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Think Tank 2022


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Clearing Garbage from the Nairobi River

Kenya-2008-07-12-Clearing Garbage from the Nairobi River


On July 12, volunteers with the Global Peace Festival-Kenya cleared trash from a 300-meter length of the Nairobi River. Accumulated garbage had formed islands in some parts of the river during its 18-kilometer course through the nation's capital. This cleanup campaign has attracted dozens of partner agencies, hundreds of volunteers, and various government offices to pool their efforts to restore this landmark feature that cuts across Kenya's capital city.

The Nairobi River is considered to be unifying factor within the Nairobi province. It flows through and serves all the constituencies. Unfortunately, poverty, ignorance, and general mismanagement has made the river, which was once the pride of Nairobi, a disgrace. It is littered with all kinds of environmentally hazardous substances as well as raw sewage from the communities living along its banks. The Nairobi River network touches all of the notorious Nairobi slums.

Cleaning up the Nairobi River was chosen as as the best and most effective way to make a social impact for the Global Peace Festival August 29 to 31. It is also a priority of the United Nations Environment Programme.

As a buildup to the major cleaning scheduled for August 29, an initial project was planned for July 12. To this end, a committee of young people from 12 strategic partners representing all sectors of the society was constituted one month in advance. The cleanup location was identified, and preparations were begun to make the day a success. Three main issues had to be addressed: mobilizing participants, legal issues, and raising funds.

It was decided to focus on mobilizing people from eight constituencies:

  • Dagoretti
  • Kamukunji
  • Starehe
  • Kasarani
  • Langata
  • Embakasi
  • Makadara

Each committee member generated support within his or her networks. Various schools, colleges, churches, and business communities within and around the cleanup areas were also earmarked as mobilization points. Letters and calls were made to offices whose participation was essential. The city administration, the administrative police from the office of the President, and government ministries were also contacted. Dignitaries were invited for the launch of the activities at 8:00 am, with work expected to continue until 1:30 pm.

The day dawned bright and warm. People showed up as early as 7:00 am ready to begin cleaning. They came from youth groups, women's groups, churches, businesses, and the general public. Tools, gloves, and cleaning equipment were distributed as people arrived. T-shirts with the GPF logo were handed out. Even the parking boys were excited about the project and willingly joined the crowds of people as the cleaning progressed.

The cleanup took place in three locations in the city along the Nairobi River. Division of labor made the work easier and more effective. Some people removed the various impediments while others cleared the banks of the river. Even more people carted the debris to collection points where they were bagged and loaded into the disposal trucks donated by the city council. In addition, hundreds of tree seedlings were planted along the river banks to prevent erosion.

Loudspeakers played music to attract onlookers to join in the cleaning. The master of ceremonies made jokes to entertain the masses of people as they carried out their tasks. All in all, everyone was in a jovial mood.

Thirty-five community groups were partners in the project, and more than a thousand people participated in the cleanup. The project was a success considering the short amount of time and various challenges that confronted the organizing committee. GPF has adopted several portions of the river in order to guarantee a lasting impact of the project, an idea that was introduced to us by the Ministry of Environment.

Several partners played key roles:

The Kenya Administrative Police, one of our main GPF partners, joined us, along with more than 300 cadets from the Rift Valley Academy located 200 kilometers away in the small town of Naivasha. Their headquarters is located in the western part of Nairobi along one of the river's tributaries. Students from neighboring schools joined in, most notably from Pendoria School, the Indian high school, which brought hundreds of its students.

The Nairobi City Council and the Ministry of the Environment were very supportive. The mayor was represented and his office provided thousands of cleaning tools, two bulldozers, and a garbage truck for use on that day. The police provided security throughout the day.

Another committed partner is the Mathare Youth Sport Association (MYSA), which provided tools and other supplies, including 300 wheelbarrows. MYSA is a community-based organization that brings together thousands of Mathare slum dwellers to creatively deal with real life issues. They have several activities that involve young people, including sports, cleanup, education, rehabilitation, and vocational training.

Kenya Veterans for Peace, an organization formed following the inter-ethnic fighting that rocked Kenya earlier this year, is a partner in the Global Peace Festival. These men and women who formerly served in the armed forces work together to educate and help troubled communities overcome stigmas and the turmoils of recent months. They provided 300 personnel for the cleanup.

We wish to express our gratitude to these partners and the many other community partners who offered valuable assistance in this project:

  • Dream of African Talents
  • Africa Sakata Acrobats
  • Vision Theatre Group
  • Ministry of Youth Affairs-Embakasi Division
  • Inua Vijana Resource Centre
  • Mukuru Youth Association
  • Wilderness Youth Group-Majengo
  • Highrise Rovers F.C
  • Changes Rovers Crew
  • United College Youth Club
  • Kenya Slum Youth Development Organization
  • Trees for Clean Energy Network
  • Kenya Kids-Help
  • New Light Youth Association
  • Young Volunteers Forum
  • Solid Rock Youth Foundation
  • Sun City Youth HIV/AIDS Program
  • Kenya Youth Focus Forum
  • Nairobi Eastlands Youth Rehabilitation program,
  • Youth for Habitat
  • Slum Girl Empowerment
  • Maisha Young Ladies
  • Black Marimba
  • African Rhythm
  • MC Unit
  • Slum Code
  • Youth Empowerment Systems
  • Vision Theatre Annex
  • Baba Dogo Youth Consortium
  • Gusii Youths United Against HIV/AIDS and Drug Abuse
  • Global Community Movement
  • New Light Youth
  • Fountain for Peace
  • Youth for Peace and Development (and NYPP)
  • Students for Peace and Initiative