Kaputiei New Town

Exhibition: Cities | October 11, 2011 by

Jamii Bora Trust, meaning “good families” in Swahili, is a microfinance organization founded by Ingrid Munro, a former architect and urban planner and head of the African Housing Fund, and fifty beggar families from Kenya’s urban informal settlements, with the mission to pull thousands out of poverty. Today there are more than 170,000 members, who can each borrow up to twice as much as they have saved, no matter how little. In 2002, at the behest of its members and self-management team, Jamii Bora procured 293 acres of land in Kisaju, 65 kilometers (40 miles) south of Nairobi, on which to build Kaputiei New Town.

Designed around eight neighborhoods of 250 houses each, Kaputiei New Town will provide homes for 2,000 families. To be eligible for a home loan, a borrower must have been a Jamii Bora member for three years and managed at least three business loans. A loan for a two-bedroom house costs 3,000 Kenyan shillings (US$32) a month over a ten- to fifteen-year repayment period. Members produce building materials—roof tiles, concrete blocks, laundry basins—at an onsite factory and construct the town’s houses and roads. Houses have running water and flush toilets, unheard-of luxuries in informal settlements. Solar panels provide energy for LED (light-emitting diodes) lighting. A wetlands wastewater facility recycles up to 70% of the town’s wastewater for irrigation.

To date, two neighborhoods have been built and a third is underway. A primary school has been built and a secondary school is planned. Additional amenities include a market, post office, library, and health center. The town’s open spaces and facilities are maintained by associations made up of Kaputiei New Town members. The sense of community and solidarity has enabled members to defy the ethnic divisions that are common in Kenya—as one resident says, “The only ethnic group in Kaputiei New Town is Jamii Bora.”

Initiated and designed by Jamii Bora Trust and its members. Architect: Mohammed K. Munyanya. Construction: Kaputiei New Town community. Kisaju, Kajiado district, Kenya, 2002–present

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