Youth Led Environmental Development
Youth Led Environmental Development
Solution proposed by:
Mathare Environmental Conservation Youth Group and UN-Habitat
In a Nutshell:
Enabling youth to be leaders in their community through empowering them to transform the local context by implementing sustainable solid waste management and other community development programs
Where and When:
This has been implemented within the suburb of Mlango Kubwa within the Mathare informal community in Nairobi, Kenya. The intervention began in 1997 and has continued to expand over the last two decades.
In 1997, the Mathare community was characterised by poor urban environmental health. There were no services or transport systems for municipal waste, resulting in waste piling up in streets and along drainage lines, and high disease incidents. There were also social issues with high levels of youth under- or unemployment leading to participation in gangs, crime and other dangerous activities.
This youth led environmental development model is innovative through the approach of empowering youth to proactively address solid waste for the purpose of enabling youth participation, increasing public open space and advancing community cohesion.
The main concepts underlying this solution are (i) utilising value chains and business models to sustain solid waste management programs and (ii) utilising community participation and engagement to grow social capital. (i) Value Chains and Business Models for Solid Waste Management: Through ensuring that households pay a suitable monthly collection fee, it is possible to ensure that those who are employed to collect solid waste from households can be paid a viable wage. When this service provision aspect is then utilised to collect recyclables, additional value can be added to the waste business. E.g. when the youth group were able to introduce a plastic shredder into their activities the value of the plastic they collected was able to increase as it was sold in a more refined and valuable form. (ii) Utilising Community Participation and Engagement to Grow Social Capital: All aims and objectives within the project were developed by the members of the youth group, thus creating their ownership of the project and its outcomes. They also invited wider community participation for the creation of the public open space and the youth served as role models for the younger members of the community. These youth were able to engage younger members in activities and demonstrate positive behaviours.
Mathare community is an informal community of 600-800,000 people in Nairobi, Kenya. Mlango Kubwa is a suburb within Mathare with a population of approximately 40,000. In 1997, Mlango Kubwa was characterised by a lack of security (no public lighting or public open space) and without adequate environmental sanitation (poor coverage of toilets and waste collection services). Community wide impacts have been achieved through the following activities: • In a response to the unhygienic environment and high levels of youth crime and violence, members of a local football club formed a youth led environmental group to address the twin issues of unemployment and waste; • Using systematic and sustainable approaches to waste collection and management, including waste value addition through recycling, the group has been able to provide viable employment opportunities while improving the local environment; • The group has provided a reliable income for waste service providers through the regular collection of a monthly fee (150 ksh) from households using the service. Waste is taken to a transfer site where it can be further sorted for reclaiming recyclables. From this transfer point the government is responsible for waste collection and disposal; and • The youth felt empowered to advocate local politicians for support in the lead up to elections to promise to invest in the creation of public open space with adequate drainage and waste services.
The Mathare Environmental Conservation Youth Group has created the only public open spaces in the community by advocating politicians and mobilising community participation to remove solid waste. These public spaces are now used as a meeting place, sports field, community garden and community centre for young people. The youth group continue to reduce the amount of waste present and provide increased liveability for many young people within the Mathare community. The project has had educational benefits through the community centre, safer communities through public open space and lighting, and increased agency and status for young people. The high level impacts have been increased social capital through inclusive programming, community engagement, social cohesion and resilience.