Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Senior Reporter
RICHMOND sanitary landfill site in Bulawayo, popularly known as Ngozi Mine, is home to huge tonnes of solid waste generated by the city on a daily basis.
Thick plumes of smoke billowing into the air accompanied by disgusting odour and illegal settlements are a common sight.
For a discerning person, the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) owned landfill symbolises poverty for the people living in those shacks, yet more often than not, little is mentioned about its good side.
In the same vein, the landfill site has also afforded ambitious women an opportunity to eke out a living though picking recyclable waste.
The women, some of whom are professionals, are cashing in on the sale of waste to complement their measly salaries, amid the prevailing harsh economic environment worsened by the effects of Covid-19.
Despite being infested with flies and exuding an ugly stench, Ngozi Mine has turned into a permanent home for hundreds of enterprising women who survive on picking and recycling waste.
They have since established an organisation called “Waste Buyers Association” to address gender-based violence and also be in a position to come up with better pricing as a majority are sometimes short changed by greedy buyers.
BCC confirmed that huge amounts of refuse were disposed of at Ngozi Mine during the month of February 2022.
Between January and February this year, waste pickers picked over 11 883kg of solid waste in the city.
Though a small number in terms of numerical statistics, available research evidence indicates that waste pickers are responsible for recovering about 58 percent of plastic waste and an average 20 percent of all waste.
A majority of female waste pickers say they are in waste picking due to poverty, while others said there are no other forms of employment.
Chronicle caught up with Ms Rosemary Dube who said waste picking is not only for those unemployed as students, nurses, teachers where now investing in the business to get extra income.
“I am a second-year student and if it wasn’t for this business, I would not manage to pay fees so that I become a qualified teacher one day. I pick waste to raise money for fees, rent and for the upkeep of my two children as I am a single mother,” she said.
She raises about US$200 monthly after paying waste pickers who she hires daily from Ngozi Mine squatter camp. “I have been in this business for months now and have managed to pay fees, even my classmates know that I deal with waste.
The process is not as easy though as I need about 300kg of plastics to be able to sell and sometimes we fail to find a buyer which leaves us without any income.”
In a survey, the Matabeleland Institute of Human Rights established that the majority of the female waste pickers (72 percent) make between US$1 and US$5 per week while 21 percent make between US$6 – 10 per week. Only 7 percent make between US$11 and US$20 per week.
The study established that for most of the female waste pickers, waste picking is their only sole income source (89 percent) while a paltry 11 percent have other alternative sources of income.
There was also disturbing evidence of numerous incidences of rape, with 29 respondents having heard of a rape case once a month.
Most respondents were complaining that even though there are many cases of GBV, physical abuse and rape, most of them go unreported because of the negative attitude towards waste pickers and Ngozi Mine settlers.
For Mrs Nomagugu Sibanda of Cowdray Park, violence remains a threat to female waste pickers. “We have men, even young boys who harass us for being their competitors, they insult and assault us sometimes so that they pick up all the useful waste before us.
We struggle to make ends meet sometimes because of this violence and we pray that something be done so that we operate freely,” said Mrs Sibanda.
“We cannot afford to buy food or pay fees hence we prefer to spend our days going through waste for recycling to get that US$1 and we know our source of income also helps in waste management as the council is struggling to keep up with waste in this landfill.”
For Agnes Maphenduka, the trade does put food on the table, but also comes with a lot of health risks. “We spend our days picking and washing waste for recycling, but the truth is we expose ourselves to a lot of diseases.
This place is smelly, flies are all over and we can easily catch diseases in the name of fending for our families. As much as this brings us money, we long for something better so that we are not at risk,” said Mrs Maphenduka. — @thamamoe
Article Source: The Chronicle