Rose Molokoane Appointed to Council of Social Housing Regulatory Authority

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

SDI and the South African SDI Alliance were informed last week that Rose Molokoane, national coordinator of the South African Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) and Deputy President of SDI, has been appointed to the Council of the South African Social Housing Regulatory Authority (SHRA) by Minister of Human Settlements Lindiwe Sisulu. The mission and vision of the SHRA is to regulate and invest in the development of affordable rental homes in integrated urban environments through sustainable institutions. 

SDI is hopeful that Rose's appointment to the SHRA board is a signal that this important body will begin to scale up social housing in South Africa. 

Rose Molokoaneis a coordinator of the South African Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), and a coordinator of SDI. She is a resident and member of the Oukasie savings scheme in a slum settlement outside Pretoria, South Africa.

A veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle, she is one of the most internationally recognized grassroots activists involved in land tenure and housing issues. FEDUP has helped more than 150,000 squatters, the vast majority of whom are women, to pool their savings. This has won them sufficient standing to negotiate with government for a progressive housing policy that has already produced 15,000 new homes and secured more than 1,000 hectares of government land for development.

Molokoane has initiated federations of savings schemes throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America. She was awarded the UN-Habitat Scroll of Honor in 2005 for her struggle to bring land and homes to the poor.

 

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Building on Community Responses to the Ebola Crisis in Monrovia

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

By Mara Forbes, SDI Secretariat

Liberia has a unique history compared to other African countries. Monrovia, the capital of Liberia was founded in 1822 by freed slaves from the United States of America and was named after the U.S. president James Monroe. The current population of Monrovia according to the 2008 census is around 1 million people, of which 70% live in informal settlements. 

Since the late 1980’s the country has faced three civil wars. Years of conflict have devastated the infrastructure. An estimated 80% of the housing stock was destroyed. However, the central role played by women in the aftermath of the conflict was internationally recognized in 2012, when two of the leading women received the Nobel Peace prize. This recognition of women as central players in the development of the country has continued with the election of a female president in 2006, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and the current Mayor of Monrovia, the Honorable Mayor Clara Mvogo.

In 2014, Liberia was hit with another outbreak - Ebola. Again, much of the development that was achieved over the past decade is now being undermined by the spread of the outbreak. Ebola has not only affected people’s health and lives but also has social and economic consequences. Inadequate basic services and infrastructure aided in the rapid spread of the disease. Liberia was one of the hardest hit countries with 9,238 reported cases and 4,037 related deaths (WHO, Feb. 2015). The majority of those affected have been women and those living in informal settlements.

SLUMDAL with the support of YMCA Liberia, the local SDI affiliate in Monrovia, took it upon themselves to develop, implement, and monitor a community Ebola emergency response project for some of the hardest hit informal settlements. The goal of the project was to conduct awareness and sensitization training on Ebola and provide preventative hand washing buckets and chlorine to some of the poorest of the poor living in these slums.

In total SLUMDAL provided 650 hand washing buckets and chlorine to 11 informal settlements (WestPoint, Clara Town, Slipway, S.K. Doe, Logan Town, New Kru Town, Jallah Town, 12th Street, Peace Island, Rock Spring Valley, and St. Paul Bridge).

 

SLUMDAL begins distribution of Ebola response materials

During this time SLUMDAL stepped up and played a key role in bringing the Government of Liberia’s Fight Ebola Campaign into the slum communities through sensitization and distribution of hand washing materials and has been recognized by Monrovia City Corporation (MCC) and other stakeholders for their active and vital role with organized communities of the urban poor.

The role of urban poor communities and local authorities in Monrovia in response to the Ebola crisis helped turn the trajectory on new Ebola infections. Monrovia was the hardest hit area in Liberia and had the most fatalities in the region. Liberia is now seen as a success story compared to neighbouring countries due to a shift of approach on behalf of the government. Investments to the national government were decentralized to local authorities and community groups for implementation. Liberia now has the least outbreaks of new cases each week and curfew and land border lock downs have recently been lifted. 

From 1-6 of February a team from SDI visited Monrovia to get a deeper understanding the organization and the work of SLUMDAL and YMCA Liberia. We visited 5 settlements (WestPoint, S.K. Doe, New Kru Town, 12th Street, and Peace Island) and met with 13 savings groups. Federation leaders from Uganda worked with SLUMDAL and the savings groups to better understand the role of the federation and the rituals it practices, particularly the importance of savings. These peer-to-peer exchanges help emerging federations like in Liberia better understand and see the power and importance of federated communities from their more mature affiliates. Ideas are shared and then discussed and adapted to fit the local context.

