Tanzania: Of garbage heroes and golden brooms

Rapid population growth and urbanisation place considerable stress on waste management in many Tanzanian cities. Increasing environmental pollution threatens ecosystems and the health of local populations. With the project "Taka ni Mali", Swisscontact created a benchmark in the field of waste collection and recycling. The project concluded in 2018.

In Tanzania’s urban areas, population growth and urbanisation over the last few decades have caused a sharp rise in land and air pollution. Improper processing and discarding of waste constitute an increasing threat to the environment and health of local populations. Adding to the problem, there are no private firms in Tanzania with waste management and recycling know-how.

Recognising and utilising the value of waste

The Swahili term Taka ni Mali translates as “Waste is valuable”. The project’s central premise was to find out how to best utilise this value. Based on experiences in Asia and Latin America, the focus of this Swissscontact project was to develop waste management and recycling programmes that generate income and create new jobs. With the introduction of waste separation at the household level, recyclable materials were now collected separately for further processing. Greater amounts of recyclable materials resulted in the need for and creation of new “green” jobs.

The project placed a secondary focus on reducing the waste that wound up on public garbage dumps. Waste separation reduced the amounts of mixed non-recyclable waste substantially. More putrescible waste was removed from the public dumps and this reduced ground and water pollution. With reduced volumes of general solid waste, leaks, overflows of garbage, and other stresses on the environment were now contained, minimising the health risks to the local population.

Community involvement and sustainability

The project sparked systemic change by gathering all important interest groups in the field of waste management, including local authorities, municipalities, waste collectors (in the form of community-based organisations, aka CBOs), waste aggregators, recycling companies and households. Working with both private and public organisations changed the thinking of municipalities to share resources and thereby maximise impact. The purpose of Swisscontact as the mediator between all these parties was to ensure acceptance of the project among all stakeholders, thereby enhancing the sustainability of efforts to expand waste management activities.

The first signs of systemic change were apparent when the Municipality of Morogoro institutionalised the CBO system (who constituted the most important waste collectors responsible for their assigned neighbourhoods) with an integrated strategy to discard solid waste. They recognised the CBOs as service providers and allowed them to take over primary waste collection at household level. As an alternative to indiscriminately discarding household waste, regular and cost-effective waste collection was now available. CBO employees received capacity training in technical and administrative skills in order to implement appropriate waste collection services and follow through on the mandate assigned to them by the municipal authorities.

The following innovative activities increased acceptance and involvement by stakeholders decisively: 

  • A six-month competition to identify the highest-performing CBO. The winner was crowned Taka Shujaa, which roughly translates to “Garbage Hero”.
  • Replication of the Taka Mita, a waste counter, inspired by a successful waste management project in Bolivia. The counting device is a public signpost set up in every waste collection station and indicates the degree of cleanliness. The cleanest station was awarded the “golden broom”.
  • Taka ni Mali supported the development and spread of sensitisation tools through home visits and public campaigns, which brought the new environmental laws and guidelines closer to the population.
  • Working together with schools and environmental advocacy groups, students learned the importance of composting and separating household waste. Compost heaps and organic gardens have now been set up at the schools.

Empowerment at the municipal level

Our integrated project approach brought all interest groups on board. This fostered relations between role players and helped build the spirit of personal responsibility within the community, which is of crucial importance to sustainability. The participatory development process stimulated involvement of the most important players in the waste management sector: they received training in various fields so that they could then develop and implement their own tailor-made waste management strategies on their own initiative. In this way, the municipalities transformed their environmental policies and began implementing effective waste management and recycling systems.

By 2016, 16,000 households had been exposed to the sensitisation campaign and were introduced to waste separation programmes. Additionally, 50 healthcare workers in Morogoro were trained in waste management policy. The CBO employees were able to increase their annual net incomes by 56.7% to 370 Swiss francs. More than 40,000 tonnes of waste was recycled and 38,000 tonnes of organic materials composted.

Total results until 2018

Five stories show how "Taka ni Mali" influenced the lives of individuals. You can find them above in the right column.

Swisscontact implemented Taka ni Mali in the municipalities of Morogoro and Mwanza. The project was financed by The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the Puma Energy Foundation, and Geneva Canton.