A volunteer is an employee ready to go to the four corners of the world to put his or her experience and skills at the service of others.
Steve Mougin: "Sharing and helping one another at the heart of the approach"
Steve Mougin, Development technician and member of the Veoliaforce intervention teamSteve Mougin has been a development technician with Veolia since 2009. Based in Chambéry, Savoy, he is responsible for commissioning and monitoring water and wastewater treatment facilities in France. In parallel, he is involved in developing new water treatment processes. In 2016, Steve was one of 25 new volunteers trained in emergency response techniques and the use of Aquaforce 500 and 5000 units. He joined the Haiti response team on October 16 for his first mission with Veoliaforce. «The Foundation offers Group employees the extraordinary opportunity to put their experience and skills to work for people in need. Sharing and helping one another are values I share, and which are at the heart of the Foundation’s approach.»
More information here.
Damien Machuel: "Being useful to the most vulnerable populations"
Damien Machuel, Project Manager and permanent member of the Veolia FoundationDamien Machuel, project manager at the Veolia Foundation, ensures the smooth running of humanitarian emergency and development missions in countries where access to water and sanitation is scarce. “My job has a significant impact and allows me to be useful to the most vulnerable populations,» he says.
In 2013, he flew to Uvira, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he prepared a program to rehabilitate and secure water systems, with the aim of preventing cholera outbreaks.
More recently, he left for Ecuador, days only after the devastating earthquake that struck on April 16, 2016. He was part of the team responsible for deploying mobile water treatment units in the municipality of Calceta. The intervention underway in Haiti is his second emergency mission.
David Poinard: "You learn humility, each day measuring how lucky you are to live in a peaceful country."
The advance of Daesh (Islamic State) in Iraq has caused massive population displacements since June 2014. The autonomous region of Kurdistan has had to cope with an influx of refugees fleeing the combat zones. After a first operation with the French Red Cross in the summer of 2014 to assist displaced people, the Veolia Foundation has again mobilized by participating in an assessment mission in the Bardarash camp led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. David Poinard, technical engineering service manager with Eau Grand Lyon, went there in August.
In August 2015 you went to assess the situation regarding drinking water in the Bardarash displaced people’s camp. What were your first impressions when you arrived there?
David Poinard: It is striking! Arriving in Erbil, you are confronted with this amazing vision: 3000 tents set up on concrete slabs, all encircled by barbed wire and protected by armed guards... The area is particularly arid and it is impossible for this mini-city, which has sprung up in just a few months, to leave you indifferent. But after the initial emotions, you very quickly throw yourself into the work.
Your mission was to assess access to clean water. What issues did you identify?
D.P.: Lots of areas for improvement were noted at each stage in the water supply, the distribution network in particular revealed several defects, especially related to infrastructure design. I therefore listed everything that needed to be changed and tried to prioritize areas of work so the people living there will benefit as quickly as possible.
You have already carried out missions abroad, but in a different development context in Africa...
D.P.: Yes, and it's very different, especially in human terms. In Senegal, I was confronted with people who had never had access to water before we arrived and the development project was launched. In Bardarash, they are displaced persons: one was a doctor in an Iraqi city shortly before, everyone had had satisfactory living conditions and access to clean water before hurriedly leaving their city, their lives... In short, it is quite unsettling, especially because the reality of the conflict is never far away...
You left to go there without hesitation?
D.P.: No I didn’t hesitate... but nevertheless I had lots of questions. Like many people, I only knew the area through what I had read in the newspapers - a description of a place of armed conflict. My family and work colleagues were not particularly comfortable. And then, with the support of the Foundation and the answers it gave, my family were convinced.
And you would go back without fear?
D.P.: On-site safety checks are part of the landscape. You come across armed guards, dogs, mirrors, gates... The climate is slightly claustrophobic at first, but then you get used to it. People learn to live with it and are very welcoming. But Iraq is still a country where there is an armed conflict, people’s stories keep us in line: the risk is there and we have to stay alert. I would go back without hesitation, a mission like that is a personal and extraordinary cultural experience. You learn humility, each day measuring how lucky you are to live in a peaceful country.
David Poinard, aged 38, is a trained hydrogeologist. A Veolia Group employee since 2001, he works within Veolia Eau as Eau Grand Lyon technical engineering service manager.
Grégory Gamboa: "We must both listen to the problems of the field and try to find green and sustainable solutions."
