In Gabon, employment and environmental protection go hand in hand
A few years on, residents in disadvantaged areas of Libreville no longer look twice at the men and women wearing overalls, boots and protective masks as they push their wheelbarrows full of bin bags through the streets of the capital.
The pre-collectors are now a familiar sight, helping to improve living conditions and clean up the city by collecting household waste in areas that are hard to reach for conventional collection businesses.
How to manage household waste is a very real environmental and public health problem in Gabon’s capital. To address this issue, UNDP, in partnership with local authorities in Libreville and the Public Health Ministry’s Hygiene Department, has implemented the Shared Urban Solid Waste Management project, with the support of the National Waste Control Programme. This project helps advance the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by strengthening efforts to eradicate poverty, improving public and primary healthcare hygiene conditions and cleaning up the environment.
It has also had a positive economic impact as it contributes to curbing youth unemployment. Young people represent nearly 48 percent of the population.
Trash collection services fail to keep up with demand, benefiting only 38 percent of families. Collection was selective, essentially favouring residential areas and the city centre (80 percent collection rate) over disadvantaged areas (6 percent collection rate) because of a lack of communication.
In urban areas, therefore, a collaborative pre-collection system is a must. The aim is to increase the number of households involved in waste collection of waste from 40 percent to 80 percent in five years, and to develop measures to encourage, inform and raise awareness.
The project’s strategic approach puts those concerned at the heart of the proposed mechanism. Young people from poor areas are recruited. They receive training in waste management, administrative and financial management and a participative approach before being placed with project teams. They are also encouraged to raise awareness among subscribers on the value of environmental cleanliness.
Today, nearly 200 young people are working in 11 project teams, collecting household waste on a daily basis from 300,000 residents in the 11 areas chosen. Clients pay 5,000 CFA francs a month (less than $10) for the service. These young people have made the service a real vocation and in the long-term aim to become organized groups with institutional and legal status enabling them to grow into viable economic operators.
Over time, many of these young people have seen their economic and social situation improve with increased purchasing power.
”Since I started I have been managing to support myself,” says one young pre-collector. “I don’t have to bother my family anymore.”
“My fiancé and I are saving money to get married. We are both pre-collectors and are making plans for our long-term future,” says another pre-collector who is head of his project team.
The commitment of ground crews and the various positive assessments of the project, have led the local authorities to involve them in the preparation of some local action plans, while entrusting them with various clean-up projects such as cleaning out gutters, sweeping the streets and markets, and clearing green spaces.
The community has made its satisfaction clear. “Since I signed up to this service, my property has been clean. Household waste no longer piles up and that has convinced my neighbors to sign up with these young people as well. We are very satisfied because our environment has been cleaned up,” says one housewife.
According to the local authorities, the Shared Solid Waste Urban Management project should be rolled out on a larger scale. In addition to creating jobs for many young people, the first project teams now operate independently as small and medium-sized businesses.
Ms. Olivia Nze-Bekale
Tel: (241)73 88 87/90
Fax: (241)73 88 91