Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture


Community-Based Waste Management for Environmental Management and Income Generation in Low-Income Areas:
A Case Study of Nairobi, Kenya

by Kim Peters
in association with Mazingira Institute
Nairobi, Kenya March 1998

Table of Contents



Chapter One: Nairobi's Urban Environment

Chapter Two: Redressing the Urban Service Imbalance: The Role of the Community Sector in Waste and Environmental Management

Chapter Three: Community Development through Composting

Chapter Four: Conclusions

Appendix I: Photographic Essay of Community Waste Management in Nairobi


Community-Based Waste Mangement for Environmental Management and Income Generation in Low-Income Areas:
A Case Study of Nairobi, Kenya


Research for this case was originally carried out in Nairobi in 1994 and 1995, and was funded by the Canadian International Development Agency.

The research was carried out by Kim Peters with the assistance of the Mazingira Institute, the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University, Toronto, Canada, the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Nairobi, the Undugu Society of Kenya, the Foundation for Sustainable Development in Africa, and the Uvumbuzi Club of Nairobi.

I would also like to acknowledge the in-kind support provided by the Earth Council in preparing this version of the case study.

Kim Peters
Toronto, Canada
March 1998


This study focuses on the problems and opportunities of community-based waste management in Nairobi, Kenya. Within several of the city's informal settlements, women's groups have started composting organic wastes as means of improving community environmental conditions and generating income through the sale of the compost. The central purpose of the study is to assess the success of these composting projects in meeting their environmental and community development goals. A complementary purpose of the study is to add to the limited amount of research on waste in East Africa.

The participatory research techniques employed in this study revealed that significant environmental improvements have been achieved through composting, including improved health, urban agriculture opportunities, better drainage and access within the communities, and the potential to address rural-urban imbalances in resource flows. The composting projects have, to date, been less successful in their goal of generating income. However, the research revealed that other aspects of community development are equally, if not more important, than income generation.

In terms of appropriate roles for NGOs, CBOs and local authorities, the research provides evidence that communities are more than willing to provide for themselves urban service like waste management when local authorities are unable to do so. In providing advice, training, and credit to these organizations, NGOs have an important role to play. The resources of local authorities are therefore best employed in regulating, coordinating and advising CBO and NGO efforts in the provision of urban services like waste management.

This research has also added to the limited information on waste management in East Africa, especially with regard to issues of gender, urban agriculture, and the most appropriate roles for all actors in the waste management sector.

Chapter One
Nairobi's Urban Environment

1.1 Introduction

One of the most important outputs of the Earth Summit (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development) in 1992 was Agenda 21:

an action plan for the 1990s and well into the twenty-first century, elaborating strategies and integrated programme measures to halt and reverse the effects of environmental degradation and to promote environmentally sound and sustainable development in all countries (UNCED, 1992).

Agenda 21 included an action plan for cities wishing to enhance urban sustainability. These recommendations included institutionalizing a participatory approach and improving the urban environment by promoting social organization and environmental awareness. The need to promote actively, to strengthen and expand waste re-use and recycling systems was also recognized in Agenda 21. The consensus on sustainable development which emerged from the Earth Summit now must be transformed into action by engaging in a period of decentralized experimentation (Brugmann, 1994: 129).

Sub-Saharan Africa is one region where this experimentation is actively occurring now, especially after the 1980s economic crisis which resulted in increased hardship for most of the region's poor. The serious problems which confront African cities as a result of the 1980s' economic crisis have been well documented (Stren and White, 1989). One enduring consequence is the inability of African governments to sustain adequate levels of urban services. As continuing economic hardship forces a growing number of migrants to urban areas in search of employment, an even greater strain is placed on urban pressure points like solid waste management. Both financially and physically, a city may be unable to provide waste collection, especially to the urban poor occupying peri-urban or other geographically inaccessible areas. The urban poor are left to contend with waste disposal on their own. The lack of support given to the urban poor in this area has serious consequences on their health and on the urban environment. Thus, in cities of the developing world, the management of solid wastes is now an issue of vital importance to urban sustainability.

As urban environmental problems worsen in developing countries, non-conventional approaches to urban pressure points like waste management will have to be adopted. The recycling of solid and organic waste is one approach which has positive ramifications in creating informal employment and offering an environmentally sound solution to waste management problems. While there is considerable documentation on innovative community-level waste management schemes in Asian and Latin American cities, little research has been done on the importance of, and potential for, waste re-use in African cities . As a city with critical waste management problems and a burgeoning informal sector, Nairobi possesses both the need and potential for an innovative approach to its waste problems.

One alternative waste management technique is the urban poor's re-use of refuse. Waste recycling is often undertaken as a survival strategy when the urban poor are unable to obtain formal employment, and when non-waste resources are scarce or unaffordable. Waste re-use also plays a role in improving the urban physical environment. By reducing the total amount of solid waste headed for the landfill (or left lying to rot in the streets), recycling and composting are land-saving and pollution-reducing strategies. Waste re-use also plays a valuable resource conserving role: by recycling materials, further exploitation of scarce natural resources is minimized, thus containing the spreading ecological footprint of the city. Despite these environmentally and socially beneficial aspects of waste recycling, it is not without its negative impacts, which include exploitation by waste buyers and poor health and living conditions for the urban poor who deal in waste picking (Furedy, 1992).

This study started as an investigation of community efforts at environmental management, income generation, and community empowerment through waste management in Nairobi, Kenya. Several community groups in Nairobi's low-income areas were found to be undertaking composting as an income generating and environmental management strategy. Other types of community waste management also exist in Nairobi: these will also be discussed briefly.

Waste management is identified as one of Nairobi's key environmental issues and is therefore the focus of this study. Local residents fondly recall the days when Nairobi was a clean, efficient city - the pride of Africa. Researchers in Kenya and abroad discuss the externalities of structural adjustment - how the ability of local authorities to deliver services to urban residents has been hindered by deficit reduction, civil service streamlining, etc. Local residents and researchers alike show concern for the impact that the lack of adequate waste management has on low-income urban residents. Both local residents and researchers are also looking for solutions which not only mitigate the environmental problems of waste, but also enhance community development efforts by generating income, sharing information and labour, and uniting community members in collective action.

To what extent have solutions along these lines been applied in Nairobi? How are they being carried out? Are they successful? What are the limitations and the future potential? These questions will be addressed with the intention of adding to the body of literature on urban problems in East Africa, and of documenting local initiatives which, because of their small scale and informal nature, are often overlooked in the struggle to achieve global sustainability.

1.2 Geographical Context of the Project

Today, Nairobi's two main images stand in marked contrast to one another. The first is of a well-planned garden city in which salubrious suburbs, the preservation of open space, and the presence of wide, landscaped boulevards dominate the city's physical layout. Equally visible nowadays is what Hake (1977) calls the "self-help city": it includes make-shift housing, roadside jua kali shops and industries, and small, cultivated plots along undeveloped or under-utilized urban land. Today, the dividing lines between Nairobi the garden city and Nairobi the self-help city are less distinct as informal housing and small-scale business activities are attracted to the large number of open areas in the city's upper income areas. Under-investment in urban infrastructure is also resulting in the decay of many of Nairobi's modern "amenities". However, the colonial pattern of development still persists in that the majority of Africans live in high-density and/or informal housing to the east of the CBD while high-income groups, including Asians, Europeans, and the African nouveau-elite live to the west and northwest of the CBD.

