Saturday, April 13, 2024

Kisumu Car wash operators’ fears as city greening initiative sets in

In the heart of Kisumu City, a battle for survival is underway as the County Government takes decisive action to enforce its greening Initiative.

With the aim of creating a habitable and eco-friendly environment, the city management has set its sights on unauthorized car wash points that hinder progress, obstruct walkways, and damage roads.

While the initiative holds promise for a greener future, it threatens the livelihoods of individuals like Elvis Njahi who rely on car wash businesses to fend for his family.

The City Management has embarked on an intensive citywide greening initiative aimed at making the city habitable and eco-friendly. However, these initiatives are heavily frustrated by unauthorized carwash points that cause obstruction on walk ways and destruction of roads

Kisumu City Manager Abala Wanga

Njahi, a 25-year-old graduate from Pwani University has shouldered the responsibility of his six siblings since completing his studies in 2022.

Raised by a single mother, Njahi faced a tough childhood, which forced him to begin fending for the family at an early age.

He ventured into car wash jobs in 2018, where he earned between Sh500 and Sh600 daily.

Ever since, he has maintained the job every time he is out of school. And last year, after graduation, he fully resumed the job at Riat, near Kisumu International Airport.

Kisumu Greening Initiative

However, with the looming enforcement of the Greening Initiative, Njahi faces an uncertain fate, as job opportunities in the city are scarce, and losing his current employment would jeopardize his family’s stability.

“Getting employment is very hard. Every door you knock on, you are told that there is no vacancy,” he said.

His car wash site has been earmarked by Kisumu City Management for relocation.

“The City Management has embarked on an intensive citywide greening initiative aimed at making the city habitable and eco-friendly. However, these initiatives are heavily frustrated by unauthorized carwash points that cause obstruction on walk ways and destruction of roads,” read in part a notice to carwash operators by City Manager on June 9, 2023.

It went on; “Notice is hereby given to all carwash operators along Busia road, Kakamega road, Nyerere road, Nairobi road, Ondiek Highway, Riat Market, and the CBD to vacate within 48 hours from the date here of.”

The notice did not however provide alternative sites for the car wash operators, what Onyango says could be a blow to the operators.

“As you see most people working here are youths and if we lose this job some of us will resort to stealing which is not a good habit for our community,” he said.

What next for car wash operators?

And the notice having expired, car wash operators are trading on a tight rope, fearing that the eviction may be implemented any time.

Michael Onyango, car wash operator in Kisumu

Michael Onyango, 24, arrived in Kisumu, from Homa Bay.

Desperate to provide for his wife and six-month-old baby, Onyango turned to car wash business two months ago.

The job has offered him stability and a chance to support his family, as he earns approximately Sh700 per day.

Just like Onyango, the enforcement of the Greening Initiative threatens to rob him of this opportunity, forcing him back into the unpredictable world of casual labor, where work is sporadic and wages are insufficient to meet his family’s needs.

“I can gladly say that the money I get from this carwash has boosted me since I managed to pay for my driving school,” says 29-year-old John Opondo.

Since joining the car wash industry in 2015, he has been able to provide for his wife and three children, earning approximately Sh1000 per day.

His dedication to his family’s well-being is evident, as he saves Sh200 daily for rent and diligently pays his children’s school fees.

I can gladly say that the money I get from this carwash has boosted me since I managed to pay for my driving school

John Opondo, car wash operator in Kisumu

However, the impending changes brought about by the Greening Initiative have left John grappling with uncertainty, unsure of how he will sustain his family’s livelihood without the car wash job that has defined his self-sufficiency.

The car wash operators want the County Government to engage with relevant stakeholders, including the business community and residents, to ensure that the transition process is smooth and minimizes disruptions.

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