Grégory Gamboa is responsible for innovation mission within the logistics department of MSF.
He works daily with teams from the Veolia Foundation and tells us that collaboration.
Where are you from and what is your mission for MSF?
G.G. : I am an engineer by training. Before joining MSF, I worked for four years at Caterpillar, installing hybrid photovoltaic systems for powering mobile telephone masts in Africa. I joined MSF teams in February. My mission, the logistics department, is to define renewable energy solutions tailored to the field, including the production of electricity and cold.
What are the projects that the Foundation has supported MSF?
G.G. : LThe Veolia Foundation MSF provides mobile water treatment stations, logistical assistance for the treatment of waste and is supporting a pilot project in photovoltaics in Chad. Other collaborative tracks are under discussion, always on three businesses of Veolia.
The Foundation provides the skills MSF does not have internally and financially supporting these innovation projects.
As part of my mission, I'm mainly focused on solar energy: with the help of the Foundation, a hybrid photovoltaic system will soon emerge to Chad. Eventually, it will virtually energy self-sufficient a unit specializing in the treatment of severe malaria. This pilot will demonstrate the economic interest and practice of electricity production in isolated sites.
What is this strategic partnership?
G.G. : The future is no longer in diesel. Most MSF field missions in areas that are not connected to the mains. They are still usually powered generator. It is essential today to work on renewable energy so that tomorrow these solutions can be deployed widely on our grounds.
This partnership is strategic because it combines financial support and volunteering skills on these issues. It allows MSF to study and test solutions on the ground and provide a center of expertise on renewable energy with operational teams.
What do you think of the NGO cooperation / companies?
G.G. :NGOs focused on their heart craft and ultimately devote little time to technical innovation. This partnership with the Veolia Foundation is a real opportunity to explore, at lower cost and relying on technical solutions and solid skills, innovative and secure solutions to ensure energy autonomy of MSF missions.
What are the next projects with the Veolia Foundation?
G.G. :We are working on a mobile solar hybrid system for the power supply of a mobile laboratory in Uganda and a solar hybrid system for the office supply in the MSF hospital in Haiti. We will soon test without battery solar air conditioning, solar water heaters and hope to set up a thermal heat recovery pilot site of a generator for the production of cold.
Nous allons bientôt tester des climatisations solaires sans batterie, des chauffe-eau solaires et espérons mettre en place un site pilote de récupération de chaleur thermique d’un groupe électrogène pour la production de froid.
Personally, what do you draw from this experience?
G.G. :It is a very rewarding experience, both human and technical side. We must both listen to the problems of the field and try to find green and sustainable solutions. Other MSF operational sections are also beginning to be interested in renewable energy solutions, but for now only French section of MSF's with the Veolia Foundation have themselves developed their own systems. I hope the future will be green and you will soon sustain all these achievements.
Interview by Médecins sans frontières (MSF).
In March 2015, MSF and the Veolia Foundation sign partnership around research and development in the areas of drinking water, sanitation, energy and waste. Grégory Gamboa is responsible for innovation mission within the logistics department of MSF.
After two years of successful collaboration on the improvement of water quality in the Kalemie region of Democratic Republic of Congo, the Veolia Foundation and MSF have reinforced their partnership around a main objective: to optimize and reduce energy footprint MSF projects and missions, and explore the possibilities of using renewable energy, especially solar, on field facilities so that they gain autonomy.
In addition to financial support, the Veolia Foundation provides MSF Veoliaforce its network experts to accompany these projects. The first field of applied research and experimentation regarding the installation of photovoltaic solar panels to make autonomous and secure supply of electricity to the mission of fight against malaria conducted by MSF Moissala in southern Chad.
Guillaume Cubizolles: "Colleagues accepted to take on my on-call duties and an additional workload during my absence."
Guillaume Cubizolles, 33, spent three weeks in Macenta, the site of one of the main outbreaks of Ebola fever in Guinea. At the request of the French Red Cross, he designed and installed a complex water distribution system supplying a patient care center. Feedback about this experience at the frontline of the epidemic.
You returned mid-November from Guinea after a long mission involving the construction of an Ebola fever treatment center. In what capacity did you travel there?
As always for humanitarian missions, speed is of the essence. Just 10 days elapsed between the first phone call from the Foundation and my arrival on site, the time needed above all to be briefed by the French Red Cross. I needed to get a clear understanding of the challenges and the project specifics, and then familiarize myself with the safety instructions.
