A first step towards improving working conditions of waste pickers in Senegal

Under the Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE), the ILO is supporting an initiative to improve working conditions in the waste management sector, by helping to organize informal economy workers into cooperatives.

News | 27 September 2019
Waste pickers workshop
Senegal had thousands of informal waste collectors, majority of them operating in a waste dumping site “Mbeubeuss” in Dakar. Mbeubeuss is by far the largest open-air waste dumping site in all of West Africa, spreading over 175 ha. The waste pickers in Mbeubeuss face difficult working conditions, with low productivity, insecurity, lack of occupational safety and health and social protection.

In this context, the ILO entered into a partnership with WIEGO (Women in Informal Economy: Globalizing and Organizing) to explore possibilities of organizing informal waste pickers in Mbeubeuss into a cooperative toward improving their working conditions. From 21 to 22 August 2019, the two organizations co-organized a workshop bringing together key national institutions involved in waste management, including the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, the National Programme on Waste Management, and the president of an association of informal waste collectors in Senegal. A total of 34 men and 29 women participated in the two-day workshop.

Senegal workshop participant
On the first day, a scoping study conducted by WIEGO on the situation of waste collectors in Mbeubeuss was presented. This was followed by group discussions on the elements of an action plan drawing on the findings from the scoping study. On the second day, the ILO experts and national trainers introduced the concept of cooperatives and provided the participants with conceptual and practical information on forming and running a cooperative. The workshop took an approach that ensures enough flexibility for waste pickers in the informal economy to decide appropriate ways of organizing themselves to be more productive and work in more decent conditions. The participants seemed to converge around the idea that a cooperative approach could be suitable to the needs and aspirations of the waste pickers.

Based on the findings from the workshop, the ILO will continue to work with WIEGO and the national partners to pilot the establishment of cooperatives among workers in Mbeubeuss.