Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cameroon:Community participation and solid waste management in Buea

By Mofor Samuel,health /environment educator
Human waste is generated as a result of a variety human activities, including domestic, agricultural, commercial and industrial activities. Solid waste comprises solid materials which have been discarded because they are no longer required by individuals, households, groups or organizations at that particular time and place. The components of solid waste include garbage (kitchen waste), papers, empty plastics, rags, cardboard cartons, glass; scrap metal, old tyres etc.

The composition of solid waste varies from one neighbourhood to the other within the same town or municipality. It depends on the food habits, cultural practices, the occupations and trades of the inhabitants etc.
The sound of the horns of HYSACAM trucks on Monday 20/09/2010 along the main highway in Buea officially announced the commencement of the collection and disposal of solid waste in the municipality. Residents saw HYSACAM’s machinery at work along the major boulevard in town.

To resolve the problem of solid management in the municipality, council authorities must collaborate with the civil society and get the views of the population on how they can together better manage solid waste disposal in the municipality. The introduction of the Hygiene and Sanitation Company of Cameroon (HYSACAM), by itself, will not help much if there is no dialogue, understanding and concrete agreement between the council and the different communities which make up the municipality as to how they have to go about the whole exercise.
Community participation is therefore very vital if any success must be arrived at in the whole project. The attainment and maintenance of cleanliness(environmental health) in the Buea municipality requires the committed and sustained collaborative action of all the stakeholders including governments at the national, regional and local levels, industry and the private sector, individuals and communities, the media, professional, cultural, and social associations and organizations and non governmental organizations.

 Effective community mobilization is essential for a proper and sustainable solid waste management. Undermining the aspect of effective community mobilization could mean the whole exercise being counterproductive. Buea Council and HYSACAM should not underestimate or overlook the importance of this constraint.
  In the 8th edition of The Recorder newspaper, this commentator attributed the poor management of household waste to an extent, to the non-involvement directly of women in the handling and management of household waste. This time around Council Authorities and HYSACAM have to go beyond women. They have to involve quarter heads, the civil society, people of different trades and occupations, young people, scavengers, churches etc in the mapping and zoning of the strategically located points, in those communities where accessibility could be a problem, where depots can be created and to agree on the time of the day when the trucks have to pass in the different communities and neighbourhoods to collect their solid waste.

 HYSACAM and Buea Council do not have a monopoly of how solid waste can be managed properly. For example during a workshop organized by Global Health Dialogue, a Buea-based NGO on “ Guidelines for Healthy Communities with special reference on School and Health”, talking about Hygiene and Sanitation in schools, participants proposed sorting as one of the best way of handling and managing of solid waste in schools. They went an extra smile to create the Community Health Association of Buea (COHAB) to facilitate this activity and other planned activities.

Buea Council and HYSACAM have to take this hand of fellowship extended by COHAB by providing receptacles to schools so that the sorting of waste can be carried out successfully in schools. When this practice gains ground in the school environment, the children and students would then serve as ambassadors in their different communities as they are going to be the ones to promote the idea of sorting of perishable from non perishable solid waste before disposal.

This will not only go a long way to separate the high density waste materials being generated by most of our households, low density solid waste materials which constitute recyclables like papers, plastics, nylon and scrap iron will be properly taken care of. For example HYSACAM’s Skip Eater Vehicles will be reserved for low density solid waste materials like cartons, cardboards, and plastics and this will enable them to stand the test of time.
On the whole if sorting is done at the premises of generation, the task of collection and transportation will be highly facilitated. Only the community can facilitate this task hence the need for total community participation in this new Buea Council and HYSACAM solid waste management partnership. Poor results derive more from inadequate planning and implementation than from the lack of knowledge of what is supposed to be done.
Bearing in mind the culture, religion, age, sex, level of education, social and economic status as guidance, it is very important to raise awareness, educate and empower people and communities on: “What to do”, “How to do” and “What to be”. This is the message being transmitted in this write up as we welcome HYSACAM into the Buea Municipality.

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