Know Your Settlement/Know Your City: Slum Dwellers Federation of Namibia and the Community Land Information Programme (CLIP): Part I

Monday, 16 February 2015

By Royal Mabakeng and Braam Harris for SDFN and NHAG with Anni Beukes, SDI Secretariat

“As someone who lives in a shack, it is my responsibility to do this work and take it step by step. You don’t get all the training you need, you learn as you go.” Olga//Oases (SDFN and CLIP Facilitator from the Erongo Region, Namibia)

On the morning of 24 September 2014 there was much nervous excitement at the Habitat Resource Centre in Windhoek, Namibia. The small group of women who made their way up the sandy road came from almost all corners of this vast and sparsely populated country. We met them just before the descent to the conference venue and having been introduced to their sisters from Zimbabwe, Luciah and Mohlin, they broke out in spontaneous song and dance, filling the warming morning air with sound and dust. This is a scene endemic to any space where women of the international federation of Shack/Slum Dwellers International meet. Despite the language differences in the songs, the message is always the same and instantly and warmly understood: “we are together, we are one”. Even her Excellency, Maria del Carmen Diez Orejas, Spanish Ambassador to Namibia was enveloped in the dancing as she came by. After all, today there was much to celebrate. The Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN), together with Namibia Housing Action Group (NHAG) was presenting the outcomes and outputs of a 4 year long community-led data collection process. Since October 2010 this work has been supported by the Alliance for Solidarity and funded by the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and Development.

The Community Land Information Programme, or CLIP as it is commonly known, was initiated by the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN) and supported by the Namibia Housing Action Group (NHAG), in partnership with informal settlement communities, Local, Regional and National Authorities in Namibia. This programme aimed to facilitate a process whereby informal settlement communities and local authorities participate in the understanding of the circumstances and community needs in informal settlements to enable development planning and sustainable solutions for securing land and access to basic services. Since the early nineties SDFN-NHAG collected socio-economic data in various locations in Namibia. Gobabis Municipality in the east of the country and the City of Windhoek were the historic loci of activity where the federation and NHAG supported the development of databases and registration of households in informal shelters and settlements. These databases were premised on community-led and collected data. Nationally though, there remained a dearth of grounded and accurate information on informal settlements as recognised by the Secure Land Tenure Committee of the National Habitat Committee under the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development and the SDFN and NHAG by the middle of the previous decade. The lack of basic information needed by Local and Regional Authorities to identify the scope of land requirements and needs in urban areas remained a serious problem. At the National Housing Conference in 2006, the process and method of the SDFN and NHAG was adopted and nationalised resulting in the Community Land Information Programme (CLIP). This process started with the profiling of all the informal settlements in Namibia.

A total of 235 settlements in 110 urban and emerging urban areas were profiled. The results were published in March 2009 and it became the first complete national profile of informal settlements undertaken by a federation within SDI. The second phase, the full enumeration and mapping of households in these settlements started shortly after.  During this phase, the CLIP teams, again made up and led by community members from informal settlements set out to collect and analyse socio- economic data in 116 of the 235 informal settlements previously profiled. This would become the first full census of informal settlements in conducted in Namibia and based on a survey tool co-designed by the constituency to which it relates.


During these 4 years of the second phase of the CLIP process, more than 250 activities took place. From socio-economic data collection at the household level, mapping of settlements and structures, digitization and analysis of this data, to the feedback of findings and results, always through regional, national and international exchanges between CLIP Teams. Discussions and negotiations for upgrading options in four pilot towns, namely Gobabis, Grootfontein, Omaruru and Windhoek were also undertaken. For the first time community members from informal settlements sat together with local authorities to discuss upgrading options and improvements for their settlements based on the data they collected and the prioritised needs identifed through this process. In March 2014 the first Reblocking Community Studio took place in Freedom Square informal settlement, in the town of Gobabis. Community members and Local Authorities worked together on the design of a new layout for Freedom Square, with the support of the Polytechnic of Namibia, SDI and representatives of other Namibian towns.

In recognition that data collection is only part and the beginning of the process of negotiation and participation in prioritised development for both the community and their local city authorities, an official from the Omaruru town council likened CLIP to “klip” – which is a local word for stone or rock - only the first and yet foundation piece of building a house. Another likened it to the link between commutnites and their governments.

A great number of Namibians, half a million people, according to the CLIP data, are living in informal settlements as a consequence of the migration to urban areas in search of better living conditions. Community-led data collection complement the efforts of local and national government in generating the crucial data that is necessary to assess the true situation of informal settlements and provide a foundation for collaborative planning of urban areas. The results and processes of programmes like CLIP take governments and communities beyond awareness to understanding and action.





