By Jane Okoth
On a chilly Saturday morning, residents at Rukanga town situated in Kasigau location were going about their normal duties. But Saturday was a special day because Rukanga was going to witness the largest ever clean-up campaign that targeted the whole town.
First in line to take part in the activity were school children aged 6-12 years from Rukanga, Jora and Kiteghe primary schools accompanied by their respective teachers. Also joining in the occasion were Wildlife Works Rangers, employees, the County Assembly representative and members of the community.
Wildlife Works Assistant Community Relations Officer Protus Mghendi began by highlighting the importance of keeping the environment clean to the adults and school children. Before the exercise kicked off, the participants were given instructions on the specific areas to pick up rubbish, how to dispose of it as well as how to protect themselves should they find anything harmful. The school children and other participants were provided with gloves and divided into two groups.
Under the slogan “Taka sitaki taka” meaning “I don’t want rubbish” the volunteers descended on the town’s surroundings and took part in the clean-up campaign. One group started by cleaning up the upper part of Rukanga town while the other started on the lower area. As the cleaning begun, one could not help but notice the presence of plastic bags and bottles, rubber from tyres and food waste. Together, the group collected plastic bottles using metal sticks and bundled them into their garbage bags, and within just an hour of starting, they had collected enormous amounts of waste.
“It is vital that the community know the importance of cleaning up.” said Newton Nyiro who is the Rukanga County Assembly Representative. “We are also thinking of imposing strict measures to business owners so as to discourage them from careless littering. This will stop them from taking our initiative for granted and ensure they dispose of litter responsibly,” he said.
Each of the participating primary school children and members of the community were given soda and biscuits to cool off from the hard work.
The event comes barely two weeks after Kenya’s plastic ban took effect on August 28th, with offenders subject to a serious fine of $38,000 or four years in prison. The high court of Kenya had earlier ruled against two plastic bags importers and declined to suspend the ban, saying the need to conserve the environment overrides commercial interests. This is a big step for Kenya because according to UNEP, some 100 million plastic bags are handed out every year in Kenya by supermarkets alone, and that has been identified as a major cause for environmental damage and health problems.
The “Taka sitaki taka” campaign was introduced to help improve areas near the Wildlife Works project. In future, the team is planning to involve other stakeholders in reaching out to bigger towns in the region and educating the public about the need for a cleaner environment.