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					                  Improving the livelihood of child
                  waste pickers: experiences with
                  the ‘Zabbaleen’ in Cairo, Egypt
                  Evaluative field study for WASTE,
                  Gouda, The Netherlands




                  Hossam Aziz

                  August 2004




Nieuwehaven 201      fax: +31 182 550313
2801 CW Gouda        e-mail: office@waste.nl
The Netherlands      website: http://www.waste.nl
Cover picture: Art lesson in the recycling school of AGCCD © Laila Iskandar, CID




Disclaimer
This country report was produced with the support of International Programme on the
Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) of the International Labour Office (ILO). Relevant parts
of this and other country reports served as an input to a synthesis global report "Addressing
the exploitation of children in scavenging (waste picking): a thematic evaluation on action on
child labour" .

The presentation of material therein do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever
on the part of the International Labour Office concerning the legal status of any country, area
or territory or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers.

The responsibility for opinions expressed in the report rests solely with the authors and
publication does not necessarily constitute an endorsement by the International Labour Office
of the opinions expressed in them.
Table of contents
                                                                                                                                     Page
Abbreviations ............................................................................................................................. 3
1. Introduction ............................................................................................................................ 4
2. Economic developments in Cairo and Egypt during the last 10 years................................... 5
3. Solid waste management in Cairo.......................................................................................... 8
   3.1    The Zabbaleen ............................................................................................................ 8
   3.2    Developments in the solid waste sector in Cairo ....................................................... 9
   3.3    Child labour among the Zabbaleen .......................................................................... 10
   3.4    Official government policy and legislation regarding scavenging........................... 11
4. Projects addressing scavenging and child scavengers in Cairo............................................ 12
5. APE’s activities related to Zabbaleen children and youth ................................................... 13
   5.1    Introduction .............................................................................................................. 13
   5.2    Funding and partners................................................................................................ 14
   5.3    Target group ............................................................................................................. 15
   5.4    Approach and interventions ..................................................................................... 15
   5.5    Effects on child labour ............................................................................................. 17
   5.6    The position of the Zabbaleen children in the projects ............................................ 17
   5.7    Cooperation with other programmes and projects ................................................... 18
   5.8    Obstacles encountered.............................................................................................. 19
6. AGCCD’s activities related to Zabbaleen children and youth............................................. 20
   6.1    Introduction .............................................................................................................. 20
   6.2    Funding and partners................................................................................................ 20
   6.3    Target group ............................................................................................................. 20
   6.4    Approach and interventions ..................................................................................... 21
   6.5    Effects on child labour ............................................................................................. 23
   6.6    The position of the Zabbaleen children in the project.............................................. 23
   6.7    Cooperation with other programmes and projects ................................................... 23
   6.8    Obstacles encountered.............................................................................................. 23
7. Lessons learnt and conclusions ............................................................................................ 24
Annex 1      Literature references............................................................................................. 25
Annex 2      Contact details and resource persons ................................................................... 26




Improving the livelihood of child waste pickers:                                                                                            1
experiences with the ‘zabbaleen’ in Cairo, Egypt
WASTE, August 2004
2    Improving the livelihood of child waste pickers:
    experiences with the ‘zabbaleen’ in Cairo, Egypt
                             WASTE, August 2004
Abbreviations

AGCCD                Association of Garbage Collectors for Community Development
APE                  Association for the Protection of the Environment
CID                  Community and Institutional Development
EQI                  Environmental Quality International
ILO                  International Labour Organisation
IPEC                 International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour
NGO                  Non-governmental organisation
SWM                  Solid waste management
Wahi                 Men, originally from the Western Desert, dividing the waste collection routes
                     and controlling access to buildings in Cairo, Egypt
Zabbaleen            People, originally from Upper Egypt, working as semi-formal waste collectors
                     and sorters in Cairo, Egypt




Improving the livelihood of child waste pickers:                                                 3
experiences with the ‘zabbaleen’ in Cairo, Egypt
WASTE, August 2004
1. Introduction
This report describes the outcome of the evaluative field study on child labour and scavenging
in Egypt. It is part of a Thematic Evaluation on child labour and scavenging commissioned by
the ILO/IPEC to WASTE, Advisers on Urban Environment and Development in Gouda, The
Netherlands.

The purpose of this Thematic Evaluation is to provide guidance to the ILO, especially the
collaborating departments and constituents, on how best to address the exploitation of
children in this sector. The Thematic Evaluation will identify and then critically assess what
has been learned about scavenging and about various approaches to addressing the problem of
child labour in relation to scavenging. This information will be drawn from the various
projects carried out in this sector by IPEC, as well as from similar efforts of other agencies,
institutions, or the governments.

To this end a desktop review has been carried out and evaluative field studies were developed,
which will result in a strategic overview and recommendations for the ILO.

Egypt is one of the countries involved in this study. This report provides the results of the
evaluative field study in Egypt that will be used as input for the final report of WASTE.

The fieldwork in Egypt took place in June 2004. It involved meetings with resource persons at
CID, interviews with staff from NGOs (Association for the Protection of the Environment,
APE, and the Association of Garbage Collectors for Community Development, AGCCD), and
a number of waste workers involved in the various projects. Research methods also included
observation in the project areas in Moqattam and in the living and working area of the
‘Zabbaleen’, the waste collectors and sorters of waste in Cairo.

Review of secondary sources such as reports, project information, articles also formed part of
this research. Annex 1 provides an overview of references.




