Over a period of 6 weeks, and together with another Social Enterprise Consultant¹, I supported the Old Uganda Road Youth Group in Eldoret, Kenya. The Old Uganda Road Youth Group is a registered Self-help group that started in 2005 with the aim of pulling resources together in order to realise development for its members. Since then, they developed and became private garbage collectors with the purpose to keep the environment clean and to fight youth idleness and youth unemployment.

What I didn’t really expect when I first met with the Old Uganda Road Youth Group was, that they were aware of the term ‘Social Enterprise’. Moreover, they clearly identify themselves as such. As of today, the group counts 35 members – about half of them are active members. The group meets once a week to discuss developments, challenges and future plans. Whoever wants to become a member has to pay a once-off registration fee, be aged between 18-35 years and be a Kenyan citizen.

The business model of the Old Uganda Road Youth Group

The group formed in 2005 with about 30 members. In 2006, they registered as a Self-Help group/project by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development. With the aim to pull resources together, the group started with organising free clean up campaigns within the estate. In 2009, they won a tender by the local government to open drainages and collect garbage in five different districts: Kambi Karatasi (also known as Old Uganda Road B), Road Block, Pipeline, Mwanzo and Upper Hill. The garbage collection takes place twice a week, every Wednesday and Saturday.

About a year ago, the group also started a salon/barber shop to financially support the groups activities. The salon/barber shop employs two women, the garbage collection a handful of youth in part-time. The Old Uganda Road Youth Group has a strong desire to turn these jobs into full-time jobs in the future. With the income, they cover operational expenses for equipment (i.e. operational license, wages and hiring costs of the lorry). In addition to that, they also provide micro-loans to their group members to help them launch their own businesses and they save money to be able to grow in the future.

Thanks to their involvement with the Youth Enterprise Development Fund they gained access to the Uwezo Fund to improve and grow their business. The Uwezo Fund is a loan available for Youth and Women groups only. Repayment period of the loan are six months, within eight installments. The Uwezo Fund is a flagship programme of the governmental Vision 2030. The Vision is “a national long-term development blue-print to create a globally competitive and prosperous nation with a high quality of life by 2030, that aims to transform Kenya into a newly industrializing, middle-income country providing a high quality of life to all its citizens by 2030 in a clean and secure environment.” It is anchored on three key pillars: economic, social and political governance. Other funds introduced by the government to support the Vision 2030 include: the Youth Enterprises Development Fund, the Women Enterprises Development Fund and the Constituency Development Fund.

Motivation and driving factors of being part of the youth group

When working with the group, I kept on asking myself what drives the members to make a difference in their community. Therefore, in consultation with the Old Uganda Road Youth Group, we used one consultancy session to talk about a) what motivates them to be part of the Youth Group, and b) what or who inspires them in general. The answers were great and quite diverse. Many of the members mentioned that they want to do something about youth idleness and create employment. Others mentioned, that they want to promote a clean environment to facilitate a good healthy conduction to the people. One lady also wrote down that she joined the group to do the work other people don’t want to do, simply because someone has to do it.

All of the members are aware of the fact that a clean environment not only looks better, but also reduces the spread of diseases. Their challenge is however to create a positive attitude towards cleaning the environment within their community. Also interesting was, that some youth joined the group to be in company with other youth to not be idle themselves, but also to learn from other members about their community and culture, and to share ideas.

“I was inspired by the late Wangari Maathai who won the Nobel prize when I was around 12 years old. She liked saying “The environment is very unforgiving. If you destroy the environment, if you don’t obey the roles of the environment, the environment will destroy you.” – Damaris, member of the Old Uganda Road Youth Group

Challenges of the Old Uganda Road Youth Group

As any other youth group or organisation, the Old Uganda Road Youth Group faces some challenges. The greatest challenge is that only about 50% of their clients pay for their service and that they cannot serve all households allocated to them. They charge their clients KSH 160 per month (~€1,50) for their garbage collection service,. Whereas some households cannot even afford this small amount because they are simply too poor, others are ignorant and do not understand the importance of garbage collection and the need for a clean environment. Also, some believe that the collection fee is already covered by electricity bills, or they believe it’s a government’s duty and thus collection should be for free. As a result, people burn their waste or leave them at illegal dump sites which leads to various negative environmental, economic and health effects. On this note, I can recommend to read on article published in September 2014 on the Guardian. It focuses on poverty and live around the dump in Eldoret: Kenya: mothers and children scratching a living on Eldoret dump.

The problem with serving all households allocated to them can be derived from the need to hire a truck for their trips. At Upper Hill, a richer area, there is even a demand for daily garbage collection. However, hiring costs for the lorry (truck) are too high and wouldn’t cover the associated costs. For this reason, they created a savings account to be able to buy their own lorry (truck) in the future.

They would also like to make more use of the waste, starting recycling, up-cycling or composting, but they don’t know how to. Some expert advise is needed here.

Another challenge is to recruit youth as garbage collectors as this work has a bad reputation as it is seen as dirty work and some get confused as street children/youth. In addition to that, the Old Uganda Road Youth Group has not the capacity to employ the youth on a daily basis yet.

“Failure is an opportunity to begin again, to improve.” – Philipp, member of the Old Uganda Road Youth Group

Future plans of the Old Uganda Road Youth Group

At the moment, the focus of the group is saving money to buy their own lorry (truck), which will help them to keep their costs down. They also plan to educate the community more and decided to focus their activities on awareness campaigns, such as distributing flyers and posters in their districts, that illustrate the importance of garbage collection. Another step is to register as a company because by now some members are above the age of 35. In addition, they plan to start to recycle plastic and other materials and wish to get their own plastic grading machine. As most of their household garbage is organic trash, they also consider composting and organic small-scale farming.

Are you an expert in waste management, recycling, up-cycling, composting or small-scale farming and interested to support the group to develop and grow? Then please feel free to contact them via Facebook and support them with your skills & knowledge. Some advise on marketing and social media could also be of great help and whoever wants to support financially, could sponsor them or donate money which they would use to purchase their own lorry (truck).

MORE ABOUT MOTIVATIONS & INSPIRATION OF THE YOUTH GROUP MEMBERS:


To have a clean environment – To create a positive attitude towards cleaning the environment – To not be idle – To do something unique – To reduce the changes of getting infections and diseases – To bring better health to the people – To fight youth idleness – To create employment for youth – To help avoid drunken people in the area as to them it’s important to have a job and something to do – To bring people into better living conditions – To make the county government understand that as youth we can make a difference – To make the community understand the importance of living in a clean environment –  To be in company with other youth –  To share ideas –  To meet with different people and get different ideas –  To make friends from different estates – To learn from other members about their community and culture – To get contact with the Youth Development Fund – To have networking opportunities


¹ Social Enterprise Consultant for the pilot of the SocialStarters Social Enterprise Training & Consultancy programme in 2014