Posts for April 2012
SDI is happy to announce the launch of the 2011 UPFI Annual Report, marking an important point in the growth of SDI and UPFI.
The Urban Poor Fund International is a SDI subsidiary, governed by Urban Poor Federation leaders from across the SDI network, that provides capital to member national urban poor funds, who are affiliated to SDI. They in turn provide capital to savings federations undertaking important urban improvement and housing projects.
The Fund is established on the proposition that the poor are central actors in urban development and poverty eradication and are best able to decide and co-manage their own urban improvement programs. Giving the poor direct control of capital enables them to negotiate as acknowledged potential partners with formal bodies such as government and banks.
In the last four years, the Urban Poor Fund International (UPFI) has begun to serve as a platform for urban poor federations to develop partnerships with city, regional and national governments across the global south. This is a risky and ambitious commitment in a world of fractured development interventions, where challenges of urbanization are heard only incidentally and without much financial investment, intellectual and organizational focus, or political attention. This is despite the well-publicized fact that the majority of the world’s population now works and lives in urban centers. Global development discourse has a way of legitimating what strategies get adopted in local and national contexts. SDI’s presence at all levels has begun to help global strategists pay attention to local and city interventions and this in turn has contributed to a change in the course of development investments in an increasing number of cases.
This report tracks the processes and projects across the SDI network over the past year. From the launch of urban poor federations to formalized partnerships with local and national governments to precedent setting upgrading projects that serve thousands, 2011 saw UPFI funds put to good use across the network. We hope you enjoy the report, and look forward to another productive year in 2012.
Photo: Structure Owners (Yellow) and Tenants (Blue) in Mission Cell, Mbale
By Skye Dobson, SDI Secretariat
The National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU) pushes ahead with its innovative mapping work in Mbale Municipality. The federation conducted a city-wide slum enumeration in 2011 as part of the Government of Uganda’s Transforming Settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda Program – which is supported by Cities Alliance. The enumeration was conducted just like any other SDI enumeration, but because of its role in this national-level government program – active in 5 Ugandan secondary cities - the federation hopes it will set a precedent for the way community collected data can inform the development of municipal development strategies and slum upgrading strategies country-wide.
Following enumeration, NSDFU seeks to link its enumeration data to spatial data to create maps than can be used to generate discussion between slum dwellers and local authorities on upgrading. NSDFU’s mapping efforts were given a boost recently with support from a joint partnership between UN-Habitat and SDI. Thanks to a new tool developed by the Global Land Tool Network (GLTN), the federation expects to improve and refine the outputs of community enumeration and mapping – particularly related to land use and tenure. The land tenure issue is inextricably linked to the upgrading issue and NDSFU is starting the difficult process of disentangling the web of claims and counter claims in the country’s slums that often pose an intractable barrier to development interventions.
The land information tool called Social Tenure Domain Model (STDM), was piloted in Mbale municipality by the federation over the last six months and was received well by NSDFU, the Mbale Municipal Council and the Ministry of Lands Housing and Urban Development. The pro-poor information system is based on free and open source software, is user-friendly, and is a welcome example of how sensible technological innovation can respond to and encourage social innovation by aiding the information gathering and negotiation steps in a community-driven strategy.
Federation members, officers from the Ministry of Lands Housing and Urban Development, as well as municipal officials have been trained to use the software. The federation in Mbale, which was able to negotiate for office space within the Mbale Municipal Council offices, now has the software installed on its computer and is able to update the database without assistance from professionals.
At a recent reflection, the federation discussed methods for taking the process further. They decided that further sensitization is required to ensure there is no suspicion in the participating communities and they strategized ways to conduct such sensitization in conjunction with elders, local councilors and municipal officers. The federation discussed the need to be mindful of political events that may coincide with mapping activities as these have a tendency to complicate sensitization efforts. They designed guidelines for future training of questionnaire administrators and mappers and emphasized the importance of verification activities.
Critically, the federation discussed how they would use the information gathered and the maps completed. They reinforced the fact that the information is useless unless it informs negotiation and dialogue – both within the federation and with local authorities. The federation determined strategies for using the information to plan for increased service provision and potentially generate certificates of residence that will provide a first step toward incrementally improving the tenure security of Mbale slum residents.
The STDM pilot project in Mbale is supported by Cities Alliance and Government of Uganda through the Ministry of Land, Housing and Urban Development (MoLHUD) as well as the Federation of Surveyors (FIG) Foundation.
By Noah Schermbrucker, SDI Secretariat
Many development narratives provide theoretical analysis and debate based on community orientated social movements. While such analysis is interesting as an academic and theoretical exercise it often overlooks the practicalities of day-to-day processes and the resultant infrastructure developments in favour of a more abstracted reading.
How exactly do communities manage infrastructure projects? How do they secure land and finance, procure affordable building materials, organize construction, secure assistance from the state, plan for long-term sustainability and negotiate the daily challenges of project management. Make no mistake; communities are more than capable of building their own infrastructure, especially if this process is “nested” within a mobilized and organised social movement.
Over the coming weeks I will provide examples of SDI federation members describing the trials and achievements of managing their own infrastructure projects. These snippets are intended to provide insight into the practicalities of the process illustrating examples and experiences that resonate across the SDI network. We begin with the case of Kambi-Moto in Kenya, described by federation member Joseph Muturi.
