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International Partnerships

SWITCH Africa Green - Creating art from waste

In Yala, Kenya, the artist David Marenya leads Gem Sauri, a community-based organisation, where he works with 30 volunteers. They produce artwork using recycled waste paper and eggshells turning the material into beautiful pieces of art.

Besides focusing on the re-use of waste material, Gem Sauri also plays an important role in the social reintegration of young rehabilitated drug addicts by employing them and teaching them how to create artwork.

Waste is wealth

David’s enterprise is an example of the adoption of sustainable consumption and production approaches for waste management. David’s mantra “waste is wealth” guides Gem Sauri activities. The organisation is also part of the SUS-TOUR project, funded by the EU through the SWITCH Africa Green programme.

The project aims at diversifying tourism in Kenya, making it more sustainable by training local organisations in sustainable business, marketing and management.

During the training, David and his co-workers learned how to manage a sustainable business and explore alternative sources of income.

The project allowed Gem Sauri to gain exposure through forums and exhibitions, using online visibility and promotion on social media.

David Marenya working on a new creation
David Marenya working on a new creation – Copyright: UNEP

Thanks to the trainings they received, they were able to diversify their activities. In addition to selling artwork to tourists, Gem Sauri now proposes hiking, birdwatching at the Yala falls, and sustainable agritourism. The organisation also introduced tours and excursions for university students as a way to increase visitors.

Reduce, reuse and recycle

Before the SWITCH Africa Green Programme interventions, Gem Sauri waste generation and environmental impact were very heavy. David realised that the waste generated around his enterprise came mostly from the hotels, restaurants, and food vendors, he agreed with the hoteliers and vendors, to dispose of the eggshells, wine and spirit bottles separately for ease of collection for recycling

With the implementation of the SUS-TOUR project, Gem Sauri began to employ the 3R principles; Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Waste eggshells and used hair weaves are now collected, washed, and used to produce artworks, which are sold to generate income.

Gem Sauri artworks
Gem Sauri artworks – Copyright: UNEP

I had to get another source of raw materials to sustain the production of my artwork. So, I approached boiled egg sellers and did not only tell them that I was interested in the eggshell waste, but I also used that as a point of advocating for good environment conservation.

David Marenya, Gem sauri manager

The enterprise has also adopted a wastewater reuse strategy in which water used to wash the weaves is mixed with ash and then used to irrigate plants in the organisation’s garden and tree seedlings in the individual members’ nurseries. The use of recycled water in the gardens contributed to sustainable livelihoods and generated an income increase thanks to the sales of the surplus vegetable production.

Initially, community members did not view ecotourism and sustainable practices as a way that could have a positive impact on their daily lives. However, with the inclusion of the community in the project decision making and activities like cultural days, clean-up exercises, nature-based products promotion and sales, the locals saw a concrete improvement in their households revenues.

Thanks to the help of the SWITCH Africa Green programme, Gem Sauri managed to increase its annual sales, while benefitting the local community, and preserving the environment for future generations.

David Marenya and one of the volunteers
David Marenya and one of the volunteers – Copyright: UNEP

Original article published by SWITCH Africa Green.