The informal housing settlements of Nairobi are home to over half of the city's population, now estimated to be about 1.8 million (Lamba, 1994: 168). The density of informal settlement is reflected in the amount of land they occupy: one third of Nairobi's population lives on only five percent of the city's land (Ibid.). The most common housing situation for residents of informal settlements is renting, not ownership. Illegal landlords (who may or may not live in the slums themselves) collect rent from illegal tenants (Lamba, 1994; Lee-Smith, 1990). In some cases, beds within houses are sublet for a certain number of hours each day (Ibid.) Land allocation decisions are made through local chiefs and village elders, rather than through recognized municipal authorities. The land on which informal settlements are constructed is hazardous because of steep slopes, flooding, or proximity to noxious industry. Poverty, the insecurity of housing tenure, and the desire to invest in rural homes limit incentives to improve urban housing conditions. The illegal status and inaccessible location of these settlements make local authorities reluctant to provide them with urban services.

The lack of well paying formal sector employment opportunities (due to slow economic growth, SAPs and the accelerated pace of urbanization) has resulted in a growing jua kali (i.e., informal) sector in Nairobi. This sector has become an important alternative to employment in the formal sector and is estimated to employ approximately one half of the urban labour force, contributing twenty to thirty percent of total urban income (Ondiege, 1990:6). For 1981-84, the growth rate of the informal sector (8.1%) was estimated to be twice that of the modern sector (4.1%) (Ibid.). The sector caters for low-income consumers with the affordable goods and services the sector provides. Informal activities in Nairobi include street vendors, maize roasters, shoe shiners, auto-repairers, cart pullers, kiosk owners, street barbers, water vendors, building contractors, charcoal sellers and furniture makers (Bubba and Lamba, 1991).

Many of Nairobi's poor engage in waste picking as a means of income generation. Scavengers are estimated to collect 20 tonnes of the approximately 800 to 1000 tonnes generated daily in Nairobi (Syagga, 1992: 34).

The degree of scavenging is so intensive at the main Dandora waste disposal site such that a visit to the site during the day appears as if the scavengers are people working in a rice field (Mwaura, 1991: 105).

Mwaura's 1991 study of scavengers found that the majority were single men averaging about 27 years of age. They were usually long-term residents of Nairobi; it is not a job for recent migrants because detailed information as to where to find the garbage is needed and one must have linkages to the market to enable one to sell (Ibid., 88-100). The most popular items scavenged include paper, scrap metal, and bottles in that order of preference. Other materials identified included bones and plastics (Odegi-Awuondo, 1994: 49). Scavengers sell daily collections to middlemen who in turn sell it to industries.

Organic wastes are not usually scavenged by waste pickers, but are important to street children who often pick through bins to find their next meal. Some of the larger restaurants and hotels also sell their scraps to farmers to be used as pig feed (Personal communication, Sarova Hotels). Organic wastes are also important to the urban agriculture sector as all sorts of livestock, including goats, chickens and the occasional cow, feed on top of waste heaps.

Urban agriculture exists throughout the city on both private and public land. The growing of crops in urban areas is an important survival strategy for the urban poor (especially for those without rural land holdings) as it reduces the amount of income expended on food (Kettel et al., 1995). Freeman (1991) estimated that one-third of urban households in Nairobi grew crops. A study on urban agriculture by the Mazingira Institute (1987) estimates that three quarters of urban farmers consumed all that they produced.

The legal status of urban agriculture remains unclear. While harassment of urban farmers by legal authorities largely has ceased, threats are still made that maize plots along road reserves will be cleared because they limit driver visibility and conceal criminals. The potential of urban agriculture is limited by these threats along with crop theft and vandalism. While its importance as a survival strategy for the urban poor is evident, its viability as a development solution has been challenged: "...if it is as backward and trapped in vicious circles of poverty as rural agriculture, it is no answer to our search for sustainable development" (Bibangambah, 1992: 306).

1.3 Demographic, Social and Economic Context

In the 1980s, the austerity measures associated with SAPs and a decline in national economic growth had the effect of worsening urban poverty, but perceived higher incomes in urban areas and the removal of agricultural subsidies as part of SAPs have also led to an increase in rural-urban migration in the 1980s (whereas the 1970s had seen a decline in the rate of migration). This rapid urban growth, combined with SAP austerities, causes strain on existing facilities in urban areas. The under-investment in services has been especially difficult on women who are responsible for the provision of collective needs.

Traditionally it was men who migrated to urban areas, leaving women and children in rural areas where food and education were cheaper and labour was needed to care for the family shamba. However, an increasing number of women are migrating to urban areas for a number of reasons: in order to improve their position in the socio-economic system of stratification which limits their ability to participate fully in the rural opportunity system; in order to escape traditionally ascribed status, from obedience to male relatives, from lives of hard physical labour, from customary sanctions against unmarried mothers; and to look for husbands because few men remain in rural areas (House-Midamba 1991:53-54). While women lose the security of traditional rural life, they clearly gain a sense of personal freedom, empowerment, and independence from life in the city. Brown (1994: 24) estimates that over half of the population in Nairobi's informal settlements live in female-headed, single parent households.

In terms of employment opportunities, men have more access to formal sector jobs because they tend to be more highly educated and do not have the child care responsibilities of women. Even in the informal sector, men have more opportunities for the same reasons as above, but they also have better access to credit than women. Women's inability to secure capital and acquire access to credit (because they have been systematically excluded from land ownership which would provide them with collateral) exerts severe and negative repercussions on Kenyan women's commercial activities.

Three-quarters of all Kenyan women engaged in small-scale urban enterprises are concentrated in the area of wholesale and retail trade (House-Midamba, 1995: 82). Within this group of women traders, a large majority of them are vegetable hawkers. This role is derived not only from the role of women as vegetable traders in traditional Kikuyu society, but also from the flexibility that vegetable hawking allows them: it requires almost no capital investment; their place of business and hours of operation are variable; and they can care for children at the same time as working (Ibid.). Other forms of hawking by women include charcoal selling, maize beer-brewing, kiosk operating, selling cooked food, dressmaking, hairdressing and prostitution (Ibid.: 90).

The cutbacks in urban infrastructure investment and social services as a result of SAPs have a disproportionate impact on women. They are traditionally responsible for providing items of collective consumption, such as water and domestic energy, normally provided through infrastructural services (Lee-Smith and Stren, 1991: 30). Women in urban areas are burdened with providing these services, in addition to child care and income generating responsibilities. Women's organizations in Kenya play a vital role in the process of economic development (by providing access to credit, education, etc.) and in lobbying the government for improved conditions for women (House-Midamba, 1995: 92).

1.4 Local Government in Nairobi and the Waste Management Situation

Responsibility for the provision of most urban services is allocated to the level of local government as a result of the British colonial heritage of the country. Because the westernized approach to service provision is failing, alternatives must be explored. In order to identify appropriate alternatives, the reasons for the failure of urban service provision must be established.

Administration of urban areas in Kenya is the responsibility of local authorities and the Ministry of Local Government. In 1991, there were 109 local authorities in Kenya. These are divided into four categories: 20 municipalities (including Nairobi); 22 town councils; 39 county councils; and 28 urban councils (Bubba and Lamba, 1991: 40). Services provided by municipal governments in large urban areas include: primary education, health services, road construction and maintenance, water supply, sewerage, housing, solid waste management, drainage, markets, and social services.

