List of Waste Picker Groups in Bamako
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City Report: Interview with a local Waste Picker
A Conversation With: Bamadou Sidibe, President, Collective des Groupements intervenant dans l'assourissement au Mali (COGIAM) (Collective of the groups working in sanitation in Mali).
“This is our dream: whenever you generate some, you put it in a waste bin. In a clean city, our children can play” Bamadou Sidibe
Formal Waste Management SystemThe city of Bamako produces a lot of waste which is not well managed. The transport of waste from households, factories and other generation sites is a growing problem in Bamako. Thus the quantity of waste collected every day is far from the real quantity produced. It has granted five-year contracts to small enterprises (called GIE, Groupements d'interet economique) run by formerly unemployed, though educated people. Families are charged to collect the household refuse in order to make them available to the GIE. Since 1992 the municipality of Bamako has promoted a social employment scheme with the city’s waste management division. Residents put their waste in metallic or plastic dust bins that each household must have in front of its door. About 120 groups collect this waste door to door with donkey carts from the 80 city zones. The groups, composed by 5-30 members, are organized in one association, working at the national level. The GIEs regularly get fees from the households, which are negotiated for each contract with the municipality. This has created an incentive for the GIE to provide a high quality service, because if households are unsatisfied they stop payment. Also due to the proximity, the households constantly give feedback to the GIE supervisors and contribute to a constant service improvement. The GIEs transport the waste from the households to transfer stations. The municipality is then supposed to transfer the waste to the landfill. However, as the city is currently without a landfill, the transfer stations themselves have become permanent dumpsites. Apart from creating a sanitation crisis, the GIEs find it very difficult to dispose the waste in the overwhelmed transfer stations, and at times have to travel further away to find an alternative place to dump.The GIE employees are allowed by their employers to remove part of the recyclables, so that they can complement their salaries. The rest of the recyclables are collected by independent waste pickers, mainly women and children, at the transfer stations. Both the GIE employees and the waste pickers then sell the collected materials to junk dealers. The waste pickers are slowly starting to get organized.
Waste Picker OrganizationAt present, the waste pickers are not organized and COGIAM intends to integrate them in their organization. COGIAM also intends to provide waste pickers training, personal protective equipment, and technical and financial support.
Current Central IssuesCOGIAM has ambitious plans for the future. First, they are demanding that the municipality find a location for the landfill and appoint their organization for its management. They claim to have the capability to do it, if they can get some technical assistance. Foreign private companies from the USA, France, Germany and lately China have approached public authorities with similar demands, but for the moment their attempts have failed. COGIAM is confident that the municipality will give them preference, recognizing that they would generate better employment opportunities and assure a fairer distribution of benefits. Their ambition goes beyond creating a landfill. In fact, their proposal includes a recycling unit in the landfill to divert recyclable materials. In their opinion, this would allow them to obtain higher recycling rates (and the consequent environmental benefits), apart from considerably improving the working conditions of waste pickers. The recycling unit would allow them to manage larger quantities of recyclables and sell them directly to the recycling industry, so as to obtain better prices compared to the ones now offered by intermediaries, meaning the junk dealers.COGIAM has also undertaken a campaign to raise awareness among all the citizens, concerning waste management. As the President puts it, “this is our dream: whenever people generate some waste, they put it in a bin. In a clean city, our children could play everywhere.”