In the busy city that is Nairobi lies an even a busier estate that is Dandora.
Famously known for the dumpsite and what many would want to refer to as an estate full of insecurity, Dandora is a suburb that Kenya’s capital Nairobi depends on for many things.
In 1977 exactly 14 years after independence, Dandora was established with partial financing from the World Bank in order to offer a higher standard of housing. Dandora has over the years found much more importance and has housed the Dandora Oxygenation Ponds that not only makes the city habitable but continues to prove that beyond the continued narrative, Dandora is where the heart of Nairobi is.
The Dandora Oxygenation Ponds treats the industrial and domestic sewage from the City of Nairobi, Kenya and is the largest pond system in Africa. The ponds have the capacity to treat a dry weather flow of 80,000m3/d but currently treat only half this flow.
Increased sewage strengths over and above the design value mean that although the hydraulic load is halved the organic surface load on the primary facultative ponds is only 37% below the design loading of 190kg BOD5/ha/d.
The ponds which are a prominent feature on satellite imagery give Nairobi the tag of the green city under the sun.
The treatment plant aside, Dandora hosts the Dandora Dumping site an area that was declared full over a decade ago but question to ask ourselves is how did we get here? What didn’t we do right and what can we do to make things right?
The story that has been peddled around Dandora has been that of pain, death and everything negative however in this peace, I want to bring you to glaring facts that many ignore and choose not to talk about.
Dandora dumping site is unique reason being people live in and around it. Many depend on it for their daily livelihoods and although the management of the site we agree wasn’t done well, Dandora is home to many among them the youth who have decided to change the face of Dandora and show the world that it is always not gloomy in Dandora.
In 2016, I interviewed June Syowia, Charles Gachanga and Robinson Esialimba from the Dandora transformation league. This group of young people from Dandora came with an initiative of making Dandora clean, habitable, safe and a means towards sustainability and fighting crime.
Charles Gachanga who is the CEO of the Dandora transformation league tells me that , for a very long time, Dandora has been called a Slum a name tag that has created a negative picture in the minds of many. He says having grown up in Dandora, he took it upon himself to change the face of Dandora and give it a face that is enviable to the rest of the world.
He confines to me that the youth in Dandora were being killed by the police due to involvement in criminal activities partly because there were no jobs and also because Dandora had been given a bad name by those that didn’t understand the dynamics plaid a part in making Dandora what it is.
Having walked in Dandora for years, Gachaja realized that there were no proper roads in Dandoa Estate hence the reason why emergencies like fire was hard to tackle to unavailability of roads. He adds that houses in Dandora were constructed without space for recreation and as a result, the idea of a court yard system he saw would be an idea that would not only create a habitable environment but one that would change the face of Dandora.
Together with a group of fellow minded individuals, Dandora Transformatio League (DTL)was formed. A jembe here, a panga there, slasher here, paint brush there, cement and some wheelbarrows, DTL started transforming Dandora a court at a time.
The project in a few years grew from a single group to over 120 groups that came together to work on improving the face of Dandora, Removing the youth from idling to giving them something to do and also make where they stay a little heaven for them and their families.
Over the years, DTL has improved the face of Dandora to a point that crime cases have reduced, the youth have jobs and above that where the call home is something many including the wealthy wish to have.
With proper funding and great support from well wishers and Dandora will seize being the NO GO ZONE to being a place to be admired thanks to the efforts of groups like DTL.
June Syowia is an important aspect of DTL because she tells me that aside from being part of DTL, she is focused on spreading the gospel that women can be elements of change in their society and that regardless of how tough your background maybe you can still make it as a woman. She makes her hands dirty in changing Dandora’s look but also, she is the voice that speaks to the ladies and women of Dandora to stay in school and become something in the future.
Robinson Esialimba is special, he is the guy who walks in the streets, offices and corporate looking for support because changing Dandora he says is a concerted effort, one that needs everyone to jump on board and help Dandora be the “IT” estate.