For Umande Trust, community engagement and inclusion are central, at all stages of establishing and maintaining the bio-centres. It is crucial to be in constant communication with the local community members, the beneficiaries of the services provided, as well as receive relevant knowledge on the local environment and its challenges.
On November 15th, the Umande Trust staff participated in a community meeting, in order to explore the opinions, requests and concerns of the people living in the area of Lindi, Kibera, where the New Blue bio-centre will be constructed. The team, composed of Benazir, Lionel, Peter, Valerie, Solomon, Stella, Pepijn and Jackie arrived on the future site of the bio-centre, and the local community immediately started to gather around, to listen and participate in the meeting. The team was introduced by the owner of the land, who donated it to the youth group leading the process and will operate the facility once in place. Lionel then started engaging with the community, gathering their input on the current situation. Women described the current sanitation arrangement (pit latrine) as dirty, precarious, unsafe and unhygienic; children highlighted its smell and the risk of falling in; men mentioned the fact that it is only convenient to use the toilet early in the morning and late at night due to their lack of privacy and that there are no other decent sanitation facilities nearby.
After having verified the sanitation condition of the area, Lionel, continued with the description of the project, explaining who the donors and the group behind the project were, who the subcontractors for the building of the facility will be, mentioning the possibility of some being hired as builders, given the great interest residents demonstrated to be included on the process. He also showed the plan for the completed facility, for people to have an idea of the final state, and to stimulate discussion on the potential use of the first floor (suggestions were made for a playing space for kids). The residents were highly engaged and participated throughout the whole duration of the meeting, and made several requests and remarks, in order for the project to meet their needs and expectations. Furthermore, during the meeting it became clear that the community appears to be more focused on the sanitation aspect of the facility rather than the biogas element. This is a challenge that can also be seen in existing bio-centres in Kibera: people tend to not make use of the public cooking facilities, since they prefer not to cook their meals in the same space as the bathrooms; a design consideration for future facilities. Umande Trust strongly encourages the group to actively engage in the process, rather than solely host them in the project, and thus it is of great importance that the group has the opportunity to vocalize their ideas, thoughts, and needs. It is also essential that the group gets trained and taught on sanitation management in order for the biocentre to have a lasting impact on the community. Job creation, skill development and good governance are therefore paramount.