A Mozambican musician, Feliciano dos Santos, is one of this year’s winners of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize.
A statement from the prize jury, received by the Mozambican News Agency (AIM), s aid that Dos Santos had been using his musical talents “to spread the message of ecological sanitation in most remote parts of Mozambique”.
Dos Santos lives in the northern province of Niassa, and with his music group “Massukos”, he is publicising the importance of clean water and decent sanitation.
The statement says that Dos Santos had found ways of discussing with Niassa villagers the frequently taboo subject of how to eliminate human excreta.
He heads the community association “Estamos”, which works directly with villagers in implementing community sanitation projects, promoting sustainable agriculture, and leading reforestation projects.
The association promotes “ecological sanitation”, described in the statement as “a low cost and ecologically sustainable process which uses latrines, known as EcoSans, which generate compost, turning human excreta into agricultural fertilizer “.
A household uses an EcoSans latrine for several months, adding earth and ashes each time the latrine is used. The hole is then covered and left alone for some months, with the household opening and using a new latrine.
It takes eight months for all the dangerous pathogens to be destroyed, and what remains is a rich fertilizer which can be dug up and used on the peasant fields.
This compost, the release adds, apart from being a natural fertilizer, increases the soil’s capacity to retain water.
Households using these latrines have fewer illnesses than those who do not, and have doubled their agricultural production.
“Before ecological sanitation”, the release says, “many villagers used artificial fertilizers on their fields, which were so expensive that they could scarcely feed their families.
“In using compost rather than artificial fertilizers, many are now managing to produce more food than they need for their own consumption, and can therefore obtain income by selling their surplus”.
Dos Santos and “Estamos” oppose the imposition of behavioural changes, including new methods of sanitation, on villagers by outside forces.
Instead they hold “participatory workshops” where peasants can become aware of the available sanitation options, and decide for themselves which one to choose.
Estamos began working in Niassa in 2000 and, according to the statement, “has already helped thousands of people in hundreds of villages to gain access to clean water and ecological sanitation”.
The Goldman Environmental Prize, the largest of its kind in the world, was established in 1990 by the philanthropists Richard Goldman and his late wife Rhoda Goldman.
The winners are selected by an international jury, from nominations made both by environmental organisations and by individuals.
Each prize-winner will receive US$ 150,000 at a ceremony to be held in San Francisco, US, Monday.
There are six other winners – they include the Ecuadorians Pablo Mendoza and Luis Yanzawho who are fighting against the US oil company Chevron for compensation for oil pollution in a large area of Ecuador, Russian activist Marina Rikhvanoba, who is battling to protect Lake Baikal from industrial pollution, and Ignace Schops who has raised funds to establish Belgium’s only national park.