War on Trash: Community Unites to Clean up Kibra

Written by Elmard Rigan.
Photos by Thomas Bwire and Elmard Rigan.

The sounds of rakes and pitchforks, cheers, and motivating chants filled the air during CFK Africa’s recent community clean-up. The activity held in June in Gatwekera, one of the villages in Kibra, aimed to build community connections and clean the area around the Tabitha Medical Clinic.

Youth are ready to begin the clean-up activity.
Clogged sumps in front of the Tabitha Medical Clinic.

CFK Africa staff, environmentally focused youth groups Mtaa Safi (clean street) and Slum Going Green, and Kibra residents united together to tackle the task at hand.

“CFK is a community-rooted organization. What we’re doing today is a war on garbage,” said CFK Africa co-founder, Rye Barcott in a news interview about the event.

CFK Africa staff, board members, youth, and other volunteers use tools to tackle the trash.

Improper waste management is a global issue, especially in informal settlements that don’t have government-run waste management systems. In addition, the proliferation of single-use plastics poses a serious threat to ecosystems.

Trash has built up over time outside of the Tabitha Medical Clinic.
Clean-ups are difficult and messy work.

Formal waste collection system and facilities for disposal don’t exist in Kibra. With nowhere to dispose of trash, most of the community’s waste ends up in open spaces and alleyways. As a result, trash builds up, resulting in unhygienic living conditions and pollution. Kibra’s waste problem presents numerous health and environmental threats to its residents such as asthma, cholera, malaria and tuberculosis.

Filled trash bags are heavy and must be dragged.

Environmental youth groups have been engaged in addressing the community’s trash problem by hosting community clean-ups and awareness campaigns to encourage responsible waste management practices. “They heeded the call and came to participate in this activity,” said Jeffrey Okoro, CFK Africa’s deputy executive director. “This is volunteer work…it is out of their own will and desire to serve their community.”

Trash bags are then placed on carts and rolled to collective disposal sites in Kibra.

During the activity, previously blocked trenches were unclogged, sumps were cleared, and messages shared about correct waste disposal. Over 100 bags of trash were successfully removed from the sumps in front of Tabitha Medical Clinic, resulting in a more hygienic environment for visiting patients. 

Filled trash bags are ready to be transported.
A cleaned sump is the result of hours of hard work.

“This is a privilege and a chance to show the community that we can clean our environment ourselves,” one of the participating youth leaders said. “A clean environment means a better life.’’ 

CFK Africa has been hosting community clean-ups for decades. “It’s about getting out into the community and showing the community that we’re together – the community has been part of this organization for 23 years,” said Barcott.

Community celebration at the end of a successful clean-up.

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