Residents of Nyeri are careful to walk into the Asian Quarters dumpsite that has been labelled a haven for criminals and is an environmental eyesore.
The posh homes adjacent to the dumpsite were owned by the Asian community that settled in Nyeri in the ‘90s but some have moved out following the foul smell that emanates from the dumpsite.
Those left behind have petitioned the courts of law to have the dump moved.
More than 200 people draw a livelihood from the five-acre dumpsite that is at the centre of controversy as it is located between residential homes. While others foraging for valuables, others are keeping pigs there, relying on the waste mound to feed the animals.
A group of about a 100 street families is in the business and has clients in abattoirs and farmers looking for piglets to start similar enterprise.
“Our name has been tarnished far and wide and that does not make us happy. We are not bad people. We work hard for our own money and we do not wait for people to steal from them,” said James Wachira, one of the urchins who is now rearing pigs.
They are known to look for valuables like bones, cartons, metal bars, plastic bottles, and polythene for sale. They can make Sh1, 000 by midday and then disappear into their shanties.
Now, they have more than 250 pigs. “We have been called names and declared a nuisance in town but they do not know we are also human beings with some dignity,” said Mr Wachira.
Jesse Wachira lives within the dumpsite but is a Form Three student at Temple Road Secondary School.
He sought refuge in Nyeri after running from his Nyandarua County home in 2012.
He, like many others who live in the squalor, was encouraged to choose the venture after a man started keeping a pig at the site and needed a hand.
Jesse took up the job of looking after the animals to be given piglets for pay. “The pig gave birth to five piglets. I was given two, one died but I nurtured one to maturity and sold it at Sh9,000 to a butcher after it gave birth to six piglets,” he said.
He later used the proceeds to pay his school fees for a term and the remainder was used to buy chickens for rearing.
He also sold the six piglets at Sh2,500 to a farmer who approached him and used the money to buy his clothes and saved the rest.
Jesse pays Sh16,000 annually for his education.
He has two pigs, but is carrying a big dream: joining Egerton University for an engineering degree. The institution is known for producing agriculturalists and hosts Tegemeo Institute, one of the country’s top agriculture research centres.
The pigs are housed in wooden structures that go well with the spacing and conditions their owners live in.
“We would want to have better structures for our animals. We would have more but we are limited by space, thus this place acts as a breeding section for the pigs that we later sell to farmers and butcheries,” said Mr Wachira.
Pig farming is thriving in Nyeri, causing a scramble for feeds at the dumpsite.
“What is getting into the dumpsite is too little to feed all our pigs because people are making pre-dawn visits to the site to collect garbage for their animals. Some of us are contemplating giving up on the venture,” said Mr Wachira.
The group, besides looking for other merchandise for sale, collect fruit peels, egg shells, bones, ugali and any other kitchen left-overs, including vegetables and bread.
Most of the time they sell a pig weighing between 50 and 60 kilogramme at a minimum of Sh250 and a maximum of Sh300 a kilo.
Pigs that are about to give birth are sold for Sh17,000.
“Because we rear the pigs here, our buyers short-change us by paying less than they would buy from a farm at maybe Sh400 per kilo of meat,” said Mr Wachira.
When it is raining, many piglets die, especially if they are not vaccinated.
They have contracted a private veterinary officer who assesses and treats their animals at between Sh200 and Sh300 from “common diseases”.
This group also has a request to the county government in the Kenyan fashion of ‘tunaomba serikali (we appeal to the government)”.
Allow us to put up wooden structures to live in together with our children rather than stay in the polythene shanties, they told county officials.