Friday, July 11, 2014

A ‘tap and go’ revolution in Kibera

In Kenya, there are approximately 2.5 million people residing in the countrys 200 settlements. Kibera most famous among these settlements is home to almost 1 million people, making it one the biggest of slums in Africa.

Apparently, Kiberas residents share 600 toilets, meaning that on average, one toilet serves 1,300 people. This has seen many residents opt for other means of sanitation including use of what has become known as flying toilets’ and putting most peoples health at a risk.

This has seen many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) trooping to the area to develop solutions to this problem. Among these is Umande Trust, an NGO based in Kibera that has developed over 25 bio-centres across Nairobi and about 10 bio-centres across Kibera to enhance bio sanitation.

Bio sanitation is premised on the need to close the loop in the waste management process and subsequently turn waste into resources. Bio centres apply ecological sanitation principles to ensure that human waste in ablution blocks are turned into wealth by producing gas through a bio digester system and producing fertilizer as a by-product.

However, the most interesting bit about the bio centres is that residents pay for their use through the cashless system. The bio-centre premises and facilities provide other services to the community including venues to screen movies and football matches for fee
as well as cooking for families all of which are paid for via the cashless system. Technology is highly utilized at the bio-centres as there are sensors at the entrance and counter systems in each toilet that provide a headcount of everyone who accesses the facility.

According to Umande Trust boss, Josiah Omotto, the use of the cashless payment system started way back “We started by using cash payments which became cumbersome and we were also unable to give back to the community as we wanted. This made us decide to try using M-Pesa but still at some point we had to deal with cash where we have to move the money to an account something we really wanted to avoid, said Omotto. Later on, Umande trust tried Kopo Kopo, a product which rides on the M-Pesa platform; kopokopo was introduced to several biocenters and continues to be a success till now.

Umande trust also came up with a swipe card developed by two students from JKUAT dubbed “Bio-Card” which used the RFID technology a wireless non-contact use of radio frequency electromagnetic fields to transfer data, for the purposes of automatically identifying and tracking tags attached to objects.
The RFD tags contain electronically stored information. The cards are still in use though they come with a challenge of being expensive and can be easily duplicated.

That is why when BebaPay was launched later on for use in the transport sector, Umande approached Equity and Google for a partnership in regards to cashless payment using the Beba card which uses Near Field Communication (NFC) technology.

“Bebacard was started within some of Umande Trusts’ Sanitation facility about 12 months ago. This means that the community will never pay the caretaker cash money instead just tap the card to the phone and the service charges are deducted and the money transfered directly to the groups account, said Omotto.

The cards are issued freely to the members of the community and currently over 300 cards have been issued though only 50 are in use which is a challenge as many people still opt for cash according to Omotto.

Currently, the NGO plans to ensure that by March 2014, every community member uses the card and also plans to have Equity Bank agents within the bio-centre are underway as this will help the community in topping up and making transactions.

Presently, paying for services at the facilities using the card are Kshs 1 cheaper compared to using cash and this has seen the number of community members embracing the cashless payment go up. Mary Achieng’ a resident at Kibera who frequently uses the facility said that she was impressed by the move to use digital cash, the Beba card, as its easy to use and enhances money safety.

“I now just have to tap and go, tap and use the bio digester to make food for my family and also tap to get sanitation services,” said Achieng. Once a transaction is made the card holder gets a notification in form of a text in regards to the amount deducted and the current balance. The group members too can see transactions clearly on the dashboard, Beba phone and the groups Gmail account.

story written by:
Lilian Mutegi

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Saba Saba Peace Experience

Youth in Kibera discussing the importance of keeping peace.
In one of the most notable community outreaches done by the community members themselves, Umande Trust witnessed one of the rare moments last week when community members reached out and demanded a peace consultation meeting as a mitigation measure to peace threats that were already witnessed due to heightened political temperatures preceding the opposition
rally. The community members from Kibera, Mukuru, Korogocho and Mathare had concerns that the peace gains made during the period preceding the 2013 elections were under a serious threat following the demands of the opposition to force an adamant government to national dialogue on issues affecting the nation.
By the time the community members were coming together under one network, the social media was awash with what can simply turn out to be misleading and very dangerous posts. The Kenyan youth, who are majorly the greatest users of the social media, had gone viral with accusations and counter accusations, mostly personal opinions which are easily always hidden behind ethnic overtones. The mainstream media was also airing news items on the rally, which was to coincide with the historic saba saba day; the day when Kenya clamor for multipartysm reached its peak in 1990, which depicted the rally as violent and uncalled for.
The community opinion leaders had already been divided right down the middle. Anxiety had started building up and some of the communities in these peoples settlement had started fearing for their lives, relocating to areas where they felt that they are safe for they can get protection from their ethnic members. Concerted efforts from the religious leaders and the gaping leadership role from the either side of the political divide made the community members realize that they only have themselves to offer leadership and restore the calm that everybody so wanted in the informal settlements.
One of the community leaders addressing the youth
The first consultative meeting took place at the Umande offices. It brought together youth leaders from community based organizations working in Kibera, Mukuru, Mathare and Korogocho registered their fears and advocated for a consultative approach towards dealing with the peace threats were emerging. It was an open secret that the society had been divided and only meaningful dialogue could avert a crisis. The team worked so quickly and reached out to the other community stakeholders, organized two peace events and reached out to the leadership of the country through a press conference covered by the mainstream media houses. The consultative processes proved so positive and calm was restored. People understood the meaning of saba saba and desisted from violence. And leaders lived for once to their billing, making sure no violence took place.

Story written by:
Ramogi Osewe