OR WAYS TO RESPOND TO SHARED PROBLEMS
Waste management is an enormous problem in Haiti. It is one of the indicators of a serious lack of governance in the capital as well as in the provincial towns. Because of a lack of regular collection, people simply burn their garbage or leave it at the side of the road. This has serious consequences for the health of the population in a country where health care is often already dysfunctional. At certain institutions, such as schools, it is not uncommon to find piles of uncollected garbage.
In order to help find a solution to this serious problem, GAFE (Groupe d’Action Francophone pour l’Environnement – French-speaking Action Group for the Environment), a Haitian organisation specialized in sustainable development and environmental education, has introduced an inclusive process of waste management in the community of Kenskoff, part of the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince. Between 2017 and 2020, eleven schools have been participating in an environmental education programme (ERE) of which one of the desired results was the reduction of garbage at the schools as well as the introduction of (biodegradable) waste recycling. With this in mind, GAFE adapted their strategies to implicate all actors involved in the production of garbage and in waste management: the street vendors who are selling next to the schools, parents, students, teachers as well as local authorities.
On Friday October 22, 2020 the representatives of these actors came together to celebrate the achieved results and to share with their partner organisations the challenges and proposed opportunities. Various school representatives expressed their satisfaction and mentioned the transformation of their facilities thanks to the programme. Jésumène Jeanty is the director of Kenskoff’s classical school. Her testimony speaks for itself : « Our school was considered a dumping ground for rubbish. Street vendors who are selling in front of the school, the students and even the teachers, would throw their garbage on the playground. Through this programme, GAFE has given us a good waste management tool”.
The children have been trained in waste sorting. Trash cans have been installed and they know where to put each piece of trash. “Some students have become environmental ambassadors, helping those who don’t respect the rules to observe them. The non-degradable waste is given new value by using it for craft projects”, adds Jésumène. GAFE is promoting eco-responsibility.
One of the programme’s activities has been the implementation of educational gardens where the children have learned to identify plants, and also to love them. The gardens, which are considered as part of the class room, serve as a learning place for students in different subjects. “Before, we would talk about school gardens, where we would put plants in the ground without any clear plan. But now we have a garden that we use as an educational tool. All classes work in the garden. The children are understanding it better and they are learning with ease. They follow the growth of the plants and their development”, Jésumène told us.
From the school to the community, that was the dream of GAFE when they started this project. And this dream is becoming reality as some of the actors have changed their behaviour, which has an impact on the school and on the environment in general. “I met with the three street vendors who are selling in front of my school. And I suggested to them to serve the food they sell to the children in reusable bowls and not in plastic bags. Two of them accepted my suggestion and the other refused and decided to pull out. Since then, the street vendors sell their food in small bowls that the children return to them afterwards. Now there is hardly any garbage at my school anymore and the playground remains clean”, the director of the Good Samaritan school in Bongard explained. Through this educational programme, CAFÉ has developed a holistic approach which is taking into account all environmental aspects, including school hygiene, the absence of the whip in the classrooms, the creation of cultural and artistic spaces, in order that the children may learn about the environment and act to protect it.
The project has also worked with the local authorities raising awareness about their responsibilities towards waste management and to put them into contact with organisations that collect and process waste. Thus the initiators have used environmental education as a bridge between the different community actors, as a space to find answers to shared problems. In the long run, they hope that these experiences will serve as models that can influence public policies within the community.