From a distance, heavily shawled heads of women bending in blue overcoats and men wearing gumboots are seen working. They are workers at the Masese waste management facility at Jinja Municipal Council garbage dumping site on Masese Hill.
Even with the heavy and pungent stench that aggressively sprouts from the garbage, they silently go about their work sorting out the rubbish to remove non biodegradable materials to ensure smooth processing.
Although the workers stand a risk of contracting grave complications everyday, they look at the sublime end of earning a living at the end of the day. The project is also fetching a lot of money for the municipality. The waste management facility, is a World Bank initiated project, supervised by NEMA through Jinja Municipal Council.
According to Martin Oluka, a data clerk at the facility, the garbage is organised into six winrows (rubbish placed in parallel rows) as they sort and turn it.
"Garbage cannot rot if it is dry. So, we water it. This increases the availability of oxygen, thus the growth of micro-organs which act on it causing decomposition," he explains.
However, water usage is regulated with only 50% application. Too much water is likely to occupy all the spaces in the garbage, pushing out all the oxygen. Consequently, the micro-organisms die and the waste does not decompose.
Apart from water application, temperature regulation is equally crucial. According to Oluka, it is regulated between 500 C and 700 C. "If the temperature is below 500 C, it means the microorganisms are not working and in most cases, it is due to lack of oxygen. If the temperature is high, it means there are many micro-organisms - this is in most cases indicated by the maggots found in the garbage," he explains.
Oluka observes that from the starting stage, the temperature automatically goes high, but it is kept in check, for instance, below 700 C by pouring there water.
" When the temperature is down, we turn the rubbish to give room for more oxygen and may be what the micro-organisms are eating is finished. So the turning equally creates more food for them," says Oluka. Creating a complete winrow takes between two and four days, if there is already accumulated garbage.
The garbage is turned for about six days before it is taken to the next winrow. "Apart from water, cow dung slurry (waterly) is an additive sprayed in the garbage during processing - it is a disinfectant.
That is why it is widely used in homes, especially in rural areas to smoothen up floors and walls," observes Oluka. He says the slurry does not only send away flies, but also creates an environment that enables the growth of microorganisms.
"Cow dung is very effective and if you critically observe it in a dry area, it has so many organisms in it, including beattles," says Oluka.
By the sixth week, what was garbage is now largely soil with a few particles which manually sieved out to get composite manure. Objects, such as plastics that are extracted are then taken to the landfill
Cost of manure
According to Oluka, there is a World Bank directive that the manure be sold at sh400,000 per tonne. "So, a kilo costs sh400 and a 50kg bag costs sh2,000.
Farmers are now boasting of improved yields after using the manure," he says. Oluka says most of the farmers take the manure during the planting season.
For example, this year from January to August, about 10 tonnes were sold out. "We hope to produce about 20 tonnes per month because people have now realised the benefi ts that can be derived from garbage," he projects.
According Oluka, the facility receives between 30 and 60 tonnes of garbage a day. He, however, observes that the amount of garbage received outweighs the available labour capacity.
"We do not have enough manpower, for instance, the available workers can only sort 10 skips. This is a major problem because the sorting is not done thoroughly," he says. He adds that so many undesirable items such as plastics, glass and polythene bags are part of the garbage.
Although this makes processing slow, the workers make use of some of these items, for example, they sell a kilogramme of polythenes at sh500.
The stench is too much - the steam or heat that comes out of the garbage has a piercing stench although the workers are now used to it, according to Oluka.
"However if the normal process is to be followed, the stench would not be there. For example, we are supposed to receive fresh garbage, not one that is already rotting, has dead dogs and chicken and broken glasses in it.
This makes sorting painstaking, resulting in injuries, such as cuts, to the workers," he observes. Ideally, Oluka says the garbage should be sorted before it is delivered for processing, which is not being done.
"Worse still, even after the rotting garbage is delivered, it stays for days before it is processed. Sometimes there is no fuel for the wheel loaders and bulldozers to push it into the winrows," he says.
"But even for that rubbish we reject, it is just dumped - the actual land filling is not done. The rubbish is supposed to be covered with murram, but they are not doing that - so the stench will continue," he says.
According to the municipal council environment officer, Earnest Nabihamba, lack of fuel to facilitate processing emanates from deliberate lack of goodwill from the administrators at the council - they look at the project as financially wasteful.
"There are inexplicable financial issues in the municipal council such as paying councillors' allowances, and service delivery needs," he says. He adds that some administrators are ignorant about the various environmental benefi ts of waste management such as reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to the ozone layer," he says.
What needs to be done
According to Nabihamba, part of the solutions to be implemented is to sensitise the communities in Jinja town and the council administrators on garbage management as a matter of urgency.
"Ideally, people should sort the rubbish before taking it to the skips. But the rubbish we get comes with car batteries and sometimes medical waste, which are highly dangerous and slow down the manure processing," he says.