Kibera is one of the world’s largest slums, with over a million people and one third of Nairobi’s population. With extremely crowded conditions, little sanitation, and an unemployment rate at fifty per-cents, residents of Kibera face not only abject poverty but also a large number of social ills, including drugs, alcoholism, rape, AIDS, water-borne diseases, more especially with the Covid-19 pandemic
However, the majority of Kibera’s residents are just trying to live as well as possible under daunting circumstances. Proving that optimism and entrepreneurship are very much alive there.
Victor Edalia, 30 is the co-founder and vision bearer of Kibera Organic Gardens which started in November 2019 and to date he has engaged other youths to a team of Eight.
“As a group of young people, we saw the need to reclaim illegal dumping sites that had become toxic to our environment. Our aim being making Kibra slum beautiful by turning it green and at the same time needy families benefiting from our project,” he says.
FEEDING NEEDY FAMILIES
He has been offering free weekly supplies of vegetables to at least ten needy families in the densely populated Kibera slums. These include spinach and kales among other purely organic vegetables.
“I saw needy families get food donations from well-wishers, mostly comprising of dry foods but without any vegetables. After talking to some of my neighbours and conducting a mapping exercise, I saw that I need to go beyond just farming as a business venture,” he says.
Edalia then thought it was best to also go out of his way to give back especially during this pandemic times, which was a big step for him as he had initially started the venture for commercial purposes.
The engagement is now unique in both its approach and results. The intervention is now focusing on needy families that include single mothers, struggling families and youths who also lost their jobs during the pandemic.
“I have no job and my biggest challenge is purchasing the spiral gadgets that we use for planning to economise on space. I have to dig into my pockets for that and also buying water to water the vegetables. Sometimes we get help from well-wishers who visit’ the garden.”
Jackline Achieng, 31 has greatly benefited from Edalia’s garden as she gets free and fresh vegetables thrice a week.
Ms Achieng lost her job as electronic sales assistant after the pandemic hit the country. She lost her father and her mother moved back to village leaving her with two of her siblings whom she has been taking care of before she lost her job.
“I am sickly, fighting sickle cell and my immunity is very low, so also I avoid exposing myself more so with this pandemic. Though I do millennial jobs to fend for my family, Victor came to my rescue and because of him I get vegetable supplies,” she says.
Edalia, who was born and bred in Kibera, says he has always had the passion to venture into large scale farming, though in slums like Kibera, the greatest challenge is space.
But how does anyone turn a garbage dump into an organic farm? It started with the removal of the garbage.
Edalia first identified a spot that was being used as a dumping site. They then reached out to the local administration officer whom after listening to the idea, visited the spot, and gave them a go-ahead to undertake their venture.
Thereafter work began by first clearing litter for about two weeks. They say the tons of garbage filled two lorries.
It was not easy during the exercise as they also had to keep watch up to late night and advise members of the public not to dump in the same spot anymore as they intended to make use of it which took a lot of convincing.
“We do hydroponic farming for now with hope that in the near future we will expand and go commercial,” he says.