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Jordan, GIZ Waste to Positive Energy – Labor Intensive Waste Collection and Sorting

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May 28, 2019 / 0 Comments

Considering the increasing amount of waste in Jordan’s municipalities and the high unemployment rate, the project aims to address the lack of adequate waste disposal services, while at the same time creating employment opportunities for Jordanians and Syrian refugees.


Lead Authority or Organization: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)

Area: Governorates of Irbid, Mafraq, Al Balqa, Karak, Madaba, Jerash, and Ajloun, Jordan

Beneficiaries: Vulnerable Jordanians and Syrians in hosting communities, and refugee-hosting municipalities

Timeline: September 2015 – October 2020

Human Resources: 1 project manager, 4 project coordinators, 3 project advisors, 1 construction engineer, 1 administration officer, 1 logistics officer, 1 data management officer

Funding Amount:€46,000,000

Sources of Funding: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)



Context and Challenges


Jordan is hosting over 655,000 Syrians, with 79% living outside refugee camps. The population increase is putting a strain on municipalities, which are no longer able to deliver adequate public services like waste disposal. This difficult situation could trigger conflicts between Jordanians and Syrians. Additionally, according to the Department of Statistics, Jordan faces the highest unemployment rate in the past 25 years (18.2%). Although the high unemployment is not a result of the Syrian crisis, the public sentiment tends to blame Syrian refugees as the cause.


As solid waste management is a labor-intensive municipal service, the project has been implemented in direct partnership and ownership with municipalities. Their successful cooperation is crucial to reach sustainable outcomes. The project aims to provide livelihood opportunities for vulnerable Jordanians and Syrians while contributing to a relief on the environment, to alleviate tensions between Syrians and the hosting community, and to improve solid waste management systems in partner municipalities.


Actions and Reported Results

The project went through the following steps:

  • Identification of stakeholders. Following a participatory approach, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs (MoMA) and selected municipalities were included in the preparation process.
  • Selection of beneficiaries. An internal structure was created for implementing cash-for-work activities. A project advisory committee was established in each municipality, led by the municipality and consisting of community representatives and a GIZ project coordinator. The committee developed vulnerability criteria and a selection process for the identification of beneficiaries.
  • Cash-for-work activities. In the initial phase, cash-for-work activities only included waste collection and public awareness raising. Later on, seven waste sorting stations and two composting facilities were built in different locations. The scope of the cash-for-work activities was closely discussed with the municipalities, and was limited to jobs in waste collection, sorting, composting, and awareness raising activities. Municipalities needed to ensure good working conditions, monitored by GIZ, and the project also followed national labor laws, which include the provision of work permits for Syrians.
  • Post-employment services. Through a partnership with the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) beneficiaries are provided with further services after their cashfor- work contract ends, such as employment trainings, job matching, and small business grants. In addition, DRC takes care of the beneficiaries’ well-being during their cash-for-work contract with a complaint mechanism.
  • Partnerships. Collaboration with other international NGOs was essential to have a wider outreach of activities. Caritas Jordan was responsible for cash-for-work in waste collection in nine municipalities in order to reach vulnerable people as fast 59 Local Economic Development in Host Communities as possible. Action Against Hunger worked with local cooperatives, which employ mostly women workers. Oxfam provided other cash-for-work opportunities, such as recyclables collection.
  • Monitoring. The project built a comprehensive monitoring system to monitor the number of cash workers, their well-being, and the performance of the municipalities.
  • Community participation. To also reach the wider community, the project organized dialogue platforms for all relevant actors (e.g. shop owners, women, youth etc.). Recycling and composting are new to most of local communities, therefore it was crucial to include the public in the planning process to ensure their participation.


Reported Results

  • Increased job opportunities and sustained livelihoods. Syrian refugees and vulnerable Jordanians can secure their livelihood. The link between cash-for-work activities and infrastructure development has opened job opportunities. Municipalities are able to finance jobs through these facilities on a longer run, even after the completion of the project. In addition, post-employment services help refugees and Jordanians sustain their livelihood.
  • Improved urban services and infrastructures. The project supports municipalities to improve their municipal services of solid waste management, such as the construction of sorting stations and composting facilities. In a longer term, municipalities will develop further capacities to use such facilities, and therefore improve service delivery.
  • Improved governance. The participatory approach and dialogue platforms where different social actors discuss solutions for waste management-related challenges improved local good governance processes.
  • Strengthened social cohesion between host and refugee populations. The project contributed to social cohesion as Syrians and Jordanians are working side by side.


Evidence and Beneficiary Feedback


The cash-for-work activities in waste collection led to an increased positive perception of the cleanliness of the municipalities. Of the households surveyed in Irbid, 89% agreed that the municipality is noticeably cleaner than the previous year. As an act of solidarity, in some areas residents provide workers with food and drinks. Moreover, in the Karak Municipality, Syrians strongly disagreed when they were asked if they are discriminated by the Jordanian workers, and a number of questionnaires showed that the majority of workers do not feel discriminated.