24: The Day Huruma Slums Got Secure Land Tenure

Friday, 13 February 2015

A backstory inspired by the TV drama, "24". 

By Jack Makau, SDI Secretariat 

3:56 PM Friday 30th January 2015

Jane Weru, Director of Kenya slum dwellers financing facility, Akiba Mashinani Trust gets a call on a number she does not know. The caller says “this is Charity Ngilu”. It is Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Land, Housing and Urban Development. “With me I have the former vice president of Spain, who is in Kenya on an official visit.” “She is interested to meet with grassroots women in Kenya and I remember your Muungano women with head scarves coming to see me in my office”. “I’d like her to meet with them tomorrow.” Jane says a visit can be easily arranged and the date is set.

4:21 PM

Rashid Mutua, Chair of the Kenya slum dwellers federation, Muungano Wa Wanavijiji meets Jane Weru at the federation offices. With him are the leaders of a greenfields housing project to house 2300 slum families. They have an appointment to meet the head of the slum improvement program of the National Youth Service (NYS), a para-military division of government that undertakes development projects.  NYS want to use the land set aside for the greenfields project to put up a camp for their engineering battalion. The battalion will put in infrastructure that benefits the Mukuru slums where the greenfields project is located. On their side, the greenfields project leaders want a letter recognizing the use of their land from NYS.

4:30 PM

Kenya Airways Flight 765 from Accra is touching down at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi. On board is Joseph Muturi – national leader of Muungano and board member of Shack Dwellers International. Muungano’s driver Karanja is at the airport to meet him.

4:31 PM

With no driver at the federation offices, Jack Makau, Administrator of the professionals who support Muungano is co-opted to drive the team to the NYS headquarters. He joins Jane, Rashid, and the project leaders. On the drive there, Jane asks Rashid to call the residents of Huruma slums and let them know that she will be visiting the next day with the former vice president of Spain, who is interested to meet the women in the settlements.

6:05 PM

There is stalemate between Mr. Makokha, NYS Head of the slum improvement program and the greenfield’s project leaders. Government will not give them a letter recognizing that they have allowed use of their land for an NYS camp. The leaders are threatening to kick out NYS from their land. Jane steps out of the meeting to pick a call.

8:21 PM

The meeting with NYS has reached an amicable conclusion, where NYS will set up camp and in return will landscape the land, fill a 100 meter deep disused quarry on the land and fix the broken borehole, even as they work on other infrastructure in the Mukuru slums. Once in the car, Jane informs Rashid  that the Cabinet Secretary had called again to say she will be accompanying the Spanish delegation and she also wants to meet Muungano women.

9:05 PM

Rashid, who has not made it home to his settlement in 2 weeks checks into another bed and breakfast in the center of Nairobi. He places a call to Joseph, who has been home for less than 2 hours since arriving from the airport. Rashid wants Joseph to organize 500 head scarves for Muungano women, to be delivered in Huruma slums at 9 am. Rashid then settles down to place calls to slum settlements to get 500 women to go to Huruma by 10 am.

Saturday 31st January 2015

2:34 AM

40 kilometers away from Nairobi hotel, five women are hanging out to dry 500 white head scarves with “Muungano” written in bold green letters. They have been hand pressing the wording since Joseph called.

6:17 AM

Jack is setting off from home on his bicycle to join other bikers for a group ride. He plans detour at 1: PM to meet Jane and drive her to Huruma slums where she will meet the Cabinet Secretary.

9:20 AM

398 kilometers away from Nairobi, Erickson Sunday, National Muungano Leader in Kisumu City is sending $1000 on mobile money to Rashid to pay for the transport for Muungano women coming to Huruma. The first group of women from city slums are just arriving in Huruma. Instead of the 30 women expected in this group, 56 women have shown up. Rashid is hoping that the other slums are going to stick to the numbers he asked for. The budget to support their transport and lunch is stretched.

11:30 AM

Jane calls Jack and says that the rendezvous with the Cabinet Secretary is at the Kempisky Hotel, one of Nairobi’s newest and most luxurious hotels. Meanwhile, Rashid is relying on the women leadership to organize lunches for the now over 500 women that have arrived in Huruma.

1:30 PM

At the lobby of the Kempisky Hotel, Joseph is wearing what he describes as he’s best Italian SH*T and Jane is in a floral flowing African dress, Jack in sweat socked biking shots and tight T.Shirt. All sitting across the Cabinet Secretary, who is perfectly dressed in white slacks and Armani sunglasses. They are discussing construction cost per square foot of low cost housing and how to set up a government and community  savings national housing fund.

