Posts tagged ‘Ford Foundation’

April 2, 2015

Upgrading Occupied Space: What is the National Youth Service Doing in Mathare and Kibera?

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By Simon Kokoyo

The Kenyan government through the National Youth Service (NYS) has decided to improve the general living conditions in poor neighborhoods of Nairobi, namely Kibera, Mathare, Korogocho and Mukuru. These neighborhoods are known for high population density, inadequate health facilities, insecurity, unemployment and almost nonexistent garbage collection systems. The poor conditions in Kibera, Mathare, Korogocho and Mukuru can easily create an impression that there has never been government intervention or development plans for these areas and creates the temptation to address problems that seem amenable to a ‘quick fix’ like picking up garbage.

In Mathare, NYS personnel together with selected community members conducted a mapping exercise to identify needs or places that require a ‘quick fix’ such as uncollected garbage piles and blocked drainage and rivers. They are also  planning to construct dispensaries, police posts, fish ponds, markets, posho mills and urban farming areas. When President Uhuru visited Mathare and said that dispensaries, police posts, markets, fish ponds, posho mills and sewer lines will be constructed creating employment opportunities for more than 3500 youths including women, everybody was happy and waiting to see the new look of Mathare and other neighborhoods earmarked for improvement. After three weeks of clearing garbage, cleaning drainages and opening rivers, questions are now emerging; do we really need the planned 12 police posts, 12 dispensaries and how did NYS team arrive at all these figures in Mathare? It has now also dawned on the community that these facilities will require space, which is currently occupied.

Affected area

It is common knowledge that certain open spaces that were set aside for social amenities have been occupied or grabbed a long time ago. None of this grabbing has ever been addressed. Now, as amenities are being built, people will have to be displaced. For example in Mathare 3B, more than 500 residents have already been issued with 30 days notice by the Nairobi City County to pave way for NYS projects in Mathare or to move out of a piece of land identified for market development. In Kibera people who had occupied spaces meant for sewer lines, toilet blocks and roads were expected to vacate immediately. Some have already been displaced without compensation.

Once the NYS and some community leaders identify a piece of land for improvement or development a short notice is issued and occupants are expected to carry out a voluntary demolition and in some cases NYS locally hired youths will assist. There is lot of movement (shifting) within Kibera and Mathare, which is not painless for families, and if the intent is to improve the conditions of the poor, then these people require some support and compensation for their sacrifice for the broader community. In addition, in some place like Lindi-Kibera rents have increased after improvement on road and other social amenities. These adverse impacts of the NYS interventions on the very poor should be addressed. In the past, unless there are safeguards, slum improvements tend to drive out the poorest who are meant to benefit.

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Everybody agrees that the inhumane conditions in the poor neighborhoods need to be improved urgently. However, the government should be sensitive to the fact that such communities have emerged over long period of time and as a result of certain push and pull factors common with cities experiencing rapid urbanization such as poverty, forceful eviction, conflicts, job opportunities, closeness to resources or affordable housing. Past experiences in Kenya (Mathare 4A and Kibera Upgrading Projects) show that slum or informal settlement upgrading is a complex and time-consuming process. Residents require some compensation for their losses or need to be shown alternative land for displacement to be humane and in compliance with the law. When people are moved this will impact their ability to access jobs, customers and services. It also affects children who are schooling in the area. The National Youth Service projects should think about how it is approaching evictions. It is good that the government is in a hurry to improve living conditions in poor neighborhoods, but it should go beyond the “quick fix” mentality to have a long term vision so that the amenities are staffed and financed and can have an impact on people’s wellbeing. Finally, if this initiative is to be pro-poor, the government should also be sensitive to the needs of those who will be displaced in order to improve poor neighborhoods. The government must also comply with the law in moving people which entails proper procedures and some compensation or alternative location.

Nairobi Planning Innovations is appreciative of the attention the government is paying to these poor communities. It is still important, however, to note that interventions should be compliant with both the constitution (Article 43(1)(b)  which states that, every person has the right to accessible and adequate housing and to reasonable standards of sanitation) and the little known The Prevention, Protection and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons and Affected Communities Act, 2012 which sets out guidelines for how displacement is to happen to respect the rights and dignity of the displaced.

