Kennedy Odede grew up in Kibera, Nairobi, one of the largest slums in Africa. He chose to not flee from his home. Rather, he decided to work hand-by-hand with his neighbors to transform it to a place where people stood a chance of living in brake-backing poverty.. One of his projects provides sustainable, inexpensive and clean water.
Odede says “I started asking people I grew up with, what they would do if they could do anything? One day someone said they would put water pipes in the air”. And that’s exactly what he has done! Water is now being delivered to residents through an aerial piping system that is 20 feet off the ground. The network consists of overhead pipes supported by wooden poles that connect to 10 water kiosks throughout Kibera.
This system along with many others in education and health have been created by Odede who is the co-founder of the non-profit, Shining Hope for Communities (Shofco). It has just been named the recipient of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize and awarded $2 million dollars.
Kibera, like most shanty towns, are densely populated which makes traditional trench digging and underground pipe laying difficult and expensive. Plus, pipes are then vulnerable to leaks, breakage and irrevocable contamination.
The aerial piping system also addresses the problem of cartels who have disrupted other water systems to make a killing selling the water at very high rates (currently, water in slum areas Nairobi costs up to 50 times more than in the city’s most affluent areas). Albanous Giture, the manager for the water program said “It would take someone really special 6to try and cut off a section of pipe hanging almost 20 feet above ground. And if he does, he will be spotted from quite a distance.
Price wise, the new system cuts the price of water for 4.4 gallons of potable water by 60% or from 5 cents to 2 cents. That’s a huge savings considering a family living in Kibera makes an average of $1 per day.
Odede has also figured out a cashless system to access the water. Shofco has partnered with the telecom company Safari.com to give Kibera residents an identity card that they can load with a mobile money platform, M-Pesa which they swipe to release water from the system.
“I believe change can only come from the community itself,” says Oded. His philosophy helped Shofco earn the sizeable humanitarian award. In its press release, the Hilton Foundation said “Shofco is a remarkable example of citizen-led change, created by people living in very challenging conditions”.
Shofco’s work is dedicated to transforming the lives of urban slum dwellers through grassroots change. An aerial system to transport water is just one of many of their health and education projects.