Dandora man turns famous dumpsite into world-renown gardens, recreation and conservation centre.

Dandora estate is known for its massive dumpsite which serves most parts of Nairobi's Eastlands area. The estate is also known for its high rates of violent crime with thugs stealing from both locals and visitors on a daily basis. Other crimes common in the area include trafficking and abuse of drugs

However, one man has come up with a strategy to change the face of the estate, which had public open spaces before 1978 when its development was being financed by the World Bank.

Evans Otieno, who is popularly known as "transformer", for his passion to transform the image of the estate, is the proprietor of Dandora Believers Garden. The garden, a green and recreational space created out of the dumpsite, is now frequented by local and international visitors.

Photo session at the Gardens.

"If you look around, most of the trees are edible fruit trees and there are common plants around our communities. We have partnered with Kenya Wildlife Service to accommodate some wild animals such as tortoises, birds, fish and other animals to enable our people and children who have never seen them to learn about them here" Otieno says.

On a low month, Otieno says he takes home an average of shSh30,000, which he says is able to accommodate his bills.

"The money may be little but for me it is fulfilling, coming from an activity that I enjoy most and which is a legal venture. I am not even looking at the profit part of it but its benefits to the community and its ability to create employment opportunities for local youth," he says.

According to Otieno, a private developer had offered Sh1.4 million to take over the place to build a residential flat. However, he refused the offer and instead chose to pursue the venture.

"If I was money oriented, I could have taken the offer and started another business or used the money for other purposes but I didn't and I don't regret the decision," he tells City Biz, adding that a residential flat could only have benefited an individual and not a community.

His efforts have received both local and international recognition with Sweden's Finance minister Anders Borg visiting this space in 2017. He has also received several awards including one for the Best Child-Friendly Space Kenya, which earned him good money. The initiative has also been acknowledged by UN-Habitat Public Space Network, Nairobi Metropolitan Services, and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry.