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Effective Utilization of Water Hyacinth in City Slums

Examples of Granted Projects

Effective Utilization of Water Hyacinth in City Slums -Kenya-

Save the Children Centre Representative, Teruko Kikumoto

The Roots of Street Children

Picking water hyacinth for compost

The abnormal proliferation of water hyacinth in Lake Victoria has become a serious environmental issue in Kenya. However, the fact that Nairobi Dam, situated within Nairobi City, has been wholly covered by water hyacinth is hardly known. Kibera, a slum (with a population of approximately 450,000 people) stretching adjacent to the dam, has a high incidence of crime, including prostitution, illegal brewing, drug smuggling, murder etc., and is home to many street children.

In 1996, our center launched a project for the reform of street children, which is a movement to trace the children's roots in order to influence not only the children themselves but also their families and the community. Under the Japan Fund for Global Environment grants program, we have been engaged in projects to effectively utilize the water hyacinth for the improvement of the income of the street children and their mothers, who live near the dam, and environmental conservation.

However, in an absolutely poor country where 52 percent of the population live on less than one dollar per day, projects that address poverty-stricken people tend to lose sight of their ultimate objective - "environment". A mother's sole interest is in a handful of corn, a cup of water and a few pieces of firewood to burn in the stove. "The future," "the Earth" and "the environment" are words that do not have a place in a slum.

Activities Spreading "Polepole"

For example, although the idea of making paper from water hyacinth attracted much attention on television, the activity, in the end, did not connect with the daily lives of the poor people. Paper, "inedible," was a distant concept for illiterate people.

Water hyacinth infestation covering the entire surface of the dam

Meanwhile, water hyacinth fuel was a great success.Moth ers who had begun baking bread for a better income, but had been faced with the problem of procuring fuel, jumped at the idea. The humble business of baking bread for sale for seven yen a piece spread among mothers. Moreover, compost-making, a process of mixing water hyacinth with raw waste, became popular among youth living in the streets. Now that the manufacture of fuel and compost has finally taken root in their lives, we may, at long last, be able to discuss "environmental issues" with them. The water hyacinth has taught us that the basics of grassroots activities are, first and foremost, "polepole" (Swahili for "gradually").


Save the Children Centre
<Kenya Headquarters>
Address: P.O.Box 67395 Nairobi, Kenya
TEL/FAX: +254-2-721170/727907
E-mail: scc@africaonline.co.ke
<Japan Secretariat>
Address: 1-26-1 Tenman, Asahi Plaza Higashi Tenman 402,
Kita-ku, Osaka City, Osaka Pref. 530-0043
TEL/FAX: +81-6-6354-3638

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