4                                                               Improving the livelihood of child waste pickers:
                                                               experiences with the ‘zabbaleen’ in Cairo, Egypt
                                                                                        WASTE, August 2004
2. Economic developments in Cairo and Egypt during the last 10 years
Cairo is the capital city of Egypt, situated on the River Nile (see Figure 1). It is the main
commercial, administrative and tourist centre of the country and attracts an estimated 2
million commuters, migrants and tourists every day. The estimates for the population size of
Cairo vary from 12 to 18 million inhabitants. In 2001 per capita gross national income had
risen to $1,490, which categorise Egypt as a middle- income country.

Figure 1        Egypt with the areas of origin of the ‘Zabbaleen’ (Assiut and Kena) and the ‘wahi’
                (Dakhla and Kharga)




Source: Neamatallah & Assaad, 1985

Egypt’s most important industries are textiles, food processing and building materials. New
industries have appeared in the last two to three decades, including chemical industry,
pharmaceuticals, leather production, soap, fertilisers and plastics.

Improving the livelihood of child waste pickers:                                                     5
experiences with the ‘zabbaleen’ in Cairo, Egypt
WASTE, August 2004
Since 1991 Egypt is undergoing a structural adjustment and economic reform programme.
This aims to transform a centrally planned economy with a relatively small private sector to a
decentralised, market-based, and outward-oriented economy in which the private sector plays
the leading role in the country’s economic development and growth.

Since then Egypt’s economy has been growing slowly from 3-4% in the early 1990s to 5% in
the late 1990s. But then stagnation set in, due to a mix of factors like lagging political and
legal reform, slowdown in privatisation and a drop in tourism and foreign direct investment
because of the 9/11 disaster in the States (World Bank, 2002).

Poverty and child labour
Several studies indicate that there has been a steady increase in poverty in Egypt since the
1980s, as well as a widening gap between rich and poor. Households living below the poverty
line increased from 29% in 1981 to about 36% in 1995. Due to economic growth in the late
1990s poverty fell again to around 20% in 1999/2000. However, after 2000 an economic
slowdown has set in, which has again led to an increase in poverty. (World Bank, 2002). On
average, the largest concentration of poor households is in the South, in Upper Egypt (Bushra,
2000; World Bank, 2002).

Throughout the 1990s there has also been a trend towards more informalisation. Both the
numbers of entrepreneurs and workers in the informal sector has been rising. In 1998 more
than half of the labour force was active in the informal sector and large numbers of workers
moved from the formal to the informal sector (El Mahdi, in CID, 2001).

As for child labour a World Bank study of 2002 estimated that 3.3 percent of children aged 6-
15 years in Egypt are working, ranging from 1.8 to 4.7 according to the region. Children in
poor households were more likely to work, especially in rural areas. Compared to the figures
for 1995/1996, child labour had increased in 2002 for Egypt as a whole (World Bank, 2002).

                           Photo 1 Street picking girls in Fayoum, Egypt




                                                                       ©Justine Anschutz


In spite of family planning programmes Egypt’s population and especially its population of
children and youth under 15 years old has been growing rapidly.



6                                                                Improving the livelihood of child waste pickers:
                                                                experiences with the ‘zabbaleen’ in Cairo, Egypt
                                                                                         WASTE, August 2004
The deteriorating economic conditions, growing poverty and population growth have led to
more and more people turning to waste picking and more competition for waste materials, and
thus to lower incomes for waste pickers and waste collectors.




Improving the livelihood of child waste pickers:                                         7
experiences with the ‘zabbaleen’ in Cairo, Egypt
WASTE, August 2004
3. Solid waste management in Cairo
Greater Cairo used to be the only city in Egypt where the informal waste recovery sector was
partly formalised and random waste picking was relatively limited. In the other cities only
street and dump pickers could be found, but in Cairo the government developed a franchise
system with the informal garbage collectors, called the’ Zabbaleen’, the people who used to
collect, sort and resell much of Cairo’s waste. Due to government policies this seems to be
changing again to a more informal system with waste picking on the increase.
3.1    The Zabbaleen
When one talks about waste in Cairo, the ‘Zabbaleen’ are almost always mentioned. Who are
these ‘Zabbaleen’?
No reliable figures are available regarding the total number of Zabbaleen in Cairo. Estimates
range from 30,000 to 70,000 persons. Moqattam counts an estimated 20,000 people involved
in waste recovery and picking activities (CID, 2001).

Figure 2       The location of the ‘Zabbaleen’ settlements in Greater Cairo




Source: Neamatallah & Assaad, 1985




8                                                              Improving the livelihood of child waste pickers:
                                                              experiences with the ‘zabbaleen’ in Cairo, Egypt
                                                                                       WASTE, August 2004
The income derived from pre-processing, selling and recycling of waste in Moqattam is huge:
some resource persons estimated it at LE 3 million per week (almost € 400,000) (Iskandar,
2004).

In the past the socio-cultural background of the Zabbaleen was clear: the wahi’s were
Moslem, while most of the Zabbaleen were Christian. Currently, the proportion of Christians
is becoming smaller and hovers around 50% (Iskandar, 2004).

Several researches make the point that the Zabbaleen recycle up to 80% of the waste they
collect (CID, 2001; Bushra, 2000). Each ton of garbage produced by households in Cairo
generates work in collection and sorting for 3.5 persons (CID, 2001). Collection and sorting
are the most labour-intensive parts of the waste management chain. The girls and women do
the sorting, while the men and boys are mainly involved in the collection.

Figure 3 shows the chain of collection and recycling as practiced by the Zabbaleen in Cairo.

The recycling sector is almost exclusively the domain of men in the field of SWM in Egypt.
The only exception seems to be the APE’s Moqattam rag and paper recycling projects that
targets women and teenage girls (CID 2001).

