Haiti Trash Problem Becomes International Issue
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
This is Day to Day from NPR News. I'm Madeleine Brand. We go to Haiti now and focus on two problems, their garbage and illiteracy. Both have innovative solutions. First, we're starting with garbage. Haiti's trash collection system is so bad that on the streets of the capital, Port-au-Prince, garbage blocks roads and clogs the city's drainage system and canals. Well, a new partnership between the governments of India, Brazil, and South Africa is offering a different approach to these problems, and they call it South-South Cooperation. Reporter Ruxanda Guidi reports.
(Soundbite of construction machine)
RUXANDA GUIDI: Cars and motorcycles speed past construction workers in Carrefour-Feuilles, one of the largest slums in Port-au-Prince. Three years ago, this slum was synonymous with gangs and crime. Now it is undergoing a makeover of sorts. The buildings still look like they're about to collapse, and the roads are too narrow and full of potholes. But one of the things going for Carrefour-Feuilles, at least in comparison to the other slums in the city, is its lack of garbage.
Elena Nikolini(ph) is pointing to a pickup truck hauling glass and plastic bottles up the street to the recycling plant. Nikolini is a Brazilian engineer who's been in Haiti for the past three years working on this project. She oversaw the establishment of the plans and currently gives advice to locals on how to actually make recycling profitable.
Ms. ELENA NIKOLINI (Brazilian Engineer): (Through Translator) In order to make a project work, you have to live in the community. It makes no sense to impose your ideas on others. It should be the opposite. The community should demand what it needs and then take ownership of the project.
GUIDI: Three hundred and eighty-five people work at the cooperative that owns this recycling center. Their funding, so far, has come from a partnership between India, Brazil, and South Africa. Last year, the South-South partnership donated a little over a million dollars to the project. The idea is simple. Fix the garbage problem on the local level, and in the process, create jobs that require little education or training.
There are jobs for street sweepers, garbage collectors, recycling center operators, and briquette makers. Patrick Masena(ph) is one of the workers and the head of the cooperative. He says that the South-South help is unlike most development aid given to Carrefour-Feuilles.
Mr. PATRICK MASENA (Head of Cooperative, Carrefour-Feuilles, Port-au-Prince): (Through Translator) The South-South cooperation is really successful at addressing the needs of regular people. Their money is only for the necessary things, and they understand that our problems are all connected. I can't think of another project in this community that's been as effective, mainly because most other projects only last about three months.
GUIDI: Funding will last until the end of 2009. After that, the plant will keep revenues flowing through the sale of metal scraps, plastic, and glass materials, coupled with the production and sale of cooking briquettes made out of recycled paper. Since most cooking in Haiti is done with charcoal, the cooking briquette will serve as a cheaper, more environmentally friendly alternative.
Shambatis Wilfried(ph) is an economist at Quisqueya University in Port-au-Prince. He's been observing the Carrefour-Feuilles recycling plant from the beginning. And he says the idea is simple but also pretty revolutionary.
Mr. SHAMBATIS WILFRIED (Economist, Quisqueya University, Port-au-Prince): (Through Translator) Anyone can come up with a development project idea and can always find funding and say this project will last five years or whatever, but that's just to cover operational costs. What about creating jobs and solving the real current problems on the ground? What about working with the infrastructure that already exists there?
GUIDI: Wilfried says that other economists should question traditional development aid to poor countries like his. He believes that emerging powers like India, Brazil, and South Africa can probably relate to Haiti's poverty more than industrialized nations would. But he adds it's still too early to tell whether South-South cooperation will work outside of a single recycling plant. For NPR News, I'm Ruxandra Guidi, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
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