Trash to Treasure

Trash to Treasure: Collecting trash for profit to reduce vector breeding sites in Kwale County, Kenya

In this project, our primary objective is to test whether a community-based recycling program can engage aspiring business-people to turn trash into profit in Coastal, Kenya. We know that trash is the most productive mosquito habitat in this region, so we expect to improve health by reducing mosquito-borne diseases and to alleviate poverty by generating income. In our study site, there is a particularly high rate of unemployment, especially among young adults. Our project aims to entice individuals to improve health of their communities while making money.

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Community-based vector control programs in both Kenya and Mexico have paid community members to perform vector control activities; However, these programs don’t last because they rely on a constant support from donors or the government. We will overcome this challenge by providing community members with the support needed to generate income from trash to make vector control profitable. Trash, specifically unused containers like bottles, buckets, and tires, can be re-purposed for a variety of profitable items. Community members have expressed interest in creating value from trash and this project offers initial support in the form of start-up funds, mentorship, and skill-building.

We hypothesize that profitable businesses which motivate community members to remove trash from the community will reduce vector breeding containers. We have identified that the majority of mosquito breeding sites are in unused containers or “trash.”

We will conduct our study in two phases:

  • Phase 1: Planning Phase: To test whether community-based recycling/repurposing will work, we are joining with local partners to identify target communities, identify how best to do community mobilization, identify the volumes of waste available, and scope layout of solid waste/recycling industries and market opportunities for the trash.
  • Phase 2: Pilot an entrepreneur incubator program. We will invite all community members to a meeting where we will introduce the idea of starting a social enterprise to remove trash from the environment. During the meeting, everyone will be invited to share their ideas about how to create value from trash. Interested individuals will be selected to apply to participate in the social entrepreneurship program where they create and execute business plans.

Funding provided by BOVA (Building Out Vector-borne diseases in Africa) Network Pump Priming Award, 6/2019 – 4/2020 

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