NAIROBI, Jan 4 (IPS) – In early November, a group of explorers set out to map a blank space in Africa’s map. Twelve youths armed with global positioning system (GPS) devices made the rounds of the Nairobi slum of Kibera.
The teens are working with an organisation called OpenStreetMap to create a public map of their neighbourhood, seven kilometrs southwest of the city centre. It is the second-largest informal settlement in Africa, after South Africa’s Soweto township.
UN-HABITAT estimates its population at 500,000 to 700,000, with a density of more than 2,000 people per hectare. The settlement is divided into 10 villages, Lindi, Soweto (East and West), Makina, Kianda, Mashimoni, Gatuikira, Kisumu Ndogo, Laini Saba and Siranga.
Despite being home to about one million in a densely populated area, Kibera remains a blank spot in Kenya’s map. The area lacks basic services like toilets and running water.
“While Kibera remains a blank spot, its limited health and water resources, traffic patterns, and housing layouts remain largely invisible to the outside world, and to residents themselves,” Mikel Maron of OpenStreetMap explains.
“Though many organisations have collected data on Kibera, the information is not yet shared as a resource for all to use. Map Kibera will fill in this gap by producing free, open-sourced digital map data, using the techniques of OpenStreetMap, a user-edited map of the world. This information can easily be accessed and used by non-governmental organisations and private and public companies working in the area.”
The young mapmakers took part in a two-day workshop on geographic information systems before setting out to map important landmarks within the settlements. These images will then be scanned and placed in the geographic information system (GIS), and later uploaded into the internet and made available to everyone.
They are not qualified surveyors but ordinary youths who have been taught to use GPS technology. Partner organisations in the technology industry will help train and network with the Kibera community on the project.
Maron says the map will point out landmarks such as churches and mosques, schools, businesses, restaurants, the premises of organisations working in the area and government administrative offices. He says the project is not aimed at collecting demographic data, but rather consolidating information on public infrastructure.
“Very little is known about what exactly goes on in the various villages. Indeed, people in Kibera may not be aware of all the facilities available, such as health centres and charitable organisations. The information we will consolidate will help those who wish to access Kibera know exactly where a particular place is, and what kind of service they provide.
“That way it is easy for organisations wishing to work in Kibera to ascertain what extra services may be required,” Maron says.
The project is spearheaded by the humanitarian OpenStreetMap team in collaboration with JumpStart International, and other partners including Jubal Harpster of WhereCampAfrica, the Social Development Network, Pamoja Trust, Hands on Kenya and Carolina for Kibera.
OpenStreetMap creates free editable maps of the whole world, which provide geographical data to anyone who wants them. The maps are uploaded on the internet and can be edited by anyone to provide additional information.
“There has been a general lack of accountability on the projects going on in Kibera. With this kind of information available, it will be easy to know exactly which organisations are working in Kibera, including available services and facilities,” Maron says. Besides mapping, the team will include details of landmarks.
Sheikh Ramadhan, a resident of Kibera, says the area has been turned into a cash cow for organisations claiming to work in the informal settlement, but many would be hard-pressed to show a tangible contribution.
“Kibera is the only informal settlement in this country where we have more than 100 NGOs operating in this small area. But this has done very little to improve the lives of residents, and we still live in mud-corrugated structures with lack of basic facilities such as functional sewer systems and clean water,” Ramadhan says.
Once the map is complete, the raw data will be available at no charge to upload into collaborative mapping platforms, for organisations that may need specific data on the area, including local authority and national government. The map will be updated as conditions change. Maron says it will operate in a way similar to the Wikipedia encyclopaedia, where anyone with additional information can add the data.
“With this kind of knowledge it will be possible to speak from an informed point of view regarding planning of the area in terms of infrastructure. For instance we can flag how many health centres are available, where they are and what needs to be added,” Maron explains.
Dr Siddharth Agarwal, executive director of the Delhi-based Urban Health Research Centre, says that rapid urbanisation and the growth of slum settlements poses a serious challenge to city planning. He says that in most of the world, including his native India, the majority of these areas remain. Spatial mapping, in his view, has not been used optimally for city planning to provide basic facilities such as health and sanitation.
“One of the main obstacles to effective urban planning is a lack of up-to-date, comprehensive and sufficiently detailed information about urban areas. This lack of information is a major reason behind the failure of urban municipalities to include informal settlements in city-wide planning and urban development,” Agarwal said.
In the absence of information about and understanding of slums, these settlements were typically considered to be chaotic masses rather than coherent urban areas, and thus are ignored or subject to planning aimed at them as slums to be eradicated rather than understood as an integral part of the city.
Water Sci Technol. 2009;60(10):2669-76.
Phosphorus budget in the low-income, peri-urban area of Kibera in Nairobi (Kenya).
