Kibera's Rainy Season: How Citizens Create Business Opportunities While Navigating Destruction
Even before there were increased, extreme weather events due to climate change, the citizens of Kibera were struggling with flooding and heavy downpours during the rainy season. This period has been destructive to the lives of those living in Kibera, who already face poverty, bad infrastructure, and high unemployment rates. As climate change continues to strengthen and revenge the most vulnerable infrastructures in the world, Kiberans and the Kenyan government will need to continue generating creative solutions to combat the strengthening destruction of the rainy season.
In Kibera, the rainy season which spans from mid-March through late April is characterized by frequent downpours, commonly called “long rains,” that damage infrastructure, cause flooding, contaminate drinking water. In addition to this, the rainy season also creates public health concerns due to the increased spreading of disease, electrocutions, and drownings. Due to Kibera’s infrastructure, which consists of tightly packed makeshift houses, tiny, forceful rivers often form after particularly heavy downpours. These river floods rip through Kibera, taking houses, recourses, sack gardens, and animals with them. In a place where recourses are stretched thin and citizens work incredibly hard for the little they have, these floods are immensely devastating. Oftentimes, when these floods destroy a house, which can house upwards of 10, families are left without their belongings, forcing them to rebuild their lives, with the few recourses they possess.
As global warming intensifies, so does the rainy season, making proper drainage systems that Kibera lacks ever more necessary. Women and children are often responsible for cleaning up, mopping floors, patching holes, and rebuilding lives. In turn, school attendance is down during the rainy season because of the role children play in the clean-up effort. In addition to this, children are often unable to travel to school because the roads and pathways are untraversable. While the rain is inescapable and affects the entirety of Kiberan society, it also opens up business opportunities. Paul Kivitu, for example, sells umbrellas for 250 shillings ($3 USD) each, earning about $45 USD a day. Samuel Naminde, another resident of Kibera, sells roasted corn at her to warm people up on cold, rainy days. The flexibility and creativity of Kiberans allow them to derive business opportunities out of the hardest of situations, which demonstrates Kiberan ingenuity.
With the ever-evolving technological world, organizations have developed programs that ensure the safety of Kiberan citizens during the rainy season. Developing Risk Awareness through Joint Action’s (DARAJA) goal is to build climate resilience, and, as part of that initiative, created an app that provides weekly weather forecasts (via SMS, WhatsApp, and radio). They also notify residents of Kibera and other informal settlements which routes to avoid and how to best keep their children safe during the rainy season. In addition to helping citizens via technology, DARAJA also cleans up rivers and drainage areas, secure electrical cables, and advise residents on how they can best waterproof and protect their homes.