Members of the Uganda Federation share their experiences with savers in S.K. Doe settlement

The key role of SLUMDAL now will be to move beyond crisis response to a sustainable community development approach by continuing to build on their relationship with local government, expand federation membership, and governance structures.

Cities Alliance is working with SDI and the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC) to develop a joint local government/community led Monrovia City Programme, modeled on country programmes that have been implemented in Uganda and Ghana. The programme seeks to support the resilient social and economic recovery of slum dwellers in Greater Monrovia in response to the Ebola crisis while also improving the living and working conditions of the urban poor. Through this programme organized communities of slums dwellers will work with local government to profile and map all settlements within Greater Monrovia. Communities collect and analyze data about their settlements to inform dialogue with authorities on resource flows and development priorities, to mitigate against disaster and conflict and to make poor communities vocal and visible. This is a critical next step in the development of the Liberian affiliate to demonstrate the potential of community driven solutions in partnership with local government.

 

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Seven Lessons from a Successful Slum Upgrading Project

Thursday, 12 March 2015

**Cross-posted from CitiScope**

By Shruti Shiva 

PUNE, India — Over the past five years, the Yerwada slum area on the outskirts of Pune has gone through a remarkable transformation.

Where once there was an unplanned maze of narrow alleys, now there are spacious inner lanes. Ramshackle homes made of bamboo sticks and asbestos sheets have been replaced by sturdier structures made of brick and mortar. Yerwada is still a noisy, busy place, but there is now room for small squares where children play cricket, small yards where women dry chilies for cooking and places for residents to park their cycles.

The changes in Yerwada are unusual in India for two reasons. First, they improved the area without razing it and relocating the residents elsewhere, as remains the general approach to illegal squatter settlements in cities across India. Yerwada’s residents have had to put up with a lot of demolition and construction, but the fabric of their neighborhood — and all of the social and business connections woven into it — remains intact. Second, engaging residents was an important part of the process.

The Yerwada project is part of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, a revitalization initaitive that wrapped up last year and carried the goal of envisaging a “sustainable and slum-free city.” It was led by Prasanna Desai Architects in collaboration with the Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centers, an NGO that works on housing for the poor. Most important, unions from the slum-dwellers’ communities themselves were key players.

Yerwada’s streets used to be an unplanned maze of narrow alleys, but now are wide enough to let in light and create public space.  (Shruti Shiva)


As a student studying what architecture can do to alleviate poverty, I recently spent almost a month in Yerwada. As I talked with residents and planners, it became clear there was much that other cities in the developing world could learn from what has happened here. What follows are seven lessons that other cities can take from Yerwada’s experience.

Listen to the residents. The mahila mandal, or local women’s group, was a key player in almost every aspect of the project. The women offered local knowledge and connections, as well as a collection point for advocacy on behalf of Yerwada’s residents. 

The architect’s team held community meetings, with the aim of incorporating the public’s suggestions into the design. This back-and-forth process of making proposals and then incorporating design changes was mediated by the mahila mandal until a consensus was reached. The input led to design solutions that may not otherwise have been taken into account. For example, an elderly inhabitant who could not walk inspired house designs that located senior citizens on the ground floor.

Map the existing layout. The architect’s team began with mapping the footprints, streets and openings of seven slums across Yerwada. This informed a master plan that took into account the uses of streets, their angles and what if any semi-open spaces existed, as well as how those spaces were being used in their current contexts. When it came to mapping structures, they turned to the local women’s group for help. The women were able to identify which houses and buildings were built as permanent structures that would be essential to keep.

Retain what can be kept of the existing area. Getting rid of substandard shelter and building sturdier new housing for the residents was a big goal of the project. But so was keeping as much as possible of the old neighborhood intact. Permanent structures identified through mapping were retained. Residents whose temporary homes were demolished often moved into new homes built on the same site or close to where they previously lived.

