Working with Women for a Cleaner Kenya

Mar 20, 2014 | Categories: Community, Westgate Conservancy | 6 Comments

In Westgate Conservancy, where Ewaso Lions is based, the landscape is littered with plastic bags. Women purchase sugar, tea, and other items from local shops that always package them in plastic bags, and these are often discarded carelessly. Plastic bags can remain in the environment for thousands of years – they do not degrade, they break up into smaller pieces that spread widely across the area, and are hazardous for the wildlife, livestock, and small children living in Samburu. And in a stunning landscape like Samburu, they discarded bags is a major eyesore.

A lion cub chews on a plastic bag. Discarded plastic bags pose a threat to lions and other wildlife. Photo by Jacob Leadura.

Because women primarily do the household shopping, we decided to work with them towards a solution to the plastic litter problem. Between the 17th and 21st of February 2014, Ewaso Lions and Sasaab Lodge embarked on a clean-up campaign with the women in Westgate Community Conservancy. The clean-up is part of our new Mama Simba programme.

Discarded plastic and other trash is a common site in rural villages.

We worked with 212 women across four locations in Westgate. Women collected plastic bags, containers, and other litter within Naisunyai, Sukuroi, Remot, and Lempaute settlements. They separated the plastic from the paper and containers and put them in to various container bins (recycled containers!) we had put out for them. At some locations, elders and children got involved, too!

Samburu women in Westgate sort the trash they collected.

Over the 4-day clean-up, participants collected over 15,000 pieces of plastic bags and more than 2,000 plastic containers – which totaled 117 kg (260 lb) of trash removed from the landscape! This litter will be taken to Nairobi, where it will be recycled by The Safari Collection’s Recycling Project.

Women with the bags of trash they collected.

The women cleaned up 117 kg (260 lb) of trash that we then hauled off to Nairobi for recycling.

During the clean-up campaign, we spoke to the women about the hazards of plastic bags and conservation in general.  The women were excited to be part of an environmental and conservation programme and pledged to reduce the number of plastic bags they use.

In exchange for the plastic bags that the women clear, we provided each woman with a reusable tote bag for their shopping needs with the hope that this will reduce all plastic consumption in the future. Ewaso Lions teamed up with Africa Inside to provide the tote bags through support from World Women Work.

The day following the Sukuroi clean-up, our Lion Scout Francis Lendorop saw women shopping at a local food market with their new tote bags!

We will embark on Phase 2 of the clean-up later in 2014 and will target the remaining locations of Ngutuk Ongiron, Sasaab, and Westgate.

We are very grateful for support towards this programme from our partners:
> World Women Work
> Africa Inside
> The Safari Collection / Sasaab Lodge

A woman shows off her new reusable shopping bag.

Reusable tote bags will cut down on discarded plastic bags.

> Update: read about our second clean up campaign in August 2014

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6 People have left comments on this post

» Barbara Dundas said: { Mar 22, 2014 - 09:03:29 }

That is brilliant Ali…. what a great project, love seeing how happy and proud the ladies are !

» Jack said: { Mar 22, 2014 - 03:03:36 }

Awesome job guys! Way to be the change you wish to see in the world :)

» joys kimani said: { Jun 25, 2014 - 12:06:02 }

Great initiative! I am truly proud of you

» Nanci Washburn said: { Aug 20, 2014 - 05:08:34 }

I would like to learn more about the working components of this project and help build a program for all of KE. Lets rid KE of all plastic bags and refuse. RECYCLING can also create income for those in need.