- Stephanie Lorenzet
Extreme Resiliency in The Face Of Limited Resources in Kibera
Although Kibera is a densely populated slum in Nairobi, Kenya, boasting hundreds of thousands of residents, Kibera’s size is only 2.38 square kilometers. For many years Kiberan residents struggled, and the area eventually turned into a slum due to the lack of infrastructure and social and economic hardships. Due to their economic instability, the citizens of Kibera have very limited access to vital, expensive resources such as food, electricity, and water. With Kiberan residents' economic hardships and low job availability, it is difficult for them to afford things that many of us feel we would be unable to live without.
Citizens of Kibera can go days without food, as the food that they have access to is very costly. In addition to this, Kibera also regularly faces food scarcity, and even famine. However, even with the scarce food sources, Kiberans are resourceful and make do with what they do have. Within the community, people fish, grow, and cook their own food to share with their neighbors and friends. Even beer is commonly brewed at home using herbs that are grown in sack gardens, which are lost cost solutions to a lack of food in a densely populated setting. This helps to keep the cost down and is inexpensive compared to buying goods from established companies, who often inflate their prices.
A second limited resource in Kibera is electricity. Electricity in the slum is extremely rare and only about 20% of Kibera has working electricity. The majority of the electricity in Kibera was brought over illegally in 2015. Despite this, due to the illegal nature of the power connections, the electricity is often unsteady and unreliable and only reaches a fraction of Kiberas residents. Kenya’s national utility is working to remove these illegal connections and replace them with stable ones, giving many more Kiberans access to electricity. However, this initiative is a lot easier said than done. It is extremely costly to take out all of the pre-existing power sources and replace them with legal ones, but the Kiberan government remains committed to delivering Kiberans with accessible electricity and improving their quality of life.
Water may be the most scarce resource in Kibera. Kiberans search for hours on end in an attempt to find water sources to use in their homes. If they are lucky enough to come across any, they often have to carry 50 lb jugs miles back to their homes and then try to ration that water the best they can. Most families in Kibera are large, meaning that 50 lbs is split between several people over several days or weeks. The average person alone drinks 101.5 gallons of water each day, half of this number is what the Kiberans have available to share with multiple people. Dehydration is a serious problem in Kibera and due to water insecurity and the need for strict water rations for those who do have it, thousands struggle with it daily. Another way citizens can access water is by walking for miles, looking for vendors who are carrying water taps that they can use. Unfortunately this method isn’t cheap; it can cost the vendors anywhere from $1,000-$3,000 to get access to a main tap line to get water. With this cost being so high, they charge a high price in return to be able to afford selling the water. Water is necessary to live and what most areas have seemingly unlimited access to, but Kiberans struggle to get the bare minimum amount.
Although the limited resources are a major problem in Kibera, the residents' sheer resilience is a lesson for us all. In the face of water, food, and power shortages, the Kiberan citizens do not give up, but are instead willing to be inventive, walk for miles, and help their neighbors out, even when they are struggling themselves. The Kiberan citizens undergo daily struggle and uncertainty, but these challenges are never able to kill the immense hope, spirit, durability, and generosity of the Kiberan citizens.