How youth activists are averting weather crises in slums
By Claret Adhiambo
About eight months ago Ruth Odhiambo a resident of the Korogocho slums never gave the morning weather forecast a care.
Her normal morning routine included, waking up, taking a shower and maybe taking breakfast and off to work she went.
The weather girl on the stereo blurting weather patterns, talking of certain highs and lows that never meant anything to her.
“This was until i heard of the project Weather Mtaani from a local radio station, I first dismissed them until one day i came back home soaked in water,” says Odhiambo.
Not checking or knowing the weather patterns has cost many slum dwellers who live in overcrowded mabati structures a lot. Many have returned home to swept away structures and flooded houses.
This culture is however slowly being broken by a group of youth activists who are working on a weather and climate information project dubbed Weather Mtaani.
The Weather Mtaani Project which is being run by youths from Kibera, Mukuru and Korogocho slums is helping communities by raising awareness on climate change via texts and local radio shows.
James Kirika one of the youths running the project from the vast Kibra slums says that they get weather information from the Kenya Meteorological Department, simplify the data and then dispatches it in form of text messages to various people.
“Weather messages from the KMD are a bit complicated and many people do not understand them. So we take them, simplify them then send them via text messages to other people who in turn send them to various people and hence spreading the message,” says Kirika.
Apart from simplifying morning weather messages, Kirika and his team of five people also give advisories to avert crises of floods and electrocutions.
“There are areas in Kibra that are flood prone. Areas like Kianda, Sokomoko, Kondele and Makina were known for floods. So we put out messages to people and we also work on the drainage systems by opening them up to avoid floods,” explains Kirika.
“Flash floods and flooded houses in Kibra have now become a thing of the past and this is courtesy to the clearing of drainage facilities in time for heavy rains,” he says.
The Weather Mtaani Project is a project under Weather Climate and Information Services (WISER) programme, funded by the UK, supporting communities to use climate and weather information to plan better and adapt to these changes.
Kirika however says that success of the project did not come overnight, at first people were very dismissive of them.
“When we started people were dismissing us. Many people told us that the weather predictions were not accurate. But as time went by, they started changing their minds. It got to a point they started calling me the weather man,” says Kirika.
Apart from the message platform, the youths are using various community radio stations in informing and empowering the people about weather patterns.