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Transforming waste and wasteland in Dakar

HLM Patte d'Oie is a green oasis in the city's bustling outskirts (© Sustainable Cities International)
HLM Patte d'Oie is a green oasis in the city's bustling outskirts
© Sustainable Cities International

Once renowned for their beauty, the public gardens of Senegal's capital, Dakar, have suffered decades of neglect. The 400 metre long HLM Patte d'Oie, like other supposedly 'green spaces' in the city was, until recently, an ugly combination of rubbish dump and car park. But in 2010, the site was chosen to house Dakar's new municipal plant nursery. Construction and improvement of the site began in December 2010, quickly producing a green oasis in the city's bustling outskirts. As part of the Sustainable Cities International (SCI) Network, Dakar is one of forty towns and cities around the world that are piloting social and technology innovations for more sustainable urban futures.

Table top gardens and a tree nursery

About one-third of the HLM Patte d'Oie area is dedicated to micro-gardening. Using groundnut and rice husks instead of soil, 145 table-top micro-gardens have been set up by a core team of 42 women. Taking care of the table gardens is a community activity; children, mothers and grandmothers cultivate over 30 species of plants, including tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplants, lettuces, carrots and cabbages. The gardening project gives these women a productive activity outside their homes, helping them improve their families' diets, reduce money spent on food and earn income from sales. Every day they come to water their crops and sell; many others come to find out information, buy vegetables or to chat, the area becoming a valuable social hub.

The rest of the area is dedicated to the trees, shrubs and flowers of the municipal plant nursery, destined for the streets and parks of Dakar, to improve air quality, lower temperatures and help to control noise pollution. Hardy, climate-tolerant species comprise the nursery's inventory. The nursery itself is managed by a team of technicians and support staff from the municipality, but a monitoring committee has also been put in place, including four women and two young people from the district. Nursery staff provide training in nursery techniques and micro-gardening to unemployed youth and women in the area.

The gardens give women a productive activity outside their homes (© Sustainable Cities International)
The gardens give women a productive activity outside their homes
© Sustainable Cities International

Involving a wide range of people in sustainable community projects is an essential part of their design, as seen in another nearby SCI project site. Gorée Island, an 18 hectare island roughly 2 km offshore from the city's main harbour, is populated by around 200 households. The majority of these have recently been trained in waste separation techniques, as part of a project to tackle pollution and support urban gardening.

Waste separation and compost making

The project was introduced in response to the unregulated dumping of unsorted waste in locations across the island. Until recently, plastic bags of rubbish were piled high - and then burned - at unmanaged, informal dump sites, or thrown from cliff tops into the sea, creating a rubbish-strewn coastline. Ironically, the island had a municipal waste sorting centre and a composting plant, but neither of these was used.

SCI conducted a community survey to determine the perceptions and needs of the public regarding micro-gardening and composting. Micro-gardening had previously been practised by a women's association, but had been abandoned. But with thorough training for around 16 men and women, including how to build micro-garden tables and cultivate vegetables, production has re-started.

Large-scale waste sorting is now established (© Sustainable Cities International)
Large-scale waste sorting is now established
© Sustainable Cities International

A second proposed initiative was a composting project, based on sorting of waste into organic and non-organic components. Municipal waste collectors were initially reluctant to be involved, because of the greater work required. But a series of community meetings was held, where waste collection management was discussed, including the collectors' working conditions. Through persistent and ongoing mediation between the parties, a new waste collection process was agreed upon, including the inclusion of two women in the City Hall's entirely male waste management team, the provision of protective equipment to collectors, and community involvement in sorting waste materials.

Waste management sensitisation and training have been delivered to each quarter of the island, with follow ups in people's houses. Around 150 of the 200 households have so far been sensitised, with the island now running an organic household waste collection system and an operational composting facility. This produces organic compost for use by the micro-gardeners as well as for sale both on and off the island.

Illegal garbage dumping in Gorée has fallen, with large-scale waste sorting now established at locations across the island. As awareness grows, community expectations about waste and the environment are rising to new levels. Other improvements include a reduction in air pollution, with less informal burning of rubbish, and improvements in public health thanks to better supply of nutritious vegetables and fruit. Income levels have risen among those involved in micro-gardening.

Community buy-in

Micro-gardening has restarted in Gorée (© Sustainable Cities International)
Micro-gardening has restarted in Gorée
© Sustainable Cities International

For SCI, demonstration projects of this kind are a way of connecting with communities. Their involvement at the earliest stages of project development is essential, however, in ensuring that their concerns are addressed and the success of the project can ultimately be validated. Obstacles to social and technical innovation can be many, with different neighbourhoods having different experiences and priorities. Experiences in Dakar, however, suggest that through communication and negotiation, progress can be made.

Knowledge generation and transfer are at the core of the SCI, with successful initiatives taken and adapted to a large scale, or replicated in other city districts. At a wider level, lessons from activities such as in Dakar are shared by SCI Network members at peer learning events, conferences and through various e-platforms. As personal and professional relationships are built, direct dialogue between cities accelerates further innovation.

With contributions from: Ndèye Fatou D. Gueye, Director of Afrique Développement Durable

Date published: May 2013


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Musoke - This is the address of the group http://sustainable... (posted by: New Agriculturist)

Thanks for the project .I wish to get in contact with the gr... (posted by: Musoke Edmond)


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