What do you do with waste when you are at an elevation of 3305m, surrounded by high mountains and very little land suitable for landfills? This challenge intrigued Niagara's David Smith and led him to a CCA volunteer waste management specialist position in Huancahuasi, Peru. Having backpacked around Peru some 26 years ago David had fond memories of the highland areas and rural communities, so as a waste management engineer he saw this volunteer assignment with CCA and was hooked.
David's mission was to help the Atahualpa Co-operative (based in Huancahuasi, central west Peru) and their community develop a workable waste management plan to address the environmental challenges faced by the community. With waste being dumped by or in the river or burned, David's expertise was put to good use. "I recognized the importance of a waste management plan. The goals of the plan included meeting the community's current and future waste management needs, protecting the community's natural environment, and creating a clean and healthy physical environment for the community."
The Atahualpa Co-op is an innovative business enterprise, maximizing the region's tourism potential through baths built in the Fujimori era as well as promoting eco-tourism. The co-op recognized that the waste management plan would also be important for tourism and the economic development of the community.
David, with CCA intern Gwen Temmel, worked with the CCA project team, the co-op, and other community stakeholders to prepare a waste management plan for Huancahuasi. "The objective was to develop a 'Made in Huancahuasi' waste management plan that would be sustainable and could be implemented by the community," says David, "It was interesting working with the community and the stakeholders and getting their support for the plan." The plan included recommendations for setting up drums in designated locations for recycling plastic bottles and metal cans, residual waste and installing road signage reminding travelers to keep their garbage and dispose of it in the community drums. The plan also included an environmental training and sensitization program.
So what's next for the Atahualpa Co-op and David Smith? It's back to Canada and work for David and keeping in contact with CCA to monitor the progress of the co-op and community in Peru. While the co-op has a lot of work ahead of them implementing their plan and encouraging behavioral change of the villagers they will continue to receive support from CCA. While it may be some time before we see the impact of this plan on the environment and tourism in the area, the Atahualpa Co-op with the help of David and CCA has proven that less is definitely more as they step up to this challenge.