After years of environmental damage and degradation the world is waking up to a new ecological consciousness. Now more than ever, we are recognising the importance of green solutions to modern day problems. One of Progressio ICS's main goals is to improve the quality of life of poor and marginalised communities through more equitable and sustainable management of our natural resources and habitat. As we approach World Environment Day, hear from Progressio ICS volunteer Roisin McGovern.
It is encouraging to see many of the green success stories coming from developing countries and in particular from Progressio. Local ventures such as the project I completed with Progressio ICS in El Salvador, proves that a green strategy is not limited to a political or government scheme but can originate wherever there is guidance and vision.
I worked alongside both UK and national volunteers in the small, rural community of Santa Marta. Our project focused on eco-construction and waste management; themes of growing interest and importance within the community. Santa Marta faces a number of challenges: no access to running water, ground contamination, high risk of earthquakes, lack of financial investment and a violent and traumatic history of civil war. Despite all of this, with the help of organisations such as Progressio ICS, Santa Marta is creating a brighter, positive and greener future.
The civil war completely destroyed the community, leaving it an utter ghost town after the citizens fled to Honduras. After years living in refugee camps, the people of Santa Marta made their way back to their beloved home. Ever since then the community has been rebuilding that which the war stole, their lives and their independence. It doesn’t take long after arriving in Santa Marta to recognise the rebellious spirit, determination and pride that they have in themselves, their history and their community.
With such a tragic and yet interesting past Progressio ICS is helping Santa Marta to develop a local tourism industry. Ecotourism is the new and green step forward. Combining environmental awareness with sustainable tourism solutions will directly benefit and contribute to the growth of the community and the promotion of its proud history.
Our kiosk was not the first eco construction. The community also has a recycling centre and several benches and bus stops all made using the same non-polluting materials and methods. The eco-friendly structures demonstrate a respectful balance with nature. Santa Marta is such a beautiful place and the cob structures seem to fit in with the surrounding scenery rather than disrupt or violate it.
I think its safe to say that we, both the UK and national volunteers, started the project with little to no knowledge of bio-construction and now we find ourselves masters of cob, connoisseurs in eco-bricks and absolute gurus in the art of rock chains. We spent five days a week, eight hours a day working on an eco-building which will be used by Santa Marta's tourism group as a reception kiosk. It was tiring, demanding and difficult but worth every single minute. We also did a lot of different activities promoting waste management and recycling including a eco-festival, workshops, school and adult talks... This was not just a volunteer project. We were part of something much bigger. We were part of change, a movement towards a sustainable and greener future for Santa Marta.
Progressio's work is always centred around people powered development and eco-construction is a perfect example of this. It is self-sufficient and empowering, giving the people of Santa Marta the opportunity to transform their lives without dependency upon government or NGO schemes. The tools are there in the community, rocks, clay, sand, plastic (lots of it!!). It also creates a solution to waste management which is a huge problem in Santa Marta and across all of El
Salvador. Eco-construction teaches the importance of recycling and reusing materials. It turns waste into a resource, turning old habits of littering into a new reality of purposeful recycling.
Our lovely little tourism kiosk will now hopefully help boost eco-tourism within the area. Already there is a historical tourism route, a historical guide is in the process of being made and a museum is in the pipeline! Santa Marta is proof that combining environmental concern and community development creates spaces and opportunities for active citizen participation. Rural ecological infrastructure builds on and enhances the natural environment whilst also creating benefits in terms of tourism, income, promotion and livelihoods of local citizens. It provides people with the capacity and freedom to make change, to be change.
Nature works in cycles and so should we, using old materials to create new, inspiring, green spaces. Our ambitions, our daily needs can be met with a long-term vision for a healthy and happy future. One planet, one vision: green.
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