The small coral islands of the Maldives are considered to be among the most beautiful locations on our planet. Their ecosystems have developed over thousands of years into some of the most complex reef systems in the world and while they seem fragile, they have withstood monsoons, tsunamis, storm surges and sea swells.
The island communities of the Maldives are the stewards of these precious natural habitats. For centuries, people and nature have flourished side-by-side but today, both are under threat from the scourge of plastic pollution and other uncontrolled waste streams.
In a nation with few municipal waste facilities, islands that cannot afford to have their waste transported off the island instead burn it in open fires to prevent it piling up and spilling into the ocean. The open burning of plastics leaves partially-burned trash and toxic ash that blows or leaks into the surrounding ocean. Toxic smoke is a health hazard to the community and the waste sites are a source of breeding for vermin and mosquitoes.
Soneva Namoona NGO was founded to co-create, pilot and spread innovations that empower zero-waste communities across the Maldives. We address the social, policy and material obstacles to sustainable waste management which include a lack of recycling infrastructure; scarce SUP alternatives; insufficient or inadequate policies and capacities to support a zero waste future. Recognising the need for collective action, we work in partnership with Namoona island stakeholders to tackle uncontrolled waste streams.
Our innovations fall into three broad categories:
Our strategy is to co-create innovations in these areas that are lastingly beneficial at an island level and quickly scalable at a national level. Our vision is for each and every one of the Maldives unique island communities to once again thrive in harmony with their natural environment.
Soneva Namoona is a unique partnership that was initially launched in 2019 as a pilot project between luxury eco resort Soneva Fushi and three local islands – Maalhos, Dharavandhoo and Kihaadhoo.
At the first workshop in 2019, which was attended by local island leaders, government ministers and representatives of the President’s Office, our three partner islands pledged to introduce household segregation and create an ‘eco centro’ waste-to-wealth centre to sort, recycle, and reuse island waste.
Today, we use the same partnership model to work with 21 islands across three atolls. Our funding partners include Soneva and USAID.
Soneva Namoona co-creates, pilots and spread innovations that empower zero-waste communities across the Maldives.
Our commitment to the elimination of single-use plastic drives our holistic, strategic approach to addressing the social and systemic problems associated with this waste stream, which exacerbates the environmental crisis on small coral islands.
Our innovations fall into three categories.
To empower zero waste communities there are social, policy and material obstacles to overcome. On local Maldivian islands, there are few alternatives to single use plastic items, no recycling infrastructure and a lack of coordinated waste management systems. There are insufficient actors, policies and resources to support a zero-waste future. The problem is vastly complex and must be treated as such.
When we embark on a Namoona journey with a local island, we work with community leaders to co-create zero waste solutions. We work in partnership with the Island Council, the Women’s Development Committee, local NGOs, schools, swimming groups and a broad range of stakeholders to ignite change. Co-creating solutions empowers community changemakers to become zero waste champions and to showcase solutions that can be scaled nationally and globally.
We work with communities to innovate lasting solutions to the wicked problem of plastics and waste in the Maldives. Our approach is grounded in a real understanding of the problem. We work with community members to explore problems from different angles and gain unique insights through an understanding of the lived realities of the communities that we work with. Once a problem is identified, we co-create solutions with relevant stakeholders for testing.
Once innovations are trialed and tested with our local island community partners, the success stories are amplified and learnings are shared at the island, national and international level. It is crucial that waste management policy frameworks are informed by the experiences and learnings of island communities.
Soneva Namoona partners with islands on various initiatives, co-creating solutions towards sustainable living through eliminating plastics, better waste management practices and environmental literacy. Historically, our work has been primarily been focused in atolls where the Soneva Resorts operate: Baa Atoll and Noonu Atoll, with the most recent addition of Haa Dhaalu. We are excited to be strategizing ways to work with more islands in further regions of the Maldives soon, so stay tuned!
Our management team oversees the implementation of our work on the ground and is invested in co-designing effective strategies to create empowered zero waste communities across the Maldives.
Director of Operations
Kash ensures that our organizational strategy guides all our implementation and innovation. She oversees partnership developments and new opportunities; monitors communication, manages the team and finances; and as our education expert, leads the Fehi Madharusa (Green School) pilot programme.
Kash holds a Master’s in International Education and Development. She has wide experience of working with NGOs, and as a facilitator she has extensive experience of delivering inspiring and empowering workshops. Kash first arrived in the Maldives in 2010 as a volunteer teacher.
Azhoora oversees all community engagement activities, including zero waste workshops, competitions, the Shore to Open Water Series, and so much more. She is also the President of Soneva Namoona NGO.
Azhoora holds a Masters in Tourism, Hotel and Event Management. She represented the Maldives in the 2002 Asian Games, held three female swimming national records, and received the Maldives Olympic Committee Athlete of the Year award. As an ocean lover, she embodies ocean stewardship.
Khady oversees our Reduce component, implementing initiatives connected to the promotion of alternatives to single-use plastics. She overseas Soneva Water operations, and leads household water-filter trials and reusable nappy trials, and is developing our latest business incubator initiative.
Khady holds a Master’s in Development Practices. She has extensive experience in project management, community engagement and most recently has worked as the Head of Solutions Mapping for the UNDP Maldives Accelerator Lab.
Gordon heads our Recycle component and designed the Namoona Sustainable Waste Management Model and accompanying frameworks. He works with island councils to develop island-specific solutions, while consulting with atoll councils on technical and strategic systems that enable atolls to adopt sustainable waste management.
Gordon holds a Master’s in Engineering, and he has been innovating sustainable waste management practices in the Maldives since 2012.
As an NGO registered with the Maldivian Ministry of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment, our Executive Board provides oversight to ensure that all decisions taken within the organization are in the best interest of the NGO.
President of the NGO
Here we would like to appreciate the foundational Namoona Champions without whom Soneva Namoona would not be here today. Their passion, effort and dedication at the origin of the project inspired the shared vision we have today of empowered zero waste communities. We would like to express our profound gratitude to all these individuals who gave their blood, sweat and tears towards making Soneva Namoona the powerhouse of innovation and inspiration for positive change.
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