The Impact of the Rains on the Impepho & Lime Market

Tasmi Quazi

The heavy flash rainfall being experienced in Durban this month has highlighted the taxing implications for ‘informal’ traders working in public spaces. One of the hardest hit trading communities is the Impepho and Lime Market in Warwick Junction. This market comprises of two specific products that are sold, Impepho which is a form of dry herb that is burnt as incense for ceremonial purposes; and lime which is sold as dried balls specifically used by Traditional Healers and/or generally as sunscreen. The mineral lime is extracted through a grueling and laborious process; excavated from cliff faces, crushed into fine powder, shaped into round balls and then finally transported to the site.

Impepho sellers sitting amidst the flooded market, taken in June 2011

The 100 or so women (out of the 300 in total) ‘informal’ workers that trade on a rotation basis, are situated underneath the flyover bridges of Russel Street, Eilat Viaduct and the Herb Market. After a heavy rainfall, this site gets rapidly flooded due to the lack of both sheltering infrastructure, and insufficient and poorly maintained storm-water drainage. Consequently, the rains have a devastating impact on their businesses as the Impepho is ruined when wet and the lime balls dissolve and cannot be rehydrated. Moreover the flooded market becomes an occupational hazard with the continued presence of the dirty stagnant water which the women try to sweep away, however leaving the site extremely slippery.

Asiye eTafuleni (AeT) has been collaborating with the Impepho and Lime sellers for infrastructural interventions to mitigate this challenge. After having completed the research phase, including extensive and ongoing consultation, this has led to a sketch design for proposed infrastructure. The Lime Sellers expressed the need for better storm-water drainage, roofing to protect them and their products from the elements, and dry and secure storage of their products which have been incorporated into the sketch design.

Since the sketch design phase, AeT has been trying to facilitate a partnership with various local government departments to realise the much needed infrastructural interventions. Once more, seeing the devastating impact of rains on the livelihoods of the women in this market, demonstrates the need to secure funds and accelerate interventions for enabling infrastructure that improve and enhance their working conditions.

Pictures of the area showing pre-intervention state and possible post-interventions:

Flooded market looking south taken in February 2010
Sketch looking south showing proposed infrastructure including roofing & storage facilities
Flooded market looking north taken in June 2011
Sketch looking north showing proposed infrastructure

4 thoughts on “The Impact of the Rains on the Impepho & Lime Market”

  1. It is heart breaking to see how the livelihoods of these women are affected by the rain considering how far they travel to sell their products at this market and how much time and hard work is invested in retrieving the lime and Impepho. Stagnant water and damp conditions could lead to some serious health problems. Thanks AET for implementing an intervention for these women. I do hope funding comes through for this project.

  2. It is devastating to witness the desperation of such a strong, independant and resourceful group of inspiring women. The simbiotic relationship between the market and the infrastucture it relies on, is all too real when external factors such as heavy rains disrupt the already fragile balance. it is humbling to walk through the underpass and receive such happy smiles from people who have and require so little. The possibility of not only providing, but protecting these woman by such a simple intervention cannot go without action. As with the destruction of the simbiosis by an external force, perhaps this intervention would allow for an empowerment by an external force, and i eagerly await the “go ahead”.
    keep up the great work!

    • The sentiments that are being expressed above are precisely those that are motivating Asiye eTafuleni to initiate support of infrastructure. Many people respond to the serenity and even a spirituality that exists in that space. The challenge therefore is to respond urgently to the physical needs of the trading community but also maintain the special attributes of their working market.


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