How did you hear about Dechets a l’Or?
One day, I was walking on campus and I decided to pay a visit to the director of the American Center to see if there were any available slots during which I could give English lessons. The director then told me about a man named Ayo who needed interns to administer questionnaires in the city of Kankan. When I finally met Ayo, he was already with about ten other young people, explaining his project and his objectives. His devotion and determination immediately inspired me and I wanted nothing more than to contribute to this great initiative he was trying to put in place.
Tell us about the work you do at Dechets a l’Or.
As Customer Relations Manager, I interact a lot with clients and the population of Kankan in general. During our daily waste collection trips as well as official outreach campaigns, my job mainly revolves around engaging and educating the population about Dechets a l’Or's service.
What are your days like?
A normal workday starts at around 9am. First, I start by calling new adherents that still need to be officially registered. I then divide the team into small groups so some can start carrying out outreach campaigns in some neighborhoods. With one of the interns, I go to the urban municipality to discuss payment fees as well as other activities we might be involved in with the municipality. The intern and I then go to the market to discuss details about waste collection services and answer any questions shopkeepers or market leaders may have. I am also regularly in communication with the leaders of the neighborhoods in which Dechets a l’Or is looking to expand. After all this, my colleague and I carry out outreach campaigns in various communities until around 6.30pm which is usually when we get back to the office.
How were your first days at Dechets a l’Or?
Like we often like to say here in Africa, starting something new is never easy. For me, my background in English education was not really helpful with regards to the responsibilities I was given here at Dechets a l’Or. Waste management was a whole new world which I had to get used to. At first, all I had to do was to survey families, find more information on how they disposed of their waste as well as who was in charge of disposing of such waste. I was also responsible for assessing waste separation practices among the people of Kankan. One thing that was particularly hard was getting the population to trust us. Even during the survey and assessment period, many were very reluctant to answer our questions. Some categorically refused to see us; others asked to see an official authorization signed by the mayor himself before considering answering. It was not easy. However, with a lot of determination, we were able to get more and more families to fill out our surveys and eventually sign up for our services.
What is the most interesting aspect of your job?
The most interesting aspect of my job is definitely interacting with clients and contributing to the education and engagement of my fellow citizens regarding waste, sanitation and the environment. Throughout university, I frequently asked myself what I could do for my country rather than what my country could do for me. Thanks to Dechets a l’Or, I can confidently say that every day I wake up, I am working toward a cleaner and more sustainable Guinea.
What was people’s initial reaction when you started advertising your services?
Just like for the baseline survey, we faced quite some resistance from households when we started proposing our services. Many were used to burning their waste behind their homes and saw no point in spending money to get rid of it. Some people were skeptical with regards to Dechets a l’Or’s ability to perform this task since so many other organizations had started similar initiatives with no success. Indeed, a number of NGOs had stopped collecting the populations’ waste and had simply disappeared. However, others referred us to their neighbors, ensuring us that they would consider signing up for our services if their neighbors were satisfied. It is needless to say that the lack of satisfaction and the skepticism with regards to waste management businesses was apparent in the city of Kankan. However, we had some positive reactions as a few people joined our program very early on and even encouraged our efforts. After some time and hard work, we started signing up more and more clients, many through referrals from satisfied customers. We are now serving over 400 clients in Kankan and are confident we will keep growing.
What challenges did you have to overcome?
One of the main challenges I face as a Customer Relations Manager is the populations’ strong reservations with regards to waste management businesses. Indeed, a number of waste management projects had been previously started in the city of Kankan with no real success. Thus, many people had serious doubts about our ability to succeed in this initiative and saw no point in investing in our services. My outreach campaigns are therefore crucial in ensuring that the people of Kankan change their perception of Dechets a l’Or. My colleagues and I work hard to make people understand the advantages of our venture.
As a waste management company, it is also hard to get customers to separate their waste themselves before pick-up. Most of them are simply not used to such practices so such a challenge was to be expected. However, we had hoped that the behavior would gradually change thanks to our outreach campaigns as well as our TV and radio advertisement. Although the progress is slow, we are working hard on getting more customers to understand the advantages of separating their waste and we look forward to the day we will no longer have to worry about poorly separated waste.
Where do you see Dechets a l’Or in the next five years?
In the next five years, I envision that Dechets a l’Or would have expanded in many other Guinean cities like Siguiri, Zerekore, Labé, Boke, and Kidia. I also believe that we would have expanded our operations in other West-African cities.