I will just share some experiences from Kenya. We have several projects but the biggest project which we have is Kambi-Moto (Camp of Fire) community of about 270 families. After many years of negotiating we got a piece of a land from the city council and an MoU showing that the land is a special planning area. They gave us free land and we came up with unique designs and they have not been done anywhere in Kenya before. We got some money from our savings and from some donors (UPFI). We do not get any money from the government. We do not enjoy the kind of support from the government you get in Uganda – so we have to negotiate everything ourselves. Our NGO subsidized and gave us the technical people - then everyone had to dream and draw the kind of house they wanted (women, men, children). The architects and professionals take these drawings and take into account affordability, if possible…
We came up with the design - ground +1. We go up to save space and we share walls. As a federation our responsibility was to figure out how we are going to manage the site. We have a community Procurement Manual - how do we go about the business of procuring materials so what we did was to look at what we need for the next few weeks. They sit down and work it out - we send community people and we get quotations from different suppliers of materials, then we sit down and look at who is offering the best deal and will deliver on time. The procurement team and the construction team ensure the quality of the materials (quantity and standards). Sometimes people were bringing their friends and delivering less material…. We try to make things transparent and easy to manage.
For us we do not withdraw all the money. The executive draws money and gives it to the construction team and they pass this on to the procurement team. We need to sit down with the professionals who tell us for the next few weeks what we need and what we have to do. They can guide us and give us good advice.
The project management committee is at the regional level [in Uganda] - in Kenya it is at the local level. It comprises the beneficiaries of the houses - the only external people are the engineers, architects and other external people. They sit down and discuss things and the way forward every few weeks - the project team is at the site and its people who are locally available. The other advantage of having a local team on site is that we do not have outsiders to blame for our mess - we only have each other to blame. The construction team does weekly revue meetings - how far has the project progressed and how long it will take. The construction teams have a list of all the beneficiaries - they have to work themselves or pay someone to work for them. This process is taking a long time so now we are getting some subsidy contractors from within the community.
The more you expand and grow the more the challenges will grow-we will learn as we go along. This is just a basic framework of how we procure. Executive-finances, Construction-building and the Procurement team that is completely separate and buys the materials. We have community procurement manual - basic steps to go through and how we should go through the business of procuring.
Dzivareasekwa Extension (DZ Ext.), located 18km west of Harare, Zimbabwe, was established by the government in 1993. Originally, over 2,000 families resided here. Today, DZ Ext. is home to 450 families living in semi-permanent structures built from materials including brick and mortar, wood, polythene and sheet metal. Communal toilets service sanitation needs, and water is provided from 3 boreholes located throughout the settlement. DZ Ext. is located on state-owned land allocated to the Zimbabwe Homeless People's Federation in 2007 by the Ministry of Local Government Rural and Urban Development.
In January 2012, an architecht from SDI, Greg Bachmayer, worked with the Zimbabwe Federation and support NGO Dialogue on Shelter (DOS) on a slum upgrading project in DZ Ext. This was an opportunity to develop new affordable housing models that could sustainably increase the density and the status-quo. The attached report provides insight into the techincal and social processes involved in such a project, as well as a vision of the road that lies ahead for the project's completion.
Photo courtesy of ugandaonline.net
By National Executive Council (NEC), National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU)
The following letter was submitted as an OpEd to the Daily Monitor in Uganda following a tragic shooting during an eviction by the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) in Kampala in January 2012.
Many opinion pieces in this newspaper have, rightfully, condemned the violence that accompanied the recent eviction by KCCA of kiosks in Port Bell. They have lamented the dysfunctional legal system that allowed Agaba to be released on bond; the trigger-happy security operative; and KCCA’s heavy-handed approach when it comes to dealing with the deprived.
Like the rest of you, we watched in horror the sickening footage of the Port Bell eviction and shuddered at every gunshot. For too many years we have witnessed brutality in the name of development as community members in places such as Loco, Kisenyi, and Nakawa have been not only stripped of their homes and livelihoods, but also in some tragic instances their lives.
Despite wishing to add our voice to those condemning the operation we also wish to take the discussion a step forward by suggesting a way to ensure such events do not occur again.
As the governing body of a national urban poor organization – the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda – which is linked to over 30 such federations around the world, we can categorically state: there is another way.
We fully accept that sometimes evictions are necessary. Sometimes they are necessary to protect residents from hazards, sometimes in the name of infrastructural development, and sometimes to protect the environment. Throughout the Slum Dwellers International (SDI) network to which we belong, community-based organizations of the urban poor have been involved in this process to ensure that those affected understand the process, that resettlement options are presented, and that, where appropriate, adequate compensation is granted.
In Kenya, our affiliate is working with the government to relocate over 10,000 families from along the country’s railways; our Indian affiliate is assisting the government with the resettlement of 25,000 pavement dwellers and has already helped resettle about 14,000 families from along their railways; in Tanzania our affiliate federation has assisted the relocation of tenants from the land upon which Dar es Salaam’s port is being expanded; and in Ghana our affiliate federation is working with the Accra Municipal Authority to resettle around 3,000 residents from vulnerable wetlands.
How do they do this? The federations use tried and tested tools such as enumeration, mapping, and negotiation. Enumerations are like community run censuses, in which communities move door-to-door and collect information about families in the area. When officials and professionals attempt to extract such information they are often met with fierce resistance from fearful residents, but when local organized urban poor groups manage the process they are able to move much more freely.