You travelled to a region affected by an epidemic that has been in the headlines for several months.
I knew no more about Ebola than the next man. My training at the French Red Cross was, therefore, very enlightening. We learnt that this disease is less contagious than others, as it is not spread through the air. We learnt the rules we had to apply on site (no physical contact and only consume safe water). In short, we learnt how to separate the real danger from the panic reported in the media.
On site, how did you manage the works Schedule?
First, with the members of the French Red Cross with whom I travelled, we checked that our plans corresponded to what was actually needed. There were a few changes we had to make: for example, on one of the sites a concrete slab had been poured whereas we had expected to be able to lay pipes. Then we had to adjust the project to the available equipment. In this sort of context, you have to put aside theory and make do with what is achievable. The French Red Cross managed to find tanks, pumps and pipes locally, but some of the material had to be shipped in from the capital Conakry. That meant waiting for days on end for a transportation truck to reach Macenta. That was the most frustrating aspect of the mission: the teams were there, the Guinean plumbers had been recruited, and then you find you have to wait for help to reach the truck that had got bogged down somewhere along the track.
Still, you met the deadline.
Yes, because we had factored in a relatively long time frame and because the Guineans with whom we worked were very efficient. Work days on site could last from 8.00 am to midnight. We certainly needed all that time because there were three networks to install with different chlorine concentrations to cover all the Center's needs as defined by Doctors without Borders, the program manager. The system was commissioned the day before I left, mid-November, and the first patients arrived at the Center shortly afterwards.
So, did your mission end when you landed back on French soil?
Not quite, as I still had to write a report. The aim of such a document is not so much to detail what was done but rather to serve as a guide for other similar projects. By explaining the difficulties encountered and the solutions adopted, we hope this information will save time for the next teams and make them even more efficient.
In terms of safety, what are the various steps you have to take when you enter a region suffering an epidemic?
The only rule is to take your temperature twice a day to pick up any potential problems. But to be quite honest, my only fear was that I might catch a cold and have a temperature which would have seen me immediately quarantined even though I would have known I had not taken any risks.
How did manage your professional and personal life during the three weeks you were away?
At the office, after getting my supervisor's approval, I was able to defer a certain number of projects; and colleagues accepted to take on my on-call duties and an additional workload during my absence. At home, you definitely need to have an understanding wife if you are to be away for three weeks when there are two small children to look after.
ABOUT THE VOLUNTEER
Guillaume Cubizolles, 33 years old
12 years with Veolia, 10 years as a volunteer with the Veolia Foundation:
- 2 weeks in China in 2008
- 3 weeks in Haiti in 2010
- 3 weeks in Guinea
Grégory Gonzales: "That’s where the true difficulty lies: understanding how to adapt to the context."
Grégory Gonzales, Veolia Water maintenance technician, is one of the volunteers who left on a mission to Iraqi Kurdistan this summer. He spent three weeks organizing potable water distribution and construction of latrines in some 40 sites set up to house Iraqi refugees.
You returned from three weeks in Iraq on September 9. Tell us about the background to your trip.
Grégory Gonzales: The French Red Cross, one of Veolia Foundation’s partners, issued an early warning at the start of the summer. They were about to deploy some of their emergency response units (ERU) on the ground. The war against ISIS was triggering major population movements, with thousands arriving in Iraqi Kurdistan. A humanitarian response began to take shape in recent weeks, and Veolia Foundation played its part. I got the call as I’ve had training in working alongside ERU teams in the field.
You were actually the third Veolia staffer to visit northern Iraq. What did your assignment consist of?
G.G.: We needed to set up a supply of drinking water and organize the construction of latrines for refugees living outside the camps. Of the 100,000 forced to flee their homes, some are in refugee camps, others have been taken in by the local people and are living in schools, mosques, churches and construction sites.
How do you set up drinking water supplies to such varied locations?
G.G.: We purchased 1 cubic meter water containers to be installed at the locations, then put measures in place to make sure they were refilled. The water is provided by neighboring districts and is delivered by tanker trucks. The ERU teams test and check the concentration of chlorine before the water is distributed.
And the latrines?
G.G.: You need a good set of skills to prefabricate and install latrines. Teams of builders and carpenters were organized to carry out the work, recruited from groups of refugees and displaced people. It provided paid work that’s badly needed and tailored the aid to meet real people’s real needs. That’s where the true difficulty lies: understanding how to adapt to the context.
