Uniting with Let’s Do It!-Panamá and Open Blue (https://www.openblue.com/), we have set out to clean up Costa Arriba. To combat the trash buildup in the region we began a waste management project by kicking it off with the Let’s Do It!-World event World Cleanup Day (https://www.worldcleanupday.org/). We organized five different communities in the district of Santa Isabel so that they would join the World Cleanup Day. Playa Chiquita, Cuango, Miramar, Palenque, and Nombre de Dios joined the movement to clean their communities and set the example for proper waste management. We wanted to use this event to introduce the topic of waste separation and management and use it as a segway to our next step in the project of selecting participant houses this October.
Let’s Do It!-World is a non-profit that began in Estonia in 2008 when 50,000 people organized to clean-up the entire country in just five hours. This model has been expanded worldwide and now 169 countries actively participate or have participated in the World Cleanup Day, an event that Let’s Do It!-World began last year on September 15, 2018. This worldwide event has served effectively to raise awareness and mobilize people to get out and do something about their respective trash problems. This was our objective by bringing in the communities in Colón to participate in the World Cleanup Day. We wanted to mobilize people and get rid of their “trash blindness” in order for them to see the effect that their actions have in maintaining the cleanliness of their community. From here we want to move to forming a voluntary group of households to bring their organic waste to the community compost center. We hope that after mobilizing and seeing the difference they can make in their community they will be motivated to join our project and make it their own. If you want to learn more about Let’s Do It!-World go to their website https://www.letsdoitworld.org/.
In order to mobilize the Santa Isabel district, a lot of community organization was needed. We started the day by organizing the main work force in Miramar. Here Open Blue employees volunteered their time to contribute to the effort. We also collaborated with the Suplente Tomás Salazar from Miramar who helped pinpoint the areas with the highest amount of trash contamination. Another environmental group called Planetario Verde (https://www.facebook.com/Planetario-Verde-114825813223009/) joined us in Miramar with a busload of volunteers to aid in the cause. Future Scientist took point in organizing the other communities (Playa Chiquita, Cuango, Palenque, and Nombre de Dios). In Nombre de Dios the Community Council took the lead in the cleanup under the management of Representative Daniel Barrera, in Playa Chiquita the primary school and teachers participated in cleaning up their community, in Cuango a mother and her son were the only ones who joined us for their clean up on the Cuango beachline, and in Palenque the mayor and several community members took charge of their town. Open Blue contributed rubber gloves and trash bags for all the cleanup efforts and Future Scientist ran up and down the coast delivering this material to the cleanup teams. Thankfully I was able to connect with all of them.
I spent some time in each community supporting the cleanup effort as best I could and connecting with community members. In Playa Chiquita I helped pick up trash with the elementary school students, who were incredibly enthused to take on the task and use the gloves and bags to get the job done. I was able to meet with a few community members and talk about issues within the community. In Playa Chiquita a mother and her young son met me and asked if we were going to do a cleanup in Cuango. I said yes and offered to bring them back to the town to begin picking up the trash on the beach. That mother and son that traveled to Playa Chiquita looking for me were the only ones in Cuango that participated in the World Cleanup Day and it was inspiring to see their initiative in lending a hand for the betterment of their community. From Cuango we moved on to Miramar. Due to the sheer quantity of people that participated in the cleanup in Miramar they had finished by the time I had made it there. And by the time I made it to Palenque the cleanup team had disbanded and they had carted off the picked up trash to Colón City. All in all it ended up being a successful day and we had collect approximately 286 lbs. (130 kg) of trash between all five communities. Around 120 people participated in the event and Colón had done its part in making Panama a cleaner place to live.
Now that people are aware of how trash can affect their livelihood and they can see how much damage can be done (and undone) in such little time, it is time for the compost project to move forward into its second phase. In the coming weeks we will begin to recruit households to join our project and bring their organic waste to the community compost center. We are hoping that at least 15 households join the project and help create a waste conscious community. We are hoping that this leads to Colón becoming a national example of responsible waste management for the country.
At the end of August, the agriculture students at the Centro Educativo Jacoba Urriola Solís in Portobelo won 3rd place in the Regional Science Fair with a composting project we proposed and are now going on to the National Science Fair! The idea behind the project was to teach students an alternative method of composting using air pumps to facilitate the aerobic process that composting needs in order to convert organic waste into rich compost. We created an experiment with three groups of two buckets in order to see what frequency of air pumping was most effective in aiding the decomposing process with two different types of compost mixes. We wanted the students to take this to the Regional Science Fair to present to the public and they did just that, along with several other waste management projects that they did with Professor Wilfredo Aguilar and Professor Francisco Ábrego. The project turned out to be a good complement to the other two projects and the Centro Educativo Jacoba Urriola Solís won third place in the Colón Science Fair allowing them to move on to the National Science Fair in Panama City! They will continue collecting data to present a more complete set of results at the national stage.
Every year Panama holds a national science fair that is sponsored by the National Secretary of Sciences and Technology (Secretaría Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología or SENACYT in its spanish acronym). High school students from across the country prepare science projects to be presented on a provincial stage, and if they score in the top three they move on to the national stage where they present their projects in Panama City to be judged by representatives from SENACYT. The students who score in the top three at the national competition can win them the chance to participate in an international competition. The national competition will be in October and Professor Wilfredo Aguilar and two other students will go to Panama City to present updated projects to the other participating students, teachers, and SENACYT judges who will be present at the competition. We are confident that Portobelo will represent Colón and the nation with pride, and I am excited to cheer them on the day of the competition. We are excited to continue working with the school in Portobelo and continue developing projects for the students to take charge of and learn from.
Using this project we are creating a link between the school and the Waste Management project we are developing for the district of Santa Isabel in Colón. The compost project in the school in conjunction with the other science fair projects will serve as a way to get students involved in composting and raise awareness of the importance of separating and composting organic waste.
A new stakeholder in Portobelo: Profesor Francisco Ábrego
Professor Francisco Ábrego is a new teacher this year at the Portobelo high school and he has been a great complement to Professor Wilfredo’s agriculture program. He is enthusiastic about his work and has brought many new ideas to the students, especially in the form of composting. Along with our Future Scientist composting experiment with the air pumps, the professor and his students presented about bokashi composting (a japanese compost recipe/technique) and effective microorganisms.
Technology Focus: Bokashi Composting
Bokashi composting is a specific mixture of organic ingredients that makes a potent compost. The ingredients are dried manure (chicken, cow, pig, goat, duck), soil, rice husks, and molasses (or sugar). Professors Ábrego and Aguilar along with the students are selling the bokashi compost to boost funds for the agriculture program as well as utilizing it directly to improve soil quality in the school garden.
Technology focus: effective microorganisms
Effective microorganisms are a mixed culture of naturally occurring bacteria and yeast that are thought to enhance the quality of soil, improve plant growth, and improve yield. It can also be used to clean out septic systems as well as an antibacterial cleaning solution that Professor Ábrego has tested in his uncle’s chicken coop in Veraguas. The scent of chicken droppings and animal smell was eliminated within minutes and in Portobelo they use it to clean their coops and rabbit cages.
These are all lessons in composting that the students can continue to do after they have graduated and we hope that they will pass on this knowledge to their parents and communities long after. And by connecting these projects with the projects we’re doing in Costa Arriba we can connect the students to the problems that are in the region and have them actively participate in the solution.