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Having her own house is Cecilia's security

Updated: 12 February 2016

Cecilia Nyambeki has moved from the slums to home ownership (a private house ) with her family. She received help to start saving and then borrow money to buy land and build a house. With this security she now dares to plan for the future.  

Cecilia smiles from ear to ear; each evening she goes to sleep in the certainty that the next morning she will wake up in her own home. But this was not always the case. Life took a new turn for Cecilia Nyambeki when she came into contact with the National Cooperative Housing Union (NACHU) http://nachu.or.ke/, and together with 19 other women began to save a small amount of money every month before getting a loan and help to build her own house.

Like many others, Cecilia lived with her husband and children in a village in the country where she earned her living cultivating a small amount of tea and coffee. The income was insufficient and the family moved to Nairobi where they settled in Mitumba, a slum area next to one of Nairobi's airports. They built a simple house with cardboard and corrugated sheets.

"Life in Mitumba was insecure, there were no toilets and no electricity and we could not secure our property," explains Cecilia. "There was no place for the children to play."

During the rainy periods twice a year everything was at risk of being washed away. One day the whole area was torn down, but not because of rain this time, because of bulldozers. The slum area had to go, but where would the people go?

"Luckily myself and some friends had already begun saving money with NACHU," says Cecilia. "We had even identified the land we were going to build our new house on."

A savings model that works

Earlier than planned the 20 families in Cecilia's savings group moved and got help setting up provisional housing while the more permanent houses were built. Because Cecilia had shown that she could save a small but fixed amount each month she was granted a loan in order to be able to build her house. Cecilia and the others in the savings group also received organisational support and help with the purchase of their land. The decision to build the new houses in Ngumo outside Nairobi was no accident. The plot is located at a height so that the heavy rain flows away from the house. It is also located next to the main road where there are buses into town, and it is not far from the market.

The savings model is based on standardised house plans with different costs so that the borrowers can plan on the basis of their own economic circumstances. Many of the houses are semi-detached, where the shared wall keeps the cost down. A kind of modular system can also be built, where additional rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom can be added when the family can afford it.
Cecilia's house is small by Swedish standards, approximately 23 square metres, and has one room. But it is solidly built on a poured concrete slab, it has walls made of concrete blocks and a real roof that keeps the rain out. And there is also a real toilet connected to a septic system and access to clean water.

"Soon electricity is going to be connected too," says Cecilia. "Everything has already been prepared."

Cecilia has always been industrious. In the slum in Mitumba she had a simple little food shop and here she has a kiosk beside the road where she and her daughter Edna sell tea and snacks to passers-by. She also ran a lunch service for the construction workers. It is not surprising therefore that she was chosen as secretary of the savings group.

"When I have saved more money I am going to build another house on the land," plans Cecilia. "I am going to rent it out and earn some money."

The land she owns also has the space for a garden plot where Cecilia grows vegetables for the family like the other families in the area. That and the eggs she gets from the hens that fly around between the houses contribute to her livelihood. In the slum in Mitumba that was not possible.
This is her house, and her land. For herself and her husband, she has shown that it is possible to change their situation, and she is a model for the children, who she has given the opportunity for a better life. Teresiah, the treasurer of the savings group and a good friend, lives in the house next to Cecilia. The friends help each other and also have a lot of fun together. The men are away working, so the women take responsibility for the homes.

"This house has given me my dignity back and I feel much calmer," says Cecilia.

Now she is planning for the future. All that was needed was a little help to get started and a model to adhere to. That and the support of the other members of the savings group.


Page owner: Department for Africa

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