Accessibility links

Microloan Financing Giving Birth to Eco-Friendly Town in Kenya

Kenya's Jamii Bora Trust has teamed up with an American nonprofit group to create Africa's first ecologically friendly town built with microfinancing. Some 2,500 families are slated to live in Kaputei, near Kenya's capital of Nairobi. The families, most of who are from slum areas of Nairobi, will be able to purchase these homes with micro loans.

They are building their future, one brick at a time.

Members of Jamii Bora Trust produce the bricks, tiles and other materials needed to construct what has become a first in Africa.

A town that is virtually self-sustaining, with its own water supply, primary school and other services, built by the poor for the poor.

Kaputei is a 160-hectare plot located 36 kilometers from Nairobi. It will eventually be home to 2,500 families.

By the end of May, some 300 families had already moved into the homes.

A number of families have brought their businesses with them.

The families come primarily from the Nairobi slum of Kibera, said to be Africa's largest informal settlement. Most people there earn less than one dollar a day and do not have access to electricity and running water.

Jamii Bora member Jane Ngoiri and her family used to live in Mathare, a slum similar to Kibera.

She says living in a house with several rooms, running water and electricity is a dream come true. "We are talking about [the] kitchen and now I am in my own bedroom, my children are in their own bedroom," she says, "this is great!"

Kaputei is the brainchild of Jamii Bora Trust, a nationwide microfinance company that gives loans to the poorest of the poor, usually for small-scale businesses.

Members purchasing Kaputei homes receive loans with up to a 10 percent interest rate and up to 15 years' repayment time. The monthly mortgage is $36, comparable to rents in the slum.

Jamii Bora member Ngoiri says that it makes little difference if people rise out of poverty but are still living in the slum. "If you come out of your house, from your house, outside your house you get flowing sewage. So you do not have different [life] with the person who is saying he is poor and you are saying you are able now. So the first thing we see is that now we have climbed a ladder and we have to change also our living [quarters] so that we can understand how far we have gone," Bora said.

She says she is confident that her and other children will now not be lured into lives of crime or early motherhood as they might if they continued living in the slum.

Partnering with Jamii Bora Trust is Unitus, a nonprofit microfinance organization based in Seattle, Washington. Its president, Ed Bland, explains how the project fits in with micro-finance. "It is very, very innovative and it shows another element of the rung of a ladder out of poverty. One of the last ones is housing, and really robust housing. So that is what the Kaputei project is," he said.

Kaputei is designed to be self-sustaining, with its own water and power supply.

Elijah Biamah is an engineer at the University of Nairobi who teamed up with Jamii Bora to design water and sanitation systems.

He gives the example of how waste water in Kaputei is recycled after it has been collected and exposed to ultraviolet light.

"Then that water is now safe - safe that is can be used for flushing the toilets. It can also be recycled and used for irrigating the crops around the homestead without any harmful effects whatsoever," Biamah said.

Meanwhile, residents such as Ngoiri are turning their houses into homes, looking forward to their new lives away from the slum.