What beneficiaries say


“The Deir Alla municipality team has visited us…, called me to start working with them in the GIZ WtPE project. We used to be indebted but our burdens have become lighter and we are happier now. I can cover the expenses for winter clothes for my kids and for the rent and a heater, as it is winter now.” —A 58-year old Syrian man, who came with his family from Homs to Mafraq, had to live with his family at his relatives’ place. Only after he started to work with the project, was he able to rent an apartment for his family, which provided him with a livelihood and dignity.


Lessons Learned

Challenges and Risks

  • Exclusion of other nationalities. Due to special Jordanian regulations for Syrian refugees (e.g. the exemption of Syrians from work permit fees), the project targets Syrians and Jordanians only, and it excludes other nationalities (e.g. Iraqi or Yemeni refugees, and Egyptian migrant workers) presenting a possible risk for conflict.
  • Informal sector. The project’s recycling activities might have negative effects on informal waste pickers’ livelihood. This can be mitigated through focusing on certain waste streams (e.g. cardboard), which is of lesser importance for the informal sector. The informal sector will be further observed, and in case of distortion, strategies to integrate the informal waste pickers should be discussed and analyzed.
  • Corruption and favoritism. The high amount of job opportunities opens the risk of corruption and favoritism. For this reason, the project implementation requires closer monitoring to avoid any favoritism when selecting beneficiaries.
  • Distortion of the local labor market and structures. Several cash-for-work projects in Jordan are providing many short-term job opportunities. This might lead to a distortion of local structures, especially if the salaries are not aligned with local salaries.
  • People’s rejection of recycling facilities. Most municipalities in Jordan are new to the concept of recycling and composting, hence the risk that the public won’t support the facilities. Including communities in the process and consultations should mitigate this risk.
  • Inclusion of women. In spite of the gender equality of the project, jobs in solid waste management are often perceived as male work and it can be socially not accepted that a woman collects waste from the streets. So far, 22.6% of job opportunities provided by the project have been for women. This was possible by reaching out to cooperatives instead of municipalities, and by offering working hours more suitable to women. In addition, women can also be involved as community mobilizers for awareness raising to other women.
  • Upholding decent working conditions. It is an ongoing challenge to ensure that each partner is upholding decent working conditions, in line with the labor law and ensuring fair treatment and anti-discrimination of workers. This can be mitigated by an efficient monitoring system.
  • Sustainability. Cash-for-work itself is not sustainable and needs to be connected to other measures like infrastructure construction and post-employment services.
  • Mental health and psychosocial support. Some of the workers might be severely traumatized. Therefore, it is important that the project does not worsen their situation and well-being. The supervisors need to be aware of this situation and act accordingly, ideally referring beneficiaries to professional counseling.


Key Ingredients of Success

  • Involvement of the local community to ensure ownership and continuous support.
  • Creation of a sustainable infrastructure. Solid waste management will be more sustainable and jobs can be financed directly by the municipalities. 61 Local Economic Development in Host Communities
  • Partnership with the municipalities to give them the lead and ensure continuity.
  • Continuous effective monitoring system is helping to steer the project accordingly, including the presence of project staff in municipalities as well as the complaint mechanism through a third independent actor. In regular feedback sessions, beneficiaries can give their feedback and ideas for improvement.
  • Post-Employment Services to follow up with the beneficiaries after the cash-for-work jobs are concluded offer beneficiaries more options to improve their livelihood, and prevent feelings of disappointment.


Innovative Aspects

In spite of the usual use of cash-for-work in humanitarian situations, this project connected cash-for-work to an existing technical field, supporting the development of solid waste management in Jordan and also providing vulnerable Jordanians and Syrians with livelihood opportunities. By utilizing direct partnerships with municipalities and the provision of infrastructure, the project connects the need for work and a better solid waste management system.



In the case of scaling up, the context of the intervention needs to be carefully evaluated, and experiences shared with other cash-for-work projects. In countries where many cash-for-work interventions are implemented, coordination is important. Flexible standard operating procedures could be developed to support these processes.


The “Waste to Positive Energy” project and post-employment services have already been expanded and the focus now shifts more to sustainable activities like recycling and composting.



The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) with a signed implementation agreement with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs as a political partner. The Ministry provides access to the municipalities as implementing partners of the project.


Several international NGOs are additional implementing partners of the project in order to increase the outreach and to pilot different implementation strategies.


Local communities and refugees are included in the processes in several ways: through the project advisory committee, in public hearings before the construction of recycling facilities, and in monthly dialogue platforms.


This post is part of a series of case-studies published in the CMI 2018 Refugees' Compendium and featuring host communities experiences in hosting refugees with relation to local economic development. The information in-here was provided by focal points in the relevant institutions, NGOs, local governments, etc


Read the story on the compendium


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