Kibera, located in Nairobi, Kenya is one of the largest (235,000 inhabitants) low-income areas in East Africa. Surface waters in Kibera show high pollution levels with respect to SRP (soluble reactive phosphorus; range: 2-10 mg P/L), coming from the uncontrolled wastewater discharges in the area. The different P production and consumption values in Kibera were estimated using interviews (155 interviewed) as well as detailed P house-keeping for five representative families. The results show that highest P consumption comes from food, in particular cereals. Highest P production came from urine (55% of the total) and faeces (31%), with relatively lower contributions from grey water and solid wastes. The overall P budget in Kibera amounted to around 9 x 10(3) kg P/month. This is equivalent to 0.47 g P/person yr, both for P production and consumption, with a relative error of 20%. Comparing with the estimated P outflows via the Kibera surface waters, around 65% of the P produced in Kibera will leave the area. In future ECOSAN techniques such as urine separation could well be applied for efficient recycling of these waste sources.
NAIROBI (Reuters) – Former U.N. chief Kofi Annan urged Kenya Monday to accelerate efforts to improve living conditions in Nairobi’s squalid slums, which experts say could pose a threat to stability and national security.
Annan chaired weeks of talks last year that gave birth to the country’s coalition government and ended post-election violence in east Africa’s biggest economy that killed at least 1,300 people and drove another 300,000 from their homes.
The capital’s fetid shantytowns became ethnic battlegrounds during the crisis, and aid workers say the slums — with their huge numbers of marginalized youths — are “ticking time bombs” ahead of the country’s next poll in 2012.
“It is slow, could be faster, but it is absolutely essential … we must work together for clean drinking water, clean sanitation,” Annan told reporters in Kibera, which is home to some 800,000 people sharing just 250 hectares (618 acres).
He said the continued resettlement of people from makeshift homes made of tin and mud bricks into apartment-style housing would improve their health and boost the economy.
“When fewer people call in sick it saves money for the government and for companies,” he said during a tour of the slum’s litter- and sewage-filled alleys. While progress had been slow, he said, it was still “very encouraging.”
Kibera is Africa’s biggest slum, but Nairobi also has several other informal settlements, in which an estimated half of the capital’s 4 million population live.
Annan was touring Kibera to inspect work carried out under a joint initiative between the government and U.N.-agency HABITAT.
Monday, President Mwai Kibaki briefed him on progress the government had made toward much-needed reforms that were agreed during last year’s talks mediated by the former U.N. chief, according to a statement from Kibaki’s office.
The government is under growing pressure from Kenyans and donors to implement the wide-ranging changes, end corruption and prosecute high-profile masterminds of the post-election chaos.
The scourge of so-called “flying toilets” – where human waste is put into a plastic bag and tossed into the air, landing on roads or in gutters – has plagued the slums of Kenya’s capital Nairobi for decades. But an innovative project in the slum of Kibera has dramatically cut down on the problem by converting human waste into gas that can be used to fuel cookers and other devices.
|Roseline Amondi cooks githeri at the community kitchen powered by gas from the community toilet in Kibera, Kenya|
Roseline Amondi is cooking up a storm. Today’s menu for the tiny restaurant she runs is githeri, a traditional dish consisting of beans and maize.
Amondi cooks every day in this community kitchen. She will then take the food back to her kiosk to sell to her customers. She says the community stove saves her a lot of money that she would otherwise spend on charcoal or wood.
“Before the gas started working, I was using almost 100 or 200 [shillings] per day for cooking any meal in the house, but right now, it is only 10 bob [shillings] per meal,” she said. “It is very cheap. If I cook two different types of food, I may use only 30 shillings for the whole day. That is wonderful.”
The gas that Amondi uses comes from an unlikely source, the community toilet. This is a rare sight in Kibera, where up to 200 people can share a single latrine in neighborhoods that have no electricity or running water.
|The TOSHA community toilets in Kibera slum|
The toilet and kitchen are run by a coalition of five community groups calling themselves TOSHA (Total Sanitation and Hygiene Access). “Tosha” also means “enough” in the national language Ki’Swahili.
Some 600 people a day use the toilets for a small fee.
The human waste is transported via pipes into an underground tank, where it is converted into bio-gas.
The gas is then piped up to the community kitchen, where members can use the stove for pennies per pot.
Groups often rent out the facility’s top floor for meetings and functions. TOSHA earns some $400 each month renting out the facility, the community kitchen and use of the toilets.
Aidah Binale is a coordinator with Umande Trust, a development group that partnered with TOSHA to formulate the project.
She says it was difficult at first for community members to accept the gas.
