From a distance, one can hear occasional laughter, snatches of conversation, labored breathing, and hasty movements of people at work.
A closer look reveals a group of energetic men laboring. Some bending shovels neatly placed in hand. Others dig, some are down on their knees with all hands rigorously mixing the charcoal dust and collecting it in sacks.
This group of young people in Eldoret has taken it upon themselves to turn wastes into wealth.
The Uasin Gishu based group ventured into environment conservation six years ago through garbage collection and planting of trees. Little did they know that one day their small dreams would build up and become realities, changing countless lives.
They have now created employment for more than 15 members of the group. Some of them have come from living in streets, but that past has since been thrown in the dustbins of history.
Headed by Clyde Wanyama, The Group has seen numerous accolades bestowed upon them. In 2013 Wanyama was recognized as an outstanding innovator and promising environmentalist during the Dubai International awards which was done in partnership with the Second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II). Through this award, he was able to invest in Art Youth Center. In September 2014, Cladyde was also recognized by the National Environmental Trust Fund (NETFUND). He was Second Placed in the Community Based Organizations category and was able to secure Kshs. 1,000,000 to better his initiative.
During the first phase the group was able to receive Kshs. 500,000. Using the money, they have been able to purchase 2 motorized machines. Though they faced challenges during the acquisition, as they couldn’t get them done in Eldoret, they were eventually done in Nakuru.
NETFUND has also enabled the Art Youth Center to also get water in their premises. Most of them can attest that this has helped improve their working standards.
The machine attained has enabled the production of the briquettes to go up by a huge number. They can now produce 28 bags at a go as compared to the previous machine that could only do 3-6 bags per go. They then sell the briquettes for Ksh. 30 per packet as compare to a tin of charcoal that sells for Ksh.50
“When they don’t bring the briquettes, I have to go get it from them” says Mama Jonah who operates a local café. She is an avid customer of the briquettes,
She says that the product is long lasting and burns longer a message that is echoed by Calvince who also in the food business.
“It burns without releasing smoke” he continues. “My Sister and I love these briquettes very much, So much energy is saved and we have also been able to cut costs, before we would spend up to Ksh.1400 per month but now we spend Ksh 600 or even less”
Mama Jonah, Calvince and His sister represent a grim section of both rural and urban dwellers that are slowly embracing the briquette business, and consequently reaping the associated benefits.
Apart from the briquette business the Art Center also does production of liquid soap and have been able to create 50,000 liters. The impetus of this production was that even as they deal with charcoal dust, they are still able to be clean and also provide a cheaper soap to the locals. This too has been embraced because it is effective and cost friendly. The soap is packaged in recycled plastic bottles and the team hopes to brand this product.
“In a bid to empower ourselves, we seek to constantly come up with diverse ways of increasing our economical input.” Edwin Owino the group’s secretary says. The group also ventures in different forms of art, from drawings, moldings, carvings and even bead work.
"Our vision is ‘Clean environment, creative people in a peaceful society', which we seek to achieve through constantly recycling garbage and making creative products," says Owino.
They move round estates in Eldoret Town, collecting garbage as well as organizing for cleanup exercises and mobilizing the communities to take part in them.
Art Youth Center has partnered with USAID, Mercy Corps, Wareng Youth Initiative, Uasin Gishu County Government and set to begin a programme with University of Eldoret on Waste Management.
They have had their fair share of challenges especially in getting their own electricity meter but they are hopeful of the future.
“We cannot exist without the environment and youth have the capacity to make a difference” says Wanyama who hopes to continue to create employment, be more creative and provide cost friendly products that are environmentally sustainable.
Art Youth Center hopes to set targets in order to gauge their impact. In a bid to retain the market they plan to make standardized products and continue to care for the environment.