Litter Pick

This morning the ICS Volunteers in Kamachumu – more on them soon – organised a litter pick in town.  Canadian translation: picking up garbage.  The 17 volunteers (citizens of the UK and of Tanzania), members of their host families, me, some KAVIPE staff, miscellaneous community members and an army of children set out kusafisha mazingira (to clean up the environment).


Those of us who speak Swahili were given the task of explaining to the people of Kamachumu what we were up to.  Everyone was asking questions once they saw the volunteers outfitted in their VSO headbands, gloves and garbage bags; an excellent opportunity to increase awareness on protecting the environment, community spirit and volunteerism.  One of the Tanzanian volunteers got a text from his friend in Dar es Salaam saying, hey, I hear you guys are picking litter in Kamachumu!  Word travels fast by African mobile….

One thing we discovered is that the Western idea of taka taka (trash) is not the same as the Tanzanian concept: to us, things foreign to the environment, that don’t break down, are litter, i.e., plastic, glass, metal and to a lesser degree, cloth and cardboard.  People helping out were initially bringing lots of leaves, banana stems, sticks; which to us are not such an issue when you see them on the side of the road.  We took the opportunity to explain why plastic is worse than banana leaves.

Then, the rain came.


We hid at the Paradise Hotel Tea Room.


We got a range of responses to the activity.  Most people were really thankful and thought the site of a bunch of mzungu picking up trash was hilarious.  Some people just stared blankly.  A few derisive snorts, and one guy who asked, unpleasantly, if we were going to recycle all the plastic (I wish!).  Wilson, one of the KAVIPE Board members, said that although people generally keep the areas around their homes/farms clear of litter, nobody is responsible for the public areas, and little care is taken about the litter issue.  

My take-home idea was to put the legion of willing children and young adults to work every Sunday after the weekly market, by far the dirtiest part of town.  Kamachumu’s Environment Warriors?!  I’m in for that task! 

We also plan to find some garbage cans/rubbish bins to place around the busy areas in town – made of local materials like woven banana leaves!

Next time, we’ll budget for more gloves.  More gloves = more potential participants!