Ecuador, Project: A closer look at the activities

Project in Puyo
It has been 4 months since I have arrived to Ecuador to participate on an environmental project within the EU Aid Volunteers program. This project is placed in the Amazonian region, in west Ecuador, in a town called Puyo; and its primer focus is improvement of the current solid waste management system (SWM) in the canton of Pastaza.
The local SWM system is actually quite advanced and effective already. All the households and enterprises have a regular collection of their garbage that is being discharged at the local sanitary landfill. The streets are swept on daily base by the team of municipal workers, and the city has well organized team and advanced technology to deal with their waste. Since many years the town has been even recycling all the organic material produced by the 5 fruit and vegetable markets, in local community composting sites. Coming to Puyo, you have a very good impression of a clean and pleasant city. Nevertheless, Puyo decided to make one step further and to improve their current system of dealing with organic domestic waste. It has launched an 18 months long project called “Innovation in Use of the Organic Fraction of Household Waste for Agriculture Purposes, in Canton Pastaza”, with support of the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) and also the NGO Alianza por la Solidaridad. The project is further supported by the EU Aid Volunteers program who sent 5 European volunteers to assist the project activities.

What exactly do we do here?

The first half of this venture was focused on analyzing the current situation, and to map well the structure of the working system. Second half is to apply the proposed improvements. Within the 5 volunteers who came to support this initiative, each has been carrying out a different section, based on their previous working experience and knowledge. There is a Lucia supporting the financial base, Natalia for human resources section, Carmen who carries out the communication part, Mikel working with the community composting sites and me working on the technical aspects of the waste collection.

My tasks
1, Composting sites

In March, with the support of 6 environmental science students from the local university “La Universidad Amazonica Estatal”, we have revised the processes of the community composting sites and we analyzed the positive and negative effects on their surroundings. The main purpose was to be aware of the possible negative impacts and to prevent them. As a result of this work we have prepared an Environmental Management Plan that would apply for all the current and also possible future composting sites.
While working with the composting sites I got better overview about their work, and the great impacts that they have. Not only that these 15 sites process monthly about 35 tons of the organic material from local market places, that would otherwise end on the local landfill. On the top they produce organic fertilizer that is a great support to the local agriculture suffering from the acid soils, poor in nutrients. The produced compost is partially used on the fields of people of the same community and partially sold to other farmers.

The idea is, that in the future these composting sites will process also the organic material collected from households and small shops in Puyo. However, these sites would need support to increase the ability to sell the produced compost on the local market, to make the production more sustainable. In order to boost marketing of the compost, me, Mikel and one representative of the municipality, participated on an agricultural faire in Riobamba in April, where we have been promoting our organic fertilizers.

 

2, Recycling awareness campaigns

As I have mentioned above, the city of Puyo have decided to improve their current SW system. The first important change is to start recycling at the source level. Or better to say, that the households start to separate different fractions of their waste, and these will be picked up separately from the houses. This way the organic waste and inorganic recyclable waste is collected separately from the non-recyclable garbage. The first two mentioned fractions can be then used and recycled, and only the waste with no other use will be brought to the landfill. Organic material will be converted to compost at the community composting sites. Material such as plastic bottles, metal cans, paper or cardboard will be collected and sold for further recycling by the local scavengers. This way what was a garbage before become a resource! Same time, this system decreases the volume of mixed waste ending up at the landfill site, and it saves the municipal expenditures by prolonging lifetime of the landfill cell.

To apply the recycling strategy has however one basic condition, which is the participation and support of the citizens of Puyo. That is why the municipality, together with us, the EU Aid volunteers, and also another 60 university students launched an awareness campaign that will gradually reach each of the neighborhood in Puyo. Within this campaign we are visiting house by house, so that each family receives the information that the collection system is changing, and that it is compulsory to present their waste well separated, on different days according to the prepared schedule.

Next to this we have also prepared a supportive program of so called “Fiestas de Reciclaje” (recycling party), for the first 6 neighborhoods. This program with music, clowns, games and small rewards, all related to the recycling and environmental ideas, has welcomed and motivated the grandparents, parents and their children to embrace the new idea of recycling and home.

3, New project proposals

This project that has been scheduled for 18 months is going to be finished in December 2018. It will bring many positive changes and improvements. Also it has a lot of potential for a scale up and/or to be replicated in other places. Therefore, we have agree that it would be great to look for other project proposals and founding allowing this project to continue and grow in the future. And we were more than lucky. In May, the European Union Ecuador launched a call for proposal that was very suitable to this purpose. Me and Natalia have visited the meeting in Loja with representatives from the EU, who introduced the details and requirements of this call to a local NGOs. The second week of June, APS Ecuador has submitted their proposal for a project that would scale up the activities of the current initiative. Our fingers are crossed!