The Informal Systems of Solid Wa by fjzhangweiqun


									               Informality and Access to Service in Cities of Africa
               Wits Center for Urban and Built Environment Studies

       The Informal Systems of Solid Waste Removal in Dar es Salaam:
                                An Enquiry

                                Colman T. Msoka
                                Nakivona Rajabu



Solid waste removal in urban areas is one of the core functions of local
authorities. This is because of a large concentration of people in a small area
which makes it difficult for the ecological system to recycle waste materials
produced by humans both in the production and consumption activities. Further,
it is not economic for each individual household to organize disposal of its waste
efficiently and effectively. It requires collective initiatives to get the best. Cities
particularly large cities pay a very close watch on the way in which waste
produced is managed so as to control outbreaks of diseases.

In this paper, our goal is to look at how the people of Dar es Salaam are coping
with the problem of solid waste removal using informal system of waste removal.
In the last decade or so, the city of Dar es Salaam has experienced a very rapid
rate of population growth and settlement expansion that has not coped with
service provision. This rapid growth and expansion of the city has not only
stretched city infrastructure, but also, in some areas, residents are going without
the basic urban services e.g. piped water, serviced roads, street lights, solid and
wastewater systems. Specifically, we want to look at the informal systems of
solid waste removal in Dar es Salaam city.

Informal systems of solid waste removal are not appreciated and in most cases,
the city discourages them. Rather than closing business the system has
continued to exist hand in hand with the formal systems.
The main question that we would like to address is what is it that informal
system of solid waste removal in urban Dar es Salaam? Understanding this
question is very important because it will allow us to see how the communities
are filling the gap that the council is unable to fill. Further, this will give us
information that will be useful for policy discussion and decision making. For
example, we will be able to see how these informed strategies can be improved
and applied in areas that are experiencing the problem of solid waste removal.

This paper is part of a larger project on the future of Dar es Salaam City in the
era of globalizing world in which we are looking at some of the major problems
facing the city. The broad objective of the project is to examine sources of city
competitiveness and areas that can be used to build the required
competitiveness. Besides management of solid waste, the other area that has
been looked at is the question of city transport and the challenges facing Dar es
Salaam commuters. The project involves collecting information from
communities, neighborhood leaders, city officials and business operators. City
Managers in the contemporary period are experiencing challenges because of
policies of globalization which have left decision making process more open and
market-based as opposed to closed and processes.

Theoretical Overview
Policies of globalization have opened up nation-state boundaries and a lot is
more fluid in the world now than in the past (Msoka, 2005; Msoka, 2006;
Sassen, 2000). Investors today are relatively free to invest in different locations
where there are competitive costs of doing so and distribute their products in the
larger region than was the case in the past. Similarly, labour has become more
fluid due to policies of globalization where individuals are free to take up jobs in
different places given their qualifications and competencies. The policies of
globalization have increased the competition to attract the right kind and quality
of labour, investors, capital and business activities.

Business managers in their own rights are constantly looking and evaluating the
cost of doing business in both old and new locations with the goal of increasing
their earnings. This implies that city administrators have to search for possibilities
that will not only reduce the cost of investing in a city and or doing business but
also retaining those who already have invested in their respective cities. The
challenge is even higher to cities of developing world because they have multiple
deficiencies yet they have to compete for the same investors with developed
world cities. Shatkin (2000) notes that policies of globalization are making cities
of the third world decline to fourth world status, implying there is an increase of
poverty and problems associated with negative effects of globalization on urban

It must be pointed out that building a competitive city requires an expanded
vision of various factors that develop and enhance competitiveness. One of such
things that develop the competitive conditions of a city is the quality of life of
the residents. Quality of life in a city is determined by a number of factors:

   i.     Employment opportunities
   ii.    Nature of the employment opportunities available
   iii.   Working environment
   iv.    Living environment/ quality of neighborhoods
   v.     Recreation facilities

All of the above factors determine, directly or indirectly, the quality of life of
people in a particular city in general and neighborhood in specific. Availability of
employment opportunities in a city allows employees to have an income to use
and spend to meet their various needs where as, lack of these opportunities
implies that residents will not be able to meet their cost of living. Unemployment
promotes a range of criminal activities which further contributes to decreasing
the quality of life and hence lowers the competitiveness of a city. In this regard,
any thing that retards or limits growth of employment opportunities in a city is
not appropriate.