“People will have the idea of, ‘Ah, no, I can’t cook from there, it is from [human] waste.’ Right now we are still trying to capacity build, we are trying to tell them [there is] nothing wrong,” she explained. “We get to have more visitors from different countries coming to visit us. We make sure that when they come to the office, we tell them, ‘Let’s go down there and have tea.’ So when the community comes and sees us drinking tea, they are thinking, ‘Ah, this is a foreigner taking tea. These people are taking tea, we can also cook.'”
Running water and sanitation facilities are virtually non-existent in slums like Kibera, where most people earn less than $1 a day. Human waste in plastic bags is often dumped on roads, alleys and gutters.
But locals say there has been a dramatic reduction in these so-called “flying toilets” since the bio-gas center was constructed two years ago.
Roseline Amondi is also secretary of TOSHA.
“At the time we were using flying toilets, there were so many diseases around us like cholera,” she noted. “Once an outbreak of cholera occurs, we are the sufferer. Many of us died, some got into the hospitals. But right now, for the last three months, there was an outbreak [of cholera] within Nairobi, but we were safe because of the bio-center.”
Project supporters say the TOSHA Bio-Gas Centre is a model for communities everywhere, especially those dealing with power shortages.
Paul Muchire, communication manager with Umande Trust.
“We have the problem of [supplying enough] energy. Poverty levels are going up. Sanitation is a problem in the developing world. We have the issue of pollution from the oil and diesel. There is need to go into other sources of energy, adapt other sources of energy that would be environmentally friendly,” he said.
Muchire says there are about 10 bio-gas centers in Kibera under construction and that an engineer is looking at how the gas can be piped into peoples’ homes.
The visionary architect Buckminster Fuller believed that a single design could save the world. That ethos is being carried forward by the Buckminster Fuller Institute, which every year holds a contest to create a design with maximum social impact; the winner gets a seed grant of $100,000. Below is information on one of the competition finalists.
Finalist – Umande Trust, GOAL Ireland Partnership
60% of Nairobi’s population lives in slums which are characterized by inadequate housing and sanitation conditions. Human waste lies on paths and drains and an average of 650 people share each toilet cubicle. The most prevalent childhood sicknesses and 40% of infant mortality are caused by inadequate sanitation. To address this, Umande Trust, a Kenyan rights-based organization, has developed the BioCentre concept. This is a biogas generating latrine block, managed by community groups, which can be located anywhere in a slum as it treats human waste in-situ without requiring sewerage infrastructure.
It comprises of the following:
• Digester: Mixes water and human waste in anaerobic conditions to make biogas; remaining liquid effluent is 90% pathogen free and filtered on site.
• BioGas: Used for cooking and can be linked to children’s feeding projects. It reduces carbon emissions by converting methane to CO2 and water and by substituting the need for other fuels.
• Toilets and washrooms: Ground floor to ensure disabled access with free ‘child only’ cubicles
• Water Kiosk: selling affordable clean water
• Upper Floors: Maximizes restricted urban space, has a hall and ancillary rooms for community and livelihoods activities eg cottage industries or restaurant.
Income generated through rental can subsidize the operation of the toilets. The BioCentre can be built with locally available technology, local unskilled labor and requires minimal maintenance as it has no movable parts. GOAL, an international NGO working with Umande, adds value to the BioCentre concept by linking it to a comprehensive community mapping analysis which highlights specific locations in greatest need of improved sanitation and by incorporating in each BioCentre a room for a community health worker. These are community members, trained by GOAL to disseminate hygiene and health information, e.g. to women queing for water each day, and to make referrals to local institutions for health, HIV/AIDS and child protection issues. Most other initiatives offering sanitation services are plot-based pit latrines which are exhaust human waste into nearby rivers, regularly overflow and often charge high usage fees. The BioCentre is a breakthrough, as it treats human waste in-situ, offers affordable sanitation through its mechanism of subsidizing operational costs, reduces carbon emissions and links to hygiene promotion, health and child protection services.
Describe the current stage of your initiative and your implementation plan over the next three years
Umande Trust has so far completed 12 BioCentres in Kenya. They are scattered amongst various communities and have a verifiable local impact. The Umande Trust, GOAL Ireland partnership aims to achieve a community level impact by focusing on the whole of one Nairobi settlement, Mukuru (population 185,000).
Currently the initiative is completing a participatory urban appraisal on water, sanitation, waste management and drainage. This has highlighted inadequate sanitation as the most pressing need and recommends addressing this by:
• increasing the number of affordable, sustainable, community-managed latrine blocks
• increasing the number of plot-based latrines and improving the quality of existing ones
• developing a community sanitation fund as a self-propagating mechanism for scaling up the intervention
Over the next 3 years, the project aims to reach a critical mass of 20 BioCentres which will serve 12,000 daily users. Each BioCentre will donate 10% of its profits to a community sanitation fund, and this will generate over 10,000 USD per year. This fund will be used to scale up the project through providing leverage to attract Government Decentralized Funding (government allocations to local development initiatives) to develop 2 further BioCentres each year which will then also contribute 10% of profits to the fund. The fund may alternatively support the construction and upgrading of 50 ventilation-improved plot-based latrines each year through partnership with small-scale service providers. These will have lined pits to enable them to be emptied by mobile latrine exhausters into sump tanks which will link to the city sewerage network.
