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Slum group trades crime for business

Mizuka Youth Group members have an eye for business. Unlike most youths in Kibera who are either searching for jobs, have lost hope or resigned themselves to drugs, they decided to be job creators.

Most of them were criminals before they dumped their guns for clean money.

Their journey into crime and out of it into business started after the 2007 post-election violence. Kibera was one of the city’s hotspots.

“When the violence ended, we realised that politicians use youths for their own interests but we wanted to prosper from our own sweat,” said Stephen Okode who also doubles up as the group’s football coach. 

The group rears rabbits, guinea pigs and chickens, practises sack farming and collects garbage among other money-making activities. 

Mizuka is a Swahili name for ghosts and members said it was formed to change the bad image associated with slum youths.

“Instead of engaging in crime and drug abuse, we mobilised about 40 youths to form the group,” he added.

Currently, there are only 12 members left.

“Some of youths who left the group, returned to crime and unfortunately they ended up being shot dead, one after the other. Instead of losing hope, we decided to add more business projects,” Okode said.

Start projects

However, it was not easy to turn ideas into action. After registering the group, they realised that they did not have land for their projects.

Just like all slums, land scarcity is a major issue in Kibera. In addition, they did not have any business skills.

“After searching for land for a while, we approached officials at the Lang’ata District Commissioner’s office and told them about our projects. They were so impressed that they donated the land near the DC’s office to us and from then we have never looked back,” said Collins Ojwang. 

The group was also fortunate because at the time, a French NGO was organising a workshop in Kibera to train youths in rabbit rearing and sack farming.

They sell the vegetables harvested from the farm to residents while the surplus and weeds are fed to the rabbits. The manure collected from the rabbits is used to nourish the plants. They also make money from garbage collection.

With time, the group added chickens and guinea pigs. Today they have a large business portfolio.

Mizuka Youth Group has a satellite TV theatre where they show football matches for a fee. The hall can accommodate up to 60 people.

It also owns community bathrooms where people can shower for a fee and it sells water, too. They offer printing and computer services, said Ojwang. 

“Of all the businesses, the most successful one is DStv. Poultry and rabbits follow in that order. We normally buy between 200 and 250 broiler chicks at Sh100 each, breed them and after three months, we sell them to the locals or nearby institutions at Sh500 each,” added Ojwang.

The members work in turns. Each works for a whole day feeding the animals, watering the vegetables and selling water. Since there are 12 of them, per month each member works twice or thrice. 

At the end of the day he gets Sh450 out of which Sh300 is deposited in the group’s saving account. The amount you save in the group’s savings qualifies you for a loan.

All the money collected from the businesses is saved in the group’s account. Mizuka Youth Group also offers guidance and counselling services aside from educating youths on HIV/Aids.