By Ceazar Onyango, Giselle Foundation, Kenya
One of Project WET’s newest partners, the Giselle Foundation works to improve wellness among children, youth and women in disadvantaged communities by promoting better education as well as primary health and economic empowerment. The organization provides healthcare and educational support and shelter to children and supports women through social entrepreneurship and agribusiness. Helping communities procure clean water to prevent disease and improve health is another focus. With existing initiatives in Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, the Giselle Foundation has plans to launch future programs in the Philippines, Nepal and Haiti. The Giselle Foundation in Kenya is working on an innovative program that combines water, sanitation and hygiene education with solid waste management and economic empowerment, improving the lives of the thousands of people who live in the Obunga slums on the edge of Lake Victoria, in Kisumu, Kenya.
The Obunga Slum is home to approximately 15,000 people and has a high population density but low access to sanitation infrastructure. Solid waste management is a critical health problem in Obunga. Uncollected waste exposes residents to communicable diseases and can contaminate water supplies as well. The Giselle Foundation has used this issue to mobilize people and community self-help groups to assist in waste collection. Through our Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) education project, we have developed a waste collection program that includes curbside collection of recyclable materials, diverting material from landfills, as well as creating jobs and alternative fuels. Our program has taught people living in Obunga to turn waste collection into a small business with a “Pay- As-You-Throw” system.
Giselle’s community self-help groups already have certificates that permit them to collect waste. Every trash can used by five houses is charged a flat rate per bag. Waste collection is done weekly, generating income that is used to pay for labor and the transport of the garbage. While participants are earning money, they are also assisting in environmental conservation and improving sanitary conditions. Once collected, the garbage is sorted. Any plastic is washed and sold to bottling companies. Scrap metals are also sold to companies that need them. Paper waste is used in combination with sawdust to produce an alternative fuel—fuel pellets—that is also affordable to the community.
A temporary government ban on logging has increased the price of charcoal as fuel. (Nearly all Obunga residents currently use either charcoal or paraffin for fuel.) However, given that the forest cover in Kisumu County is less than one percent, removing that ban could further damage the region’s ecosystem. Fuel pellets are manufactured using two simple machines that chop paper waste into small pieces. Water is then added and the paper is chopped even smaller. The resulting chopped paper is mixed with sawdust (a waste product that timber yards need to dispose of) and pounded in a mortar. The mixture is then put into canisters with holes and pressed out until there is no more water. Finally, the pellets are dried outside. Four of these pellets in a typical stove will burn for 45 minutes. The process of converting trash to fuel provides employment opportunities to youth, improves community income and assists in landfill diversion and other environmental protection programs.
To ramp up production—which will allow greater uptake of the alternative fuel and improve economic returns to community members—the Giselle Foundation is raising money to purchase two waste-to-fuel machines, a 0.75mᶟ mortar that costs approximately USD200 and a compressor that costs approximately USD800. When the waste collection program and conversion of trash to fuel begin turning a profit, community members working in the enterprise will have jobs that will improve their standard of living. The Giselle Foundation estimates that about 200 residents will be employed in the project, providing economic opportunities, environmental conservation and more affordable alternative fuel.