In the town of Kitale in Kenya, residents set up a successful project which tackles many of the community’s problems with one ingenious solution: waste management. For more than a decade, Dajopen Waste Management Project has been tackling poverty and unemployment among youths in the slums of Tuwan in Kitale; continuously piling and uncollected garbage that remains an eye-sore in the settlement; the unhealthy environment in which residents of Tuwan live; and food insecurity for poor families.
The community project focuses on the environmental, social and economic challenges in Kitale and the country at large. It aims at contributing to a cleaner town and preservation of the environment in a comprehensive manner. Our community waste management strategy is implemented through collection of waste materials for production of recycled items and training in alternative livelihood opportunities, waste management and organic farming. It is guided by the Millennium Development Goal 7 that focuses on the promotion of Sustainable Development.
The project engages in intensive awareness creation of the dangers posed by the over accumulated garbage to the health of the residents especially the children who play with garbage not understanding the dangers involved. Secondly, through training, members come to identify innovations that can be used to take advantage of the population’s high rate of waste generation to create viable enterprises. Women are trained in hygienic handling of the waste during collection, processing and turning them into valuable products such as baskets, caps, floor table mats, etc. for sale, enabling them to sustain their livelihood. Men are also trained in recycling biodegradable and plastic wastes and turning them into organic fertilizer and fencing posts.
Since the project was first initiated in 2007, ninety five percent of its members have changed their waste disposal methods. More than 21,000 people have been trained in waste management and organic farming and eight community groups have been trained in producing a range of recycled products. Uganda (our neighboring country) sent their civic leaders to learn about waste management from our project.
We have already implemented several activities, of some which include: composting organic biodegradable waste, making briquettes from dry tree leaves and pulp papers, and making simple maize shellers from scrap metal to assist small-scale farmers and especially women who handle most of the domestic chores in family. Low density plastic wastes are recycled to make bags and mats. High density plastics make fencing poles and roofing tiles on a small scale because of a lack of extruder machines. Old calendars are recycled to make necklaces, bangles and earrings.
Dajopen Waste Management Project is improving the lives of many poor small holder farmers by employing a number of environmental, social and economic strategies to solve the poverty and food security concerns that affect the constituents in the neighborhood and in particular the residents of Tuwan slums. Our multi-pronged approach includes:
- Collecting and using garbage for economic purposes and in the process reducing municipal solid waste streams that can breed toxic materials and pathogenic organisms into the leachate of dumps and landfills thereby contaminating ground and surface water.
- Employing aerobic composting of bio-degradable waste and thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants that would otherwise have emanated from mixed solid waste heaps and dumps as a result of anaerobic decomposition. The anaerobic process is a significant source of methane gas in the atmosphere. In addition, our activities reduce the traditional practice of burning garbage in residential areas and in landfills, which is normally used to reduce the volume of garbage. Burning creates thick smoke that contains carbon monoxide, soot and nitrogen oxide, all of which are hazardous to human health and degrade urban air quality and can be avoided.
- Preventing solid waste dumping into waterways, drainage systems, streams and rivers that tend to alter aquatic habitats and harm native plants and animals. Solids can also cause sedimentation and change stream flow and bottom habitat, which may significantly damage these valuable natural resources and the services they provide.
- Preventing injury to people and property in slums that mushroom near open dumps and landfills. Accumulation of combustible gases can cause fires that can easily torch the makeshift shanty structures; accumulation of solid waste along streets may present physical hazards, clog drains and cause localized flooding.
- Preventing the unpleasant odor and unattractive appearance of piles of uncollected solid waste along streets and in fields, forests and other natural areas, which can discourage tourism and businesses.
- Creating job opportunities for street families, youth, women and slum dwellers by training them in a variety of solid waste reuse and recycling using social enterprise approaches. This has the advantage of involving them in producing goods or providing services to a market, making them accountable to their members and the wider community for their social, environmental and economic impact, and remaining autonomous with governance and ownership structures that embrace participation by stakeholder groups (clients and local community groups etc.). Particularly the making of charcoal briquettes from waste charcoal powder and waste paper have saved many families the cost of buying fuel (Kerosene, wood and charcoal) for cooking and domestic heating.
- Addressing the excessive use of inorganic fertilizers and chemical pesticides that are applied heavily in the fast degrading agricultural soils in Kenya. Trans Nzoia County is the food basket of Kenya and has been overly depended upon to feed the nation. The soils have lost structure and texture due to excessive exploitation without sound conservation know-how. Local farmers more often than not keep adding large quantities of inorganic, chemical fertilizers in order to maintain target yields without caring to revitalize the soils for sustainable use. This has resulted in accumulation of excessive amounts of nitrates and phosphate in the aquatic ecosystem, the presence of pesticide residues in various food stuffs, associated with mammalian toxicity and a rise in resistance of pests to chemical pesticides. By going organic, the compost product can be used to amend the soil by replenishing it with organic matter which will improve the overall soil conditions, developing and maintaining structure, improving physical properties, decreasing susceptibility to erosion and encouraging microbial activity.
Tackling ecological breakdown, poverty, food security and energy needs are not incompatible and do not need to be addressed piecemeal. Bottom-up community initiatives, if given the right support, have the know-how to rise to the challenge.