Michael Njuguna

Michael Njuguna

I am Michael from Kambi Moto, one of the members in this settlement.

Who is Michael Njuguna? What motivates you?

I have supported other settlements. Because what we have done in Kambi Moto, I have tried to transform it to other settlements. I am very happy because I started a project in this settlement called Ghetto – because the experience I have in Kambi Moto, I took it to another settlement. Njuguna has supported other settlements with ideas and shown them it’s possible. Because we have done it, I tell other people it’s possible.

How did you first get involved in Muungano?

I joined Muungano 1999, as a youth, to support our parents for recording of savings book. From there, we started thinking how we can change this slum and how we can bring people together. Then we started the Kambi Moto Muungano group, which was started by few people – because most of people did not think we could come together and change the living standards in the way that we did.

What were things like, back when you joined Muungano?

We had no water in our slum. We were facing a lot of problem of fire outbreak, so we started thinking how we can come together in order to solve our problems. At that time, the settlement was managed by administration. A lot of problems is when the outbreak of fire – to repair the slum was very difficult because you must go through the administration, that is the area chief; he gives you authority to repair your own house. So we came together to solve all those problems.

The Huruma/Kambi Moto upgrading process

In the year 2000, we started negotiating with the Nairobi City Council at that time – but now its Nairobi County – and there was a positive response from the Nairobi City Council. They told us to go and organize ourselves, both structure owners and tenants. From there, we started thinking: when the City Council will release the land to the community, what will we do with the land? Where will we get the money to construct houses? That was year 2000, when we started negotiating with the City Council. Through the support of Nairobi University and, [at] that time, Pamoja Trust, we started dreaming how the settlement will be and what a kind of a house we will get. We started enumerating the number of people living in this settlement; the dream was, how will we settle the 370 people in this settlement – so the dreaming was, how will we accommodate everybody? Because in the slum where we stayed, [slum housing] was 10 by 10, and we need a permanent house with all facilities – that is water and toilet and electricity for the tenant. 10 by 10. So the dreaming was, how can we fit to this piece of land without making other people move out of the settlement?

That time, we started saving: saving our small amount of money in order to support ourselves in all this process. After dreaming and being supported by Nairobi University and Pamoja Trust, we came up with a plan, which we took to the Nairobi City Council, and we started a model house – that was the year 2001. That year 2001, June, that was the time we launched our model house, with that time we have a mayor of Nairobi City Council called Joe Okoch. And the house was a model, a kind of a high rise, where the ground we have a sitting room; first, bedroom; then the second, bedroom. That was a cloth model, and everybody appreciated the model.

So we came to do it practically on the ground. So we go to start with five units. So we started negotiating with the structure owners who were ready to demolish their structures. After that, we had a lot of problems that time, when we started thinking on how to demolish. Then, a lot of people interfered. The area administration, the area DO [district officer], they came [and] thought they can stop the project; but through the support of Nairobi City Council, they gave us letter to continue on doing what we can do on the ground and they will approve. From there, we started demolishing five units. When people saw we have demolished and we have started constructing, more people agreed to demolish their structures, and we started with the first site of 34 units – that was the year 2003 to year 2005.

So 2005, we completed the first 34 units. After that, now all people in this settlement joined the group. So we started thinking on how we can continue constructing. 2006, 2007 we have another site for 28 families – 28 units – so we constructed just only in one year, for the 28 families. Because the first site we got problems, because it was like a training process: people think how, we educated people on how to construct, on how to do a lot of work for construction. And it was a voluntary job, so the community organized themselves; we just paid skilled labour, so unskilled was provided by the community. Second site was 2006–2007: 28 families got houses and that time I benefitted, in second phase.

The next time we thought about that site, that was year 2008–2009. This is the time Kambi Moto got a lot of problems – inside politics. We constructed 24 units, which at the end was very hard to give to the members, because most of people were ready to get houses, [but] the houses are 24 and beneficiary are more than 24. So on how to choose who will get, who will wait, was a problem. And this broke Kambi Moto into two groups, and that time the politics of Kambi Moto changed. We stayed for a whole year without issuing the 24 units, then we came to agree and got the beneficiaries for site three, and they got their houses.

From there, a lot of problems came to Kambi Moto. People decided ‘I want a house, I want a house’, and that’s the time most of people wanted to construct for themselves. So site four, the system of construction changed: people started constructing for their own houses using the same drawing – that’s why we see [in] site four, we have complete units, others are not complete – depending on the owner.

