By Oksana Udovyk, Oleksiy Moskalenko and Ievgen Kylymnyk
"To me, the funniest thing was five teams of strangers running around Podil and asking frightened passers-by: Are you from Kyiv, from Podil, do you have any problems ...? It looked like a plot for some Ukrainian comedy about superheroes," says Bogdan Makarenko on his impressions of last November’s Community Safari, organized by UNDP Accelerator Lab in Ukraine.
So what were these five teams looking for? Well, just as they said – problems in the community. On 15-16 November 2019, UNDP together with the Agents of Change and Green Wave NGOs, organized a Community Safari – a hunt to identify problems and explore nature-based solutions in cities! The five teams were running about Kyiv to track down problems in this amazing city. Then they had to come up with various nature-based solutions that could help tackle them.
Podil, one of the oldest districts of Kyiv, was the primary focus for our teams. Although it is an incredibly attractive area, many problems have built up there over the years.
“One of the most exciting things about the Community Safari was the city tour. After a two-hour walk, all of the participants discovered another side to the old town,” said project participant Anastasia Sakva. “We found so many unused, problematic and neglected areas that we wanted to change everything. Personally, what struck me the most was a huge landfill with household waste on a slope near a building."
The Community Safari was a unique project, as instead of coming up with grand design decisions, the teams had to think of a series of experiments to test the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of solutions to the identified urban problems. If proved effective, these solutions could then be used not only for the benefit of the city, but for the whole of Ukraine!
“The safari was extraordinary,” says safari participant Kateryna Mikhailenko. “On the first day we formed a team from a group of strangers, and then we spent the whole day together, brainstorming and discussing how to prepare an experiment! It was a real challenge!”
For the UNDP Accelerator Lab team, the main experiment was to test whether an active community could influence the planning and mapping of their city. Does a bottom-up approach really work? Intrigued? Read on!
The team is now awaiting a response from the residents of the building on Shchekavitska Street to the proposed experiment with the drainage system.
Currently, the team members are preparing a presentation of the project for the parents’ committee and school administration. They hope the initiative will be supported and together they will create a Green Fortress to protect the children’s health.
Team 3: Evgeniya Sukretna, Kateryna Vereta, Kateryna Borsuk, Yana Bobrova, Diana Shcherbina and Bogdan Makarenko
The goal of the team is an ambitious one: to install a composter for organic waste in one of the largest markets in Kyiv – Zhytniy! Every year the market accumulates a huge amount of organic debris, which is left to rot in landfills and release methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. The experiment involves communication between youth activists and the market administration for the protection of environment.
Comfort zone on the riverbank
Team 4: Anastasiia Sakva, Diana Ratsun, Roman Lozynsky, Axina Kurina
This team found another problem along the Dnipro embankment. As the traffic on Naberezhno-Khreshchatytska Street is quite busy, the ambience on the nearby riverbank is hardly relaxing!
“The highway, noise and air pollution, the lack of green space, the asphalt greyness – everything is wrong,” says Anastasiia Sakva, a member of the team. “But the waterfront could actually be a much more attractive place. That is why we decided to try to change this situation.”
To solve the problem, they suggested a solution: installing a "MossModule" – a wall with moss, along the Dnipro embankment. The purpose of the experiment is to test how such a module would contribute making a public space more comfortable.
A moss module planted on a vertical panel with a semi-automatic irrigation system is an ideal option for a waterfront, as it creates a welcoming atmosphere in a public space, can improve air quality ,and does not interfere with the pedestrian area, Anastasiia says. In addition, the module does not require special care, which is a huge advantage of this type of greening practice.
The installation of the module requires some permits, so the team is currently working on this. Once they have the necessary permissions, they will be able to start creating a MossModule to make our favourite waterfront even more appealing!
It is a well-known fact that green space and MossModules not only increase the attractiveness of public spaces, but also reduce the amount of noise and dust there. Will it work on the waterfront? That's what the team wants to test.
A natural wall in Podil
Team 5: Vladyslav Degtyarenko, Anastasiia Samoilenko, Anastasiia Astakhova, Dariya Krasovska
This team was also thinking green, suggesting that a "green wall" would protect the boulevard running through the centre of Podil from noise, dust and polluted air. This wall of vegetation should turn the boulevard into a cosy and comfortable place for leisure.
The team says the area attracted their attention – for being unattractive. And after conducting a survey, they found that locals are also unhappy that there is so little space for walking in the area. The nearest "green" space is too far away, they said.
"It's loud, grey, and quite uncomfortable when you walk along the boulevard. So you don’t even have to look for inspiration – the problems are staring you in the face,” says team member Vladyslav.
The most important part of this experiment is establishing cooperation with the city government bodies, namely with Podil Regional State Administration and the district committee on the maintenance of green areas in Podil district. So perhaps the biggest experiment for the team is to test whether public activists can slash through enough red tape make their green project a reality.