1:42 PM

 The Spanish delegation arrive at the Kempisky Hotel.

1:51 PM

Joseph has been asked to enter the police vehicle leading the official delegation so he gives the direction to Huruma Slums. The siren lights are already whirling. Jane has gone into the forth car, a huge SUV, together with the Cabinet Secretary and the Spanish former VP. Jack has unyoked the wheels of his bike and put the whole thing in the boot of Jane’s car. He plans to chase the official convey and not get caught in traffic.

1:52 PM

Rashid calls Joseph to ask which of two Huruma slums they should the start with. Meanwhile women from 3 of the Huruma slum that will not be visited are up in arms protesting to Rashid.

1:53 PM

The convey starts to snake its way out of the hotel. Jack, at the back has pulled out too, but is speaking on phone with Rashid, who is reporting that media trucks are appearing everywhere. Jack doesn’t see the kerb at the hotel and the wheel hits it hard. The tire deflates.

1:54 PM

In Huruma, words are flying. Women from the settlements that will not be visited versus the women from slums in other parts of the city. Rashid walks away and leaves them to it. He goes to inspect the housing sites where the Cabinet Secretary will visit. In formul-one pit-stop style, Jack’s car is lifted by security and placed on a jerk and the tire changed and done before the sound of the convoy’s receding sirens completely fades. Jack has lost the convoy and is soon engulfed in traffic, inching towards Huruma. He’s lost the initiative.

2:21 PM

As the Cabinet Secretary alights from her car in Huruma, Rashid who is positioned to meet the delegation, is elbowed out of the way by the women reaching to witness the arrival. He is now 5 rows behind the women and he has lost the initiative. Jane, the Cabinet Secretary, and the former vice president are slowly making their way to a block of houses still under construction.

2:21:30 PM

Joseph has jumped out of the police car, hoping to get into the main delegation. He’s 6.4 frame can be seen above everyone else, powering he’s way through a sea of women.

2:22 PM

One of the women in the welcome party whips off her Muungano scarf from her sweating brow and lurches to the Cabinet Secretary and starts to tie it on her head. The seasoned politician, bows slightly and allows her to knot it. Jane flinches but keeps her smile. Taking cue from the action, the women are now adorning the entire delegation in wet scarves. The Spanish VP’s daughter has a look of sheer terror on her face.  Muturi, sees that the women have taken over and let’s go. He too has lost the initiative. He is quickly embroiled in an argument with the brooding ladies at the back whose settlements will not be visited.

2:23 PM

Susan, former chair of Kambi Moto, the second upgrading site in the visit –   smoothens the seat clothes in her houses and rearranges the plastic flowers on her coffee table. The Cabinet Secretary will soon be visiting her house.

2:25 PM

The Secretary has made her way up to the roof slab of one of the houses. The crowd of women and hundreds of onlookers are ecstatic. The women are singing federation songs, there is cheering. Security has totally been disabled by the crowds and Jane is looking around frantically for someone who can bring some order. Two women she doesn’t ever remember seeing are explaining how they save and how they construct incrementally. The Secretary looks pleased.

2:46 PM

The Secretary’s security detail has established a path for the delegation to leave the site. As they walk the women are waving their savings passbooks and singing. A passbook is thrust to the Secretary’s face. She stops and takes it. Jane’s heart skips a beat. The book is actually a stack of passbooks taped together and covered in clear cellophane. The Secretary opens the passbook and examines it. Jane moves closer to see what the book says. In ten years the lady has saved $2500. The Secretary starts to walk again, still holding the book. After a few quiet steps she turns to Jane and says, “We are going to do something big, very big, with your women!”

2:48 PM

It is clear the delegation doesn’t want to get into their cars. They are walking the kilometer to Kambi Moto, the next site. Cameras are being hauled along, and the media trucks with dishes on their roofs are revving but cannot move. There are women everywhere.

2:51 PM

From the doorstep, Susan knows the moment has come. She can hear singing and cheers nearing. Joseph, sees Rashid in the throng. He makes his way to him. Rashid sees Joseph and smiles resignedly and says, “I think our work here is done”.

2:56 PM

The delegation arrives in Kambi Moto. They slowdown to shake hands with a fresh group of welcoming ladies. Someone notices that the former vice president of Spain and her daughter are nowhere to be seen. The security detail scramble – tearing through the crowd in all directions.  Jane wants to scream. The Secretary looks completely at home.


3:02 PM

The Secretary is ushered and walks into Susan’s house.  Susan takes charge and replaces Jane.