Linked to the previous point is the nature of the employment where, high
segment and high skill jobs in a city attracts not only a certain category of
workers but also promotes lower cadre jobs as well. Developing these kinds of
jobs requires thinking and planning very strategically to integrate different
sectors of the city and regional economy so as to achieve high end results. The
forward and backward linkages of high end jobs play a very important role in
developing competitive conditions for both small and big investments.

The working and living environment plays an important role in the whole process
of developing competitive conditions of a city. Clean working environment is
important to the health of the employees and it motivates them to continue
working. Related to this, is services that are provided by the employer to the
employees such as housing, transport, and other benefits. Some of these factors
are determined by the policies and politics at the city level. When the city policies
and politics provide a good working environment, they contribute to
competitiveness of the city.

Similar to the working environment, living environment affects the quality of life
of the residents and thus contribute to the whole process of developing
competitive conditions. Some of the variables that determine the quality of living
environment include availability of services such as water, electricity, safety and
security. Good housing and availability of urban amenities are equally
fundamentals of developing competitive conditions. Removal of solid waste is
one of the services that improve the quality of housing, environmental condition
of the city, public health and the scenic view of a city. There must be an effective
system of managing solid wastes produced so as to protect and raise quality of
life. Unremoved and or unattended heaps of solid waste saves nothing than to
reduce the quality of life, quality of neighborhood and hence competitive

Quality of Life and Competitiveness of Cities
Quality of life plays a role in developing competitiveness of a city. Cities that
have maintained a very good quality of life are very likely to achieve several
competitive points.

First:      Quality of life will attract high quality workforce, a factor that will
            increase productivity of labour. Such kind of labour, who is efficient
            and competitive, attracts investors. The concentration of high quality
            labour brings another round of competition that benefits investor.

Second:     A large pool of high quality labour promotes innovations, an
            advantage which is good to investors at different points in the
            production chain.

Thirdly:  Good quality of life reduces cost of doing business in a city because
          employees and their families will be healthy in general and spend
          more time in production and not of treatment or sickness
Fourthly: Cities that are able to maintain high quality of life influence in many
          ways, micro decisions of individuals and firms. Families take into
          consideration multiples factors such as quality of local schools for
          children, jobs to other members in the family, their safety and
          security in the decision to migrate. Firms consider factors such as the
          quality of labour, their living environment, quality of new employees
          and effects of labour turnover in decision making.

Thus city managers have all reasons to develop policies that would allow
development of competitive conditions. It is worth noting that inefficiencies of
City Managers produced results that have both long term and immediate effects.
Initial costs of doing investments are high and thus inability to attract and or
retain investment has negative effects over a long period. Investors take time
before they make decision to invest in a particular city. Close reviews of costs
benefits and challenges as well as evaluation of alternative possibilities are
usually conducted by prospective investors continuously.

Inefficiencies of local authorities for example failure to appropriately manage and
remove solid waste in cities contributes to outbreak of Cholera, and such other
diseases. This does not only affect productivity of workers but even some
product markets particularly those that are sensitive to such conditions (for
example fish, milk, meat, vegetables and fruit markets as well as restaurants and
food courts). Such goods may suffer customer shifts to the next competitive in
markets because they pose a health risk. Thus it is to the interest of city
managers to maintain a very high quality of environment in their respective

Solid Waste Removal Problem in Dar es Salaam City
In the last fifteen years, the problem of solid waste removal in Dar es Salaam
has continued to occupy the agenda of council meetings. As noted at the
beginning. The city of Dar es Salaam has expanded very rapidly beyond the
capacity of the councils to provide adequate service. Further, a substantial
number of Dar es Salaam residents live in unplanned areas of the city because
the pace of city growth has been faster than the pace of providing services and
infrastructure development. At the same time, absence of surveyed plots led
some families to build their homes in areas that are ecologically fragile – flood
prone valleys and swamp areas. These areas are difficult to reach and clean and
thus the council is not able to service them adequately.

