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[Kenya]World Refugee Day: A Story of Transformation and Community Empowerment through Solid Waste Management

CBO Sound For Life

In the arid region of Turkana County, where the landscape is both a testament to nature’s beauty and a stage for human resilience, the communities of Kakuma and Kalobeyei are writing a new chapter in their shared story. This chapter is one of transformation, spearheaded by Peace Winds Japan, aiming to address one of the region’s most pressing issues: solid waste management.
Celebrating World Refugee Day
As we approach World Refugee Day, it is essential to reflect on the contributions and challenges faced by refugees worldwide. This day provides an opportunity to recognize the resilience of refugees and the importance of supporting them in rebuilding their lives. The solid waste management project in Kakuma and Kalobeyei exemplifies how collaborative efforts between host and refugee communities can lead to sustainable development and improved living conditions for all.
Kakuma and its surroundings, home to a substantial population of both residents and refugees, have long struggled with waste management. West Turkana, which includes Kakuma, has a current population of 527,833, with 288,206 refugees and 239,637 hosts. The influx of people, driven by the search for safety and opportunities, has compounded the problem, resulting in heaps of uncollected garbage, open burning, and widespread illegal dumping. This situation poses significant health risks, environmental degradation, and a diminished quality of life.
The Initiative
Government of Japan, launched a three-year project in March 2023. This initiative, known as the ‘Project for Establishment of Decentralized Solid Waste Management System for a Recyclable Society,’ aims to create a community-based, decentralized waste management system in Kakuma and Kalobeyei.
The project’s goals are ambitious yet essential: to reduce waste emissions, improve environmental hygiene, and foster a recycling-oriented society. It aligns with Kenya’s Vision 2030 and the National Sustainable Waste Management Law, emphasizing the principles of reducing, reusing, and recycling waste (the 3Rs).
The Approach
The project operates on six fundamental pillars:
1.Awareness and Education: Raising community awareness on waste separation and proper disposal practices.
2.Infrastructure Development: Installing waste collection bins, providing transportation vehicles, and establishing transfer stations.
3.Alternative Waste Management Pathways: Promoting composting of organic waste and engaging recyclers.
4.Partnerships and Collaboration: Strengthening coordination with UNHCR, government bodies, and local partners.
5.Community Engagement: Training local community-based organizations (CBOs) and waste management promoters.
6.Monitoring and Evaluation: Regularly assessing the project’s impact and making necessary adjustments.
Community Involvement
A cornerstone of the project is the collaboration between the host and refugee communities. Ten CBOs, comprising both residents and refugees, have been instrumental in driving the initiative. Volunteers from these organizations participate in clean-up drives, waste collection, and awareness campaigns. Over 674 people have been actively involved in these efforts, demonstrating the community’s commitment to a cleaner environment.
This collaboration fosters a sense of unity and shared responsibility, helping to bridge gaps between the two communities. By working together, they are not only improving waste management but also building a stronger, more cohesive community.
“Cleanliness is Next to Godliness”
Schools play a critical role in the success of the solid waste management project. Students are not only learning about the importance of proper waste disposal but also participating in various initiatives. Poster contests, educational programs, and clean-up campaigns are some of the activities that engage students and instill in them the values of environmental stewardship.
Winning posters from these contests emphasize key messages such as “A Clean School is Our Responsibility” and “Separate Your Waste,” reflecting the active participation of young minds in promoting a cleaner environment.

By Igranzee Kesar, Nationokar Comprehensive Primary School

Key Achievements
Training and Capacity Building: Around 150 people from community-based organizations and 250 waste management promoters have been trained.
Infrastructure Installation: 235 sets of metallic waste bins and 254 plastic bins have been installed at key locations.
Transportation Solutions: Ten tricycle vehicles and several hand carts have been provided to facilitate waste collection.
Waste Management Plans: Each of the ten CBOs has developed waste collection plans, and markets have specific strategies to handle waste.
Additionally, 13 waste transfer stations are being constructed to improve the waste management infrastructure. Plans for the future include constructing a Material Recovery Facility (MRF) and a Plastic Recycling Plant to further enhance waste management capabilities.
Impact and Feedback
The project has already started to make a noticeable difference. Market areas, once plagued by waste, are now significantly cleaner. The community’s attitude towards waste management has shifted, with more people using waste bins and participating in clean-up activities.
During a radio talk show on June 2, 2023, community members praised the project for its positive impact on cleanliness and public health. They noted a reduction in diseases such as diarrhea and cholera, which were previously rampant due to improper waste disposal practices​​​​​​.
“Through the project implemented by Peace Winds Japan, we’ve received support such as being equipped with new skills on solid waste management through different training sessions. We have also received material support which includes personal protective equipment, cleaning tools, and handcarts, which has enabled us to execute our work in the community,” says Mr. Eyaran Moses, Director of Kakuma Usafi CBO​​​​.
Heritier Elelwa, founder and director of Sound For Life CBO says, “Since this Peace Winds’ project came, we have waste bins in the community, shops, and along the roads where people can dispose their waste. People have stopped the bad practices such as burning waste and doing illegal dumping, and for those who are resisting change, we (CBO) are working with the community leaders so that they can change”.

Heritier Elelwa, a refugee who has stayed in Kenya since 2011. Founder and director of the
Sound For Life CBO, which works to keep Kakuma Camp clean.

The Future
As the project progresses, the focus will remain on sustaining these improvements and expanding the reach of solid waste management practices. The goal is to establish a model of waste management that can be replicated in other regions facing similar challenges. Future plans include constructing a Material Recovery Facility (MRF) and a Plastic Recycling Plant to further enhance waste management capabilities.
The solid waste management project in Kakuma and Kalobeyei is more than just an environmental initiative; it is a story of hope, resilience, and community empowerment. As World Refugee Day approaches, it serves as a testament to what can be achieved when people come together to address common challenges. Through continued efforts with partners, policies can be strengthened to support sustainable waste management practices. Donors can help identify and fund gaps in waste management infrastructure and education. For the community, encouraging responsible waste disposal and participation in waste collection services through both educational campaigns, soft methods, and infrastructure development, hard methods, is essential.
Written by Iman Shah, Nairobi Office Intern

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