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Project Tuma Viela

 The rules

Every Saturday, anyone can come and drop off their water and ice cream sachets at the workshop, in bundles of ten. In a large book we make note of their names together with the items they wish in return. We send them home with a ticket with a number and the date on which they can come and collect.

Usually this is after a week, but if a lot of orders come in, it might take a little bit longer. The day they come to collect their item is the most wonderful moment: beaming kids admiring their schoolbag or whatever they might have chosen - if it crosses their mind, a soft ‘thank you’ - and then a sprint home to show it off!

And slowly but surely, Tamale becomes cleaner, children realize that trash can become a treasure and are encouraged to save the sachets and hand them in to us instead of throwing them away carelessly!


Tuma Viela is a project for the people and the environment. It offers women and young people opportunities to develop themselves; provides both children and adults with valuable products made with recycled materials; helps battle pollution; improves environmental awareness and educates.

The opportunity to evolve
Northern Ghana, of which Tamale is the largest city, is, in comparison to the rest of the country, the poorest and least developed region, falling far behind the rest

of Ghana. Finding employment is difficult. Apart from some small scale farming, most people try to survive by trading, but an enormous amount of the population is involuntarily unemployed. For many of them it is a daily struggle to make ends meet and to provide for their families. Young people hang around bored, some timid, others acting out because of their seemingly hopeless future.

Tuma Viela offers women and young people work, a chance to develop and evolve. The tailors can get back behind their sewing machines and learn new skills. The young people are being offered a chance to learn a trade, gain job experience and learn to be part of a team.

Woman can contribute to their families with the wages from the workshop. Some have set up their own little business with money from Tuma Viela, which in turn provides them with some extra income. The rhythm of daily routine is good for the youth. It keeps them off the streets and they now have a reason to get out of bed and start the day.
The are independent and have gained a certain status by being employed, this does them a world of good! They finally feel that they are being taken seriously and you can see them thrive!

Products of the recycled material
Most here in Northern Ghana struggle to make ends meet. The government provides free education but the parents are still burdened with the purchase of items such as notebooks, pencils, books, shoes, school uniform and schoolbags. These costs prevent a lot of children from going to school. And there is hardly room for anything extra in their tight budget...

Long before the workshop is open, children wait with their collection ticket in their hands.

In the workshop we make free products which are mainly collected by children. They do however have to supply the sachets with which we make these recycled products! The schoolbag is the most wanted item we make, but there are also raincoats, hats and caps, wallets, storage bags, pencil cases and other items. We maintain the costs as low as we can by using velcro instead of zippers, which also has the advantage of being more durable.

Thousands of children already own one of our schoolbags and this encourages them to go to school. We help lighten the worry load of the parents when it comes to money and they can now use their precious savings for something else. The rain storms prevent a lot of children from going to school, which is obviously not good for their test results, but with a rain coat, that problem is also solved! A wonderful result....happy faces!

Combating pollution
The beauty of a country like Ghana is overshadowed by the enormous litter problem.
A country with such a varied landscape, from coastal areas with beautiful beaches to sloping hills, lakes, ancient rain forests, large rivers and dry savanna’s. But everywhere you look, the first thing you notice, is garbage, giving the country the appearance of a giant landfill. Due to lack of good waste management, trash just remains in the streets and what does get collected, ends up being dumped outside the city limits in the countryside.

Due to the method in which Tuma Viela works, anyone who wishes to have an item produced by the workshop, will need to help collect the sachets scattered around everywhere. Those sachets, causing such a major litter problem, are now being recycled.

Elderly gentlemen who previously littered the streets with the sachets, now collect them.

Less pollution, cleaner streets, less litter. One of the great side effects of collecting the sachets is that many have now switched to saving them instead of dumping them. And when they have the right amount, they are delivered to the workshop in exchange for a pretty, useful item. The ‘worthless’ trash, all of a sudden appears to be something rather worthy! The open sewers don’t block up as often anymore, leaving less standing water (an ideal breeding ground for the malaria mosquito) and also other diseases which are the result of poor hygiene, stand less of a chance. Health is benefitting too!

Improving environmental awareness
The trash everywhere is a actually a familiar picture in the cities and villages. People complain about the blocked sewers and voice their concerns with the council that nothing is being done about it, but nobody has ever stopped to think WHY these sewers are blocked, what the cause is and what WE can do to prevent it. A common excuse for throwing the trash in the streets is that otherwise the sanitation department would be out of work...

Since everyone who wants something from the workshop, needs to go looking for the water sachets, they finally become aware of how much trash is strewn around in the streets, gutters and countryside. We actively involve them in the cleaning up and condition the people to collect trash from now on. We set and example of how recycling can produce something nice and useful.

We receive positive feedback regularly from people who have noticed the great impact this has had on the environment so far. It makes people feel better. The media is starting to show an interest and by the information they are spreading, there is a growing awareness of how the people can positively impact the litter problem by lending us a helping hand.

Dealing with so many daily struggles and worries, the people of Ghana think more short-term and hardly consider the future. It has become such a habit to just dump everything out in the streets that neither kids nor adults think about the impact this has. People higher up ponder the issue and try to think of ways to really clean up but they forget the first step: that people themselves are the cause and that they need to adjust their ‘discarding’ behavior...

Tuma Viela educates children and adults by being present at a variety of events that draw big crowds. And especially by showing just what we do! We are actively picking up litter and educating them about the consequences of trash. We tell the kids to come and hand in the sachets and that it is better to hang on to the ones they drink at home or buy on the street, so they can then exchange it for something nice at the workshop.

Through education, people become aware of the negative impact litter has and switch more and more to delivering it to the Tuma Viela workshop.

We are looking for sponsors. With 720 euro, we can pay one employee for a year. For the amount of 1200 euro, an employee can teach environmental education in schools.

A better environment for Tamale..happy faces...children who learn how to take care of Ghana, not only now, but also in the future. A blossoming enterprise where trash is turned into treasures by employees who are proud of their work and who can now make ends meet...

Tuma Viela...it works!
It’s in the bag!