Dar es Salaam city expanded rapidly in the late 1980s and the whole of 1990s
mainly following the rural economic decline, policy changes to market economy
and the reforms that were benefiting urban areas than rural (Mhamba and Titus,
2001). The rapid growth of the city which did not match capacity growth led to
the rapid development of solid waste removal problem. Individuals began to look
for ways of removing solid waste in their areas. The popular burning method
regained its popularity even in areas that it was not popular. This was largely
because solid waste was becoming a thereat to the heath and lives of the people
(Masamu 2007). Different stakeholders began to look at the question of solid
waste both as an area with opportunities for income generation activities and
others as a problem that need attention.

Several actors are now involved in waste management in the city. There are
private actors, municipal agents and community groups that are involved in
waste management.        Although waste management is an issue of local
governments, central government is sometimes involved. Central government
moves in to solve the problem of solid waste management particularly whenever
there is crisis.

One of the several reasons that contributed to the abolition of the old Dar es
Salaam City Council (1996-2000), was the failure of the city to remove solid
waste. Before its abolition, the problem of solid waste removal (Particularly
between 1990-95) became a political question. Removal efforts were mounted
by not only the city council but also Regional Commissioner, Ministers and the
President of the United Republic of Tanzania (Mhamba and Titus, 2001).

The main factor that contributed to the crisis of solid waste management was
weakness of the then city council as an institution that had unclear strategies of
removing solid waste. During this period, city council trucks were not able to
collect solid waste even in some of the central areas like Kariakoo, Ilala,
Magomeni and Kinondoni. Streets and lanes were interrupted with mountains of
garbage and it was common for people to dispose waste in the middle of a
street, the only public space available in some areas, where one is comfortable
to do so. It was solid during this period when the government allowed private
company to move in and collect waste in the city (Multinet Africa was the first
private company to collect waste in Dar es Salaam city).

Community Responses to the Problem of Solid Waste Removal
Growing city population, informal settlements and declining capacity of local
government authorities to remove solid waste pushed city authorities to allow
development of alternative approaches of removing solid waste.              These
alternatives include the use of private companies noted as above, community
based organizations, associations and individuals who collect waste at a fee. The
focus of our paper is on the development of informal ways of removing solid

waste in Dar es Salaam, although the private sector involvement is another area
that we look at.

Informal systems of solid waste removal are not new in Africa as they have been
around for quite sometime. Although the current practice of removing waste at a
fee is the dominant one, the early version of the informal system was that of
burying wastes in pits (both in the open spaces and or backyards). There is
another type where collectors do it for free. Their main motivation for doing so is
sorting wastes to salvage items that are tradable. Collectors vary from those
without facilities to those with push carts.

The levels in Dar es Salaam could be compared with experiences of other cities
in Africa. Ragui (1997) points out that in Cairo, some of the solid waste that is
collected informally is sorted in different piles where some of the materials are
used for feeding animals and others in making products from recycled materials.
The popularity of this has made collectors to develop territories where one is
allowed to collect or not. He goes further to note that even in the same territory
different operators have different customers, where they have specific days and
alarms they use to signal their arrival. The competition is also motivated by the
freshness of the garbage which is good for animal feeding. The system has
worked so efficiently in Cairo and the municipal authority has found it is difficult
to terminate particularly in areas where it is not able to provide services, and the
formal system is difficult and expensive to maintain.

Dar es Salaam has not reached the levels of Cairo in competing for solid waste
but there are micro forms of this competition that are emerging. Solid waste
removal through the informal system requires payment on the spot and some of
the collectors have developed spaces which they claim to be their areas and
other service providers are informally not allowed to move in. A large portion of
garbage in Dar es Salaam is wasted than recycled and thus collectors get very
little direct benefit. This is the reason why they charge rather than collect for

In an interview with a push cart garbage collector along Swahili Street, Kariakoo
area, he noted that, it is the only job that he depends on and the market is very
hard to develop. When he began the work, he noted further, it was very slow
and the willingness to pay was very poor. According to him, it will be a mistake
to allow people to collect in his areas of usual work because he has already
invested in time and network. What the narratives show is that solid waste in Dar
es Salaam is still a problem not a resource to the collectors.

