as people are born with, as creatures of habit, where we often think more than twice before we try something new – even if it is for our own benefit. If we overthink, we have a higher chance of failing before even starting (I highly recommend reading the book: Miracle Morning Millionaires, by Hal Elrod & David Osborn for more insight into this phenomenon). Change inhibitors are those who like to find reason to prevent things from even happening, without giving it a fair chance. We are already seeing great progress within the village and with our clients outside of the village here in Somalia.

Thanks to WaterCap technology, Chelsea Village is already water wise. Could you give us some more information about the initiative with refillable water bottles and WaterCap being used by clients?

Our WaterCap technology comprises of a sophisticated water filtration system which currently supplies the entire camp, providing safe and clean drinking water for our staff and guests. WaterCap provides modular RO and desalination water purification systems which can be powered both by the main electrical supply as well as solar.  We have been utilising WaterCap filtered water to supply a number of clients with clean, drinking water and have recently introduced the refillable initiative as well to prevent unnecessary plastic wastage.

The more reusable water bottles we provide our clients with, the more we are helping to reduce plastic bottles from ending in landfill, the ocean and eventually impacting sea life, animals and people on the shores of Somalia.

Inside the containerised WaterCap desalination plant in Chelsea Village, Mogadishu

Has sustainability been harder to achieve during the pandemic, because communities are so focused on defeating COVID-19?

On the contrary, the pandemic has been pivotal in helping everyone deal with the unknown and change better. A skill, often challenging for most. We have used this to our advantage by reminding our team and stakeholders how well they did to adapt to the “new normal”, then pushed any new change that comes with benefits. The pandemic was like basic training in the military – it helped everyone realise their potential and keep focus on the mission rather than be distracted. The team is much stronger and focused now than ever before.

I’m proud of each team member as they continually amaze our clients and partners with a relentless urge to find new solutions while putting smiles on everyone’s faces. Pre-pandemic, our Enigma Alliance CEO Stuart Page always talked about the ability to pivot and be flexible. In reality, the penny only dropped for me during the pandemic when the world was on its knees in chaos.

Luck aside, those businesses that were flexible survived, or got the best possible outcome possible. I remember another quote “The reed that bends, weathers the storm. The reed that doesn’t, breaks”. A lot of organisations during the pandemic have gone through some deep self-reflection of who they are as an organisation. Do they empower leadership at all levels, and do they promote a change-enabling culture? Rome wasn’t built in a day and as soon as organisations are honest with themselves and their teams about this, then only can they the start process of making a difference by setting realistic goals and working towards them together with bite-size wins. Our ability to develop new, sustainable and still profitable solutions for clients helped us during a time when our usual services ran the risk of being halted due to the lack of movement across the world.

Does Chelsea Village have any long term ‘green’ goals?

We are ordering reusable aluminium water flasks for all of our staff and for re-sale to our clients at Chelsea Village. This will be available at cost price to encourage clients to move away from plastic bottles and encourage better practice both within the camp and outside. Another exciting development on the horizon is new water technology which has the ability to turn air into clean drinking water. We will be testing this technology at the camp, alongside atmospheric water generators. These products range from being fully off the grid, to hybrid as well as grid reliant. Many remote sites have logistical challenges with bringing in chemicals needed to treat water, remove waste and reliant on pricey equipment and maintenance. The generators reduce the need for the latter, making it truly innovative on many fronts. These developments are an exciting addition to our already successfully use of WaterCap technology at the camp.

To find out more about WaterCap please visit our product page here.