3:03 PM

The Personal Assistant to the Secretary sees Joseph and calls him over. He says, “If you can get close to her, tell her the media are going to ask about the Wilson School scandal”. 

3:10 PM

News of the Spanish delegation comes in. Women from one of the settlements not in the itinerary diverted her and took her to their settlement.

3:12 PM

The Secretary recognizes Joseph when he brushes his way to her side. He delivers his message. She asks, “What Wilson scandal?” He answers, “Where it is rumoured that the vice president has grabbed land belonging to a primary school”. She smiles and focuses back.

3:14 PM

Jack finally drives into Kambi Moto.

3:54 PM

The Kambi Moto visit is coming to an end. The Secretary is going to address the media and leave. She says, “The president doesn’t know about this work Muungano has done”. There are loud cheers. It’s almost inaudible when she adds, “I’m going to bring the president here!”

3:56 PM

The visiting delegation enter their cars.


7 Hours After. Chelsea FC are playing Manchester City in the English Premier League. The match is watched by less slum dwellers in Kenya than is often the case when big matches like this take place. On this day, the 9 pm news broadcast is far more important for them.

19 Hours After. Jane is making breakfast for her family. Her phone rings. The Cabinet Secretary says to her, “I am going to see the low cost housing the government has built. Will you come with me?”

168 Hours After. Jane’s phone rings. It goes unanswered. She left it by her bedside when she left for work 2 hours earlier.

177 Hours After. Jack catches a flash of the 7 pm evening news. The Cabinet Secretary was back in Huruma. She declared that the government was going to issue land tenure certificates to the residents of the Huruma slums.




YOUTH: Young. Organised. United. Talented. Hardworking.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

By Skye Dobson, SDI Secretariat 

“Poor people have me. Rich people don’t need me. If you eat me you’ll die. I am worse than a demon. Who am I?” 

This was the riddle Rogers, a youth member of the South African SDI Alliance posed to youth from across South Africa, Uganda, Kenya and India at the opening of a peer-to-peer exchange held in Cape Town, South Africa for youth activists last week. He put his phone on the table and said that whoever solved the riddle in 3 minutes would get the phone. To honor the riddle, I will tell you the answer at the end of the blog. 

Unfortunately the phone deal has expired.

“As a girl, I’m always told things happen because of fate. But it’s the things I do, not luck, that determine my fate. So we must forget about fate, and move forward.”

Shikha, India 

The exchange was inspired by the youth activism of Prayasam, an Indian organization founded in 1999 to enable children to participate in the decisions that affect their lives. When Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI), an international network of slum dweller federations in 33 countries, learned of Prayasam’s work and the shared strategies used to organize communities to profile and map their settlements as a starting point for negotiations with authorities, it was agreed that the two organizations would do well to promote peer-to-peer learning between youth members and other youth groups trying to make change in their settlements. With support from Sundance Films, SDI, Prayasam, The Community Organization Resource Centre (COURC), and SDI hosted a 6-day learning exchange for youth from informal settlements in Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, and India.

“I taught myself how to share and how to love. The River of Life showed me you can solve your problems as a group.”

Lucky, South Africa 

A River of Life exercise on the first day – led by the Prayasam youth – kicked off the exchange and supported reflection by the youth on the highs and lows of their lives and their goals for the next three years. The youth drew and presented their personal rivers to the group. The stories were touching, referencing hardships such as the death of family and friends, early pregnancies, gang membership, and lost opportunities owing to a lack of financial resources. On the high points of their rivers, however, they explained the pride experienced when they got into or performed well at school, found spiritual direction, became members of youth groups, and took part in exchanges with other youth both locally and abroad. While their highs and lows were described in individual terms, it was fascinating to note that their aspirations for the future were almost entirely group-centered. The youth spoke of wishing to bring their communities together, of wanting to empower their peers, about increasing the membership and impact of their youth groups, of setting a good example to children, and of advocating for the rights of the young and the disadvantaged.  This exercise set the stage for the youth to engage each other more openly. Instead of the standard introductions of formally structured peer-to-peer learning, these introductions stripped the process down to authentic fundamentals: Who am I? Why am I here? How did I get here? It was clear that the process was as much about answering these questions for oneself as it was about sharing it with others.

“The film showed that you’re never too young to make change.”