When asked as to where he disposes waste, he pointed out that he disposes
some at public collection points and some in open spaces mainly in Jangwani

       …. but Jangwani is a risk area, you must be on the watch because if you
      are caught doing so, you will invoke trouble (interview January 2008)

By protecting their spaces they are sure about the source of income and know
when to visit particular households to collect waste. As a mechanism of securing
their spaces, sometimes informal solid waste collectors offer to skip some of the
charges or offer at reduced rates to some of their good customers:

      Even though this is about garbage collection, you need to protect it
      because there are people who want jobs from us as well. If you charge
      too high, people will not prefer you and will refuse to use your services.
      There are youth who are joining the business and sometimes they move
      faster than us and their cost is very small. We usually prohibit them from
      working….. It is hard because sometimes you cannot see them all
      (Interview January 2008).

We further probed if this implies that he is always on duty and what happens if
there are situations when he is not working: The response was as follows

      There are three of us who collect garbage using the cart and thus if I
      have good reason not to work, the rest are able to continue. However,
      nowadays there is some resistance from the council not to allow us to
      work. We are told that there are groups that have been licensed to collect
      waste in specified neighborhoods and residents have to pay 5,000 per
      month. This implies that our presence interferes with these groups
      (durable payment). While they collect money in advance, we do collect
      money on the spot. The problem with group arrangement is that they do
      not reach all the households at the right time. Sometimes piles of garbage
      stay for a long period and they began to make horrible smells. Dar es
      Salaam is a hot and humid city. Nobody wants to stay close to garbage
      pile because it decomposes very fast. When this happens, they reach us
      to rescue them and pay us immediately (interview January 2008).

What we are learning from this is that the informal system has a built-in
mechanism that makes it relevant to the needs of the people. That is, pay and
get the service immediately. There is no waiting and there is no blaming.

Dar es Salaam city recycling practice does not sort waste into different
categories. It is the informal system that is doing so in response to market
forces. Unlike garbage collectors of Cairo who rush for waste and then sort, in
Dar es Salaam these collectors sort and leave the rest behind. This means that
still waste has to be removed from the street. This is because there are transit

points/common places where people dump waste legally or illegally. Sorters have
no interest to carry what they do not need. Another important comparison that
needs to be pointed out is that Dar es Salaam has no tribes or villages of solid
waste collectors. This is done by individuals who reside within the areas where
they operate. Usually they are able to do the work during the day and at night,
same for the plastic and metal material collectors, those who are self employed
in the sector, do not take collected waste in their residents. In fact some of those
in this sector are not able to afford renting a house or live in small backyard

We must also point out that there is a growing army of plastic material collectors
in the city who roam the streets to collect water bottles and other plastic
materials. They have joined their counterparts who collect metal scraps and
card boards boxes for selling purposes. All of these practices are done by
individuals who are not paid at all and they only depend on selling what they
have collected. Plastic is one of non biodegradable materials and presence of
these collectors is a significant plus to the environment.

Plastic waste in the recent period was on the increase despite the existence of
the informal system of plastic waste. This is perhaps due to the development of
western life style where people move around with bottled and or packed food
and drinks. Further, the growing business and plastic shopping bags explains
part of the problem as well. The government of Tanzania noted the increasing
levels of solid waste and it has taken measure to control. Plastic materials are
not taxed more as an attempt to limit its use. Biodegradable paper papers are
now in the market as an alternative shopping bag.

We must also note that unlike Egypt where there are groups of people
specialized as waste collectors, sorters and users, in Tanzania there are no
specialized groups. Similar to small scale informal traders, small scale dealers in
waste collection are also categorized as Machinga.

