Improving the Earth: Part Five

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Improving the Earth: Part Five

By: Neil Nunn | International Co-op Student
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Neils picture
At school
Neils picture
Keeping the earth clean
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Buertey with the rubbers
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Neil and his class.

Neil Nunn, a third year Geography student specializing in environmental studies is passionate about environmental, developmental and social justice issues. In this article, Neil helps the community of Sega to set up a recycling program. 

I must clear up some misinformation in my last article. I was told by the young lecturer that RASTA was an acronym. I have been informed by the lovely and resourceful Miss Debbie that Rasta is “a shortened form of Rastafarian, the cult that started in Jamaica which venerates Haile Selassie from Ethiopia. It comes from Ras Tafari which was his name in their language which means Prince Tafari, his name and title  before he became emperor. He was seen as divine.”

Martin Luther King obviously didn’t help abolish slavery (as I am sure that some of you picked up on this) because he is a more recent historical figure. Most slavery was abolished in the early 1800s. King was recognized for the part he played in progressing elimination of discrimination.  Obviously, my history of African Diaspora could use some work, perhaps next semester.

Plans Have Hatched, Sad to Say Some of the Chicks Have Fallen Ill

One evening, as usual, I was sitting on the stoop having a conversation with locals, joking with the kids and enjoying the retreat of the blistering sun leave the sky for another night. I was talking with Akotu, a nineteen year-old girl, who lived next door.  I asked her, in my broken Dangme, why she has never gone to school. Akotu’s mother and father do not support her, and therefore, her reasons for not attending school were the lack of financial resources.  I asked, half jokingly, if I paid for your school would you go? She said yes. After assessing her academic skills we learned that she couldn’t write the alphabet and would have to be put in Class 1. I was excited to do this and thought about how beneficial it would be to her if she could learn to read and write. Unfortunately, the story ends in disappointment. During the second week, she missed three days and her teacher said she was always wandering, not focused or trying. I told her, prior to her first day that this was something she would have to earn by working hard and going to school everyday. After the second week I stopped funding her and had the seamstresses stop making her uniform. 

During my time here I really wanted my help to be significant and create something that could grow past my short visit. Only analyzing my trip from a distance will I be able to see how successful I was with this.  Having a lot of time to think and financial support from friends and family has allowed many plans to hatch. This short story of the girl Akotu is just an example one of the chicks that has fallen ill.

Another challenge I have encountered is in phase two of the mango planting project. This phase has come to a halt. Due to the lack of water from the community pipe it has been difficult to keep the mango and palm trees already in the ground watered. However, those trees and the palm trees are doing very well and have produced a consistent seventy-five percent success rate. What I will not be here to see is the planting of phase two (the next fifty plants) going in the ground. The fences are paid for and being constructed right now. I will leave money for the seedlings and once the rain comes they will be planted. 

The difficultly and failure that has hurt the most was the propane burning stove. After the first week, the burners we bought were terribly inefficient and Mr. Godwin’s estimation of how long each cylinder would last proved to be inaccurate. The system isn’t financially viable to continue and collecting dust as we speak. I had plans to search for more efficient burners and pay for the cylinders to be filled, but time and financial resources are drying up rapidly. 

Although there have been some challenges and disappointments other cool things are going well. The little recycling program called Buertey – I have unofficially started Sega’s first recycling program. In Ghana they drink mostly water that doesn’t come out of a tap, but from little plastic 500ml sachets. Like most developing countries I have visited, people throw garbage on the ground with no regrets and sweep the trash into a pile and burn it.  In Sega and everywhere else in Ghana there are water wrappers or “rubbers” as they are called here! 

I learned that there is a factory over an hour away which recycles these things.  Before the class trip to the Cape Coast, I had my class collect these rubbers and at the factory we dropped a few bags off. 

Since we have returned, I have still had the children collect them and I am going to take a boy in my class to Buertey and teach him how to take the rubbers to the factory on the “tro tro” or mini van bus system. He is excited to have such responsibility and will be the key to continuing the recycling program in Sega. Tomorrow for sports time we are having a rubber collecting competition with four teams. The winning team who collects the most rubbers will win a big tray of bananas! They were very excited about it today.

I have been ridiculed for picking and collecting rubbers. People think “silly white man, haha." I have been trying to convey to my class how backward this thinking is. I ask them “why do people enjoy living in a community that looks like a rubbish heap?”  It seems, I have gotten the point across and will leave printouts explaining the recycling program in hopes that they promote the collecting efforts in the future.

Beyond The Article

Posted on March 07, 2011