Introducing our sanitation hero, Julius Chisengo

Image: WaterAid/ James Kiyimba

Julius Chisengo is the Group Operator at Usafi wa Mazingira na Watu (UMAWA), a business which does liquid waste management in Dar es Salaam. Find out why he loves his job here.

UMAWA is part of a WaterAid project from 2015. The business facilitates faecal collection from pit latrines using gulpers and deposits these collections in a small treatment plant, known as the Decentralised Wastewater Treatment System (DEWATS) - which in turn produces, potentially, three commercially viable by-products: biogas, liquid urea/manure and dried manure/organic fertilizer.

The project started due to the challenge of pit-emptying in Dar es Salaam. As the majority of households are not connected to the sewer network, communities often manually empty their pits into nearby water sources, which have huge public health risks. WaterAid Tanzania has been working with sanitation businesses for over five years, aiming to create safe and hygienic services. This is the story of Julius Chisengo, a sanitation worker from Dar es Salaam. 

"I came from Morogoro  to work in Dar a long time ago. I worked for a malarial control program as a casual labourer then and later, before this, I worked a contract for the municipality for solid waste collection. But this work, this work with UMAWA, it pays more; I have been with UMAWA since 2010. 

I received a week’s training from WaterAid when I started. The first part of our training was to use the gulper. We were trained how to use it in the field and we were taught safety as well. I am glad I have a mask to wear; it helps with the smell and protects me from the waste that jumps. 

We use a long metal stick to lift the solid waste out of the pit first, before we use the gulper. The gulper, you see, has a cheki cheki at one end (a wide holed sieve at the end that is inserted into the latrine), that stops heavy materials from blocking it. I sometimes train new people to use the gulper. 

Image: WaterAid/ James Kiyimba

I had never seen anything like this before I began to work with UMAWA. I never imagined you could cook food using this waste! It’s a miracle! I’d like to have this product in my kitchen because it’s a by-product and it’s free. 

One of the things I love most about my job is when we get new customers. Sometimes when we are working on a pit, people will watch us and they are interested and ask questions and then they become new customers. I would love to expand.

I believe our work is making a big difference because the people, they are not sick so much. Before, during the rainy season there was a lot of cholera, but since the gulper, the cholera outbreaks have gone down. This is because before the pits were full and there were flies all over; the flies carry the diseases and also people would empty their pits in the nearby water sources.

Image: WaterAid/ James Kiyimba

I am very happy. I would like to carry on with this work for a long time. My family is comfortable. My wife does not have to work though she sometimes does some small business in the market and my two boys, Christopher and Helly, can go to school. I will carry on until I am an old man."