Managing solid waste is a major challenge for many towns across Kenya. In the SymbioCity Pilot Convention participants compared experiences.

The top five needs of Kenyan urban areas are:

  • proper solid waste management systems (dumpsites and sewer treatment plants);
  • spatial plans;
  • drainage systems;
  • uninterrupted water supply;
  • organised transport system (bus-parks and drop off points for motor vehicles, motorcycle and bicycle taxis, and handcarts), in that order.

Other needs are recreational centres, street lighting, and general town infrastructure.

This emerged at the Pilot Convention of the SymbioCity Kenya (SCK) Programme, held in Mombasa earlier in 2017. To the participants from the seven SCK pilot Counties, waste management topped the list of urgent needs.

Stong awareness of challenges
“In Kiminini Town, waste management and flooding are our main problems. When it rains, everywhere gets flooded. This worsens an already messy environment, and Kiminini becomes a health hazard,” shared Dennis Waswa Nyukuri, the pilot coordinator for Trans Nzoia County.

In Homa Bay County, the opening of the new Mbita Market has brought poor waste management to near crisis level. The market accommodates up to 420 traders, with an additional 600 others trading in informal spaces like the roadside. “Mbita Town has no solid waste management system or policy framework,” shared Richard Bonyo, the county programme coordinator. Currently, almost every open area is a dumping site. “This includes Onyundo Stadium, Lake Victoria riparian, and the market vicinity itself.”

With speaker after speaker sharing the sorry state of waste management in their counties, it was a relief to hear a different story from Kisumu. “Kisumu City is advanced in waste management, and this is what we’re implementing in Ahero Town,” said Sospeter Onunga, from the County’s Environment Department.

Towns inspire with solutions
According to Sospeter, the Kisumu Solid Waste Management Programme is a 20-year strategy, which accommodates all players. For example, informal settlements can establish neighbourhood associations and private waste collecting companies to earn an income. “Kibuye Market Composting Project produces organic manure for sale. A team in Ahero Town is learning this technique.”

In Mbita Town, short-term interventions are ongoing. These include installation of branded solid waste collection and sorting containers within and around the market, and in specific designated areas within the town. “We are also planning community sensitisation programmes with specific messages on the importance of embracing appropriate and cost-effective waste management,” says Richard.

The Kisumu County team conducted sensitisation campaigns, a clean-up of the town, and established model champions on cleanliness, to entrench proper waste management. They have also installed several three-litre garbage bins all over the town. Additionally, the locals benefitted from an exhibition held to demonstrate that there is wealth hidden in garbage. Groups are now working to implement lessons learnt, such as making manure from organic waste, and in the process, Ahero remains clean.

Text: Tabitha Onyinge

The SymbioCity Pilot Convention was held in spring 2017 in Mombasa. Read more interviews and articles from the convention in the New Urban Magazine.