OMUTHIYA - Grinding poverty aggravated by scarce jobs has compelled seven community members to make a hard living over the years from scrap metal, discarded plastic bottles and other garbage they collect and sell to recycling companies despite the dangers faced.
Despite the health hazard posed by the dumpsite, the group of dumpsite foragers see the site as their only means to put bread and butter on the table for their families.
Collecting rubbish for recycling has its own dangers such as exposing this despondent community to sustaining cuts from broken bottles and developing constant chest pains from the inhalation of toxic fumes.
The group includes middle-aged, elderly men and women living in squalid shacks within a five-kilometre radius from the dumpsite that has become their proverbial gold mine.
Every day they wake up early to collect beverage cans, steel metals, plastics, empty bottles and any other materials worth recycling. These materials are then sorted and piled up, waiting for buyers whom the scavengers regard with disdain for under-valuing their scrap and bottles.
Each individual would on average get N$140 from a single transaction. Business is usually unreliable and it relies on the availability of the waste materials collected and the availability of the buyers.
New Era caught up with the group, as they were busy with their daily routine of collecting and sorting. According to Abnel Johannes who said has been salvaging at the dumpsite since 2013, it has been a challenge ever since they started, although he appreciate the fact that they get something to sustain themselves.
“Initially, we could sell a bag for as little as N$5 and an all-time high of N$100,” he said.
Although the prices have now gone up to a N$1000 depending on the quantity of the waste, they say there is a significant drop in the availability of the materials collected.
Now it would take us weeks to collect the needed amount to be sold,” stressed Johannes, who says is a family man of six.
This group however does not feed on the food that is disposed off, as the Omuthiya Town Council often burns and burry the remains.
Johannes said given the opportunity, they would feast on the food without thinking twice. “Look, this is all we have for our survival, so if the food could be disposed and left in the open, definitely I will take it and I wouldn’t think twice. We are suffering and I will not be scared to eat, hunger is death. Therefore, it doesn’t make a difference, whether scared or not I will still die either way of hunger,” he stated.
Another member, Taimi Nashikaku expressed concerns with their inconsistent and unreliable buyers who vanish without paying them. “We are here suffering trying to make a living, then when we get buyers they still have the nerve to cheat and rob us. They will promise to pay up later, claiming they do not have money, but then they disappear for good and untraceable,” said a concerned Nashikaku as she stands near rubble of cans.
Nashikaku said, due to their unstable business, she failed to pay for her children who were enrolled at International University of Management. “The money I get here is just for basic necessities, nothing else. In addition, we are sharing it among ourselves. Therefore we hope and plead we get a reliable person who can be buying with honest,” she stated.
The group claims they were permitted to salvage and trade by the town council, however the Technical Manager at the town council Simon Nghuulondo denied giving them permission.
“What we know as council is that some years ago, we were approached by a business person who requested to be collecting recyclable materials, perhaps then they came through that person,” stated Nghuulondo.