At the end of April, Biffa’s Dean Willet and WasteAid’s Mike Webster headed out to Kwa Muhia on the shores of Lake Naivasha to see how WasteAid’s UKAid funded project with the Kwa Muhia Environmental Group (KMEG) was progressing.

Kicking off at the beginning of 2019, the project aims to set Kwa Muhia up as an example of community solid waste management, showing how a village can mobilise to clean itself and do so in an environmentally and financially sustainable way.

Kwa Muhia is home to around some 2,500 households (around 7,000 people), many casual labourers live in tightly packed informal settlements. A densely populated places with few utilities – no running water or toilets in houses, no drainage and only a few houses with no formal waste collection. The daily wage is on average KSH300/day – slightly more than £2. Out of this, around a third goes on rent.

It was, until 2011, drowning in its own rubbish. Smoke from burning piles of waste permeated the air, open dumping around the settlement attracted wild animals, with domestic animal dying every week through plastic ingestion and disease was rife. And when the rains come, the rubbish was washed down the hill into the lake, polluting a despoiling an internationally recognised RAMSAR wetland.

Such a picture of filth and disease is the norm in communities across sub-Saharan Africa. Some 85% of municipal waste is uncollected across the continent, with estimates in the Kenyan capital of collection as low as 3.5%. A Ghanaian study found around half of cattle had dangerous quantities of plastic in their stomachs.

Over the years KMEG have tried several times to set up sustainable waste collection and with the support of WasteAid has embarked on a two year UKAid funded programme.

As part of the project, the KMEG team started by surveying the dumpsites, measuring the size and composition and measuring the cleanliness of the streets. They then kicked off with major clean ups of the dumpsite, collecting all the materials and delivering around 90% for recycling. They have since built their recycling centre and are now recycling glass, sacking and collecting plastics for bulking and recycling.

It’s still early days but the project already seems to have made a major difference. Local community health workers have reported up to 60% reduction in child gastroenteritis since the project kick off with the monthly clean ups making a noticeable difference. We’re working with the village health centre to monitor 7 different diseases associated with poor sanitation to understand the health benefits of improved solid waste management. Next up is the awareness campaign, encouraging villagers to stop open dumping and understand the benefits of proper waste management.

With the help of Dean, we’ve helped them research end-markets and plan how to increase the number of materials recycled, increasing the amount recycled and securing the financial sustainability of the project yet further.

There is huge support from businesses, churches, development organisation and employers for KMEG’s work – they all realise how important waste collection is and they all attended a stakeholder meeting pledging support for KMEG and their work and a local company pledging land for a new, expanded site. There is a demand from the neighbouring township of Kamere, population 20,000, for KMEG to expand their work there and once they are established in Kwa Muhia we’ll be seeing how this can be done. Watch this space for more news!

Biffa and WasteAid – Proud Partners

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