How to turn a litter problem into community-wide empowerment

 
 
 

Poverty is an overwhelming challenge in South Africa. As people confront economic difficulties, environmental concerns tend to take a back foot. In the town of Senwabarwana in Limpopo, both these issues negatively impact local communities. But a small group of women are changing that through an innovative waste collection system. Leading the charge is Cosy Manoko.

“Growing up, littering was normal,” she says. “Now we take pride by making sure our community is clean.” Supported by the P.E.A.C.E. Foundation, Manoko heads up the Ntshabeleng Cooperative, a team of women who collect materials to recycle. They travel throughout the town with donkey carts, gathering waste such as cardboard and plastic. From complexes to villages and landfills, the team clear out piles of trash. At the recycling centre, managed by Manoko, the accumulation is organised and sold to other companies. The women each make up to R60 a day – a meagre amount, but enough to support themselves. As they earn an income, they also contribute to environmental sustainability. 

Since she began working with the cooperative, Manoko has developed a strong passion for recycling. With five years’ worth of knowledge and experience in waste management, she’s set on making an impact in her community. “I take pride in what I do,” Manoko says. “When you are doing good your life has purpose.” These women are utilising trash to the benefit of themselves and the environment. What they’re doing takes ingenuity. And it can have a ripple effect that betters our world.