Kuarta sa Basura ++: Harnessing Multi-stakeholders' Participation in Environmental and Responsive Governance
Turning trash into cash is but one feat accomplished by the urban poor residents of Barangay Luz in Cebu City. They also managed to convince local firms like the Ayala conglomerate to join and support their environmental governance program!
For decades, the people of Barangay Luz struggled hard to acquire titles to the land where they were relocated. In 1989, the Barangay Luz Confederation of Community Organizations persuaded then Governor Lito Osmeña to sell the lots they occupied through the Community Mortgage Program. In the following years, the barangay’s homeowners’ associations began profiling their members, collecting savings, and developing subdivision plans.
Subsequently, they began discussing solutions to community issues such as access to water, domestic violence, savings mobilizations, education, elderly concerns and waste recycling. Among the major problems they wanted to solve was solid waste disposal. While the city is mainly responsible for collecting garbage from major city streets, the barangays are expected to collect waste from the inner streets and areas. The initial effort of the urban poor women’s groups to recycle waste materials into bags that they later sell to interested buyers led to the development of a program that can make money out of waste.
In 2002, the Kuarta sa Basura project was launched to enable the residents to earn money through recycling, composting and other activities. It was part of a wider sustainable community development program which entailed the participation of various stakeholders. The program aimed to develop public awareness about environment issues, waste management and related laws. It encouraged the residents to be responsible for their waste and to keep the environment clean and healthy.
To ensure the people’s participation and involvement, a massive house to house, awareness-raising campaign on environment issues, waste management and related laws was conducted. Environmental and waste management concerns were also integrated into the Barangay Development Plan. Barangay resolutions (BR) were subsequently passed to implement national and city laws on waste management in the barangay. These include BR 11-225 which established the Bayanihan Savings program in 16 sitios. The Bayanihan Savings scheme is a financing program being replicated by the DILG. The innovation in Barangay Luz is that, instead of cash, recycled waste was accepted as deposit for eventual loan applications.
There were also mechanisms put in place to ensure participation. These include regular schedules for the collection of degradable and non-degradable waste and the establishment of an Eco Center that serves as the materials recovery facility of the barangay. The Eco Center is also a demonstration area for composting as well as a wellness garden. There were also incentives such as the annual search for the cleanest sitio, formal recognition of individuals and bayanihan centers that have the most kilos of recycled waste per year and the annual search for marketable products from waste.
Violators of the waste management ordinances were fined or ordered to render community service. The “no segregation, no collection” policy was strictly enforced, and the youth were tasked to assist in monitoring and apprehension.
The various community sector organizations (i.e. elderly, youth and women, sitios and homeowners associations) are actively involved in awareness raising, cleaning, segregating, recycling, and monitoring their own sitios and groups. The business sector, which includes the junk shops, serves as a market for recyclables.
The barangay was also able to enter into partnership agreements with the Cebu Business Park/Ayala Center and obtained a donation of one dump truck, a 2,800 square meter space for the Tugkaran (a training center on composting which employs 27 persons). It also partnered with government agencies like the City Agriculture Office, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and TESDA for information, skills training as well as coordination. It also tapped NGOs for their advocacy network and capability building on gender rights, housing, nutrition, environment and governance. Local and international networks (e.g. Shangri-La Hotel, Ayala Center, Fair-trade Belgium and Oxfam Netherlands) were also utilized to find markets for recycled products.
Today, practically all the residents segregate their waste. Many are involved in recycling and composting, and saving through waste at different levels and groups. The pride of the people of Barangay Luz is quite evident over what they accomplished and their substantial role in it.
The barangay’s waste that is disposed of in the city landfill has been reduced to only 28%. The rest are converted into cash through recycling (60%) and composting (10%). The barangay is also able to extend the use of allocated fuel for garbage truck from 14 days to 30 days.
Barangay Luz has turned into a model barangay for participatory environment management in the city as well as the country. It has gained several awards and has been invited to share and train other barangays, communities, local governments as well as schools and subdivisions within and outside the city wanting to replicate the program. The main ingredient in their success is undeniably the various stakeholder active participation and involvement in their program.