Environmental Education Activities for the Creation of an Environmental Awareness among the Urban and Rural Population of the Canton Lago Agrio, Sucumbíos Province, Ecuador

Project location: Ecuador, SucumbĂ­os Province
Project start date: July 2012 - Project end date: June 2013
Project number: 2012-075
Beneficiary: Oxfam Italia

The Sucumbíos Province is located in the Amazon area of Ecuador and is one of the areas in the country where the population has grown most rapidly over recent years, due to an internal migration flow of “colonos” (settlers) from other areas of the nation started in the 70’s, after the discovery of petroleum in the area. At that time, the Government encouraged the mass colonization of the region giving the settler families the title of property of the land under the only condition of proving to be working on the property. The rapid population growth has generated a rapid expansion of the agricultural frontier, with a deforestation rate that has remained among the highest in the continent, facilitating the penetration of oil companies in the area.
At present the Province of Sucumbíos, together with the other Amazonian Provinces, represents the State’s main source of income due to oil production (350.000 barrel of daily production).
However the economic benefit generated is not re-invested in this area and the indicators of health and quality of education in the Province are among the poorest in the whole county. The area covered by primary forest has been decreasing because of illegal deforestation and inefficiency of those institutions that are meant to ensure the respect of the law. The situation is worsened by the environmental contamination caused by the oil industry. Petroleum leaks from pipelines are frequent and pollute surface and deep water resources, generating health problems in the local population that have not yet been accurately investigated.
In addition, unfortunately, the rapid changes in the last forty years have not been accompanied by a process of increasing awareness of the population which continues to see natural resources as something that can only be seized without care and respect.
In the past, local governments and educational institutions have been not interested in the creation and implementation of environmental education programs for students and awareness programs for the local population in urban and rural area.
Some of the most important problems identified at local and national level are the sanitarians and health problems generated for the poor waste management systems applied in urban y rural areas. For these reasons, nowadays the Government is promoting actions at national level to improve the situation through budget support for the construction of modern landfill for the final disposal of the wastes.
The Municipality of Lago Agrio is receiving a loan for the implementation of a new landfill site which already meets the legal requirement of the Environment Certification issued from the Ministry of Environment and, with the support of a project funded by the European Union implemented by OXFAM Italy and CEFA, is working to create a new integrated solid waste management system based on separation of garbage in the families, improvement of the final disposal of waste in the landfill, the development of a pilot project of environmental education in 6 colleges of the city and an awareness campaign for the citizenship focused on concepts of the 3R (reduce, reuse and recycle). The activities carried out at the moment are intended to deal with many of the social aspects related to the management of solid wastes, especially those involving the work of informal collectors who are operating in the city and in the municipal landfill without being legally recognized and without using any kind of work protection systems.
A proper internal waste management system does not exist at present in any school or college and all the garbage is mixed in the same containers while the municipality is responsible of the final collection of the waste.
There are no experiences of classification of garbage and both inside and outside of the school buildings any kind of signalling system or messages about the care of public spaces and waste management exist.
In the school curriculum, environmental education is not a specific subject but it should be taught in a "transversal way" through all the other subjects. Actually teachers have insufficient training and knowledge on this topic and for this reasons students do not receive any information about this important subject.
In this context, considering the interest of the Nando Peretti Foundation in activities related to environmental protection and based on the actions already realized in this area, we believe that it is very important to work in synergy with the Municipality and other local actors and communities to increase the level of public and especially young generations awareness about environmental problem in order to generate a change in the practices and habits, decrease the impact of human being on the environment and promote environment friendly economic activities improving the life quality of the persons involved in the recollection and recycling of the solid wastes.
The goal of the project is to reinforce an on-going process of strengthening and promotion of environmental education, extending the present activities in more schools of the city of Lago Agrio and in the rural parishes, fortifying at the same time the environmental awareness campaign directed to the citizenship.

