By Shadrack Mbaka
Grace Muthoni's story is not just her own, but one which helps slum dwellers to unravel the story of some of the challenges of accessing low cost housing in Kenya today. In most cases Slums are meant to serve as temporary entry point for rural-urban migrants, who come into cities in an attempt to escape poverty, standing as a testament to the survival instincts of the poor within cities.
Major cities in Kenya, such as Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru and Kisumu are experiencing a rapid rate of urbanization, owing to new waves of rural exodus, most unable to keep up with the momentum required to absorb them into planning processes. Resultant shacks or informal housing proliferate across the cities. However, the inhabitants of these settlements are constantly under the threat of eviction due to their illegality.
The community, Shikamoo in Nakuru County, is being built by former slum residents – some of whom used to hawk fast moving products to survive – and is providing new homes with electricity, running water and services. By building their own homes, with the help of affordable loans, from Muungano wa Wanavijiji financial leveraging partner, Akiba Mashinani Trust, http://akibamashinani.org/and the residents are able to make a big upgrade to their quality of life while acquiring wealth.
According to the United Nations, more than 900 million people – almost a sixth of the world’s population – now live in urban slums (UN). This number will double by 2030 as a result of rapid urbanization in developing countries. Already in developing countries 43 per cent of urban dwellers live in slums, and the figure leaps to 78 per cent in the least-developed countries. The UN estimates it will take US $18 billion a year to improve living conditions for these people – and most of it will have to come from the residents themselves.
Muungano wa Wanavijiji’s national projects team member, Sammy Njuguna, expresses that the whole atmosphere of the slums as the biggest impediment to long-term life changes. “As long as you are living in the slums, you are likely to remain hinged on poverty”. “Families of course need economic opportunities to rise out of poverty.”
Muungano wa Wanavijiji came up with the idea of building an entire community from scratch, and doing it in way that is affordable, and sustainable, while building the wealth of its members. Since 2010, the project has provided homes for 280 families; the target is to have homes for 700 families by 2017.
Then came the Shikamoo project which has enabled Muthoni, who earns a living by hawking sweets in Nakuru town, to move from a 6 meter by 6 meter wooden shack in the Nakuru slum of Kwa Rhonda to her new own home: “So much freedom from paying rent yet you lack the basic services of water and sanitation”. The new home is 11.24 square metres with two bedrooms, a living space and a bathroom.
Muthoni pays US $43 a month for her mortgage — more than most people, because she wants to pay it off quickly. That compares to about US $25 a month in rent paid by many slum dwellers in urban cities.
Muthoni is a member of Muungano wa Wanavijiji -Nakuru County, Nakuru West Network. Grace has begun her journey to her new home in Barut, Nakuru West Constituency. After investing years attending savings schemes meeting and saving as little as she could possibly manage, she has finally become a housing beneficiary in the ongoing Shikamoo housing project.
The project aims to implement a communal lifelong dream of attaining low cost social housing agenda for its members who are low income earners slum in the Kwa Rhonda slums. This also borrows largely from the VISION 2030 blue print that focuses on expediting access to housing by the urban poor.
The first phase of the Shikamoo housing project intends to construct 20 housing units, 10 units are expected to be completed within the first half phase of the project.
Shikamoo is a clever community project. Unlike attempts to build housing for the poor in isolation, Shikamoo is based on neighbourhoods of 200 families each, with common community spaces.