"Our village was facing chaos!"
On Kenya's coast, a pilot project is to transform two slum villages into sustainable communities.
by Kirsten Milhahn (Text and Photos)
"Someone has got to clear the mess," narrates Mwanatumu Omar, chuckling loudly as she energetically manoeuvres her wheelbarrow and gardening tools through the narrow alley between two mud huts. The last heavy downpour was just a few days ago. It flooded parts of the slum village and washed up a lot of rubbish from the dump down at the swamp. "If we do not collect the trash ourselves and carry it to the main road, nobody will pick it up." Using the rake, the heavyset Kenyan woman points towards the alley. No vehicle can get past the congested rows of huts, let alone a garbage truck.
Mwanatumu Omar is a member of the local Majengo garbage unit. The slum village lies on the outskirts of Mtwapa, north of Kenya's coastal city of Mombasa. Once a week, the 14 women and men walk through the village, armed with wheelbarrows and garbage cans and clean up. They sweep the narrow slum alleys, rake the open spaces between huts and clean the few roadside ditches. Like many other informal settlements, their locality is not connected to the public garbage disposal system. That's why the slum dwellers have lately taken it upon themselves.
Majengo's garbage command is part of a slum rehabilitation pilot project implemented in 2014 by UN-Habitat in collaboration with its partners, the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, the European Commission and the Government of Kenya. Majengo and Mzambarauni, two settlement areas on the outskirts of Mtwapa, are to be transformed from randomly grown, densely populated shanty towns that sprouted haphazardly to neighbourhoods that meet planning guidelines and requirements: modest estates in which every inhabitant will have access to clean drinking water, a toilet, with adequate roads and safe living spaces in future. UN-Habitat is primarily based on the principle of self-involvement. The inhabitants of both villages should not only have a say in how they want to live from now going forward but also participate substantially in developing their communities.