HomeCase StudiesTraining of Coast Guardians: a step towards resilience and sustainability
Training of Coast Guardians: a step towards resilience and sustainability
Guardianes de la Costa is an age and inter-disciplinary heterogeneity group composed of university students, technicians, lifeguards, neighbours and teachers, with no restriction on sex, economy or age. Among the activities developed are coastal environmental education workshops in schools, secondary schools, development associations, neighbourhood committees and other organisations.
We carry out days of building sand fences (to regenerate dunes), beach cleaning, and designing and placement of educative posters. The audience we cover ranges from 3 to 70 years old. Guardianes de la Costa does not count on stable funding, since most of the time the money for the projects and activities comes from the volunteers who make it up. Those times that funding is available it comes from secondary schools or RECEA (Coastal Network of Environmental Educators). We have also had the support of the Municipality of Canelones and San José, as well as the public authority MVOTMA-DINAMA. The project began in 2015 and is still ongoing.
Local skills and knowledge were harnessed, as the specific areas of action of the different days that we have been working over the years are close to the community in question, allowing it to be "local". The local government sometimes supports with dissemination and the presence of a representative. In turn, they have collaborated with transportation, materials, food, drink, etc. All the activities carried out by Guardianes de la Costa are coordinated via email, Facebook, Whatsapp or by a call from one of the co-leaders responsible for communication.
The use of the coast is democratic; therefore, so should be its management and knowledge. The workshops and conferences held by Guardianes de la Costa cover different age, cultural, social and economic groups. We ensure this by communicating the different events by means of common media to the whole population (Facebook, Whatsapp), and carrying out the activities in different neighbourhoods, areas and departments in the country. We adapt the workshops and activities to the knowledge and capacity of the target audience so it can be understood and learnt by all. We have conducted workshops with children aged 3, 4, 5 and up to 12, adolescents aged 13 to 18, young people aged 19 to 25, as well as with adults aged over 30 years old. The activities are always received with pleasure and efficiency by the target audience.
As we ourselves are the creators and implementers of the program, a critical look at it is vital. We have been carrying it out for more than 2 years, so it has undergone many changes in order to continuously improve it.
The idea of the programme is that its positive impacts will resonate after the end of each activity. Communities are provided with the information and motivation they need to continue working on them by themselves. At the same time, one of the activities we carry out is the dunes regeneration. They consist of the strategic location of acacia pruning (exotic and invasive species) for the reconstruction and conservation of the coastal environment, specifically the dunes. The process consists of placing the pruning in studied pits, allowing the wind to get through but stopping the sand, which is accumulated and forms a dune. Therefore, the necessary activities require time to be able to appreciate their positive impacts. At the same time, educational programs for the awareness and appropriation of the coastal environment are carried out and individual actions that each one can conduct in their daily life are disseminated in order to collaborate with its conservation. After working with a community, it has happened to us several times that they contact us to show the improvements in the coasts that they themselves monitored, as well as different days (e.g.: beach cleaning) that they voluntarily organise and carry out.
The use of the coast and beaches is essential for every Uruguayan citizen. The coast is part of the culture and, therefore, the routine of each resident. The understanding of their weakness and the negative impacts received, as well as the ownership of the necessary actions to counteract these damages, provoke a notable improvement in the environmental state of the coast, directly benefiting the neighbours who come to the beaches every day.
Guardianes de la Costa was born with the objective of generating ownership of the coastal environment from its users. This ownership generates a responsibility, care and sense of belonging on the part of the community, which is vital to mitigate any negative impact that the environment could be experiencing.
Guardianes has always worked from an interdisciplinary perspective, understanding that all points of view are valuable. At the same time, Guardianes always tries to "sow a seed" of action capacity in the communities with which it participates, so that the will and capacity to be an actor generating change comes from them.