Enumerations are often followed by community mapping, which is conducted in order to spatially represent the information collected. These maps are often vital for planning purposes and community involvement has proven successful in ensuring local residents appreciate the need for the proposed development and resettlement options. With their data in hand, communities can furnish local authorities with accurate and up-to-date information so that planning is more responsive to on the ground realities. To the negotiating table they also bring financial resources, mobilized through the daily savings of thousands of members.
The negotiation that follows is one based on mutual respect: respect for the need to plan our cities and an equal amount of respect for the residents of those cities who – often through no fault of their own – live at odds with long neglected or recently adopted urban development plans.
As the KCCA works to turn Kampala into a planned city, let it work with organized communities of the urban poor. Perhaps the process will move slightly slower than an early morning bulldozer raid, but it will legitimize the development agenda and prevent the loss of more innocent lives.
For more information on the National Slum Dweller Federation of Uganda, visit their website www.nsdfu.org.
By Jack Makau, SDI Secretariat
In many ways the Orangi Pilot Project is probably the closest ideological kin to an SDI urban intervention. At the heart of both organizations is the philosophy that organized communities are the most vital component in any process that aims to improve living conditions for the urban poor. Based in Karachi, Pakistan, OPP has facilitated the installation of a sanitation system for more than 1 million households living in the city’s Katchi Abadis, which are differentiated from slums mostly by state acceptance of the unofficial land tenure rights of the residents. However, the residents of the Abadis are, in almost every other way, the same as the slum dwellers that SDI is organized around.
SDI and OPP are contemporaries and have shared the same space, and similarity of opinion, within development circles since the 1990s. Yet, while there is no active contestation, or any call for it, there is divergence in approach. A distinctiveness which becomes apparent only when you dismantle the approach of each organization into separate pieces and juxtapose comparable pieces from each organization. So you have historical and local contexts that pit OPP’s Karachi experience against SDI’s intervention in Kampala. Or the sources and amount of development finance that has gone into 1 million individual household sanitation connections in Karachi and 2,000 communal sanitation units in Mumbai, and so on.
Photos of Orangi Pilot Project, courtesy of www.oppinstitutions.org.
In January, architect, activist, and writer and now-retired founder of OPP, Arif Hasan engaged SDI’s national affiliates through workshops held in Nairobi and Lilongwe. In open-ended discussions, Hasan laid out learning from three decades of OPPs experience. The attending SDI affiliates, including Uganda, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ghana, Namibia, Kenya, and Malawi, also told their individual stories about experiences over the last decade and a half. However, the most poignant achievement of the workshops was the disaggregation of both OPP’s and SDI’s approaches.
Having dissected and studied the approaches, it follows that we hold a discussion on the question, “How then do we, or you, construct (using the OPP and SDI components) an urban intervention that has real impact on poverty in a city?” – any city.
Over the next four weeks, we will feature a discussion on four components that OPP and SDI have designed differently – with varying degrees of success. This is an attempt at isolating the DNA of a successful intervention in how to reverse the impoverishing impacts of urbanization.
The first in the series will be a discussion on community organization. The two approaches under discussion are OPP’s “component sharing”, where the formation, sustenance and management of community organizations is almost entirely a community responsibility. This is looked at against the SDI tools of community organization, collectively called “federation building;” a model where organization is prescribed and the responsibility is shared between communities and development agencies. The discussion seeks to establish the structure for a successful interventions
The second part of the series will focus on the ways communities interact with the city. Who do communities talk to? How do they do this? And what do they say? This section discusses the strategy of interventions.
How is delivery resourced – who pays for what? This constitutes the third part of the series. What are the appropriate proportions of community contributions; government, private sector and external development finance.
The last part of the series is a discussion on achieving scale: what is distinct about the OPP strategy for scale against the SDI strategy?
Please join us in the coming weeks as we continue this important discussion.
by Michael Njuguna, Huruma–Kambi Moto, Nairobi
Muungano wa Wanavijiji, the Kenyan slum dweller federation, expresses its grave concern on the ongoing evictions and threatened forced evictions taking place in Nairobi’s informal settlements. The latest settlement to be demolished is Mukuru Kwa Njenga’s Wape Wape village where three people lost their lives as they scampered to safety.
The federation is aware that there are plans to demolish houses located near power lines in a number of our communities, particularly along the Mukuru belt and other areas. This comes at a time when Kiang’ombe and Mitumba settlements were demolished by the Kenya Airports Authority due to their location under JKIA flight path. It is my view that there are more humane ways of addressing slum issues, but forced evictions have never made that cut.
A good example are the negotiations that have taken place between the communities living along the Mukuru-Kibera railway line and the Kenya Railways, who sat at a round table to discuss on the modalities of a Railway Relocation Action Plan. This lead to thousands of people reaching consensus that, "indeed we are living on the railway line and other than living on a public land we shall agree to relocate.”
These threatened demolitions have caused widespread panic, fear and confusion in our urban poor communities. Of immediate concern to us is the likelihood that tens of thousands of people will be rendered homeless and left no alternative areas to call home. In addition, we are concerned that the evictions will provoke physical conflict and violence.
Slum dwellers across settlements and villages have made it an agenda to always scuffle over who occupies the limited space that is available after demolitions. There are instances where structure owners resist evictions, which inevitably would result into violence.
Moreover, we are very concerned that the government is undertaking these forced evictions without regard for the law or established human rights norms. In most scenarios there has been no official notices served to the potentially affected parties that their structures will be demolished. General statements made in newspapers do not constitute adequate and reasonable notice as required by law.
