Learning what works best for vulnerable youth in the waste sector

On 13th to 16th February 2024, ICDI’s Luisa Tesch, Margaret Kernan and Barret Kamunzu in Mombasa, Kenya together with our partners Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) and Taka Taka Solutions (TTS) for the second round of Learning Spaces in the Waste to Work Project.

This project supports young vulnerable youth in the waste management industry in Kenya to organise themselves and strengthen their leadership capacity and livelihood resilience. It has a special focus on facilitating the participation and empowerment of women in this male-dominated market. Mombasa is one of the three counties where the project operates, along with the capital Nairobi and Kisumu.

ICDI’s role is to lead the Research and Learning Agenda and develop a common vision and plan for improvements and innovations. During our visit, we facilitated a reflective workshop to understand how the waste pickers are developing their skills and knowledge on waste management. We also identified challenges in the project implementation and discussed possible solutions. The opportunity to reflect and calibrate together to improve how we work and achieve greater impact was welcomed by all.

An important part of the Learning Space was to visit the actual sites of the waste collection and sorting in Mombasa.

First, we visited the Airport Cleaner Buy Back Centre, which is run by a group of young people, who jumped at the opportunity to speak out about their concerns and ambitions to grow their businesses and improve their working conditions. We were able to talk to one of the participants, Wesley, who told us about the positive changes they had seen during the past year:  

We also joined a meeting of the AECC (Airport Environment Coordination Centre), which is one of the Youth Business Clubs being supported by From Waste to Work. Together, they collect, sort and separate the waste of 6,000 households in the area. Of the 75 members, 25 are women.  Women face more challenges in this industry: having to balance childcare and work responsibilities or dealing with harassment while they work. We were able to speak with one of the women pickers.

The next stage in the From Waste to Work project is to identify the front-runners i.e. those who show real potential to grow their waste business.  They will be benefit from personalised mentoring and tailored support.  For more information about this project please click here.