SUNDAY PROFILE with MIKE MUGALA, Lusaka
WHEN he was a nine years old, Harrison Musonda started scavenging for food at the Chunga dumpsite in Lusaka.
His parents’ house was just a few metres from the site.
Harrison’s parents were hard-up and usually struggled to feed the family.
“We could not manage to have three meals a day even one at times when things got worse. We saw the opportunity to scavenge for left-over food when trucks came to the dumpsite,” he says.
Harrison is not ashamed to talk about his life as a scavenger.
He believes that God never neglected him and his family even when he scavenged for left-over food to survive.
“I saw nothing wrong in scavenging for left-over food to survive, it became a way of life. It was dinner time for me and my family during the night while the day was for scavenging,” says Harrison.
It was a happy time whenever Harrison and his friends saw trucks from different hotels and bakeries making their way to the dumpsite because they were assured of leftover meat, chicken or bread.
Harrison was in and out of school because his parents were not able to pay his school fees.
“My father tried his best to take us to school but access to finances was always a challenge,” he says.
At one point, his father managed to get him a job at a bus company, it was not long before he went back to the dumpsite because the bus company ran out of business within a few years of its existence.
In 2008, while at the dumpsite, Harrison was engaged by a waste recycling company, Adil Investments. His new task was to pile plastics and other recyclable materials and be paid K50.
“I was later told to pack the plastics and take them to their factory by truck. It was during my visit to the factory that I discovered that I could make more money compared to what I was being given, ” he says.
Harrison later started engaging his friends to pick the recyclable materials from the dumpsite after which he would sell to Adil Recycling Investments and would pay his friends a commission.
He now owns Recycle Mania, a waste recovery company registered in 2012. The company employs over 100 waste pickers.
“I have 16 permanent workers and the rest are casual and paid on commission basis. What we do is to collect the recyclable material and sell it to processors who are recycling companies,” he says.
Among the companies that Recycle Mania supplies recyclable materials to are Zambezi Paper Mills and Global Recycling.
Harrison also identifies people who collect waste which he piles up and sells to recycling companies.
For Harrison, waste recycling is a lucrative business and needs more support from relevant authorities to protect the local people dealing in waste collection.
In a month, Harrison picks about 300 tonnes of waste, he is however uncomfortable to disclose how much he earns from a tonne.
“Waste recycling is a resource and people are making more money from it but the challenge is that companies dealing in waste recycling are making more money at the expense of manipulating waste pickers,” he says.
Harrison says the pricing on the part of waste pickers is too low and discouraging compared to the profit that recycling companies make.
He says there is need for Government to regulate the pricing such that both waste pickers and recycling companies should both benefit.
Harrison says even the waste recycling association of Zambia which he chairs needs support from Government to protect the interests of waste pickers.
“I am putting in money into the association and supporting over 500 people who are currently operating at the Chunga dumpsite. Recycling companies need to be regulated so that they have a standard price for waste pickers,” he says.
He also notes that it is difficult for him to get a loan from the bank to get a recycling machine because the collateral is very high.
Harrison expressed sadness that foreign recycling companies are getting local materials to make various goods which they sell to the local people at exorbitant prices.
Inspired by Global recycling, Harrison dreams of owning a recycling company that will employ more local people.
Born on April 30, 1987, Harrison started school at Namando Primary School in Chunga township. He later went to Chifwankula Primary School where he did Grade Six and Seven.
Harrison only went up to Grade Eight at Ngoli Basic School in Kasama, Northern Province. His childhood dream has been to become a lawyer and politician.
Harrison now owns a mini-bus, two taxies and blocks of flats. He hopes to go back to school and continue with education so that his childhood dream can come true.
SUNDAY PROFILE with MIKE MUGALA, Lusaka