Chap Chap…

Nairobi’s notorious transport infrastructure is tightening its stranglehold upon the health and patience of city commuters daily. Eye watering and visible black acrid diesel exhaust choke the peak time air whilst ageing poorly maintained vehicles grind into gridlock on a daily basis. On a main arterial route, six lines of frustration morph into eight annexing the central reservation whilst kicking up clouds of red dust. Tempers flare, metal grinds with metal; all serenaded by a cacophony of frustrated motor horns.

Ever adaptable and hungry for a bigger slice of growing commuter pie, Uber has already corralled boda -boda for the white-knuckles on a budget. For those that aspire to a greater life expectancy Chap Chap was birthed. More economical than Uber X, Chap Chap is limited to compact frugal vehicles with an engine capacity of no more than 800cc.

Whilst these tiny vehicles vie to occupy non-existent gaps in the pot-holed tarmac at more affordable rates to the aspiring working classes, a new Uber Prius smugly awaits to salve the conscience of those that can afford to tackle the morning smog.

Boda Boda:- Motor bike taxi; sometimes with more than one pillion passenger.
Chap Chap: Swahili slang for faster-faster.
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These writings are penned whilst in the field working with our friends who live and work in Kibera and it is hoped that they bring insight, understanding and a provocation that the status-quo is unacceptable. Please feel free to unsubscribe or share as appropriate. Any opinions implied or expressed are my own and names may have been changed for the sake of privacy.
Dave Boniface.

Pockets of Hope…

Disposing of any type of waste in Kibera is a huge challenge. Flying toilets, open sewers and informal housing density provide little opportunity and even less incentive to tackle what seems like an impossible problem. Dumping just out of site and open burning do little to mitigate as daily survival takes precedence over longer term environmental issues and general municipal disinterest.

Always a source of surprise, young Bonface (no relation) has motivated and created unexpected pockets of change and hope. Communal clean ups and joint strategies have seeded a new determination that small changes can have big impacts as Kibera residents pull together allowing environmental hope to birth longer term physical and mental health benefits.

Ever the optimist this young visionary is planning the planting of tree saplings in some of the cleared areas to improve air quality and quite literally “bringing life to the city”.

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School children play on the fence of their school near burning rubbish at the Kibera slum, one of Nairobi's poorest quarters 24 October 2007. Schooling in Kenya is free of charge for children until 8th grade. According to a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report published 25 October 2007 on the state of the global environment in developing countries, three million people die annually from water-borne diseases. An estimated 2.6 billion people lack improved sanitation. By 2025, water use is predicted to have risen by 50% in developing countries and by 18% in the developed world. The UNEP's Global Environment Outlook (GEO-4) report is the culmination of five years of work by hundreds of experts across the world. AFP PHOTO / Roberto SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
These writings are penned whilst in the field working with our friends who live and work in Kibera and it is hoped that they bring insight, understanding and a provocation that the status-quo is unacceptable. Please feel free to unsubscribe or share as appropriate. Any opinions implied or expressed are my own and names may have been changed for the sake of privacy.
Dave Boniface.

Mooncups…

Dealing with menstrual poverty is rarely high on the to-do lists of those that are not affected by it. The reality is that it affects not just the individual, but it has a huge impact on female independence, social order, education and the local economy. Exclusion from education and work during menstruation, poor understanding, traditional culture and social stigma urgently need to be tackled if rudimentary sexual equality is ever to be achieved. To be fair a number of projects are making some good progress through education, self-help groups, and the manufacture of washable sanitary towels and the distribution of some subsidised sanitary products.

The introduction to the concept of mooncups in recent Kibera health care training caused quite a stir amongst the mixed sex attendees. Samples were passed around as excited and often heated conversations jarred with some obscure questioning. Hardly new in concept, the menstrual cup has experienced a renaissance in the UK as women look for eco-friendly and practical alternatives to the more common products. This compact silicone device sells for a few dollars, is washable and has a projected life expectancy of between 6-10 years.

Although not for everyone, for a small investment the impact could be huge. It has to be better than carrying woefully inadequate well-intended donated odd boxes of tampons in hand luggage.

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These writings are penned whilst in the field working with our friends who live and work in Kibera and it is hoped that they bring insight, understanding and a provocation that the status-quo is unacceptable. Please feel free to unsubscribe or share as appropriate. Any opinions implied or expressed are my own and names may have been changed for the sake of privacy.
Dave Boniface.

Umoja…

DSC00115Nurturing a small business in Kibera is no mean feat. Kiosk space is limited, in high demand and rentals are only just affordable. Add night security, an informal power supply and an avalanche of other consequential intangibles and the Kibera entrepreneur is presented with a near vertical learning gradient and a rope free safety harness.