October 3, 2014

Service and Youth

Is the National Youth Service (NYS) the way to go in bringing up a citizen who is service oriented to his country? The NYS act of 1964, envisaged Kenya creating a platform of reintegrating militant youths then to reorient, assimilate and create a pool of employable disciplined youths who can support the army or police force while pursuing national cohesion agenda. Forty nine years later, Kenya is at cross roads seeking betters ways of involving and motivating over 60% of its populations in nation building through the NYS.

Over the years, Kenya government and private sector have made huge investments in education which has seen high enrolment from Early Childhood Education to University level. On the other hand we have yearly police and armed forces recruitment drives absorbing many young people. However the rate of unemployment, deterioration of public service is quite evident in urban centers where provision of basic services such as garbage collection and poor roads and housing is in dire need. Above all these, Kenya is still a fragile state as witnessed in 2008 post election violence.

How then can the youth be involved in a constructive way without exploitation? Participation in nation building should be an obligation which a good citizen must carry out with pride. People have rights and the state has responsibility to do whatever is necessary to fulfill these rights. One such right is to ensure that we all live in safe and clean environment. Institutions such as education, military, police and work place should assist in fostering a sense of cohesion among the citizens.

The Ministry of Devolution recently launched a programme of recruiting young people through NYS and youth are equipped with skills to offer various services to the vulnerable communities. In Nairobi, the entry point has been participating in garbage collection in the informal settlements starting with Kibera. All over the world, governments have always strived either to control or involve youth in development. It is easy to control people who have passed through forces training since there is respect attached to chain of command. However the danger lies when it comes to demilitarizing the youths and reintegrating them back into civilian life. Conflicts in the region and ‘cheap’ labour might make Kenya a fertile ground for recruitment. The rate of unemployment is quite high all over Kenya which sometimes back, the World Bank had warned us that this is bomb’ waiting to explode.

In general, youth are very innovative and creative and Kenya government should think beyond controlling and militarizing the youth. Uwezo Fund must be ready to accommodate fresh ideas in this modern time. At the local level the youth should also take part in the real management of political parties, government to establish real funds for entrepreneurship ventures like implementing some of the ideas generated by students at the annual science congress while making access to information technology platform a priority especially in the informal settlements to bridge the disparity when it comes to access to information.

August 17, 2014

Mathare, Informal Financial Services

Mitchel, a member of women go round from Mathare

Mitchel, a member of women go round from Mathare

Not everybody is a friend of banks and especially in the informal settlements where communities’ have circumvented established financial institution and devised ways of accessing credit facilities outside government controlled channels. Informal financial services vary from shopping of credit without paying an interest, shylock and merry-go-round initiatives.
It is common to meet a group of women meeting in homes or social places within Mathare to discuss ways of sharing collected money without think of banking. But what makes this kind of arrangement better than a variety of services offered by commercial banks? Eunice Wanjiku a member of unregistered women group believes that financial institution are not good for startup initiatives found in the Mathare like selling groceries, second hand clothes or starting chang’aa a local beer businesses. She quips “can you imagine a bank giving me Kshs.5,000 to start chang’aa business?, this is impossible. My previous engagement with a financial institution nearly made me develop ulcers. I will never take a loan from a bank again. They nearly sold my house”
There are many different types of businesses which are profitable according to the locals but unfortunately one cannot get easy credit to invest from established financial institutions. Fortunately, people have developed alternative strategies of attracting credit like forming merry-go-round and table banking initiatives. These groups are formed by likeminded and people who know each other very well. Here, loans are given out of trust with little intrusion from the lending group on the exact nature of your business. Mish, a young enterprenuer consulted fellow women and is in the process of getting Kshs.10,000 which she will refund with 5% interest over a period of six months. She was frustrated by commercial banks which asked so many questions and required her to save for at least three months before she could access the loan.
Requirements to access start-up business loans suitable for slums based businesses are minimal and this has contributed to mushrooming of shylock businesses within slums. In some places, community members own more than one or two expensive electronic item such as phones of TVs which they use for accessing loans from shylocks. Here the interest is quite high with the value of your item being determinant of how much you can access. The local shylocks are very strict and merciless. Failure to pay of time your valued good is sold to friends at a throw away price.
Our financial institutions have a long way to go in understanding how informal financial transaction operate and varied opportunities which needs to be tapped. In the informal settlements, most loans are on short term basis between 1 week to six months and default rates are quite low compared with commercial banks.

