Jemal Shifa, 51, was born in the Gurage zone of the SNNPR. For the last 24 years, he has lived with his wife and four children in Metehara, Oromia Regional State, one of the Making WASH Everybody’s Business (MWEB) project areas.
For much of those two decades, his life consisted of working as a daily labourer to support his family. Often, there is no work which makes earning income to cover his family’s basic needs difficult. His eldest son left school to work and help his family: “four years back, my first son Semir Jemal interrupted his education in grade 10 because he needed to help me with labour work to cover the costs of living for our family.” Jemal’s wife was also working, selling coffee and tea to support their household.
Three years prior, Jemal decided to work with his friends to establish a solid waste collection association called Kufakasi in his kebele, Metehara. Kufakasi means ‘someone who is collecting waste’ in Oromifa. At the very beginning, the association received little support. They had limited resources, which led Jemal and his friends to collect waste by hand, without protective clothing and equipment, and carry the waste over their shoulder to transport it to the designated waste site. Over time, they were able to invest in a donkey and received a cart from the town municipality to support their efforts.
Amref Health Africa’s MWEB project has supported Kufakasi to expand their waste collection business even further. Jemal shared that the project has supported him significantly. He said, “Amref has provided me with many things. I have received training on WASH, safety and infection prevention, financial management, team building and team spirit, been linked with microfinance institution (MFIs) in which we got a loan to buy a small vehicle called Bajaj, and supported with seed money for administration, personal protection material costs, and continuous follow up.” He added that his morale has even increased as a result of Amref Health Africa’s support.
Jemal is humbled whenever he reflects on the challenges he experienced as a former daily labourer. He shared, “the change I’ve experienced is impossible to state in words. When I compare my current work with the support of Amref to before, while I was a daily labourer, I have come very far. Before the intervention, my family and I slept on the bare floor only covered by old clothes. Now, we are able to sleep comfortably on sponge mattresses. I currently earn 1,200 Birr and we save 5,000 Birr monthly in the Oromia Microfinance Institution.” Jemal is now able to independently earn sufficient income to support his family. His sons, Semir and Jubel, are able to focus on their education, as they attend classes in Adama.
Jemal plans to build his own house so his family can eventually move out of their rental home and that his children can comfortably continue to pursue their education. He aspires to expand the work of Kufakasi across the entire kebele to benefit more households and to improve the overall cleanliness of Metehara town.
Amref Health Africa teams up with African communities to create lasting health change.