Celebrating healthy and prosperous communities: Kiambiu
This post was suggested by Fresh Life assistant government relations officer Johnstone Musisi. Johnstone is a member of Team Freshi, a group dedicated to sharing stories that highlight the impact of Sanergy and Fresh Life in the communities we serve.
In 2015, to expand our reach in the communities we serve, we introduced the Fresh Life network to additional informal settlements around Nairobi, including Mathare, Tassia, and Kiambiu. In this post, we look at our work in Kiambiu, where Fresh Life Toilets are improving the lives of community members.
Kiambiu is an informal settlement on the outskirts of Embakasi County, Nairobi. With a population of approximately 60,000, the area is divided into four key villages: Mabatini, Vihiga, Sagana and Kosovo.
The Ngong River cuts across the four villages of Kiambiu. Makeshift, pay-per-use toilets located along the riverbanks charge up to five shillings per use. These toilets are not connected to any sewer line, but rather have a pipe that drains all the waste from the toilets directly into the river, polluting it with harmful raw waste.
At night, fearful of walking a long distance to reach the toilets, many residents resorted to using polythene bags in their homes, which they would then toss the next morning. Others took to using bushes to provide a little privacy. “Until last year, our rooftops were constantly stacked with black polythene bags containing poop. The smell in this area was just unbearable, yet we had no choice!” recalled John Kibiru, who has installed two Fresh Life Toilets for the tenants of his residential plot.
Samson Kaindi, the area Assistant Chief, was the first to hear about Fresh Life Toilets in November last year through Sanergy’s Assistant Government Relations Official Johnstone Musisi, who has been responsible for introducing Fresh Life Toilets to the government officials and leaders of Kiambiu. “This was our long-awaited solution to end open defecation in Kiambiu,” said Chief Samson, who began inviting Johnstone to the community forums held at his office to help community members understand the Fresh Life movement.
Since Chief Samson was posted to Kiambiu as Assistant Chief in 2013, he has grappled with many challenges. A dispute he frequently mediated was between neighbors accusing one another of throwing flying toilets onto each other’s rooftops. “Every day, people used to throw away poop just before dawn when no one would see them. Later in the day, the poop would slide down to the ground, either hitting people along pathways or falling right onto people’s homes or businesses,” he recalls.
In addition, crimes such as theft and rape were rampant in the area, particularly at night because of the long distances people traveled to access toilets. According to Chief Samson, there were areas women and girls would not dare go for fear of being attacked.
Kiambiu is now slowly transforming, village by village, through installations of Fresh Life Toilets close to people’s homes and within their compounds. Kaindi has been pivotal in making the transition successful. Gaining access to land in Kiambiu is not easy; Kaindi helps community members interested in joining the Fresh Life movement to complete the necessary paperwork and legal processes before constructing proposed Fresh Life Toilets.
The community in Kiambiu has been eager to invest in the Fresh Life network. It has contributed greatly to the end of ‘poop’ disputes among neighbors by changing behavior and offering alternatives. “Residents who used to be frequently accused of disturbing their neighbors with flying toilets are now loyal Fresh Life users,” said Chief Samson. Moreover, rape cases and crime such as theft have decreased.
Since Benard and Samuel’s first-ever Fresh Life Toilets in Kiambiu, we have built a network of twenty-one Fresh Life Toilets in the area. In addition, we have recruited and trained five teammates who ensure professional and safe waste removal from the community.
In part two, we will be sharing the story of one of the teammates from the Kiambiu community and how he contributes to improving cleanliness in his community.