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How Buy a Bag for Baffa will help plastic pollution

With just a week left in the Crowdfund, Gail Jackson of Sopwell Eco Stars writes this guest blog post to share the background to ‘Bags for Baffa’ and why this project is asking for your help.

Why Baffa and why bags?

Iqbal Zia (ex-Mayor and Honorary Alderman of St Albans) and Farhat Zia (Herts Asian Women’s Association) travelled to Pakistan for a six-month trip in the harsh winter of 2022/23 to see how they could help local people in Baffa, Iqbal’s home town.

Bags for Baffa is a crowdfunded project to help reduce plastic pollution there. The environmental and health education project will distribute 500 reusable bags to help kickstart a project on the harms of plastic pollution. The funding will also help build clean water wells and explain the link between plastic packaging and river pollution. More information on the project and to donate to the Crowdfunder here. 

Your donation will help the AKIFA Foundation to purchase 500 reusable bags for BAFFA; and kickstart an environmental education and health project. Sustainable St Albans was the first major contributor to ‘kickstart’ the crowdfunder and we’re delighted with their support.

£5 will buy one bag plus related education awareness in schools and the local community on the harms of plastic pollution.

A pile of garbage on the ground

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A global problem at a local level

On their recent humanitarian trip to Baffa in Pakistan, ex-mayor and mayoress of St Albans, Iqbal and Farhat Zia realised the problem of plastic pollution was an even bigger challenge than they had previously understood.

“Towards the end of our trip, as the floods abated, we stayed in Baffa for several weeks and when I went shopping I saw everyone buying food in single-use plastic bags. Nobody gave it a thought – despite plastics being one of the biggest contaminants of the local river, from where some people sourced drinking water.

A person holding a bag of green beans

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“The local river, used for drinking water by so many people, was littered with thousands of plastic bags and bottles.”

Practical local solutions

Farhat said “I just thought; why not start to provide practical solutions like reusable shopping bags – give them out to local people. This would have a visual impact, encourage the use of reusable products and start the conversation and education about the environmental damage plastic bags and plastic bottles are doing.”

The AKIFA Foundation will use its local networks to distribute the bags to families in Baffa – each bag will come with an information leaflet explaining the initiative – and its connection to St Albans. 

Sustainable St Albans is a key partner in this project – and have kickstarted our effort with their generous donation! We now need your help to reach £1,000!

The AKIFA Foundation will purchase 500 canvas shopping bags – strong enough to hold a family’s shopping. 

The distribution of the bags is accompanied with an information leaflet explaining:

  • the problems of single-use plastic,  
  • how it is affecting the main river and the drinking water, and
  • the effects of poor water and plastic pollution on health

This will be followed by school education sessions on plastic pollution and the building of clean drinking water wells in Baffa. 

About Akifa Foundation

Iqbal and Farhat Zia smile in a busy room of people. Iqbal is wearing the golden mayoral chain over a business suit and Farhat is wearing a cream headscarf and patterned jacket.

The Akifa Foundation is named after its founder, Iqbal’s, mother and was formed following a six month trip to her hometown of Baffa in Pakistan. The charity is in the process of formally registering in the UK but its founders are prolific fundraisers and campaigners in Hertfordshire and beyond. Iqbal and Farhat Zia are the ex-mayor and mayoress of St Albans.

Humanitarian Trips

On their recent six-month long trip they worked with local people to help those affected by the 2022 flooding and poverty – building a network in the community to distribute food, drink, mosquito nets and medicines for displaced homeless people. It was on this trip that Farhat realised the plastic pollution piling up in local rivers was a complex problem: and one that needed education and awareness building.

School education campaign about single-use plastics

Next steps is work with the local headteacher to give talks to children in the school to think about the three ‘R’s: Reduce; Reuse; Recycle, and to educate the community about plastic’s impact on their environment.

Farhat and Iqbal say thank-you for your help! For more information and to donate, please check out the crowdfunder.

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