Sadly, slums are here to stay for the foreseeable future. There are many programs trying to make strategic infrastructure changes but progress is painfully slow, meanwhile slums continue to grow. While, for many years, these grand master plans are being funded and strategies are being developed, very little real impact or progress is felt on the ground. In Nairobi alone 1.4m people and families (60% of the Nairobi population) live in the 200+ informal settlements which occupy just 6% of the land.
These communities are full of hugely proud and driven individuals who want to provide the best they can for their family. Just like everyone. Their homes are mostly made of iron sheets around a timber bush pole frame. They are often poorly built, insecure and in extremely cramped overpopulated environments.
Fire and rapid spread of fire is a huge problem. To put it in perspective, in 2011, in Nairobi slums, 25,000 people lost their homes and only possessions to fire in just 3 months. That is around 5,000 families, an average of 55 homes per day. In Mukuru (2015), 1500 homes were lost in 6 months. There are no complete statistics so we can only infer the total numbers from these snapshots. Needless to say, fire has a major impact and something needs to be done.
Imagine if we could greatly reduce the spread of fire and simultaneously improve the living conditions and security of slum families? Just imagine…
At Kwangu-Kwako we believe we have the solution. We work with local people to provide opportunities to invest in and improve their own communities. Our precast concrete panel solution benefits the home owner, the landlord and the tenant, everybody wins. We provide a safer, simple, cost effective alternative to Mabati structures (corrugated iron sheet & bush pole).
The concept is a self-generating upgrade of the slums, through a robust investment argument it produces a win for owner/occupiers, landlords and the tenant families.
In the Nairobi informal settlements, 86% of properties are landlord owned, without a solution that works for them too, change will not happen. Initially, we are focusing on the Kangemi informal settlement. Here, the landlords mostly live in the communities, they have title to the land and their families have been part of Kangemi for many years. They have real passion for the area and a drive to improve it both for their own families and their tenants. We are building relationships with local community groups and churches to ensure we work with Landlords who share our mission and tenants most in need.
In time we hope to expand beyond Kangemi. In other communities there is less clear land ownership. In these areas, we may have to work with absent landlords. This will be a moral dilemma. However, unless one works with these landlords and provide a solution that is attractive to them, there will continue to be woefully slow progress in improving the homes of the most vulnerable families and individuals. Landlords will just keep building the dangerous mabati shacks as there is no alternative. Kwangu-Kwako aims to change this cycle by providing a sustainable investment to the benefit of all.
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