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Income for women and communities through recycling
Background – Bolivia is the poorest country in South America. Two thirds of the population are living in poverty. The state barely has the resources to enable it to function properly and is forced to juggle its meagre budget, in order to meet its obligations to the local populations. This, for example, explains how the disposal of garbage is achieved in a rather rudimentary fashion, in that whatever is collected in the street is heaped, completely unsorted, onto enormous tips on the outskirts of the city. It is there that people, mainly women and children, sift through this mountain for any items of value. Others do the same on the streets. It is hardly surprising that this activity has, until now, been regarded less as an occupation than as a sheer struggle for survival – both by those who earn their living this way and by the population at large.
Project – Since the start of 2009, Swisscontact has been advising the communities – the lowest political decision-making bodies – and the general population on how to organise collection systems for recycled garbage within the quarter. A community can be a village, but it can also be an urban district with a population of more than 10,000. The places participating in the project call themselves “Eco-Vecindarios,” which is translated into English as “Eco-Communities”. For each 1,000 households, one person is responsible for collecting any items of value directly from the residential homes and companies and bringing these, suitably sorted, to a nearby collection centre. The latter sell the more valuable material such as paper, cardboard, plastic or metal, to recycling firms. It is from the income generated this way that the fixed monthly salaries of the collectors are paid. The Eco-Community allocates any surplus income to projects involving energy efficiency, water, green spaces or traffic (particularly pedestrain and cycle traffic) in their own area. As the project will only work if the population becomes involved, i.e. the people sort their own garbage and pass it on to the collectors, the public authorities in each quarter, working closely with Swisscontact’s project administrators, are carrying out training, as well as awareness raising campaigns. The project has now started operating in 40 quarters in Bolivia‘s four largest cities (La Paz, El Alto, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz). The goal is to build up 100 more Eco-Communities every year. This upturn in collection activity has increased the market for recycling firms. At the same time, the cost of garbage collection in the cities has shown a marked decrease, which has freed up resources for other important matters. Last but not least, the women who actually collect the garbage are also reaping the benefits. Most of these women have, for the first time in their lives, gainful employment and a steady income. They have turned themselves from people struggling desperately for survival by collecting garbage into fully fledged municipal workers, whose work is ensuring that life in the quarter is becoming healthier and altogether more pleasant.
Main partner of this project
Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SD
IT Intern for Database and Software Development in Indonesia
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Annual Report 2011
Our Annual Report 2011 is now available in english.
May 25, 2012
Swisscontact: Heinrich M. Lanz is the new president
The Board of Trustees of Swisscontact, a Swiss foundation for technical development cooperation, elected Heinrich M. Lanz as the new Board of Trustees President during their meeeting on 22 May 2012. He is the successor of Peter Grüschow who has led the foundation since 2005 with care.
Annual Report 2010
Our Annual Report 2010 is now available in English.
Our former colleague publishes his book with photos of travel impressions.
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14 June 2010
Swisscontact Annual Report
The Annual Report 2009 focuses on partnership: reduction of poverty as a common project of the local communities and the Swisscontact staff in the field.