Day: May 16, 2010

Giving ragpickers the fourth R

By: The Times of India 

They comprise the 1,20,000-strong army that saves Mumbai from further environmental degradation. Yes, their livelihood is dependent on the 8,000 tonnes of waste that the megapolis spews out daily. But if it weren’t for their recovering, recycling and ensuring reuse of the waste (the three Rs of their difficult lives), this city would have been one big dumpyard. 

Ragpickers’ working hours are spent in combing the city’s alleys, beaches, rubbish dumps and even diving into the foetid waters of mangrove swamps. Eventually they congregate at Dharavi, the world’s largest recycling unit where almost 80 per cent of dry waste is reused. 

Now there’s an initiative afoot to bestow a fourth R on the ragpicker brigade—respect. The Acorn Foundation India Trust is set to organise these workers and train them in scientific methods of waste handling, segregation and recycling. “We want to highlight their work in protection of the environment,” says Vinod Shetty of the Acorn Foundation. “We want the government to set up a board whereby polluters pay a cess of about one per cent which can go towards giving these ragpickers a proper income with safe equipment like gloves and other amenities. We want them to be trained in how to handle toxic waste and expertise in recycling goods in a non-hazardous way.” 

For a start, all members of the Dharavi Project are being given identity cards. They have formed their own committee which is involved in waste awareness programmes. In one programme, young ragpickers are partnering with schools in waste management. Currently there are some 350 members of the Dharavi Project. 

The foundation has also undertaken another initiative— to organise health clinics, programmes and workshops from which young children engaged in ragpicking can get some kind of informal education in music, photography and other arts. A number of artistes have participated in such programmes, among them singers Shankar Mahadevan, Sunita Rao and Apache Indian and Katrina Kaif. “Nearly 40 per cent of those in the waste business are children and women,” says Shetty. “We do not want to support child labour but realise that this sector needs alternatives. We hope such cultural events will help them think differently.”



The launch was organized in Korogocho community center where the event was held on 25thFeb 2010.

The event was scheduled to mark the official rolling out of the Acorn training model which is currently being implimented in two of the Korogocho villages namely Highridge and Kisumu Dogo. This was also aimed at popularising the Association which is set to carry out major issue based campaings within the area that majorly affects the Korogocho residents at large.

Despite the big challanges in organizing the event that we faced – like lack of finances, another major event was being hosted by the Italian Ambassador taking place just in the neighbouring village and opposition from some of the influencial gate keepers of the area , the event was a big succsess in that more than 300 people attended the ceremony. Among the key persons who atteded  included the Acorn Chief organizer Mr. Wade, local Adinistration ie ( Area Chief and her two Assistants) and fourteen other representatives from different  organizations working within and outside Korogocho.

These Included

 The organization                                                                                        

1. Acorn International (Wade Rathke)

2. Umande Trust (Fancis Kinyeti)

3.  Alternative to violence Project -K (Hannington Muchere)

4.  Blue Cross (Jeniffer Otindo)

5.  Kenya Network of Women living with Aids KENWA (Gladyce Gyambura)

6.  MAKWAK (Agry miheso)

7.  Child Peace Africa (Charlse Maina)

8.  Amani Pamoja Korogocho (Paster Shango)

9.  Koch F.M (Shem Shanzu)

10. Kasarani Youth Representative (Khadija)

11. CASCBI (Christine Nthegah)

12.Miss Koch (Asha abdi)

13. Right and Hope for the Disabled (Ann Njeri)

14. The City Council of Nairobi- Korogocho Ward (Mr.Maneno)

The event was graced by the Chief organizer of Acorn International who had come for a Five days visit to Kenya.

The program kicked off at around 11.00 am with a word of prayer from Pastor Bosire which was follwed by introductions and latter speeches from representatives of various organizations.

To the majority of those who addressed ACORN members, it was a great praise to the work of organizing being carried out in Korocho. They also expressed their deepest desire to work together with Acorn as an Association  in supprot to win the campaigns that will be organized.

 To mention just a few, the representative from AVP-CAPI programme promised their solideraity by promissing to support the Korogocho community people with Peace and Reconciliation training programmes in conjuction with Acorn -Kenya.

 The Youth representative promised to mobilize the youths in the whole Divission to rally behind the campaigns that will be organized.

 Koch FM gave the Acorn community members a  three hour publicity in the community radio once every week to sensitize the community about the organization and the activities that they are undertaking in Korogocho.

 The area Chief was very impressed by the whole programme and urged the community to embrace the model in great numbers so that they can be able to change the face of Korogocho.

 Speeking about the Kenyan programme the Chief Organizer Mr. Wade informed all those present that Change is always with the people. He challeged the community people of Korogocho to choose between positive Change or negative change for their life. He informed them that a positive altitude of   people brings about positive change and positive perseption of the issues, something that will make them come out in great numbers to challage those in power and  control of bringing about the change through massive campaigns.

He also emphasized that change has to start with an individual to be able to convince the others to join up the hands in demand of what is rightifully theirs. Its only through this way that the effect of Acorn will be felt in the neighbourhoods, entire community and even to the other  neighbouring informal settlements within Nairobi.

 The event was crowned with a tree planting ceremony within the Chief’s camp compound, something that made the whole event very colourful and significant of the day. Seven trees were planted that day by different representatives from different organizitions who were present in the occassion.

The whole event ended very peacefully at around 3.00pm