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From garbage dump to green dream

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 19 – Walking through Kibera 10 years ago, it would have been virtually impossible to see an organic farm, however, for a group of youths who have turned a former dumpsite into a green paradise it is not only a reality, but a saving grace.

The Kibera Youth Initiative for Community Development (KYIFCD) is the brainchild of 25-year-old Erick Simba that started five years ago with the primary goal of helping the youth of Kibera realise their potential and become self-sustainable.

The organisation has since evolved into an umbrella body overseeing five projects that include a children’s home, primary school, football team, car washing service, and the organic farm.

The organic farm that sits on a 90m x 65m plot of land, is a joint project of the KYIFCD and Green Dreams Limited, an organisation that specialises in urban farming.

For the past four years the farm has been providing Kibera residents with affordable produce including tomatoes, cabbages, pumpkins, kale and sugarcane among other vegetables.

“We didn’t know that the dumpsite was an asset. The land originally belonged to Kenya Railways until they agreed to give us the lease because with the farm they saw we were supporting the environment and helping to clean up the railways from the trash that would spill over into the tracks,” said Erick.

As a result of the organic farm, Erick has seen a dramatic change in the lives of the youth involved, most of whom were criminals.

“Some of the boys have taken the farm as a career. Some of them are here permanently. I’ve attended some of their weddings. They are settling down,” said Erick.

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Khalid Ochieng has worked on the farm since its inception and has seen a positive response from the community to their efforts.

“We sell vegetables to the community and get something that can boost us through the day. We interact with a lot of people here and they appreciate what we do because we’ve changed our lives,” he said.

Erick said the revenue generated from the farm varies, but attributes a boost in sales to the greenhouse donated by University of Nairobi late last year.

“Most people in Kibera buy in small quantities for Sh10 or Sh20. We make on average Sh1,000 or Sh1,500 in a week unless we get an external order. Before the greenhouse it would take two months to get the stalks up, but with the greenhouse we harvest every week,” he said.

With the success of the organic farm the KYIFCD plans to expand the project to the rest of Kibera and other slums.

“Our aim is to train other youth, with the government’s help, to turn all the dumping sites into food hubs. One thing about Kibera, especially the youth reform members, is they are not beggars. They have capacity so what they need is partners not donors, someone who can realise their potential,” said Erick.

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