Full-scale models of new homes gave Yerwada residents a chance to experience housing layouts before construction.  (Prasanna Desai Architects photo)

 

Build up, not out. Some of the new homes were stacked one on top of the other, or clustered together. This allowed space to be reclaimed for public streets and squares, along with some additional semi-private home spaces for verandas, patios and backyards. As 9-year-old Aashna Sheikh told me, “Now there’s place for the houses, and for us to play!”

Use local labor. The women’s organization helped to identify skilled laborers, such as carpenters and masons, whose skills were needed in the construction process. Using local labor not only reduced the overall cost of the project but also increased public participation and the community’s ownership of the project.

Employ spatial modeling. The architect’s team made makeshift spatial house models out of cloth and bamboo on a 1:1 scale. This allowed Yerwada’s residents to experience the spaces of the different housing types and voice more informed opinions and grievances about the layouts.

Housing isn’t free. The scheme was able to provide 300,000 rupees per house (about $4,800 U. S.), which accounted for 90 percent of the cost of construction. The remaining 10 percent was put forth by the beneficiaries, who developed a sense of pride because their money and effort went into the building. Residents now take up maintenance with as much energy as they did during the building process. “For a salesman with an average income,” says Yerwada resident Habib Sheikh, “to get a house with good facilities like this would have been impossible.”

 

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Women-Driven Data Capturing in Cape Town

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

By Anni Beukes, SDI Secretariat 

Last week, the South African SDI Alliance's Data Capturing Team reported back to the South African Federation's (FEDUP) community leaders in Cape Town on their work over the past eight months.

This team have not only assisted in co-designing and beta testing of some of the key features of the newly designed data-capturing platform in order to ensure that it is SDI federation friendly, but have also captured all the historic data and supported some other federations in capturing and verifying some of their newer (especially mapping) data. 

During the demonstration, six longstanding federation members were taken through the steps of capturing data on the Informal Settlement Profile and Boundary Mapping forms by their younger colleagues. 


One finger at a time, the mamas each captured a profile and saw their data become available - as well as the 1,198 profiles and 190 boundary maps available for South Africa. 

In total this team has captured or supported the capturing of roughly 7,000 profiles (historic and standardised) and over 800 boundary maps from across the globe! 

This project would not have been possible without their valuable support! 

 


 

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Launch of Upgrading at Flamingo Crescent with Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille

Monday, 23 February 2015

**Cross posted from the SA SDI Alliance blog**

Authored by CORC

“People said Flamingo Crescent [Upgrading] will never happen. But today is here and this is the proof that it has happened – one cannot do it alone we need to work as a collective!”

- Melanie Manuel, Informal Settlement Network (ISN) Co-ordinator

Last week’s upgrading launch at Flamingo Crescent informal settlement celebrated the completion of re-blocking, installation of water, sanitation and electricity services for each of Flamingo’s 104 households, the unveiling of Flamingo’s first formal street names and opening of the settlement’s own crèche, Little Paradise. Moreover it marked a milestone in an ongoing upgrading process, showcasing what is possible when communities, intermediaries, governments and stakeholders form partnerships.

Delegates from community organisations and networks, the Mayor of the City of Cape Town, delegates from various government departments, ward and sub-council politicians, NGOs and support organisations gathered in the Lansdowne Civic Centre from 11:00 on Monday 10 February.

The re-blocking project is lauded as a successful demonstration of community-led, participatory planning, collaborative implementation and improvement of informal settlements. The uniqueness of the project was that despite the settlement’s density no one was displaced and grossly inconvenienced during the implementation of upgrading 104 structures.

 

Flamingo Crescent before and after re-blocking and upgrading. 

First engagements around Flamingo Crescent 

First engagements began in 2012 after the City of Cape Town signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the SA SDI Alliance around joint community-led upgrading of 22 informal settlements, of which Flamingo Crescent is the third, having built on the experiences of Mtshini Wamand Kuku Town. It differs from the previous two in the severity of its socio-economic challenges – high levels of crime, unemployment, violence and poverty. Given these circumstances the Alliance’s Informal Settlement Network (ISN) facilitated implementation and engagement between the City and the community.

Melanie Manuel (Flamingo Crescent ISN facilitator) shared,

“When we started the partnership with the City of Cape Town in 2011 in Vygieskraal it was a day of celebration and no one knew the hardships that would lie ahead. As time went on we realised we fundamentally believe in community participation, a bottom up approach because we know communities understand their settlements best.”

Read more background here.

