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About the Author

Helena Goldon
NGO Consultant, Programmes Department/Journalist (POLAND) A change agent. Main focus: people. Writes based on her experience as a freelance correspondent for the Polish Radio - from Uganda, Zambia, Lebanon, and Malawi and project work in the field. Worked also as Assistant Producer for Save the Children on a documentary on rehabilitation of children abductees to Joseph Kony's rebel group and coordinated projects co-financed by the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Board member of Development Cooperation Centre.


Try feeding your family for $0.5 per day

Published 12th August 2010 - 10 comments - 5827 views -

I always wondered how an African Mama can use half a dollar to feed the whole family. When I recently found this short story on IRIN, I thought I just needed to share it with you here to give us all an idea of how one can survive on as little as half a dollar per day. Here’s the Kibera Recipe.


Swiss precision sounds like dilettantish efforts compared to the amazing organizational skills of  Wilbroda Aoko Wandera from Kibera Slums in the capital of Kenya, Nairobi. Wilbroda is a widow for the past 16 years and since her husband died she is solely responsible for sustaining the whole family.  Wandera, who sells spinach, washes clothes and plaits hair, has no regular income or stable job at the moment.

" I have learnt to make meals for the whole family even when I have only 40 shillings [$0.50]. With this, I buy maize flour for 20 shillings, sugar for five, paraffin for 10, a lemon for two and water for three. This will make a [pot] of porridge and everybody can get a cup. That takes us to the next day. “

"When I have 50 shillings, I buy sukuma wiki [kales] for 10 shillings, maize flour for 30, cooking oil for five and paraffin for five. With this, I cook ugali and the sukuma wiki and everyone will at least have a hot meal. 

"On a good day, when I make at least 100 shillings, the diet is better; I buy maize flour for 45, omena [sardines] for 20, tomatoes for 10, paraffin for 10 and cooking oil for 10. This is enough for two meals for the whole family. But the days I make 100 are rare. Besides, when I make more than 100, I put away some money for school fees and rent. 

"I feel blessed that I have the support of other widows. We formed a self-help group in 2007. We are there for each other, we skip meals together, we help each other in merry-go-round donations of 20 shillings a week and struggle to bring up our children. Life in Kibera is hard but it is 10 times harder for a widow with children."


Credits: Adapted from, quotes:, Photo: Jane Some/IRIN

Read more: here

Category: Hunger | Tags: kenya, hunger, money, mdg 1,


  • Giedre Steikunaite on 12th August 2010:

    It is.

    But I guess one gets very imaginative when the wallet is empty and the belly too, however cynic that sounds and however sad it actually is.

    But how does she manage to pay the rent and school fees if she only earns 100 shillings very rarely?

  • Helena Goldon on 12th August 2010:

    This is a true mystery to me, Giedre.
    On the other hand yesterday I came across this page:
    and some very powerful facts on this site like :
    “A woman or girl will reinvest 90% of her income into her family. A man will reinvest 30-40%”.

    Just as you said, I guess - once hungry you become very imaginative.

  • Giedre Steikunaite on 12th August 2010:

    Gender issues again… Why would a man reinvest only 1/3 of his income into his family? Is that not his family, after all?

  • Helena Goldon on 12th August 2010:

    This situation is as old as the African continent itself, I guess! You won’t easily come across an African lady just relaxing on her maternity leave with her husband with sleeves rolled up working for the family. It would be great to see a change happen on the Dark Continent.

  • Hanna Clarys on 12th August 2010:

    A man doesn’t really know what a family needs. He has no clue about food prices or school fees. And they try to forget their misery by drinking for example. That’s where the money goes (very bluntly said of course and not always true; excuse me for that).

  • Iwona Frydryszak on 13th August 2010:

    here is the nice game - , you can play to be roma and see how does he need to share the costs. It’s in Czech but I’m sure something like this must exist about poverty in Africa…. it will be good to find such a page.

  • Helena Goldon on 13th August 2010:

    @ Hanna: I think I know where you are coming from. In the African cities the tendency you are mentioning is fortunately every time less visible - in the village however it feels like nothing has improved.
    @ Iwona: Lovely game, just came across the 3rd World Farmer!
    (will mention it in one of my posts to come!)

  • Hieke van der Vaart on 13th August 2010:

    Unbelievable, but doable for the double price:

  • Jodi Bush on 14th August 2010:

    The natural tendency for most people is to adapt their living styles to how much money they have - whether that is downwards (like in Wilbroda’s case) or up, as in the case of the middle/upper classes. People do largely the same things (pay for shelter, food, clothes), they just do it more or less expensively.

  • Iris Cecilia Gonzales on 15th August 2010:

    Giedre, you are right. I think a mother will always find a way….but yes, almost impossible…

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