Since 2011, the Eden District Municipality’s Air Quality Unit embarked on an air quality project, namely the Eden Clean Fire Campaign.
The project was identified due to poor air quality, in especially the informal settlements, caused by fires used for household purposes such as cooking and heating. The project further advanced to a stage where peer educators are trained to teach the community the dangers of air pollution and proper fire-making methods.
The Peer Education project was first launched in the Klein Karoo in 2014, followed in Hessequa and Uniondale, but was further rolled out in collaboration with the Working on Fire George branch initiative in George on 3 and 4 May 2016. Eden’s Air Quality Unit decided to team up with the Working on Fire initiative which is part of the Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP) of National Government. Reason being, to ensure sustainability of the programme, as the Working on Fire employees must create awareness as part of their job description. This will ensure that more people are reached by the project and the possible improvement of air quality within the informal settlements of the Eden region.
Service provider, Mingcele Africa, was appointed to educate the participants (peer educators) on air pollution, the health effects thereof and how the communities that are largely dependent on fires for household purposes, can reduce the effects of fires on the environment and their health. The two-day Clean Fire Course was rolled out over a two (2) day period.
According to Eden’s Manager for Air Quality, Dr Johann Schoeman, the course material that was compiled by the service provider, in collaboration with the Eden District Air Quality Unit, entailed the following topics: what air pollution is; the health effects thereof; what causes air pollution; how you can help reduce air pollution; how to make a “cleaner” fire for heating purposes and how to construct a stove from waste material.
On the first day of training, the educational material that was presented focused on the basics of air pollution and how to effectively communicate and educate other members of their communities. At the end of the day, the Peer educators illustrated to the rest of the group how a clean fire is made. It also involved a practical session, whereby the peer educators were requested to make a “clean” fire. They also had to construct a stove made from recyclable material which requires less fuel and in turn reduces smoke emissions. The constructed stoves were used by each peer educator to prepare a meal.
On day two, the group of peer educators visited an informal settlement in Blanco, to practice what they were taught. Facilitators assessed the peer educators and suggested corrections, if needed, during the visit.
At the end of the course, the peer educators were awarded a certificate of attendance and a backpack fully equipped with all the necessary hardware and educational material to do physical demonstrations in communities. Each Peer Educator must educate at least 50 people within a two month period. Meaning, 500 people will be reached – making a significant impact on air quality education and awareness in the Eden region. Each participant must also compile a portfolio of evidence, which will be evaluated by Eden District Municipality and Mingcele Africa, in order to monitor the progress of the project.
Dr. Schoeman wants to thank the Management of Working on Fire, on behalf of Eden District Municipality, for their support and allowing their staff to partake in this important venture.