Sefiso, South Africa

A key inspiration for the youth exchange was a film called The Revolutionary Optimists, which follows Amlan (founder and Director of Prayasam) and three of the children he works with, as they become agents of change in their communities. The film not only captures the incredible work of Prayasm’s children, but the realities of life in Indian slums.  On the second day the youth were able to see the film at a community center in Langa as well another from Uganda, The Boda Boda Thieves, which captures some of the realities of life in Uganda’s slums. The feedback from the youth was thoughtful and insightful. They were quick with their praise for the Indian youth and concluded that one is never to young to make change in his/her community. They expressed the similarities they saw between conditions in India and their own countries – particularly related to poor sanitation, teenage pregnancy, and child labor. They joked of the celebrities in their midst! From The Boda Boda Thieves film they concluded youth must be very careful when it comes to peer pressure and a desire to get money quickly. They all had stories about youth who had succumbed to peer pressure and “gangsterism” and they made references to the contributing factors. They discussed the importance of reaching out to parents so that they can support their children to join youth groups and take part in productive afterschool activities as an alternative.  

“Statistics might be different from experiences.”

Sibo, South Africa (Sizakuyenza) 

A unifying strategy across many of the groups is the collection of data by youth in order to plan for change and negotiate with other actors – often the State – to implement solutions. Both Prayasam and SDI affiliates profile slum settlements, but their approaches are slightly different and the youth were able to share and reflect on each others strategies, achievements, and challenges. In the spirit of Learning-by-Doing, the youth went to a settlement in Nginalendlovu in Khayelitsha anda settlement profiling exercise which was facilitated by community members and supporting professionals in the South African SDI Alliance. Half the group used GPS devices to map the boundary of the settlement, while the other half conducted the socio-economic profile with the local community, while trying to squeeze into all available shade under the awnings of shacks. Rogers, a youth member from Kwazulu Natal administered the questionnaire with infectious enthusiasm and finesse.

Community members were guided to discuss and generate information on their settlement, from the origin of its name, to issues of tenure security and services, to the biggest challenges facing the community. From the discussions it was clear that the community is unsure of the land ownership, but that rumors of Church ownership circulate. They say they face eviction threats, but that they have no intention of moving anywhere so don’t bother themselves with it too much. They expressed major concerns with water supply, flooding, and crime, but they were unanimous that the biggest threat to their community at present comes from rats. One gentleman explained that his cat was eaten by a rat and that children are attacked and one child’s hand was bitten off. It is important to note that a problem with rats was not amongst the check boxes on the questionnaire. This highlighted Rogers’ skill as a profiler and the need to allow sufficient time for communities to make less structured contributions throughout the profiling process. The community was eager for the compiled information to be returned to them and the discussion about their issues to continue so that they can begin to generate solutions.

“…everything in nature has its own reason.”

Rogers, South Africa

The reflections from one of the youth on his visit to Path Out of Poverty (POP) on Goedgedacht Farm visit were so poignant. Through a long term, holistic, programme, POP builds confidence and skills in rural youth and offers opportunities for self advancement and for making a real contribution to their own communities. Rogers said he was “blown away by POP” and that he learned “everything in nature has its own reason. You can learn from nature if you’re patient. If you watch it, it will teach you.” One could argue the same is true for these youth, who clearly have so much to teach the world about their realities and how they believe change is possible. Within them, like nature, the solutions can be found for many of the world’s ills. Salim, one of the Indian youth, said the way poems and song are used to “manage the kids” at the Goedgedacht Farm will really help him to strengthen his leadership at the preschool in his community, while Kamalika from Saldanha was inspired to go back to her community and work with small children.

“They come in wrecked and leave as a piece of art”

Sibo, South Africa

On Wednesday the youth visited Sizakuyenza to see youth projects, including a recycling project, health services, and a women’s home called House of Smiles. The local federation designed Sizakuyenza to serve as a basket of services for the federation saving groups and their wider communities. The recycling initiative (Solid Waste Network) provides employment for youth and supports the municipality to keep the area clean. Many of the youth from South Africa and the youth from India were particularly interested in the waste project, as they have plans to operate waste management businesses of their own. 

At House of Smiles the youth asked many questions about the women who live in the shelter and whether they were safe from their husbands once inside. They were interested to hear about the close relationship the center maintains with the police and the confidence they place in them. Many of the youth harbor suspicions about police, but the House of Smiles team has developed a close working relationship with them, which makes their premises and inhabitants feel secure.

In the afternoon a youth choir by Ubuhle Bendalo, a youth group of about 90 members based in Makhaza, Khayelitsha. The group meets most days after school and uses the performing arts to develop each other’s artistic skills and address challenges in their community. The song, dance, and poetry were moving and had a number in the audience trying to blink away tears. The youth in Makhaza work hand-in-hand with the local police to fight crime and youth participation in gangs. A police officer gave testimony that the settlement has been transformed by the presence of the group. For SIkha, from Prayasam, the afternoon with Ubuhle Bendalo was the highlight of the week - she was infected by the group’s vibrancy and wanted to take that energy and vibrancy back home. 

