Image: Before and After Image of Mustard Seeds Court (Model Court)/ Source: DTL

On Saturday April 14, I attended the Dandora Model Street Launch for phase 2. As an intern for the East Africa Institute I have done quite a substantial amount of research on the transformation of Dandora.  The Guest of Honour was Ms. Maimunah Mohd Shariff  the UN Habitats Executive Director. She praised the community for the work they had done, and challenged them to make a goal towards a Zero Waste community. The event also included; a tour of the model court,  performance with youth and children dancing, sharing spoken word, hip hop performances, children skating and ribbon cutting to announce the name of the new street the community named, Badilisha Street (meaning transformation or change in Swahili).

Dandora,  located in the eastern part of Nairobi, is known as the main dumping site in Nairobi. In 2001 the dumpsite reached full capacity and despite this, is still in full use today ( 2017, Capetown Partnerships). One of the major results from this was the high crime rate.  In 2014, three men from Mustard Seed Courts in Dandora, decided to make changes to create a clean, green and safe Dandora. They transformed Mustard Seed Courts-now known as the model court. After feeling motivated and wanting to replicate this work they reached out for funding, partnered with Robinson Esialimba-founder of Awesome foundation, and became the 3 became the founders, and Robinson became the chairman of the Dandora Transformation League.

The Dandora Tranformation League (DTL) encourages youth groups to identify income-generating activities on the spaces they transform. In addition to monthly contributions for regular maintenance of courtyards that residents of surrounding plots pay to the youths, the groups have created other job opportunities such as car wash, hire of skates for children, urban agriculture, some spaces are used as a playground during the day and as a commercial parking at night. One of the challenges is the strained relationship between the county government and the people of Dandora. DTL has partnered with “Making Cities Together”, a group including young Kenyan and international architects and urbanists, and in cooperation with UN Habitat and the DOEN foundation on the Model Street project (2016, Daily Nation).

DTL introduced the Changing Faces Competition in 2014 and ran three successful editions in Dandora. In 2018, under the umbrella of Public Space Network, DTL is scaling up the Changing Faces Competition to the entire Nairobi. The goal is to mobilize teams of youth to compete who does the best transformation of public open spaces, that were once filled with garbage, and turn them into clean parks, gardens and playgrounds. In Dandora, this was accomplished by mobilizing over 120 registered groups and more than 3,000 participants. The results from this was lower crime rates, improved health of residents, income- generating opportunities and working to create a sustainable community.

DTL is the founding member of Public Space Network (PSN), that brings together a group of stakeholders (civil society organizations, urban experts, public authorities, private sector, academia etc) involved in public space management in Nairobi. PSN advocates for Public-Private-People Partnership (4P) model for a sustainable city-wide public space management. Their overall goal is to improve the quality of life for all people of Nairobi and by connecting public spaces through creating an inclusive Nairobi that is healthy, clean and safe.

This process has been a long time coming and will continue to take time, but here is an example of how change can happen and how the aim to create this kind of transformation is possible. I believe if you transform a community, you transform the world. I felt honoured to be there and to celebrate the work done into creating a safer, cleaner and greener Dandora.


CapeTown Partnerships. “Dandora: Beyond a Dumpsite” last modified May 25, 2017. Retrieved from

Daily Nation. “Welcome to the New Dandora: it is safe, clean, and better organized” last modified Monday January 11 2016. Retrieved from

*Image sent from the Dandora Transformation League Team

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s