Dherow Hassan Abdi, a former refugee in Kenya now living in an IDP camp in Mogadishu’s Kahda district, has been collecting and selling scrap metal for the past few months and is pleased to have found a new source of income.
He leaves Buur Nagaate camp before dawn every morning to scour the streets for metal that he sells to dealers for 1,500 Somali shillings per kilogram. It has enabled him to put two meals a day on the table for his family who were depending on cooked meals handed out in the camp on alternate day.
There are two of us, we rent a donkey for eight dollars and load it up with the metal we come across. We divide the money we make into three, to pay off the donkey rent and then share the remainder. I end up with five to eight dollars, which is enough to pay the family’s daily bills,” he explained.
The scrap metal business took off in Mogadishu in June last year when five local companies started up, taking advantage of emerging export markets overseas. Since then, scores of poor people in the city have joined the hunt for scrap metal because of the money they can earn.
According to Dheerow, who started collecting last July, the pickings are already becoming sparse due to stiff competition. They have even been robbed of what they have collected on occasion.
“You can’t get a heavy load of scrap metal anymore. The garages are now selling the metal that they used to throw away on the streets. As we don’t have money to buy it we just collect metal that has been thrown such as broken iron beds or taps, whatever we can find.”
For Dheerow, who returned from Hagadera refugee camp in Kenya’s Dadaab in 2016, the work has enabled two of his children to go to school as he can afford the $18 fees. He was forced into an IDP camp after the initial voluntary repatriation aid package from the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, which facilitated his return to Somalia, stopped. Before joining Buur Nagaate camp, he suffered evictions from other camps and was feeling that he had been deceived about the opportunities he would find on his return to Somalia.
Scrap metal collection earns him about as much as used to get selling samosas, which he did for a while until a hike in the price of flour and cooking oil in April forced him out of business.
Higher up the scrap metal business hierarchy, there are far larger profits to be made. Musa Mohamoud Mohamed is a businessman owning one of the newly opened export companies, taking advantage of markets secured by the Somali government in India and Bangladesh.
Musa has more than 200 collectors of all ages bringing scrap metal to the warehouse in the city shared by five companies. He buys the metal at 1,500 Somali shillings per kilogram. When they have enough to ship, it is taken to the port to sell to buyers from the two export market countries at $75 per ton. One truck carries up to 18 tons of scrap metal, according to Musa Mohamoud.
Mohamoud Abdullahi Isack has a job loading trucks at the warehouse to go to the port. He gets a call once a week or so and is paid minimum $20 for one loading job. He has rented his family of nine a two-roomed house for $60 a month. He used to sell khat imported from Kenya until it was banned, and he had to leave his rented house to stay with relatives in Wadajir district. Scrap metal loading has its risks, he said, as he sometimes gets cut by sharp pieces, but it pays well even at his level.
According to local environmental activists, the scrap metal collection for cash is returning the beauty of the city streets, which used to be littered with scrap.
Source: Radio Ergo