- Title: From garbage to garden, Nairobi resident helps slum bloom
- Date: 27th August 2021
- Summary: VARIOUS OF MACHARIA FILMING A MUSIC VIDEO
- Embargoed: 10th September 2021 10:59
- Keywords: Nairobi dandora dumpsite green city in the sun green spaces planting trees reclaiming spaces
- Location: NAIROBI, KENYA
- City: NAIROBI, KENYA
- Country: Kenya
- Topics: Africa,Environment
- Reuters ID: LVA004ES217X3
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:A decade ago, this garden was a steaming dumpsite; a place where Nairobi's wealthier residents sent, and promptly forgot about, their trash.
Now itâ€™s a colorful oasis of plants and trees that had become all but extinct in the low-income neighbourhood of Dandora.
This transformation is thanks to Charles Gachanga, 45, who grew up in the area back when it reeked of garbage.
Gachanga began reclaiming the space, now called Mustard Seed, in 2013. He says it's the â€œheart and soulâ€ of his non-profit, community-based organization - that goes by the same name.
â€œIt was not easy as I did the entire drainage and the entire corridor from the entrance of mustard seed to down here, almost two guys and a third one helped us. When we were finished there, we came and cleaned here. Here we spent like three months,â€ he told Reuters.
Their project has inspired a network of similar community-built green spaces, 20 alone in Dandora, he said. Maintenance costs are covered by community contributions.
Those living near Gachanga's green space pay 100 shillings a month, less than $1, for maintenance. Mustard Seed also receives donations from foreign foundations like the Awesome Foundation.
â€œIt makes us feel alive, it makes us feel good, sometimes we are even able to hear birds that we donâ€™t usually hear. So, it makes us also want to do more of these, plant more trees maybe and just bring the forest to the hood," said Javan Ofula, an area poet.
And for creatives like Javan, the space is good for business.
"Itâ€™s clean, itâ€™s peaceful we don't have likeâ€¦if you tell somebody that you did a video in this place, he wouldn't probably believe that this is Dandora, yeah? So it has actually tried at least to level us up in a way," said James Macharia, a music video producer, who has shot 50 videos here.
The affordable price helps, he says: 5,000 shillings, or less than $50, to rent commercially.
People who can't pay often volunteer, planting trees or cleaning.
One morning, several children - some of whose parents were paying members, some of whose weren't - stood as a young man shimmied up an avocado tree, shaking down ripe fruits.
Volunteers stood below, catching the harvest in an outstretched banner.
One of them was Evans Otieno, Gachanga's deputy.
Otieno gave up a life of crime after his friends were killed by a justice-seeking mob. He hopes his path to working in the gardens will help inspire other young people.
"We try to bring nature closer to the people because nature is very good even for your mental well-being you see, and considering Dandora, that mental state that people are thinking of crime and the negative, we try to bring that positive mental set back to the community,â€ Otieno said.
"We...bring nature closer to the people, because nature is very good even for your mental wellbeing," said Otieno.
Gachanga says that when he moved here as a toddler in 1979, Dandora was a green estate. In the subsequent decades, it became a dumping site and slum - and Gachanga lost many friends along the way.
"Our aim was to bring that estate name back. We believe that Dandora is not a slum; Dandora is an estate," he said.
"If we can change Dandora, we can change Nairobi."
(Production: Edwin Waita, Ayenat Mersie)
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: Audio restrictions: This clip's Audio includes copyrighted material. User is responsible for obtaining additional clearances before publishing the audio contained in this clip.