The problems plaguing the management of Nairobi's urban services can be traced to both local and central levels of government. Staff at both levels suffer from a lack of decision-making authority, a lack of experience, a lack of accountability and heavy volumes of work due to under-staffing (Smoke, 1994: 128). There is also a lack of inter-local government cooperation in projects where a coordination in planning and construction of infrastructure projects would result in significant cost savings (Ibid., 124). Smoke also identifies several financial problems that plague local authorities: out-dated land rates, neglect in the collection of taxes, dishonesty of revenue collectors, inadequate enforcement authority, political pressure on officers to be less aggressive in revenue collection, and payment delinquency on the part of many government agencies and parastatals. Moreover, user fees for some urban services may be heavily subsidized to the point that the service is operated at a net loss (Bubba and Lamba, 1991: 41).

These problems are exacerbated by political difficulties at the city level. Councillors are more concerned with the private accumulation of wealth than with the efficient management of urban services (Bubba and Lamba, 1991: 42). There are also poor relations between the politicians and chief officers. The Nairobi City Council (NCC) has been at the centre of these controversies. In 1983, the City Council was dismissed because of gross mismanagement and failure to provide urban services. In its place, a commission was set up to run the city. Between 1983 and 1991, there were five different chairpersons and three different commissions: each was dissolved because of its inability to serve City Hall or to provide residents with services (Ibid., 46-47).

These organizational, fiscal and political problems faced by central and local government in Kenya have resulted in an inability to cope with the staggering rates of population growth and rural to urban migration. There is excessive strain on existing facilities and under-investment in new ones. Education, health facilities, and urban services (including waste management) are especially affected.

Uncollected solid waste is one of Nairobi's most visible environmental problems: The municipal service which seems to fail most strikingly is garbage collection and disposal because it causes littering and untidiness which has an immediate adverse psychological impact. The lack of adequate garbage disposal in an area often results in negative attitudes that contribute to a general deterioration of community development and cohesion (Mwaura, 1991: 35).

One half of the solid waste generated in Nairobi consists of organic matter. Toxic materials are estimated to be 0.2 percent of the total. For households alone, it is estimated that three-quarters of the waste is organic material (Syagga, 1992: 28-29). Estimates for the daily generation of solid waste for the city as a whole range from 800 tonnes (Syagga 1992) to 1000 tonnes (Personal communication, NCC Cleansing Section). Daily disposal capacity of the NCC is about 400 tonnes: less than fifty percent. The NCC estimates that private companies are disposing about 50 tonnes a month. Waste collection services are provided only sporadically to low-income areas because of poor accessibility and very high waste generation which cannot be handled with available vehicles and equipment. Other problems encountered by the NCC Cleansing Section include inadequate financing, a lack of recognition of the importance of satisfactory and effective waste management by the policy makers, and inadequate training of managers (Personal communication, NCC Cleansing Section).

Privatization as an alternative to publicly provided waste management has been explored for developing countries. Bartone et al. (1991) conclude that the private sector can operate more efficiently than the public sector in providing municipal solid waste services, while Cointreau-Levine (1994) concludes that it is a possible opportunity, not a panacea, for improving solid waste management in developing countries. For example, in Nairobi, two formal sector companies provide private waste collection services. However, only upper-income residents and businesses are able to afford the monthly fee. Neither company ventures into the informal settlements since they are unable to collect fees from residents. The NCC has no official policy towards the privatization of waste collection, nor do they provide any assistance to private companies to enable them to operate in informal settlements (Personal communication, NCC Cleansing Section).

The NCC also lacks a policy on waste reduction at the source, and on involving community groups in waste management (though it does participate in several notable efforts). Cleansing Section officials recognize the need to reduce waste at its source, to conduct mass media campaigns, and to develop clear and enforceable policies and bylaws promoting waste reduction, recycling, and community participation, but their is a lack of political will to do so (Personal communication, NCC Cleansing Section). Because of poor financing and management, senior managers in the NCC Cleansing Section envision their future role as one of coordinating all actors in the waste management sector, including their own limited resources, the private sector, and the community sector.

Chapter Two
Redressing the Urban Service Imbalance: The Role of the Community Sector in Waste and Environmental Management

2.1 Introduction

The community sector needs to be included in waste management efforts as both private and public sector actors are unable to provide waste services to low-income areas of the city. Syagga (1992) supports the involvement of the community sector as an effective way of increasing access of the poor to urban services, including waste management. In Nairobi, organizations in the community sector, such as charitable organizations, ethnic associations, professional "support" NGOs, welfare societies, village committees, self-help groups, and security committees are already providing many of these services:

... a recent survey of eighty NGOs in Nairobi shows that support NGOs provide a wide range of services. Their emphasis is on education (they provide nine per cent of all primary education and twenty-seven per cent of all secondary education in the city) followed by health and welfare. Some NGOs also provide housing, while a few provided recreation, water waste disposal, and environmental conservation services (Lee-Smith & Stren, 1991: 34).

The involvement of grassroots NGOs and CBOs has been mostly a rural phenomenon in Africa. As the number of CBOs active in urban areas increases along with the number of urban poor, there is a need for local government and community institutions to collaborate to improve urban management (Ibid., 35).

Syagga notes that the involvement of women is also crucial to the success of community-based solid waste management:

What is the attitude of women to solid wastes? What general concerns do women have about access to wastes, neighbourhood cleanliness, and how do they view their role in solid waste management as a business? Women are the generators of most of the household waste in Nairobi, and therefore their commitment to improve their earnings and work, would be a major entry to community-based solid waste management (Syagga, 1992: 34).

In Nairobi, many NGOs have a strong presence in the city's informal settlements. They play an important role in providing education, health care,and many other urban services. The strength of the NGOs included in this study is their recognition that solutions to urban problems are not isolated, but interconnected. This recognition is reflected in the integrated approach they are taking to environmental management and community development.

The following section describes the NGOs and CBOs engaged in community waste management in Nairobi. Further analysis of these case studies in later sections reveals how these CBOs and NGOs work together to improve their community environment both in terms of environmental management and sources of income.

2.2 City-wide Community Efforts

The Clean-Up Nairobi Campaign and the Mathare Youth Sports Association

The NCC does not have an official policy on community involvement in waste management, but does participate actively in several community clean-up programs. Most notable and well-publicized are the Mathare Youth Sports Association and the Clean-Up Nairobi Campaign. The Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) began in 1987 as a small self-help initiative combining community responsibility with sports (football). Community responsibility is promoted through clean-ups carried out once a week in the various villages comprising the Mathare Valley informal settlement in Nairobi. Garbage is collected and removed and drainage ditches are cleared with the aid of the NCC personnel and equipment (see Figures I.15 and I.16 in Appendix I). The idea behind the clean-up stemmed from the concern that "local governments and NGOs rarely seek to meet the needs of children , nor do they involve them in environmental action which will bring them direct benefits" (Munro, 1992: 207). The community service is performed in lieu of sports fees which most youths cannot afford to pay.

A few of the obstacles experienced by MYSA include health risks and injuries to the youths, difficulty involving older youths in the clean-ups, promoting community cooperation in waste disposal, a lack of ability to expand into recycling to generate income, involving female youths in sports, and an inability to accommodate street children in its project (Personal communication, MYSA). For 1991, the total expenditures of MYSA were $10,700 (US) on equipment and the coordinator's salary (Munro, 1992: 209). This money is provided by Scandinavian donor agencies who also sponsor MYSA's "all-star" team to travel to Europe for occasional tournaments.

The Clean Up Nairobi Campaign, founded in 1992, was a coalition of Nairobi residents who came together to solve the city's waste problem with a hands-on approach. Activities were planned in coordination with the NCC - much the same as the MYSA activities. The coalition was also looking into promoting waste reduction and composting. However, Clean Up Nairobi has recently collapsed due to management difficulties, including difficulties coordinating with, and getting support from the NCC and a lack of ability to devoet the time necessary to get the campaign in full-swing (Personal Communication, Clean Up Nairobi).

