ABC Sweden works locally in Lund with Environment and Sustainability issues through their urban gardening initiatives, bee hives and workshops for children. Internationally they have development projects with a Youth Resource and a Zero Waste at Schools Program in Nepal. ABC’s mantra is Active contribution for people and the environment as well as bringing people together to enable the transition towards sustainable and empowered communities. Pacific Roots Magazine had the opportunity to interview three of the individuals associated with ABC to learn more about the work they do- Julia Linder of Vi Odlar!, ABC’s urban gardening project, Mathieu Mal of Bee the Change, ABC’s bee hive project and Katrina Taylor, International Collaborations Coordinator at ABC.
Urban Gardening Initiatives
Through its history, ABC has had a couple of different gardens (always around Lund). Their current project is called Vi Odlar! and is based at Stenkrossen in their courtyard. Stenkrossen is an open work space that brings together projects that are run by Lund Municipality.
Vi odlar! is an urban gardening project that is part of ABC, and is located at Stenkrossen, the City of Lund’s house for culture, the arts and innovation. ABC pays no rent for the space and in return they are obliged to host a certain amount of open workshops and such per year as well as participate at bigger events that the house hosts such as Culture Night in Lund.
In an interview with Julia Linder, coordinator of ABC’s urban gardening project Vi Odlar!, when asked what the organization does with the vegetables from the garden, she shared that:
“Everyone who helps out at the garden is most welcome to harvest. We aim to harvest whenever we have an open gardening session (free and open for the public) or a study circle session (for participants who have committed to attend to knowledge sharing/building and practical work at least 3 times per semester). In previous years when we’ve had a very large and committed groups of volunteers, we have cooked dinner together using the harvest. We have also used some of the harvest in ABC’s eco pop-up cafes. It is good to mention thought the yield from our garden is not so large as we are restricted to 17 bathtubs.“
Bee Hive Projects
The bee hive project is also based at Stenkrossen in Lund and is a collaboration between ABC and Hållbart Universitet. They have two bee hives and the focus is on creating a space for all people in the community to learn about beekeeping, and more broadly, about the importance of pollinators in the city. Even though beekeeping is the main focus, education about ecosystems and natural spaces in cities is the end goal. So although it does help the bee population and produce honey the focus is on education.
In an interview with Mathieu Mal, co-founder of Bee the Change, when asked if the project was inspired by another model and why it was established, he shares that he “…initiated the project together with two classmates in October 2017, sparked by personal interest and curiosity, and facilitated by the occasion created by a university assignment. Although there must be similar projects in other places, Bee the Change was not directly based off any particular project. We just sat down, envisioned what we would like to achieve, and started planning: analyzed what resources were necessary to set up the project we had in mind and identified potential pitfalls and how to avoid them.“
“The main purpose of Bee the Change is to offer everyone the chance to learn about beekeeping and the importance of pollinators in general. Beekeeping is generally not very accessible since it requires expensive equipment and courses or support and a certain level of commitment and time. Moreover, it is usually not very visible since it is predominantly done privately. We remove this threshold and make the learning accessible to everyone. Our project is located in a public space and we invite everyone to come and join us in our regular activities and events to gain hands-on knowledge and ask questions about bees and beekeeping. People are free to choose their level of engagement and commitment, some like to enjoy our activities every once in a while, and others take on more commitment as volunteers helping out with the beekeeping, organizing events and managing the project.” -Mathieu Mal
Youth Resource Center and Zero Waste at Schools Project
The Youth center was inspired by activities that ABC has seen in Sweden and in interest of linking all of their collaborations with local work as much as possible, this center was founded. ABC is always looking at workshops and activities to run in Lund to link to this work.
Menstrual Hygiene day
ABC has recently started collaborating with WiSH (Women in Sanitation and Health) on issues surrounding sustainable periods and menstrual awareness and advocacy.
Interview with Katrina Taylor, International Collaborations Coordinator at ABC, Active contribution for people and the environment
The international projects that ABC Sweden is involved in “are generally small-scale and self-sustaining since ABC believes that real change happens at the grassroots level”. Who does ABC partner with and are there more collaborations planned for the future?
