The Multiple Effects of Fighting Urban Polution: Improving Sanitation, pharm Family Health, healing Environmental Protection and Employment of Women
A Case from the South: Bamako, treatment Mali
Bamako is experiencing rapid population growth, which is at the root of numerous problems, including urban pollution. The city’s 700,000 residents produce over 2000 cubic metres of refuse every day. Despite spending a third of its budget on garbage collection, the city only manages to collect half of the refuse.
The municipality cannot afford to fund adequate refuse collection because it only receives a fraction of the tax revenue it needs to provide services. And it does not have the budget to fund awareness-raising campaigns to teach the population about the benefits of a clean environment.
However, without increasing either its refuse collection or social services budget, the municipality of Bamako has found a way of offering the population both a refuse collection service and education in environmental and family health issues. It has achieved this by giving a contract for refuse collection to a women’s co-operative called COFESFA.
Like Bamako, any city can draw on the action of existing groups and associations to increase its capacities for offering services to the population. Where no such groups exist, cities can take the initiative to encourage their creation by appealing to under-employed sections of the population interested in generating income for themselves while improving the quality of life of the population as a whole.
- COFESFACOFESFA – Coopérative des Femmes pour l’Education, la Santé Familiale et l’Assainissement (Women’s Co-operative for Education, Family Health and Sanitation) was set up with the support of UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund for Women) and UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) by twenty-two non-working female university graduates who wanted to help people in disadvantaged areas of Bamako to improve their living conditions.The two main areas of the co-operative’s work are: i) Sanitation and ii) Information and Education about Family Health.
- The city government and COFESFA: In 1991, the district council of Médina-coura, a disadvantaged area in Bamako, gave COFESFA an annual contract for refuse collection worth $34,000. Other district councils have since followed suit. The municipality of Bamako gave the women of the co-operative practical courses on driving garbage trucks. By encouraging COFESFA’s action, the city has found an excellent way of funding awareness-raising activities that its limited budget would not have allowed it to offer the population otherwise.The city also believes that educating the population about the serious consequences on hygiene and health of inadequate refuse collection will make it easier in the long term to collect local taxes, which are spent on services such as refuse collection.
- COFESFA’s action: With the money earned from cleaning up the districts where it operates, COFESFA funds its information and educational work. The clean-up activities also give the population a chance to discover the pleasantness of living in clean surroundings. This discovery is a first step towards building awareness.
- Sanitation: COFESFA’s refuse collection work is based on a system of participative collection. The drivers park the COFESFA trucks in specific places and the residents of the district bring their bins to empty. The co-operative is also diversifying its clean-up activities to improve hygiene in other ways and to create new sources of financing for its information and educational work.Families are encouraged to improve household hygiene by using metal bins with lids. By selling bins made by local craftworkers, COFESFA increases its income. The co-operative sells an average of 400 bins per year. A fixed version of the bin was sold to the municipality of Bamako and installed in public places.The co-operative workers built public toilets at Bamako’s railway station. The cost of construction was very low and the small charge for using the toilets generates enough monthly income to pay the three employees who look after them. COFESFA also installed two fire hydrants with a washing area in disadvantaged districts. The initial investment was made with Terre des Hommes France. COFESFA will manage the hydrants until the investment is recouped. Then their management will be handed over to district associations.
- Information and education about family health: COFESFA organises awareness-raising activities in several areas of Bamako. Times are decided on with the women from the district and the sessions are held in places they know well to encourage their participation. The women are also asked to suggest topics for discussion. The sessions focus on household sanitation and waste disposal, hygiene during pregnancy, the risks of pregnancies too early and at close intervals, sexually transmitted diseases, food-borne and water-borne infections and diarrhoeal diseases, family planning, immunisation and excision.The sessions make use of audio-visual aids: short films on video, educational songs, collages and posters. Generally over 50% of the population of a district participates in the activities. When COFESFA has finished working in a district, it trains local women to continue the awareness-raising activities.
COFESFA also offers information sessions on health, family planning, AIDS and excision in schools and to groups of adolescent girls.
- Partners, Financing, Resources: UNIFEM has given COFESFA two garbage trucks and working capital of $58,000. UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) and ILO (International Labour Organisation) have provided training in small business management. UNFPA finances educational activities concerning family health: in addition to rent and office equipment, the agency covers the cost of educational material made by local craftworkers.In addition to the two vehicles financed by UNIFEM, COFESFA now has a second-hand truck, purchased with the proceeds of a garbage collection contract. Each of the women from the co-operative (there are now 12 of them) has a moped for work-related travel. In the first few years, the women worked mostly as volunteers, but since they diversified their sources of financing, they have been able to take home an average income of $70 per month each. This income has improved their families’ standard of living.Each co-operative worker has opened a personal savings account. The women have also set up a solidarity fund to which each contributes 75 cents per month. The fund allows them to help each other and their employees in case of sickness or death.
- Setting up COFESFA: initial objectives and obstacles: For cities interested in encouraging the formation of this kind of group, the experience of COFESFA is instructive, both because it is a success and because it shows the kinds of obstacles encountered by groups that aim to create jobs for themselves while providing services to the public.When COFESFA was formed in 1991, the founders’ intention was for each of them to eventually buy her own equipment and set up her own business to continue collecting refuse and providing education in different parts of the city. However, operating costs proved to be very high and the women had difficulty funding their activities. They never managed to move beyond the stage of collective equipment and continue to work as a group.The sanitation and awareness-raising activities began in Médina-coura in 1991. The district was chosen as a pilot area and COFESFA targeted 730 households for whom they would provide education in family health. They planned to ask the families of Médina-coura to pay $5.60 per month for daily garbage collection. But the families could not afford this. Moreover, the council refused to allow the co-operative to ask for any contribution from the population because they should first pay taxes for services to the municipality. Frequent breakdowns and the high costs of equipment and repairs quickly used up COFESFA’s financial resources. In order to cover costs, the co-operative workers decided to invest $188 each in a fund that would be used to pay for petrol, maintenance on the trucks and the wages of the drivers.The women overcame these financial obstacles by diversifying their activities and by obtaining support from the municipality through garbage collection contracts.
- For the future: The experience of the municipality of Bamako and COFESFA shows that it is possible to reduce poverty by financing jobs for the most disadvantaged members of society, such as women, while improving the environment of urban and rural communities by offering refuse collection services in the poorest districts. By supporting women’s dynamism and by diversifying the sources of financing, the city can be a catalyst for initiatives and have a positive impact on the participants and on the urban environment in general.
We would like to thank COFESFA, the Municipality of Bamako and Ms. Aminata Traoré, minister of culture of Mali, for providing us the information on this initiative.
For more information, please contact:
La COFESFA B.P. 2977,
Rue 132, Porte no. 851
phone : +223 229127, fax : +223 239307