Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dipping into Deepsea

  • Informal settlement on 5 private plots in Muthaiga; wealthy neighborhood where former Presidential families, Embassay workers and the Nakumatt supermarket owners reside.
  • Estimated 12,000 squatters

Guides: David Odiambo, human rights activists for Nairobi People Settlement Network(NPSN) and Janifer, also an anti-evictions activist, recently spoke at Amnesty in the UK (http://www.amnesty.org.uk/actions_details.asp?ActionID=508), were are guides for the afternoon.

First stop: Chief/Governor Justus A. Malunda.  A chief is not a traditional landowner, but he is a Government representative, who under the Provincial Administration organises squatters (registration, education, etc). Criticism has it, that in the Metropolitan area of Nairobi, the Provincial Administration has little power. Nevertheless, Chief Malunda seems to be a rare, pro-active Government worker. E.g. He recently organised a barassa - a community meeting to discuss waste management. Now, at 10ksh a week per household, NCC collects the settlement’s solid waste…

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Chief Justus A. Malunda on drug abuse, Nicole Galletta and Luisa Stemmler (housemate), forced to read aloud.

Lecture on Drugs: When Chief Malunda realised that Nicole (talented mapper from Italy), was a smoker, he began a lengthy, animated lecture on drug abuse. “Drug are bad because you can sleep with your children…” We learnt about Mira, Mari..mari..marijuana, and hair-oin. He even showed us a stash of special cigarettes that were taken from an Indian man… Chief had noticed his “superior” attitude.

Second stop: Local pub for a soda. The pub is on a bend, and blends in with other large plotted gated homes. A path around the back takes us into an informal pub that smells strongly of potent homebrew. Duck around the corner to find a daycare center, 30ksh per child per day. Just a dark room, food is cooked when there is money to spare.

One access road cuts through the settlement. NCC plans to construct a formalized tarmac road to improve road connection within the city. As such, the case is in court: the squatters face eviction. Will it be kind? Eviction by daylight? A notice? Compensation? (The latter is predicted to be peanuts).

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Greens amongst tin cans. Recent rains and leaking roofs: bedding hung out to dry.

Interestingly, there are no NGOs, no CBOs, just one FBO. The settlement is a community, with its own Governing Council. Through participatory approach, a donor’s proposal is reviewed… They don’t want to be no charity.

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The great divide. School and sanitation kiosk amongst funded by FBO, Deepsea left.

The Faith-based-organisation supports a formal primary school, and has constructed a well-functioning public sanitation kiosk, with a number of showers, toilets and a large open area for washing clothes. There is plentiful water; connection is to main waterlines.

Located on a steep slope, shelters are held up by wood foundations and sandbags. Some shelters are sinking slowly. Erosion and flash floods scar the settlement.

It rained a few days ago… paths muddy and slippery… our unsteady steps prove we are ‘estrangers’.

The steep valley carries a black stream, on the other side: well-manicured lawns. The great divide is shocking.

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Sandbag: resist flash flooding. Drainage constructed by the FBO. For over 40 years, she has lived in Deepsea; her children and grandchildren reside here; she recently lost ability to walk due to an illness; she is stuck here in Deepsea; slopes to steep to carry her up and out…

Still, Deepsea seems to benefit from being situated in amongst wealthy families, compared to e.g. Galole: the slum of no hope in Eastleigh. Deepsea can access formal services, there is significantly less visible solid waste pollution and safe, running water 24-hours a day; enough for showers!

Furthermore, in Deepsea, there seems to be better opportunity for informal employment in neighbouring homes, as well as three formal primary schools, although students from Deepsea find it impossible to compete against well-supported students. All but one student from Deepsea passed her final exams…