Figure 3             Chain of informal waste collection and recycling in Moqattam, Cairo




Source: Adapted from CID, 2001


3.2     Developments in the solid waste sector in Cairo
For a long time the Zabbaleen played a very important part in the solid waste collection
system in Cairo. They reportedly collected 30-40% of all the waste produced in the capital, an
estimated 9000 tons, mainly from middle and higher income areas (Bushra, 2000). Some of
them were active as street scavengers or itinerant buyers, but most had permanent
arrangements to collect waste directly from households, businesses and institutions.

By 1990, the local authorities forbid waste transportation by the use of donkey carts and
formalised the system of door-to-door waste collection to a franchise system. As a result,
many Zabbaleen formed co-operatives to be able to buy pick-up trucks to continue their waste

Improving the livelihood of child waste pickers:                                               9
experiences with the ‘zabbaleen’ in Cairo, Egypt
WASTE, August 2004
collection services. This mechanisation process led to some decrease in child labour, as many
children used to guard the donkey cart for their fathers (Svadlenak-Gomez, 1999).

During the 1990s the Zabbaleen continued to work under a franchise system: they had to pay
a license fee to the Cairo and Giza Cleansing and Beautification Authorities for the exclusive
right to service a specific number of apartment blocks. At the same time, they were
responsible for collecting fees directly from households (on average LE 2-4 per month,
€ 0.25-0.5) (CID, 2001).

From the year 2000 on the Egyptian government changed its policy. It developed more and
more interest in large-scale privatisation involving international companies. In 2002 it decided
to contract out solid waste collection, treatment and disposal in Cairo to four large
international companies, thereby ignoring completely the existing Zabbaleen system.

Since then the situation for the ‘Zabbaleen’ has changed dramatically. Some started working
for the international companies as waste collectors, some tried to continue their work as if the
companies did not exist, others turned to picking waste from containers and again others
stopped completely with their work. A number of violent clashes occurred and some trucks of
the international companies were burnt. More fights and tension among the Zabbaleen were
also the result, especially between street pickers. One of the main outcomes of the large-scale
privatisation seems to have been that a new generation of street waste pickers has been
created.
3.3     Child labour among the Zabbaleen
As mentioned in the previous section the girls are mainly involved helping their mothers
sorting the waste in the yard at home, while the boys often go with their fathers, uncles or
cousins collecting waste (they sometimes guard the donkey cart). Some girls assist with
collection, but they will definitely stop with that and engage in sorting when they reach
puberty.

The sorting work of women and girls is usually unremunerated. A relatively recent study
showed that this work is for 98% unpaid family work by women and girls (CID, 2001). In
collection 85% is unpaid family labour, while in trade it is 47% and in recycling 21%. Boys
are sometimes paid for their assistance with waste collection (e.g. LE 1-3 per day, or € 0.10-
0.40).

Regarding waste picking in the streets, resource persons estimated their number at 4,000-
5,000 in Cairo. 50% of them are children, mainly boys. Girls make up less than 5% (Iskandar,
2004).

The reasons why children are scavenging are manifold. One of them is poverty, lack of skills
and lack of other opportunities. Children supplement the family income and/or reduce the
need to hire paid labour. It has also for a long time been a way of life for the many children
who live in the Zabbaleen settlements, as everybody in their family and immediate
neighbourhood is involved in the waste collection and sorting business. They themselves
begin working with their parents at a very young age, 4-5 years.

Some parents cannot afford to send their children to schools. Access to schools is a problem
too. Until the 1980s there were even no schools in Moqattam (CID, 2003).



10                                                             Improving the livelihood of child waste pickers:
                                                              experiences with the ‘zabbaleen’ in Cairo, Egypt
                                                                                       WASTE, August 2004
3.4     Official government policy and legislation regarding scavenging
On paper (such as in the National Environmental Plan and the National Solid Waste
Management Strategy) the waste management hierarchy is important in Egyptian SWM
policy. However, in practice the government only supports large-scale composting plants,
many of which are not making any profits. Waste picking, sorting and recycling by the
Zabbaleen is not considered a contribution to the national economy or the environment, at
least not by the government. Waste is perceived as a resource, in the sense that the Zabbaleen
in Cairo and waste pickers in other cities often have to pay license fees to collect from
households or to pick waste at dumpsites.

The Zabbaleen have a negative image with both the government and with part of the general
public, often supported by the media. This has partly to do with their (mainly) Christian
background and the fact that many raise pigs. The official policy towards the Zabbaleen
fluctuates between ignoring them and harassing them.

The national and local government do not treat the Zabbaleen as stakeholders at all. Their
voice is hardly heard in the media. The whole debate about private sector participation did not
include them, except during a few events organised by development organisations. On the
other hand, the lack of real democracy in Egypt makes that most citizens are not consulted on
matters that concern them or treated as stakeholders.




Improving the livelihood of child waste pickers:                                            11
experiences with the ‘zabbaleen’ in Cairo, Egypt
WASTE, August 2004
4. Projects addressing scavenging and child scavengers in Cairo
There have been several initiatives to improve the livelihoods, living and working conditions
of the Zabbaleen by different organisations and donors such as: Oxfam, Ford Foundation,
European Community, the Coptic Church, World Bank, Soeur Emanuelle, Catholic Relief
Services (Faccini, 1999).

Two local organisations have become the driving force behind many initiatives among the
Zabbaleen in Moqattam, including those related to reducing child labour: the Association for
the Protection of the Environment (APE) and the Association of Garbage Collectors for
Community Development (AGCCD). Their activities will be described in more detail
hereafter.

