By Shadrack Mbaka

“In Kibra, eating to get full is the least of our concern and above all we consider it a luxury. We eat to subdue hunger.” –Peter Mutunga, Soweto High-rise resident

Nairobi, Kibra| is situated in Nairobi's South Western Peri-urban zone, seven kilometers from the Nairobi Central Business District. Kibera, an informal settlement comprising of ten villages covering approximately 255 hectares of land with an estimated population of about 600,000 people. That gives an average population density of 2,000 people per hectare albeit some villages are more crowded than others. The villages are Lindi, Kisumu Ndogo, Soweto, Makina, Kianda, Mashimoni, Silanga, Gatuikira, Laini Saba and the newly founded Raila village.

Kibera Informal Settlement

Kibera Informal Settlement

In terms of family pattern, households consist of either single headed home with an average family size of 7. Most households are female-headed households as the village is a big source of day domestic workers who work in the middle and high class estates around Nairobi.

The Kibra community faces a lot of challenges, relating to sanitation, access to food and water, overcrowding, pollution, education, health care, and secure tenure, but for the most part these problems remain un-quanti­fied by the Nairobi County government, the national government however, most of these issues have been prioritized by communities. These issues have been largely captured by the Muungano wa Wanavijiji community led city wide profile report.

Food Insecurity in Urban Informal Settlements

“In Mathare informal settlement, slum dwellers have to skip the recommended three meals a day in order to sustain their meager food rations, which often involves reducing the number of meals served per day, as well as portion size, this has forced the urban poor to considerably adjust their food rations as their incomes have become increasingly less reliable”, says Pauline Wanjiku a resident of Mathare, Bondeni.

Settlement hotels (road-side cafes), food stands, grocer markets, and urban agricultural production within Kibera’s Villages in Mashimoni, Laini Saba, Soweto East and Soweto High-rise, remains clear that maintaining a healthful diet remains out of reach for some.



Many of the informal have been condemned to asset insecurity (land tenure and income) and thus struggle to acquire enough food for their households. While urban farming (Sac farming and vertical farming) won’t elevate a poor household to middle class, it only offers some security for the farmers and provides them with a resource that can add to their incomes.

Sanitation Infrastructure in Kibera

Kibera informal settlement on a large scale lacks adequate sanitation infrastructure, more so toilets. Most of the 10 villages in Kibera, households have traditional pit latrines. These are inadequate and fill up quickly. Limited access to exhauster services has rendered about 30 percent of latrines unusable. In a recent food safety, administration and environmental stakeholders meeting sponsored by Muungano Support Trust, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and Development Planning Unit to discuss study outputs of a recent food safety study conducted in Mathare, Huruma and Kibera the communities gave the following reasons as threats to the sanitation infrastructure of informal settlements in reference to Mashimoni. Soweto East, Laini Saba and Soweto High-rise;

  • The shortage of sanitation facilities has been brought about by lack of adequate space for new construction and landlords who are unwilling to incur the extra expense. Most of the groups indicated that up to 200 people share a pit latrine.

  • Lack of adequate facilities and infrastructure forces residents to use alternative means of excreta disposal, such as polythene bags referred to as "flying toilets" (wrap and throw method).

  • Lack of exhauster facilities. Efforts to exhaust latrines are complicated by lack of access roads.

  • Most of the latrines are emptied manually by directing waste water into the drainage channels.

  • There are few communal latrines based on the Bio tower model in Kibera one being the Soweto High-rise bio-centre.

How do we make it better?



  • Improve access to make pit latrines accessible for exhauster services.

  • Landlords be brought on board and reached out to provide adequate latrines for their tenants.

In the recent past Kibera has been grappling with the problems of water borne diseases. The settlement is large without matching water and sanitation services having been put in place. The landlords of the housing units are not committed to putting in place such facilities due to the fact that land ownership is still an issue in Kibera. The land belongs to the Government.

Solid waste



There is no regular solid waste collection within the settlement. Most residents dispose off solid waste by dumping it in open drains, along the railway line and in pit latrines. The closest collection point is on the main road outside the settlement.

  • Lack of facilities for garbage disposal leads to haphazard disposal of refuse.

  • Most households burn their garbage.

  • Burning of garbage during dry season is risky especially due to congestion of houses. This also contributes to respiratory ailment. Children also contract other diseases by playing in the dumps.

  • During the wet seasons, solid waste is washed into compounds in low lying areas and blocks the drains.

  • Recycling and composting activities are limited due to mixing of organic and inorganic solid waste.

One of the Community members present at the meeting put the solid waste challenge into perspective,” I began living in Kibera in 1977, then Kibera used to be spacious and clean issues of poor hygiene and disease outbreaks were un heard of. Poor sanitation has been as a result of increased populations and a break down in infrastructure. This long open spaces have been grabbed and shacks built by money minting landlords and structure owners. On few occasions, the local administration has been forced to reclaim public spaces to put up sanitation blocks. This has even forced individuals to construct pit latrines next to the river riparian, but we do accept it is time to work with everyone to improve this situation.”

Some community suggestions on actions to improve sanitation:

  • Strategic waste collection points should be sited in all villages.

  • Residents are willing to pay for private sector garbage collection.

  • NCC or the private garbage collectors should transfer waste to the main NCC dump site on a regular basis.

  • Awareness creation among residents and relevant stakeholders based on Mutual partnerships on matters community led clean ups and raising food safety concerns

  • Mobilization of Livestock keepers, Food vendors, Mobiles Food Vendors and Youth garbage collection groups and utilize it as a networking strategy at village levels

In his goodwill address to the stakeholder’s the Laini Saba sub-location area Chief, Clement Ombati expressed the following sentiments, “I am in deed one of you, food safety is an important aspect of enhancing public health and together my office will support this initiative. This is an agenda that the Kibera community must buy a stake in conserving the environment we live in and ensure issues of food safety and security are addressed by us. We will work with other stakeholders such as Muungano wa Wanavijiji, Government health and environment agencies and social grouping in the heart of Kibera and through networking and cooperation to responsibly play their respective roles.”

Chief Ombati speaks to one to Kibera residents during the Kibera Food vendors Association stakeholder's meeting in Laini Saba, Kibera

Chief Ombati speaks to one to Kibera residents during the Kibera Food vendors Association stakeholder's meeting in Laini Saba, Kibera

The chief also committed to work closely with the Kibera Muungano Food vendors Association in identifying a space in the settlement that will be a designated waste disposal point for the settlement and held rally support from possible partners to access waste handling containers. The issue of seeking partnership with landlords in the settlements also featured prominently in the discussions, for they too play a significant role in investing in the development and maintenance of sanitation infrastructure, mitigation of hygienic detriments. With a common road up the Kibera Muungano Food vendors association is geared to implementing an alternative strategy to ensure Food insecurity, hygiene and lobbying for infrastructure development is achieved in the long term.