City Authorities and Residents Joining Up
by Regis Matimati – Director of Programmes, ZimAHEAD
ZimAHEAD has observed that city councils and residents can jointly own up to the waste menace if they sit together to identify and plan on ways to solve the sanitation challenge. What needs to be done first is creating a full realization that waste is everyone’s problem and shifting from the ‘blame game’ where residents blame council for none collection of refuse and councils blaming residents for illegal dumping.
The economic meltdown of 2008 in Zimbabwe affected the ability of local councils to effectively manage service delivery in the cities. Urban authorities became incapacitated to deliver services like waste management and refuse started pilling up blocking and barricading roads in most places. City environments became an eyesore due to waste and the stench that emanated from the waste was so severe and overpowering. Residents waited in vain for the refuse trucks and eventually emptied their refuse bins on any available open spaces until these became unreachable and the trash encroached onto the roads. City councils, the duty bearers, could not collect the refuse as their refuse trucks where breaking down or in a state of disrepair due to the economic downturn.
With funding from OFDA and UNOCHA through Oxfam, ZimAHEAD went into Mutare (2009) and Masvingo (2010). Contracts were signed between the cities and ZimAHEAD for the organisation to run community and school health clubs with residents and schools. The clubs would facilitate community action to bring back the glory to the cities by clean ups which were ran by the communities themselves through the community and school health clubs. The clubs created an increased awareness on waste related diseases as well as ways and means through which communities could take action to be safe. Jointly working with both the residents and the city health departments, an increased responsibility, accountability, control and ownership was created within both parties.
The residents started segregating their household waste; burying the biodegradable, reusing the plastics as plant and flower pots, taking the composted refuse into their gardens as manure and that left very little to throw away. Refuse bins became less heavy and council staff and trucks became better able to move the greatly reduced waste bulk.
Collectively the Community Health Clubs and School Health Clubs mobilized themselves and carried out mass clean up campaigns that left the cities very clean. Subsequent clean ups mopped up the ever dwindling illegally dumped waste until such a time when almost every one in the city became conscious of proper waste management and the habit of illegal dumping died. During the clean up campaigns councils prioritised and provided waste removal vehicles in sync with the cleaning schedules.
Commitment from the City Fathers.
The AHEAD (Applied Health Education And Development) model of the community health clubs can galvanise communities to take action but this would not achieve much where there is no equal commitment from the city fathers. Both councils in Mutare and Masvingo measured up by providing clean-up equipment and tools, refuse removal trucks through committed Environmental Health Departments. We worked together from the start to the finish with the departments of health. Dedicated environmental health staff was deployed to this cause and hence there was improved communication between council and residents.
Everyone in Zimbabwe will agree that Sakubva (Mutare) and Mucheke (Masvingo) are the cleanest high density suburbs in the country at the moment owing to the Common Unity that prevails between the city fathers and the residents as facilitated by the Community Health Clubs.