I am an epidemiologist with 8+ years of experience in international public health, epidemiology, tropical infectious disease surveillance, GIS, medical entomology and community outreach. My long-term goal is to become an independent investigator of arboviral epidemiology and improve public and environmental health to reduce the burden of arboviral transmission in resource-poor settings. I want to create healthy environments by working with local stakeholders to leverage existing and emerging technologies in innovative ways.
Here is more information about Trash to Treasure: Collecting trash for profit to reduce vector breeding sites in Kwale County, Kenya. Mosquitoes are the deadliest animal in the world because they carry pathogens that make humans sick. One very important mosquito vector, Aedes aegypti, spreads dengue, Zika, chikungunya, and yellow fever. This mosquito bites in the daytime and likes to breed in man-made containers, such as recyclable plastic containers, tires, and trash. In this proposal, our primary objective is to test whether a community-based recycling program can engage aspiring businesspeople to turn trash into profit in Kwale County, Kenya. We know that trash is the most productive mosquito habitat in this region, so we expect to improve health by reducing mosquito-borne diseases (such as dengue (DENV) and chikungunya (CHIKV) viruses) and to alleviate poverty by generating income. In our study site, Kwale County, there is a particularly high rate of unemployment, especially among young adults. Our proposal will entice individuals to improve the health of their communities while making money. Community-based vector control programs in both Kenya and Mexico have paid community members to perform vector control activities; However, these programs don’t last because they rely on a constant support from donors or the government. We will overcome this challenge by providing community members with the support needed to generate income from trash to make vector control profitable. Trash, specifically unused containers like bottles, buckets, and tires, can be re-purposed for a variety of profitable items. As part of an ongoing study, we have conducted meetings where community members expressed interest in creating value from trash, but initial support is needed in the form of start-up funds, mentorship, and skill-building. We hypothesize that profitable businesses which motivate community members to remove trash from the community will reduce vector breeding containers. From our ongoing studies, we have identified that the majority of mosquito breeding sites are in unused containers or “trash.” Our team has another project that has identified the potential for community members to collect trash and create value. So far, 250 school children have collected more than one ton of trash consisting of nearly 30,000 containers which they are using to plant trees in school grounds, neighborhoods and homesteads. This ongoing study has laid the groundwork to spark community members to turn trash into treasure. We will conduct our study in two phases: Phase 1: Planning Phase: To test whether community-based recycling/repurposing will work, we plan to join with local partners to identify target communities, identify how best to do community mobilization, identify the volumes of waste available, and scope layout of solid waste/recycling industries and market opportunities for the trash. At this time, we have collected estimates of the volumes of waste available through our ongoing community mobilization project. We have also begun to engage outside partners (China) to determine possibilities for recycling out of the country. We plan to hold two workshops to engage local partners and build capacity to ensure sustainability. Phase 2: Pilot an entrepreneur incubator program. We will invite all community members to a meeting where we will introduce the idea of starting a social enterprise to remove trash from the environment. During the meeting, everyone will be invited to share their ideas about how to create value from trash. Interested individuals will be selected to apply to participate in the social entrepreneurship program where they create and execute business plans. Funding from our partners will catalyze this proof-of-concept initiative. To apply our learnings from this 12-month project and to create lasting change, we will apply for further funding to ensure that the social entrepreneurs are on track toward sustainable income and have measurably reduced trash volume and mosquito breeding.
Thanks for your great questions. They are definitely important points to refine before final submission. Perhaps peace or health ideas would be better rather than requiring that both are met. Assuming that our cycle of innovation leads to peace, an idea supporting either would feedback into the positive cycle of health and peace. Your second point- re: the number proposed versus the number of ideas we can fund- is a weak point in that we want to avoid creating conflict due to competition for limited project funding. For that reason, we propose the community training component as sort of filter to select the top applicants yet providing a benefit to the whole community.
Our trash to treasure project in Kenya is just getting started! I see you also working Kenya and it would be great to think about how we might collaborate!