So now, we are happy as Kambi Moto, because we have completed constructing site one – this was site one – 142 units. Earlier, we when we were planning, we have site one – this is the site one – and we have another site two. [In] 2008, that’s the time we got agreement with the city council: we got a memorandum of understanding with the city council [that] they will release the land to the community and they will take care for the spill over – those who will remain. [In] 2008, they changed their mind, and constructed a council office on our site – on our phase two. That’s the time problems arise, and our plan was to accommodate 270 families. The area the city council constructed their office was about 70 families, so we lost a site for 70 families to the city council. That was the time I was a secretary of the group – all officials were arrested by the city council, we were taken to police custody because we demonstrated about the construction of the council office. After lot more discussion, they told us the land belongs to them, ‘we have no authority to stop their project’, ‘even the community needs an office’. Then, the land went to the city council back. The rest, they said they will release to us but until now they have not done so.

So we have gone for the last about 20 years in Kambi Moto, we have struggled to reach where we are. It is a hard job. I think we have young youths, we need to work hard to achieve what we can get and have determination on what you want to do. The best thing is to come together. When we come together we can do a lot.

Right now, in Kambi Moto, most of people have benefited. But still we need to think, because we have youth. How can we manage our youth and get more land and more houses? Because to get a house in Nairobi is a problem. [To youth] I think it’s your high time to think more than we did. I joined Muungano about 24 – I was about 25 years, now I am almost 40 years. So I have stayed in Muungano more than 17 years. I joined as a youth, now I am old.

What are the key elements of the Kambi Moto upgrading model?

The first of all, the key element is just doing savings, because savings mobilizes people. Savings are resources – you put your money together so you put your minds together. Second is you have a target: what do you want to do? We want to do this and this and this. Those things we wanted to do is to get houses with water and toilet. So, our aim was to get houses. From there, another aim was to bring people together in order to get their … for example, we have groups which formed themselves out of the Muungano Kambi Moto for income generating project. Because most of people living in these slums were not employed. They did small businesses: when you to bring them together, they can think how to start a project for their own income. So the aim of Kambi Moto was to change the living standards of the community. And I’m very happy today because we have changed. People can afford to stay in a house where their children can learn, they can do their studies with electricity, no fire outbreak, the settlement is clean. I think we have succeeded.

Taking the Kambi Moto upgrading model to other settlements

In Huruma we started with six settlements, and the settlement which picked in Huruma was just Kambi Moto, Mahira, and Gitathuru. Then, Ghetto was having a lot of problems – internal politics – then I was to support Ghetto to start their project. Like now, Ghetto, we have the same model for Kambi Moto. The same case come to Thika – Kiandutu. When I started mobilising Kiandutu, I mobilized Kiandutu with the model of Kambi Moto. And we started a project of sanitation – that is toilet: two sanitation blocks. The aim of starting those projects was to give them power to fight for their land. Because when you develop an area, you have more right to own that land. And we started a lot of clusters in Kiandutu. The next step was to go for housing, which they are all on the process, and they will copy the same model of Kambi Moto. Because if you have done something, you have confidence of what you can do.

How have things changed over time?

When I joined Muungano as youth, most of my time I used in Muungano – recording books, collecting savings. So I didn’t engage in youth activities, those bad things for the youth. So Muungano supported me that time. I was a humble guy then, I continued supporting our parents. Then Muungano supported me to get a house at that age. I married in Muungano. So my life changed a lot, because I was not having free time to bad things. All my time I spend with Muungano people older than me – they mentored me. I knew a lot of things, I got experience. And that time, when I was joining Muungano I was not able to talk to more than two people, now I can talk more ... I can talk to 100 people without fearing – the experience I got from Muungano. And I was used by Muungano to talk to other youths to join Muungano, so I am very happy because I can say there are those people who copied my behaviour and they are now stable in Muungano and they have houses and they are doing well. So the best thing is to mentor young people – they change their behaviour and from something, they become somebody.

What are your hopes for Muungano’s next 20 years?

Because Muungano have their own rituals, and we have our own ideas, I think Muungano for 20 years, we need to see most of people in Muungano benefit from all the products of Muungano. And the movement being stronger in order to engage the government for the changes of a lot of things to their settlements. For the 20 years, I would like Muungano to have gone to all areas in Kenya and speaking in one voice.

For the 20 years to come, I think we will form another generation out of Kambi Moto. This generation will think beyond Kambi Moto, because Kambi Moto now is small, and we will have another project similar for the young generation in another area. So we will copy the Kambi Moto in another place.