How does the situation in Iraqi Kurdistan differ from other situations where refugee populations have to be managed?
G.G.: Day-time temperatures are around 40-45°C. And latrines are usually built from corrugated sheet metal. This soon proved unfeasible in Iraq and we had to quickly re-think our approach, opting for wood instead. The other complicating factor is that many refugees live in and among the local population. New sites emerge daily, and these might be an abandoned military base or one of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces. They house anything from 200 to 2,000 people. This means that in every case you have to scale and adapt your response to find the solution that will offer refugees the most practical benefit. Lastly, and it’s another important factor, this assignment took place in a very specific context: there’s fighting close by, so you have to be vigilant at all times.
The Foundation sent out some equipment at the same time, working through the foreign affairs ministry’s emergencies team.
G.G.: Yes, mainly water tanks—10 cubic meter flexible reservoirs known as bladders and larger 30 cubic meter tanks—that we helped to install along with all the pipework. The distribution bars pre-equipped with taps were a real bonus, making distributing water to people that need it a lot easier.
You took three weeks away from work. How was your absence managed?
G.G.: My colleagues at the Toulon agency, on France’s Mediterranean coast, were kind enough to cover my on-call hours for all the time I was away. And at home, my wife, who shares my commitment to humanitarian causes, dealt with our four boys single-handedly!
ABOUT THE VOLUNTEER
37 years old
8 years with Veolia
2 missions as a Veoliaforce volunteer with the French Red Cross:
- 4 weeks in Haiti;
- 3 weeks in Iraq.
Françoise Weber, CEO of Triade Electronique
Françoise Weber, the CEO of Triade Electronique, the Veolia Environmental Services' subsidiary specialized in recycling waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), is sponsoring a project led by the NGO Doctors of the World in the Philippines. Providing financial and non-financial assistance, the program is designed to educate communities about the health risks of treating WEEE. The sponsor explains what this means in concrete terms.
How did this project to educate Filipino families in treating waste come about?
Shortly before last summer, the Veolia Environnement Foundation team was looking for various types of expertise in recycling electrical and electronic equipment waste (WEEE). Doctors of the World had contacted it about a health problem that had been studied in Manila, in the Philippines.
Needy families were recovering WEEE to take it apart and sell the components. But contact with this type of waste can be dangerous, with, for example, a risk of cuts or fumes from toxic products of improperly managed combustion. It is dangerous for people who sort the materials, burn the cables or dismantle cathode ray tubes. It can also be polluting to the environment.
Given the situation, Doctors of the World (DOW) wanted to develop a program to make people aware of the risks and provide training in proper handling. What was your role in this project?
After doing a study that demonstrated the danger, yes, DOW wanted to act. Its partner, the Veolia Environnement Foundation, naturally turned to Triade Electronique, the entity in the company that is totally dedicated to treating WEEE. The Foundation awarded the project financial support and I decided to sponsor the project so that the funds would be combined with skills. Two Triade employees went out to the Philippines and remained there from November 24 to December 1.
What were their objectives?
The idea was to inform, educate and train, with the message that treating toxic materials is dangerous for people. So solutions had to be found to minimize the risks using protective gear and different recycling practices. That is why the two people from Triade who went to the Philippines were a technical manager, Rémi Bouvier, and a person with a broader background in our business, Eric Wascheul.
Training documents were prepared before they set out and were left behind, to be distributed to the families.
This project addresses an important and often neglected issue: the recycling of toxic solid waste in the developing countries. I believe that the technical input from the Veolia group is vital here so that this innovative and meaningful project has a sufficient scale to have a real impact.
Do you think that this type of operation can be replicated elsewhere in the world?
Definitely: there are many possibilities. The health problems associated with recycling WEEE are international. But let's start by learning as much as we can from this partnership, which is a first in several respects: the first partnership between the Foundation and Doctors of the World, and the first time Triade Electronique has contributed skills in other countries. Our two volunteers shared a lot of their experiences on the ground with their colleagues: at a recent seminar, they were asked to present the program they had participated in. It was an enriching human experience from which the entire company can benefit.
ABOUT THE SPONSOR
Françoise Weber has been working at Veolia for more than 18 years. After acquiring experience in the company's research center, she was instrumental in creating Triade Electronique about 15 years ago and has headed this Veolia Environmental Services subsidiary ever since.