In addition, we have found that government and private investors have in most instances failed to consult with or inform communities about the parameters of the evictions. This is the reason why Muungano Wa Wanavijiji, is pushing for the enactment of the eviction guidelines, which will ensure that the urban poor are treated with respect. As it stands, people do not know when and if they are going to be evicted.
And most notably, the government has not provided the people living in the slums any compensation for resettlement or alternative housing, which Is a basic minimum requirements of the government when it undertakes forced evictions. This applies even when the evictions are justified or somehow necessary.
It is a fundamental human rights principle that any process to evict people must follow a peaceful and lawful process that protects the rights and dignity of the poeple. Development of any kind cannot take precedence over the human rights of the poor.
This article originally appeared in the Muungano News January-March 2012 e-newsletter.
For more news from the Kenyan SDI Alliance ,visit the Muungano Support Trust blog.
By Noah Schermbrucker, SDI Secretariat
This is the story of a public toilet built and managed by a slum dweller community in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. What is important about this story is not just the physical infrastructure provided but the socially embedded community processes that allowed for the toilets construction and that will ensure its sustainability. These processes, cemented around female-led savings group, are the backbone of the SDI network and create community “layers” that support infrastructure investments.
History and Context:
Keko Machungwa settlement is located in Miburani ward in Temeke Municipality, Dar-es-Salaam city, Tanzania. It is the home of more than 18,000 people and 5500 households who are living in overcrowded conditions. The settlement has a community market with about 50 stands providing business and entrepreneurship opportunities to members of the community.
The Tanzanian SDI Federation started working in Keko Machungwa in 2008 where 4 female led savings groups were established. These groups have savings of more than 15 million Tanzanian Shillings (USD $ 8,824) and have initiated various income generating activities such as soap making; development activities such as community household’s toilets, community water schemes and a public toilet at the market.
Women are the backbone of the SDI process; they know what is happening in their communities, have the best interests of their children at heart and work horizontally to share experiences, ideas, save small amounts daily and become involved in mapping and designing the interventions in their settlements.
Through an community-led enumeration it was found that although the market had a toilet it was poorly constructed with only one pit latrine and one hole for the whole market. The walls also had cracks meaning that the structure could have collapsed. Discussions between the community at the market place and the SDI Federation indicated that building a proper toilet was a priority. This process involved:
- Identifying the owner of the land, which turned out to be the Tupendane SACCOS, formed by the traders within the market.
- Taking the idea to the local government authority, who called the meeting between the landowner and the developer (federation).
- Conducting a feasibility study to determine whether the project was viable or not.
- Preparation of a memorandum of understanding which stated how the facility will be managed and how the loan will be repaid.
Another layer to this story is drawing in the local government and including them in the planning process. This dialogue allows for resources and expertise to be leveraged from the state. More importantly the state comes to see slum dwellers as more than capable of planning and managing improvements to their own settlements. The groundwork for future projects and a working relationship with the state is now possible.
Technical Design and Construction:
We do what we can, with what we have, where we are.
The community and the Federation, with support from architects, completed the technical design of the public toilet. The Federation's community technicians constructed the public toilet while the Temeke Municipality provided technical support. The technologies applied and building materials used are all locally available and affordable.
The foundation has two parts; namely the strip and pad foundation. A 100mm thick concrete slab follows three courses of the strip foundation. The pad foundation contains four columns that have been installed for supporting the concrete roof portion that carries the water storage tank. The superstructure was constructed using sand, cement blocks and mortar and is plastered both on the interior and exterior. The roof is divided into two parts: an iron sheet and a reinforced concrete slab. Below the roof there are the four reinforced columns that form part of the foundation and support the structure
The public toilet facility consists of three toilet cubicles (one for men and two for women), two bathroom cubicles and two urinal seats for males. The whole area of the project site is unplanned and contains no sewerage system so a septic tank was connected to deal with the waste. The effluent from the septic tank is discharged into a soak away pit.
The Federations role during the construction was to identify 4 Federation members to supervise the purchasing of materials, to negotiate with stall owners with regards to the toilets location and support the actual construction of the toilet. When communities are included in the design, construction and management of a project they will take ownership of the project ensuring its longevity.
Financing and Maintenance:
The total construction cost for the facility was USD $6,090 which was accessed through a loan from the Tanzanian Urban Poor Fund. The toilet attendant is paid USD $29 per month. An additional USD $6 per month is used to purchase detergents, soap and water. Anybody in the community who wishes to use the toilet has to pay a small fee.
The Keko Machungwa Federation is responsible for operating and maintaining the facility; this will be done for the whole period of probation and loan recovery. They report to the Market, local government and Regional Federation. The toilet was officially opened on 1 January 2012. It was agreed that the first three months of operation would be used as a learning period on how much can really be collected and compared to the initial estimates during the feasibility study.
The story of a toilet in Tanzania told the SDI way is a story of layers; layers of community cohesion and process on top of which infrastructure can be successfully built and sustained. Development projects and literatures are littered with “quick fix” technical solutions to urban poverty, but how can any technology work if it is not build on a participatory community process? The SDI rituals create an ongoing social movement that has the capacity to support infrastructure developments - it is the social backdrop against which technological interventions take place that is far more important than the nature of the interventions themselves.
By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI Secretariat
Even in the Athenian demos, representation was never universal. Only once you crossed the threshold of citizenship — to be land-owning and a male — then the democratic promises of political space and opportunity for voice became a reality. Theories of participation can be of varying utility depending on the extent to which they address the extent to which deeper values of participation are embedded in the institutional structures designed to enhance such approaches. By deeper values, I am, in part, referring to similarly broad constructs such as “inclusion.” But I am also concerned with something much more practical. The key question for me is how does government build an active citizenry through making the everyday tasks of governance both more effective and more empowering.
