A clean-up battalion goes through the Bissau-Guinean neighbourhood of Plubá in the capital every Wednesday morning. Divided into eight groups, a total of 150 people clean, pile up and collect the bags of rubbish handed in by the residents. With brooms, hoes and rakes as their main working tools, the beneficiaries of the project “Limiting the Impact of COVID-19. A 3x6 Approach”, supported by the Government of Japan, partially funded by UNDP Guinea-Bissau through the project “Blue Economy as a Catalyst to Green Recovery” and implemented by ENGIM, are distributed across the area, perfectly identified with their yellow waistcoats and conveniently equipped with their megaphones so that those who are yet to deliver their waste do so. Over the last few weeks, they have been involved in an exhaustive door-to-door campaign aimed at raising public awareness of the importance of waste management and are now reaping the rewards of their work.
Benedito Pana Ialá, one of the young people in charge of the local company Yala Serviços, accompanies and supports the beneficiaries to keep the tasks flowing. In addition to collecting waste and taking it to a landfill site every week, they also raise awareness of the importance of reuse and recycling and about the possibility of composting their organic waste. “The response from the people is positive and common spaces are visibly cleaner and better maintained than they were just a few weeks ago”. The main objective of the project is to promote a green economic recovery in one of the areas most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to promote financial inclusion and livelihood diversification for residents in the neighbourhood through the allocation of a monthly allowance that comes through mobile banking and remunerates the community work done by the beneficiaries.
Waste management and collection in the area is only one of the three legs of the community work phase of the project. The other two are related to the rehabilitation of two key spaces for life in the neighbourhood: the Guerra Mendes Basic Education School and the local market. Work on the commercial space is scheduled to begin in January, but at the school the coming and going of carts loaded with sand has been a constant for a month now. There, 50 other beneficiaries of the project are working hard to move forward with the renovation of buildings that are not very functional to adapt them to the needs of the school dynamics.
30-year-old Leticia Fernando Obna is one of those beneficiaries. She studied Banking Management and before the pandemic was working for a large telecommunications company. Her contract ended and was not renewed, so when one of her neighbours told her about the project and invited her to participate, she didn't hesitate. "I am very proud to be able to contribute to improving health, hygiene and education conditions in my community, it is very important to us”. The project is not only an opportunity to diversify her livelihood in a post-crisis context in which chronic youth unemployment in the country has worsened, but it is also offering her the chance to learn a new trade. “I am learning a lot and I am really enjoying working in construction, so much so that I am considering training in this field when the project is finished”. Civil construction is traditionally a male domain, but here women and men work side by side, sharing tasks and supporting each other. Doing the same work as the men are doing is reassuring and reaffirms Leticia and the 17 other women who work in these tasks in their own abilities.
The intervention, which applies UNDP's 3x6 approach, is scheduled for completion in May 2022. It is hoped that people like Leticia, who has already participated in the training phase, will be able to start their own entrepreneurial activities in the neighbourhood thanks to a grant from the project and the savings from their community work over the next three months.