Sustainable Cities™

Nairobi: Compost creates income for park maintenance

Lack of toilet facilities and waste dominating public places is a reality in many places all over the world. A slum in Nairobi, Kenya, has come up with a possible answer to the challenge by creating parks that contain toilets and compost facilities. The compostable waste of the area is used to produce compost, which is sold locally as fertilizer and generates income used to maintain the park and toilets.

Kibera shanty town, 7. juni 2007, Af genvessel, Flickr, Creative Commons

Kibera, a slum of Nairobi, Kenya, has found a solution to huge waste management problems by creating a new type of public space - so called productive parks. In Kibera trash is usually deposited in the nearby river and swept away during seasonal flooding. There is approximately one toilet for every 500 people. Residents use plastic bags as their primary mean of disposing faeces. Filled bags are tossed along the road or into the river and lead to significant health problems. About 700.000 to 1 million inhabitants live in Kibera. The area is 2550km², roughly two-thirds the size of Manhattan's Central Park.

The new productive parks will provide open space, generate income and systemize waste collection. Divided into three sections, the parks offer an open community area with playground, agricultural zones to support the cottage industry of water hyacinth cultivation and a third area with a fenced area to hold compost barrels and a bank of toilets. Within the system, composting becomes integral. Not only will it alleviate Kibera's urgent waste problem by providing places designated for refuse (80% of its waste is compostable), but the resulting compost can also be sold on the market as fertilizer. Revenue can fund park and toilet maintenance.

Kibera Nairobi children in trash 29 July 2007 By hris1Johnson, Flickr, Creative Commons

The idea to create productive parks was born in the summer of 2006 where landscape architecture and urban planning students from the Harvard Design School paired up with students from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), the University of Nairobi, and community members to research the needs and physical conditions in Kibera. Based on the findings of this research, they started working in the realisation of the parks in July 2007 with local inhabitants to do some of the construction work.

Parks are planned to serve roughly 250 of their immediate neighbours, which will keep them at scales small enough to encourage local involvement and large enough to be sufficiently productive. The parks cost 10.000 US dollars (2007 dollars) to construct. The first creative public space - Kibera Public Space Project 01 (KPSP 01) was finished in March 2010 and after that another one in August 2011 - KPSP 02, just 15 minutes walking from the first park. The realization of a new park KPSP 03 was commenced in the autumn of 2011 and many more scheduled for the future. Local inhabitants are employed to do some of the construction work.

"Existing models usually solve one problem but exacerbate another" according to Odbert. "They may put in a bank of toilets or a public park, but when the toilets fill up and the park needs maintenance, there are no funds to address these conditions" (Gendall 2008:68).   

Read more:
>> Johannesburg: Organic farming for everyone
>> Jamshedpur: Reducing water shortage through rainwater harvesting
>> Dar Es Salaam: Feeding the sustainable city
>> New York: Urban fish farms

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014