Waste Picker Exchange in Kenya

By Carissa Marnce, GAIA Africa Communications Officer

From social stigmatization to exploitation from the private sector, Waste Pickers face many challenges in their line of work.

Determined to prevail over these challenges, Waste Pickers from Kenya and South Africa  gathered at the Grace House Resort in Nairobi Kenya on 11 March 2020, where they participated in an exchange of skills and experiences. The meeting which was organised by the Centre for Environment Justice and Development (CEJAD), aimed to inspire Waste Pickers from Nairobi to advocate for their own issues by organising themselves into associations. The meeting drew upon the experiences of the South African Waste Pickers Association (SAWPA), as an exemplary structure. 

“If waste pickers in South Africa are organized in a functional association then waste pickers in Kenya and other African countries can follow the same arrangement,”said Griffins Ochieng, Programmes Coordinator for CEJAD.

Griffins believes that Waste Pickers who establish themselves into associations, can advocate for issues like good working conditions, being a service that is regarded as essential, as well as recognition from decision makers and other stakeholders. 

“We hope that through the formation and empowerment of Waste Picker associations, the recognition of Waste Pickers roles in waste management will be achieved in the continent ,”said Griffins.

During the meeting several groups gave presentations on their work in the waste management sector, these groups included Customer Bora, Ndoto Zetu, Dandora Transformation, Hip hop city and Clean up Kenya. SAWPA’s delegation discussed how Waste Pickers are facing similar challenges across the globe, and yet they continue to organize themselves despite these obstacles.

Simon Mbata presenting the successes of SAWPA in South Africa (Credit: CEJAD)

“It is  important to see that Waste Pickers are building confidence in what they do to provide for their families. They are beginning to see themselves as workers and are understanding the role that they play within waste management, the recycling economy, as well as with cleaning and protecting the environment,”said Simon Mbata, National Coordinator of SAWPA.  Simon hopes that waste picker exchange programs will be used as a tool to strengthen the network and to help fight false solutions that are presented in the waste sector. The meeting concluded with groups planning a way forward, which will involve the mapping of Waste Pickers and dumpsites, identifying leadership within the association and networking with other organizations.