The success of MYSA and the potential of Clean Up Nairobi to engender community responsibility in Nairobi residents is essential to solving Nairobi's environmental problems. Sport was the motivating factor behind MYSA, CUN lacked such a motivation which resulted in its collapse. In examining several of the composting groups in Nairobi, it is evident that their success in waste management is also contingent on a motivating factor behind the waste management, in this case, income generation.

2.3 Local NGOs Promoting Composting

Less publicized than the MYSA and Clean Up Nairobi activities are the composting groups in Nairobi's low-income areas which are supported by a number of local NGOs. These composting groups were established by the NGOs through existing community-based organizations, usually women's savings or church groups. Three local NGOs (Uvumbuzi Club, Undugu Society of Kenya, and the Foundation for Sustainable Development in Africa) have provided support and training to approximately 12 CBOs doing composting in several of Nairobi's low-income areas. (Refer to Figure 2.1 - Greater Nairobi Area: Locations of Informal Settlements and Composting Groups.)

Uvumbuzi Club:

The Uvumbuzi Club is a membership organization with four programme areas: environmental conservation and lobbying activities; promoting cycling as a non-motorised mode of transportation; low-cost trips to areas of environmental interest; and providing members with a newsletter, videos, and a library of environmental publications.

As part of their environmental lobbying campaign, Uvumbuzi started a "Garbage is Money" campaign in October 1992 to promote conservation as a source of livelihood for the poor. Five groups in the Dandora, Huruma and Korogocho areas are involved in the composting of community organic waste. The group in Dandora also operates a demonstration garden plot where the benefits of composting are demonstrable. In low-income areas, where the organic component can comprise up to ninety percent of total wastes, composting is a very effective waste management strategy.

Uvumbuzi has gradually withdrawn its support for the composting groups, except in the areas of transporting and marketing the wastes. CBOs linked with Uvumbuzi include the Grogan 'A' Waste Recycling Group (Korogocho), the Kuku Women's Group (Dandora), the Block-Making Women's Group (Kariobangi), the Korogocho Mbolea Group and the Nyayo Market Group (Korogocho).

The Foundation for Sustainable Development in Africa:

The FSDA is a Kenyan registered NGO operating on the philosophy that for development to be truly sustainable, it must be conducted as a profit/loss business. FSDA receives no funding from donor agencies or countries. FSDA has five objectives:

FSDA worked in cooperation with the Uvumbuzi Club in the "Garbage in Money" public awareness campaign which included a "Garbage is Money" poster and an illustrated composting instruction booklet (FSDA, 1993). In addition, the FSDA publishes a bi-monthly newsletter and offers a series of comprehensive training courses in organic agriculture. FSDA was responsible for training the majority of composting groups and still sends an extension worker to each of the groups approximately every two weeks. FSDA assists in packaging and marketing the waste whenever possible. This usually involves hiring a pick-up truck to collect and deliver the compost to a point-of-sale area like the City Park Hawkers Market in Parklands.

CBOs linked with FSDA include the City Park Hawkers Market Group, the Wekhonye Women's Group (Dagoretti Corner); the Mwangaza Women's Group (Kayaba), a group in Mathare Valley and a new group (as of late 1995) in Nairobi's Kawangware area.

Undugu Society of Kenya:

The Undugu Society is a charitable organization started in 1973 by a Dutch clergyman to deal with the growing problem of street children in Nairobi. Initial activities included shelters, feeding programs, and basic education and vocational training for these children. Undugu has since expanded its activities, guided by the philosophy that in order to solve the problem of street children, one must go to the root of the problem (i.e., the communities from which these children come). Undugu is continuing its rehabilitative programs for street children, but has added shelter upgrading, counselling services, primary health care, informal sector development and urban agriculture to its list of projects.

Undugu became involved in the composting efforts of Uvumbuzi and FSDA because they wanted to promote an integrated approach to urban environmental problems through a clean living environment (waste recycling) and food security (urban agriculture). FSDA was responsible for training two groups linked with Undugu (Kinyago Bidii Group in Kitui-Pumwani and Ushirikisho Women's Group in Kibera). Undugu Society extension workers integrate the composting activities with other community development efforts.

2.4 Community-Based Organizations Involved in Composting

Three CBOs were selected for more detailed study with the help of extension workers and supervisory staff from the NGOs. The three groups chosen were the Kinyago Bidii Group, the Korogocho Mbolea Group and the City Park Hawkers Market Group.

Korogocho Mbolea Group:

This group was selected because of the very low-incomes of the members and the location of the group in one of Nairobi's largest informal settlements where there are few urban services and very little support from local NGOs. The group consists of women who both live and work in the Nyayo Village area of Korogocho. Most of the women are heads of their households and generate their limited income through petty trading, usually vegetable hawking.

Kinyago Bidii Group:

While still classified as poor, these women have more diversified sources of income thanks to the significant involvement of the Undugu Society in their community. The benefits accrued to them through Undugu include urban agriculture shambas, participation in handicraft manufacturing for the Undugu Society's gift shop, and shelter upgrading. Kinyago Village, located in the Kitui-Pumwani area near Eastleigh Section III, is also considerably smaller than the Korogocho group, making activities involving community cohesiveness, such as environmental management, much easier.

City Park Hawkers Market:

This group differs primarily in its location in the more affluent Parklands area of Nairobi. While the other two are residential communities, this group differs in that it is a commercial community of vegetable and used-clothing hawkers. While the vegetable stalls attract affluent shoppers from Parklands, Muthaiga and Westlands, the used-clothing dukas and hotelis (physically located at the back of the market) attract the people who work in the market, or domestic servants from the local area. The women involved in the composting group travel to and from the market on a daily basis. Most live in low-income areas in Nairobi's eastern areas, including Kayole and Mathare Valley.

2.5 Environmental Benefits of Composting

One of the central arguments of this study is that composting can be an effective strategy for alleviating the problems of unmanaged waste in Nairobi's informal settlements. Composting has managed to achieve a number of beneficial environmental effects:

Improved health:

Composting group members reported a reduction in the incidence of environmental illnesses, including diarrhoea and malaria (due to a decrease in stagnant water collecting in improperly disposed wastes). They noted significant improvement in the health of their children who often played in waste-contaminated areas due to a lack of open space for safe play.

The importance of a clean environment to human health, especially that of children, is described in detail by Hardoy et al. (1992) and Satterthwaite (1993).

Open sites used by children for play are often contaminated with faecal matter and with household wastes also attracting rats and other disease vectors. The increasing mobility of children and their natural curiosity and desire to explore can also expose them to many environmental hazards.... Where provision for safe play space is deficient, children will play on roads and garbage tips and other hazardous places (Hardoy et al., 1992: 105).

The health risks of exposure to pathogens are made worse in situations where limited access to clean water (usually because it is an expensive commodity which must be purchased in small quantities) results in poor hygiene practices in an attempt to conserve water. This puts women at risk more than men because of their gender-assigned roles in family and household maintenance (Ibid., 106).

Improved physical environment:

Better drainage was one of the environmental improvements reported by composting group members. Wastes were previously dumped in open drainage channels or in the Mathare or Nairobi Rivers. Flooding was therefore a problem as a result of the uncollected wastes blocking drainage channels.

