Recycling boosts incomes in Rwanda's capital

Eugenie, Edith, and Vestine sorting household waste, while their co-workers are checking for the quality of the decomposing waste in the back plan
Eugenie, Edith, and Vestine sorting household waste. Photo: Nausicaa Habimana Kantengwa

For Edith, Eugénie and Vestine, three women in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, life has taken a turn for the better since joining a local association that helps get vulnerable people off the street and earning an income, while cleaning up the city.

The three are among 200 members of Association Dusabane that is working on the Municipal Solid Waste Upgrading through Quality Compost Production Project, jointly supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme. In the national language, Kinyarwanda, Dusabane literally means “Let’s support each other”.

The Association members focus on two components - cleaning the streets and collecting waste from homes in the city which is then recycled. The biodegradable waste is kept at a specific dumping ground until it becomes compost, which can be sold for income.


  • Waste collection produces inexpensive compost, which benefits local farmers and reduces the use of chemical fertilizers.
  • The project encourages local residents to start recycling waste as an income generating activity.
  • More than 80% of waste at Kigali landfill site consists of organic waste.

Since it was formed, the Association has been headed by Madina Uzamushaka, who recalls the motivation for working on the clean-up project.

“Most of the women, men and young people who work for the Association were unemployed or were street children,” she says.  “We came together to look for an activity which could help us overcome our poverty.”

The Association also employs other vulnerable people in the community, including widows and people living with HIV and AIDS. The majority of the employees are women.

Joining the Association helped Edith learn new recycling skills and earn enough money to support her family. She is now able to send her five children to school, cover the family’s health insurance and pay rent.  

Getting rid of waste, particularly in the slum areas, is also helping reduce the risk of diseases such as malaria and cholera.

By Nausicaa Habimana Kantengwa