Following an engaging event with community leaders, city staff, academics, students, and citizen activists, Ecocity Builders has begun Phase II of its partnership with Cusco, Peru. I feel privileged to take part in this work as a landscape architect with a background in historical landscapes and heritage sites. I had originally been looking for a place to develop my Spanish but wanted also to continue working within the realm of infrastructure and community development. I was lucky to meet Kirstin Miller, Executive Director of Ecocity Builders, and discuss a potential partnership in Peru. Now, I live in Cusco and have been enjoying the meetings with local citizens/planners/academics, from whom I have learned so much more about the city, its neighborhoods, and challenges.
The Phase II program is part of the Secondary Cities (2C) initiative, led by Ecocity Builders and sponsored by the U.S.Office of the Geographer. It includes both the second series of the Urbinsight mapping course and a pilot compost project resulting from last year’s Urbinsight program that addresses both sanitation and environmental education in a historic district of Cusco.
The event, held on February 17, was attended by over 50 people and included an introductory presentation by Sydney Moss, Ecocity Builders 2C Urbinsight Project Director, who discussed the program’s methodology and Phase II goals, timeline, and partners. Luz Palomino Cori, Deputy Director of the Environmental Engineering Department of Universidad Alas Peruanas, gave words of welcome and explained how the partnership can strengthen planning decisions for the City in the years ahead. Santos Mera, geographical engineer, Alas Peruanas faculty, and 2C Cusco team member, discussed work completed during Phase I in 2016, and several of his students from Alas Peruanas gave short presentations on their research from last year.
These presentations were highly informative. Santos and the students described how information gleaned from last year’s 2C Urbinsight program led to this year’s compost pilot to combat the sanitation issues faced by the historic district of San Pedro. Due to the amount of trash deposited and narrowness of the streets, it is difficult for trash collectors to maneuver through the entire neighborhood within their given daily schedule, and much waste goes uncollected. Piles of overfilled plastic bags are left on the streets, and local animals, dogs and rats alike, take advantage of the free meals. The dogs are active at night and noisy, bacteria and viruses are more easily spread under these conditions, and strong odors permeate portions of the neighborhood. Having weighed and separated the waste for households, restaurants, and hotels in the districts during the 2016 2C pilot activities, the students established that the composition of waste is 49% organic solids.
The students had many ideas for trash removal and reduction, including adjustments to collection schedules and routes, centrally located collection points, and composting projects and special public education programs. Santos highlighted the goals and potential for the 2017 compost pilot, with presentations to community members to start this month to measure interest and begin the education process for home owners. Gricelda Pumayali Vengoa, 2C Cusco team member, community organizer, and lawyer, will lead these presentations, and I am privileged to assist her.
At least eight students will continue their work from the previous year to help establish the compost program; they will work directly with community members to develop desirable compost models and help with construction and monitoring of waste separation. I am excited to work with Santos to help facilitate a weekly course for the students and development of the compost models.
A significant component of Phase II also includes the second series of the Urbinsight planning course, which Santos will teach for the district of Camino Real where community members are committing their hearts and heads to addressing topics such as waste management, recycling, drainage, and energy efficiency.
Camino Real residents will practice generating data and using web-based mapping tools to support community planning decisions. Various residents hope to create an eco-barrio [neighborhood], and the 2C Cusco team will work to provide the tools and expertise to support the development of this idea.
As part of an information-gathering meeting, the 2C team met with the Director of Sub Gerencia de Ordenamiento Territorial (SGOT, the land management division of Cusco), Abel Gallegos Choque, and others to discuss the city’s thoughts on Camino Real and web-based mapping tools in support of data-based decision-making. We at Ecocity Builders are happy to be working with the SGOT team, which is filled with people passionate about driving more sustainable development in Cusco.
Both the compost pilot and Urbinsight courses start in early March, and many enthusiastic Cusqueños – academics, planners, architects, students, and concerned citizens – have already committed their time and talent to making sure Phase II starts off at a run. The 2C Ecocity Builders team is excited for the months ahead!