Women reap a fortune from food remains.

Mary Njoki rummages through food remains at garbage sites that she later sells to pig farmers in Kiambu County. Pictures: Fred Deya
Mary Njoki rummages through food remains at garbage sites that she later sells to pig farmers in Kiambu County. Pictures: Fred Deya

The pride of any woman is to be in her rightful position raising her family even amid harsh conditions.

And this is what has inspired Mary Njoki as she struggles to make ends meet

Njoki, a middle aged woman from Nairobi’s Umoja Estate has defied all odds to earn a living by rummaging through mounts of left over foods.

Pulling a leso (wrapper) with smile on her face to properly tie it around her waist, Njoki rummages through food remains at garbage sites that she later sells to pig farmers in Kiambu County.

“I have done this over the last ten years when I decided that my children would never go to bed on an empty stomach because of unemployment in our country,” Njoki says. She explains: “I am a responsible, happy woman with three children. The dirty food remains that I grab with my bear hands has turned to be a fortune in my life.”

Njoki intimates that she loves her job so much and this can be attested by her unrelenting spirit especially when it rains. She is not ashamed of her job because the money she earns from it is not dirty however little may be.

Transformation

Njoki recalls how initially her peers used to laugh at her but when the money started trickling in, a majority of them changed and have since joined her.

Njoki has influenced many women since she started the work in 2007. These women are working with the same vigour but each is on their own. She has over ten women in her flock.

“When I started, my peers discouraged me but I was unyielding. I worked harder and proved them wrong. Today I am in a position to influence as more women join me because they have seen the benefits,” Njoki notes.

According to the pig feed vendor, her ten-year job has helped educate her children and cater for their daily bread. She has also been able to save a small potion.

Njoki earns between KSh200 to KSh500 in a day from the stinking waste food from garbage sites and later sells it to pig farmers. Her regular customers are from Kiambu County which has many pig farmers.

The food remains are put in sizeable polythene bags and sold to intended customers. Njoki says they do not weigh on selling but over the years she has managed to strike a deal with her clients. This means prices differ depending on the customer.

Challenges

However, her work has not been without challenges. Njoki has not been able to acquire the protective gear needed to protect her from harmful diseases and injuries. She has been exposed to deadly diseases like cholera because of the filthy working environment. Secondly, there are some physical hazards during the assortment process which pose a danger to her.

Njoki says that she decided to use bear hands after dropping gloves because they can easily detect broken glasses or some piercing waste material in the remains.

“The work has no specific time and depends on days and time of waste disposals,” says Njoki.

The women heavily depend on garbage collectors from estates who pull heaps of waste materials using hand   or donkey carts to strategic places awaiting to be collected by County government officials to final dumping sites.

According to Njoki who is also a single mother, the money that she gets from her work is not enough to fend for her family but through sacrifice she has managed to educate her daughter through secondary school.

From the meagre income, Njoki contributes to table banking and merry-go-round adding that this has helped her save and pay school fees for her children.

In the process, her job helps in conserving the environment and ensuring that very little goes to waste. “We reduce the waste that is eventually heaped at the dumpsite hence a clean environment.”