Improving Mathare _ The Mark (University Project at Politecnico di Milano)

The project is based on a general analysis of the entire slum of Mathare (Nairobi, Kenya), which has highlighted the constructional and relational issues in the area. After analysing the most common services, infrastructure and local economy mechanisms, we have considered as a case study a slum district, Mabatini, focusing on the area along Mathare River. This is perceived as a strong border from both the geographical point of view, since it divides the northern Mathare from the south, but also from a cultural standpoint, acting as a border for several districts with different social characteristics. During the rainy season the site is subject to flooding. This is why the banks are under-exploited by the population: the only available functions are the spontaneous and disorganised gardens that allow owners self-maintenance by selling the products.


The aim of our project is to increase the agricultural economy already present on site in a more organised and coherent system, studying a prototype that can be reproduced in other areas along the river. Orchards, fenced and managed by local associations, are combined with large places available to the community which currently do not exist within the dense slum’s fabric. The working aspect merges with relational space which takes shape in a wooden walkway that is shaped along the Mathare river onto which, like the teeth of a comb, the squares are connected. These plates are characterised differently: welcoming spaces for playground, covered market for the sale of products and a multi-purpose step facility that can be set up for watching movies, shows or sport activities.


To ensure the sustainability of the system we have included tanks for the constructed wetland where rain water is collected and purified by plants becoming suitable for irrigation.

The Mark creates a connection between the different perspectives and realities of the neighbourhood by relating them; the linearity of the system is accentuated by the prospect of the shelters facing the river which are painted in bright colours, creating a clear ribbon colour guide along the walkway.

Immagine-A. Immagine-B.

Thea, Chiara e Laura.

This project is one of the outcomes of the university course: “Architectural Design Studio 3” directed by Camillo Botticini.


Baraka Agricultural College

The Baraka Agricultural College is a centre of excellence in Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development which provides practical education, research and training in SARD through a responsive curriculum to a changing economic, socio-cultural, environmental and technological development. Check their work and courses on


TRASHED – if you think waste is someone else’s problem…think again!

Jeremy Irons sets out to discover the extent and effects of the global waste problem, as he travels around the world to beautiful destinations tainted by pollution. This is a meticulous, brave investigative journey that takes Irons (and us) from skepticism to sorrow and from horror to hope.

The Dangerous River – a writing by Jackton Yewa

Its being said that 80% of rivers all over the world are polluted! Whether
this is true or not it depends with which river is near you.Mathare slums
Nairobi, there is a river that has changed its colour within a short period.

In early 90s,Mathare river-as its well known by the locals, was just a good
sight to watch, children used to swim in it, with older ones with their
hocks, fishing in it. The river was full of activities, with women washing
their clothes or fetching water from this river. Since it was in the middle
of the slum it was a very resourceful river to the locals. Even animals
could be seen freely enjoying their drinks as the river passes between the
slums, majestically not hurrying not hesitating, from the source of Karura
forest down to the slums.

At night, frogs would be heard keeping it alive with the croaking melodies
since most of the slum houses where of mudwalls,this river was also useful
during construction of these houses. It was just a  blessing for this poor
slum dwellers of the slum houses were of mudwalls,this river was also
usefull.But the picture that meet your eyes now is a different kind of
picture. The lively river is not that light brown one, that has a sharp
smell of sewage. You cannot even sit on its banks to stare it. At night, the
choir of frogs heard, but a shocking death silence.

The water is neither good for swimming nor even touching! Ducks, dogs,goats
and sheep’s that were once a common site in the banks of the river, now they
avoid it like a plague. Even the dirtiest animal like pig feels
uncomfortable in this water. The river now produces a sharp adour that is
unhealthy to the lungs and which can cause untold diseases to the unaware
slum dwellers. This river is no longer a blessing to the locals but a haven
of all kind of diseases.

All the sewage pipes around the river have been turned loose, all facing the
river. The river now serves as a dumping site for the slum and its environs
even those hospitals that are full of quacks that are found in every corner
of the slum disposes their needles and aborted babies’ into then river. Its
a common site to see the locals brewers of illegal drinks called changaa,
pouring their waste to this river.

So in a matter of only a decade, this river has turned from the useful river
to the poisonous one that is harmful to those near it and far.

Last year the government tried to come to the rescue of this river but did
too little for a short time. The ministry of Environment under the National
Environmental Management Authority (NEEMA) founded this programme of
employing youths to clean this river and many more such river. This program
me called Kazi Kwa Vijana didn’t take long due to corruption in the
ministry. Youths were not paid on time and the programme didn’t take long
not even a year.

So this river continues to be a dumping site for many .Each year it becomes
worse and worse.

The idea of cleaning the river was good but its implementation was not well
organized.This cleaning should not be seasonal, but it should be a continued

Secondly, all those sewage system that faces the river should be blocked or
diverted to another route to avoid wastes going to the river.

Thirdly, the local needs to be educated on  the importance of a clean river
near them.

This will help to keep it clean. A situation whereby the locals throw
garbage at night when they are not seen will be avoided all the garbage’s
should be channeled to a specific spot, not this river and those quacks,
that are good in back door abortion and throwing everything including the
dead fetus in the river should be dealt with seriously by law.

And lastly, youths should be given this opportunity to clean the river. This
should be a permanent job that even involves planting of trees on its banks.
These youths should be provided with proper tools and materials for this

If the government can invest in this, then we would have help the existing
and the new generation to come, causes of lungs infections will decrease
drastically among this poor slum dwellers and the helpless children. If this
river can be restored to its original status, then not only humans will be
happy but even animals would have appreciated this gestures.

Jackton Yewa


A story about Mathare River (Poem)

Mathare River

When I look at Mathare River, am astonished by  its ability to unite rich and the poor neighbourhoods such as the Mathare slums. The river is heavily polluted by both the poor and the rich despite its unforeseen importance  to the two neighbourhoods. I dedicate this poem to all the people who live along the river who have resisted temptation to pollute Mathare River.

It starts from a rural setting

In a quite neighborhood

Within a forest

Although, through hidden meandering ways

Flowing through the rich

Then connecting with the poor in Mathare Valley

With force beyond human comprehension

Irrespective of human reasoning

It respects no one

By breaking cultural and ethnic bearers

Through its supernatural powers

It connects human beings

Through its unforeseen force

Despite human pollution

Despite political bickering

And 2007 post election violence

It still united people

Both the oppressed and oppressor

This is the river


That unites the people

POA ROWE Video (the talking river)


We want to start MATHARE RIVER blog posting this video, produced in 2011 by Mathare In Motion and priced as Best Documentary at the Slum Film Festival 2011, because we have found a lot of concepts in common with it and it is of great incentive seeing that other groups in Mathare strongly care about the fate of the river.

We look at the river as a huge resource and we want to increase the inhabitants awareness on this environmental and economic potential against its costant abuse.

We desire a future where people can bath in the river and use its water in different ways.
To reach this is mandatory to stop the deposit of garbage in and around the river bed, to clean and controll it.

We reasoned that attentive agricoltural practice implementation and support in these areas can be an effective instrument to realise this view and we want to demonstrate it with our research, putting the basis for change.