Group members also noted how much more hospitable the outdoor environment has become - they no longer have to seek refuge inside their homes from the odours of rotting garbage. The psychosocial disorders associated with poor living environments are well reported in the literature. Hardoy et al. (1992: 94) report that depression, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide and violence are the most serious pyschosocial disorders traceable to poor quality living environments, including noise, over-crowding, inappropriate design, and poor sanitation and waste disposal.

Access has also improved in many of the areas since waste dumping is much more controlled. Foot paths and main roads through the villages and markets are no longer blocked. Better access has been achieved by group members encouraging other community members to dump their wastes in specific areas as opposed to random dumping. Group members also distribute plastic bags to community members to encourage the separation of organic wastes at source. They collect the bags once a week for composting.

Urban agriculture: Two of the groups surveyed (Kibera and Kinyago) have small shambas for group members as a result of the involvement of the Undugu Society in their activities. In Kibera, the shambas are located on the edge of the settlement adjacent to the Nairobi Dam (Figure 2.2). In Kinyago, the shambas were located where the Nairobi River meets First Avenue Eastleigh, just north of Jogoo Road (Figure 2.3). The location of the shambas next to a source of water allows for crop production throughout the year, not only during the rainy season. The primary reason these groups produced compost is for use in their own shambas. There was general agreement that the improved crop yield resulting from the application of compost is worth the effort. Both groups expressed a desire to work even harder at composting if there is sufficient demand for them to sell excess compost.

2.6 Limitations of Composting as a Waste Management Strategy

Despite the ability of composting to deal with the environmental problems described above, many environmental problems remain unsolved and require action beyond the efforts of the various groups.

Inorganic Waste Problems:

Despite the proliferation of informal waste picking in Nairobi (Syagga's 1992 research estimated that scavengers collect 20 tonnes of the 800 to 1000 tonnes of solid waste generated daily in Nairobi), there are still inorganic components of the waste stream which are not being reused or recycled and therefore represent a serious environmental hazard. The most abundant of these wastes are the low-density polyethylene (LDPE) plastic bags which have come into popular use in East Africa over the past five to ten years (refer to Figures I.3 and I.11 in Appendix I).

LDPE plastics are currently not recyclable in Nairobi. Some of the composting groups (Hawkers Market and Dagoretti Corner) used to collect plastic bags for a local processor of recyclable plastics (Rupshi Enterprises), but recycling became unviable when chronic water shortages at Rupshi prevented proper cleaning of plastics before processing. In addition, the Hawkers Market group started a project using plastic bags to manufacture multi-purpose mats. However, the mats proved to be unmarketable as they could not sell them at a price that compensated for production costs. Although all of the groups reuse plastic bags to collect organic wastes from other households in the community, they still lack an appropriate method of final disposal.

Other components of the inorganic waste stream that pose environmental problems include alkaline batteries and other toxic wastes. Spent batteries are commonly seen scattered about informal settlements as they represent a popular power source in the unserviced areas. These wastes are hazardous to human and animal health as animals feed from waste piles containing such wastes. Humans consume the products of these animals (meat, eggs, milk), thereby putting their own health at risk.

In Mukuru-Kayaba, toxic industrial effluents were a major concern of residents since the village is located in Nairobi's industrial area. Low-income urban residents have no option but to live in these contaminated areas since they lack access to land in safer environments. They also depend on the proximity of their residence to their source of employment as public transportation is an expense to be avoided if at all possible (Hardoy et al. 1992: 107).

Human wastes:

The lack of proper sanitation facilities, including toilets, showers, and sewage disposal has been well documented in Nairobi (Lamba, 1994; USAID, 1993). According to a survey by Matrix Development Consultants, ninety four percent of the population in informal settlements does not have access to adequate sanitation. Up to sixty per cent of the population in Kibera and Korogocho must share pit latrines with approximately fifty other people (Matrix Development Consultants, 1993: 9). Even when toilet facilities are available, people complain that they are not conveniently located, that they are unclean, or that using them at night poses a security risk. Children are especially vulnerable to inadequate toilets because they may lack access to household keys which unlock the community toilets (refer to Figures I.10 and I.13 in Appendix I).

Access and Infrastructure:

While coordinated community efforts aimed at controlling dumping help to keep foot paths and unpaved access roads clear, many of the informal settlements are almost impassable during the rainy season as earthen paths turn to mud. This problem was noted to be especially severe in the villages located in river basins (Kinyago, Korogocho, and Kibera). Rivers and streams cutting through informal settlements also pose barriers to accessibility. (A foot bridge in Kibera had been dismantled for use as informal building materials.) The composting efforts have a positive impact on flooding, but there are still problems during the rainy season when plastics clog drainage channels.

Poor housing: Extremely low household incomes prevent people from making investments in improved shelter. Indoor air quality is also poor as charcoal stoves and paraffin lamps are used without sufficient venting. These problems are also described in detail in Hardoy et al. (1992). Again, these problems have an especially severe impact on women who are likely to do the majority of the cooking. Only improvements in income generation can improve this situation.

Urban agriculture: While composting has improved the viability of urban agriculture for two of the seven groups studied (Kinyago and Kibera), the other five groups do not have access to land for urban agriculture. Therefore, they produce compost solely for sale outside their of communities. Composting would be more viable for them if they could make use it themselves.

Livestock keeping is an important aspect of urban agriculture. Goats and poultry (and sometimes even swine and cattle) are commonly kept in Nairobi's informal settlements. Urban farmers often station their livestock next to waste heaps where the animals can feed off of disposed wastes. However, in feeding directly on wastes, animals can be injured by sharp or poisonous objects. Furthermore, in warm climates, pathogen growth in kitchen waste occurs rapidly, and livestock might become infected. Hence, the use of kitchen wastes as animal feed without separation from other waste materials is not recommended (UNCHS, 1989: 45).

Problems faced by urban cultivators include occasional harassment by city officials as the legal status of urban agriculture is unclear. In Kinyago and Kibera, even though access to urban shambas has been secured by the Undugu Society, the women cultivators complain of crop theft and human waste disposal in the shambas. The Undugu Society is now working with the cultivators to plan the shamba plots so that crop arrangement discourages potential polluters and thieves.

2.7 Composting and Rural-Urban Linkages

The benefits of compost-making are not limited to mitigating the waste problems of urban areas. The interviews with composting group members suggests that composting can have a positive impact on Kenya's rural areas. Evidence from Kenya indicates that urban-learned skills are extremely important to rural development, especially since most urban residents maintain strong links with their rural homes (Lee-Smith and Stren, 1991: 26). Many composting group members identified composting skills as valuable to their farming activities "back home." Those with rural farms intended to use the urban-produced compost in rural crop production.

The potential of urban compost for use in rural areas needs further investigation, but it was outside the scope of this study to explore the issue in detail. It appears that it could be an excellent means of reducing the negative impact of Nairobi's spreading ecological footprint by feeding resources back into the countryside, thereby lessening Nairobi's parasitic impact on the surrounding region. FSDA and the Uvumbuzi Club are well aware of this potential, and have directed educational efforts to spreading this awareness. Composting group members were also cognizant that use of compost produced in urban areas for rural agricultural could save the country a great deal of the foreign exchange spent on importing synthetic fertilizers. For small-scale farmers, promoting the use of compost is easily done through newsletters, including one put out through the Horticultural Crops Development Authority of Kenya. However, the political and foreign interests vested in large scale commercial farming make it difficult to promote the use of urban-produced compost in these cases.

