South Africa NGO Honoured for Giving a Voice to the Working Poor

By Amanda Botes, Durban, South Africa

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Sustainable Cities International would like to congratulate Asiye eTafuleni on recently walking away with a prestigious South African award –  the Mail and Guardian Investing in the Future and Drivers of Change Award civil society category. The awards honour companies and individuals that are improving the lives of people living in poverty through innovative policies and strategies.

Asiye eTafuleni promotes inclusive urban planning and endeavours to demonstrate that improving the urban fabric, in consultation with informal workers, can improve the livelihoods of the working poor and improve the urban environment. Asiye eTafuleni empower informal traders so that they can participate in the development of the environments within which they work. Asiye eTafuleni is an isiZulu term which means “bring it to the table” and was co-founded by Richard Dobson and Patrick Ndlovu out of their working experiences in the Warwick Junction Precinct, an informal market and transport hub in the centre of Durban, South Africa. Asiye eTafuleni aim to enhance the participation of informal workers in negotiating their spaces and work with local government authorities and urban planners to ensure that their voices are heard.

One of Asiye eTafuleni’s successful projects for improving the livelihoods of informal cardboard recyclers has been partially funded by Sustainable Cities International by funds provided by CIDA for Sustainable Cities Africa programme. Through the Africa Programme, SCI sponsors local demonstration projects on behalf of eThekwini Municipality’s Imagine Durban project. This innovative project tested different methods to improve the livelihoods of informal cardboard collectors in the inner-city of Durban.

As Asiye eTafuleni advocate participatory methods and so the project began with an initial research phase where cardboard collectors in the Durban inner-city were interviewed to find out about their experiences and challenges as informal recyclers. Based on these interviews different trolleys were designed and tested by recyclers for the transport of cardboard material. In order to improve the image of the recyclers, the recyclers were provided with identification cards and uniforms. In addition a “Friends of the Recyclers” programme was implemented to enhance the relationships between business and the recyclers. This has resulted in recyclers having access to more cardboard from businesses and has helped to increase their income and dignity in the inner-city.

Around the world, informal recyclers provide a valuable service to cities, by collecting recyclable waste and selling it on to recycling businesses. They therefore improve recycling rates and help to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill in cities. However informal recyclers are often seen in a negative light by society and government authorities. Asiye eTafuleni has worked hard to improve the image of the recyclers by engaging with businesses and local government and widely publicising the project.


Asiye eTafuleni staff pictured with some of the Inner-City Informal Cardboard Recyclers (Photo courtesy of Thomas Ferreira)

Sustainable Cities International looks forward to future exchanges with Asiye eTafuleni so that the challenges and success that they have experienced can be shared in order to improve the livelihoods of informal workers around the world.



About sustainablecitiesnetwork

Sustainable Cities International is a registered not-for-profit organization based in Vancouver, Canada. Operating since 1993, the mission of Sustainable Cities is to catalyze action on urban sustainability with cities around the world. We work by connecting and mobilizing people through the process of co-creating. We facilitate a thriving, international network of cities that act as urban laboratories: adopting, testing and improving on innovations. Ideas are accelerated through sharing of experience and cities are making transformational change a reality
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2 Responses to South Africa NGO Honoured for Giving a Voice to the Working Poor

  1. Pingback: Building More Sustainable Cities: Urban recyclers – the need for proper storage and sorting space | Sustainable Cities International blog

  2. Pingback: Inner-City Cardboard Recycling Project wins Sustainable Architecture Awards | Sustainable Cities International blog

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