Friday, February 10, 2012

Kenya Diaries: Day 2 - Kibera, Nairobi's Enormous Slum

On my second day in Kenya, I asked my host to show me Kibera, the enormous slum in Nairobi. According to the expert source Wikipedia, it is home to 170,000 people. Most of them lack access to running water, sewage systems, or other basic services.

On my second day in Kenya, I asked my host to show me Kibera, the enormous slum in Nairobi. According to the expert source Wikipedia, it is home to 170,000 people. Most of them lack access to running water, sewage systems, or other basic services.

Prior to visiting Kibera, I visited a brand new KFC. Other fast food chains like McDonalds have come to Kenya, failed, and left. KFC is new. It is located at an upscale shopping mall that also has an Apple store selling iPads and MacBooks. Only the rich can afford to eat at KFC. Five pieces of chicken are 825 Kenyan shillings, or about $10. To compare, Del Monte pays workers on its pineapple plantations in Kenya only 200 Kenyan shillings per day.

I had to explain to my host that this man is called the Colonel.

KFC menu with prices.

KFC menu with prices.

KFC menu with prices.

A friend led me into Kibera. He told me that the shops I saw were called the "kadogo economy." Kadogo means small. It refers to the fact that people here cannot afford to buy anything in bulk, so they purchase very small amounts of items as they can afford them. Many people have shops in the front of their houses and homes in the back. It's not uncommon for two or three generations of a family to all sleep in the same bed. Much of the food sold here is cooked and ready to eat, since people often lack cooking facilities.

A market at the entrance of Kibera

Kale growing just outside of Kibera

Kale is one of the main staples here in Kenya. Corn, which they call maize, is the most important, but you can see kale growing all over the place. Spinach is also very popular. In Nairobi, there is maize growing and goats (kept for meat) even the wealthy areas.

Sugarcane, a popular treat.

A soccer field just outside of Kibera

At this point, we entered Kibera. In between homes and shops was a dirt road about wide enough for one car to pass with ditches on either side. Dust blew into my eyes as I walked, and the smell of trash and raw sewage was overpowering. I was grateful that I was not visiting during the rainy season.

Trash in the middle of the road.

Chickens foraging in the trash.

Charcoal for sale. There are many, many people selling charcoal in Kibera.

Buildings in Kibera. The buildings here are all homemade from anything from cardboard and plastic tarps to wooden frames filled in with mud. Some homes use corrugated metal too.

Baskets for sale. I bought a huge one for 300 shillings, or about $4. They told us their grandmother made them.

My host Samson holding my basket next to a man who asked me to take his picture.

Trash. The ground is covered with trash in Kibera.

Coca Cola, sold in Kibera. Many shops had these signs.

Raw sewage. It didn't smell good.

A USAID sign on the side of a shop. We asked about the USAID program that the sign was for, and the shop owner said there was none. He said they just showed up and asked to paint their sign. Next time, he said, he will charge them money to do so.

Muscovy ducks.

We visited the Kibera Girls Soccer Academy, an all girls high school that is unique because it charges very low fees. Usually students must pay upwards of 20,000 shillings per year ($240) to go to school, an amount that is far out of reach of the poor. Here, students pay a one-time fee of 3000 shillings ($36) for four years and they must buy their uniforms. They take as many students as they can fit - 30 to 40 per grade - and the classrooms are very crowded.

The school library.

In the library, I met with a few students who are in the school's journalism club. They produce a school magazine called Kibera Shedders, which is available online although it is hard to find. I asked one journalism student what she wanted to write about. "Kibera," she replied. I asked if her audience was people within Kibera or people outside it. "Outside," she said. "What did she want to tell them about Kibera?" I asked. "That it's not a bad place," she said.

I spoke to one of the teachers too. He emphasized that Kibera is the girls' home. The residents of Kibera have often lived here for generations, and they are not necessarily looking to leave. Often people go back and forth between Kibera and "up country" - a village where their family comes from. For example, a woman I interviewed (pictured below) has children who are currently up country, going to school. One of the students lived up country up to eighth grade, when she was sent to live with a relative in Kibera and then came to this school.

A classroom.

The school's courtyard.

The staircase leading to the school's second floor.

A view from the school's second floor. The black tank holds water.

The school's trophies.

A courtyard with a laundry line.

A woman in her home.

Kale growing in someone's yard.

A few chickens in the garden in the yard with the kale.

The same garden again. There is a bathroom behind the canvas sheet, and someone is showering.

In Kibera, there is often one bathroom for many families. There are also toilets and showers available to use for a small fee.



A menu. There are decimals here, so the prices are 10 shillings, 20 shillings, etc. Chapati is like a tortilla. Ugali is porridge. 10 shillings is about 12 cents. Compare these prices to those at KFC.

A pharmacy. Note which conditions they treat. Malaria's not so common in Nairobi, but HIV/AIDS and TB are likely big problems. I've also heard of people here dying of pneumonia.

Veggies for sale.

More veggies. The yellowish ones are cassava.

As we left, rush hour hit. A river of people coming home from work flowed into Kibera on foot. Despite the conditions they live in, almost all were clean and dressed very well. People here tend to dress up, and I'm told it wasn't common until recently for a woman to wear pants. Kenyas really do not wear revealing clothing at all. Because so many parents here work, many leave their kids in daycare for 20 shillings a day.

Rush hour

Just outside Kibera.

From Kibera, we visited Samson's house, which is nearby. It's in an apartment building.

A shop near Samson's house.

Samson and his kids, Amani and Baraka (Peace and Blessing). They have English names too. Most Kenyans have both an English name and a name in Swahili or their native tongue.

Samson and Amani.

Samson in his home. Not far from Kibera and yet a world away.

Samson's 3 year old son starting the car. He would have driven me all the way home if we let him I think.

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