Trash wipes away tears of widow
Born in 1974, Edina Banda is a widowed mother of six and has been earning a living by collecting wastes from people’s homes and turning them into usable products.
Banda, whose husband died in 2012, lives in the populous Chibavi Township of Mzuzu City but her original home is Likoma District.
She said, soon after the death of her husband, life was difficult as she struggled to fend for her six children.
“I became hopeless and could cry day and night. Life became meaningless because I had no means of supporting my children after his death,” she said.
However, in 2004, the dark cloud that hung over Banda’s family started to move away when a friend introduced her to an organisation called Federation of the Rural and Urban Poor.
This is an organisation formed in 2003 to ensure that poor people living in urban areas have access to land and affordable decent houses plus reliable sources of income.
The people are taught entrepreneurial skills and introduced to money-saving culture through savings and loan groups.
Banda said when she joined the grouping, she was given saving lessons and how to make manure using locally available materials.
“I joined this group in 2004. We called our savings group ‘Khodo Khodo’ which meant K1 and it was the amount of money many of us could manage to contribute during that time.
“We used to contribute khodo khodo. Although it was little, the savings eventually enabled me to start a small business which later assisted me to switch to manure-making business till today,” she said.
Banda said it was easy to switch to manure business because it does not require a lot of money as capital since most of the materials used are locally found.
“We use things such as maize husks and we go around collecting them and putting them in 50kg sacks for them to decompose.
“We use things that we know can decompose. We don’t use plastic bags because they don’t decompose,” she said.
Apart from manure production, Banda said she and nine other members of the group also make tumblers from disposable glass bottles.
“We make different kinds of tumblers from any glass bottles as you see them here. We sell some at K550 each and others at K700.
“But for a 50kg bag of manure, we sell it at K5,000,” she said.
She said, on average, they make 10 bags of manure, which give them K50,000 per month which they share in addition to what they make from tumblers and savings.
“I’m happy because I didn’t know that I would be where I am today financially. Just imagine from khodo khodo (K1) that I was saving in 2004, I’m now able to save K2,000 and sometimes K5,000 per day from the sales of manure,” she said.
Banda added that she is able to feed her family and pay school fees for her two children who have just finished Form Four.
She said the business has enabled her to own pigs which have, in turn, boosted her financial muscle.
I’m no longer under persistent stress that followed the death of my husband,” she said.
“When we make manure and tumblers from these locally available materials, our motto has always been zinyalala nchuma chobisika (wastes are a hidden treasure) and, indeed, we have seen many benefits from this business.
“I can testify that whatever I have today originates from wastes that some people threw away. We turn waste into new usable products. There is money in waste management,” she said.
Apart from financial gains, Banda said the manure-making business has helped improve sanitation in the area because people no longer throw waste anywhere.
“We have taught many people how to manage wastes in their homes, more especially in areas where cholera used to break out.
“Now such areas are cholera-free zones because many people know how to manage and where to go with wastes,” she said.
Banda, who has since built a small decent house from her savings, plans to buy a car in the near future.
“I want to assure you that one day I will buy my own car from this manure-making business.
“Some of our friends in Lilongwe, who came to teach us these skills, managed to do that. I am also going to afford a car,” she said confidently.
Banda then advised women, especially widows who are just staying, to join different organisations that teach various skills.
“Let us use the wisdom and knowledge that our God gave us. Our lives won’t be the same. I am a living testimony,” she said.
She said her group is discussing with Mzuzu City Council so that they should start operating from the council’s newly established Msiro Waste Management facility.
Banda said, if the council allows them to operate from Msiro, the development will not just benefit them financially but will also complement the council’s vision of shifting from dumping to managing wastes.
Mzuzu City Council spokesperson, Karen Msiska, said the council will soon engage the services of different groups that were trained in waste management.
“We know there are some groups of people who are able to turn glass bottles into tumblers and there are some who are able to make mats from plastic bags; we are very ready to accommodate them,” he said.
Msiska said, apart from people who turn wastes into manure, tumblers and biogas, the council wants to partner other organisations who can produce electricity from the wastes.
“People should know that the key aspects of Msiro Waste Management facility are to reduce, reuse and recycle the wastes.
“That’s why we would like to engage as many organisations as we can in order to fulfil the council’s vision for the facility,” he said.
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