Activities of APE include among others:
   ♦ Children’s club (pre-school for 4-6 year olds)
   ♦ Day care and nursery unit (0-4 years old
   ♦ Rag recycling unit (weaving and patchwork, teenage girls and adult women)
   ♦ Paper recycling unit (teenage girls)
   ♦ Compost unit (income generation)
   ♦ Relief (crisis management committee)

Activities of AGCCD include among others:
   ♦ Non-formal education project (for teenage boys ages 10-17)
   ♦ Small recycling industries project (credit for recycling machines, mainly used by adult
        men)
   ♦ Primary health care visitors
   ♦ Veterinary centre
   ♦ Internal cleanup (collection and transport of ‘garbage of the garbage’ to a disposal
        site)
   ♦ Credit programme for female-headed households (group lending scheme)




12                                                            Improving the livelihood of child waste pickers:
                                                             experiences with the ‘zabbaleen’ in Cairo, Egypt
                                                                                      WASTE, August 2004
5. APE’s activities related to Zabbaleen children and youth

5.1    Introduction
The four following projects of APE have a relation to Zabbaleen children and youth:
    ♦ Children’s club (pre-school for 4-6 year olds)
    ♦ Day care and nursery unit (0-4 years old)
    ♦ Rag recycling unit (weaving and patchwork, teenage girls and women)
    ♦ Paper recycling unit (teenage girls and women)
    ♦ Literacy Program embedded in all projects
    ♦ Adolescent Girls Health
    ♦ Hair Hygiene Project
    ♦ Hepatitis B Vaccination, early detection and awareness project
    ♦ Source Segregation of household waste Project
    ♦ FGM Awareness Raising Project
    ♦ Micro credit for rag recyclers
    ♦ Recreation trips and summer camps

Children’s club
The children club is a pre-school for children aged 4-6 year old, which also combine fun and
development activities such as field trips and games. In the children’s club also literacy
classes for older children are provided. Whenever possible links are created with the national
formal school system, so that children can join the latter if there is a possibility for them to
pursue their basic education.

Day care and nursery unit
The day care and nursery unit is meant for babies and children from 0-4 years old. These
include children of the APE staff themselves and others from the neighbourhood. The
children get a balanced daily meal and mothers are referred to healthcare centres, if needed.

                                        Photo 2 Rag recycling project for girls, APE




                                                                                   © Faccini, 1999




Improving the livelihood of child waste pickers:                                                     13
experiences with the ‘zabbaleen’ in Cairo, Egypt
WASTE, August 2004
Rag recycling unit
Started in 1988, the rag-recycling unit provides training and income generation opportunities
to teenage girls and women. They use scrap rags donated by large textile companies. The girls
learn to weave rugs on looms and carpets, while the women make patchwork items and quilts.
APE markets the products both in and outside Egypt. This project was financed by the private
sector and individual donations from within Egypt.

Paper recycling unit
Started in 1994, this programme is again an income generation scheme to help young women
and teenage girls gain financial independence and learn various life and practical skills. The
project is self-sustaining. The 35 girls and young women who work in it earn between LE 80-
150 per month (€ 10-19). The recycled paper has found a market among major corporations
for their greeting and business cards and by international hotels chain to print their menus.
This project was financed by a variety of supporters, most notably Les Amis de Soeur
Emmanuelle (ASMAE) – An initiative by Sister Emmanuel in France and Belgium.
5.2      Funding and partners
Initial funding for APE’s activities came from the European Union, which funded a
composting plant. APE was set up in 1984 especially to manage the compost plant that used
purely the animal waste produced by the pigs and goats of the Zabbaleen. Gradually APE
developed in a full-fledged community development organisation, drawing its income from
various donors but also deriving revenues from its income generating projects such as the
compost plant, the rag and paper recycling projects. Table 1 lists various donors and sponsors

Table 1 A list of donors and sponsors of APE activities
Item donated or equipment              Donor/sponsor
funded/sponsored
Compost plant                          European Union, US Agricultural
                                       department
Vehicles                               Various donors
Construction needs                     Local contractor
Paper recycling equipment              Various donors
Looms                                  Women’s groups
Rags                                   Textile industry, individuals, private sector
Paper                                  Offices
Shipping and cargo services            Airlines
Typewriters                            Foreign diplomats wives
Computers                              Manufacturers of computers
Photocopiers                           Manufacturers of photocopiers
Furniture                              Various donors, individuals
Adolescent girls health                USAID
Garbage separation at source project   Ford Foundation, KEMA (Finnish NGO)
Tora neighbourhood upgrading           Ford Foundation
Tora recycling centre                  UNESCO and USAID
Hepatitis B Programme                  DANIDA
                                                                     Source: APE

Many volunteers from the private sector have helped and still helping APE’s activities in the
field of design, marketing, management and recycling. Some of these were of foreign
background.




14                                                                       Improving the livelihood of child waste pickers:
                                                                        experiences with the ‘zabbaleen’ in Cairo, Egypt
                                                                                                 WASTE, August 2004
Apart from funding from foreign donors, APE was also supported through ancient local
practices, known both in Christianity and Islam, such as tithing whereby the rich give to the
poor. In many cases these practices provided seed money for APE’s activities.
5.3    Target group
The main target group of the rag recycling and paper recycling are girls and women of the
Zabbaleen in Moqattam. Disadvantaged girls, for example girls who worked as street waste
pickers and girls who went out with their fathers collecting waste, were targeted especially.
They suffer from an increased vulnerability, in particular female street waste pickers who
break the local norms regarding women venturing out of the community unaccompanied.

