The story of a group of landlords who pooled resources to build a private sewer line in their neighbhourhood in Kitengela Town offers vital lessons in community organising.
The landlords were inspired to set up the 45-kilometre sewer line after their embarrassing experience in 2013 of being charged in court with illegally discharging raw sewage.
Nine years later, their community service initiative is reportedly benefiting more than 800 plot owners in the town.
While the efforts of such public-spirited people deserve recognition, they also shine a spotlight on the urban planning failures in Kitengela and other satellite towns around Nairobi.
These towns have in recent years witnessed fast population growth as middle-income people, escaping from high rents and land prices in Nairobi, look for affordable land and rental houses.
But the authorities – both national and county governments – have neglected their urban planning responsibilities, giving way to haphazard settlements lacking public amenities such as water and sanitation and electricity.
In many neighbourhoods, landlords and tenants have been largely left to their own devices.
The earlier enthusiasm displayed by the government for the development of these areas, which saw the creation of the Ministry of Nairobi Metropolitan Development in 2008 to steer improvement of services in 15 local authorities, appears to have since waned.
With more people expected to settle in the Nairobi satellite towns and their role in Kenya’s development becomes increasingly important, the authorities need to pay more attention to proper urban planning.