Kenyan Youths See Green Future in Collecting Garbage

By (Ruud Elmendorp)

According to the United Nations, uncollected garbage is a growing problem in cities around the globe, especially in areas with fast-rising populations. But there are solutions, as a youth group in Kenya’s capital is demonstrating.

“My name is Isaac Mutisia. I am 35 years old, and I am the co-founder of the Mathare Environmental Conservation Youth Group.”

We’re in the Mathare slum of Nairobi. Six-story high brick apartment buildings are around us. Ladies are selling groceries, and men are selling plastics.

Isaac Mutisia and his colleagues enter a building and climb the narrow stairs. They come out with a big dustbin full of garbage emitting an obnoxious stench.

FILE – Children stand amid trash in a building earmarked for demolition in the Mathare neighborhood of Nairobi, Kenya, May 17, 2016.

Some 200,000 people are believed to live in Mathare, in an area of just 2 square kilometers. The slum is not only congested with people, but also with their garbage.

According to the United Nations, one city dweller produces 1 kilogram of garbage per day. For Mathare, it means that every day 200,000 kilograms of trash finds its way into a public space.

While taking a break from carrying garbage cans, Mutisia says that collecting waste is a dire necessity.

“When you have a lot of people in one area and there is no proper way of handling waste, you find that everyone dumps waste everywhere,” he said.

Mutisia says the waste was piling up on street corners and illegal dumping sites. Doctors warn about the health effects of garbage, especially for children.

Doris Shiundi is a physician in a local clinic. In the next room a nurse is giving a sick baby a checkup.

“When you have a lot of garbage on the street like here in Mathare, most of the times we see patients who come here with diarrhea, sometimes cholera. Others come in with food poisoning because they eat on the street,” she said.

FILE – A student empties a dustbin next to a murky stream near a school in Kenya’s Kibera slums in capital Nairobi, Sept. 21, 2015.

This situation led Mutisia to do something to clean up the garbage, and at the same time meet another challenge.

“We saw the importance of making our community clean and also creating employment among ourselves because there was a challenge of unemployment,” he said.

Mutisia now has 100 youths collecting waste in the area, making money from households that pay to have their trash hauled away.

Once collected, the waste is brought to a legal dumping site.

The youths’ effort has caught the attention of local government officials, like Thomas Arimu

“We encourage the youths to copy what Kaka is doing to the neighboring community so that it becomes healthy,” he said.

Mutisia, meanwhile, is on the way to his next mission, visiting the U.N.-Habitat Assembly in Nairobi to talk about Mathare’s public spaces. His dream is to make the area as clean and green as the United Nations compound in Nairobi.

Kenya: Youth urged to join CBOs to help clean-up


City Hall has urged Nairobi youths to register in Community-Based Organisations to benefit from county job opportunities.

Environment executive Vesca Kangogo said, “I urge youths to come together in groups and get registered so when it comes to garbage collection we can engage you as an institution. ”

Not everyone can be employed in an office but youths are in CBOs in wards, they can get work, she said.

Speaking on Saturday at Roysambu, Kangogo said the youths will play a role in the monthly clean-ups which started last year in July.

She also urged residents to plant trees to conserve the environment.

Reduction of daily waste

Governor Mike Sonk0 said his government will prioritise solid waste management services.

“We will also empower CBOs, youth groups, resident associations and corporate bodies to play a bigger role in managing our environment,” he said.

Sonko also said his government has recovered illegal dumpsites and converted them into recreational grounds or ‘beautification islands’ to promote good environmental practices.

The former Kangemi Cemetery grounds and Komarock Canal, which were illegal dumpsites, have been reclaimed and converted to recreational areas.

Waste management has been a big headache for Nairobi, with a lot of the waste going into rivers, illegal dumpsites, roads and streets.

Sonko attended the monthly clean-up exercise at Roysambu with his CECs and ward reps.

Promised power plant

City Hall had announced plans to construct a power plant at Dandora dumpsite after it got it’s title deed last year.

In January, it was announced that construction on the much-awaited Sh20 billion power plant at Dandora will begin in June.

The county government said it was still receiving proposals from 26 shortlisted private investors that had expressed interest in the project.

More than 60 investors had expressed interest. The city shortlisted 26 and asked them to write a proposal detailing their technology and how they intend to implement it, Environment chief officer David Makori said.

The Dandora dumpsite covers more than 30 acres and receives wastes from across the capital.

It was declared full in 1996 but continues to receive trash after several relocation attempts failed.

Plans to relocate it to Ruai failed after the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority contested the move. It cited proximity to JKIA and said birds could disrupt flights with ‘bird hits’.

Currently, the county is compacting waste to accommodate more in Dandora.

The county has been planning to establish the energy plant for more than three years. In 2016, former governor Evans Kidero’s administration nearly delivered the project, but a German investor withdrew in the last minute because the city lacked a title deed.