OPUWO – The Opuwo town dumpsite is a place where goats and stray dogs and scores of men, women and children all riffle through the rubbish to find their own personal treasure. Mothers and children flock to the landfill to collect food, clothing and garbage for recycling in order to make ends meet.
The arrival of the dump truck is met with amusement as both mothers and children, young and old run to salvage what they can from the rubbish before it is set on fire. Others do not waste time and immediately jump onto the standing truck. A teenager who is a learner at a local school at the town was happy to have collected food this Wednesday.
Not too far away from the smiling teenager, a younger boy is seen licking an empty bottle of cooking oil, while a young mother also tries on her new pair of shoes, as the old ones are completely worn-out. The group’s competition at the dumpsite is the goats from the surrounding areas also out there to look for edible goods. Not even the heat from the fire or the bursting sounds from the flames could deter the group from their daily work. Urianga Johannes Zatjinda (70) said he complements his monthly government grant by collecting items such as cans, bottles and plastic bags to feed his large family.
The items, which they collect is sold to a recycling company which pays them up to N$30 for at least 350 kg. The elderly man said all the households in the vicinity of the dumpsite rely on the little they make from the dumpsite as they are unemployed and do not qualify for any social grants.
“Hunger drove us here. We have nothing to eat, but here we get clothes, we get food and the little money we make at least is able to buy us something,” said Zatjinda. Veripuenisa Muhenye (40), a mother of four, said the money she gets from selling items dumped at the landfill is able to cater for her children’s school needs. She narrated three of her children get social grants, but they share that money amongst themselves and assisting her fourth child who is at a school elsewhere. Although her children are of schoolgoing age, they join her at the dumpsite after school.
“Once they are back from school, they come to assist me because this is where our meals come from,” said Muhenye. When New Era visited the dumpsite on Wednesday, there were about 30 children at the dumpsite, including toddlers. For the young struggling mother Ndjivei Tjambiru, the money she makes from goods collected at the dumpsite enables her to send three of her children to school.