I have met many people in the last year working for Future Scientist. I have created community connections, allied with institutional partners, collaborated with community counter-parts, and structured a water health education network among the clinics in Costa Arriba. These connections more often than not bear fruit for future projects and they have always been helpful in taking some weight off the work I have to do and allowing me to turn over the work to the people in Costa Arriba. Several connections I’ve made have begun to bear fruit in the form of a new project, a trash management project for the town of Miramar.
The beginning of the story starts with when I met Javier Visuetti from Open Blue. Open Blue is an organic fish farming company with its farm in Palenque, Costa Arriba, Colón. Its offices are in Panama City. Part of their yearly budget is dedicated to community development for the communities of Santa Isabel, the district that extends from Nombre de Dios to Palmira. Other communities included in this district are Unión Santeña, Viento Frío, Palenque, Miramar, Cuango, Playa Chiquita, and Palmira; to name a few. Some projects they have done with this budget are potable water wells in Viento Frío, Palenque, and Miramar. They hand out scholarships to exceptional students in the area that meet their grade requisites. Thanks to Javier Open Blue has established itself as a positive presence in the communities of Santa Isabel. For 2019 they have a trash management pilot project planned for Miramar. This is where I saw an opportunity to unite Open Blue with a couple other organizations in the area in order to create a pair of local alliances in order to create a project with a higher impact.
I was introduced to Francisco Pizarro when I went on the water source hike in Palenque with Álvaro Salazar, the president of the Palenque water committee. Francisco accompanied us to the source in order to see it for himself. I learned from our conversation on the hike that he works for an organization called Let’s Do It!- Panamá. They are dedicated to the eradication of trash contamination and littering as well as the promotion and education of improved trash management practices. Let’s Do It isn’t the only waste management organization in the area either. Another waste management organization in Costa Arriba is called BlissPanama/Sembrando Cultura. An agent of theirs is Nelson. I met him when I participated in a community clean up in Portobelo and I recognized that he would be another great asset for the waste management project with Open Blue and another great connection in Costa Arriba. Uniting these organizations will be key to the success of the trash project in Miramar.
To date we have had two meetings in order to come together and brainstorm ideas for the trash project. Our brainstorming session was successful in seeing that we are all on the same page as to what exactly is the problem and its causes, and what the consequences have been. We also identified an opportunity for economic incentive for the community members in Miramar. On a national level, the average amount of waste produced in a home is 33% organic. This is from a study done by the Waste Management Authority (Autoridad de Aseo) from a sampling size of 839 homes. Organics make up the highest percentage of trash composition in a home, with plastics following at 17.2% and cardboard at 13.7%. Our idea is to take advantage of this organic waste in order to promote a community composting initiative in order to create rich compost in order to sell. This will create a communal monetary incentive to get involved in the project and create sustainability.
Our next step is to visit a composting company to see exactly how to implement the composting part of the project and train community members in maintaining it. This will ensure sustainability and hopefully provide some sort of steady funding for community projects and needs. We will then pitch our project to the board of directors in Open Blue and the community of Miramar. Once we have the green light we will go to the community in order to organize them and involve them in the project. We want the community involved in the entire creative and implementation process in order to ensure sustainability and long-term involvement on the community’s part. We hope that this project will create a better and cleaner future for the residents of Miramar and future generations of Costa Arriba.