An urban watershed management project in Nairobi wins the ReSource Award 2012

23 March 2012, Zurich

A project in Kibera, the largest slum in Nairobi, wins the ReSource Award 2012. The project focuses on water management by building educational elements on sanitation, environmental stewardship and watershed management into an innovative participatory design process.

The awarded association Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI) has been building so called “productive public spaces” (PPS) in Kibera since 2006. Building a PPS involves reclaiming unused or unsafe urban areas, primarily waste dumps on polluted rivers, by removing environmental and social hazards, providing needed amenities and developing enterprises that ultimately raise the residents' income.

Kibera sits on the tributaries of the Ngong River and Nairobi Dam in the centre of this rapidly growing city. The settlement suffers from a highly polluted environment due to the lack of water, sanitation and solid waste infrastructure , and its main watercourses serve to transport polluted storm water and human and domestic waste. The people who co-exist with these polluted watercourses, which continue into the eastern reaches of the Nairobi River Basin, are exposed to severe health and economic effects.

The key objectives of the winning project are as follows:

  1. Enhance environmental, economic and social understanding of Kibera watercourses and the impacts on the wider Nairobi River Basin amongst communities and local agencies.
  2. Catalyze cooperation among agencies and NGOs working on water issues at the small scale, to work together for improvements at the watershed level
  3. Develop a low-cost, high-impact approach to watershed remediation which will result in cleaner watercourses and productive public spaces. This project is scheduled to roll out over a year starting in 2012.

In a first phase from February to March, the focus is on understanding the watershed – including engagement with other NGOs and regional institutions, compilation of information and preparation of workshops and training materials on watershed issues. The second phase will then be devoted to engaging the community.

The third phase is what KDI calls "reclaim river": Implement 3 PPS projects including river bolstering, environmental remediation, water supply, sanitation facilities and community buildings. While these three small projects on their own may not solve all of Kibera’s water management problems, even small improvements in local conditions will be widely felt.

The awarded association is confident that the economic and social benefits of the reclaimed river and public spaces will engender a new spirit of environmental stewardship. And the number of beneficiaries is remarkable: up to 1000 people stand to benefit from attending a one-time event or working temporarily on a project. KDI also expects that some 500 people will be engaged in the educational components, active management and construction of the projects. Approximately 3000 people will be able to use the improved water facilities on a daily basis, and KDI hopes that all those who are engaged in educational components, active management and construction of the projects will adapt their behaviour regarding water management.

About the ReSource Award

Launched in 2002, the ReSource Award is an internationally recognised prize for leadership in implementing the principles of sustainability in watershed management. With these awards, Swiss Re demonstrates its support for watershed management efforts by governmental and non-governmental parties. The programme focuses on sustainability and humanitarian projects and on supporting the communities in which the Group operates.

Read more about the award on

Swiss Re
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