The girls are selected by APE staff during walks through the neighbourhood and through
other direct contacts with the Zabbaleen.

To convince parents APE staff pays home visits. One of the concerns of the parents and
husbands is that the girls may be in the company of men during the training, a taboo in the
traditional Upper Egyptian culture. To further appease the parents the girls receive a monthly
wage during the training as compensation for the work missed (around € 12).
5.4    Approach and interventions
The rag recycling and paper recycling projects have been designed with three aspects in mind:
business, development and education (see Figure 4).


APE’s believes very much in literacy as a way for illiterate communities to break out of their
poverty and cycle of oppression. However, rather than employing literacy as the starting
point, APE prefers to design hands-on projects that carry within them a desire for literacy.
APE took part of its literacy teaching methods from Paolo Freire in Brazil, but focused on
sources of hope in the settlement, instead of roots of oppression. Also the programme was
linked to earning money from the beginning, which made it attractive for the Zabbaleen.

Ages are mixed, as are practical skills and more theoretical education. Day-to-day situations
and needs are the basis of the learning process. For example social and cultural events are
used to increase problem solving and decision-making. Literacy is introduced as a very
natural means for deciphering names or words on payrolls, sales records and product lists.
Numeracy is developed as a means for weighing quantities of recyclable material and
calculating profits. Personal hygiene is brought in as a necessary condition for making clean
final products. Skills taught include literacy, recycling, health awareness, industrial safety,
marketing and accounting. The techniques are partly based on the sorting skills Zabbaleen
girls and women already have.




Improving the livelihood of child waste pickers:                                                15
experiences with the ‘zabbaleen’ in Cairo, Egypt
WASTE, August 2004
Figure 4           Three-dimensional aspect of project design of APE

                   THE BUSINESS                                      THE DEVELOPMENT
                                                                            PROJECT
               Pay based upon merit                                 Equal access to work for the
               Fair prices for quality                                poorest of the poor, the
                     handicrafts                                           marginalised

             1.    Standardisation                                   1.    Justice
             2.    Quality control                                   2.    Build on existing
             3.    Prices and wages                                        skills
             4.    Design                                            3.    Linking the rich to the
             5.    Diversification                                         poor
             6.    Creativity                                        4.    Conscientisation
             7.    Customisation                                           options
             8.    Exclusivity                                       5.    Income generation
             9.    Sales policies                                    6.    Social well-being
             10.   Marketing strategies                              7.    Health and hygiene




                                                THE SCHOOL

                                          Non-formal learning and
                                                 earning

                                          1.    Learning by doing
                                          2.    Individualised
                                                instruction
                                          3.    Literacy
                                          4.    Hygiene
                                          5.    Critical thinking
                                          6.    Problem solving
                                          7.    Socialisation
                                          8.    Recreation
                                          9.    Excellence
                                          10.   Cooperation



Source: Laila Iskandar, Mokattam garbage village, 1994

The training lasts between 3 to 6 months, four hours a day, six days a week. The girls can
choose whether to come in the morning or the afternoon, depending on the garbage collection
‘shift’ of their parents, when they have to do the sorting. At their graduation the trainees
receive a set of tools and credit to buy a loom or sewing machine to set up their own home
business (Faccini, 1999). The products they make are sold through APE.

There is a lot of interest in the two income generating projects for girls from the community,
to the extent that there is a waiting list.




16                                                                         Improving the livelihood of child waste pickers:
                                                                          experiences with the ‘zabbaleen’ in Cairo, Egypt
                                                                                                   WASTE, August 2004
                                        Photo 3 End products paper recycling, APE




                                                                        ©Justine Anschutz


A programme of field trips was set up for all girls in training to visit historic sights, parks and
the zoo. Also summer camps at the beach are organised, which host around 100 participants
every year.
5.5     Effects on child labour
The effect of APE’s rag recycling and paper recycling projects on the number of children
involved in waste collection and sorting has been mixed. On one hand, the numbers of
Zabbaleen girls involved in the projects of APE have been small compared to the total
numbers of girls still involved in waste sorting and picking. The Zabbaleen and waste pickers’
communities have grown since the start of APE’s activities. In addition, the rag and paper
recycling projects are ‘learn and earn’ projects: they do not remove the children (during the
transitional phase) from work and even accommodate their (part time) collection and sorting
work at home. This decision was made to respects the parents' need for their children's labour
in family owned businesses. On the other hand, a number of positive results can be noted:
    ♦ some Zabbaleen children quit waste collection and sorting completely
    ♦ the projects have provided role models of alternative careers for the Zabbaleen
        children
    ♦ the rag recycling credit programme has provided new economic opportunities
    ♦ the projects have upgraded the skills of the children to become recyclers and have
        built their self-esteem and creativity
5.6    The position of the Zabbaleen children in the projects
In APE’s projects the children and youth seem to be treated as stakeholders and are
encouraged to take an active role. Many former Zabbaleen children have become supervisors

Improving the livelihood of child waste pickers:                                                 17
experiences with the ‘zabbaleen’ in Cairo, Egypt
WASTE, August 2004
and trainers or work in other roles for APE. This is in contrast with the situation at the
beginning of APE’s work when external advisers, trainers and quality controllers -often
volunteers from outside the Zabbaleen communities- managed the projects. A conscious move
from the part of the external advisers towards more local ownership has taken place.

Figure 5 shows the decision making structure within APE.

