Cooperative society of solid waste collectors of Mbeubeuss-Bokk Diom is established

December 10 2021 was a historical day for the waste collectors at the MBEUBEUSS landfill, as it marked the birth of the “Cooperative society of solid waste collectors of Mbeubeuss-Bokk Diom”.

News | 15 December 2021
This initiative was created with the technical support of the International Labor Office (ILO), within the framework of the project, Promotion of formal and innovative entrepreneurship (PROMEFI), with financial support from the Italian Government, through the Italian Development Cooperation Agency (AICS).

In August 2019, members of the association of waste collectors "BOKK DIOM" expressed their wish to organize themselves around a cooperative to better defend their interests and improve their income and working conditions. With the creation of the cooperative society, anyone can acquire membership shares.

Official opening ceremony of the Constitutive General Assembly by the Mayor of the cooperative's headquarters
Waste collectors in Senegal

Like many other countries, Senegal suffers from a chronic deficit in access to waste management services. Senegal produces more than 2.4 million tonnes of solid waste per year, of which 1.08 million tonnes is not collected. Solid waste in Senegal mainly consists of sand, soil and organic matter, which makes it expensive to manage.

The poor urban population of Senegalese cities suffers disproportionately from the problems associated with poor solid waste management: pollution of the air, surrounding water, etc. In addition, waste collectors are mainly low-income women and men who migrate from rural areas to collect, sort and sell waste from streets or landfills, working in precarious conditions and at increasing risk to their lives and health.

Assembly of members of the cooperative society of waste collectors
The cooperative potential for waste collectors

By organizing themselves in a cooperative, waste collectors can access economic formalization and social inclusion. They can thus benefit from advantages such as access to markets, occupational safety and health, social protection and a stable income.

ILO's work on formalizing waste pickers

In 2015, the International Labor Conference adopted the Recommendation No.204 concerning the Transition from the Informal to the Formal Economy, which emphasizes the role of cooperative as one of the means of formalizing workers in the informal economy. In 2014, the International Labor Office (ILO) published a report on the potential of cooperatives in e-waste management, examining the opportunities that cooperatives could offer in recycling e-waste. The report underlined that organizing workers in the waste sector through cooperatives or other economic forms or organizations, will improve the working conditions of workers.

Subscription of shares by a group of collectors during the AGC
In this context, the ILO has partnered with WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing) in order to explore the possibilities of organizing informal waste collectors (in particular from Mbeubeuss) into a cooperative for the improvement of their working conditions. From August 21 to 22, 2019, the two organizations co-organized a workshop bringing together the main national institutions involved in waste management, including the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, the National Waste Management Program and the President of the Bokk Diom in Senegal.

The participants in the workshop, carried out within the framework of the Partnership for action on green economy (PAGE), voiced that a cooperative approach could be tailored to the needs and aspirations of waste pickers.

To support the creation of cooperatives by waste pickers, it was decided that the waste management sector could be analyzed through a “market systems” approach to better understand the challenges and opportunities related to the organization of the Mbeubeuss waste pickers. The results of these studies showed that the cooperative form was the most appropriate. In addition to carrying out the analysis of the waste market, a rapid assessment of the potential of a cooperative approach in waste management in Senegal was undertaken as a feasibility study. This study confirms the real opportunities, economic and social, for the creation of such a cooperative to improve the working conditions of waste pickers and the formalization of their activities through a technical, organizational and financial analysis.

PROMEFI's contribution to the formalization of waste collectors

In line with its Recommendation (No. 204) on the transition from the informal economy to the formal economy version, 2015, the International Labor Organization (ILO) is implementing, with funding from the Government of Italy, the project "Promotion of formal and innovative entrepreneurship in Senegal and The Gambia" (PROMEFI) which aims to promote decent work for young people through the development of sustainable businesses and formalization in Senegal and the Gambia.

Within the framework, ILO supported waste collectors at the Mbeubeuss landfill to organize themselves into a cooperative, to improve their operational practices and technical skills, and benefit from social protection schemes, with special attention to the creation of decent jobs.
The creation of the cooperative started with an information and awareness phase based on ILO tools such as Think.COOP and Start.COOP.

A new era dawns for waste pickers

With its 563 members, including 233 women to date, the cooperative is making a real impact in the lives of its members. The formalization of waste pickers, through legal recognition, will allow them to better negotiate the prices of their products and raise funds from financial institutions.

Next steps

ILO support continues, particularly in the implementation phase of the activities. A capacity building workshop is envisioned in January 2022 to sensitize the leaders on organizing and operating a cooperative. Management tools (cash register, bank notebook, stock notebook, equipment management, etc.) will also be made available to them to better monitor the cooperative's activities. Finally, the support will go towards the identification and analysis of the cooperative's needs in the waste value chain, including collection of waste, sorting, and processing of waste, and the need for equipment and materials.