July 16, 2014

Understanding Solid Waste Data

Data Presentation by Isaac Muasa from Spatial Collective Ltd

Data Presentation by Isaac Muasa from Spatial Collective Ltd


One of the most common feature in Mathare is the large amount of uncollected garbage in the community. Spatial Collective Ltd, has been gathering data on solid waste management with assistance of the community and groups engaged in handling of solid waste.

Collection of data related to solid waste in urban areas especially in the informal settlement can be a complex affair. Garbage collection is big and territorial business in the informal settlements with some groups enjoying near monopoly in their zones.
Groups engaged in this business are both registered and unregistered while we have people handling garbage collection as a private business.

Spatial Collective Ltd, has been collecting data on solid waste from both residents and groups engaged in management of solid waste. Spatial Collective Ltd has managed to gather for the first time comprehensive data on solid waste management in Mathare Constituency. Change is the management of solid waste can be realized if the community, stakeholders and the Nairobi County government understand the situation.

Spatial Collective Ltd has started a series of forums to share the data with the groups, community and other stakeholders. Today (16/72014) was the first such meeting and 37 groups from Mathare participated in the forum. Currently 43 groups from Mathare Constituency are involved.
A platform to spearhead a clean community, “MTAA SAFI” been started, which will involves a multi-social media approach.

One can be part of the campaign by subscribing WhatsApp: +254 707482472; Facebook.com/Mtaasafi: http://www.mtaasafi.com. – Simon

February 26, 2014

Mathare Population Structure

statisticsIn the above age distribution chart for Mathare Constituency, I have tried to analyze  age based of the total area population as per 2009 Census and percentages from the latest CIA website; https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ke.html while the total population. (Next implication of poor CDF investment to Mathare population)

June 7, 2012

Mobile Phones and Development

Walking around the community (Mathare) one will notice the high numbers of young with mobile phones. The most preferred handset among the youth are those with access to internet while old people want handset through which they can access Mpesa. People do not care much whether it is a Chinese or European make.

The days of using mobile phones for calling and talking purposes are long gone. This is just like when people used to work with computers for typing alone. When have reached a stage that access to mobile phone is slowly becoming ‘right’ for all.

The use of computers is quite rampant but not as high as use of mobile phones. There is need to investigate how use of mobile phones can be used to enhance service delivery to the people in informal settlement. The identification of services and needs will help software developers to come up with mobile phone applications to enhance efficiency in service delivery.

Having programmes to facilitate access to cheap phones and computers in the informal settlement can help stimulate meaningful dialogue for development. – Simon

May 20, 2011

Mathare Valley connection and Dr. Willy Mutunga

I once hosted Dr. Willy Mutunga in Mathare and whenever I introduced him to the youth and women groups people never believed that he was the mdosi (boss) of Ford Foundation in Eastern African due to how he was able to mingle with the local people.

When he got interviewed for the job of Chief Justice people called me to confirm whether he was the same guy they had met. It is this simplicity that the women and youth remember of Dr. Willy Mutunga. He was able to talk and listen to their challenge which is very rare with potential donors who come to Mathare with an attitude.

When the new President of Ford Foundation Luis A. Ubiñas visited Mathare, I showed him round Mathare in the company of Dr. Willy Mutunga. I remember the Ford Foundation President meeting small children playing with ‘fire’ as part of their toys and he got shocked. Along the way, we met a jua kali artisan making home bank and the president was amazed by creaticity found in slum despite deep poverty. I remember Dr. Willy returning back to us and asking how best can we partner to improve our situation. It is this act that we will always remember him as he assume his new role.

As he prepare to assume his new position as the Chief Justice, I wish him all the best. – simon

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