We can think of inclusion around three broad themes of governance: finance, planning, and politics. Finance includes activities like budget allocations, raising capital for projects, and management and disbursement of funds. Planning includes information gathering, as well as project planning and implementation. Politics includes accessing public voice, as well as the influence of this voice in setting general political priorities of individual institutions and social agglomerations such as states.
One democratic “innovation” that has been the subject of many academic studies has been participatory budgeting. This approach puts ordinary citizens in rather close proximity to decision-making around finances (or at least some designated pool of money usually at the city level). The most prominent example of participatory budgeting is in Porto Alegre, Brazil. There, three scales of administration characterize the approach: (1) popular assemblies, which are constituted at neighborhood and regional levels, (2) regional budget forums, (3) a municipal budget council. There are particular aspects of formal institutional design that have enabled the success of participatory budgeting in Porto Alegre, especially a significant amount of decentralization that empowers municipal-level decision-making. This is particularly so, of course, with respect to controlling the budget. In turn, Porto Alegre has seen great gains in both participation and redistributive action. At least in broad strokes, an active citizenry has gone hand-in-hand with successful governmental intervention to benefit the poor.
I want to delve deeper into one particular aspect of the approach in Porto Alegre, namely the role of representative organizations versus that of individuals. This remains quite a contentious issue in many parts of the world, where government and civil society are exploring forms of inclusionary institutional design. In some ways, the participation — and influence — of the “poorest of the poor” is much more suspect in the Porto Alegre case. As Graham Smith, a researcher from the UK, has noted, “the costs of participation generally remain too high” for those who live in precarious living conditions, with little money for non-employment related transport. In turn, their voices tend to have much less bearing on the budgeting decisions that have been so crucial to achieving otherwise successful redistributive developmental activities.
In turn, this suggests that, given the constraints of political agency and economic opportunity that exist among many communities of the poorest of the poor, representative organizations may have a lot to offer. The theoretical benefits of direct democracy and participation are clearly unavailable in practice. Therefore, democratic and institutional theorists need to pay much more attention to the kinds of popular institutions of the poor that can be effective at influencing formal institutional structures such as participatory budgeting. Three different types are a) city-wide community networks of informal settlement dwellers in places like Thailand that work with a government program for slum upgrading called Baan Mankong, b) street committees in places like Karachi, Pakistan, that work with local government through the Orangi Pilot Project, c) national and city-wide slum dweller “federations” in many countries in Africa and Asia, like those in SDI. These are by no means exhaustive.
We should not conflate “inclusion” and “participation” as catch-all theoretical approaches that will necessarily address the poorest of the poor. Similarly, we must be vigilant that we foreground the needs and voices of the poorest of the poor in development, both as a normative value as well as a functional strategy for coherent and sustainable society-building. One way to do this is to think of “democratic innovations,” in the broader frame of finance, planning, and politics that I propose at the beginning of this memo. I see this frame as much closer to the theories of “co-production” that researchers such as Peter Evans and others have proposed. In doing so, we become more aware of the ways in which institutional forms within society — especially those that represent the poorest of the poor — can influence not just one aspect of the governance equation, but all of them. Large contradictions of representation and accountability may persist, but the significant achievements of representative organizations of the poorest of the poor should be cause for much closer examination of their role in designing inclusive, and “pro-poor” formal institutions.
By Noah Schermbrucker, SDI Secretariat
On the Easter weekend I was one of 16000 people who braved the freezing rain to run the Two Oceans Half Marathon in Cape Town. What, you may ask; does running a long distance race have to do with Slum Dwellers International? On reflection there are a number of important comparisons that can be made between the SDI rituals and the running of a long distance race.
Of paramount importance to most runners is time; not just how long it takes to complete the race but also how one needs to maintain a steady pace throughout. In SDI time is also key. It takes time to build community solidarity and cohesion, it takes time for this social movement to have the capacity to engage with the state and it takes time to change the attitudes of urban planners, professionals and officials with regards to the poor. There are no instantaneous solutions or technological “quick fixes” to urban poverty and improving institutional conditions, like building houses, is done incrementally. Once communities are mobilized they can keep up a “steady pace” by saving small amounts daily, learning about and mapping their areas and becoming active participants in the decisions that affect their lives.
Surrounded by thousands of runners I began to think about space and movement, about the rhythm and flow of people moving through the urban environment. How do the urban poor experience and negotiate space, how do they move through the city and the slums in which they live? For the poor space is often an impediment to securing services and resources that are housed a great distance away. Part of the challenge of creating inclusive cities is creating inclusive spaces and linking these spaces together to form a network that connects cities through transport, economic and housing opportunities and resource flows. An inclusive city is a city that is spatially interlinked and interdependent across class barriers, a city that draws the poor into its flows and processes rather than expelling them to the periphery both figuratively and physically.
Should we not also marvel at how the poorest of the poor manage, against all odds, to carve a niche within an often-hostile environment, maximizing the efficiency of the tiny, cramped spaces that they cling to? The poor have defined space differently to our conventional assumptions about how the city should be molded. Commercial endeavors flow out of living rooms and shops double as bedrooms as the lines between spaces that are conventionally separated by the dictates of planning laws are blurred and continuously reconfigured. SDI does not see this as “illegal” or a problem but as an opportunity to create cross-subsidized housing models based on the combined commercial and private usage of space. New and imaginative conceptions of space are needed to make use of the limited resources available in rapidly urbanizing cities.
