THE EARTH TIMES
APRIL 30 – MAY 14
HOW TO GO ABOUT CLEANING UP A CITY
BY ASHALI VARMA
NAIROBI, Kenya-“The idea came to us from the Australians,” said Richard Lumbe, community relations officer for the United Nations Environment Programme. “They approached Unep for a ‘Clean up the World Campaign,’ which they had started in their cities. Last year 95 countries took part in it and cities all over the world were involved.”
Lumbe’s priority is ·to reach out to communities through NGOs. With a budget of $100,000 for 54 countries in Africa, Lumbe said Unep interacts with NGOs in four languages-English, French, Portuguese and Arabic.
“I was very excited about the concept of cleaning up our cities and we launched a campaign in Nairobi which grabbed the media’s attention, the NGOs and even the industry,” he said.
He said that 55 business houses and 35 NGOs contributed material and staff to clean up city markets, slums and public places.
The Nation, a leading newspaper in Nairobi, carried a special supplement which inspired communities to act. The Kenya Broadcasting Corporation gave free air time to launch the campaign’s message.
“The most important point that came out of the drive was that the expertise and willingness exists within the communities and all we have to do is to inspire and help them make it happen,” said Lumbe.
Veronica Wambui was one of the women in the City Park Hawker’s Market, who along with other women with stalls in the market, took up the challenge.
“I have a shop to sell second-hand clothes,” said Wambui, “My business was not doing well and we were looking for an alternative. The Foundation for Sustainable Development in Africa approached us and taught us how we could make compost of all the waste and garbage that kept piling up in the market everyday, and sell it as pure fertilizer and make money.”
“It is hard work,” she said. “We have to sort the waste from the fresh green leaves and the dry rotted produce and put layer after layer in trenches to get the compost. It takes six weeks to mature into compost. We tried to get the men involved but they ran away. I don’t think men are interested in the environment.”
Wambui explained how at first people had to be convinced that compost was better than fertilizer because it contained no harmful chemicals. “But what really convinced them was the price,” she said. “We sell a kilogram of compost for 4 Kenyan shillings and fertilizer sells for 35 shillings,” she said. [The current exchange rate is US$l =40 Kenyan shillings.]
On good days the women sell as much as 10 bags at 80 shillings each.
“The best part is that there is no huge ugly stinking pile of garbage now, and our surroundings are cleaner,” said Wambui.
Wambui, who is 38 years old and married with two daughters 13 and 8 years old, worries
about the fact that they have to be brought up in a slum which has few civic facilities and
“We need the cooperation of the city councils to get things cleaned ·up. We want the
Nairobi to be clean,” said Wambui.
She says that she is also determined to make a success of her enterprise so that women in other markets will follow the example. Even to make this venture successful they need more funds and equipment like gloves, boots and wheel barrows and a shed to store the sacks of compost, Wambui said.