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How Kenya’s construction industry boosts green jobs and housing

Innovative ILO project aims to reduce Kenya’s vulnerability to climate risks and improve livelihoods among traditional pastoralist communities.

Feature | 26 May 2017
NAIROBI, Kenya (ILO News) – Forty-year-old entrepreneur, Magdalene Saitoti, is among the Kenyans to benefit from a project aimed at creating green jobs in the building industry, reducing poverty in pastoralist communities and strengthening the country’s resilience to climate change.

In partnership with the UK Department for International Development (DFID), UN Environment, UNHABITAT and the County Governments in the Maasai pastoralist communities of Narok and Kajiado, the ILO developed a prototype eco-friendly manyatta house over a period of 15 months. Unlike the traditional wooden Maasai manyatta, it is built using locally available resources and materials, powered by solar and biogas technology and with the ability to harvest and store rain water.

The more stable house, which is constructed from bricks and sand and comes equipped with an eco-friendly toilet, is designed to promote the conservation of forests and improve the quality of life among communities that herd livestock.

Saitoti had already started her own construction business in January 2016 before taking part in a two-week ILO-run manyatta building course last year. The course not only taught the mother of three from Kajiado county new green construction skills, but also enabled her to employ more workers. Traditionally in pastoralist communities, it is women who build houses for their families. The modern manyatta takes three to four weeks to construct. Three enterprises and 59 jobs were created during the first 12-month pilot phase of the project.

“The new design uses bricks and a modern roof made from cement mixed with soil instead of cow dung. This means we can now collect water from the roof when it rains. It also has more space than the old one and people can use solar light during the night,” Saitoti said.

A rapid growth in green jobs will boost labour demand, spur innovation and make Kenya more competitive in the global economy."

Mary Kawar, Director of the ILO Country Office for Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi
“I have got more business from other people since the course and also trained them in building modern manyattas. I now have four employees and can take on another ten people as needed when I get a big contract,” she added.

According to the UN Human Development Index (HDI) 2017 report, the unemployment rate in Kenya is the highest in the East African region, hitting a new high of 39.1 per cent. Youth unemployment has remained consistently high for more than 20 years. Of a working age population of 24 million, one in every 6 young Kenyans is unemployed. People from pastoralist communities are particularly vulnerable to poverty, unemployment and underemployment.

“For Kenya, green jobs are integral to economic growth and the reduction of unemployment. A rapid growth in green jobs will boost labour demand, spur innovation and make Kenya more competitive in the global economy, which will result in more productivity and long term economic prosperity,” said Mary Kawar, Director of the ILO Country Office for Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

The project seeks to unlock the green jobs creation potential of Kenya’s construction industry by enhancing the competitiveness of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) based on principles of sustainable enterprises that balance economic, social and environmental objectives.

Better and Greener Jobs

By targeting MSMEs along the green building and construction value chain, the project is creating decent green jobs as well as improving the quality of existing jobs in the job market and MSME sector, particularly for women and young entrepreneurs.

The project has created synergies and collaborations with the private sector, county governments and other business support providers to promote skills for green jobs, access to finance, markets, business linkages and business development services.

The types of jobs and self-employment ventures that have been created in green building and retrofitting processes include block/brick making and masonry skills, the installation of biogas and solar energy units and maintenance skills, water tank installation and pipe fitting, and general construction.

“These work experiences, among others, will offer a pathway to employment through skills development and on-the-job training and experiences,” said Alice Mwaisaka, the National Programme Coordinator, Green Jobs in Kenya.

“These jobs are not only created during the initial construction or investment periods but also in maintenance of the same and will be especially beneficial for the targeted counties in addressing the issue of high unemployment among the youth and women. The project will divide trainees into age and gender cohorts to ensure that youth and gender employment targets are achieved.”

The ILO plans to build on the achievements of the project, which was established in 2014and funded by DFID as part of the One-UN programme, by exploring the potential for replication through collaboration with several development partners.

Potential ILO green jobs projects in Kenya are under discussion for implementation in late 2017 or early 2018 around the scaling up of this first pilot phase of the project, as well as focusing on skills and jobs in additional sectors such as the geothermal industry and waste management.