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Precarious conditions of informal recyclers at the 'City of Flies', Antananarivo, Madagascar


Andralanitra dump, located in the same-named town on the outskirts of Antananarivo, was opened in 1965 and extended in 2007. As the country’s largest dumpsite, it is locally referred to as ‘Ralalitra’ (city of flies) and now receives around 800 tons of waste per day [1], about half of all waste in the metropolitan area. A planned closure of Andralanitra in 2012 failed as no alternative dumpsite could be found and, hence, the site remains in use until at least 2020. A project to enclose and reorganize the site in order to extend its lifespan was announced with funding from the French Development Agency (AFD), which also initiated a pilot project to improve the recovery of plastic and organic waste. This should increase the municipal recycling capacities in order to prepare the closure of the dumpsite at a later point and, as it was announced, would also involve the regulation of waste pickers’ activities. [2][3][4] After the AFD involvement ended in 2017, some of the composting and waste recovery activities were further run by the Positive Planet Foundation and French companies [1][3][5].

Waste is collected by the privatized municipal operator SAMVA (Service Autonome de Maintenance de la Ville d’Antananarivo) but also brought directly by larger companies, industries, and hospitals. SAMVA is in charge of waste management and operating the site in coordination with the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Ministry and the Urban City of Antananarivo (CUA). [4][6][7][8] In some parts of Antananarivo, neighborhood-based sanitation groups (called Rafitra Fikojàna ny Rano sy Fidiovana) are engaged in local waste management but remain chronically underfunded and understaffed [1]. Moreover, since 2010 there is also a national association of waste collectors, called PLAFCCO (‘Platform de Comite de Pre-Collect des Ordures’), which was initiated by the environmental organization Enda has a contract with the municipality and employs about 400 members in door-to-door collection. These workers earn an extra-income by picking out recyclables during the collection and at transfer stations and selling them to junk dealers. The same work is done by informal waste pickers under more precarious conditions. [9][10]

There are more than 3,000 waste pickers (locally called mpikritaka) at Andralanitra dump, the larger part of them women. They come from mostly marginalized families who often came to the capital to seek work, started to pick waste to be able to survive and settled down around the dump. Waste pickers earn between 10,000 and 20,000 ariary ($US 2.50-5.00) per day and work at all times of the day, typically women during the day and men at night. [2][6][8][11][12] They are exposed to various health and occupational risks, for example, due to harsh weather conditions, the physical demands of the work and long working hours, as well as exposure to bad smell and toxic gases, smoke and substances. Leachate is still not treated and directly disposed to the surrounding rice fields. [2][4][6][8] Many of them do not like the work at the dump but cannot find another job and are now accustomed to the conditions; others report that they engage in several small jobs and in between work at the dump. During the rainy season, trucks have difficulties accessing the site, and also recycling is difficult. [13] The bad sanitary conditions are aggravated by a proliferation of flies and harmful insects, rats, and stray dogs, and have recently led to the spread of the plague. Regularly, fetuses or unwanted newborn babies are found. It is also reported that waste pickers who felt asleep during night shifts were run over by garbage trucks. [2][7][11][12][14] Confronted with these conditions, some of them have recently moved to even lower-paid work in a nearby porphyry mine instead, while journalists who reported about this situation claimed that they had received threats from SAMVA [2][12][14].

This group of informal recyclers at Andralanitra recover more than 21 tons of recyclable materials every day, such as most notably plastics, electronic devices, coal, metals and jewelry, and food waste. In addition to that, value is also recovered from recycling activities that are distinct from other places. For example, bones are collected to produce traditional medicine ‘Ranomena’ (Red Water). About 60 men (exclusively) also engage in informal compost production by filtering out organic waste that has accumulated at the site. They produce about 20 m³ of compost per day. A few families also collect vegetable fibers called ‘Laro’ and used oil and animal fat to produce soap, which involves the burning of substantial amounts of plastic and cloth waste and the release of toxic fumes. [8] Most waste pickers focus on collecting one specific type of waste, ranging from copper-knobs of jeans to certain types of plastic bottles that are bought by Chinese companies to produce toys and sandals [11].

