Kibera’s Next Alternative Energy!

Kibera’s Next Alternative Energy!

Johnstone and Derick founders of Ufanisi Power Backup System felt the urge to tackle the frequent power blackouts in their community. The name Ufanisi is Swahili for Breakthrough. This is after the duo successfully came up with their first model of power solution in March, 2017 which they believe is superior to the existing ones in the market. 

For starters, the Ufanisi Power is superior since it’s a hybrid system that uses both electricity and solar but maximizing on the solar, therefore it provides uninterrupted power supply. Secondly, it costs less than the others since they fabricate the system themselves. Thirdly, it has the capacity to sustain more power since it can be customized to fit a client’s need. One backup can support operations at a restaurant for an entire day. Fourthly, they use a Quality Assurance Consultant to ensure the components they use are of high standards and lastly, they buy the solar supply parts from a certified company.

During the interview Johnstone asks “Imagine going to a barbershop, only for the power to go off when you half way through your hair cut?” he paused, “It is very embarrassing for a business owner. You have to keep the customer waiting, unaware of when it will be back.”

This has been the situation for the numerous small businesses and households in this community.  Lots of them come to a standstill on such blackout days. The easiest way to deal with the blackout is using candles. These candles may cause fire outbreak when untended. There have been several cases reported. When it comes to the use of generators, they also have their pros and cons. A major disadvantage being that the small enterprises cannot afford to buy generators. If they do, the maintenance cost becomes a hurdle. For households or businesses who use paraffin for their lamps, it was quite a shocker as the fuel prices have been increased.

Johnstone says they have lots of plans having successfully qualified for the Somo grant. These include; increasing bulk purchase of materials and importing of solar panels to reduce on cost of production, making bigger units that would sustain big organizations like schools and supermarkets, looking into partnering with Gear Box to continuously assist them with research and development and lastly adding complementary products like fire sensors that would work with the backup.

He is proud to have applied for the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp. He says Somo is giving the poor the ability to earn which is so much better than providing aid. “You know you can’t feed someone for lets say over 10 years, you have to teach them how to fish. These kind of business we are all starting will last even after Somo.”

U.S.A has Hollywood, India has Bollywood and Kibera has Nurture Roles.

U.S.A has Hollywood, India has Bollywood and Kibera has Nurture Roles.

Boniface Okumu from Kibera, Nairobi is another beneficiary of The Somo Project. He is the Founder of Nurture Roles Arts. Boniface and his team of 10 actors performs set books in secondary schools in his community.

He was inspired into starting Nurture Roles Arts from his passion in acting. He has been acting all through his primary and secondary school. Later, he joined other fairly popular acting crews for 2 years. 

He also noticed that there is only one place where students would go to watch the set books being performed. In addition, entry fee to the acting hall was expensive, not all the students could afford it. Therefore, Nurture Roles Arts charge an entry fee of Kshs.100 ($1) per student which is affordable compared to Kshs.500 ($5) charged by the other production team.

He heard about Somo from a friend and joined the Cohort 5 Entrepreneurship Bootcamp. He says, he learnt all the entrepreneurial skills from the program like branding and marketing his company, making a business plan and creating a strong value proposition thereby producing the best content. “The partnership with Somo will help me realize my childhood dream of owning a production company.”

Currently, he is looking to get certified. He has been conducting auditions to recruit young idle but talented youths from Kibera. He is also looking into partnering with famous local actors to mentor his team.

The interpretation of "The Broken Glass: A masterpiece from Stephen Omondi.By Nila Juliet

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It is made of graphite, acrylic, spray paint and oil on canvas which is mounted on a board. The hair is made from recycled broken glass. The watch and button are real, though recycled too.

It talks about a young school girl coming from a humble background. She is still in college but enjoys living lavishly. She seems to be wearing an expensive watch with well done nails and make up for a girl her age to afford. Therefore, she decides to date older men (sponsors) to fund the lifestyle.

Looking at her face, she looks worried. She knows the danger that comes with living such a life, making her fearful and broken inside. She isn't certain of the future since the sponsor might jilt her for someone younger overtime. She is also afraid of getting pregnant, having an abortion or even dying when aborting.

However, she is still adamant to leave this life and focus on her studies. Her hope is to get the most out of it (her definition of success).

This piece talks to every girl out there who believes that sponsors are the solution to success. Hence, the title The Broken Glass since she is so fragile and she's broken deep inside.

Disclaimer: The opinion from this article are from the artist who made this piece and does not speak on behalf of The Somo Project.

Small Land, Big Harvest in low-income areas.

Small Land, Big Harvest in low-income areas.

Eric Mbugua and his sister Veronica Kamau founded Verics 5 years ago after they witnessed inadequate healthy food production in the urban low-income areas.  They also acknowledge that urban slums have little space to spare for home farming let alone commercial.

Verics is a simplified hydroponic system solution that uses water and nutrients solution on pumice instead of soil, to grow healthy, leafy vegetables and fruits including strawberry, tomatoes, parsley, capsicum, kales, lettuce, spinach and cabbage. They also make hydroponic fodder for animal feeding. The set up uses very little space convenient for backyards, balconies and rooftop with a guarantee of an abundant harvest.

They make the systems from locally available materials like pipes, poles, wire mesh and timbers. Making them affordable and simple for local small-scale farmers as compared to other complex hydroponics systems in the market. Water used in the system is very minimal. The system needs a single person to maintain it. Furthermore, it is less time-consuming.  It only takes 30 minutes to complete the work.

Eric joined Somo Entrepreneurship Bootcamp in Cohort 6. He says The Somo Project is the first Non-Governmental Organization to work with him. He says it took him two years to get the correct system to use. "I almost gave up at some point. Thank goodness I didn't. It is now paying off." Eric rejoice.

A complete standard greenhouse set up with Verics hydroponics system costs Kshs. 430,000 (USD 4,300). The cost is mostly for the materials since the maintenance cost is very minimal. The least amount Verics has charged is Kshs .50,000 (USD 500). For training, they charge Kshs. 3000 (USD 30).  

He plans on training more farmers, youths and his community on hydroponic systems to make them embrace it more. He advises youths to engage in hydroponic farming.


Meet the Man behind Pig Feeding Going Green in Riruta.

Meet the Man behind Pig Feeding Going Green in Riruta.

Animal farming is among Kenya's leading economic activity. In Riruta, Nairobi, most residents indulge in pig farming. However, pig feeding is a challenge. The farmers are forced to buy leftover foods from hotels and garbage collection points which is toxic for the pigs. They get rejected at the pork processing factory causing loss to their business. 

Timothy Odongo,  the founder of Lisha Nguruwe Swahili for "feed the pig" and a resident of Riruta, felt the farmer's frustration. He previously worked for a garbage collection company where he noticed some farmers would miss out on buying the garbage feed for their pigs. 

Timothy makes readily accessible, affordable, sufficient and healthy hydroponic fodder in his low-income community.
He buys a kilo of barley seeds for Kshs.35 (USSD 0.35) to produce four kilos of fodder, enough for two pigs. It is economical compared to commercial feed that cost Kshs. 45 (USSD 0.45) per kilo for feeding one pig.

He joined the Somo Entrepreneurship Bootcamp in cohort 6. He is proud that he learnt the essence of record keeping, marketing, branding as well as the need to network. "I can easily pitch my product,"  he says.

He is excited about the partnership with Somo. He plans to acquire at least 21 trays each costing Kshs. 800  to produce 100kg of pig feed and embrace new technology for more effective, efficient production.

Timothy advises his fellow youths to cease opportunities to start social enterprises that would impact positively in their livelihood and the communities at large.