I would argue that space is predominantly defined by the State and the market-zoning, building and property laws regulate who can build what and where –in essence who has a “legal” right to space and who doesn’t. The poor are described as “illegal” or “informal” since their houses often do not adhere to these laws and standards. The states role should be to create a legal and institutional framework (in law and procedure) that imagines space differently. SDI processes challenge conventional perceptions of space-the call for inclusive cities being, in essence, a call for inclusive urban spaces. If space is historical, legal, political and personal then the state has the power to change the structural frameworks that define urban spaces to become progressively pro poor. SDI works towards this goal, setting precedents, negotiating with local authorities and attempting to change policies and development practices-creating inclusive spaces.
Returning to the race I was astounded at the feeling of being amongst a crowd of thousands of people all moving at different speeds in the same direction. This resonated with the idea of a global network of the urban poor based on co-operative learning who concurrently face similar challenges and have stated common goals. Power and strength is found in numbers especially when facing the endemic challenges of global urban poverty and exclusion. The strength of the SDI network is manifold; key lessons, support, learning exchanges, technical assistance and the sheer numbers of urban slum dwellers. The power of a network of the urban poor all “running” towards the same goals should never be underestimated especially when the poor themselves have the power to define the course that they chart. The SDI process, takes time and has a sustained rhythm that pounds like a thousand feet on tarmac, always moving forward, negotiating uphills and downhills, working towards small milestones and an eventual “finish line”-equitable and inclusive cities for the urban poor.
By Skye Dobson, SDI Secretariat
"The challenge of a radical democratic practice was both a personal and an organizational one. Group relations had to be reorganized, but individuals had to grapple with personal changes as well. The process of building a movement for social transformation had to allow for, encourage, and nurture the transformation of the human beings involved. Individuals had to rethink and redefine their most intimate personal relations and their identities" (Ransby, 2003; 369).
The above quote explores the transformation of individuals within the Civil Rights Movement as described in Ella Baker’s biography. I thought it would be interesting to examine the same phenomena within the Slum Dwellers International (SDI) movement.
This blog will be the first in a series of blogs on the individuals who make up the over 1.2 million slum dwellers that comprise the SDI movement. The series will explore the tales of individual transformation that are woven amongst the story of the evolution of the movement at large. These individual transformations, multiplied by over a million, are what give the SDI movement its dynamism and in turn feed a cycle of transformation at the individual and movement-level.
At the end of the series I hope to synthesize these tales into a more analytical piece on the topic of individual transformation within social movements.
This first blog will introduce a woman SDI president, Jockin Arputham, calls “Talkative Mama.” Her name is Katana Gorreti, the national treasurer of the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU). Katana explains this moniker as follows – doing a perfect imitation of Jockin whilst quoting him it must be noted:
Mr. Jockin is good because he really wants to hear the voices of women. He always tells me, “You talkative woman, you go and look for things you can do. You do things on the ground” … He is always saying women put things in the right way, they see that things are done.
Katana is a tiny little firecracker. Her diminutive stature is but a momentary guise for this tireless, bold, and dedicated 36-year old mother of six. Katana possesses absolutely no ego and is humble and generous in her authentic praise of others. Recently I watched as she worked right up until the day before giving birth to her last born, Justus. Two hours after giving birth she was discharged and got on a boda boda (motorcycle taxi) with her newborn and went home. The very next day she and Justus were back to work.
Life before the federation
Katana grew up in Bweyogerere, Kampala. She recalls wanting to be an accountant because she did very well in math at school. She was unable to pursue this goal, however, as she could not raise the school fees required for high school and her family was unable to find a sponsor for her. “My father did all his best for us to get education” Katana says, “he took me to good schools before he was bankrupt. He tried his best for all of us.”
Katana’s father went bankrupt after being falsely arrested when a generator was stolen from his workplace. He spent time in Luzira Prison until the real thief was discovered. The incident took a heavy toll on the family. Her father, who had been a storekeeper and bookkeeper took to farming when he was released from prison and found it difficult to make a living.
Despite being forced to drop out of school, the local Women’s Council noticed Katana’s dedication and capacity and in 1996 she was nominated to be their secretary. She worked hard for these women and in 2001 she was elected general secretary of the local council in her area. It was in her capacity as LCI secretary that she was introduced to SDI by a support professional working to build a federation in Uganda.
Katana said that when the SDI methodology was explained to her she agreed to try it in her area. She organized a meeting of 13 women and asked the professional to come back. “We told these women about savings on the 21st of July, 2007” Katana recalls, “and Cathy came with the savings books and we started saving. Then we started getting visitors from SDI, like Rose Molokoane and other groups started coming to our group to learn about the federation.”
The benefits of Federation membership truly became apparent to Katana when she and her neighbors in Kamwokya faced an eviction threat.
There is one mess I didn’t tell you about – that really convinced us to join the federation. In 2008 we had a serious eviction threat. It was claimed that all our land had been bought. When they came we had no information – we consulted the federation’s supporting professionals – they advised us to form a committee to follow up on these issues. We formed a committee and gave each person a responsibility to get information. I was one of the people who had to go to the Ministry of Lands to ask for the title for the land so we could see who really owned it. We asked for the title and we found out who the rightful owners were. It was not the person that was threatening to evict us even though they had even come with graders! We met the RC [Regional Councilor] and we informed the community and they were aware. When the land grabbers came the community was so mad – the police had to stop them from killing the land grabbers. We saved the major part of the land. We saw that working together could be very important.
