Fellow Since 1996
Project Puuru Jambar/Forum Civil
This profile was prepared when Oumar Sarr was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1996.
The New Idea
Africa's cash-strapped municipal governments simply cannot cope with the ordinary living requirements of their rapidly expanding populations. For the poor, who constitute the majority in all African cities and towns, municipal services-such as water, power, shelter, sewerage, streets, parks, transport and sanitation-are either inadequate or nonexistent. Oumar Sarr believes that the inevitable shift to community-based "self-help" type solutions can be stimulated and accelerated through the introduction of appropriate technologies. He has demonstrated his approach in one of Dakar, Senegal's poorer communities and is now poised to spread it throughout Senegal and the wider West African region. Oumar has devised a neighborhood-based system for domestic waste management that begins with sorting waste in the home, involves thrice-weekly curbside garbage pickup and proceeds to one of three options, depending on the nature of the waste. Flammable waste materials are sorted for nontoxic incineration at a community-built incinerator. The potassium and carbonate rich ash by-products of incineration are then sold to generate project income. A second category is made up of recyclable materials, which are sold. The final part is removed to municipal landfills. The unique contribution of Oumar's approach is the use of new technologies to implicitly educate about the environment and, more to the point, inspire citizen action. Community organizing and education sessions instill in the local population a "culture of environmental protection" that promotes the idea that together members of the community can solve some of their health and sanitation problems without depending on government. As Oumar states, a change in awareness, attitude and behavior is a major key to unlocking household and community efforts to resolve the domestic waste management problem in Senegal. Oumar is convinced that the solidarity and understanding that develop around the "simple solution" of introducing his community waste disposal system also yield a secondary benefit of encouraging citizens, and young people in particular, to seek other creative solutions to the problems facing their communities. Having demonstrated his approach in one poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Dakar, Oumar is facilitating the replication of the model throughout urban Senegal. Simultaneously, he is developing a rural model. The original model was designed for replication at least throughout the Sahel region.