Nakuru residents turn dumpsite into farming paradise

About 200 families live at Gioto junk heap despite all the risks and keep more than 4,000 pigs which have a ready market in Nakuru and Nairobi

When you hear about a dumpsite, the first thing that comes to mind is a junk heap where street children and people from vulnerable backgrounds go to scavenge for food and reusable materials.  Few would expect ordinary, hard-working families to be living around.

However, Nakuru Town residents who stay around Gioto dumpsite in the town’s outskirts near London Estate are proving otherwise. Some of these residents are self-made millionaires who own several plots as others run successful businesses in Nakuru and other towns.

Gioto is located 3km to the North West of Nakuru Town along Nakuru-Kabarak Road.  It occupies about 50 hectares at Kiamunyi estate and is an open dumping site.  This is the main dumpsite for the domestic, agriculture, hospitality sector and medical hospital waste as well as electronic scrap. Studies done on the site reveal high concentration of heavy metals in soil samples, an indication of contamination.

Samuel Karanja, the area MCA, used to rummage through the dumpsite for 10 years before he plunged into politics. “We have about 200 families living here despite all the risks. The majority of them are farmers and pork is big business here.  Gioto has more than 4,000 pigs and we have a ready market in Nakuru and Nairobi. Residents get their income from selling the waste,” Karanja said during a recent tour of the site by Agribiz. 

The dumpsite, first opened in the 1970s, used to be a breeding ground of all types of criminals. After some people started living around the site, the criminals started disappearing.

However, visitors be warned: If you try to access Gioto without  permission from the ‘owners of the site’ or accompanied by officials, your personal security might be at risk.  “Many people living here were kicked out of their houses for failure to pay house rents. Initially, they used to rely on this site fully but we are happy that most of them now have made it in life,” said the MCA.

How have these families managed to turn their lives around?  Karanja says that in 2016, a group of donors from China, England and Australia visited Gioto. They then donated some pigs to some families to improve their livelihoods. Since then, most of the homes have at least 10 pigs.

Dedan John is one of the pig farmers. He has 10 pigs and aims to increase the livestock to 100 before by year end. However, he regrets that outbreak of diseases has been a main challenge to farmers considering that they don’t have access to veterinary officers.

The dirty environment is also conducive to an outbreak of diseases. “Foot and mouth is one of the frequent diseases here and lack of proper treatment and prevention leaves farmers counting huge losses. If it were not for this disease, I would be having more than 50 pigs,” said John.   

Even though John conceals his true worth, during the interview, he occasionally referred to colleagues, detailing their assets such as rental houses, bungalows and matatus. “There is a woman here who makes so much money but still lives here. Her iron sheet house has the biggest compound and she owns several rental houses in London estate. We hear she abandoned a bungalow and all that good living just to live here,” he says.

Marko Dero, 27, is another farmer, with five mature pigs and 23 piglets. He owns two Honda motorbikes and a 50 by 100 plot in a prime place. Dero started working in the dumpsite a few years ago. He used to collect scrap metal and plastic for a recycling company in Nakuru.

By 2015, he had saved Sh2,500. He used this money to buy his first pig and although the money was not enough, he was allowed to pay the balance in instalments. By 2017, he had 30 mature pigs, which he sold and used part of the proceeds to buy a second- hand motorbike at Sh60,000.  “I employed a boda boda rider and continued to work in the dumpsite. I used to get Sh300 everyday from the bike, which I combined with what I was getting from Gioto to buy a brand new bike in June last year,” he added.

According to Marko, some matatus operating in Kiamunyi, London and Kabarak routes and about 70 per cent of boda boda operating there are owned by people who started or still working at the dumpsite.

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