Grassroots waste management at Kibuye market

Kibuye market in Kisumu in Western Kenya is one of the largest open-air markets in East Africa. Among the thousands of stands and traders you can find basically anything you want from groceries and clothes to appliances and furniture. If you can’t find what you are looking for, then you can surely find someone willing to make it or get it for you. Western-style shopping centers are multiplying in Kisumu, but Kibuye and the numerous other markets are still playing a major role in the local life and economy.

But these markets have their challenges and one of them is waste management. Kisumu county’s waste collection system is insufficient and the traders also lack guidance and awareness of proper waste disposal. Instead of waiting for things to change at the county level however, some of the market’s traders have taken the matter into their own hands. These traders have formed businesses and groups that not only remove waste from the market but also make a profit out of it. One of these groups is Kibuye Market Waste Management CBO that has is turning organic waste into organic manure for agriculture.

Traders at Kibuye market in Kisumu, Kenya
Despite its large size, on most days Kibuye market is fairly quiet. This all changes on Sundays – known as market days – when people from all over the region come to Kibuye to buy and sell all kinds of produce and services.

Changing the waste management system at Kibuye market

The multitude of activities at Kibuye market create large amounts of solid waste, and this waste is clearly visible at the market. The county’s waste management system is inadequate, both in terms of how little waste is removed and how little is recycled. But the market’s traders have realized the value of recycling, and Kibuye market has sites where different materials such as plastic and metal are reused and recycled. This not only makes the market cleaner, it also turns waste into useful products with market value.

But the vast majority of the waste generated is organic waste that is simply thrown on the ground. If the organic waste is not removed – which has for long been the case – the market quickly becomes dirty and unhealthy, especially during the rainy season. Kibuye Market Waste Management CBO is a traders co-operation that was founded in 2014 in order to tackle the issue of organic waste.

Container at Kisumu county's waste collection site at Kibuye market
This container is part of Kisumu county’s waste collection site at Kibuye market. Today the site is much cleaner than when Kibuye Market Waste Management group was founded.

Kibuye Market Waste Management group raises awareness of waste management among the traders. Because of this awareness, more people have started disposing of their waste in the proper way at the county’s waste collection site. The group then sorts and removes organic waste from the collection site so that only inorganic waste is taken to the county’s dumpsite. The group also goes around the market themselves and collects organic waste from the ground. This has made the market much cleaner and reduced the amount of organic waste ending up at the dumpsite.

Waste removal at Kibuye market
Organic waste at Kibuye market is usually thrown on the ground and removed afterwards.

Turning organic waste into manure

Once the organic waste has been collected and sorted, it is taken to a site at Kibuye market that was donated to the group by Kisumu county. This site is where the organic waste is composted in compost piles. The pile is covered to keep it moist and hot which accelerates the process. After three weeks the compost is ready, and during this time the pile is turned once in order to create a more evenly composted product. No new waste is added to the pile during the process.

The moist compost is dried before it is ground into manure. The grinding was previously done by hand, but the group recently received a new mechanical grinder that makes the process easier and quicker. This machine grinds the compost into fine particles, creating the final manure that is then sold to farmers. The grinder can also make animal feed from food waste.

Compost piles of the Kibuye Market Waste Management group
Kibuye Market Waste Management group composts organic waste in piles like these. The compost is then dried and ground into fine organic manure that is sold to farmers.

Expansion and social impact

Today Kibuye Market Waste Management CBO has 85 members in two subgroups, and the amount of members and subgroups is growing. The organization is also expanding their activities into new territories. Collection of household waste and recycling of plastic are some of the new activities that are starting or under planning. The group is even considering using the heat from the composting process to generate energy. Many of the existing processes could also be made more efficient and more organic waste could be collected from the market.

The organic manure made by Kibuye Market Waste Management group is sold to farmers locally at Kibuye market, and the group has plans to open a more formal store. The group is cooperating with the county and with agricultural organizations, and the organic manure sold by the group has been tested and certified. By providing an alternative to chemical fertilizers, the group can help promote organic farming and reduce the pollution caused by chemical fertilizers.

Meeting of Kibuye Market Waste Management group
Kibuye Market Waste Management group holds regular meetings, and the group is expanding both in terms of people and activities.

An important part of group’s work is how they handle their finances in a way that benefits its members. The profits from the sales (along with small contributions from the members of the group) form a fund from which the members can then apply loans for different projects. In this way the members benefit from the communal effort of the group more than if people were all selling their own manure. The work of Kibuye Market Waste Management CBO shows that when people get together, common problems can be solved more efficiently in a way that benefits the people themselves.

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