This event was a victory for the movement and for Katana it crystallized in her mind the value of being part of a federation. It was more than just savings. Katana began to learn more about the other SDI rituals to see how these could make a difference in the lives of people in her community.
In 2008 – around August, we started settlement profiling. We visited Jinja and did profiling. I was in Kimaka settlement. I was not one of the leaders by that time, but because of my hard work I was selected to be part of the profiling team. We completed the whole of Jinja.
Working as part of the profiling teams gave Katana a richer understanding of the SDI movement. She interacted with members from other SDI countries to conduct the profiling and she learned about the lives of slum dwellers in other parts of her country. She began to truly feel part of a movement. As this sentiment grew within Katana she became a key mobilizer for the federation and was selected to be part of the team that would mobilize 5 new municipalities into the Federation in 2009.
In 2009 the TSUPU [Transforming Settlement of the Urban Poor in Uganda] program began and we conducted a massive mobilization effort in Jinja, Arua, Mbale, Mbarara, and Kabale. I went to all of them. Kabale was the most difficult. When we went to one cell, they chased us and wanted to beat us. They thought we were an organization that had come before and taken all the people’s savings. They were calling us thieves. But we kept coming back and talking to local leaders and eventually they came on board. A team that went to Mbale had also failed. But, we came again with Celine and a new team and we organized to meet the Community Development Officer. We then managed to mobilize them. When we went to Arua it wasn’t difficult to mobilize them. We found them already saving in their boxes and giving three people a key. We shared the SDI methodology and how it could help them improve their savings and more. In Mbarara they thought we were going to give them money, but they came to understand and even the mayor started saving.
An emerging leader
As Katana became more and more involved with the federation she found herself being groomed to take on a leadership position. Katana speaks with tremendous affection and respect when telling me about the NSDFU chairman, Hassan Kiberu. “Hassan taught me to remain calm and keep quiet. He told me, ‘You are a leader. You have to be an example, not bickering here and there.’
She explains that sometimes when others would argue with her she would get angry, but the mentoring she received from Hassan helped her to understand that, “It takes no matter to stay calm. You don’t lose anything.” Katana learned to listen and she learned to respect the views of those who disagreed with her. “I leaned the responsibility I have as a leader, both as a community and society. As a leader I have to see what benefits others and not to think of me. I can think of what will benefit the majority. What do the majority think of me?“
She came to see that harmonizing the very many views within the community and helping the community to work together was part of what being a leader was all about. “When we work as a team we can get many things. We can’t sit back and say ‘I’m poor I can’t do anything.’ No. You have to start small and you get big.”
She tells me she was inspired by other women in the Ugandan federation and in the SDI network, “I saw these strong community women leaders speaking and I thought I can also be a leader. I saw Rose Molokoane talking about traveling all over the world as a leader and I thought, yes I can do that.”
She realized from these women that to be an effective leader you can’t just talk. You must work hard. Katana felt she was well positioned to invest heavily in the federation. “I’m hardworking. Me I do every job. I got that spirit from my mother. She is a hardworking woman. She suffered a lot of domestic violence in her last marriage so she works hard. She focused on her work and becoming a business woman to support her children.”
It wasn’t long before Katana was appointed the role of National Treasurer for the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda. In this role she is able to use those strong math skills that had once inspired her to want to be an accountant. But her appointment to this position was more about her dedication and commitment to the federation and her trustworthiness. Federation leaders are not elected in Uganda as NSDFU does not want politics to poison the membership. Instead, leaders that exemplify the values of the federation and lead by example are groomed for certain positions of responsibility. “In my area I used to maintain the funds for the public toilet. From my area I had already been trusted to handle resources safely. This made me a good choice.”
When one sees the level of dedication to the federation Katana exhibits on a day-to-day basis it is easy to wonder whether she ever views her leadership role as a burden. I asked Katana and she responded that, “It depends on how you handle issues. If you handle it alone it becomes a burden. If it’s in your head alone, banange …”
Today Katana explains that she has a different kind of confidence and this has an impact not only on her work with the federation but upon her home life and her self-perception.
Through the small I have, I have done something. I am proud. Today I sit together with my husband and we together send the kids to school. Since I work so hard I get very tired. When I can’t do any work at home my husband helps and if I have to travel to Arua he takes full responsibly for the children. This never happened before I was in the federation. Before, we were parallel. Now we work together. He has also changed you see. He now says ‘if we assist women they can also assist us.’
She contrasts he husband’s view with that of other Ugandan men she has encountered. “In Uganda there are still many men who think women should not lead” Katana explains. “Someone can ask you, ‘You as a woman, you are talking? You are just a woman. You are urinating while squatting, what can you say?’” Katana has a response to such degrading insults, “What I always say is that the world is changing. Development makes many changes. When you empower women you empower the nation.”
Katana has seen the way women are changing in the federation. “With the federation women we are thinking big – we want businesses, we are also planning, we can buy a piece of land, we can acquire a loan, we can become a society and do things for ourselves. We do not have to wait for begging.”
She is inspired by her fellow women federation members, especially, she tells me, Sarah Nandudu – the Vice Chairperson of the Federation. “I really appreciate the way Sarah handles her issues as a woman. She takes the issues slowly, but steadily. She always has answers. She always tries to cool down the house. She can identify where the issue has come from and how it can be resolved without fighting each other.”
