Against All Odds: Amidst Administrative Impunity, Pollution, and Life Threats, a Youth-Led Organization, Tempo Art Centre, Effectively Combats Climate Change

Dandora Dump Site situated in Nairobi’s slums, specifically Korogocho and Baba Dogo is enormous, spanning over 30 hectares and receives more than 2,000 metric tonnes of waste daily from the city’s approximately 4.5 million residents. The waste undergoes several processes, including recycling, burning, and decomposition.

Regrettably, a significant portion of the waste is non-biodegradable, leading to the release of harmful carbon emissions into the atmosphere. This not only contributes to climate change but also harms the ozone layer, exacerbating the global climate crisis. The dumpsite, initially supported by funds from the World Bank, has been operating since 1975 and reached its full capacity by 2001 due to the overwhelming amount of waste.

A visit to the Dandora Dump Site reveals a pervasive smell and constant dark smoke caused by the continuous burning of plastics and rubber waste, which occurs round the clock. This waste disposal approach directly impacts climate change. The toxic fumes emitted from the dump site have been polluting the atmosphere for decades, significantly contributing to global warming and further degrading the ozone layer.

The consequences of the Dandora Dump Site extend beyond the environment and climate. The local communities living nearby suffer from severe health issues due to inhaling and coming into contact with heavy metals and hazardous chemicals released during waste burning. Residents experience skin conditions and respiratory illnesses, underscoring the urgent need for proper waste management practices in Nairobi.

The story revolves around a local mitigation initiative in the Luckysummer community of Nairobi towards the negative impacts of the dump site.  The community has established the Tempo Art Centre, a four-hectare man-made garden on rehabilitated land formerly used as a quarry. The center engages in activities such as crop and fish farming, tree planting, and combat sporting events. Freshwater from natural springs is utilized since nearby rivers are heavily polluted.

The Tempo Art Centre serves multiple purposes. It not only addresses climate change by trapping carbon emissions through tree planting but also contributes to environmental conservation and provides a therapeutic environment for mental health due to its serene atmosphere.

Despite their dedicated efforts to conserve the environment and combat climate change, the community members involved in managing the center, particularly the youth, face challenges such as negative profiling and attempts to seize the public riparian land.

They receive life threats and constant opposition from the local administration. However, they remain resilient in their activities to tackle climate change. While the majority of the group comprises males, there is also a fraction of women ranging from 28 to 40 years old involved in the campaign.

Tempo Art Center farm manager Jared Oyola shared his idea behind the garden’s establishment;
“I am from Siaya where planting of trees is part of our culture. When I came here in 2013, I brought up the idea of planting trees and crops as a way of conserving the environmental because Tempo Art Center was purely a talent development hub. Earth is our home, no one has ever gone to heaven and came back with a report of how it looks. I would like to challenge every individual to take the responsibility of planting trees wherever they are, especially the youth in both urban and rural areas. Tree cover has numerous benefits to our home earth.” Jared said.

“We should make good use of our open spaces and wetlands by planting trees, let’s do away with burning of charcoal and dumping of plastics to safeguard our ecosystem.” He added.

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