In Mali's capital, donkeys are on front line of fight against waste

BAMAKO, Sept 12 (Reuters) - In the Malian capital of Bamako, donkey carts driven by young men like 19-year-old Arouna Diabate play a vital role battling the fast-growing city's waste problem.

Every morning before dawn, Diabate hitches his donkey to a cart and sets off on his rounds, going door-to-door to collect household garbage which he delivers to a local waste transfer station for a monthly salary of around $35.

"I won't be picking up trash with a donkey cart for the rest of my life, but for now people appreciate us because we help clean up the homes of Bamako," Diabate said.

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Donkeys help battle waste problem in Bamako, Mali
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Donkeys help battle waste problem in Bamako, Mali
A waste picker unloads garbage at a waste transfer station in Bamako, Mali, August 19, 2018. REUTERS/Luc Gnago SEARCH "GNAGO WASTE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
Wooden beds are displayed next to a dump in Bamako, Mali, August 24, 2018. REUTERS/Luc Gnago SEARCH "GNAGO WASTE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Souleymane Doumbia, 27, who collects garbage using a donkey, poses for a photograph before going for a walk with his friends in Bamako, Mali, August 21, 2018. "I like this job because it allows me to buy clothes and put some money aside," Souleymane said. REUTERS/Luc Gnago SEARCH "GNAGO WASTE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A man walks in a street in Bamako, Mali, August 21, 2018. REUTERS/Luc Gnago SEARCH "GNAGO WASTE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Djibril Diabate (R), 16, who collects garbage using a donkey, takes off his work clothes in Bamako, Mali, August 19, 2018. REUTERS/Luc Gnago SEARCH "GNAGO WASTE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Djibril Diabate, 16, who collects garbage using a donkey, collects garbage as he works in Bamako, Mali, August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Luc Gnago SEARCH "GNAGO WASTE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Arouna Diabate, 19, a waste picker, ties his shoelace as he prepares for a walk with his brothers and friends in Bamako, Mali, August 21, 2018. "I won't be a driver of a waste-collecting donkey all my life, but for now people appreciate us because we help clean up the homes of Bamako," Diabate said. REUTERS/Luc Gnago SEARCH "GNAGO WASTE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
(L to R) Dramane Diallo, 19, Djibril Diabate and Amadou Keita, 21, sit at the pasture of their donkeys in Bamako, Mali, August 23, 2018. REUTERS/Luc Gnago SEARCH "GNAGO WASTE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Men, who use donkeys to collect garbage, stand in line as they prepare to unload at a local waste transfer station in Bamako, Mali, August 24, 2018. REUTERS/Luc Gnago SEARCH "GNAGO WASTE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A waste picker unloads garbage at a waste transfer station in Bamako, Mali, August 13, 2018. REUTERS/Luc Gnago SEARCH "GNAGO WASTE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A man, who collects garbage using a donkey, drives his cart as he works in Bamako, Mali, August 24, 2018. REUTERS/Luc Gnago SEARCH "GNAGO WASTE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Salif Diabate, 18, poses for a photograph before going for a walk with his friends in Bamako, Mali, August 21, 2018. REUTERS/Luc Gnago SEARCH "GNAGO WASTE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
Arouna Diabate, 19, who collects garbage using a donkey, drives his cart as he works in Bamako, Mali, August 15, 2018. "I won't be a driver of a waste-collecting donkey all my life, but for now people appreciate us because we help clean up the homes of Bamako," Diabate said. REUTERS/Luc Gnago SEARCH "GNAGO WASTE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Waste pickers prepare to unload garbage at a waste transfer station in Bamako, Mali, August 19, 2018. REUTERS/Luc Gnago SEARCH "GNAGO WASTE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
People search at a dump in Bamako, Mali, August 19, 2018. REUTERS/Luc Gnago SEARCH "GNAGO WASTE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Donkeys, used to collect garbage, interact as they graze at a pasture in Bamako, Mali, August 19, 2018. REUTERS/Luc Gnago SEARCH "GNAGO WASTE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
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Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world and the authorities struggle to provide adequate public services in the capital. Bamako's population more than quadrupled from the mid-1970s to 1.8 million as of 2009, according to census data.

The population boom has made the issue of waste disposal in Bamako more acute, requiring Diabate's boss, Moustapha Diarra, to deploy eight donkey carts in his district instead of the two he managed a decade ago.

The system is overburdened due to a proliferation of informal dumps and the authorities' failure to remove waste from the local transfer stations, Diarra said.

"The garbage piles up so much that you find it in the roads and when it rains, the water stagnates," he said. "Without sanitation, you can't have good health."

(Reporting by Luc Gnago Writing by Alessandra Prentice Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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