Slum cooker protects environment, helps poor
NAIROBI, April 3 (Reuters) – Kenya’s huge and squalid slums don’t have much of anything, except mountains of trash that fill rivers and muddy streets, breeding disease.
Now Kenyan designers have built a cooker that uses the trash as fuel to feed the poor, provide hot water and destroy toxic waste, as well as curbing the destruction of woodlands.
After nine years of development, the prototype “Community Cooker” is close to being rolled out in overcrowded refugee camps as well as slums around the country where the filth encourages diseases including cholera.
Invented by Nairobi architect Jim Archer, the cooker combines simplicity with the capacity to confront several environmental challenges simultaneously. The design was highly commended at the World Architecture Festival in Barcelona last year.
The prototype is working in Nairobi’s Kibera slum, said to be the biggest in Africa, where around 800,000 people live.
Potatoes, rice and tea cook on some of the eight hotplates above a roaring, spitting furnace. A joint of meat roasts in an oven that can also be used for bread.
Behind the black-painted corrugated iron cooking area, rubbish collected by local youths dries on racks before being pushed into the furnace.
Technicians have spent three years modifying the firebox to produce enough heat to destroy toxins in the rubbish, particularly plastics, although they are striving to get the temperature higher still.
The stove is one of several projects giving hope amid endemic violence, crime and disease in the huge slums. In another part of Kibera, a group of 35 youths have developed a farm on a former rubbish dump, feeding themselves and selling cucumbers, pumpkins and tomatoes.
The health hazards posed by garbage assault the eye as soon as you enter Kibera.
The slum looks as if it is literally built on trash, with waste including excrement filling the rough mud streets and streams, so only fetid pools remain.
Small rubbish fires stutter on the roadsides, spreading acrid smoke near kiosks selling food.
Pigs and goats forage in the waste and children play by filthy streams and drink from water pipes covered in garbage.
Slums like Kibera, home to 60 percent of Nairobi’s population, receive no garbage collection or other services from city authorities.
Many inhabitants struggle to afford the kerosene for their own stoves, so Archer’s idea was to clear at least some of the waste, while providing hot water for bathing and communal cooking facilities.
While the prototype cooker, in Kibera’s Laini Saba village, has been dogged by local squabbles, drought and design problems, it proved the idea worked. A tall chimney carries the once-choking fumes away and initial emissions tests have been favourable, Archer’s firm says.
Now the Kenyan Red Cross is preparing to install similar cookers in the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps near the Somali border, where cholera has already broken out this year, and at least one European aid organisation is looking at wide deployment.
Juma Ochieng of the Red Cross told Reuters the Community Cooker had benefits for health, sanitation and conservation, and would create employment for young people working to build and maintain the stoves.
Residents of Kibera, scene of bloodshed in last year’s Kenyan election crisis and home to many criminal gangs, agree.
“It employs the youth….They would be stealing if they were not here …They would have been in trouble if we didn’t have this cooker,” said James Mokaya, 56, a member of the community that runs the prototype.
The Kibera stove cost more than $10,000 to build as a prototype but both Ndede and Mumo Musuva, an architect working for Archer’s practice, estimate each would cost $5-6,000 once produced in larger numbers. This compares with $50 million for industrial incinerators in Europe.
The Red Cross’s Ochieng says the cookers will also reduce the risk of deadly slum fires from kerosene stoves in densely populated slums.
“As the Red Cross we are looking at taking them countrywide very soon,” he said. He thinks 8-10 will be built by the end of this year and at least a 100 over the next five years, depending on donor funding.
Henry Ndede, of the Kenya regional office for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which provided funds to set up the Kibera cooker, says more work needs to be done to improve materials used in it and raise the temperature still higher to ensure the destruction of carcinogens in plastic.
The stove reaches around 650 Celsius (1,200 Fahrenheit) at present. Ndede says 1,000 degrees is needed but is happy that the prototype has proven rubbish can be turned into energy.
“It is an ideal item for densely populated areas like slums and refugee camps,” he said. “Every city in this country has a slum area with highly combustible material with high calorific value.”
He said the cooker would also relieve serious pressure on forest areas. The Dadaab camp houses 250,000 people although it was built for 80,000. Surrounding woodland has been cut down to provide cooking fuel.
“In Dadaab you have to go more than 50 km (30 miles) to fetch firewood. It takes you two weeks on donkey-back,” he said. (Additional reporting by Ruth Njeng’ere; Editing by Sara Ledwith)