Composting has managed to achieve environmental improvements in all seven of the areas included in this study. Maintaining a clean and healthy environment is the principal motivation for women who participate in composting, and this goal has been met to a significant extent. But improved waste management solves only a few of the informal settlements' environmental problems and does very little to improve housing conditions or human waste disposal, both of which also have a significant impact on the health of informal settlement residents. In chapter three, the ability of composting to generate income will be assessed. In this regard, composting could have a significant role in improving other environmental problems by providing residents with some of the income needed for improving other aspects of their communities.

Chapter Three: Community Development through Composting

3.1 Introduction

Other than the environmental benefits identified in the previous section, it was assumed that income would be the other major motivating factor in the success of the composting schemes. This proved to be only partially correct. In this chapter, income generation is considered along with other aspects of community development to determine the relative importance of each. The constraints on income generation and community development, including gender considerations, are also explored. Finally, ways of improving income generation and community development opportunities through composting are explored.

3.2 Amounts and Relative Importance of Income Generated

Table 3.1 compares the seven groups included in the study in terms of membership, the duration of composting activities, and total income generated from composting. A quick examination of the data in the table reveals that there is no apparent relationship between size of membership and the duration of the activity, and the amount of income generated. Rather, in the course of the research, location was found to be the most important determinant of financial success of the composting groups. For Korogocho, Kayaba, Kibera and Dagoretti Corner, the marketing of their compost is difficult because of their location at the interior of informal settlements, accessible only by unsurfaced, narrow roads. On the other hand, the most financially successful of the

Table 3.1: Inter-Group Comparisons: Composting Income Generated

Composting Group

Number of Members

Date Started

Profits from Composting (Ksh) (as of April 1995)

Hawkers Market


October 1994




July 1994




June 1993

18,000 to 20,000



May 1992


Dagoretti Corner


September 1994




July 1993






* Not available: group members do not keep records of the profits generated.

composting groups, the City Park Hawkers Market, cannot keep up with the demand for its compost. This success is due to the location of the composting plot at the point of sale, where the activity is both highly visible and convenient to customers, including high-income customers with large, private gardens.

When the data were collected, the Kinyago group had not yet reported a large volume of sales because they had not started marketing their compost aggressively. However, they remain confident that their sales will be successful because their composting plot is located adjacent to a major paved road (First Avenue Eastleigh - refer to Figure 2.3). The Kinyago group has formulated a marketing strategy which includes the use of signs to advertise the availability of their compost. While confident that their compost will be marketable, the Kinyago and Kibera groups are, at the same time, less concerned about selling the compost since they have their urban agriculture projects to fall back on.

The environmental benefits outlined in chapter two are the primary reason that the various community-based organizations participate in composting, but the activity is also important in improving non-physical environmental aspects of the community. As part of standardized interviewing carried out for this study, participants were asked to rank, in order of importance to them, non-environmental reasons for engaging in composting activities. As presented in Table 3.2, the interviewees were given a choice of five reasons. These reasons were ranked on a scale of one through five, with one being the most important, and five being the least important reason for undertaking composting.

Table 3.2: Reasons for Undertaking Composting (average rankings for each group)

Reason for Composting








All Groups

Income generation









Keeping busy









Exchanging information and ideas with other group members









Acceptance and integration into the community









Recognition and publicity outside of your community









Table 3.2 presents the average ranks of each of the five reasons for each of the seven composting groups. In the last column, the average ranks for all groups are presented.

Overall, the rankings reveal that exchanging information and ideas and acceptance and integration are the most important reasons for composting. However, when the groups are examined individually, important differences between groups are revealed. For example, the Korogocho group, one of the lowest income groups, ranked income generation as their primary reason for engaging in composting. This could be attributed to the relative severity of poverty of the Korogocho women.

3.3 Constraints on Income Generation

The biggest constraint faced by most composting groups in generating income is finding a market for the compost. The expense of transportation prevents the groups from bringing the compost to an accessible point of sale. The City Park Hawkers Market would be an ideal location for other composting groups to sell their compost because of the popularity of the market with upper-income Parklands shoppers. Members of the Hawkers Market group are not opposed to marketing the other groups' compost provided that good quality is maintained and they receive some sort of commission for storing and selling the compost. However, the problem remains as to how to transport the compost to the Hawkers Market.

A further constraint in marketing the compost is that there is some urgency in getting the compost to market: compost created with aerobic methods should be used within one month of production; otherwise the nitrogen value decreases and hence its value as a fertilizer (UNCHS, 1989: 46). Most of the groups have nowhere to store the compost, so it deteriorates rapidly in harsh sunlight.

In transporting their compost to a point of sale, the main problem experienced is in the low value of the compost preventing transportation expenses from being recovered through profits. This is also a major barrier to marketing the compost to rural farmers who could constitute a large market for the compost as composting groups lack a mechanism to link them directly to peasant and commercial farming in their regions.

Community group members also identified the costs associated with composting as being prohibitive. While the inputs required (gloves, gumboots, garden tools, sieves, packaging materials, and storage and shelter) are relatively inexpensive and low-tech, they still represent significant expenditures for low-income women. Added to this is the rent that many groups pay to the local chief for the composting site. In the case of Dagoretti Corner, the group pays Ksh. 1000 per month for their plot. This is more than many community members pay for their rooms or houses each month! If the women had access to credit, these costs could be recouped through the sale of the compost.

Community resistance to composting in terms of both ridicule and unwillingness to cooperate limits the desirability of composting as a method of income generation. Some women are discouraged from participating because composting is equated with scavenging and it therefore downgrades their status in the community. Other community members expect to receive financial incentives in exchange for their organic wastes since they perceive that the composting groups are generating a profit from composting. However, the low resale value of the compost and the limited sales thus far mean that the women are not generating extensive income and cannot afford to pay the community for the separation of its organic wastes.

In the greater Nairobi community, there are problems within the formal waste processing sector which limit the profitability of informal sector waste management activities, including the activities of the composting groups. Many of the composting groups were involved in collecting LDPE plastics for Rupshi Enterprises, but the chronic water shortages prevent them from processing most of the plastics collected. The plastics are often too dirty to be processed. Likewise, even formal sector industries like Rupshi suffer from a lack of available credit and investment which prevents them from expanding to meet the high demand for recycled plastics. Rupshi Enterprises eventually stopped collecting (and paying for) the plastics gathered by the composting groups.

3.4 Gender and Development Issues in Composting

An important advantage accounting for the sustained interest in composting activities is that composting integrates well with women's triple roles: household and family care, income generation, and community management. The location of the composting sites within market areas (in the cases of Hawkers Market and Korogocho) where the women engage in hawking allows them to monitor their businesses while undertaking composting activities. But in some informal settlements, the location of the composting site actually makes women's daily responsibilities more difficult. In the case of Kinyago, the composting site is located across a busy road (First Avenue Eastleigh - refer to Figure 5.2 ), making it difficult for the women to monitor their children. It also means that the women have to haul water to the composting site. Thus, it is important that the composting plots be strategically located so as to ease the burden on women. This is easier said than done, however, when their is a shortage of available and appropriate land in informal settlements.

In terms of women's roles as community managers, the NGOs, in initiating the composting projects, targeted pre-existing women's groups concerned with community health care and/or income generation. Composting proved complementary to these activities by providing a healthier living environment and in diversifying their sources of income. Like other women's group activities, composting also provides a forum for women to exchange information and ideas which, in the case of the majority of the Nairobi composting groups, exceeds the importance of generating income through the project.

