Women's group with seeds
This update comes from our partnership with US-based college, Virginia Tech, who is running programs in Senegal to combat plastic waste and food insecurity in schools in one fell swoop. The negative environmental impact of plastic waste has reached an irreversible level in Africa. By 2030, approximately 235.3 metric tons of polymers and plastics would be used by consumers in 33 African countries. In Senegal, where fishing and tourism are the main industrial activities, the fishing industry is experiencing a decline due to overfishing and water pollution. Plastic products of every kind litter the villages along Senegal's coastline.
In April 2020, Dakar Greenpeace Africa announced the implementation of Senegal’s ban on single-use plastics. This is welcome news to tackle the impact of plastic on the environment and the livelihood of the Senegalese population. There is still a need to find innovative ways to reduce, if not eliminate, the use of plastic in most African countries. In December 2020, Counterpart International, in collaboration with Virginia Tech and Seed Programs International, implanted a simple practice: a gardening tool called the recycled-bottle Green Wall.
The recycled-bottle Green Wall is an idea taken from The Solar Garden, an educational organization based in Israel. The design involves attaching recycled plastic bottles to one another and then attaching them to a frame, wall, or fencing. Each bottle can be watered individually, but by drilling holes in the bottle caps, excess water, that is not absorbed by the soil in the top bottles, will drip down to the water bottles below, leading to more efficient water usage. This system can be placed anywhere, as it’s vertical aspect allows it to take up very little space and its mounting flexibility allows it to stand anywhere.
To start, the Green Wall was implemented in 10 villages at elementary schools and 2 women-owned gardens. In addition to recycling the plastic bottles by using them as planters, the practice is also used as a pedagogical tool to teach the students the use of vertical space, efficient use of water, and the health benefits of the vegetables grown. In most cases, green leafy vegetables are hard to come by, especially during the rainy season, where the focus is on growing row-crops. Aside from increased nutrition, the importance and value of direct exposure to the natural environment can enhance learning by improving student attention and behavior.
“Thank you for introducing the new school project “Recycled Bottle Green Wall”. Our project is going very well, my friend. The students love it very much and the wall is already greening-up.”
- Mamoune, the director of the school in Thiago, Senegal
Virginia Tech will continue expanding the project, with plans to introduce several project-based Green Wall programs to local schools, and to continue observing the effects on-student learning, well-being, and nutrition at various educational levels. As always, thank you for your support of our programs worldwide and if you would like to make your own vertical garden the instructions are below!
-The SPI Team
Recycled Bottle Green Wall Instructions
Large plastic bottles (preferably light colors like clear, green, or blue to allow maximum sunlight), hammer, scissors, knife, metal rod for heating up to melt through plastic, nail for drilling holes in bottle cap, and rope.
How to Build
1. The plastic bottles should first be washed with soap and water to clean off any contaminants that could negatively affect plant growth. A square should be cut into the bottle, about half the height of the bottle, using scissors. Two holes should be drilled into the bottle cap to allow for water flow in between bottles.
2. A hole the size of the mouth of the bottle (about 1 inch) should be drilled through the bottom of the bottle. The hole should be just wide enough for another bottle mouth to fit very snugly inside. Another identically prepared bottle should be attached through this hole and the cap should then be screwed on to secure the bottles together. One more bottle should be attached in the same fashion to make a total of 3 bottles per row.
3. Lastly, add a small layer of rocks to the bottom and fill up the rest of the bottle to the opening with soil. You are now ready to plant!
How to care for the recycled bottle Green Wall
After installation of the Green Wall, there should be very little maintenance. The plants will need to be watered, as necessary based on the individual water needs, keeping in mind that the plants in the lower containers are also getting any water not retained by the soil in containers above and will therefore need less water.
What to grow
The main constraint with what can be planted using the Green Wall is the space inside each bottle. Plants must have smaller root structures and receive proper sunlight in the location the Green Wall will be. Ideas for plants that could be grown well include: mung bean, small onion and garlic varieties, herbs (like mint, coriander, and parsley), and leafy green vegetables.
Cutting windows in bottles
Learning about the Green Wall
Setting up the Green Wall