MORE ABOUT THE PROJECT SUPPORTED
> 2012/10/09 - Médecins du Monde
Alleviating the health and environmental repercussions of the activity of workers in the informal solid waste recycling sector in Manila.
Guy de Sainte Claire: "Today, the system run by Dinepa is considered the most efficient and sophisticated in Haiti."
"Today, the system run by Dinepa is considered the most efficient and sophisticated in Haiti."
Guy de Sainte Claire first set out for Haiti as a volunteer in March 2010. Two months after the earthquake that ravaged the island, his diagnosis laid the foundation for the rebuilding of the water system in Petit-Goâve. The master plan for rehabilitation became the backbone of the two-year program. Three months after the system's inauguration, we take a look at the project with a volunteer and sponsor who is almost surprised at how well it has all turned out.
You were in Haiti for two weeks after the earthquake that ravaged the island in January 2010. What prompted you to become a Veoliaforce volunteer?
I became interested in the Veolia Environnement Foundation's response after the tsunami that struck southeast Asia at the end of 2004.
Like all of the company's employees, I was aware of the many things being done on the ground, and I went to the Foundation's website to apply to be a volunteer.
A year later, I took Veoliaforce training, and, then, one day in March 2010, I received a call from Franck Haaser, the Foundation's Emergency Director. He proposed that I leave for Haiti that very week!
As a result of your first assignment in Haiti, you suggested a way of rebuilding the water supply system in Petit-Goâve. Less than two years later, the system was inaugurated. How did you feel at the end of the project?
I was very proud! To be honest, I didn't think that we would manage to do it so quickly. The system was rebuilt according to European requirements, in other words, to last a long time. The materials are particularly robust and we factored in the risk of another earthquake. So the pipes have express joints that won't come apart if another earthquake occurs.
You were there again for 10 days last November to optimize the system's chlorination and prepare a report on the program.
That's right, and although we were surprised by the excellent quality of the water at Petit-Goâve, we had a few disappointments when it came to the system's operation. We modified the reservoir's hydraulics and erected an additional building for operations. We also replaced the pipe leading to the three new valve chambers. But, beyond this, water is being carried to consumers by the old distribution network, which is a mess. Haitians connect to the system illegally to wash their dishes and clothes, and the network sucks up the dirty water. You can imagine the nightmare!
How can this type of behavior be stopped?
By raising awareness and education. We explain and explain, keep repeating the message and little by little a sort of self-regulation takes hold.
The person living on the next street understands that if there's no drinking water today, but she had some yesterday, it must mean that there's a problem higher up in the system. For this, we found powerful allies in the people at Haiti's water and sanitation department, Dinepa. The local team is very concerned, since it has been behind the project from the beginning.
The program also had a "training" aspect broad enough that, eventually, Dinepa would be able to maintain the system. How did that go?
Dinepa now has new offices and one of the annexes is a warehouse where parts, drills and anything else needed to maintain the system are stored. Personnel have been taught how to detect leaks and are determined to maintain the current level of service. The system they are running is considered the most efficient and sophisticated in Haiti. In Petit-Goâve, Dinepa's employees are the only people on the island to have flow-based chlorine regulation and to know how to set the amount of chlorine in the water. And those are good reasons for being proud!
What do you think this system will be like in a few years?
When we came here two years ago, we felt that the facilities left behind by the Americans decades before were in pretty good shape. And when we left in November, Sébastien Renou, my opposite number in the French Red Cross, and I agreed that in 50 or 80 years, others might well be saying, "Those French, they really did a good job!" In a nutshell, we left behind a Rolls Royce that the Haitians have the key for and know how to drive.
MORE ABOUT THE PROJECT SUPPORTED
> Haïti, janvier 2010
Pascal Merland: "Everybody is focused on the essential objective: to provide sustainable support to a population in danger."
« Everybody is focused on the essential objective: to provide sustainable support to a population in danger. »
Pascal Merland and Pierre-Yves Cailleton, Veoliaforce volunteers from Veolia Environmental Services, went to Nigeria for two weeks to support American NGO the Blacksmith Institute, appointed by UNICEF to decontaminate local villages.
You went to Nigeria for two weeks as part of an extensive lead poisoning prevention program. What was the situation on the ground?
