Reducing Exposure to Environmental Risk: Waste Management in Kenya

Learn about the waste management challenges in developing countries and how the Smart Duka Program team and Moody's Foundation are helping micro-retailers handle waste sustainably with their waste management module.

kenyan businesswoman
kenyan businesswoman

It’s 6 o’clock in the morning in Muchatha, a suburb in Kenya. Although the sun hasn’t risen yet, 36-year-old Sylvia Nyambura is already opening up her retail shop where she sells consumer goods. 

During the early morning hours, she sells to the early risers: school children and those preparing breakfast before heading to work. During the rest of the day, in addition to selling goods from her store, she receives new products from different suppliers, makes payments, and updates her business records before closing the shop at 9 p.m. In Kenya, these small retail shops (known as “dukas”) supply roughly 80% of consumer goods and are often run by women or families. 

In the past, Sylvia had struggled to create a thriving business. She was unable to keep good business records, had difficulty analyzing her local market, and was losing customers to competitors. On top of all of these challenges, inefficient waste management had become a problem for her business–and for other entrepreneurs and members of her wider community. 

Trash is collected only once a week in her neighborhood, and there are currently no government-installed trash cans. This causes waste from her shop and other nearby stores to build up, which obstructs drainage systems and creates a major health risk to her and her community.

Like many entrepreneurs reliant on their small businesses as a path out of poverty, Sylvia wasn’t sure how to address these kinds of challenges in a way that made sense both for her enterprise and for the environment.

Why is Waste Management So Important? 

The world is currently grappling with serious waste management challenges. With the global population expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050, people will generate far more waste than can be managed unless sustainable waste management plans are implemented. According to the World Economic Forum, greenhouse gas emissions from the solid waste management sector are expected to increase from over a billion tons in 2016 to 2 billion tons per year by 2050. In low-income countries, rapid growth and industrialization have resulted in an exponential increase in waste production.

One of the main obstacles to effective waste management, however, is simply a lack of awareness of how to properly handle it. For this reason, TechnoServe and three corporate volunteers from Moody’s FoundationTibaut Meulemans, Aman Karen, and Andrea Macauda – developed a training module on waste management for the Smart Duka program

Launched in 2015, the program provides one-on-one consulting and group training to duka owners in Kenya, whose shops provide critical supplies to local communities and are an engine of local economic growth. The program helps these entrepreneurs improve their marketing and merchandising knowledge; general business skills; relationships with lenders, suppliers and customers; and coordination between other shops. The new waste management module gave Smart Duka participants the necessary knowledge and skills to manage waste in an environmentally sustainable way.

Reversing the Harmful Effects of Poor Waste Management 

TechnoServe found that waste management is a systemic issue that has received insufficient attention from governments, the private sector, and other key market actors. Micro-retailers and other residents in areas without solid waste management plans have resorted to open burning and dumping, which is an unhealthy and hazardous waste management practice.

Plastic bottles, carton boxes, and polythene wrappings are the main sources of waste generated by micro-retail stores. Without any follow-up or assistance from the producers about waste disposal for their products, the micro-retailers use a variety of disposal methods, some of which can present severe risks to the community and the environment. Many were unaware of any waste recovery firms that could support recycling plastic waste, and so only a few of the businesses interviewed were segregating waste according to kind. 

To address this, the waste management module taught duka owners how to handle different kinds of waste produced in the stores. The module covers four areas of best waste management practices: 

  • Reducing the amount of waste generated and reusing waste
  • Separating biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste by using different litter bins
  • Responsibly storing waste to prevent its accumulation
  • Disposing waste responsibly and avoiding negative practices such as burning waste

Increasing Revenue Through Innovation

kenyan businesswoman

After participating in the Smart Duka program last year, Sylvia learned how to manage solid waste in her business responsibly such as separating waste based on type by using two separate litter bins for different waste types in her business and reusing some of the carton boxes that had packaged products in her shop by offering them as packaging bags to customers who bought from her business. She also learned better record-keeping practices, how to diversify business revenue streams, the power of networking with other shop owners, and more. She even added a footwear business and a charcoal business as new income sources. 

Since working with TechnoServe, Sylvia’s daily sales have doubled from $48 to $96. “I am very proud of myself because these decent earnings have enabled me to pursue personal goals,” she says. “I have enrolled for a Diploma in Business Management to enhance my technical skills in business. I have also moved my family to a better and decent neighborhood.” 

“Waste management is an urgent issue,” says Aman Karen, an instructional designer at Moody’s Foundation. “Information is key to improving waste management—increasing awareness of the impacts of improper waste management and sensitizing individuals about sustainable waste disposal options.” 

Join us as we empower businesses and their owners, like Sylvia, to thrive sustainably.