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News and Resources

NACHU Helps Survivors of Post-election Violence

News and Resources
By Danika King, Rooftops Canada Intern
Mary Wanjiku, 58, has worked hard to establish secure and safe shelter for her family. Living in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley, she has lived in areas of political conflict that caused her to uproot and restart her life several times.
Mary and her family used to live in Molo, a small town about three hours north of Nairobi, in the Rift Valley. They ran a small farming business, earning enough to get by. However, violent clashes over land in the 1990s resulted in her husband’s death, and forced Mary and her son to move to Nakuru, the provincial capital of Rift Valley province. They eventually settled and built a home in the informal settlement of Kaptembwa.
Kaptembwa is home to 108,000 people, with a population density of 4,329 persons per square km. The slum has limited access to clean water, poor sanitation, and lacks public services such as garbage disposal. Dilapidated houses are common. Many residents are at risk of eviction because they do not hold the documents they need for security of tenure. Mary joined a local joint savings scheme and was able to support a small business of cooking and selling food. With this income she built a one-room house of mud and wattle.
But it was joining Upendo wa Jirani Housing Cooperative that triggered a transformation in Mary’s life. The cooperative is a member of the National Cooperative Housing Union (NACHU), Rooftops’ Canada partner in Kenya. NACHU aims to improve its members’ shelter and quality of life by providing technical assistance, training programs and housing microcredit.
Mary managed to get a loan to build four additional rooms, which she rented out to earn extra income. She was then able to install water in her home and construct a toilet for her family and tenants. NACHU’s loan enabled Mary to put her son through secondary level education and tertiary training.
However, disaster struck Mary again in 2008. The disputed results of the December 2007 election resulted in violent clashes throughout Kenya. The home Mary had worked to finance and build was essentially destroyed during the violence.
But Mary did not give up. She again turned to NACHU to help her access information, training and loans. Mary was able to re-establish her life by rebuilding her home and continuing her business.
“When we left Molo, where my father got killed, I thought that was the end. But in Nakuru, thanks to the cooperative and NACHU programs, we live well and are not lacking, as though my father was still alive,” says Mary’s son, now 41.