Katrina: In Nepal ABC partners with Youth Action Nepal (YOAC) to run the Yuwalaya Youth Resource Center. YOAC has 15 years of experience in educating, engaging and empowering youth in nation building processes to contribute at the community level on local, national and international spheres, issues and agendas. It works in the fields of Democracy, Peace & Social Harmony, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and Human Rights by contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the national level. YOAC has strong presence in the field of safe migration and the rights of migrant workers by representing Safe Migration Network, Nepal.
Another partner in Nepal is the NGO called Clean Up Nepal, who runs the Zero Waste at Schools project. Clean up Nepal is a for-purpose, non-governmental organization registered in Nepal in 2014 that envisions communities having access to a solid waste management and water, sanitation and hygiene system with the associated knowledge and resources that will enable them to live a healthy, disease-free life. Clean up Nepal is one of a few not-for-profits working in the waste management sector. Clean up Nepal works to provide an enabling environment to improve sanitation and hygiene in Nepal by connecting, educating and empowering local communities and relevant stakeholders through a people-centred, strength based approach to improve community health, wellbeing and opportunity.
Both projects in Nepal are co-funded by Forum Syd, an organisation that belongs to the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).
What does the Youth Resource Center and Zero Waste project do? What are some of the goals of the center?
Katrina: The Youth Resource Center is called Yuwalaya, which means “home of the youth” in Nepalese. It opened in 2015 in Kathmandu and offers resources to empower and inform the Nepalese youth empowered into strengthening a democratic, inclusive, peaceful and fair society in Nepal, that respects human rights and promotes gender equality. The center offers free-of-cost workshops and motivates participants to create their own projects and events. Yuwalaya also offers psychosocial counselling, career mentors and health care advice by qualified professionals. This year we’re also conducting a leadership training for those interested in taking a more active role in bringing about change!
The Zero Waste at Schools project seeks to educate students, teachers and staff of public schools in Kathmandu about solid waste management, for them to engage in sustainable practices. The goal is to make the participants willing and empowered to empowered to influence the behaviour of others.
Can you share more about the Zero-waste education and resources that ABC offers to low-income public schools in Kathmandu?
Katrina: The Zero Waste in Schools project consists of a five-week module course that will raise students, teachers and support staff’s awareness of waste management and equip them with the tools to take action in their schools. The course focuses on the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle), waste burning, illegal dumping, littering and composting. The project will install waste bins at the schools for students to separate the waste into paper, plastic and organic. The cleaning staff will then be thought to keep the waste segregated in the waste dump. The plastic waste will be sold to specific recycling companies, who reuses the plastic to manufacture new recycled products.
To extend learning and actions beyond the module, the Zero Waste at School project will plan and support additional activities including raising awareness on Nepal Government’s existing policies and requirements on waste management. The project also connects the schools with recycling companies.
Can you share more about Yuwalaya?
Katrina: Yuwalaya provides activities free-of-cost to inform and engage the youth in themes related to demogratic processes, gender equality, global warming, human rights, mental health, inclusion, etc. The workshops are run by professionals in each field, whether those employed by Yuwalaya or guest lecturers. The center also organises and participates in larger events in Kathmandu and nearby cities, motivating more people to join and take action. Some of these events are, for instance, the Suicide Prevention campaigns, a discussion and National Level Dialogue on youth Entrepreneurs and SRHR, another event on advancing SRHR (Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights), among others.
The participating youth also organises activities such as photography workshops, film-making events and sports competitions. Last year, Yuwalaya organised the Model of the United Nations (KMUN) for the first time ever in Kathmandu which counted with over five hundred students from dozens of schools and colleges. There’s a library at the Youth Center where students study and exchange experiences, and a cafe, where they conduct informal interactions as well as a meeting hall where most of the events take place.
What specifically is ABC working on in collaboration with WiSH for menstrual advocacy and awareness in a local and global context?
Katrina: ABC has run this locally as awareness raising events in Lund in the form of documentary screenings and discussion events. WiSH works in these issues in a local and a global context. ABC started getting involved in this area as it is a growing issue being addressed both in Sweden and globally. Our partner organisation Youth Action Nepal also spoke to us about wanting to work more in this area. Therefore, ABC linked up our partner organisation along with another organisation working locally in Nepal with WiSH in the hope of future collaboration.
Visit ABC Sweden online at http://abcsweden.org/
Feature & Interview by Annika Lundkvist at Pacific Roots Magazine Editorial Desk