Oxfam Italia has a vast experience of work in this area and consolidated relations with local institutions and civil society organizations. Oxfam Italia is currently implementing two projects: one funded by the EU in partnership with CEFA (another Italian NGO) and the Municipality of Lago Agrio denominated "Lago Agrio Ciudad Limpia" (Lago Agrio Clean City) and another funded by the United Nations Agency for Refugees (UNHCR) providing technical assistance to promote the agricultural reactivation in 21 communities on the border between Ecuador and Colombia

The present project will strengthen and extend the activities Oxfam Italia are already carrying out through the project "Lago Agrio Ciudad Limpia" funded by the EU.
All activities will be conducted in direct collaboration with the Department of Environment of the Municipality of Lago Agrio.

To this purpose Oxfam Italia will develop the following activities:
1. Application of an environmental education program in 2 schools of the city of Lago Agrio
The actions in the schools will be implemented by a technical staff expert in environmental education composed by members of the Municipality and the project "Lago Agrio Ciudad Limpia", with the support of the Ministry of Education and teachers of the colleges involved in the actions.
In order to involve as many students as possible, Oxfam Italia will promote the creation of Environmental Clubs formed by students and teachers who will be trained according to a specifically developed plan. The Clubs, under the supervision of experts of the Project, will carry out activities in their schools with the aim of transferring their knowledge to other students and raising their and their families' awareness on environmental issues. One of the goals of the action is to involve the schools in the application of an internal solid waste management system, promoting adequate separation, re-processing and reuse of waste processes. In this way students will be able to transfer knowledge in their homes, facilitating the recycling system that the municipality is implementing in the area.
As part of Project activities, public events will be periodically organized and the members of environmental clubs will play an important role to raise citizenship awareness on specific environmental issues or supporting the implementation of community services like cleaning of specific areas of the city or other social works.

2. Support the implementation of an integrated solid waste management system in the schools involved in the environmental education program.
In all the 2 schools involved in the environmental education program Oxfam Italia will implement an integrated solid waste management system that will include the separation of recyclable and not recyclable products.
With the support of the schools cleaning personnel Oxfam Italia will develop a specific differentiated recollection system providing different containers that will be located in strategic places to collect the wastes.
A special committee formed by the cleaning personnel , two teachers and two student (part of the Environmental Club) will be created to be responsible of the monitoring of the implementation of waste management system.
The Environmental Club will realize training of the students and will be involved in monitoring the implementation of the system.

3. Organization of civic events developed with the support of students and youth groups to raise citizenship awareness about solid waste management.
The project will support the organization of one public event to raise awareness on environmental issue, spreading messages which encourage recycling and creating a more integrated environmental vision, showing how through a daily gesture we can save resources, reduces pollution, save energy and reduce deforestation and that most of the waste is reusable and recyclable.
In addition to these activities, during the implementation of the project, with the support of the Environmental Clubs Oxfam Italia will organize environmental brigades during the weekends or holidays with the purpose of disseminating the concept of the 3 R: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. In the school and in the neighbourhoods where students live Oxfam Italia will organize collective public areas cleaning activities in coordination with local population, the Department of Environment of the Municipality and other institutions.
Although the treatment of the solid waste is generally perceived as a priority issue by local administrators in the city of Lago Agrio, only lately the Municipality is dealing with the issue in an integrated and effective way. One of the major constraints was the management of the old landfill area that was managed in a non-technical way like an open dump. During 2011, the Municipality has improved the management of this area and is actually receiving funding from the Central Bank of Ecuador for the construction of new landfill which will begin in 2012.
With the support of the Project "Lago Agrio Ciudad Limpia" the Municipality is taking the first steps for the creation of a new integrated waste management system that includes processes of separate collection and that will be applied from May 2012 in 36 neighbourhoods of the city.
Through this proposal Oxfam Italia intends to strengthen the City's effort to implement a new integrated solid waste management system that includes a significant environmental education process and a citizenship awareness campaign, to spread the concept that an adequate waste treatment is an essential element of quality of life and human development in the area and support the recognition of the work of informal recyclers allowing them to improve their living conditions.

This project received a grant from the Nando Peretti Foundation.

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