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A photo of a section of Biashara Street in Kiandutu Slums, Thika.
 For quite a long time, the mention of the name Kiandutu used to send some chills along the spines of Thika Town residents. It was associated with crime, chang'aa, dirt and all kinds of negativity. But today, that is all in the memory books. Kiandutu, or 'Ndula' as it is popularly refered to, has undergone complete transformation.

Thika Town Today's crew, on a tour of the area this morning, experienced a totally different picture from what is usually projected to the world about the place. Kiandutu Slums is, as we speak today, the hotbed of commerce, a business hub in all aspects. Ever since the deployment of the National Youth Service early this year, Kiandutu Slums has undergone some complete metamorphosis for the better. A walk around the estate completely changed our perspective about Ndula.

 Security in the area is next to perfection according to Mr. Mwangi or 'C.J.' as he is popularly known in the area. CJ, who runs a wholesale and retail shop as well as being an M-PESA agent told us of how business had improved since the N.Y.S. team came to the place.
"Tangu hawa wasee wakam hapa ndula mambo ya ngeta ni kaa imeisha. Hawa vijanaa wako engaged na works mpaka hawana time za uhalifu. Usiku huwa tunalala bila wasiwasi siku hizi. Biashara nayo imeimarika kiasa coz watu siku hizi wana doo za kuspend na kutumia kwa M-PESA," he told our men on the ground. (Ever since these guys (NYS) came to Kiandutu mugging has reduced. The youth are busy working and have no time for crime. At night we sleep soundly without worrying about our security. Business has improved because people these days have money to spend and to use via M-PESA).

Ndesh, a youthful trader who runs a hotel and a video hall confirmed CJ's sentiments by saying that these projects had improved the lives of Kiandutu youth and women a lot. He added that the fight against illicit brews was another factor that had contributed to fighting insecurity.

"Cheap liquour  is hardly accessible here these days, thanks to Alice (Thika Town MP), Kentams (area MCA), our chief and his assistant, who have done a great job fighting the brews. These people are now the ones working in the NYS projects," said Ndesh. He also thanked the national government for the slum electrification programme which had enabled poor Kenyans to access electricity for as little as sh. 1000.

Availability of power had opened up the business environment in the area, creating myriads of jobs for the populace. We saw quite a number of salons, barbershops, welding workshops, video halls and cyber cafes which could not have been possible were it not for this development.

'Biashara Street on your way out of Kiandutu is usually a beehive of activity. Infact, as the residents of the slum rightly put it, this place is actually the 'Eastleigh' of Thika Town. People from Thika Town and its environs jam this business hub to purchase quality stuff for pocket friendly prices. Clothing, shoes, household items and utensils are all in abundance in this area. In short, variety is their other name.

Health wise, the residents are very well taken care of. Food joints are in plenty. With just sh.15, one can enjoy a cup of tea and a kingsize mandazi to help kick start their day. A plate of ng'ombe mix and chapati goes for sh.40, not forgetting that with just sh.20, one enjoys some delicious 'chips funga'.

Soup and some finger-licking mutura costs you as little as sh.10. A goat's engine (head) in Kiandutu goes for sh.300. Vegetables and fruits are also available in plenty for an affordable rate. Going hungry now in Kiandutu is now by choice if I may say.

The government has also availed a health centre which caters for the health issues of the residents. There is a police post and a working 'Nyumba Kumi' outfit which monitors the security situation in all corners of Kiandutu. Previously, there were just three 'Mulika Mwananchi' but now the government has erected more to a total of ten, lighting up the whole area. The roads within the slum are quite elaborate, making accessibility, which had previously been the main challenge, a walk in the park.

 Kiandutu Slum is no longer the filthy place where litter and human waste scattered all over. The N.Y.S. in partnership with the slum youth have cleaned up the place and cleared the drainage. Several modern abolition blocks, fully networked with a proper sewerage system, have been put up in strategic locations to cater for the needs of the residents. In some, we were amazed to see them fitted with a library, a shop, washrooms and bathrooms.

The technology used to erect these facilities is one that needs to be sold to Kenyans since it is quite economical and helps to drastically cut construction costs. It was our first time to see a one-storey building being erected using card boards and no stones at all.

 The NYS has also helped set up several poultry projects, and also introduced 'sack farming, a technology that allows growing of crops in large, bag-gardens, enabling Kiandutu youth to grow vegetables such as sukuma wiki in sacks. They have also started a posho mill. All this is meant to ease the cost of living for Kiandutu residents and also to create jobs for the youth and women.

After enjoying a plate of mouth-watering ng'ombe mix at Ndesh's place, our crew left Kiandutu Slums with just but praises to the kind of hospitality the residents accorded us.


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