Figure 5          Decision making flow chart, APE
                                               APE
                                         Board of Trustees
                                           (9 members)




            Compost                                                         Health and
           Committee                       Rug Weaving/                    development
                                       Patchwork Committee                  Committee




                                     Project Officer Committee

                                          6 project officers
                                        2 literacy instructors
                                          1 board member




           Staff and trainees: rug weavers, patchwork quilters, cleaning staff, drivers, others


Source: Laila Iskandar, Mokattam Garbage Village, 1994


5.7    Cooperation with other programmes and projects
APE has a history of cooperation with a large number of donors, private companies and
NGOs. APE’s board members have always used their connections very well in this respect.
Yousriya Loza, a member of parliament and the wife of the owner of one of the largest
Egyptian construction companies, was president of the board for a long time.

In the recent years, APE managed to generate a steady income. According to Iskandar (2004),
the APE income statement shows revenue of about L.E 500,000 (equivalent of € 65,000),
which is all earned by the producers, project officers, and administration staff.

Cooperation with other programmes came about quite natural, as APE is a major point of
access to the Zabbaleen community in Moqattam.

Relations with the state have always been relatively strained, as APE tends to defend the
Zabbaleen who are not looked upon favourably by the government. Though that Mrs Loza has
managed with her very good relations with the ex-governor of Cairo to protected APE's
property from the threat of other predators.
18                                                                      Improving the livelihood of child waste pickers:
                                                                       experiences with the ‘zabbaleen’ in Cairo, Egypt
                                                                                                WASTE, August 2004
The experiences of APE in Moqattam have been extended to other areas in Cairo such as
Torah, where a smaller Zabbaleen community resides. Housing was upgraded and a new
common sorting area outside the settlement was prepared.

In Nuweiba, South Sinai, APE’s experience was used to set up a town wide source
segregation scheme including sorting and pre-processing plant. To this end APE staff and the
Zabbaleen from Moqattam trained a local NGO and its staff. Finally in 10th of Ramadan city,
one of the new industrial cities around Cairo, a sorting and recycling initiative has started
lately with assistance from CID.
5.8    Obstacles encountered
Obstacles encountered were the common type of problems that NGOs and community-based
organisations face: management problems, problems with keeping volunteers and their
knowledge, finding outlets for the recycled products.

One major obstacle for APE was the negative perception of the Zabbaleen by the government,
and therefore its relations with the state. In 2000 APE was forced to move its compost
operations outside Manshiet Nasser to Qattameya, much further away from the waste
collection areas.

One specific problem related to the rag recycling project was that after marriage some young
women could not continue with weaving, because they remained living with one of the
parents and needed the spare room. APE built a special building for these women, where they
can weave rags obtained by APE from the textile industry, for a certain number of hours per
week and deliver their products to APE and earn their portion from the revenue generated by
collective sales organized by APE.




Improving the livelihood of child waste pickers:                                           19
experiences with the ‘zabbaleen’ in Cairo, Egypt
WASTE, August 2004
6. AGCCD’s activities related to Zabbaleen children and youth

6.1    Introduction
Bishop Samuel, one of the Pope’s assistants, who was killed with former President Sadat in
1981, registered the Association of Garbage Collectors for Community Development
(AGCCD) in the beginning of the 1970s. It was established to defend the interests of the
Zabbaleen. It is strongly related to the Coptic Orthodox church, Egypt’s largest Christian
minority and the religion of many Zabbaleen. An example of this is the fact that Father
Samaan, an influential local priest, has been the president of the board for a long time.

The main activities of AGCCD have been the activities supported by the World Bank and a
local consultancy firm, Environmental Quality International (EQI) since 1981, such as the
small recycling industries project, veterinary centre, collection and transport of ‘garbage of
the garbage’ to a disposal site and a credit programme for female-headed households. These
all targeted adult Zabbaleen.

The effect of these AGCCD projects on child labour has never been systematically
researched. The effect on gender has been studied and was found to be negative (Abdel
Motaal, 1996).

A non-formal education project for boys aged 13-18 years old started by CID, which managed
to obtain funding for it from UNESCO. The project is focusing on shampoo container
recycling. This initiative builds in a sense on the paper-recycling project of APE. It also
revolves around learning and earning. It is different in that it focuses on boys instead of girls.
It is this project will be described in more detail hereafter.
6.2     Funding and partners
The main donor for the project has been UNESCO, but the local Rotary club and a number of
private companies -Procter and Gamble, Tetra Pak, and Group Schneider Electric- have
played and still play a vital role. The initial funding from UNESCO covered the period 2000-
2003. The project now continues on its own resources, which rely mainly on agreements with
multinational companies.
6.3     Target group
Through home visits community workers and teachers of AGCCD identified 60 boys for the
recycling school, all aged 13-18 and living in the ‘garbage settlement’ of Moqattam. The
project targets especially boys from poorer families, those who do not own tucks but still use
donkey carts to collect waste. The boys are part-time involved in collection and sorting of
waste and also attend the school part-time.




20                                                              Improving the livelihood of child waste pickers:
                                                               experiences with the ‘zabbaleen’ in Cairo, Egypt
                                                                                        WASTE, August 2004
                                  Photo 4 Recreational area recycling school, AGCCD




                                                                      ©Laila Iskandar, CID



6.4     Approach and interventions
The project was designed to provide the children with alternative learning opportunities,
which will lead them to integrating into the new waste management business when they are
adults. The idea is to equip them to handle the recovery and recycling of waste materials and
to prepare them to subcontract to the international companies that dominate solid waste
management in Cairo nowadays.

