Waste to Best Visit, Naivasha, Kenya August 2018

Waste to Best Visit, Naivasha, Kenya August 2018

Once in a while an opportunity comes along to meet people who are truly an inspiration to their community and the world. This post is about James Kagwe and Elizabeth Wanjiru (Liz Shish).

I first met James and Liz earlier this year at a permaculture course held in Kenya. At that time we discussed their vision for sustainability and how permaculture has helped change their community. I was fortunate to join my friends Julie and Mark in Kenya last month and see what James and Liz were working on in their village of Naivasha. What they have accomplished is MIND BLOWING!

A few years ago, James and Liz recognized there was a huge need for waste management in Naivasha. Some areas in Kenya do not have waste collection systems in place. The locals’ habit is to throw garbage on the ground because there are no trash bins. Trash is then piled all together with no system of sorting. Garbage is literally lying all over, with valuable materials, such as vegetable scraps, adding to the problem (rather than being exploited for other uses). Animals can be seen grazing on the garbage, including plastics and other materials not suitable as a food source, while at the same time, kids are using scraps of waste as toys. Naivasha was suffering, but is not unique.

Liz and James made the bold decision to do something about these unsanitary conditions. We met up with them for a tour to show us the INCREDIBLE work they have accomplished at the 4 sites they manage. These include:
• Community Garden
• Waste to Best Recycling and Compost Center
• Waste Separation Program in the Estates
• Fully working Farm

In just 5 years, they have educated the neighbors on waste separation, begun a waste management program and built a sorting site where the waste is separated for recycling or composting. Perhaps, the most interesting aspect is that the waste is transported by burro!

The community garden was built in a space that was completely barren, with nothing but dead soil. It is now thriving, and full of life because of their amazing composting efforts (as well as their green thumbs). The garden has not only brought the community together, but also offer a place to hold garden classes to the wider community. Liz and James teach all the classes and also provide spaces for students to grow food.

Finally, we visited their farm. It is a space they use as a demonstration site to showcase different techniques where local farmers can get tips on how to grow food naturally, without chemicals and pesticides. The farmers are currently watering the vegetables and fruit trees with rainwater collected in a series of pits, each one flowing into the next, filtered naturally through the soil.

This visit was a really special treat for me as I am always encouraging people to compost and get inspired by people who are working every single day to be change makers in their communities. James and Liz have most definitely made a difference in Naivasha for both the environment as well as for its people.

Their work is an excellent example of how a small group of people can massively change a whole community. Grateful to them for doing what they do.


#changemakers #permaculture #communitygarden #recyclingcenter #compost #wastemanagement #reducereuserecycle


Kenya Trip Week Two: Water Harvesting for Food Security Course – January 2018

Kenya Trip Week Two: Water Harvesting for Food Security Course – January 2018

After our workshop in Soweto, I headed to a course in Natuum, a Massai village in Northern Kenya. The course, Water Harvesting for Food Security was coordinated by the Permaculture Research Institute of Kenya (PRI Kenya) and led by Warren Brush and Joseph Lentunyoi. http://pri-kenya.org/?p=2981

Natuum is a very dry, desertified area, with sloped land that has wide gulleys. The land is desertified for several reasons and I will highlight a couple of those reasons here.

Overgrazing. The Massai are traditionally shepards. This way of life is no longer working well for them because they have been moved to smaller lands, which do not have enough grazing space for the amount of animals that they have grazing. As a result, the grass is grazed to the point where it has no ability to recover and dies. Overgrazing is leaving the soil bare, exposing it to elements. Bare soil has no way to hold in the moisture so any precipitation does not sink into the ground.

Lack of ground cover. As there is no grass to capture the water, in heavy rains, water rolls down the slopes, taking any available soil and nutrients with it. This leads to the creation of wide gulleys and loss of sediment.

The great news is that there are solutions to help reverse these conditions. The purpose of the course was to help capture and plant rainwater by creating water catchment areas and also plant grass seeds that will grow and cover the soil. These catchment areas will hold the water and nutrients in the landscape, preventing further erosion and allow plants and trees to grow and provide food for the Massai and the animals.


We began our work at the highest part of the landscape, studying and following the path of the water in the land to see how the water flowed. Next, we found the contours in the land using A-frames. Finding the contours allowed us to mark the outline for the swales we planned to dig. We then marked out the contour with stones. Next we dug out the swales by hand. Swales are either natural or man-made trenches or basins, made along a land’s contour. They are created to convey and promote water infiltration and also capture nutrients and sediment that would otherwise be carried down the slope.

We have recently gotten updates showing how the space has “greened up” and nutrients and water are being captured!

One final note: Swales are not the solution for every project but suited the needs for this land. Make sure to do your research before digging in to make sure swales are appropriate for your site.