By Anne Loeffler
Last week, a group of over 70 people composed of residents from Joza together with Raphael Centre, Tim Bull from Grahamstown Residence Association (GRA), Bopha Cleaning Services, Community Workers Project (CWP) and Learner Support Agents (LSAs’s) from Nombulelo, Kutliso Daniels, Nathaniel Nyaluza High Schools and CM Vellem Primary School set first tones in turning the tide of illegal dumping in Mayfield (Joza). For about two days, the group started cleaning small parts of the area and met at Assumption Development Centre wih Ntuthu Blow from GRA to think about next steps to sustainable cleaning and recovering this area. The cleaning raised lots of attention and questions by passengers last week.
Ntuthu says: “Community involvement in initiatives that affect them is vital. People must be curious about things that happen in their neighborhoods. In that way they are able to contribute meaningfully so that such activities may be carried out in a way that is uniquely suitable for the community’s context”.
The clean-up was inspired by Mevis Mama who lives with her elderly mother and children in Extension 2. Her garden borders at Mayfield’s illegal landfill which forms a smelly, toxic and unsafe neighborhood. She is worried because next to baby nappies and other household wastes she has seen people dumping dead dogs in the middle of where children play, people walk and life stock grazes. Furthermore, if it’s windy, it constantly messes Mevis garden with papers, plastics and other rubbish of all sort.
We met Mevis in 2015 when she attended our Asest-based Community–led Development training at Assumption Development Centre in Joza. She says: “The training changed my way of thinking to more positive and I am more conscious about ways I can impact on things”. ‘Asset-based’ means acknowledging resourcefulness of people and focusing on assets people bring to bear on their lives.
The most important asset for all of us are our social resources: With a group of few other women she tried to stop the dumping. But she says its’ been hard because people come from different parts of Joza and Grahamstown. Ntuthu says: “The word environment is an English word which many of us do not speak. So it needs to be broken down, so that we can each form a personal understanding of the term and what it means to each individual. This can be done by providing meaningful environmental education. Reality is, no one can be expected to participate in something that does not make sense to them.”
Yvonne van Breugel (biotechnologist) started environmental workshops for children who are associated with Raphael Centre. She points out that illegal dump sites like Mayfield are spread all over town and, because they are not monitored, can cause diseases and also have toxic implications on soil, ground water and air. Yvonne said about the workshop: “To solve this problem we have to find creative solutions, to ‘think outside the box’. I hope to stimulate this kind by giving the children examples of how trash can be a resource. For example, organic waste can be composted and used as a fertilizer for their gardens, plastic waste can be packed in a PET bottle and used as a brick: The ‘Ecobrick’.”
Mevis says: “I think what needs to be done is teaching the community about what this dumping does to our hood, but also about recycling. And we need the Municipality more involved in the clean-up.” Mevis and her group plan on coming forward with a paper which analyses reasons for people’s illegal dumping and some solutions. For sharing knowledge about responsible wasting and recycling among residents. For the actual clean-up her group will require the support of all of us individuals, institutions and Municipality in Grahamstown. An African proverb says: “If you want to go fast – then you have to go alone, but if you want to go far – then you must go with others!”