Development of informal system of solid waste management is a community
response to the failures of the city to provide good service. These are efforts to
search for a way of living in a quality environment because piles of waste are a
health risk. The informal systems of solid waste removal in Dar es Salaam have
developed in areas that have the following characteristics:

      They are not accessible by road;
      They are unsurveyed;
      Areas that are unserviced;
      Areas in which municipal trucks are not collecting waste;
      Areas where there are no private companies.
      Developed parallel with the formal system.

In our   survey of these areas in the city we found out that these areas tend to be:
        Low income areas;
        Unplanned settlement;
        Un-maintained neighborhoods.

Further, we found out that in some of the areas where there are private
companies or municipal government is providing services, informal systems exist.
In some parts of the city, garbage collection trucks do collect waste from
selected streets and there are common points that are known. The expectation is
that all households would deliver waste in this common point, a concept that is
partly wrong because there are different factors that limits them from doing so.

This has promoted an informal system where residents who are in the far end
pay fees to push cart drivers who then deliver waste to the known point. This
pattern is now common even though it has not being allowed by the city
authority. The work is largely done by unemployed youths who have capitalized
on it as their source of livelihood.

It is important to note here that while some of these informal systems of solid
waste removal are filling the gap, there are some negative effects as well. Some
of the waste collected is not sent to the common point where garbage trucks can
collect. Wastes removed from homes are dumped in open spaces, dead ends and
valleys. Because of this some neighborhoods are, environmentally, in bad shape
because there are piles of wastes that are not attended.

Wastes disposed in open spaces and valleys contaminate soils, underground
water, valley streams and at times piles of waste are blown by wind. At times
drainage systems are also blocked which leads to further environmental

In some sections of city, there are no waste bins for disposing waste. This is the
reason that makes individuals with push carts to visit homes collecting waste at a
fee. Waste disposal bins would have been ideal because people would be able to
dispose waste. More areas would have been cleaner than they are now because
the process of removing waste would be a lot cheaper.

Turning to the positive side, the informal system of solid waste collection in the
city fills an important gap which the city authority is not able to fill currently.
This is the reason that has contributed to the continued existence of this system.
It is a common practice in some of neighborhoods e.g. Manyanya, Tunisia road
and Studio-Mkwajuni areas, for youths and at times children to knock compound
gate ways asking for available wastes to dispose at a token.

Similarly the practice suggests that the municipals have another way of collecting
solid waste from various homes. This practice is based on the principal of market
economy where people pay for their wastes to be removed.                Municipal
authorities can regulate the sector investing in simple technologies that
contribute significantly.

In many several parts of the city the informal system continues to complement
to the local government and private sector initiatives of cleaning Dar es Salaam
despite the criticism raised against informality in solid waste removal. The
continued existence implies that there is a gap that has not being reached by
both private and public sector and any initiatives to stop the informal sector will
contribute to a decline of cleaningliness at household level. Rather that
prohibiting them, the city needs to integrate them as one of the agents of
cleaning the city.

For Dar es Salaam to properly manage its solid waste, the informal system is
important. It is important because it is filling the gap that the council is not able
to address. This is evident because despite having groups, private and public
sectors, the informal sector has continued to survive. The population has not
reached 5million; the growth is faster than investment in infrastructures. Dar es
Salam has to search for ways of fully integrating them.

Although informal systems do not operate for the benefit of the local
authority/city, it serves sometimes-clean homestead. What they need is
integration into the formal system so that their role is even made appreciated.

Titus, C. 1996: Urbanization and Environmental Management in Moshi
          Municipality. Unpublished MA Demography Dissertation, University of
          Dar es Salaam
Masamu, A. S. 2007: Community Participation in Solid waste Management. A
          case study of Ilala Municipality, Unpublished MA Demography
          Dissertation, University of Dar es Salaam

Mhamba R. M. and C. Titus, 2001: Reaction to Deteriorating Provision of Public
         services in Dar es Salaam. In Tostesen, A. et al (eds) Associational
         Life in Africa Cities: popular response to the Urban crisis, Nordiska


To top