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  • Neil Moore

Showers, water and latrines

We've met Gerson Othiambo before. He's already benefitted from a previous microenterprise loan, and is expanding his business further. Here's a little more of his story.


Gerson is a natural entrepreneur who lives with his wife on the Kibera slum. Having had to drop out of university in his first year because he couldn’t pay the fees when his mother died, he applied his talents to establish a business that not only would give him and his family a living but would also provide valuable services to the local community living in the slum.


He noticed a small piece of land (little more than 3m x 3m) that was not in use and simply being used as a tip. He negotiated free use of this land with the owner to build public showers and latrines in exchange for providing the owner with domestic water (which has to be purchased on the slum). Assisted by a MED loan (which has been repaid), Gerson now has two electric heated showers in operation, sells water and has purchased pipes to build latrines that will be connected to the local sewer, a much more hygienic alternative to the more common pit latrines. Because of objections from some neighbours, Gerson will need more pipes to make the sewer connection via a slightly longer route, and will seek a further MED loan for this purpose. Gerson charges Ksh 10 (8 pence) for a shower, and employs someone to manage take money and clean the showers after each use when he is not present. The showers were in constant use during our recent visit and so represent a valuable local service. Domestic water is charged at Ksh 5 (4 pence) for 20 litres.


In the future Greson plans to build a gym. Because people in Kibera have to live off 100 - 200 Ksh (80 - 160 pence) per day he could only charge a daily fee of 30 Ksh, however it would attract customers from further afield, and they are also likely to want to shower afterwards. Following the gym, he plans to build a community library and daycare which would enable children to be more constructively engaged after school. It would be a place where they could also do homework and believed that parents would be happy to pay the 10 Ksh fee he would charge. Gerson is keen to point out an added benefit of his expanding business is to also provide employment to local people.






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