Determination and grit are essential ingredients as are a USP, a healthy sense of competition and an awareness of business trends and local demands. It would be easy to trample on fellow traders and to move ahead and score success. Singing better together; a group of traders have taken to meeting to discuss tactics and learn from each other. Supporting competitors during down times seems counter intuitive but has created a sense of unity, purpose and security. A modest meeting attendance fee has been banked to provide financial assistance and the possibility of short term loans at non-Shylock rates.

An accidental Kibera Credit Union is a laudable consequence on its own. However the fledgling Umoja business group is cementing relationships between the Muslim and Christian communities and that is just plain life giving.

 

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Umoja:-Unity
Shylock:- Loan shark
USP:- Unique selling point

 

 

 

These writings are penned whilst in the field working with our friends who live and work in Kibera and it is hoped that they bring insight, understanding and a provocation that the status-quo is unacceptable. Please feel free to unsubscribe or share as appropriate. Any opinions implied or expressed are my own and names may have been changed for the sake of privacy.
Dave Boniface.

Burundi Steve’s Smokies…

By any measure it’s a protracted safari from Burundi to Kibera and at around 1200 matatu kilometres is an arduous achievement. Barely breaching his twenties, Steve had left his family and the Burundi challenges to make the long trek solo in search of the bright lights and financial illusions of the Nairobi metropolis. Realistically that meant serving his time in the uncertainties of Kibera. Steve, (his adopted kibera tag as his French influenced Burundi name is unpronounceable by the locals) although resolute could be easy prey for the darker operators of the Kibera deep state economies.

A chance meeting with a recent start-up barbers and the Kibera Saints football club proved more than a life-line for Steve. His ability to connect with the customers and to learn the requisite barber skills despite some linguistic challenges has made him popular amongst the locals and a valued employee. Entrepreneuristic to the core he acquired a “smokies and eggs” burner that sits just outside the barber’s kiosk and generates a brisk but modest supplementary income.

With a little Kibera Saints kindness his hope, like the ‘smokies’, moves quietly from the horizon.

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These writings are penned whilst in the field working with our friends who live and work in Kibera and it is hoped that they bring insight, understanding and a provocation that the status-quo is unacceptable. Please feel free to unsubscribe or share as appropriate. Any opinions implied or expressed are my own and names may have been changed for the sake of privacy.
Dave Boniface.

Long Rains and Hair Spray…

DSC00158Confusion and the stubborn non-compliance of former climate patterns are a daily reality to Kibera residents. Climate change is a fact; presidential hair spray and coal washing are ridiculous irrelevancies when standing knee deep in the aromatic consequences of the longer dry season, informal surface sewers and the current fluvial overload. Conforming to geographic principles, inclined slum-land adds potential energy and momentum to the rich red ironed stained unstable earth, loaded with months of discarded rubbish and human waste. Shack walls are undermined, people get hurt and some do not survive.

Alongside the more formal part-metalled roads runs a deep culvert constructed by the council as a part solution to the heavy rains. Woefully inadequate it provided limited relief until it was choked by huge amounts of flood debris and rampant shack parts. Precariously constructed over the culvert, the tiny business kiosks which provide a precious income to so many, succumbed to the inevitable as the rancid flood contents inundate and destroy the ground-upwards.

Clearing the culvert by hand is the only solution. Stock shifted, business decks are lifted and the brave go in feet first. Billy, a respected local business leader grinned widely from the depths of the dark culvert and explained nonchalantly that it just had to be done. Hand shaking was not an option.

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These writings are penned whilst in the field working with our friends who live and work in Kibera and it is hoped that they bring insight, understanding and a provocation that the status-quo is unacceptable. Please feel free to unsubscribe or share as appropriate. Any opinions implied or expressed are my own and names may have been changed for the sake of privacy.
Dave Boniface.

Shylock’s Phoenix…

Toi1Devastating fires occur with alarming regularity on the Kibera slum. Informally acquired mains power and open charcoal stoves conspire with densely packed shacks and kiosks constructed mainly of branch wood. Conflagration is inevitable and this time it was Toi market’s turn.

An essential business node that allow Kibera’s residents to trade and maintain a level of financial dignity; the precarious slum economy is fragile with few legal financial alternatives. The tightly packed market was destroyed in hours to a smoking black dessert. Uninsurable and devastated, Mama along with many others wiped their tears, rolled their sleeves, and began the long rebuild. Within days outline branch frameworks appeared, failure to territory mark would allow cuckoo traders to invade precious trading space.

Rebuilding costs; the Shylocks smiled. Adopting new tech they presence the inter-web with app based instant loans loaded with eye-watering incalculable interest and meshed with scary consequence for non-payment. Sadly two souls who took loans pre-fire could take it no more, paid the debt with their lives. Mama, ever resolute, took the leap with a loan…

 

A number of people in the UK have expressed an interest to help with a small gift.

