23 July 2024

Rehabilitating land and lives

Text: Sam Dindi

KOMB green youth group was started in in June 2017 by twenty young people who wanted to restore the banks of Nairobi River banks passing through Korogocho Area. Fredrick Okinda, the founding member of the group, says that they decided to rehabilitate that area as a way to keep themselves busy, seeking a fresh start from a life of crime, by creating a green space where they could rest and interact without fear.

Between 2010 and 2018 they lost 15 young men to mob justice, gang fights and being shot dead by police and this was more than a wakeup call that crime does not pay. The small patch they decided to rehabilitate was so heavily polluted with human fecal matter, they had to handle the waste with their bare hands.

At the same time, they faced a part of the local community that was against the the river bank rehabilitation, since they did not trust the youth-led initiative. One of the green park’s biggest successes is that the youth of Korogocho now have reasons to believe in themselves that something positive can come out of them. Police officers whom the youth once dreaded are frequent visitors to this small Eden and interact freely with the reformed youth as children play and women plait their hair without any fear.

Fredrick requests well-wishers to support the initiative by assisting them realize several self-sustaining programs like construction of toilet facilities. These would be equipped with bio-digesters to generate biogas, which can be then used for communal cooking and heating – users would pay only a small fee which could help building taller gabions along the river in Korogocho.