Addressing Social/Cultural Challenges in Nairobi

One of the many challenges to working in Nairobi is dealing with the various social and cultural differences that create barriers in the delivery of services to urban slums.   Some of the social challenges of working in informal settlements was that the culture pervade in such a way that it posed a problem to the work of a project.  There have been difficulties in securing the role of an informal water vendor and to  prevent them from  illegally connecting to the network and reselling. The theft of manhole covers would also slow projects down as extended periods of repair would follow reported incidents to the NCWC.  Unclear land tenure, vested interests and poor security created challenges to project implementation as well.

The role of landlords in this process is extremely important as well and became a problem on two different levels.  Landlords have struggled financially to connect new ACF toilets to the water supply due to costs of buying pipes, digging trenches, paying water connections fees, and other various costs involved.  Landlords also charge their tenants high prices for the use of ACF toilets which came to be a problem for the project.

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          Customers purchase water from a kiosk in Kibera, Nairobi

  Many of these challenges could not be addressed until later upon implementation.  However, it is important to note the ways that these issues could be addressed and worked upon during the project design stage. Awareness of specific social and cultural factors is essential to the context of any project so that they can be taken into consideration in the planning stages.  A key lesson learnt from Nairobi is to  identify social/cultural influences through encouraging communication with local contacts to include input.  Various challenges such as landlord-tenant relationships, informal providers, insecure land tenure, and etc can then be identified early on and worked into the project design stage.

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