Malindi is a popular tourist town in Kenya, 125km north of Mombasa along the Indian Ocean coast. Over the years however, the environmental situation in Malindi continued to deteriorate to an extent that alarmed local residents of goodwill. The Malindi Green Town Movement was formed to introduce sustainable integrated environmental management in urban development to achieve a healthy and clean environment in Malindi. The project covers an area of 670 square kilometers with a population of 140,000 residents. One third of the area is part of the Indian Ocean riparian ecosystem. The project targets the urban poor (mainly women and youth), residents of Malindi Town, and Malindi District at large. Community ownership of the programme is a key component of the project. The project has greatly improved the community's livelihood and built good governance capacity in the Malindi Town Council. The project's environmental conservation activities complement the local council's own efforts. The project's answer to urban cleanliness is "Community Mobilization and Recycling".
Before the initiative, the community was not sensitized on solid waste management and clean environment. Residents of Shella Beach, the oldest village in Malindi, used to dump household and garden waste into the ocean. Even when the ocean receded 400 meters to 800 meters, residents continued dumping, turning Shella Beach, the best part of Malindi Bay, into an unhealthy dumpsite. The town lies in a basin, with a sand dune on the beach side and a hilly west, south and north. Whenever it rains run off water floods into the basin. Because the town did not have a conventional drainage and sewage system, the town streets flooded during the rains and became potholed. The Mombasa-Malindi highway was dusty, with no vegetation or trees along the road. The town was dirty and littered with garbage with even cattle grazing in town. Plastics bags and coconut shells were strewn everywhere even in the ocean. The town had a filthy vegetable market with makeshift stalls, dirty streets and a dumpsite in the middle of an estate all of which were an eyesore. Most residents depended on water from wells, some were even sunk a few meters from pit latrines, and domestic wastewater spilled into roads and the ocean. The town's structural plan had no provisions for playgrounds, public gardens and other public utilities. The lack of a planning structure led to an increase in unplanned settlements in the town. Street children roamed the town posing a nuisance to residents and tourists. There was a mosquito menace particularly to infants from low-income parents. The Malindi Town Council lacked adequate capacity, resources, and council by-laws to manage waste and protect the environment. As a result the council had low credibility with the residents. The community lacked lobbying and advocacy capacity to compel the council to provide services.
Malindi Green Town initiated a project for women's groups to collect plastic bags and crotchet them into useful items like hats and bags. The Shella Beach Women's Group was empowered to make mosquito nets for themselves and for sale. Malindi Green Town provided clean drinking water to Muyeye village to help reduce the prevalence of water borne diseases and negotiated with the council for lower water rates. Malindi Green Town provided technical assistance to the council to develop environmental by-laws and a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Malindi Green Town and the Malindi Town Council that spelt out the rights, responsibilities and obligations of each party in solid waste management. Village Committees were then created to organize youths to collect solid waste at a fee. 19 Waste Chambers were constructed at central points for collection of solid waste. The council then collects the waste and transfers it to the main Malindi dumpsite. The youth now make compost manure from biodegradable material and have started a horticultural garden that grows food and plant seedlings. The excess compost manure is sold to local farmers. Malindi Green Town developed a two-wheeled solid waste bike to collect solid waste, cut grass and bushes near houses, sealed open manholes, sprayed insecticide to kill mosquitoes, and chlorinated public wells to improve water quality. The crow menace in the town was reduced by trapping the crows and destroying their eggs. The Watamu Dump site, which was in the middle of a residential estate, was rehabilitated and turned into a Green Town Park - the dumpsite was relocated elsewhere.
Shella Beach is now clean and friendly with beach football pitches, boat building yards, public gardens, and sunbathers. Street roads have been resealed and drainage systems constructed. The Mombasa - Malindi Highway now has an avenue of trees that create a beautiful canopy. The community has been empowered on environmental conservation and reports cases of environmental degradation like cutting of trees. A new market has been built and there is better control by the council of dumping by traders. Water reticulation has improved and wells are prohibited in densely populated areas. The town still does not have a conventional sewage system, and depends on soakage pits which need to be emptied often particularly in public areas. The street children have been absorbed by the community projects. The town center is lined with over 500 grown trees lines.
Malindi Green Town uses streets banners, leaflets, newsletters, t-shirts, badges, public meetings, songs, poems, dances and public announcements to publicize its activities. The project has improved the livelihoods of the community through income generating activities and contributed to community learning on group dynamism, mobilization techniques, lobbying and advocacy for their rights, business techniques, simple accounts and environmental management. The communities are empowered to work together as a group through village committees to solve environmental problems. The project has built lobbying and advocacy capacity in the communities and they now engage public officials at town meetings. The community, through their representatives at the project management committee and general meetings, articulate their ideas identifying problems and challenges. The communities are challenged to take more responsibility for the problems that affect their lives. The organization uses human resources readily available from the residents, schools, staff from local hotels, and other local institutions. Malindi Green Town carries out activities that use available local resources like cycle and handcart races and that are be funded locally.
The town has regained its lost luster and is now a clean and popular tourist attraction. Residents are showing a constant determination to maintain the cleanliness due to the high awareness created and increased public participation in environmental matters. Malindi was declared the cleanest town in Kenya in 2001 and runner - up in 2003. Malindi was nominated to represent Kenya at the UN-HABITAT World Urban Forum in Barcelona, Spain in 2004, and received a Gold Award from Total Oil Kenya Eco-Challenge in 2004.