Kibera: Productivity central (oh & East Africa's largest slum)

Jan 17 2018 Tags: africa, Africa Day, bio gas, bones, designer, Designer / Maker, empower, kibera, maker, Nairobi, slum, small business, Textiles, women

Shoe manufacturers, bio-gas engineers, food stalls and adult education centres. Kibera, Nairobi has it all. Founded in now with a population of over 1 million, the name ‘Kibera’ is derived from a Nubian world meaning ‘forest’ or ‘jungle’, originally set-up by a Nubian who was not allowed to live in the growing colonial city.

We were shown around by Philip, The President, and Leonard, graphic designer, Kibera Tours and both long-term residents of East Africa’s largest slum. We visited Jack Nyawanga, Victorious Craft Group, which he set-up over 10 years ago with the idea of recycling bones.

A small growing business making beautiful handcrafted jewelry for men and women, bags, and other accessories. Mostly self-taught the designers and makers work in incredibly rudimental conditions. Without reliable power and previously facing security issues and unrest due to the political violence that can flare up within the slum.

Elizabeth, Power Women Group Kibera, made up of women who are HIV positive. They came together to challenge the stigma often faced with being HIV positive to produce jewelry, clothing and other items for sale. They also provide a child crèche, education and training opportunities.

Third on the tour was the bio-gas plant, which turns human waste into power. Originally funded by the French government, and managed by the community. One can be found in each of Kibera’s eight areas.

Clean water and sanitation is a huge challenge in Kibera. I first visited the slum over 10 years ago, and sadly the sanitation does not seem to have improved much. One of the major challenges is that the ground is not film enough to support a proper waste system. As the slum grew organically, layers of human waste have built up under the housing. Children and animals play in the dirt.

Organisations like Kibera Tours are not helping to change the image of Kibera but also help to bring investment. Kenya’s ‘tribal’ challenges are well known. However, what we continually heard when talking to people. These differences are increasingly used by politicians and most everyday people want to move on from the differences or embrace them and get on with building healthy and productive lives. 

'Peace, Wanted, Alive' Solo 7, artist, Kibera

There is so much small-scale industry going on in Kibera but it is hard for them to access external markets. We felt if all the initiatives were mapped, outside partnerships and opportunities could be formed.

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