Dandora dump site, Nairobi’s infamous eyesore is associated with many ills. From gangs that fight tooth and nail to retain control of it, to the health risks it poses to those living around it; the dump site epitomises all things evil.
A breath of fresh air is blowing in the dump site following the introduction of a new project by Sustainable Waste Management (SWM), a registered community based organisation that seeks to empower those who scavenge in the dump site by using the waste to make eco-makaa.
Nairobi county collects over 2,000 tonnes of waste every day and with no public recycling scheme in place, most of this waste goes to the Dandora dump site, which was commissioned for closure more than 10 years ago.
“Due to political issues an alternative site has not been opened thus waste still goes to the dump site, which has grown so large that it spills from its designated area and now covers the floodplain and the Nairobi River,” said SWM CEO Alison Kahumbura.
This is when Kahumbura came up with the idea of making briquettes using the mountainous heap of garbage. Being a profit making organisation they decided to introduce the idea to those working in the dump site, but they later learnt that most of them did not have know how to make briquettes and they decided to train them first.
Since the area is secured by the youths living there they partnered with other individuals like Juliani the founder of hip hop city. The initiative that seeks to re-brand, re define the urban estate, create alternatives and space that will get youth to explore and enhance their talent in art and culture, business and technology, to try and reach area residents.
“Without permission one cannot reach that area because there is tight security by the area youths to ensure that outsiders don’t take their jobs. With Juliani it was easy to penetrate because he works with youths from the same area,” she said.
After the partnership they launched an eco-makaa workshop where they train families working in the dump site on how to make briquettes from waste and then buy the briquettes from them.
This creates an extra income for the scavengers. “We only charge Sh300 for registration so that we can differentiate those who are serious from jokers. The training takes two weeks and after that we give the trainees certificates,” she added.
Apart from training them they have a feeding programme where they distribute food to those living and working there . Kahumbura says they decided to work in Dandora because there are many school dropouts who earn their daily bread working in the site and some parents have pulled their children out of school so as to help them pull resources by working at the dump site.
“Dandora is also known for its high rate of crime and drugs, all because majority of the youth have lost hope in making it in life and thereby resort to quick means of making money, even if it means putting their lives in danger. If we come up with ways of getting more money the crime rate will be go down,” she said.
Sustainable Waste Management (SWM), which is for profit purposes was registered as a business to provide consultancy, waste collection and recycle services to household and commercial businesses. Their first project is a recycling scheme in Kitisuru Ward, which incorporated seven boys from the local area.
“As they were below 18 years we decided to start an education trust for them and 20 per cent of all our profits go towards their education,” said Kahumbura. “We realised that most of these boys were school dropout since their parents couldn’t afford school fees and we decided to come up with an initiative that will be generating more income for these families,” she said.