The particular item recovered in this recycling school is empty shampoo containers (all brand
names) that would otherwise be fraudulently refilled in the informal contraband markets in
Cairo. A study in 1998 by CID showed that shampoo-producing companies were making
substantial losses from this practice.

The Zabbaleen boys in the school purchase these containers form other garbage collectors in
the neighbourhood and also recover these containers from household waste and street bins
and bring them to the school. Based on the number of containers collected the shampoo
producing companies pay for the granulation of their brand name bottle, thereby protecting
their profits and brand.

Skills the boys are taught in the process include:
    ♦ Reading, writing and counting
    ♦ Recycling plastic (sorting, shredding and sales)
    ♦ Computer literacy (focusing on planning waste collection routes and trading in
        recyclable materials through the Internet)
    ♦ Acting, singing, dancing, and playing music on instruments made from waste
        materials
    ♦ Working as a team
    ♦ English language courses in the summer months

Health awareness and industrial safety is among the subjects taught, while field trips, sports
events and festivals are also part of the curriculum.

The boys received training from Hemaya NGO in the sorting and pre-processing centre in
Nuweiba in 2000. Since 2001 the building of the plastic recycling school in Moqattam was
ready and training has been given there.
Improving the livelihood of child waste pickers:                                                 21
experiences with the ‘zabbaleen’ in Cairo, Egypt
WASTE, August 2004
The granulated plastic is sold to small and medium recycling enterprises. The income
generated from the sale of the plastic covers the salaries of the teaching staff and makes the
project sustainable. On the other hand, the school pays the boys a certain amount per shampoo
container collected.

                       Photo 5 Shampoo sorting in recycling school, AGCCD




                                                     ©Laila Iskandar, CID


The boys have a direct interest in learning how to read and write, because they have to fill in
and sign a form, which shows how many containers they collected. Otherwise they will not
get paid. They need to learn how to count, otherwise they might get cheated in the calculation.

A flexible schedule was drawn with morning and afternoon classes to accommodate the
working schedules of the boys.

The education provided is non-formal and revolves around the existing knowledge and
experience of the boys using for example word games, contests, puzzles, and the making of a
song.

The school has a number of clear rules in the school, which include that cursing and beating
are forbidden on risk of dismissal.

There are future plans to include more shampoo-producing companies and to extend to paints
and perfumes.

A health awareness programme was also implemented involving home visits to the boys’
homes, provision of first aid kits, hepatitis B and tetanus vaccinations. Meetings for mothers
and sisters were organised where issues such as personal hygiene, family planning and female
circumcision were raised.

Another activity was raising the awareness of the boys and their mothers to obtain legal
documents such as identification cards and birth certificates, which will facilitate their dealing
with the government and enable them to have access to government services, buy and sell
property, vote in local and national elections, etc.

22                                                                 Improving the livelihood of child waste pickers:
                                                                  experiences with the ‘zabbaleen’ in Cairo, Egypt
                                                                                           WASTE, August 2004
6.5     Effects on child labour
After the training for the first group of 60 boys enrolled in 2000, they continued to recover
shampoo but become assistant teachers on a volunteer basis to younger, newer students.

The numbers of Zabbaleen boys involved in this project of AGCCD has been very small
compared to the total number of boys still involved in waste sorting and picking. As was
mentioned before, the Zabbaleen and waste pickers’ communities are still growing.

This recycling project is a ‘learn and earn’ project: it does not remove the children from work
and even accommodates their (part time) picking and collection work. Positive results of the
project so far seem to be:
    ♦ They learn new techniques related to waste recycling and collection, such as reading
        maps for collection routes
    ♦ They learn new skills (literacy, computer, etc.), which are expected to provide them
        with wider opportunities in the future
    ♦ They earn a higher income
    ♦ The learn industrial safety
    ♦ They procure legal documents for themselves and their families thereby learning about
        the intricacies of government bureaucracies
    ♦ They are provided recreational and sports opportunities

6.6      The position of the Zabbaleen children in the project
AGCCD acts as the official umbrella of the project. They link with and identify the boys, they
provided the area to build the school and they coordinate with the Zabbaleen community.
They also signed the contract with the shampoo producing companies. The private
consultancy firm CID managed the time-limited project (2000-2003) and was responsible for
designing the project, raising the funds for it, recruiting and training staff, networking,
institutional strengthening and capacity building.

Initially the Zabbaleen boys had a relatively passive role as beneficiaries. However, they
helped in the construction and preparation of the school by painting the walls and upgrading
and decorating the garden. Gradually they assumed a more active role and for example were
given more influence in the negotiations with the shampoo producing companies.
6.7    Cooperation with other programmes and projects
The project worked with similar organisations working with Zabbaleen children such as APE,
with the local NGO in Nuweiba running a sorting and recycling plant, and with private
companies, especially Procter and Gamble, and Tetra Pak as was mentioned above.

It is an interesting project as it tries to link the interests of multinational companies with those
of the poor. The multinational companies involved do not act from a charity perspective or to
improve their image, but because their commercial interests are at risk.
6.8    Obstacles encountered
The two most important obstacles encountered during the project were according to project
advisers:
    ♦ Limited transparency of the implementing NGO
    ♦ Lack of understanding of the project goals by all the project partners


Improving the livelihood of child waste pickers:                                                 23
experiences with the ‘zabbaleen’ in Cairo, Egypt
WASTE, August 2004
7. Lessons learnt and conclusions
A number of conclusions can be drawn from the experiences of APE, AGCCD and Hemaya
NGO's with child waste pickers and sorters. These lessons learnt are listed below.

A combination of earning and learning activities works well for ‘Zabbaleen’ children of 12
year and older, because it increases their interest in the project.

