Al-Ahram Weekly Online   22 - 28 October 2009
Issue No. 969
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Good Practice

The participation of the community was the main factor behind our success in Helwan University and South of Cairo, affirms Emad Adly*

Household waste management is a major problem in Egypt. It is caused by the lack of appropriate procedures for the collection and disposal of garbage; the lack of suitable advanced techniques; and, the lack of processing and recycling machines. This problem negatively affects the living conditions in most areas of the country and the environment.

Thus, setting up alternative and suitable systems to counter this problem has become a necessity. The need to create a system that can be locally adopted to suit the different social communities, schools, universities, religious centres, youth clubs, etc., has become critical.

Toward this aim, thanks to the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership initiatives, the Regional Community Solid Waste Management Program (RCSWMP) was implemented in the framework of the Short and Medium Term Priority Action Programme (SMAP) with the financial support of the European Commission. At the regional level, the project was coordinated by the Arab NGO Network for Environment and Development (RAED).

The project spreads awareness on many levels both locally and regionally in four Mediterranean Arab countries by adding new four local NGOs as partners to enhance the pilot projects and prove the possibility to implement similar projects in the participating countries since they were widely appreciated by the community and the decision makers. In Egypt, the project was implemented by the Arab Office for Youth and Environment (AOYE).

AOYE targeted an urban district in the south of Cairo (El-Massara). At the same time, it tried to enlarge the base of beneficiaries by selecting Helwan University to conduct the project. After accomplishing the results in El-Massara, the project then targeted Old Cairo district with a more sustainable approach.

In this project, the public awareness activities differed and were modified to satisfy the varied characteristics of the target residents. The public awareness campaigns stressed on particular communication techniques such as distributing materials (brochures, posters, flyers), door to door communication, environmental games, art competitions, clean-up campaigns, camps, local public meetings and workshops, prayer lectures and research as a tool of getting people involved in planning and decision making.

In addition to this, it was discovered that mobile classrooms proved to be a very effective method of spreading awareness especially with children who enjoyed watching the videos and participating in the different assigned activities.

RAED designed, hired experts, prepared two different training curricula for housewives and youth, and distributed them to RCSWMP partners. In Egypt, targeting Helwan University gave 80,000students the chance to participate in the training in addition to the activities with hundreds of households.

The project emphasized the fact that women are key partners in achieving the behavioural change because of the role they play in household management and because of their dynamism. So, most of the training sessions were directed to women living in the target areas to enhance their positive environmental behaviour as well as to train the leading women in the different local associations to become trainers. Young girls from the target areas were also strongly involved in public awareness activities.

In addition, the project aimed to select youth from each demonstration area to provide a base for the project in each location by getting them involved in the SWM practices such as collection and recycling. However, it was found that they preferred to participate in the research and public awareness activities rather than collecting and recycling activities. To overcome that obstacle, AOYE selected unemployed but experienced men and women from inside the target areas to train them on modern methods of SWM such as composting and recycling.

As for the technical part of the SWM program, the project worked on the five principles of Solid Waste Management (SWM); Waste Reduction, Sorting at Source, Safe Sorted Transportation, Recycling and Reusing. Those processes resulted in producing compost of high quality in addition to some recycled and semi-recycled products, mainly plastics and papers.

We believe that involving the community from the start and in all steps was the main factor behind the success of RCSWMP.

* The writer is chairman of the Arab Office for Youth and Environment (AOYE).

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