The France 24 Observers team went to Guinea a year ago to meet one of our Observers who was working to clean up the capital, Conakry, which was inundated with rubbish. A year later, we checked in with her to see if things have improved on the ground.
Fatoumata Chérif is a blogger and the founder of a clean-up movement called "Selfie-déchets" (or “Rubbish selfies”), which she launched to raise awareness about the rubbish problem in the Guinean capital. Last year we travelled to Conakry and filmed a 12-minute report looking at her campaign and the waste management issues in the country nicknamed “the pearl of Africa”.
At that time, Sory Camara, the director of the National Agency for Sanitation and Public Health, promised that a better system would be in place by late 2018 or early 2019. (See video above at 10'35").
"There is a lack of coordination and strategy”
Chérif says the issue hasn’t improved much.
The problem hasn’t been solved and remains a major nuisance. The amount of rubbish produced by Conakry’s population largely surpasses the amount collected.
There are initiatives that aim to combat the rubbish problem like "Sanita Villes Propres", which was set up by the Belgian Development Agency. The Islamic Development Bank also financed a series of buried landfills within the city.
In June 2018, the government also launched a citizen clean-up campaign. But in general there is a real lack of coordination and strategy. For example, there have been no measures taken to prevent people from discarding rubbish on the beach or in the streets.
The government has occasionally called on the army to help with the waste crisis. On December 4, military units carried out clean-up operations in several different neighbourhoods in Conakry.
But Chérif has criticised these operations, saying that soldiers aren’t a proper substitute for waste management specialists.
Tweet (translated from French):
#News Security forces, as part of their campaign to strengthen military and civilian relations, will participate in an important clean-up operation in Conakry starting on Tuesday, December 4. First step: the Ratoma and Matoto districts.
#Live_together and contribute to the cleanliness of our neighbourhoods.
"We set up a beach volleyball court on a cleaned-up beach but…”
A year ago, Chérif and a group of volunteers organised clean-up operations on several different beaches in Guinea. However, a year later, those efforts have mostly dried up.
We were using our own means and money out of our own pockets to clean up the beaches. However, in the past year, there have been quite a few demonstrations [Editor’s note: There were major protests during local elections last February as well as in November], which meant we couldn’t carry out these operations at the same rate.
For example, we wanted to set up sporting grounds on the plage de la Minière, which is where we filmed the beginning and the end of our report with FRANCE 24. We even set up a beach volleyball court for a while.
Unfortunately, today the rubbish has started piling up on the beach again. It washes up when the tide is high. But I am still hopeful. I’d love to set it up as a space to promote products made out of materials recycled by Guineans. Lately, there have been a lot of small businesses that specialise in turning old tires into new items.”
What’s next for Chérif’s campaign?
Even if Chérif’s campaign didn’t meet all of her goals, she isn’t planning on giving up anytime soon.
I am going to keep raising awareness in schools and conferences. I am also going to keep spreading the word in radio shows and on TV programmes that rubbish isn’t just a problem … recycling and reusing can create real business opportunities.
I think that people really want to live in a cleaner environment but they lack the support to do so. I think that there need to be municipal bins set up around town and that there needs to be a whole campaign to raise awareness around recycling and sorting rubbish, which is a real hurdle.
I am hoping that the new city government [Editor’s note: In 2018, Guinea held its first municipal elections since 2005] will set up a better collection mechanism. It’s time for the city to breathe!
If you want to help Chérif in her fight against rubbish in Conakry, you can reach out via her Facebook page "Selfie-déchets".