Informal waste harvesting in Victoria Falls town, Zimbabwe: Socio-economic benefits

M. Masocha

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22 Citations (Scopus)


Waste harvesting, which occurs mostly but not exclusively at open waste dumps in Zimbabwe, constitutes one of the most important survival options for the urban poor. This paper analyses and discusses socio-economic benefits of informal waste harvesters in Victoria Falls town. Victoria Falls town has an estimated population of 31,000 and is presently the fastest growing urban centre in Zimbabwe. An estimated 8000 tonnes of solid wastes are generated in the town every month. Questionnaires were administered to informal waste harvesters who recover materials mostly from three large open waste dumps. Thirteen dumpsite harvesters, who were available at the time of the survey and willing to participate, were interviewed during the month of October 2002. The questionnaire solicited for information on the character and dynamics of recuperative activities in the town, socio-economic and demographic characteristics of waste harvesters, type of materials recovered and their uses, and income derived from sale of harvested materials and how it is spent. Additional data were obtained from field observations. The study identified two categories of waste harvesters. The first group specialises in the recovery of foodstuffs mainly for household use. The second group comprises informal waste harvesters who specialise in the recovery of building materials such as bricks and river sand and scrap metal primarily for sale. Data provided by dumpsite waste harvesters interviewed show that the mean monthly income from the sale of harvested materials varied from Z$7500 (for 23.1% of the respondents) to Z$22,500.5 (for 15.3% of the respondents). Using the income they obtain from waste harvesting, most respondents (84.6%) indicated that they can now afford to pay school fees for their children in time while 61.5% stated that after engaging in resource recovery, they moved from informal settlements to Chinotimba where they now stay to a more decent accommodation with electricity, piped water and flush toilets. Prior to engaging in waste recovery, over a half of the informal waste harvesters indicated that were staying in informal settlements. The findings of this study, in particular the income and expenditure data, demonstrate that by engaging in waste harvesting, some of the urban poor are able to eke out living in an urban environment where economic opportunities are very limited. However, the contribution of informal waste harvesting to urban livelihoods in urban areas of Zimbabwe needs further investigation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)838-848
JournalHabitat International
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2006

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