Kenya -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1
The Housing Need
Jane Wafula and her family outside their old house
The family outside their new Habitat house.
Kenya is home to great scenic beauty and abundant wildlife and warm welcoming people. Historically, one of Africa’s more politically stable countries, Kenya experienced destructive post election ethnic violence in early 2008 forcing many people from their land and homes. Kenya faces many challenges including high disease prevalence, high unemployment; rising urbanization and a widening gap between the rich and poor. Moreover, millions of Kenyans face periodic hardships due to draught and flooding as a result of climate change.
Nearly 60% of Kenya’s 37 million residents are rural subsistence farmers and live on less than $2 a day. Although parts of the country are lush, green fields of healthy crops, many people in the rural areas suffer extreme poverty. Families live in inadequate, overcrowded homes typically with only one room and no windows. The houses usually have mud walls, cow dung and dirt floors and thatch roofs. Poor home construction means they serve as breeding grounds for diseases including malaria, amoebic disorders and respiratory conditions, which commonly claim the lives of their inhabitants.
Habitat for Humanity Kenya (HFHK)
Habitat for Humanity Kenya (HFHK) began building houses in Kenya in 1982. Since that time, HFHK has built over 2,900 homes in partnership with families in need through over 70 local community groups in seven regions: Bomet, Bungoma, Kisii, Machakos, Maua, Naivasha and Runyenjes.
HFHK houses have concrete foundations and floors, durable walls (made of locally produced brick, stone, rammed earth or stabilized soil block), and corrugated galvanized iron roofs. The average size is approximately 34 sq. meters. HFHK continues to investigate new building methods, in order to keep building costs as low as possible. The growing program has already enabled thousands of families in western and central Kenya to obtain their own simple decent, permanent home, improving their living conditions and health.
HFHK has initiated a new urban housing program and is working with two groups living in urban slums. The first group is Panda Self Help Gropu in Naivasha. This group has 222 low income members who want to build permanent homes on the land which they occupy. The second group is Holybird Housing Group in Nairobi which consists of 2, 000 members, most of whom live in Kibera, the biggest slum in Sub-Saharan Africa. Members of this group want to put up permanent housing on the small plots of land they managed to buy about 30kms outside Nairobi city. HFHK is assisting with applications, house plans, infrastructure design, seeking funds, training and mobilizing the community, and overseeing house construction.
HFHK has also recently partnered with a local micro-finance institution, Faulu Kenya, to offer housing repair and renovation solutions. Many low income families in Kenya do not have the means to build an entire home, so home loans from HKHK through Faula Kenya and technical support from HFHK allow these families to do minor repairs or renovations on their existing homes. This micro-finance approach enables HFHK to serve more families who are in need of a range of decent, affordable housing solutions.
Real Life Story
Jane Wafula is a Bukusu by tribe. The Bukusu from Western Kenya have a rich culture, which they have preserved up to the present time. The Bukusu customs state that if a man dies, his house has to be demolished and his wife and children are left out in the cold. Jane will have to go through the same customs every Bukusu woman faces following the death of her husband.
Widows in the community are often neglected as only a few cater for their needs. Most of these widows are usually jobless and, with the death of the breadwinner, life becomes almost unbearable both financially and emotionally. Her former two-roomed house was mud-walled, had a rusty roof and an earthen floor. It was small and due for demolition in a period of six months to one year, according to the Bukusu customs. She was very worried that no one would offer to help her build another traditional house. She consoled herself that she and her children would sleep in the kitchen until they got funds to build another house.
That was not to be the case, as she qualified to be a Habitat homeowner. She was ecstatic and could not believe her luck when she got the news. She has been served with a decent house to replace the soon to be demolished mud hut.
Her beautiful fired brick house is a sharp contrast from her soon-to-be-demolished mud-walled rectangular house. “God is great; my life now has hope even though I am a widow,” remarked Jane.
Location: East Africa
Climate: Tropical along coast; arid in the interior
Population: 37 million
Economy: Tourism, Agriculture, Primary exports include tea, coffee and horticulture products
Religion: Christianity, Islam, indigenous beliefs
Language: Kiswahili, English, indigenous languages