Some groups also use the profits gained through composting to improve much-needed community facilities. The Kuku Women in Dandora invested some of their composting profits in a nursery school for their children. This eases their child care responsibilities, enabling them to engage in other important activities. The Kuku Women have also used the money to purchase utensils and dishes for entertaining guests. They enjoy the prestige and publicity that their composting efforts bring them. This also reinforces a sense of pride in their community which they enjoy sharing with visitors. Many of these visitors are brought to the Kuku Women by the NGOs in order that they too become enthusiastic about starting a composting project in their own community.

Unfortunately, composting activities are not entirely free from gender-related constraints. All of the groups lack significant support from men in the community. The composting activities are almost entirely carried out by women, though some women do receive occasional help from husbands or sons. At the same time, the women's groups depend on a male chairman to represent their interests to the rest of the community. This may not be the best possible arrangement for addressing women's strategic needs, including political empowerment and the recognition of the importance of their work. The NGOs might help to improve this situation by promoting more democratic decision-making structures in the communities. The Undugu Society is well positioned to do this.

While women are willing to engage in composting because it corresponds with their triple roles, many complain of the hard physical labour that composting entails. Some were not pleased that the composting project added even more work to their already gruelling daily routines.

3.5 Improving the Sustainability of Composting Projects

The constraints faced by the composting groups suggest that future efforts in improving the viability of the composting projects must include building strong community support and involvement, and developing the groups' business and marketing skills.

There is a need in Nairobi to increase public awareness and mobilize community support for waste reduction and recycling. As developing countries like Kenya are influenced by processes of globalization, consumption (and waste production) patterns are becoming more like those in the West, and public awareness campaigns must be directed towards curbing the problems that will arise from these changing lifestyle patterns. These efforts are best directed to young people through mass media and through the organization of workshops and meetings at the neighbourhood level (UNCHS, 1993: III.2.19). In Nairobi, MYSA's effort to link sports with community service and environmental responsibility is an enlightened example of how even the poorest children can be included in such initiatives.

Awareness campaigns and education programs must explain the benefits of composting and recycling and inform people of how they can participate. This awareness building must not only be included at the outset of a project, but should be carried on throughout (Ibid.). In this regard there is a need for strong leadership, as the problems experienced by the Clean Up Nairobi campaign have indicated.

The composting groups are also in need of business training and improved access to credit. With regard to training, the groups need to develop marketing and financial management skills so that they are able to be more self-sufficient in identifying markets and planning business strategies. They currently rely on the NGOs for these skill. This is not sustainable over the long term. Likewise, if it is to be a truly community-based project, decisions must be made democratically by group members with the NGOs serving only as technical advisors. Responsibility for managing the project must be gradually transferred to the community. Outside technical assistance must always be available to the composting groups, but unless the groups have both financial and decision-making autonomy, they will never have the confidence nor the sense of ownership needed to make the project sustainable.

As the composting evolves into a more profitable endeavour, the groups must develop and implement a consistent means of dividing profits among members. In the case of a Mexican composting project, the production of compost eventually stopped because irresolvable disputes developed over whether income should be divided equally among members or according to the amount of labour contributed (Schmink, 1989: 159).

The availability of credit and fiscal incentives are also critical issues affecting the viability of composting as an income generating activity. The groups need to be provided with starters or guarantees in order to increase their access to credit facilities. This is also required for many formal sector waste-related industries like Rupshi Enterprises. If Rupshi were able to expand its waste plastics processing capacity, it would also benefit the informal sector waste collectors and middlemen with whom Rupshi deals.

Other aspects of community development may be equally or even more important than income generation. However, the greatest advantage presented by composting is its potential to fulfil women's roles as community managers and income earners through one activity. The time and labour saving potential of composting, though not presently developed, combined with the opportunity it presents for women to share ideas and develop a sense of community belonging, make it a viable development alternative for Nairobi. However, improvements need to be made in training and in providing credit to the groups, and waste management carried out by CBOs must be supported by a community mobilized to support and participate in waste minimization and recycling.

Chapter Four: Conclusions

4.1 Introduction

Given the environmental and financial opportunities and constraints identified through this study, what final assessment can be made of Nairobi's efforts in community-based waste management? What are the most appropriate roles for actors in Nairobi's waste management sector? What insights are provided by this research in terms of the relationship of gender to waste management, the need to promote urban agriculture and create demand for organic waste, and the environmental and health significance of solid waste management?

4.2 Summary of the Environmental, Income and Community Development Impacts of the Composting Projects

The composting groups have been highly successful in meeting the environmental objectives of their composting projects. While recognizing this success, the limitations of composting in terms of environmental management must be acknowledged. Composting does not have a direct impact on two of the most serious environmental problems of informal settlements: human waste disposal and poor housing. If composting eventually develops into a successful income generating project, households and communities will be financially empowered to make improvements in these areas.

The composting groups have not yet managed to generate substantial profits because of marketing and transportation constraints. When other community development-related advantages of composting are taken into account, it is evident that income generation is only one of many opportunities which motivate the women to participate. Equally important is the opportunity to exchange ideas and information with other members of the community. It is doubtful that composting will be sustainable unless it is able to meet more than just the environmental needs of the women and their communities. Those groups experiencing the most success and the most satisfaction with composting are those for whom composting has provided significant income, and those engaged in urban agriculture.

4.3 Appropriate Roles for Actors in the Waste Management Sector

From this study, several conclusions about the most appropriate roles for the various actors in Nairobi's waste management sector can be drawn:

Local Authorities:

The primary role of the NCC should be that of advisor to the other actors in waste management. This would entail reducing the NCC's role as a service provider to a minimum. The NCC should only be involved in the provision of services when it is not possible for the private or community sector to do so. The NCC Cleansing Section recognizes that this should be its role, but faces substantial barriers in its lack of administrative capacity and the lack of political will on the part of city councillors.

The Informal Sector:

There is a need to improve employment conditions as well as access to support services and markets of recycling industries for those who deal in waste picking. In doing so, however, there is a risk of formalizing the sector. This would have the effect of alienating the very people who rely on the sector for their livelihoods.

As noted by Odegi-Awuondo (1994), waste picking is already a highly organized activity consisting of networks of waste pickers and middlemen. Thus, a plausible option for improving the conditions in the informal waste economy could be cooperatives. This has worked in a number of Asian countries (UNCHS, 1993).

Community-Based Organizations:

Excellent opportunities exist for CBOs to provide a wide range of urban services, including waste management, in informal settlements. Because of its impact on community health, waste management fits well with the concerns of those groups dealing with issues of community concern. As for community members not directly active in the CBO, they need to participate in waste management by separating their wastes at source so that contamination is prevented and the work of CBOs and informal sector waste pickers is facilitated.

Non-Governmental Organizations:

NGOs are important links between local authorities and CBOs. They have a role to play in providing technical advice and training to CBOs. They also have a city-wide role in educating and mobilizing broad-based support for community-based waste management. If such support is created, it should be instrumental in generating the political will needed to make the necessary changes.

In Nairobi, the NGOs have successfully educated and motivated the CBOs on the benefits and opportunities of composting. They are also attempting to build broad-based support for composting and recycling through the "Garbage is Money" poster campaign, along with continual participation in environmental and community events throughout the city. The NGOs could mobilize wider support, but they lack the financial and human resources to do so.

The NGOs have not been effective in providing the groups with the business and marketing skills they need to generate a profit through composting. The NGOs themselves need to develop these skills, or seek out other NGOs to provide this training on their behalf.

The Formal Private Sector:

The private sector does have an important, although limited role, to play in waste management in developing countries. In Nairobi, the private sector is an effective provider of waste management services to upper income businesses and residential areas. However, there is no bylaw enforcing those who can afford it to make use of these services. The NCC might consider implementing such a bylaw. Again, NGOs should initiate mass media and other types of educational campaigns to increase awareness about the hazards of unmanaged wastes, even in upper income areas.

