Jessica Steele: Pilot Market Composting Project

In Dakar, Senegal markets are a bustling hub. The density of the stalls and the high organic content of their waste makes them an ideal case for composting, however currently the waste all goes to the landfill. The market composting seed fund project is a pilot project for larger potential composting projects in the city of Dakar. This project is an excellent opportunity for the  African Institute of Urban Management (IAGU) and the city to learn about the possibilities of composting, the composting process, the composting market, and potentially, urban agriculture. By demonstrating the potential of composting, the city will gain a better understanding of the importance of sorting waste, re-using organic material and the benefits of producing a composting product.

The idea to implement market composting came out of discussions Jessica Steele had with co-workers at the African Institute of Urban Management (IAGU). Here she worked as a Sustainable Waste Planning Assistant, and helped the organization with its project to improve landfills in six Senegalese communities.

“This was a project that came out of conversations I had with the Executive Director of IAGU. Right now there isn’t really a landfill in Dakar… There is a wild landfill called Mbeubeuss that is a 60 hectare field where trucks come and pour their garbage. There is very little management of what comes into the landfill…everything is dumped there.”

There was great potential for the market to significantly reduce landfill waste by implementing recycling and composting measures.

“The waste from the markets of Dakar, especially the ones that are mostly fish and veg scraps, are relatively pure apart from some plastic. We were talking about how great it would be if we could use that material instead of having it end up in a landfill.

The goal was to increase the recycling of market waste, reduce the amount of waste going into the landfill and create a compost product that can be used in urban agricultural or on green spaces.

Jessica created a project proposal that included a strategic plan over 2 years, and contacted potential stakeholders to find someone that could assess the quality of the compost that would be made and assess the financial viability of the project. She then performed a baseline study looking at the composting efforts currently in place. She found that much of the existing composting was either industrial composting or very small scale.

“It takes a lot of time to start a project and implement it, because you need to talk to the local people and figure out what they want and need.”

Her vision would locate the composting site at an area adjacent to the landfill. They would start small with basic pile composting and adjust techniques as the quality of compost was assessed. Location and transportation options will have to be decided upon in partnership with the government.

When Jessica’s six months in Dakar came to a close this project was passed on to Kendra,  who has now passed it on to the next intern. Progress is apparently going quite well, and they are in discussions with government and stakeholders.

“It was very much a long term project, and was only started 3 or 4 months into my internship… It’s going be very interesting to see where the project ends up.”