INTERVIEW: Come March 1st Masada will officially take over waste collection activities in the countryFebruary 27, 2013
By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya:::
Managing waste products is a challenging task for many countries on earth. Sierra Leone’s waste collection and management drive has long been metamorphosing from one particular organization to the other. Few years back the German GTZ was in charge of cleaning and waste collection in the city until when full responsibility was given to the Freetown Waste Management Company to carry out these functions.
A new company which has taken the responsibility of waste collection in the city and other parts of the country is the Masada International Sierra Leone. This new company in Sierra Leone will be handling wastes for conversion into ethanol production for the benefit of Sierra Leone. Come March 1st, the Masada International Waste Collection Company will take full control of the waste in the city.
Standard Times Environmental reporter Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya met with this hardworking and smart young lady engaged in this waste collection drive in the country in the person of Madam Ami Dumbuya at her Pademba Road Offices.
“Standard Times environment: Who is Ami Dumbuya?
Masada: Ami Dumbuya is the National Programme Director for Masada International
Standard Times: Can you please tell me what Masada is?
Masada: Masada is a waste collection company and it was handed the collection of waste in the country on 1st week of October 2012 to handle all liquid and solid waste collection activities in Sierra Leone for the purpose of converting waste energy to ethanol products. Basically there are logistical issues that needed to be handled between the Government and the Company before official operations will commence.
Standard Environment: In other words what will be the full involvement of Masada in waste management of the city?
Masada: when we are handed the full responsibility of waste management in the country, we will basically naturally absorb what is known as the Freetown Waste Management Company that will become an entity of Masada. The waste management contract is not just for Freetown, it’s for the whole country but however the starting point is Freetown because it is most populated and it is the capital city. It is interesting you came in today for this interview. When the contract was awarded to us we had lots of activities with Freetown Waste Management with the cleaning of the city. I know we can’t stop. I know the main thrust is why Masada has not been doing what is supposed to be done in the collection exercise.
Initially, you know with any contract there are some timelines and some things that need to be done. Originally with any contract government has forty days to do what was an audit and assessment for some existing structures for the Freetown Waste Management before giving an official handing over ceremony. However, what happened was that assessment or audit was never undertaken but Masada, the Company was given the thrust to having taken activities as early as November. In November, we did an emergency cleaning exercise close to the elections.
We undertook a huge cleaning task in the hope that when we did that government will do what it is supposed to do. At the end of November and early December we were then called again to pay salaries and operational costs to the Freetown Waste Management Company. It was a huge task but however we have to do that. First week of December I paid all 496 Waste Management Staff and do a massive cleaning exercise. This is why in December people didn’t see too much of filth in the city they normally see. We go beyond and hired youths from the National Youth Coalition to help keep the city clean.
You see a company that even starts to operate and pay salaries and fulfill emergency things before it can set up. Sometime in February we had a meet with the Ministry of Local Government and told them what we have done but as a Company we cannot justify paying salaries to someone you can’t monitor or not answerable to you. It does not make business sense. We need to set up our own structures but the only way we can do that is when it is official handed over to us.
Standard Times: What is the setback towards this handing over?
Masada: They actually have that why I said coincidentally the Ministry had written a letter to us and copied many authorities like the Vice President indicating that indeed the handing over is going to take place.
Standard Times: So when is the official handing over?
Masada: This letter is the first step of the handing over. Today (Monday 25th), our team, the Waste Management Team, the Freetown City Council, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development will be going down to the Freetown Waste Management to do an assessment of all the equipment and assets that have been audited. We also have an independent property valuer. But as it stands now, come March 1st Masada will officially take over the waste collection activities.
Standard Times: according to the contract with you and the Government of Sierra Leone, how many years is this contract going to last?
Masada: This is a 49 year agreement. Basically, government is giving us waste collection activities for that period of time. The reason why that long is because this is something we are raising money from the financial market and we need to have a long term agreement to guarantee us so that we can get the money.
Standard Times: So in all how many youths do you hope to employ and benefit directly from this Company?
Masada: Well, I can’t tell you right now how many youths we are going to employ. In our project plan, from collection to conversion, we have plans to deeply engage with the youths. When we took over, we noticed that there is over five hundred staff at the Freetown Waste Management Company and I am sure most of them are inclusive of youths. We don’t intend to replace those people there; of course, we must do our employment audit and see who can stay and leave. But obviously we are going to work with the youths.
Standard Times: In the past there were trash cans in strategic locations where people can throw their wastes. There are no trash cans in many priority streets in the city; will you be comfortable enough to carry out the cleaning exercise effectively without these cans?
Masada: Our waste collection activities will be commercially viable activity. There are about 38 different public dump sites which we will be manning and also the second commercial aspect which is the doorstep collection where, whatever small, people will have to pay for such waste collection. Every week our staff members will go to different homes to collect wastes.
What you see now obviously is not an efficient system. What we intend to do from now on to the next six months is the scale of our activities. Masada is not promising that March 1st is going to be magic. You will see our people in Masada uniforms, street sweepers; you will see our trucks going to transit points in cleaning. That will happen alongside more sustained ways waste management is being handled in the likes of Lagos and other cities.
Standard Times: The practice of throwing wastes on the streets is very common in Sierra Leone. Will you be comfortable apparently seeing people throwing their wastes on the streets where you have just cleaned?
Masada: Absolutely, this is why we work with the government and I always say to people it may sound wrong but I look at it as a public private partnership initiative. Like I mentioned earlier, this is not a project where government is giving us the money to clean up the city, we are not here to clean up the city. What Masada is here to do is to collect waste and use it as a feedstock to convert it to ethanol which naturally for government will be a good thing because that means the wastes will be out of sight. We provide a service for the municipality. You are not paying us, what we need from you is to give us the enabling environment and how we do that is we know there are bye-laws. There are bye-laws against people just littering. We want those bye-laws to be enforced. We are a private company and not government but what we would do is to create the awareness. We will work with government and the media to get a robust media campaign that aims at sensitizing the populace to take away their wastes. We intend to give people alternatives because you can’t fine people without giving them alternatives.
Standard Times: By the time you take full control of the waste collection management, do you envisage a cleaner Freetown.
Masada: As a collection company, obviously our goal is we need four hundred thousand tonnes of wastes to keep our plan running 24 hours, seven days a week. Freetown is not giving all of that waste and that’s why we go on to the national level. Our goal is to have that and make Freetown a cleaner city like other cities such as Logos which is making use of their waste.
Standard Times: As an environmental reporter, I am more interested with this waste conversion for energy production. How is this process going to take place?
Masada: It is a long term plan. Our plant will be built at Kerry Town along Waterloo. We are going to operate like Addax. I like to make reference to Addax because it is the same ethanol project the only thing is that their input is sugarcane and our input is waste management. The preparation for our ethanol is going to be from six months to two years and the plant cannot be built till we sure that we have a system that will keep up running 24 hours a day.
Standard Times: Thank you very much Madam Ami for your audience to Standard Times Environment
Masada: Thank you very much Ishmael and it’s a pleasure talking to you”.