About this event

This is a virtual event on zoom. 

“Kibra” (aka Kibera) means forest, the land that was dense forest and is occupied by the Nubian community members. The community had villages, farmland and cattle rearing. Urbanization and rural urban migration made Kibra evolve to what it is today, an informal settlement/slum, largest slum in Nairobi, and the largest urban slum in Africa. This event will speak to the interventions made by the Kibra informal settlements community to improve the quality of their living environment including the planting of more trees. 

Over the last two decades, the harsh living conditions and lack of basic amenities in the community has put Kibra in the global spotlight highlighting the challenges experienced in slums across the globe. Kibra is the dorm for people migrating to Nairobi county; thus due to high demand, making the rental house business very lucrative. The dense forest that Kibra once was with indigenous and fruit trees all over is now gasping for fresh air that is full of pollution and dust. 

Big challenges have pushed the community to address and look for ways to survive. Tree planting is one of the interventions to restore and replenish the lost green cover and the available food on the fruit trees. Solid waste management is a challenge seen across all slums in Kenya, both regionally and globally. The lack of segregation of waste at the source makes collection, sorting, transporting and dumping a critical activity. Dependency on rain-fed agriculture makes an inadequate food supply  which is further escalated by the climate change effects of a prolonged drought season.

Speaker: Malassen Hamida Twahir


Malassen Hamida Twahir is a social, political, environmental  conservation and climate change effects activist and champion. Born and bred in Kibra (aka Kibera, meaning dense forest), Malassen is mother of three and a community leader. She hails from an ethnic minority community that was settled in Kibra in the eighteenth century by the British Imperial company as retired soldiers of African Rifle soldiers in the current Kibra sub county. She was educated in Kibera Primary school and then the Muslim Girls School and the University of Nairobi earning her Diploma in adult education and community development. In 2011 the Civil Society Urban Development Platform (CSUDP), a national platform for civil societies,   mapped institutions that deal with urban management and governance. During the mapping Malassen was a chosen representative of the Community-Based Organization (CBOs) in the Nairobi Local Urban Forum (NLUF) county as Secretary General. In 2017, she was selected as Chairperson of the NLUF, a position she still holds. That same year, she left the Nubian Rights Forum and formed the Mazingria Women Initiative Group undertaking tree planting, solid waste management, urban farming and climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies. The organization has a 500,000 fruit trees growing project.  To date 10,000 trees have been planted. Waste recycling and modern urban farming sites within Kibra have also been undertaken in Kibera. Malassen's nickname is Mama Mazingira because she is a passionate environmentalist and climate change champion. 

Moderator: Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, DPACSA, NOMA

Lance Jay Brown is a founding board member and Immediate Past President of the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization (CSU).  He taught at Princeton and is the former Chair and Director of the Spitzer School of Architecture, CCNY. Educated at the Cooper Union he holds two master’s degrees from the GSD at Harvard University. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (FAIA) He is ACSA Distinguished Professor for Life  and received the coveted AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education. He has edited and authored numerous publications and consults, teaches, and lectures nationally and internationally.

Learning Objectives 

  1. Discuss how urbanisation has impacted the lives of Kibra residents. 
  2. Analyze the success of community interventions to make Kibra green including reforestation.
  3. Discuss how individual community members respond to the effects of climate change.
  4. Relate how the community as a whole  has responded to adaptation and mitigation of regional environmental degradation. 

Co-Sponsoring Organizations for Green Cities 2023

Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization (CSU), UN-Habitat, AIA New York, AIANY Planning & Design, the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development-NY, Habitat Professionals Forum for  Sustainable Cities, Creative Exchange Lab (CEL), Global Urban Development (GUD), and the Columbia University Center for Buildings, Infrastructure and Public Space (CBIPS)


Loading... Please stand by.