Sustainability

Banking on Garbage to Transform Communities

By Sagita Adesywi, ChildFund Indonesia

“People here littered everywhere, without thought,” says Sulastri, a preschool teacher in Indonesia. “Our neighborhood looked dirty and unhealthy.”

As in many developing countries, garbage is a highly visible part of Indonesia’s landscape. With one of the world’s largest populations, waste management there is an ongoing challenge, even in affluent areas. In neighborhoods where poverty has a stronghold, public services like garbage removal are at best inconsistent and often absent. So, families dispose of garbage wherever they can or even burn it by the roadside. The environment becomes not only unpleasant but downright dangerous.

This was how things were in Tandang village, Semarang, Central Java, until community members set out to make changes.

Responding to residents’ concern about their neighborhood, ChildFund worked through its local partner organization in Semarang, KOMPASS, to adapt an initiative that Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment had pioneered in other cities: garbage banks, which encourage communities to make the most of household garbage.

sorting garbage

Sulastri (right) sorts through plastic waste at the garbage bank.

Garbage banks decrease environmental pollution, especially inorganic waste, by providing community members with incentives to sort garbage by type and value, and to ensure that each type arrives at the appropriate destination for recycling. (Organic garbage is collected by the environmental city services and processed into compost.) Garbage banks usually run in public buildings as neighborhood centers for waste management.

To launch the program in Tandang, staff from KOMPASS met with village heads and community members to introduce the concept and then to form volunteer garbage bank committees. Through KOMPASS, ChildFund provided the volunteers with training on how to handle and process inorganic waste, especially plastics, which are sold to plastics manufacturers.

Participants have garbage bank accounts. KOMPASS provided seed money on behalf of the 351 sponsored children in the area, so each child has USD $1 as his or her first deposit on an account at one of Tandang’s two garbage banks.

So, how do garbage banks work?

Using collection bags provided by the program, people bring plastic bottles, used newspapers and many other things they don’t use any more. Each type of waste is assigned monetary value. This money is then deposited into the individuals’ accounts at the garbage bank, later available to be withdrawn as cash.

“When we did our first training for the mothers’ groups, some of them were quite stressed,” says Agus, the head of one of the banks. “They thought they would need to sort the garbage in a dirty place. When they saw that the garbage bank is actually run in a clean house with windows for air circulation, they felt relieved.”

“I knew about the garbage bank from my wife,” says Wadi, a community member. “We used to just throw away anything. Now, we learn to sort it all. People also took initiative by making their own bags to deposit the waste to the bank.”

Indonesia garbage bank

Wadi and his daughter sort garbage at home.

That’s not all they have made. The ChildFund-supported garbage banks have taken the program a step further: Community members turn garbage into creative, sellable products — for example, bags made from plastic detergent sachets. With training from KOMPASS (and with a sewing machine KOMPASS also provided), people are transforming garbage into economic gain. As community members have learned to be more creative in processing waste, they have come to see waste as a resource.

“The neighborhood automatically becomes cleaner too,” Agus adds. “If we have the garbage bank but the surroundings are still dirty, it’s very contradictory. The neighborhood is also becoming greener now, because people are also encouraged to plant trees in pots made from vegetable oil plastic bags. ChildFund provided us with the seeds.”

“People are more aware that the environment is very connected to their own health,” says preschool teacher Sulastri, who is also a member of the garbage bank committee. “They used to just litter everywhere and did not understand the impact of waste, so they would just throw away everything. Now they know that we can sort inorganic waste and make it into creative products.”

The garbage bank initiative not only brings extra cash, but it also helps communities become cleaner, nicer and healthier places to live, which is exactly what children need. “There were many flies and mosquitoes in the gutters as people just threw garbage into them,” says Sulastri. “When we litter, we create a breeding space for mosquitoes. The garbage bank promotes a healthy lifestyle, and it reduces the risk of dengue and diarrhea too.”

Making a Mexican Dream Come True

Chucho and his bakery colleagues

Chucho (left) started the Nheki Bakery in his Mexican community.

By Esperanza Soto Aburto, ChildFund Mexico

At the age of 12, Jesus — or Chucho, as he’s known to friends — was part of the Organization Hñañhu Batsi, a community group in Mexico. He played soccer and was part of a team that won a regional tournament.

Today, as an adult, he has worked with teens who belong to the same organization, a local partner with ChildFund Mexico.

“I was looking for the kids to bring out their character, and teaching them teamwork,” Chucho says. But it was also important for him to open a business, making good on what he calls his “Mexican Dream,” which has special significance since he immigrated to the United States when he was 15, returning later.

With other young people in his community, Chucho began to figure out what the needs of the community were, and there were no bakeries.

That’s how the Nheki Bakery was born; nheki means “me too” in Chucho’s native language, Hñañhu.

