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Last Updated: Friday, 2 December 2005, 09:47 GMT
G Bissau turns swords into saucepans
By Ebrima Sillah
BBC News, Bissau

After many years of civil war and military coups, the streets of Guinea-Bissau's cities are littered with burnt-out cars, discarded household effects and even the odd abandoned tank and weapons.

Abandoned tank in Bissau
The war left lots of scrap metal in Bissau
But now that there is peace, the scrap metal has becoming highly-prized in the capital, Bissau.

Any pieces of metal or empty drink cans lying on the roadside are at the mercy of the local recycling workshops, whose young trainees spend hours trekking on foot looking for scrap metal.

The workshops are normally crowded with young men, some of whom are high school graduates who are unable to find any other work.

"My parents could not afford college fees for me," says Muhammed Saidy.

"After staying for months without income, I decided to join this workshop where I am learning this very useful skill of recycling metal into useful household objects."

After this rainy season, I will be able to afford corrugated iron sheets to roof my house
Eldre Kechews, farmer

After eight months, Mr Saidy says he will soon be able to set up his own business.

"My aim is to make even metal sofa frames and other very useful things that other recycling workshops are not doing."

Cheaper and stronger

Mamanding Dampha runs his own workshop, making everything from spoons and knives, to wheelbarrows for builders, to even tools for farmers.

Mr Dampha says apart from teaching skills to unemployed youths, he also tries to make household goods affordable to local people, still impoverished after the years of instability.

Housewife Sabaadou Sanha says she buys most of her household effects from the local recycling workshops "because their prices are cheaper."

"Just imagine, an imported saucepan will cost you more than 3,000 CFA francs [about $5] while the local products made by the blacksmiths will cost you nothing more than 1,300 Francs [$2]."

She also says that imported saucepans are not designed to be put directly on the burning firewood, which is how most people cook in Guinea Bissau.

But recycled scrap metal products are not only popular in Bissau.


Farmers in the surrounding villages, who used to depend on their bare hands to till their land are also benefiting.

With the help of a local aid agency, they are now using implements like horse-drawn ploughs and carts made from recycled scrap metal on their farms.

Muhammed Saidy with a display of saucepans made from recycled metal
Muhammed Saidy hopes to open his own workshop soon
"This is a dream come true for some of us," says Eldre Kechews, a farmer from Bellombi village 13km from the capital.

"Now with my horse-drawn plough and cart I can plough up to 10 hectares in a day. With my bare hands, this used to take me 20 or 30 days. Through my horse cart, I can fully pay my children's school fees.

"After this rainy season, I will be able to afford corrugated iron sheets to roof my house. As you can see most people in the village here have thatched roofs on their houses... but very soon all that will come to pass."

The long drawn-out instability in Guinea Bissau still evokes a lot of painful memories here especially among those people who lost relatives and belongings.

But with the attainment of peace brokered by the West African regional body (Ecowas) and the United Nations, people are becoming more and more innovative.

And for the local scrap metal recycling workshop owners, it is a windfall as the demand for the local products they are making is only set to get stronger.

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