“At first I was not about to swim. I don’t know how to. But when I heard those guys explaining, I decided to try.”

Allan, Uganda


Thursday was a day of physical exertion! The day began with some training at the Future Champs Boxing Gym in Philippi and ended with surfing in Muizenberg. The two events highlighted the powerful role sports can play in the process of team and community building, the humbling and unifying effects of learning something new, and the power of fun in managing some of the stresses of daily life. Manish, from Prayasam, was inspired to take some of the tools of the Future Champs (boxing) and Waves of Change (surfing) programs back to the Sports Academy he is part of in India.  Many of the youth had not seen the ocean before. Many could not swim. Yet, they surfed! They laughed in the “salty water” with their faces plastered with white sunscreen and fearlessly took on the challenge.

“And to those who sent me here: I will make you proud.”

Sifiso, South Africa

On the final day of the exchange the youth had a reflection on the week and all agreed they had become family. With sincerity they told each other how much they would miss being together and pledged to stay in touch and provide continuous support via social media as much as they can. 

And the answer to the riddle? It’s “nothing”. Poor people have me. Rich people don’t need me. If you eat me you’ll die. I am worse than a demon. Nothing. 

Though the riddle was a whole lot of fun, the week’s exchange made it very clear that poor people don’t have “nothing” at all. Though poor, the youth showed they have authenticity, compassion, innovation, and commitment to improving their own lives and those of their communities. Exchanges such as these will inspire changes within individuals and communities in ways we cannot possibly predict. But, this is the exact strategy (as much as it sits at odds with increasingly logframe and indicator obsessed NGOs): Bring the people together and let them create new knowledge, develop their own insights, reaffirm their own value, develop new strategies, and then figure out how to implement. 

“I am not the same person I was before I came here.”

Patrick, Kenya



The Boda Boda Thieves

Monday, 26 January 2015

**Cross-posted from Boda Boda**

In Kampala, Uganda, the city streets are always grid- locked and congested with traffic and the fastest way to travel is on motorbike taxis called “boda bodas”. The men who drive these boda bodas have a reputation for being tough hustlers; after all, you have to think quickly to survive Kampala traffic.

City life has been unkind to a small family consisting of Goodman, Rosa and their teenage son Abel. Their hopes of finding a better life in the city have turned into a nightmare of daily subsistence. When young Abel is first entrusted with the family boda boda it isn’t too long before things go wrong.
We follow Abel on his quest through the city and in the process gain an insider’s view of urban Africa, its underworld and the generation gap between urban migrants and their first generation children.

The greatest migration in human history is happening right now in sub-Saharan Africa. People are leaving the land and villages to stream into the cities in numbers that dwarf any other exodus. They come in search of a better life. Sometimes they find it, more often they don’t. Their numbers swell the burgeoning ghettos that surround the urban centres. Our story deals with this huge issue from the perspective of one small family trying to make it in the city.

THE BODA BODA THIEVES as a concept is a homage and tribute to the great Italian neo-realist film THE BICYCLE THIEF (1948) by Vittorio De Sica. Our film is not a remake or re-interpretation, but an original work freely inspired by the classic. We do endeavour to remain true to the spirit of the classic and the Italian neo-realists. The intention is to update realism with a youthful edge.

This is another Yes! That’s Us film and as such we stay true to our working method of using a small mobile crew of multi-tasking people making media with a message. Uganda has received a lot of bad press lately due to a raft of repressive laws against homosexuality, freedom of expression and even miniskirts. Not all Ugandan’s have fallen for these political stunts though.

Boda Boda Thieves - Trailer from james tayler on Vimeo.

For more information on The Boda Boda Thieves, visit their website or click here for a full press pack. 

SDI has supported the production of The Boda Boda Thieves through our Know Your City initiative. To learn more about Know Your City, click here.  


Deepening Citywide Participation in Mombasa, Kenya

Thursday, 22 January 2015

By Edwin Simiyu 


Muungano’s 668 community savings groups are distributed across 11 town and cities in Kenya. In 2014 the federation undertook a citywide profiling of all slums in 6 of those cities.  One of the main goals of this exercise was expand the engagement the federation has with city authorities, from a slum case level to recognizing and planning for all settlements within cities.