“At first I wanted to name the bakery ‘I undertake,’ ” Chucho says, “but there is no translation of this word to Hñañhu, so I named it Nheki: ‘I want, I can, me too!’ ”

They started making doughnuts, biscuits, bread, buns and other pastries, sweetening them with agave honey produced in the community. The yeast and jams also are made locally.

The bakery has been open for almost a year, and Chucho and his colleagues are considering opening more bakeries in the region. ChildFund Mexico is now a trading partner, buying bread from the Nheki Bakery for children enrolled in the Early Childhood Development programs. Chucho realized that there is work to do in his community, and with a lot of effort and sweat, there’s always a chance to create opportunities.

ChildFund Americas: Sustaining People and the Planet

Reporting by Patricia Toquica, Communications Manager, ChildFund Americas

In the Americas region, children, youth and adults in ChildFund-supported communities are joining hands to help break the cycle of poverty while working toward protecting and preserving a sustainable environment. Check out some of the exciting green projects that are under way from the U.S.A. to Brazil.

Sustainable Ag in the U.S.
child holding vegetablesThe Wyan Toka Win community garden in South Dakota is a ChildFund U.S. program that involves children and youth in promoting sustainable agriculture and the consumption of fresh, natural products. Families in the community are taking children selling vegetablessurplus vegetables and fruits they raise in the garden and selling them at the local farmer’s market to generate additional income.

Innovative Farming, Water Use and Soil Conservation in Mexico
child tending plantIn Mexico’s Totonaca region, 450 families have learned innovative agricultural techniques and are putting the knowledge to work on their own farms. This program is supported by ChildFund México in partnership with the local bank, Compartamos Banco.

piping fresh water into the homeNearly 9,000 people, especially women, in indigenous communities of Hidalgo, Mexico, are benefitting from ChildFund’s training programs to improve water usage, including proper collection and recycling techniques.

children learning about soil conservationIn many areas of Mexico’s Mixteca region, gradual erosion is negatively impacting the land. ChildFund works with children and youth to promote sustainable agriculture that will allow the production of healthy products without deteriorating soil fertility.

Family Gardens and Fruit Trees in Honduras
children studyingIn Honduras, families in the Santa Barbara region work with ChildFund’s local partners to promote community-based agricultural production based on principles of sustainable development.

boy planting treeIn the mountains of Honduras, children in ChildFund’s programs are receiving a hands-on education in environmental awareness by planting fruit trees that will benefit their communities. And as part of ChildFund’s Friendly Schools program, children in some areas of Honduras receive comprehensive environmental education and participate in practical projects such as maintaining school gardens.

Eco-volunteers and ‘Harvesting My Future’ in Guatemala
young environmentalistsAbout 180 teenagers from urban areas of Guatemala are involved in ChildFund environmental protection projects. They participate in training workshops and propose practical solutions for environmental issues affecting their communities.

About 450 young people from 10 communities in Guatemala are benefitting from ChildFund’s “Harvesting my Future” project. Teenagers receive training in ecological production of sesame and maize crops that will provide income and a better future to their families.

Environmental Education and Youth Involvement in Bolivia
children in drama productionFrom early childhood, children in ChildFund Bolivia communities learn about the importance of water, soil and trees, thanks to ecological education programs and activities implemented by ChildFund-trained youth leaders.

girls recycleAbout 200 families at the Lucerito Center in the city of Santa Cruz will benefit from ChildFund’s environmental training program focused on reducing and reusing waste to preserve the environment.

In LaPaz, children participating in ChildFund’s early childhood development programs engage with their mothers in activities to improve their motor skills using natural elements easily found in their communities such as seeds, fruits, grains, clay and water. These activities help kids connect and care for their natural resources from an early age.

Natural Resource Protection in Ecuador
school children learn about ecologyIn the Ecuadorian province of Tungurahua, children enrolled in ChildFund programs are participating in the “Futurahua” (Water Future) project. They are learning about the importance of water sustainability and its role in the production of crops that feed their families.

youth plant treesWith the donation of more than 50,000 native plant species, ChildFund Ecuador is supporting reforestation plans developed by children and their parents in various communities living in poverty in Ecuador.

More than 300 families in various rural areas of Ecuador benefit from ChildFund training programs in sustainable agriculture. Community members are now working jointly to maintain water reservoirs and grow organic products in community gardens and orchards.

Water Conservation in Brazil
Youth monitoring water sourcesIn Brazil’s Jequitinhonha Valley, ChildFund’s Water Watchers Program engages children and youth leaders in environmental education, contributing to the preservation and proper usage of water resources that are so scarce in this area.

planting cropsChildFund’s Water for Life Program in the rural semi-arid areas of Brazil has involved thousands of children and their families in adopting techniques for water conservation and socio-environmental sustainability. Through this program, ChildFund Brazil helps thousands of families in semi-arid areas learn about water collection and conservation to ensure adequate resources for household consumption and crop growth.

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