Rokhaya Faye, 50 years old, 4 children and inhabitant of De Dobour in Senegal, a village of 500 inhabitants, explains what happens with the waste they produce at home: “We clean the house, we sweep the courtyard and take it to a nearby dry canal to dump it there. With the rain the waste is taken into the forest. In the dry season when the piles become too high the waste is burnt.”
This practice demonstrates how many people in Africa have to deal with the waste that is generated in their homes, especially in rural areas. As there is no collection of waste at all, there is no other way than to throw it somewhere outside and burn it or hope it disappears through the waterways.
Our assignment: assessing the waste situation around Van Oers United farms
Van Oers United is an internationally active producer and supplier of year-round fresh vegetables. In Senegal Van Oers United produces green beans for the European market. The Van Oers United Senegal farms can be found 80 km from the capital Dakar and employs around 4000 people of which the majority is women. Most of them live in the villages around the Van Oers Senegal farms. Van Oers United requested WASTE to assess the waste situation of these villages and to give recommendations for improvement.
After visited the villages around the Van Oers farms, it was clear that the livelihood of the inhabitants has improved by the presence of Van Oers Senegal and the employment it offers. In all villages new, improved houses are being constructed. However, when people have more money to spend, waste generation tends to increase as well. This can be seen by the waste heaps that are piling up alongside the roads of the villages and by people starting to burn the waste to get rid of it.
Air pollution and health hazards
Open burning causes air pollution and health hazards by releasing dangerous chemicals in the atmosphere. Especially when burning plastic waste. The families living close to the burning piles inhale directly the fumes. On top of this, what they produce in their gardens is contaminated by the smoke from the open fires.
Having entered into dialogue with the inhabitants of the villages and with the representatives of the councils of the villages, it became clear they are very much aware of the waste problem and the impact on their health. They are eager to collaborate and to find a durable solution to solve the problem. Different solutions have been proposed. For example collecting the waste and transporting it to an old mine hole, or even more sustainable, constructing a controlled dumpsite combined with a sorting centre and a composting site. Van Oers Senegal is willing to support the solutions in close collaboration with the villagers themselves who as well will take action to improve their own living environment.