HOT Tackles Dar es Salaam’s Waste Problem - One Dataset at a Time

03May 2019
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
HOT Tackles Dar es Salaam’s Waste Problem - One Dataset at a Time

Anyone from the HOT Tanzania team will tell you that part of the project’s objective is to find effective ways to use community mapping data to solve some of Tanzania’s many developmental issues.

This is when things can get interesting and new partnerships can be formed. One of these relationships is a true success story in showcasing how community mapping can solve Dar es Salaam’s growing solid waste disposal problem. Through its partnership with local waste disposal company Green WastePro Limited (GWPL), HOT has been able to help solve key problem waste disposers face every day in the city.

Dar es Salaam: A City with a Mounting Waste Issue

Dar es Salaam has a serious waste management problem and has been listed as one of the dirtiest cities in Tanzania and the dirtiest in East Africa.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reports that the city has doubled its waste from 2,000 tons in 1998 to 4,600 tons in 2017. As the city continues to experience a massive urban sprawl, its waste generation is projected to triple to 12,000 tons by 2025. This spells out serious environmental and health problems, as Tanzania is yet to have a truly systematized waste disposal plan for the industry, commercial and private sectors.

Informal Trash point on Tabata ward. Picture by HOT (2018).

Although the situation sounds bleak, Tanzania’s waste management problem can provide a great avenue for income generation. According to the National Environment Management Council (NEMC), more than 60% of the waste produced in the country is uncollected and casually dumped leading to pollution. This is where private waste disposal companies such as GWPL come in. However, such companies face various challenges in their drive to provide waste disposal services to the city’s residents and business owners.

The Challenge

GWPL provides services to residents and businesses in an extremely unregulated city. Lack of city planning and precise neighbourhood mapping greatly impedes the efficiency of waste collection and revenue collection. Furthermore, waste collectors in Dar es Salaam are legally obliged to collect all trash whether or not clients pay for the service. This means that a large amount of manpower and resources is used for the revenue collection process in order for the company to fulfil their profit line.

Innocent Maholi, Deputy Country Manager at HOT Tanzania, says that the situation calls for access to relevant data: “The more information a waste management company has on the clients the better they are able to collect waste and implement revenue collection.” He adds that prior to HOT intervention, the company lost revenue as collectors could easily falsify payments due to lack of client data.

HOT Intervention

The HOT team was already aware of the need to alleviate the city’s waste problem through its community mapping project Ramani Huria (RH). “Our work with community mapping showed us the relation between urban flooding and unregulated waste disposal/pollution. Solid waste often blocks the city’s already poorly maintained drainage systems, which lead to the regular flooding that many parts of the city experience during the rainy season,” says Emanuel Kombe, a mapping supervisor.

HOT team filling the information of the client with the revenue collector at Msimbazi Magharibi Subward in Tabata Ward. Photo by HOT (2018)

So the team was keen to work in the area of waste management when it was approached by the Palladium Group in mid-2018 to work with GWPL and support their revenue collection drive.

GWPL’s business development manager Jemima Pellatt says the partnership came at the right time; “We were looking to improve our customer database. Prior to working with HOT we had limited data on our clients, we also hardly had any clear mapping or location of residential and business units in our service wards of Kisutu and Mchafukoge.”

The RH team started with re-building the footprint digitization in OpenStreetMap (OSM) for the two wards using high-resolution imagery. The team then deployed 100 students to visit all buildings in Kisutu and Mchafukoge wards of downtown Dar es Salaam, collecting building data for each structure and resident/client data for each unit of residence or business within the buildings.

Barcode stickers were then placed at the entry of each unit, and a survey was completed for each unit where possible. The building data was uploaded to OSM, along with some amenity information gleaned from the unit surveys, and the remainder of the per-unit data was provided to GWPL in a table and geographical file formats. This data was then uploaded to a customer database system designed by GWPL, allowing real-time checks on waste disposal fee collection and the ability to more easily follow up with customer queries.

Innocent says the tag method was both simple and effective: “Once the barcodes are placed on the clients’ doors, the RH team digitized their information confirming the building’s footprint and general information about the buildings such as resident names, address, number of floors and so on.”

The Big Change

After the initial data collection phase, GWPL then purchased bar-code tags for every unit in the two wards. Revenue collectors were then equipped with barcode readers on smartphones which they used to track the payment.

The HOT team was successfully able to collect data on 2296 building points and 4966 units, which GWPL added to its customer database.

GWPL have therefore identified more customers who should be paying for services which means they are now able to organize their revenue collection. “A more systematized client database means that revenue collectors are not able to pocket any client fees, which they often did before,” says Innocent. GWPL has been able to significantly increase its income after the new system was put in place.

GWPL General Manager Allan Sudi confirms, saying that the company found it actually had 40% more clients after the exercise. “We actually didn’t know how many clients we had. We had some data on excel sheets but the information was outdated. The new database has improved our logistics and route planning.” A clear map of the company’s client base also means that waste collector drivers can now have more accurate routing timetables. This indeed can vastly improve efficiency in a city suffering from hour-long traffic jams.

The Way Forward

Johanes Petro, another mapping supervisor at HOT, is excited about the future of the project. “There is still work to be done, not all the data has been cleaned and a number of units are not properly allocated to buildings. There’s also the issue of missing data as some residents and business owners did not respond to our door to door exercise.”

The RH team has now allocated three staff members to continue improving the dataset on a full-time basis and to conduct fieldwork until the database is robust and accurate enough.

The collaboration with GWPL has successfully shown how data and mapping can allow a collection firm to increase its revenue and make revenue more predictable. GWPL can also more confidently bid for new areas. “This was a pilot, so we now hope to apply the same methods to our other regions and districts as we expand - this is now less risky and can lead to services being offered in more areas,” says Jemima.

HOT is currently conducting training at another waste collection company, Joshemi, to roll out the pilot throughout other residential areas in the city. “Joshemi is very different from GWPL,” says Emanuel, “whereas GWPL functions in the city centre Joshemi is in Tabata and an even more informal settlement area with low-income households as well as various small to medium scale business.” If mapping improves solid waste management in informal areas as well, this could be the key to improving services for citizens and keeping Dar es Salaam clean.

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