The dumpsite community has received notable support from Akamasoa, which was founded as a social project by a catholic pastor in 1989. Today, Akamasoa (‘loyal friend’ in Malagasy) has developed into an association with over 500 employees which, over the years, has helped thousands of families to escape poverty. In Andralanitra, the first of today’s 22 Akamasoa villages (most of them further away from the capital) was build with the idea to create new solidary and community structures and to improve people’s lives through housing, education, and work. Hence, many of the dumpsite dwellers have found new homes there and were provided with access to free social and basic infrastructure such as schools, health care, professional training, and sanitation facilities, among others. For many of them, the association and the village have become an integral part of their life. [8][15][16] Housing is, however, only accessible to active church members. Pastor Pedro notes that the association has, in a way, replaced the role of the state, which has been absent in supporting the urban poor. The association, in turn, depends largely on donations. [15] During its work in supporting the local community for over three decades, Akamasoa has regularly raised awareness for the vulnerable situation of waste pickers and poor families in Andralanitra. In recent years, it for example publicly pointed to the lack of maintenance of the dump and urged SAMVA to better coordinate dumping practices. [17] However, although the association did not directly support the work of waste-pickers as its intention was rather to move them away from the dumpsite and to help them to develop alternative livelihoods, for example in villages. [8]

Given several recent attempts to enclose the site and install a formal recycling system in Andralanitra [18], it at this point remains unclear whether waste pickers will benefit from waste recovery activities that have recently started as pilot projects or whether they will soon lose their livelihoods and access to recyclable waste. Andrianisa et al. (2018) point out that Akamasoa’s involvement has improved the lives of large parts of the dumpsite community, but not their economic and institutional position, as it has not directly addressed the integration and recognition of the informal recycling sector, which remains excluded from recent attempts to improve segregation at source and waste recovery. If this trend is ongoing, it can be expected that Andralanitra will soon become closed and a controlled recycling facility opened in another place, but without the integration of vulnerable informal groups which have so-far formed the pillar of all recycling activities. [8]

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Precarious conditions of informal recyclers at the 'City of Flies', Antananarivo, Madagascar
Location of conflict:Antananarivo
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Urban development conflicts
Waste privatisation conflicts / waste-picker access to waste
Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Specific commodities:Domestic municipal waste
Recycled Metals

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Andranalitra dump is located 9 km east of Antananarivo, in the commune of Ambohimangakely, and receives about 800 tons of mixed waste per day [1]. Since the 1960s, it is estimated to have accumulated more than 2,000,000 m³ of waste [11]. Between 2010 and 2017, the French Development Agency funded a € 2 million project to improve the conditions of the site. This should reduce contamination, develop a drinking water network in the surrounding area, and prepare the closing of the landfill by establishing waste recovery and recycling projects. [4]

Level of Investment for the conflictive project2,157,000.00 USD
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:10,000
Start of the conflict:2012
Company names or state enterprises:Service Autonome de Maintenance de la Ville d’Antananarivo (SAMVA) from Madagascar
Relevant government actors:Urban City of Antananarivo (CUA)
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Ministry
International and Finance InstitutionsFrench Development Agency (AFD) from France
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Association AKAMASOA
Platform de Comite de Pre-collect des ordures (PLAFCCO)
Rafitra Fikojàna ny Rano sy Fidiovana (RF2)
NGO Enda
Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO)
Global Alliance of Waste Pickers (Globalrec)
Positive Planet Foundation

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Wastepickers, recyclers
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Official complaint letters and petitions


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Fires, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases
Potential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Violations of human rights
Potential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Under negotiation
Proposal and development of alternatives:Andrianisa et al. (2018) suggest the inclusion of informal recyclers in integrated recycling schemes and note that, in addition to already existing support of NGOs and associations, this also needs the involvement of the public sector - for example when it comes to recognizing the status of dumpsite workers and improving their occupational health and safety as well as economic and institutional position. [8] As the Global Alliance for Waste Pickers further notes, waste pickers could be included in formal waste collection schemes of the municipality, for example as part of associations contracted in the door-to-door collection (such as PLAFCCO). This would provide more social and economic security and also improve waste collection in Antananarivo. [9]
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:With the recent pilot projects and development interventions, the hazardous and toxic conditions of Andralanitra dumpsite are likely to improve. Moreover, the longstanding support of the Akamasoa association has helped many people to access to housing, education, and health care. However, there are no signs that informal recycling and the situation of people whose livelihoods still depend on waste picking are going to improve. On the contrary, the recent projects to formalized recycling activities could soon exclude them from their only source of income.

