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.
"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 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)