So far, eight villages have been confirmed as contaminated. Two were decontaminated at the beginning of the summer, five are currently being worked on and one remains. The pollution was caused by recent mining of local rock that contains small traces of gold but also large quantities of lead. When performed without care, this gold mining carries risks. The ore is brought back to the village by the men to be ground down to a fine powder by the women and children. The lead dust that is released and widely distributed is a danger both to the environment and to human health. When inhaled or ingested it causes lead poisoning. All the children tested are showing abnormally high levels of lead in the blood. They are the biggest victims of this pollution: in some of these villages, 20% to 30% of children under the age of five have died in the last six months.
UNICEF is already present on the ground, isn't it?
It was UNICEF that appointed the Blacksmith Institute, an American NGO that monitors the most polluted sites on the planet for the United Nations. It was in this context that the Veolia Environnement Foundation was invited to contribute to the program, and with a very precise objective: to ensure the best use of UNICEF funds on the ground by optimizing the solutions deployed. Pierre-Yves Cailleton and I therefore went to the region to audit the processes. Practically speaking, the decontamination consists of isolating the polluted topsoil. The waste management process must prevent any renewed contamination from occurring in the next few years.
How is this hazardous waste usually treated?
It should be stored in compliance with local regulations and following risk and impact studies. The Zamfara, however, have no laws covering this issue and there is no geological or hydro-geological data available. Monitoring systems are therefore required to track this waste and flag up the slightest problem. In fact, our recommendations were largely focused on this area.
You say "recommendations" because you closely monitored the Blacksmith Institute's work.
The American teams began by approaching the Hausa tribes, informing the heads of families about the situation and therefore being able to enter their homes. A pollution map was then established by house and by district. Local teams were recruited to implement an action plan with the Blacksmith Institute working in a supervisory and coordination capacity. Houses in each village are first emptied and cleaned, and the floors loosened. A clearing team then comes in to take out the polluted earth. Clean soil is then brought in to replace the polluted earth before the families move back into their homes. Children falling sick are treated by Médecins sans frontières (MSF) [Doctors without Borders] and a cement floor is laid down in their houses to prevent them having further contact with the earth.
This is an important point: how do you guarantee that the houses have been properly decontaminated?
Samples are taken and analyses performed regularly during the entire decontamination operation. In the longer term, we would like to provide waste disposal sites as near as possible to the gold extraction sites, in case their uncontrolled exploitation continues despite prohibition by the Nigerian authorities.
How were you received by your partners during the trip?
My contacts were very keen to have some external support to optimize their operating processes, just as I was happy to be able to be in regular contact with the Foundation's team in Nanterre during my trip. Everybody is focused on the essential objective: to provide sustainable support to a population in danger.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE SUPPORTED PROJECT
> Nigeria, November 2010
The mission of the Veolia Foundation in Nigeria to fight against lead poisoning.
Paul Hoeferlin: "It was the first time I'd worked with the Red Cross."
"It's so satisfying to know that you are helping others, to know that training local technicians means that people in Kadoma will be supplied with good quality water."
Paul Hoeferlin, an engineer at Veolia Water Solutions & Technologies, was in Zimbabwe from July 9 to 26 to provide support for the French Red Cross, one of the Foundation's partners. He was stationed in Kadoma, a city with a population of 100,000 in the center of the country, where he took over from Patrice Darré, who went out in September 2009 to identify and prioritize the work to be done at the water treatment plants.
Between 2008 and 2009, a number of volunteers took turns working on the ground to halt the cholera epidemic that had been ravaging Zimbabwe. Now that the epidemic is under control, what were your objectives when you got there in the summer?
My job was to evaluate the performance of the two water treatment plants supplying the city of Kadoma: the quality of the water entering and leaving the plant and the operation of the control and treatment equipment. After the epidemic, the Red Cross had done some work on rehabilitating the plants and wanted an expert to check it. The idea was to also come up with recommendations for preventing future cholera outbreaks in the country.
And it was in connection with this preventive work that you trained local technicians ?
Yes. At the request of the Red Cross, we trained the teams at the Kadoma plants. When everything is running smoothly, the technicians know how to run the water plant. But things get tricky when the water quality changes, seasonally or after a big storm, for example... Therefore, we explained to them in detail about how the filters and everything else worked so that the water supply would not be interrupted because of a slight technical problem.
What was your relationship with the Red Cross and local teams like?
It was the first time I'd worked with the Red Cross, and it was a fantastic experience, and the Zimbabweans I met were very welcoming.
This was your first assignment as a Veoliaforce volunteer. What were you expecting?