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[8] Andrianisa, H., Randriatsiferana, F., Rakotoson, S., Rakotoaritera, F. (2018): Socio-economic integration of the informal recycling sector through an NGO intervention at the Andralanitra dumpsite in Antananarivo, Madagascar. In: Waste Management & Research, 36/1, 86-96.

[10] WIEGO – Globalrec (2012): Waste Picking in Africa. Volume 2.1, April 2012.

[13] Borgia, G. (2012): Madagascar: Tananarive et ses ordures. Youtube, 10.01.2014. (Online, last accessed: 04.04.2020)

[1] Duvert, P. (2019): À Tananarive, Amboditsiry, un quartier sans ordures. Zinfos 974, 30.01.2019. (Online, last accessed: 04.04.2020)

[2] MIDI Madagasikara (2015): Site de décharges d’Andralanitra : Encore opérationnel jusqu’en 2020 si…. 07.10.2015. (Online, last accessed: 04.04.2020)

[3] syctom (n.d.) Madagascar - Antananarivo (Andralanitra). (Online, last accessed: 04.04.2020)

[4] AFD (2017): Improving waste management in Antananarivo. (Online, last accessed: 04.04.2020)

[6] Ioussouf, R. (2016): Madagascar : survivre dans une décharge. BBC, 11.11.2016. (Online, last accessed: 04.04.2020)

[9] Globalrec (n.d.): Antananarivo. Madagascar. (Online, last accessed: 04.04.2020)

[11] no comment (2017): Andralanitra : Un monde d’ordures. 07.12.2017. (Online, last accessed: 04.04.2020)

[12] Bononi, R. (2016): Inside Madagascar's 'City of Flies'. Vice, 27.05.2016. (Online, last accessed: 04.04.2020)

[14] Maguire, T. (2017): Working among rats and needles for 70p a day: life on Madagascar’s mega dump – in pictures. The Guardian, 20.12.2017. (Online, last accessed: 04.04.2020)

[15] AFP (2019): A Antananarivo, sur un tas d’ordures, la cité de l’espoir du père Pedro. L’Obs, 06.09.2019. (Online, last accessed: 04.04.2020)

[16] RFI (2019): À Madagascar, les cités des pauvres d'Akamasoa fêtent leurs 30 ans. 09.10.2019. (Online, last accessed: 04.04.2020)

[17] Akamasoa (2016): Lettre ouverte au responsible de la décharge. 07.01.2016. (Online, last accessed: 04.04.2020)

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[7] Bononi, R. (2015): City of Flies. Vimeo, 23.10.2015. (Online, last accessed: 04.04.2020)

[13] Borgia, G. (2012): Madagascar: Tananarive et ses ordures. Youtube, 10.01.2014. (Online, last accessed: 04.04.2020)

[13] Borgia, G. (2012): Madagascar: Tananarive et ses ordures. Youtube, 10.01.2014. (Online, last accessed: 04.04.2020)

Meta information

Contributor:EnvJustice Project (MS)
Last update11/05/2020
Conflict ID:5011



Women working in Andralanitra

(Photo credit: A. Pierrat)

An estimated 2 million cubic meters of trash have been dumped here since 1966

(Retrieved from: "City of Flies";

All sorts of waste are recycled at Andralanitra, from plastics to bones

(Retrieved from: "City of Flies";

A truck arrives at the dumpsite

(Retrieved from: "City of Flies";

Up to 3,000 waste pickers work at the dumpsite

(Retrieved from: "City of Flies";

The site is also called "the city of flies"

(Retrieved from: "City of Flies";

Waste pickers working next to fires at Andralanitra

(Photo credit: Riccardo Bononi)