MEETING SDG-11 GOAL: VIBRANT GREEN SPACE RESTORATION IN NAIROBI COMMUNITIES
By Grace Brouillette and Asa Krieger
St. Lawrence University interns at the Green Belt Movement (GBM) continued engaging with community members and learning about GBM’s involvement with community projects within and just outside of Nairobi County, specifically within the topics of waste management and urban restoration of green spaces. The overall environmental issue that was addressed throughout the week was waste management, as we were able to visit community spaces where waste was being repurposed, as well as visit urban green spaces that had originally been dumpsites or farms, and now have become outdoor spaces that community members can visit and gain resources from, with some exceptions. We visited the waste restoration sites in Embakasi, Embakasi West, and Kibra, the NGAO Foundation in Kangemi, the Kibiko forest, Michuki and City Park, and Dandora. The waste management sites and green spaces we visited are milestones for GBM’s work to meet the 2015 Sustainable Development Goal 11, which is supported by the UN (U.N. Environment Programme). The SDG-11 goal aims to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” (U.N. Environment Programme). GBM, through its support of waste management efforts and restoration of urban green spaces, is working to help Nairobi County and the whole of Kenya meet this international goal.
On Monday, November 15th, we visited three different waste management sites which were located in Embakasi, Embakasi West, and Kibra. The first site, which was currently under construction was shown by Lazarus, a Nairobi Metropolitan System Officer, and Paul Thiong’o, who is GBM’s waste management agenda organizer and GBM’s head coordinator and leader in all things climate change-related. We were introduced to the two main types of machinery, balers, and shredders, that community groups throughout Kenya have had increased access to because of GBM’s efforts, specifically in Embakasi West, Kibra, Nakuru, Mombasa, and Kisumu. These community groups are self-organized and structured within the community, registered by the government to receive recognition, and able to generate income through the selling of processed community waste that is sold to recyclers. There is a community group within every sub-county in Nairobi and the ownership of these groups is held by the community members which limits government involvement, thereby increasing autonomy and power amongst community members. The two community groups we visited in Embakasi West and Kibra were both excited and motivated by plans to have GBM supply them with highly efficient balers and shredders to use in place of the ones that they currently have. Through more efficient processing of waste to be sold to recyclers, these community groups will have more income to invest in either more machinery or to split amongst themselves.
On Tuesday, we traveled to Kangemi to visit the NGAO Foundation and learn more about waste management. We learned about reusing ‘waste’ and turning it into ‘wealth’. The women we spoke with use potato sacks, glossy paper from magazines, brochures, calendars, and tires to repurpose into products like floor mats, purses, bags, shoes, and more. We had a workshop in which the women taught us how they rolled magazine paper, which is later bound to purse fabric to create exterior designs.
On Wednesday, we visited Kibiko Forest, a restored green space and forest near the base of Ngong Hills, which is a reforested area after the land was historically cleared and mono-cropped for eucalyptus farming. The area is managed and reforested by the GBM and the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) is a 5-year project to restore and protect the forest. To incorporate communities, the Community-Based Organization (CBO) initiative welcomed the Community Kibiko Forest Association (CKFA), a coalition of local farmers and GBM members who intercrop with the new seedlings to bring nutrients to the soil and boost the revival of the Kibiko Forest. Many CKFA members come from the GBM nursery located roughly 20 minutes away by car, the location also supplies many of the new seedlings for the Kibiko Forest and the community. The KFS has strict rules about people accessing the more mature parts of the forest no one is legally allowed to enter the mature parts of the forest as these areas act as water catchment sites for the Mbagathi River. We spent roughly 2.5 hours in the field, learning about which indigenous species were planted, challenges with buffalo destroying crops, and challenges with the nursery including a lack of growing membership, especially among the youths.
On Thursday, we toured environmentally reclaimed urban spaces including the John M. Michuki Memorial Park, City Park, and different environmentally focused CBOs in Dandora, including the Believers Transformation League, The Mustard Seed Garden, and Brother Sister Love, which are all under the umbrella CBO, the Dandora Transformation League. We had chances to engage with several community members involved in each urban restored site, learn about how each site was used before the greening process (many were previously dump sites), the services the new green spaces provide, and the challenges the green spaces face. These green spaces have become community centers for all age groups to come together, maybe in celebration or as a place to relax and more. Unfortunately, the CBOs face challenges with funding and resources. For example, Sister Brother Love which hosts after-school programs for primary and secondary school children could benefit from a donation of children's books and board games. We found the variety of youth involvement between the different types of green spaces interesting because Michuki Park, located near the University of Nairobi, is very different from the Believers Transformation League located in Dandora, in terms of the range and diversity of government involvement, funding, community engagement, and services.
By speaking directly to community members, we were able to understand the direct benefits of waste restoration and newly repurposed community green spaces for those living near these restored spaces. Witnessing the collaboration between GBM and the communities most affected by waste management concerns, we were able to experience the benefits of green spaces and the repurposed products from waste. Through GBM’s alignment with the SDG-11 goal, communities can self-empower themselves through sustainability and climate resiliency.
U.N. Environment Programme. (2017, October 2). GOAL 11: Sustainable cities and communities. UNEP - UN Environment Programme. http://www.unep.org/explore-topics/sustainable-development-goals/why-do-sustainable-development-goals-matter/goal-11