The Launch: Messages on Upgrading and Inclusion in Services

At the launch, the first speaker, Councillor Anthea Green shared,

“Since 2012 I have said that we need to upgrade Flamingo Crescent, despite resistance from the rate payers and residents’ groups. We were committed to work with the community, and now this is a transformed settlement”.

Informal settlements not only face substandard basic services like water, sanitation and electricity but are also cut off from functions of city administration such as receiving a residential address. The re-blocking project allowed the City and the Post Office to give Flamingo Crescent street names and addresses, after the community made this requirement upfront in their development plan.

Gerald Blankenberg, regional director of the Post Office, said that the Post Office Act and other regulations require the post office to expand addresses to underserviced communities.

“Informal communities are often times socially and economically disconnected from basic administrative functions, and therefore a residential address will give the Post Office an opportunity to serve the community with dignity”, he said.

In the keynote address, Mayor Patricia de Lille emphasised the significant role of Flamingo community’s steering committee, the Alliance’s ISN and Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC) in the success of the project. She, however, expressed concern about the slow pace of project implementation, emphasizing the need to boost municipal and community capacity to ensure the roll out of more projects in the City’s 200 informal settlements.

“The aim of re-blocking is the improvement of informal settlements while people wait for a housing opportunity”, she observed.

In closing of the ceremony, the Mayor handed over certificates of tenure to community members, ensuring formal recognition of residence and tenure security.

City of Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille with Flamingo Crescent community leader, Maria Matthews. 

The Impact of Upgrading : Before and After

Before re-blocking, the community of 405 residents had access to only 14 chemical toilets (of which 7 were serviced) and 2 water taps. There was no electricity so that contained fires in tin drums dotted the settlement’s dusty pathways. The community was especially concerned about the safety of its children playing in the busy street.

Re-blocking restructured space in the settlement, opening courtyard areas and clearly designated access roads, enabling the City of Cape Town to install individual water, sanitation and electricity services per household. What sets Flamingo apart from previous projects are its paved pathways, with official road names as well as the construction of a crèche.

The community contributed 20% to the cost of its structures through community-based daily savings. During the implementation phase, 20 jobs were created through the Expanded Public Works Programme.

Flamingo Crescent before and after. 

Into the Future: Community voices on Partnership and City Fund

“Since 2010 we have been thinking about improvements in our settlement. This is when we got in touch with ISN, who introduced us to CORC, and we then made a partnership with the City [of Cape Town] We explained what we wanted from the city – our own taps, toilets and electricity. But we needed to come together and draft our own plans”.

(Maria Matthews, Flamingo Community Leader)

Through the SA SDI Alliance the community additionally partnered with several organisations. iKhayalami supported the community, ISN/FEDUP and CORC around training community members and top structure construction. The community established the re-blocked layout and community-based maps in partnership with students from Cape Peninsula University of Technology and support staff from CORC. With the support of Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI, USA) the community drew up plans for the crèche. Habitat for Humanity South Africa contributed to construction by supplying the roof sheets and windows. The Centre for Early Childhood Development (CECD) donated funds to build the crèche. CECD will also support around the training and registration of the crèche.

From Melanie’s speech it was clear,

“This project is successful because of the methodologies we use. We allow communities to do their own designs. The community also made a [financial] contribution [in a settlement] where 95% of community members were unemployed. How do we change the mind-sets of people who are still waiting for adequate housing? Let’s change the way we are living now while we are waiting for housing to come.”

(Melanie Manuel, ISN Facilitator)

Important as settlement improvement is in itself, the methodology is just as significant. Moreover, Flamingo Crescent serves as a precedent for informal settlement upgrading on a larger scale. The day ended with the community leading the Mayor through their settlement, unveiling Flamingo’s new street names and officially opening the Little Paradise crèche together. It is Melanie Manuel’s closing words that speak of the future:

 “We need to look at a holistic plan for the metro. Let’s look at how we can reach basic services much quicker and how we can scale up. The Alliance projects do not only focus on reblocking but on basic services in every form. The Alliance has designed a City Fund with which communities can directly access money for upgrading in Cape Town. In Flamingo the Aliance’s Community Upgrading Finance Facility (CUFF) helped us match the 20% that each community member contributed to their structure. This kind of facility on a city-level will go a long way – we challenge the City to continue partnering with us and match our contributions in the City Fund!”

 

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