As I walk toward the Dandora dump site, I cannot help but smell the foul smell that fills the atmosphere. Many big vultures fly in the air, seemingly heading the same direction as I was. There are several people walking in a hurry, they seem to be on their way to work. As I come near the dump site, I find many people there; the other people I saw walking in a hurry join them, male and female, ready to work. They are nervous and seem to be waiting for something. Today is when the garbage trucks come to dump its content at this dump site. Dandora is located 8km from Kenya’s capital Nairobi and is the home of the largest dump site in Africa. All the garbage from Nairobi households and industries is dumped here. One may think that this is one of the places to be avoided because of the hazardous objects this environment harbours, but not these people who are entrepreneur in the making. And not all the hazard in Nairobi can stop them. They also know which truck to follow, not just any truck. Trucks from uptown are better; they have all the nice useful things. Trucks from industries have things considered reject but can be resold, they are also cleaner and one does not need to scavenge for a long time.
Where is the gold?
All of a sudden, everyone starts running and you may be forced to think that something is chasing them, only to find that they are chasing a truck. This one is from Kilimani; an uptown estate in Nairobi. They follow the lorry as fast as they can until it stops; from it come many valuables, from plastic and glass bottles, plastic paper bags, clothes and scrap metals, etc. The bottles are taken to recycle companies and sold; the plastic papers have a ready market and go for Kes. 10, (€0.09) per kilo with the cardboard, manilla and newspapers going for Kes. 15 (€0.13) and the scrap metal Kes 20 per kilo (€0.18). Some women buy the polythene papers, wash, disinfect and make beautiful bags, these are sold locally and even internationally, the more different the colours the better. The clothes are usually resold or used by the new owner. Most of the entrepreneurs say that they ventured into this line of business so as to save and start other businesses that are respectable and less hazardous. Some say they are in this business to stay and they don’t mind dealing with the dirt even though the environment is not friendly. The businesses is their source of livelihood since they already have a readymarket for their goods. Some of these entrepreneurs later start other business, register with microfinance and hence access funders like MYC4.
It is not easy
This line of business has so many challenges, one has to be really strong mentally and emotionally, and not let the situation affect them. It is usually survival for the fittest with competition between the entrepreneurs themselves; as everyone wants the best of the “package” from the trucks and as much as they can handle so as to get as many kilos to sustain their families. The hazards that come with environment are numerous, from stray dogs and poisonous snakes to dangers that come from industrial and hospital waste, one can never be too careful. To some, this is what they know how to do best while to others its due to desperation in life. Located at the heart of the dump site is a pool table, the entrepreneurs play pool sometimes as they wait for the trucks and some other time to release tension and stress. The pool table enables them relax and enjoy themselves regardless of their life situations, they also reckon that all work and no play…