By Hazvinei Mwanaka
It started as a small health club with a few women in Zimbabwe’s southern city of Masvingo and the surrounding community picking up plastics for recycling.
The club, which now consists of more than 300 members with each group having around 50 members from Ward 1 to Ward 7 in Masvingo urban, believes they can earn decent livelihoods from trash. The group collects anything from plastic bags, plastic bottles, rags, yarn, metal objects and fruit seeds, among other recyclables.
The group recently exhibited their wares at a health clubs expo at Mucheke Hall in Masvingo showcasing their beautiful handiwork. During interviews at the exhibition, the members said they are pleased with their work.
“We decided that we do not want to see any dirt on the ground. We make use of each and every trash we pick to make something beautiful and usable,” said Florence Chiwera of Ward 1 and chairperson of the Masvingo Urban Recycling Club.
The club started in 2010 as a voluntary project and the group started working from residential premises. “We make anything, from doormats – using rags and plastics – aluminium pots, bags, balls, floor polish. Not only are we making a living (from selling the products), but we are also reducing diseases by managing waste in our community,” said Chiwera.
The group which consists of both males and females, is getting support from Masvingo City Council, Forestry Commission and Environmental Management Agency, among others.
Johannes Mutenje (41) of Ward 7 in Rujeko, said the health clubs had improved his way of life.
“Currently I am not employed, but the projects are helping my family and my children are going to school. At the end of the month, I … realise around $200,”said Mutenje.
A father of two, he said their group is also into grafting and budding of fruit trees after collecting fruit seeds such as mango seeds from Chitima market.
He, however, said they were still struggling with getting the markets for their products. “We are looking for markets. So far we are still in negotiations with Farm and City Masvingo so that we can sell our plants to them in bulk.
“We are trying to manage our waste. We also make compost that we use for our plants … at the end of the day nothing goes to waste,” he said.
Another member, Gelly Sibanda 65, of Ward 4, said these groups have become a platform for them to establish grocery clubs where each member contributes any amount in cash each month.
“Anyone is welcome and anyone can contribute any amount which will go a long way in helping them acquire food stuffs,” she said.
Education and Publicity Officer for Environmental Management Agency (EMA) Masvingo Province, Makani said, health clubs are antilitter monitors who carry out awareness campaigns in their respective wards.
“The health clubs assist the local authority and EMA in policing the city in relation to solid waste management as they make offenders clean up their environments or report them to EMA, ZRP or Masvingo City Council.
“There is a marked difference in terms of cleanliness in the city as they collect paper and plastic waste from the environment for use as raw materials in making artefacts.
“There is much less plastic around the City. This has resulted in reduced incidences of waste dumps, and a cleaner and healthier city,” said Makani.
Another group, Network of Christian Charity Arrows, which is working together with the health clubs, commended them for their creativity.
“As a Christian organisation we believe people should donate their skills to the less privileged,” said Reverend Peter Clayton Pasaya.
He said a Memorandum of Understanding with the local councils is in place through which their project called Lazarus, they donate waste which will be used to recycle and help the less privileged.
In 2015, Masvingo City Council was generating 1,450 tonnes of waste every week, but managing the waste was a challenge. The health clubs contribution to the waste management in Masvingo has significantly reduced the amount of waste taken to the dumpsite.
And, if more recycling initiatives are encouraged, more can be achieved.