By Our Reporter
SEM Cleaners is a social enterprise sanitation company whose focus is to keep the surrounding of Lilongwe city townships clean. The enterprise was formed by three women: Mrs Emma Mdedza, Mrs Chidule and Mrs Chiudzu. The company is registered with the Malawi government’s Registrar general office.
HOW DID THEY BEGIN?
This is from the background that they all had failed in different businesses they were doing and found it proper to acquire business skills. When the training began, the facilitator, Chifuniro Kandaya put emphasis on the fact that one does not need a lot of money to start a business. “it is a right business idea not a lot of money that one needs to have a successful business” Kandaya taught. The three women realized that their community had uncollected garbage.
EXAMINATION OF LILONGWE TOWNSHIP’s UNCOLLECTED WASTE
Due to rapid increases in the population due to urbanization, the volumes of solid waste generated by residents have quadrupled in recent years. Facilities for disposing of solid waste have been over stretched hence mechanical clearing of solid waste has been rendered inadequate.
Poor waste management policies and practices, inefficient collection and disposal as well as insufficient awareness and negative attitudes to the environment are some of the major problems perpetuating high pollution in Lilongwe city townships.
Solid waste is collected and dumped in landfills. Unfortunately only a fraction of this waste generated can efficiently be collected. Uncontrolled debris clog storm drains flooding of areas surrounding markets of the townships
SEM CLEANERS COMES WITH A SOLUTION
Instead of waiting for Lilongwe city council, Malawi’s local government entity to buy vehicles that would be collecting waste; SEM saw itself as a solution. They decided to meet the need profitably; turn the problem into a business. Thus they started approaching households at sector 3, area 25 township, Lilongwe, informing them of the service they have; collecting garbage every Monday. In exchange, the residents pay them an equivalent of $7 per month.
They employed two men who help them in the waste collection. They hire a car and collect the garbage and dump it at a field outside the city. The waste is turned into manure which farmers will be buying. The three women used the principles they learnt at training. They used their own small reserves of money and started the business. They have now expanded to sectors 3, 7, 8 and area 25c and serving close to 100 clients. They would like to grow and be able to serve 60% of almost two million people of Lilongwe residents. The business is serving the community at the same time generating money for SEM.
However, as a start up, SEM cleaners is facing some challenges. The major challenge is that it does not have vehicle for collecting garbage. Thus the huge amount of money the enterprise generate is reinvested into hiring of vehicle and fuelling the same. This is expensive on their part. In addition, SEM need various garbage collection equipments such as shovels, shoes ,among others. There they are looking for partners who can invest in their project.
The enterprise would like to reach out to over 60% of Lilongwe residents. It would also like to expand to other cities such as Blantyre, Mzuzu and Zomba. Their heart is to see to it that city dweller are living in a clean environment .