Source: David Conrad – Pulitzer Center Blog – May 14, 2012
Weighted with two heavy sacks of discarded milk bags and meat bones slung across her back, a plastic bag of rotted cabbage in her hand, Rahab Ruguru walks through a smoky landscape of mountainous piles of burning waste, scavenging for a living.
“Working here is how I am able to feed my children,” says the 42-year-old mother of six, stooping to pocket a handful of discarded candy from the ground. “Of course it is not a usual job. Dodging pigs [and] used condoms, eating what I find. No, it’s not good for me. But it is a job and I have to persevere.”
Ms. Ruguru is one of an estimated 6,000 people who come daily to mine the Dandora city dump, a sprawling 12-hectare wasteland about 15 kilometres from Nairobi’s thriving central business district. They sort and place into large sacks waste that can either be eaten or sold to recycling companies – mostly metals, rubber, glass, milk bags, plastics, meat bones and electronics. Nobody earns more than $2.50 (U.S.) a day.
Nearly one million people live in the slums that surround the dump, the only one serving the Kenyan capital. While the Dandora garbage dump provides a source of income for some – Ms. Ruguru, for instance, says her scavenged items bring her money for her children’s food, school fees, books and uniforms – it is at the centre of a political controversy.