Nairobi, December 27, 2018 - UN-Habitat and the County Government of Meru in Kenya have come together to provide training in construction, soft entrepreneurship and leadership skills to 60 youth selected from a group of 1,000 in the Meru Youth Service. The training included production of Stabilized Soil Blocks (SSB) made by mixing soil, water and cement using Makiga technology, a specialized machine for production of Stabilized Soil Blocks.

Following a partnership agreement between the County Government of Meru and UN-Habitat concluded in April 2018, the Meru Youth Service (MYS) has been created as a means of empowering young people in Meru County by providing them with technical and soft skills training. A total of 1000 youth selected from a pool of 6000 applicants are currently engaged in various Meru County development initiatives being undertaken by MYS. Some have been enrolled for various courses at the Meru Technical College.

The SSB technology is an environmentally friendly new approach to making building bricks without burning smoke-producing timber. Production costs are reduced significantly as the soil, cement and water needed are readily available locally. This approach supports sustainable development and strengthens the capacity of local communities to participate effectively in sustainable urbanization in line with the New Urban Agenda.

Participants were taken through the process of identifying personal entrepreneurial skills, how to start a small business, financial planning and management, and the use of ICT.  The training culminated in participants producing more than 600 building blocks. They also developed a business plan and initiated the process of registering their own block building business.

To compliment hands-on skills training, participants were placed in groups and encouraged to demonstrate leadership and teamwork in accomplishing specific tasks. The process led to better understanding of division of labor, time management and the creation of a sustainable business environment. Participants were also able to identify market opportunities for building blocks, among them construction of government schools, private institutions, local churches, and offices for the county government.

“The county government envisions empowered young men and women with marketable skills and the financial capacity to create job opportunities that will help eliminate unemployment in Meru County,” said Chief Officer for Youth Affairs Ms. Flora Kananu Nyaga who thanked UN-Habitat for providing training and the equipment required.

Participants expressed gratitude to the County Government and UN-Habitat and pledged to share the knowledge and skills they had gained with other young people who did not get an opportunity to join the training. “We have learnt technical and professional skills and we have been greatly inspired by the trainers. Now we are confident that we can produce building blocks, create a business and train others,” said Christopher Kimathi, one of the trainees.