Kawangware, one of the biggest slums in Africa, is alive city of corrugated iron homes, muddy streets, and citizens, from whom most live with less than one dollar per day. The population of Kawangware is diverse. People from different ethnic backgrounds, such as tribes of Kikiuyu and Luo, are living there as one community. Thus, it could be called a melting pot. This area is located 12 kilometers from the centre of Nairobi.
During my internship with Back to Basics (BTB), I got to get a first-hand tour of Kawangware and in line with my duties got to meet many different people who live, and most of them born in this low-income part of the capital city, Nairobi. To get to Kawangware, local minibus (matatu) takes about 30 minutes from the city and charges twenty Kenyan shillings (thirty Ksh in peak hours) for one way. In Kawangware, BTB is partnering and supporting the local community to work for sustainable livelihoods and to educate on solid waste management practices, especially with Youths.
I was introduced to the BTB partners in Kawangware, who work with the community in Kawangware with several projects. During my time in Kenya, I spent a lot of time with them and got to know their work as well as the challenges in the community. There are several issues visible in Kawangware, the first one being poor roads. When I first visited the place with Aisha from BTB, we went with a car. However, driving there seemed quite difficult due to poor roads. Also, when walking in the area you always need to look where you are stepping as the roads not well taken care of. You will also notice that there is an issue with waste management. Plastic, litter and other kinds of trash are thrown to the streets.
Some of the community members take them to dumping sites (takataka station) with wagons. However, takataka stations are located in the central area of Kawangware where it creates pollution, emits bacteria and so on, creating further problems to the environment, health and landscape. Happily, I saw several groups of school kids, maybe aged 7-13, cleaning up the streets of Kawangware. When I was talking to their teacher, I was informed that garbage collection is a part of their education program, thus teaching kids in early age about solid waste management.
Ten-shillings Daily Initiative (TDI), is an initiative by BTB which is being implemented by one of the partner group. Within this initiative, participating women are saving together 10 Ksh per day while learning crucial skills for self-economic empowerment. The women group is taking part in training, which includes different interactive modules, for example, resource mobilization, financial management and taking part in climate resilience practices as a small enterpriser. As a part of my duties at BTB in Kawangware, I was invited to visit the training sessions. One of the sessions I visited, the women group were having training on how to produce, handle and sell bleach in order to gain some small profits. During the training, the discussion was around challenges and opportunities when starting up one’s own small-scale business, and the trainer challenged the women constantly to think independently.
Those with small spaces to urban farming in forms of kitchen gardens, allow people to grow their own nutritious food and to increase their incomes. One of the things I got to be involved was to create an urban farm. This urban farm gets some funds from the local government, for example, the coriander seeds were a contribution from them. Working with the BTB partners, Charles and Ambros, was highly rewarding as they had answers to every question I had, and I got to learn about urban farming practices in a short time. During only one day, we made seedbeds from the soil and planted the coriander seeds.
After only a few weeks I was delighted to see the coriander already sprouting and being healthy thanks to some unexpected rains. Later on, the coriander will be ready to be sold in the market, which I am quite excited to see and experience.
Furthermore, while exploring Kawangware, I learned that one of the biggest issues remains to be water scarcity and lack of access to clean water. Hence, water lorries are used to get clean water from wells in rural areas. Youth Economic Empowerment Center in Kawangware have a lorry, by which Ambros regularly goes to get water. Citizens of Kawangware then can go to water points and buy clean water for their needs. Twenty liters of water bought from the BTB partners costs six Ksh, and it is drinkable. Women from the community spent a lot of time from their days to fetch the water from selling points.
The people in the slum areas are happy and always welcoming, as well as interested in telling about their lives. The area is full of people selling food, clothes and almost anything you can imagine in their market tables or in-ground. This kind of employment seems to be the biggest source of income in Kawangware. Kawangware is definitely a great experience and the work of BTB partners is life-changing. Some of the other activities they are coordinating in Kawangware are, for example, administrating the community sanitary blocks, helping to sort the waste in takataka stations, and several other environmental activities trying to engage people with conservation efforts.
Environment thanks you! Mazingira asante!