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By Luc Gnago
BAMAKO (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.

 

The Wider Image: In Mali, donkeys help with the fight against waste
Wooden beds are displayed next to a dump in Bamako, Mali, August 24, 2018. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

 

“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.

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 Wider Image: In Mali, donkeys help with the fight against waste
People search at a dump in Bamako, Mali, August 19, 2018. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

 

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 Wider Image: In Mali, donkeys help with the fight against waste
Arouna Diabate, 19, smokes as he sits at the donkey pasture in Bamako, Mali, August 23, 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,” said Diabate. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

 

“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)

 

 

The Wider Image: In Mali, donkeys help with the fight against waste
Waste pickers prepare to unload garbage at a waste transfer station in Bamako, Mali, August 19, 2018. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

 

The Wider Image: In Mali, donkeys help with the fight against waste
(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

 

The Wider Image: In Mali, donkeys help with the fight against waste
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

 

The Wider Image: In Mali, donkeys help with the fight against waste
Salif Diabate, 18, poses for a photograph before going for a walk with his friends in Bamako, Mali, August 21, 2018. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

 

The Wider Image: In Mali, donkeys help with the fight against waste
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

 

The Wider Image: In Mali, donkeys help with the fight against waste
Djibril Diabate (R), 16, who collects garbage using a donkey, takes off his work clothes in Bamako, Mali, August 19, 2018. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

 

The Wider Image: In Mali, donkeys help with the fight against waste
(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

 

The Wider Image: In Mali, donkeys help with the fight against waste
Djibril Diabate, 16, who collects garbage using a donkey, collects garbage as he works in Bamako, Mali, August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

 

The Wider Image: In Mali, donkeys help with the fight against waste
A man walks in a street in Bamako, Mali, August 21, 2018. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

 

The Wider Image: In Mali, donkeys help with the fight against waste
A waste picker unloads garbage at a waste transfer station in Bamako, Mali, August 13, 2018. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

 

The Wider Image: In Mali, donkeys help with the fight against waste
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

 

The Wider Image: In Mali, donkeys help with the fight against waste
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