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People’s Choice : Solving refuse problems

People's Choice Awards
The prospect of the town of Chitungwiza being overrun by waste prompted one man into action.

The prospect of the town of Chitungwiza being overrun by waste prompted one man into action.

The action came in 2006 in the form of a project called Green Africa Network, focusing on the environment.

Thirty-one-year-old Gilbert Mandaga is very passionate about the environment.

It was this passion that saw him launch the Green Africa Network project, which focuses on waste management in Chitungwiza, rehabilitation of illegal waste dumps, clearing of blocked storm water drains and community educational campaign component.

Mandaga was born and raised in Chitungwiza. But it was during 2006, when he was on attachment to the Chitungwiza Sewage Treatment Plant, that he noted the challenges that were being faced at the plant.

People were depositing solid waste material — toothbrushes, pieces of cloth, and even underwear — in the toilets and this was clogging up the pipes and affecting the proper and efficient functioning of equipment at the plant.

The garbage would cause the sewers to spill over and in one tragic incident a child actually died after drinking sewerage water that was flowing in the streets.

It was this tragedy that prompted Mandaga into action. He presented a proposal to the then Town Engineer, advocating for a community education programme on sewerage management because he saw that the problem of waste management did not lie solely with the Council but that the community too had a role to play.

The Town Engineer referred Mandaga to the Director of Engineering Services, Engineer Aaron Chiseve, who then asked Mandaga for a concept paper. The concept was accepted and Mandaga got into the community and started teaching.

Mandaga’s first presentation was at Chitungwiza Residents’ Association where 22 out of the 24 Wards in Chitungwiza were present. The meeting was very instructive. After his presentation all the ward representatives then invited him to their wards.

There was an initial reluctance by the majority of the residents because they reasoned that waste management was the responsibility of the Council.

Eventually, however, they began to realise that what Mandaga was talking about would actually benefit them if they took the time to listen.

Africare identified and was impressed by the work Mandaga was carrying out. They referred him to Practical Action, which advised him to form a group. Initially the group was formed under the name Shambidzikai Environmental Awareness Group but later it changed to Green Africa Network.

Beneficiaries This project has benefitted most residents of Chitungwiza, particularly those in Zengeza, St Mary’s, Seke Rural and Urban as well as Mayambara. Residents are now aware of the importance of waste management and keeping the environment clean. The resultant outcome is an improved environmental status in these areas.

Achievements Mandaga has formed a coalition with residents of Seke Rural and Urban, Mayambara, Zengeza and St Mary’s. Together they have devised ways of using waste productively.

They have started making compost heaps in their yards, because they do not have land, and they use this manure in place of fertiliser when farming.

Green Africa Network has also formed a partnership with Chitungwiza Town Council, and together, have managed to integrate private companies into supporting community- based initiatives in the area. Elgin Earth movers donated two tipper trucks and one front-end loader to Green Africa Network to use in refuse collection.

Mandaga and his group were also a part of the typhoid intervention panel in Seke. The panel comprised major non-governmental organisations such as the World Health Organisation, Africare, National Health Trust and many other renowned NGO’s.

They teamed up to fight the outbreak of typhoid in Seke, with Green Africa Environment bringing a new kind of respect to community initiatives.

These include the rehabilitation of waste dumps and clearing of blocked drains. This is what Mandaga refers to as “the practical approach towards education”. He believes that some of the greatest lessons are learnt just by observing and so before they even start making presentations they start by showing the intended beneficiaries what needs to be done.

The garbage at the dumps is collected by the tipper trucks donated by Elgin. The biggest challenge however, lies in getting the garbage collected because while Elgin donated the trucks, fuel still needs to be procured and sometimes the money is not readily available.

Their other activity is community education. Mandaga and his group teach members of community how to handle their waste even if Council does not come to collect refuse. Mandaga is also sometimes invited to forums to speak on environmental issues.

Funding Apart from a few donations, there has been no assistance in funding this project at all. All the work that has been done so far was on a zero budget and this is what has slowed down what Mandaga would have liked to be the dawn of a new era in waste management in Zimbabwe in general but in Chitungwiza in particular.