Within informal settlements, the private sector cannot provide waste management services because of the inability of residents to pay for these services and the poor accessibility to these areas. Therefore, there is still a need for local authorities to work with CBOs in providing services to these areas.

The International Donor Community:

Many donor agencies already have extensive funding programs for NGOs in developing countries. The NGOs examined in this case study have received funding from the United Nations Environment Programme, several Scandinavian countries, and the Dutch government. This is an effective method of funding local environmental initiatives since the NGOs and CBOs are often closer to the people than governments, including local authorities.

At the same time, the international community must provide assistance to local authorities to improve their human resources and administrative and financial capacity. Investments in infrastructure and equipment will not be sustainable in the long term because local authorities lack maintenance capacity.

Finally, international organizations, with the full participation of NGOs and local authorities, should support the creation of a regional network which promotes waste recycling and reuse. Relationships between city planners, the private sector, NGOs, CBOs and recycling industries would be useful in sharing innovations and best practices in waste management. Such a network could also result in a powerful lobby.

4.4 The Research Agenda on Waste Management in East Africa

This study has contributed to an understanding of three aspects of solid waste management in sub-Saharan Africa: the relationship of gender to waste management, the need to promote urban agriculture and create demand for organic waste, and the environmental and health significance of solid waste management.

Waste management activities fit within the gender-assigned roles and responsibilities of women, including household maintenance, income generation and community management. When properly organized, composting provides women with the opportunity to stay close to their home or place of business so that they can engage in other activities related to their triple roles. However, many of the women who participated in this study complain that composting adds to their workload, or that other ventures suffered because of their work on the composting projects. Therefore, for many of the women, composting is not meeting their needs and is actually adding to their daily burden. For those groups generating high profits from composting, or those groups also engaging in urban agriculture, composting has improved their circumstances and opportunities.

The opportunity to engage in urban agriculture is therefore a very important determinant of the success of composting, Limited access to land, especially in informal settlements, makes urban agriculture a difficult strategy to promote for many of these women. There is a clear need for local authorities and NGOs to cooperate in providing access to land for these purposes. This has already worked for the Undugu Society in gaining plots for urban agriculture in Kibera and Kinyago. The other NGOs, FSDA and Uvumbuzi, should consider working with the NCC and the Undugu Society to provide this opportunity to other composting groups.

Even so, the application of compost in urban areas provides only a limited market for the compost, especially considering the amount of organic waste generated. Ideally, the composting groups could be doing very well if they had access to rural markets. The application of urban compost in rural areas could be a significant step in reducing the spread of Nairobi's ecological footprint. These strategies rely not only on the support of rural farmers, but also on finding affordable means of transporting the waste and in creating the political will to support these initiatives.

The environmental importance of waste management has not been quantified in this study, but the anecdotal evidence reported by the women is sufficient to suggest that composting can have a significant impact in improving community health. In fact, many women continue to compost despite the limited financial opportunities it currently presents, suggesting that they are aware of and value the environmental improvements achieved through composting.

In conclusion, this study has demonstrated the important links that can be made between environmental management, income generation and community development. It has also identified waste management at the household and community level as a gendered activity. The success in composting in Nairobi has been achieved partially through the recognition of these roles and the targeting of appropriate community-based organizations. Ultimately, this study has shown that in order for community-based waste management to be a success, it must address more than the need for improved environmental management; it also must provide opportunities for income generation and the development of strong community bonds. Together with the support provided by NGOS, community-based waste management promotes internal solidarity around shared concerns, which in turn creates a momentum for demanding greater accountability of government and increased room for participatory decision-making. In Nairobi, we are witnessing the beginning of such a process as CBOs and NGOs unite to deal with urban environmental problems and poverty, and the NCC recognizes that it must radically transform its approach to urban service provision.

Appendix I

A Photographic Essay of Community Waste Management in Nairobi, Kenya

(Photos not available at this time)

The following photo essay was compiled using the photographs taken by members of the Hawkers Market, Kinyago and Korogocho composting groups. This research technique, commonly referred to as native photography, was combined with photo-elicitation to reveal the motivations, the emotions and thoughts represented by these pictures. The quotations (except for Figures I.15 and I.16) are derived from comments made by composting group members during the photo-elicitation focus groups.

Figure I.1
"This picture is trying to show how people make a living out of the garbage. The old lady, she is trying to collect fruits and vegetables to go and sell. And for the little children, they are trying to collect waste papers from the same garbage to go and sell to other people who are doing recycling work."

Figure I.2
"We are trying to show how it is hard work doing composting. It shows how hard these ladies are working and they are only a few. The piles have to be turned every seven days and the conditions are very untidy. You can see that there is flooded water around which is a health hazard. Also the tools they are using are not supposed to be used by ladies. It is hard work!"

Figure I.3
"We were trying to show how some of the people are not doing a good job. As you can see, there is a lot of garbage lying around while the bin is still empty. The market employees are supposed to put the garbage in the bin for the City Council to come and collect. The polythene plastics are very bad for our environment - they can't be reused."

Figure I.4
"It is trying to show how these ladies do the sorting of the greens and how they work together. They help each other to lift the greens because it is hard to put them on top of the pile."

Figure I.5
"It is showing how the ladies work cooperatively. You can see how all of them are busy. There is no one who is standing idle. And the small boy who is at the end is trying to snatch whatever he can get: maybe a green pepper or maybe a good orange. Because he's a 'parking' boy, he makes his living out of the garbage."

Figure I.6
"This photo is very important for the composting group because among all the ladies, there is only one man who volunteered himself to work with the ladies. It is encouraging because you find it is usually only women, but with our group there is one man, the chairman of the market."

Figure I.7
"It is showing the piles that we have made. We have a big problem because we don't have a shade. When it is too sunny the piles get very dry and when it is raining, the piles get very wet. That is why you can see the black plastic on the ground - when it is too wet we cover the piles with the plastic. "It is also showing the sieve. The ladies sieve the compost before selling it because they don't want to give it to the customers with nails or broken glass."

Figure I.8
"The photo is showing the packaging of the compost after it has been sieved and it is ready for selling."

Figure I.9
"This photo is showing how the gutter is full of dirty things. This causes the gutter to stagnate which is a health hazard for the community. If people would be cooperative, there is a bin where they can put the plastics instead of letting them scatter around the market."

Figure I.10
"This photo is trying to show the advantages of making compost within the market area because the market area is more clean. This area is the Mathare slums where people don't have toilets so they tend to go near the garbage. People do not volunteer themselves to make compost as they feel they are touching dirty things."

Figure I.11
"This is an illegal dumping site which is a nuisance for the composting group. We are proposing to put a 'NO DUMPING' sign-post to deter dumping outside our fenced composting area."

Figure I.12
"This is a demonstration of how to set up the composting properly. Other members of the group are watching. We pile the wastes using our bare hands - there are no gloves or other protective gear."

Figure I.13
"This shows a section of the drainage channel used by children for excretion, while in the background you can see the toilets. There is a need for increased community education on safe disposal of human waste. The drainage channel is a health hazard and poses great danger to the children."

Figure I.14
"Cleaning the market in Korogocho. We collect garbage and put it on the cart to bring to the composting site."

Figure I.15
The Mathare Youth Sports Association - Community Service Day

Figure I.16
"Very rarely do local governments or NGOs seek to meet the needs and priorities of children and youth or to involve them in environmental action which brings them direct benefits" (Munro, 1992).


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