Grassroots Green Jobs
Jane has a tiny house in the outskirts of Nairobi, in an informal settlement called Kangemi. It's neighbouring one of Nairobi's well off estates called Mountain View. When I left my house to visit Jane for the first time, I asked her to wait for me at the bus stop because I did not know where in Kangemi her house was located.When I got off the 'matatu' a common name buses in Kenya, I waited for her for some minutes.
' Welcome. This is where we live. I am glad you came.'
we took along refreshing walk down the clean paved roads in Mountain View.
The air was fresh, green flowering plants and majestic gates, and tightened security at the entrance of most houses.
I could peep through the live fences to catch the sight of the paradise like mansions standing tall on the flowery and well landscaped gardens. A few luxury cars drove past, slowing down on the bumps. Some residents jogging along passed by too. It was about a fifteen minute walk, I expected to get to her house soon, I am quite lazy with walking. So we kept chatting, it was distracting from the fact that I had to walk for a while. Then we got to the border between Mountain view and Kangemi.
She looked at me and said, 'huko ni kwa walala heri na huku ni kwa walala hoi' meaning that side of the neighbourhood is for the well off people, and this side of ours is for those who have nothing '
Then we had another fifteen minute walk down the unpaved road, with goats running across the road, motorcycles and old cars transporting passengers. Open sewers and smelly pit latrines. Most houses were made of black punched old iron sheets or and timber. Then we got to her house.
' Don't think I live in a big mansion like the ones you saw there. This house of mine is even built on a road reserve. The city council can pull it down any time '
Jane's house is a tiny makeshift structure, with very little ventilation and lighting. It also her green job workshop.
Her living room is full of wares she uses to make artwork and the ready for sale artwork. She lives here with her daughters and grandchild.
Little George, Jane's grandson is not very playful like children his age. He is healthy and happy though.
So Jane began to show me her art work. It was the main reason I had visited her house. To see for my self shoes made of banana fibre. Jane uses practically any locally available materials to make wares she sells for a lot of money.
She removed them one by one ,banana fibre shoes , beaded bags, jewellery, curios, paintings, mosaics and woven bags.
She told me she has been making all these to sell.
' Before I began making art work, I was so poor. My children could not go to school. We did not have even food. My husband ran away because of poverty. When he left, I decided to do something to make money.
So I began collecting banana fibre from people's farms, and the market place, collecting waste polythene and using them to make art pieces.'
Jane is now a full time artist, her children like Ciru, help her in making and selling the curios.
She told me that she put up a house in place called Uthiru with the money she made from the sales. She is so eager to move to her new house.
I asked Jane is if she was aware the employment she had created are green jobs. She said, it is poverty that had driven to start the project. now she is proud that even UNEP has recognised her work by inviting her to train other women on income generating activities. She told me she now has clients even from Europe, and once in a while she gets invited for prestigious exhibitions at Nairobi's elite Village Market.
With what Jane is doing to generate income, it is possible that community members can engage in green jobs way ahead of corporates that chant green slogans. These , people like Jane are the promoters of green economy that has taken over a hundred heads of states to convene in Rio+20 to discuss and deliver only a document considered weak and lacking in implementation impetus.