In Kenya’s second city, Mombasa, the citywide engagement had a different entry point.  Early in 2014, the County Government of Mombasa announced intention to develop a Strategic Integrated Urban Develop Plan (SIUDP). The plan would draw in technical support from JICA and private sector consultants. However a precursor to the plan was that the county government was required to present a spatial analysis of the current situation of the city.

Recognizing the unique skill set of mapping human settlement and infrastructure within cities – the County Government requested the support of the federation’s support professionals to develop the city spatial analysis. Edwin Simiyu, a trained surveyor, with five years experience in slum mapping with the federation was seconded by the federation to the county government for a six months period.

A significant impact of Edwin’s secondment has been the recognition of slums as part of the city’s fabric. Previously absent from city zonal plans of land use, slums are now included as a zoning category known as High Density Low-Income areas. Edwin presents the experiences and outputs of his 2014 secondment with the city government below. 

Background Information

The Mombasa County is located in the South Eastern part of the Coastal region of Kenya. It covers an area of 229.9 Km2 excluding 65 Km2 of water mass which is 200 nautical miles inside the Indian Ocean.  It borders Kilifi County to the North, Kwale County to the South West and the Indian Ocean to the East. Administratively, the county is divided into six sub-counties, namely: Mvita, Nyali, Changamwe, Jomvu, Kisauni, and Likoni, and thirty county assembly wards. These are further sub-divided into twenty locations and thirty-five sub-locations.

Population distribution and settlement patterns in the county are influenced by proximity to vital social and physical infrastructure networks such as roads, housing, water, and electricity. Other factors that influence settlement patterns include accessibility to employment opportunities and security. The total population of the county in 2009 was 939,370 persons of which 486,924 are male and 452,446 female. It was projected to be 1,052,802 in 2012 and will rise to 1,273,049 persons by 2017.

In the county, 65.6 per cent of all houses are stone walled while those made of brick walls stand at 7.5 per cent.  Corrugated roofing accounts for 69 per cent of all roofing materials while tiles make up 9.7 per cent of all the houses in the county.  Most of the mud-walled houses are found in the slum areas where they are temporarily built.  In these areas land ownership is not guaranteed, as most of the residents live on land owned by absentee landlords.

Land ownership is a very important factor in the socio-economic development of the county. As of July 2013 only 30 per cent of the residents had title deeds to their land. The county experiences very high incidences of landlessnes, leading to a large number of squatters. Currently, the county has identified a number of issues which it believes affect the 99 informal settlements found within the county.  They include: indiscriminate solid waste disposal, poor road conditions, inadequate water supply, pollution (land, air, and water), inadequate housing units, poor waste water disposal, and inadequate sanitation facilities (e.g. public toilets, waste receptors, waste disposal sites).

Mombasa City Zoning Process

The Mombasa City Zoning process is intended to achieve a Zonal Plan - the spatial framework guiding development of land for the county. The Zonal Plan defines standards and regulations for development of various land uses in the identified zones for 15 years from the date of inception. In this way, it provides guidelines for development proposals, applications, and approval, and is a tool to control development across the county. Therefore, the process provides a framework of 

plan implementation, organization and administration structure requirement, and resources needed to implement the plan. With the help of the Kenyan Federation, Muungano wa Wanavijiji, the County Government of Mombasa also intends to use this zoning process to come up with development proposals for the high density low income settlements as well as the effective participation of these key stakeholders in the Strategic Integrated Urban Development Plan. 

The Planning Area covers the entire County of Mombasa and it divides Mombasa County into Four Main Zones namely:

1)    Mainland North Zone

2)    Mainland West Zone

3)    Mainland South Zone and

4)    Island Zone

The four zones are further subdivided into sub zones to enable administrative of development control and enforcement.

The expected outputs of the planning exercise include:

  • A situational analysis of the current socio-economic, physical, environmental and cultural characteristics of the Mombasa City;
  • A widely accepted vision for the town’s development;
  • A detailed structure plan depicting specific land use and zoning regulations (code);
  • Sector strategies including transportation, investment/economic, settlement/housing environmental management, disaster management and cultural heritage preservation plan;
  • An implementation matrix with associated realistic costs and responsibilities for implementation of agreed sector wise prioritized programs.

The team started with a situational analysis to establish the situation on the ground. Based on the existing land use maps as well as the data obtained from the rates office, the existing land use situation was captured and presented spatially (as illustrated in figures 2 and 3 below.) This was essential in order to compare with the actual situation on the ground once the reconnaissance surveys are carried out. One observation from the existing land use maps is that a number of areas were categorized as deferred land when in reality this does not exist. Most of these areas are in fact slum areas.

Fig. 2: Existing land uses based on payment of rates. 

