Kibera Productive Public Space

2012 Winner

The Association "Kounkuey Design Initiative“ (following KDI) partners with residents of slums in Nairobi/Kenya to create low-cost, high-impact built environments called Productive Public Spaces (PPS).

More information about the organisation

A PPS is a community-driven process to reclaim waste spaces along water ways to mitigate environmental hazards, provide amenities and develop micro-enterprises to fund maintenance.


1. Enhance environmental, economic & social understanding of Kibera watercourses and the impacts on the wider Nairobi River Basin amongst communities & 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 to improve quality of life.

Project description

This project aims to focus the concept of productive public space on water management by building educational elements on sanitation, environmental stewardship and watershed management into an innovative participatory design process. The major activities of the project are as follows. Phase 1: Understand Watershed - including engagement with local NGOs and regional institutions, compilation of information and preparation of workshops and training materials on watershed issues. Phase 2: Engage Community - including a request for proposal process, project/site selections, watershed and participatory design workshops. Phase 3: Reclaim River - Implement 3 PPS projects including river bolstering, environmental remediation, water supply, sanitation facilities and community buildings. The economic and social benefits of the reclaimed river and public spaces will engender a new spirit of environmental stewardship and the learning from the educational sessions will permeate along the river and out into the wider settlement beyond the immediate sites.

Country / Region

Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya

Information about local context

Kibera, the largest slum in Nairobi, sits on the tributaries to the Ngong River and Nairobi Dam in the centre of this rapidly urbanizing city. The lack of water, sanitation and solid waste infrastructure makes the settlement a highly polluted environment that employs its main watercourses as a form of conveyance for polluted storm water, human and domestic waste. There are overwhelming health, economic and social effects on the lives of the communities that co-exist with these watercourses which go on to transport severe pollution, waste and flooding downstream into the eastern reaches of the Nairobi River basin.

Participation of the communities

The Nairobi City Water & Sewer Company (NCWSC) is a partner on this application and have agreed to support data collection, planning and also to provide material, such as pipes and meters, to ensure that the project fits in with wider city systems. The scheme taps into the Rehabilitation & Restoration of Nairobi River Program of the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) and will also seek to engage the UNEP Nairobi River Basin Program.

Long term viability

The long-term viability of the project lies in the engagement and appropriation of sites by community groups and residents in the early stages of site selection, design and implementation through operations and maintenance. Economic and social sustainability are a fundamental part of the design process and are demonstrated through the close engagement with community groups, income generating activities and early engagement with the District Officer and Area Chief. Once construction is completed, community groups manage the operations of the sites. A maintenance fund will be established, and a percentage of income generated by small businesses utilizing the site goes directly into the fund.

Status of project November 2011

The project Kibera Productive Public Space started with intense community design workshops and information gathering in 2006. Since then we have developed a partnership with Nairobi Water and local government and 3 project sites have been designed (2 built, 1 in process) 1 of which connects into wider city foul-drainage infrastructure.

Submitted by: 
Kounkuey Design Initiative
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Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya
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Winner 2012 Kibera

Kounkuey Design Initiative 
108 w 2nd street #301, Los Angeles
CA 90012, Los Angeles
United States
Mr. Joe Mulligan