"Waste collection is my bread and butter"

Green cities
Meet Fatuma Mohammed, a retiree eager to keep the environment clean - Taka ni Mali, Tanzania

50-year old Fatuma Seif Mohammed used to cook for a living. Now the mother of three is a businesswoman involved in waste collection and the chairlady of Juhudi Group, a community-based organisation in Mafisa Ward, Morogoro Municipality, Tanzania.

"I used to cook food a long time ago and sell it to clients by the roadside," says Fatuma. "By then, my partner could support our family, so I chose to retire and stay home for a while, so I could focus on raising my children."

It was while she was retired from gainful self-employment that Fatuma heard about a project in the community that improved the livelihoods of the residents while keeping the environment clean. Since her children had grown and she had free time on her hands, she decided to keep herself busy and earn some money. She joined the Juhudi Group Community Based Organisation (CBO). Due to her dedication, she was voted in as the chair within the first few months.

Generating income from waste collection is a big challenge

"We used to collect waste from the streets," says Fatuma, "we’d find a few things in it that could be resold and that way we made a little money from it. It was a job, it kept me occupied, but there wasn’t much money to be made and times were becoming difficult, financially speaking." 

Their challenges as a group to generate enough income to meet their individual financial obligations continued for a while longer until the Taka ni Mali project team facilitated capacity building exchanges. Fatuma’s group got to learn about the numerous income generation options available to them in waste management.

"We were taught about the different types of waste and how to separate them into recyclables as well as how to handle compost waste and the best ways to discard non-recyclable materials. We got to learn that used plastic bottles could be collected and bartered for items we could use. Even leftover food is useful as fertilizer and cartons in making briquettes. Everything brings in money, even paper bags," Fatuma says, shaking her head, amazed.

The knowledge and training acquired from the Taka ni Mali project encouraged her to start her own business. She now has 12 employees who she pays a monthly salary of CHF 40 each to clean and collect waste from hotels, guest houses, and housing estates. As for herself, Fatuma earns approximately CHF 345 in a month, which is more than she used to earn when she depended on the group and way more than she earned working as a cook.

"I have really benefited from this project," says Fatuma.

"I have children in primary school and in university that I have been able to pay fees for. And I’ve added a kiosk, right next to the small one I had before. I like to refer to myself as fully employed nowadays." Fatuma’s increase in income is not the only benefit she sees in the Taka ni Mali project. 

"A business plan to help me grow"

"As a mother, naturally, I like a clean environment. I take every opportunity to remind those around me to keep it clean. I even pass on to my friends, and neighbours, anyone really, the knowledge I have gotten from Taka ni Mali. Things are really changing for the better in the community thanks to this project, lives are really improving."

Brimming with optimism, Fatuma has big plans for the future.

"The lessons I have received from Taka ni Mali will accompany me for a long time. I have used them to create a business plan that I hope will grow my waste management business. I hope to soon be able to buy a truck to help with the collection process and expand to neighboring wards and even countries."

Taka ni Mali is an urban climate-smart project that purposed to develop economic opportunities in the solid waste collection and recycling sub-sector while reducing environmental degradation and health risks through the creation of efficient and sustainable Solid Waste Management (SWM) systems. The first phase was implemented between 2013 and 2016 in Morogoro Municipality, Tanzania and was funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Puma Energy Foundation. Because of its success, the initiative was extended to Mwanza in a second phase funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Republic and Canton of Geneva (2017 -2018).