Economic sustainability should be a concern from the outset. This includes continuous market
research and market development, knowing the interests involved, developing local
technology, providing credit, and controlling quality.

To encourage the children to attend education, one has to listen to the needs and concerns of
both the parents and the children.

Only building activities on international funding is not sustainable. Local funding (private
companies, individuals, churches, etc.) often provides a more long-term support and has the
additional advantage of creating local acceptance and awareness of the informal waste sector.

Building local capacities and giving (child) waste pickers a role in the project has a powerful
impact. They serve as role models and as mediators between outside organisations and
communities. This requires advisers and project managers that have local ownership in mind
from the beginning.

It is useful to adapt the education to the skills the waste picker children have, to their life
experiences and to the vocabulary they know. This makes the education attractive for the
children.

Participatory processes of project planning cannot be hurried or preconceived. There are
always unexpected obstacles and unexpected results that have to be dealt with in the most
creative manner. A blueprint approach does not exist, but committed individuals supporting
the project are a precondition for success.

Government policies can easily destroy the social and economic infrastructure of waste
pickers and collectors, resulting in deteriorating livelihoods. In Egypt the formal privatisation
process of solid waste management has led to an increase in waste picking in the streets, as
well as informalisation and growing poverty among the Zabbaleen.

External factors such as population growth and worsening economic conditions can lead to a
constant increase in the supply of child waste pickers. Therefore it is very tricky to measure
the success of a project (only) by the number of children involved in waste picking at a given
moment in time.




24                                                                Improving the livelihood of child waste pickers:
                                                                 experiences with the ‘zabbaleen’ in Cairo, Egypt
                                                                                          WASTE, August 2004
Annex 1              Literature references
Abdel Motaal, Doaa (1995). Reconstructing development: women at the Moqattam settlement
of the Zabbaleen. Master’s thesis, American University of Cairo.

Abdel Motaal, Doaa (1996). Reconstructing development: women at the Muqattam zabbalin
settlement. Cairo Papers in Social Science. Vol. 19, no. 4. The American University in Cairo
Press.

American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt (2000). Solid waste management in Egypt. Sector
Studies Series. Business Studies and Analysis Center, American Chamber of Commerce in
Egypt.

Bushra, M. (2000). Policy and Institutional Assessment in Solid Waste Management in Egypt.
Study conducted for CEDARE and the Mediterranean Blue Plan.

CID (2001). The informal solid waste sector in Egypt: prospects for formalization. A study
funded by the Institute of International Education and the Ford Foundation.

CID (2003). Non-formal education, Youth against Exclusion project, Egypt. Bi-annual report
for 2001-2003.

Faccini, Benedict (1999). Recycled rags: renewed lives. Working with the garbage collectors
of Cairo, Egypt. The Association for the Protection of the Environment. UNESCO, Education
to fight exclusion, no. 3.

Iskandar, Laila (1994). Mokattam garbage village. Cairo, Egypt.

Iskandar, Laila (2004). Personal communication.

Neamatallah, M. & R. Assaad (1985). Solid waste collection and recycling in Cairo, a system
in transition. Cairo.

Sawiris, Yousriya Loza (2000). Pilot project for integrated solid waste management. Paper
presented at the Solid Waste Management Conference of the World Bank, 10-12 April 2000.

Svadlenak-Gomez, Karin (1999). From scavengers to eco-aides: the environmental and social
opportunities of working with informal sector recyclers. Master’s thesis, City University of
New York.

Volpi, Elena (1996). Community organization and development among the zabbalin of
Muqattam. Cairo Papers in Social Science. Vol. 19, no. 4. The American University in Cairo
Press.

World Bank (2002). Poverty reduction in Egypt: diagnosis and strategy. Main report. World
Bank, Ministry of Planning/Government of the Arab Republic of Egypt.

World Bank (2004). Egypt: Country Brief.



Improving the livelihood of child waste pickers:                                             25
experiences with the ‘zabbaleen’ in Cairo, Egypt
WASTE, August 2004
Annex 2       Contact details and resource persons
Association for the Protection of the Environment (APE)
P.O. Box 32, Qal’a, Cairo, Egypt
Contact Person: Ms. Suzie Greiss
Tel.: +202 341 7149/ 341 2723
Email: SuzieGreiss@egyptpsu.com
Website: www.ape.org.eg

Association of Garbage Collectors for Community Development (AGCCD)
Contact Person: Mr. Ishak
Tel.: +202 341 77 99/+20 12 3479211
Fax: +20 2 511 8977

Community and Institutional Development (CID)
Dr. Laila Iskandar, Managing Director
17 El Mara’ashly St., 7th floor, apt. 16
Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt
Tel.: +20 2 736 4479
Fax: +20 2 736 4476
Email: cidegypt@cid.com.eg
Website: www.cid.com.eg

Berti Shaker, project officer
Community and Institutional Development (CID)
Email: berti@cid.com.eg

Eng. Mounir Bushra
Egypt Solid Waste Project (USAID funded)
Tel.: +20 2 735 2195/ 1724
Fax: +20 2 735 1723
Email: mounirbushra@yahoo.com

Names of Zabbaleen children interviewed:
  ♦ Lucina Fathi, 28 years old
  ♦ Milad Nageh, 12 years old
  ♦ Mina Bagheet, 12 years old
  ♦ Milad Atef, 13 years old




26                                                         Improving the livelihood of child waste pickers:
                                                          experiences with the ‘zabbaleen’ in Cairo, Egypt
                                                                                   WASTE, August 2004

				
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