Community Engagement the Umande Way

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.

The community meeting

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. 

Lionel explaining the project

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.


The Well-Oiled Machine of Jasho Letu

The Well-Oiled Machine of Jasho Letu

One of the founding organizations of Umande’s very first biocentre, TOSHA I, Jasho Letu has continued to find success over the last 12 years. Located in Katwekera Sarang’ombe, the group has made ample use of the space and resources near their biocentre. 

Picture from top of Jasho Letu

From the outside, the Jasho Letu Biocentre looks very similar to many others. It has a ground floor with numerous toilets and bathrooms and an upstairs section for meetings and church gatherings each week. The caretaker will greet you outside the center as you come to use the toilet, bathroom, or collect water for the day. However, once given an opportunity to learn more about the centre and its operations, you learn it is more than it first appears. 

Each week, the members of the group meet on Friday around noon to discuss developments, earnings, and next steps for the group. With over 100 group members, the discussions tend to last many hours, but each member is able to walk away knowing the next steps for the biocentre and the group as a whole. This large group has managed to make quite the impact on their community. Beyond contributing to TOSHA I and the establishment of their own Jasho Letu Biocentre, the group has found numerous routes for earning. In the area immediately surrounding the Jasho Letu Biocentre are numerous houses that were built by the group. These houses are now rented out to community members and a smaller community has formed within this small compound. 

Social hall at Jasho Letu Center

The area would be incomplete without the duka, or shop, located just next door. This structure was also built by the members of the Jasho Letu Group and is rented to a duka in order to provide goods to the community members. But, that’s not where the connection ends. The biogas produced from the Biocentre is piped over to the duka so they can provide a kiosk for hot water vending. 

Their impact also reaches beyond the immediate area. A few minutes’ walk away, the group has set up a water kiosk to provide a closer point of water collection for community members. Numerous kiosks are spread around the area to decrease the amount of time people have to spend walking to a water vendor. Additionally, the group recently purchased land to assist in their housing development plan. They are currently working with the City and County Governments in order to build more houses and apartments to relieve the strain that parts of Kibera are beginning to feel. 

Jasho Letu embodies a big component of the Biocentre mindset. They have found ways to continuously expand and develop their community through the benefits gained with the Biocentre. Not only have they assisted in promoting water sanitation, but they have made a considerable impact on the greater community surrounding their center.