Ecological Justice Network

Mathare River Festival #LetTheRiverFlow

You cannot protect the environment unless you empower people, you inform them, and you help them understand that these resources are their own, that they MUST protect them.

Wangari Maathai

The Mathare People’s assembly, which brought together the Mathare community in their massive elements, resolved that there was an urgent need to focus on sustainable livelihoods.

This was to be achieved through laying emphasis on environmental conservation for ecological justice. The first constituted plan of action was to establish the ‘Let the Rivers Flow’ Campaign. The campaign is aimed at engaging the community through education, to create awareness, strengthen advocacy and influence policy around issues of clean and safe drinking water, transforming Mathare and restoring Mathare River.

The campaign purposes to involve various actors including community members, environmental organisations and relevant agencies to achieve this goal. Achieving this objective would, in turn, aid in generating income for the youth and less privileged, curb social ills like crime, and transform Mathare to a cleaner and greener neighbourhood.

The river has become a dumping site. Effluent waste from neighboring areas flows through our community. Upstream estates dump their waste directly into the river. Also, the Mathare hospital drains waste into the river.

Garbage sites are placed right beside the river, burst sewers flow into the river, and, houses constructed close to the river direct their waste into the river. All this contamination makes Mathare River among the most polluted rivers in Kenya.

The Mathare River is one of the tributaries of Nairobi River. This main river flows as a clean and crystal river from its source in Aberdare forest symbolising a natural source of life. It starts experiencing its pollution troubles once it flows through corporate industries and has exposure to household waste in Nairobi.

The River Festival

The River Festival was a commemoration of the gains and efforts the Mathare Ecological Justice Campaign members have made in conserving the Mathare River and establishing community parks along it.

Rivers have always been a place to bring people together, and for communities to enjoy their shared heritage.

Where rivers flow, life flows.

The festival was attended by more than 1000 participants, including Mathare residents and those from surrounding communities. The attendees included children, young and old community members, and people from all walks of life. It also brought together different ecological formations from other informal settlements and Social Justice Centres.

The festival was a platform to explore art and music in educating, entertaining and creating awareness about the need to conserve the Mathare River as a collective endeavor.

The festival brought together conscious artists to celebrate the history and achievements of the Mathare Ecological Network, and adopted the continuation of the ‘Let the Rivers Flow’ campaign. Furthermore, it demanded that we all must insist on ending pollution, and can bring this awareness to others through education and actionable engagements.

The festival culminated with the launch of the Ecological Justice Network – Mathare. This Network involves the different local environmental groups including at Mathare Social Justice Centre, Mathare Community Park, Mathare Green Park, Ghetto Farmers, Voice of Mathare, Vision Bearers, New Pirates Youth Group and other community organizations from Kiamaiko, Mlango Kubwa and the different parts of Mathare.

In addition, small businesses were able to showcase and sell their merchandise, and we did this to support the sustainability of ecological businesses initiatives in Mathare. 

So far, there is an evident rise of youth in Mathare who clean the river not because it is their sole mandate, but as a sustained campaign to fight for social change, since they are conscious of the interrelation between the ecological crisis and struggle for social justice.

The Ecological Justice Network

The Ecological Justice Network in Mathare is part of the Ecological Justice Movement in Nairobi. It is a consortium of four organisations: Mathare Social Justice Centre, Mathare Community Park, Mathare Green Park and Ghetto Farmers. The Ecological Justice Network is a pool of ecological movements and initiatives established within Nairobi, each with a specific campaign geared towards ecological sustainability.

The Ecological Justice Network in Mathare has been a pillar for the establishment of more ecological networks in Nairobi, and especially within the informal settlements that are faced with the harmful and continuous effects of environmental pollution from the corporates and large industries surrounding them. This being the case, the Network has engaged in case study forums to analyse the sources of pollution, specifically the effluent and affluent discharges along the Mathare River.

The results have influenced the establishment of the Network, which is aimed at transforming Mathare and the people living in Mathare.

We want to move from a “slum” to an environmentally conscious society. Our ecological campaigns have impacted the community in various ways, including through crime reduction and the reduction of social ills like state violations, which mostly affect unemployed young people.

The establishment of community parks through planting trees along the river has provided a safe haven for children to play. It has also provided space for the establishment of social spaces like libraries, GBV referral centres and community meeting spaces.

These community parks have acted as avenues for community organising, and especially for conservation of the environment. The spaces have also provided self-employment for young people through sustainable economic projects like animal rearing, tree nursery beds and artwork. It is the hope of the Network that ecological sustainability becomes a question of social justice.

Launch of the Ecological Justice Network – Mathare

Gacheke Gachihi, the coordinator of Mathare Social Justice Centre, led the celebration of the launch of the Ecological Justice Network in Mathare.

Achievements, Resolutions & Action Plan of the Network

  • Launching the Ecological Justice Network – Mathare.
  • Intensify ecological justice activities including: tree planting, establishing tree nurseries, monthly clean-ups and art for awareness creation.
  • Unify ecological campaigns and strengthen ecological justice networks in other parts of Nairobi.
  • Adoption of the ‘Let the Rivers Flow’ campaign as a path towards the restoration of Mathare River.

See some pictures from The River Festival below!

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