Fig. 3: Existing land uses based on inception report (2014)

Field Visits

After the situational analysis was conducted the next step was to conduct a reconnaissance survey, and subsequent transect surveys of the city and its environs. The transect surveys were meant to confirm the situational analysis, appreciate the city, identify data that might have been missed in the situational analysis, and acquire data for the zoning planning process. 

Edwin designed a questionnaire using the Epicollect Plus application, which was used to capture the identified data sets in the field in order to guide the zoning process. During this reconnaissance phase, the GPS coordinates of the informal settlements were also acquired so as to assist in delineating the location of these settlements on the map so that they also form part of the planning process. A total of 16 informal settlements in Mombasa North were captured during the process.  The sample database for these settlements is shown in the table 4 below.

Table 4: Informal settlements in Mombasa North 

Based on the data collected, a fresh situational analysis was conducted to bring out the actual existing situation on the ground. Land is critical to the economic, social, and cultural development of the county. Because land is a scarce inelastic resource, there is a need to establish the right use in the interest of the community members being planned for. Land is therefore the main interest of a planning process, as all planning interventions must have a spatial dimension. A critical assessment of the land use structure of the area was necessary in order to facilitate the decision making of the various future proposals for land use in the County Government of Mombasa. An assessment of land use in this area assisted in identifying the potential for future development, planning activities, and creation of a land information system that will guide the development controls within the county. Through discussion with the team members, the planning department will adopt STDM (Social Tenure Domain Model) as the principal land information system that will anchor the zoning plan. Based on the analyses of the data collected, figure 4 shows the updated land use map for Mombasa North.

Fig. 4: Updated current land use analysis for the Mombasa North section. 

As is evidenced in figure 4, agricultural land occupies a 40 per cent of the total land of Mombasa North. However, most of this agricultural land has started being transformed to residential uses. About 15 percent of the land is occupied by informal settlements, which have been represented on the map as HDLI (High density low income settlements) and HDMI (High density medium income settlements). Some of the settlements have been identified for formalization of tenure; these include: Kilimanjaro, Mkomani, Shanzu Majaoni, Ziwa la Ng’ombe and Utange Giriama. 

The rate of residential development in agricultural areas is moving very quickly. Large parcels of land located in the northern part of Mombasa North are being subdivided in order to make space for residential development. In addition, development along the major roads and along the ocean is moving very fast towards commercial. These developments are evidenced by the building of major chain supermarkets and luxurious hotels along the Mombasa Malindi road as well as Nyali part of Mombasa North. Therefore, the team came to a general agreement to designate Mombasa North section as a mainly residential and commercial area.

The urban form and character which the settlements in the area are taking is indicative of spontaneity and informality.  The growth of the urban areas was not planned and has not been provided with services essential for sustainable urbanization. Private developers are also undertaking unregulated development.  The zonal plan will play a great role in regulating matters to avoid the situation moving further into irregulality. As the city intends to move in this direction, the participation of the Kenyan Federation in the process ensures the following key principles are achieved: the need to build upon existing community assets and strengths; use of infrastructure planning as an entry-point to address other related issues; and ensuring meaningful participation & community ownership.

Fig. 5: Draft proposed zones for Mombasa North 


This report has summarized the work accomplished so far for zoning the City of Mombasa. The planning was phased out in four sections of Mombasa North, Mombasa West, Mombasa Island and Mombasa South. The draft for Mombasa North is expected to undergo review this month as the work for the remaining three sections is also undertaken. All the drafts should be ready before the end of January 2015 so that stakeholders consultative forums can be conducted during the month of February and the Zoning Plan can be concluded by March 2015. The work reflected here is the result of our successful collaborative planning efforts between the Kenyan Federation and the County Government of Mombasa, aimed at improving the lives and living conditions of slum dwellers in Mombasa County and all slum dwellers in Kenya. The partnership has already started looking into proposals for addressing the housing issues in informal settlements. The Federation is already in discussion to invite the Minister for Lands, Housing and Planning (Hon. Francis Thoya) together with other senior county officials to a learning exchange on housing. This is intended to finalize the discussions that have been started on the development of a housing model that will be used for addressing the housing challenges in informal settlements in Mombasa County.

Based on the information available, the Federation has also started building a database of all the tenure patterns in the informal settlements as this is key in guiding the planning proposals that can be projected for Mombasa County’s informal settlements. This tenure analysis involves boundary mapping of all the informal settlements, overlaying them with the survey maps for the County to understand which settlement lies on which parcels of land. This will then be tied with the ownership information to achieve this tenure analysis. In essence, the work has just started and since there is the will, then the way is definitely there.




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