I had no idea what to expect, particularly since it was the first time I had ever been to Africa. As it turned out, I discovered a magnificent country! And it's so satisfying to know that you are helping others, to know that training local technicians means that people in Kadoma will be supplied with good quality water.
So, would you be prepared to go off on another assignment?
Yes, definitely! It's not up to me, but Veoliaforce just has to ask and I would be delighted to help!
LEARN MORE ON THE PROJECT SUPPORTED
> Zimbabwe, 2009
In late 2008, the terrible cholera epidemic which ravaged Zimbabwe for several months affected 85,000 people, with 4,000 deaths and, in some places, a mortality rate of over 25%.
Guillaume Courtin: "To transmit our knowhow so that tomorrow."
"We don't mean to act indefinitely in place of the inhabitants, but generally to transmit our knowhow so that tomorrow, Dschang can manage collection all by itself, with sufficient human and material resources."
An engineer at CREED (Research Centre on Environmental Services) in Limay, Guillaume Courtin is a specialist in waste management. His work covers waste treatment by landfilling and composting as well as methanation. With a focus on new solutions to recover the gas. During his previous studies, he met Blaise Metangmo, the president and founder of the nonprofit association Elans (Ensemble pour l'Action Nord Sud). They were both convinced of the crucial importance of waste management in the developing countries. So it was perfectly natural for Guillaume Courtin to suggest to the Veolia Environnement Foundation that he sponsor the project that they are developing together at Dschang, in Cameroon.
What got you interested in the question of waste?
In the early 2000s, I had just finished a Master's Degree in Management Sciences (MSG) at University of Paris-Dauphine and was setting off to work as an international volunteer at the Government Accounting Office in Senegal. I was living in a small village not far from Dakar, and I was immediately struck by the problematic issue of waste. In this village, it was just dumped into the sea!For me, that was a real shock.
After returning to France, I registered with ENGEES (National School of Water and Environmental Engineering in Strasbourg) to take specialized Master's Degree in "Waste Management, Treatment and Upgrading".
What made you decide to settle for Dschang, in Cameroon?
For one thing, a very simple reason: Blaise Metangmo, the founder of the nonprofit association Elans, whom I met at ENGEES, is a native of the town. Plus, it's an urban municipality that adds several specificities with regard to waste treatment.It is in fact located at an altitude of 1500 m:the climate there is very pleasant. The temperature never drops below 19° C and never goes higher than 25° C. However, the town is built on the hillsides: many streets are extremely steep. The capital of the Region of Menoua, in Western in Cameroon, it has six districts and more than 80,000 inhabitants.
There are large numbers of farmers in the environs:at these latitudes and these altitudes, just about everything grows! And Dschang is famous in West Africa for its university and for the FASA (Faculty of Agronomics and Agricultural Sciences): about 15,000 students live there and stimulate the local dynamism.
On the whole, while waste collection may appear to be more complicated here than in certain towns on the flatlands, Dschang has all the opportunities necessary to remedy this difficulty within reach. We can set up permanent solutions here.
What is the Elans project?
Because of the relief, conventional urban collection from garbage trucks is impossible in more than half of the town.We're therefore going to set up a pre-collection system at the homes, probably relying on motorized delivery tricycles.Our aim is to rid the town of all its illegal dumps. To do this, we have to educate the population and make them stakeholders in this indispensable cleanup. We plan to set up educational and entertaining projects (for example "clean neighborhood" contests) to intensify their participation.
The other major challenge is to reduce the quantity of waste collected.Thanks to a waste characterization campaign, we know that 80% of it is organic: so we will train the families in home composting. They are all cousins, brothers or aunts settled as farmers in the countryside, for whom this organic soil improver will be very useful. There are also farm cooperatives which can recover the compost: everything is close at hand to organize a circuit that can function!
We also plan to set up training programs for the personnel of the Urban Community of Dschang. With experts from Veolia Environmental Services, who will take part by volunteering their skills, we will help them safeguard their brand new municipal landfill as well as the entire collection chain. We don't mean to act indefinitely in place of the inhabitants, but generally to transmit our knowhow so that tomorrow, Dschang can manage collection all by itself, with sufficient human and material resources.
This is the prerequisite for correctly addressing the issue of waste in the developing countries.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE PROJECT SUPPORTED
> Elans (Ensemble pour l'action Nord Sud)
Creation of a complete waste management program in the urban community of Dschang.