Please contact me on daveboni@gmail.com if you would like to join them.

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Shylock: Loan shark with consequences.

 

 

 

From the local new:-

These writings are penned whilst in the field working with our friends who live and work in Kibera and it is hoped that they bring insight, understanding and a provocation that the status-quo is unacceptable. Please feel free to unsubscribe or share as appropriate. Any opinions implied or expressed are my own and names may have been changed for the sake of privacy.
Dave Boniface.

Riding the Matatu…

It is conceivable that the Swahili word ‘tatu’ referred to the one time three shilling standard fare, is now more likely to indicate ‘always room for three more’.  The maximum advertised passenger vehicle capacity is always a minimum. Boarding the Matatu is a chaotic endeavour. Conductors hustle passengers, negotiate fares and communicate with the drivers via systematic roof thumps. Being directed into the separated driver’s cab when the last cubic millimetre of rear space is occupied is normal, two white faces were not.

The startled driver’s expression was quickly replaced with a wide grin; the challenge to demonstrate Matatu to Mzungu at its wildest was on. Normal rules of the road evaporated. The chest thumping bass of the mandatory on-board sound system easily out-powered Matatu’s ageing, smoke belching diesel engine. Undertaking and rapid pavement riding were interspersed with frequent vehicle standoffs and mainly good natured yelling, whilst life expectancy rapidly dwindled.

As dusk fell, alighting from the front-cab brought relief whilst extracting the rest of team from the main melee took a while longer. Exhilarating as a one off; an uncomfortable daily commute for the many.

These writings are penned whilst in the field working with our friends who live and work in Kibera and it is hoped that they bring insight, understanding and a provocation that the status-quo is unacceptable. Please feel free to unsubscribe or share as appropriate. Any opinions implied or expressed are my own and names may have been changed for the sake of privacy.
Dave Boniface.

The Bank of Kibera…

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Financial services are naturally reluctant to venture too close to Kibera as the possibilities and pickings are rather slim. On the more driveable and part metaled roads Equity and Coop Bank branches have taken residence amongst the formalised, better constructed business that have established roots in fortified former grand-by-Kibera-standards houses. Security heavily beefed up and familiar brand logos offer hope of things to come as trickledown economics drip slothfully.

Entering the Coop bank under armed security reveals a glimpse of banking practices from decades past. A plastic-chaired waiting area, library-hushed, reverent in anticipation of teller time. Real clerks behind real laminated gun proof glass negotiating in hushed reverend tones whilst a lone internal automated teller hints of hopes to come. Every transaction, every statement, every request has a tariff rendering basic banking prohibitive for those most in need.

Ever resourceful, transferring mobile phone credit is an accepted if not glitchy way of transferring funds electronically to anyone with a basic 2g handset. ‘M-Pesa’ as a business has developed this to a usable but low grade banking service for the many. Sensing a lost tax opportunity on the informal low end economy the government proposed an increased levy on such transfers from 12 to 20 percent.*

* Source:- Kenya Business Daily Sept 18

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Co-op Kibera Drive
These writings are penned whilst in the field working with our friends who live and work in Kibera and it is hoped that they bring insight, understanding and a provocation that the status-quo is unacceptable. Please feel free to unsubscribe or share as appropriate. Any opinions implied or expressed are my own and names may have been changed for the sake of privacy.

Whipping the Dog…

kiosk 3In common with the International scout ground, the private Moi Girls boarding school ground shares part of its boundary with the sprawling unplanned metropolis of Kibera.  For the most part this is not regarded as a problem as rigorous fencing and 24 hour manned security protects and maintains the inequalities and the status quo.  Whilst there is an inextricable and an indissoluble association between poverty and crime, one does not and cannot excuse the other. Heinous crimes are just that whatever the economic status and the alleged rape of a school student demanded a swift response.

 

The police and government officials normally shy of entering the Kibra district of Kibera employed yellow bull-dozers to raze the many corrugated metal construct open  ‘kiosks’ that line a section of the school perimeter. Deemed unplanned, unsafe and likely to harbour the perpetrators, around three hundred handmade structures were rendered unusable in a matter of hours. * Hundreds of tiny businesses paid for the requisite summary justice with their modest livelihoods.

 

Official police investigations continue of course and one lead suggested the possibility of a school employee being involved. Meanwhile an official criticised the former kiosk operators for throwing stones in protest. *

 

* Source:- KTN News Reel, Kenya 2018

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These writings are penned whilst in the field working with our friends who live and work in Kibera and it is hoped that they bring insight, understanding and a provocation that the status-quo is unacceptable. Please feel free to unsubscribe or share as appropriate. Any opinions implied or expressed are my own and names may have been changed for the sake of privacy.