Today Katana thinks of herself as supporting the movement at large, not only her community in Kamwokya. “You know one time Medie [support professional] told me, ‘Katana you need to think country-wide’. Now, when I go home I think about what will happen tomorrow for the whole federation. What will happen in Arua? In Mbale? In Jinja? Like that.”
I asked Katana what advice she would give other federation leaders and she told me:
Work as a team and love your federation. We are doing this out of love. If you don’t love what you do you would stop. You reach home and you are so tired you don’t eat supper. You make the federation part of you. That is when you mobilize even your husband. Today I told him I would come late and he is looking after the children. When you make something part of you everyone around you, everyone can understand. That way I can’t say it is a burden because it is part of me. I have to do it because it is part of me.
Katana concludes by telling me, “Whenever Jockin visits Uganda he asks me, ‘Are you still talking mama or are you doing something?’”
To this Katana says she only has one answer these days, “I say to him ‘Mr. Jockin, there is no time for talking. It is time for action.’”
By Ariana K. MacPherson, SDI Secretariat
We talk a lot about exclusion and inclusion. The urban poor are excluded from the city. Therefore, we are trying to build inclusive cities - cities where the urban poor are at the center of their own development process, and that of the city as a whole. In South Africa, the Informal Settlement Network is spearheading a "Right to the City" campaign, bringing a new approach to improving the ties betweeen socio-spatial justice and citizenship on the one hand, and improved living conditions on the other. They are doing this by advancing the people-centred, community-driven approach known so well across the SDI network, and by taking that to scale through concrete, continued engagements with city government.
We talk about these things a lot. We write a lot about them. I have read and written about urban poverty, informality and exculsion for years. But that is not what made me decide to study urban planning or to relocate from my home in New York City back to Cape Town. And that is not what keeps me coming back to my desk every day, to read and write more about these issues. In fact, I had never really thought about these issues until I saw them. Perhaps this is why learning exchanges, where a group of slum dwellers and city officials leaves their hometown to meet their counterparts on the other side of the province, country or planet, are some of the most significant of SDI's social technologies. It is not until we humans see and speak to each other that we begin to make real these abstract theories and ideas. It is only then that we begin to feel the gravity of the situation, and of working towards a solution.
We talk a lot about slums, about urban poverty and exclusion, about living in a one-room shack with your entire extended family without clean water or electricity or a toilet. We talk about these things. But do we ever see them?
Childhood, Freetown, Sierra Leone
Collecting water, and paying a price, Free Town, Sierra Leone
Finding a place to call home, Old Fadama, Accra, Ghana
"If they demolish my house, I have no where to go." | Old Fadama, Accra, Ghana
Walking home with water, Nairobi, Kenya
The pavement dwellers of Byculla, with modern high-rises in the background, Mumbai, India
Playground, Dharavi, Mumbai, India
Afternoon in Burundi, Cape Town, South Africa
A room to call home, Old Fadama, Accra, Ghana
Along the canal, Dharavi, Mumbai, India
By Charlton Ziervogel, SDI Secretariat
The South African SDI alliance made up of CORC, FEDUP and ISN have embarked on a challenging programme to work with government in assessing the most critical needs of residents in specific informal settlements in the City of Cape Town municipality. This assessment forms part of a larger plan to look at ways to upgrade informal settlements and provide sufficient basic services for the residents.
The City of Cape Town municipality has been involved in collecting information in informal settlements but has not been able to get a genuine depth of information. This is where the SDI ritual of community enumeration comes to the fore and demonstrates just what an advantage there is to be gained by involving as many community members as possible in the planning and development of their own settlements as well as needs identification. As a mobilizing tool a community enumeration is unparalleled in garnering support, building enthusiasm and excitement for the residents in the settlement preparing for this process. Like wild fire the news of activity spreads as enumerators start moving door to door and word gets out that a real attempt will be made to try and improve living conditions.
What the enumeration does however for the community is bring it face to face with some of the truths that exist but are not necessarily known to the planners, officials and even NGOs who work with them. Over the course of the past 3 weeks I have been exposed to this reality in different settlements in Cape Town, South Africa all engaged in the process of enumeration and all looking to get organized in preparation for future upgrading projects. The challenges around inadequate services, housing and insecurity of tenure already provide numerous hurdles to overcome but the additional complexities in these informal settlements demand a nuanced approach to upgrading initiatives.
In each of the settlements a discussion session was held with the settlement committee concerning their expectations of the enumeration. The discussion also served as an opportunity for community members to give input into what the enumeration questionnaire needed to cover. These discussions served as a very interesting peek into some of the dynamics at play in the community that would normally go unnoticed to outsiders looking to make interventions. In an informal settlement in Athlone, community members were most concerned about structure owner versus tenant relationships. The official policy is that shacks should not be rented out but this does not prevent this practice from occurring. In this settlement the renting of shacks was widespread and with news that an upgrading project was in the pipeline, structure owners were returning to their shacks and effectively evicting their tenants. The community committee was most concerned about identifying who had been living in the settlement for an extended period of time as well as whether or not these residents were renting.
In another settlement located in Strand the community committee estimated that there were approximately 450 shacks. These shacks were being serviced by 5 flush toilets and 6 chemical toilets. After a more in depth discussion it became apparent that in reality only 2 of the flush toilets were working. The chemical toilets were all full and were not being emptied thus rendering them useless. Officials in this particular ward would have us believe that the bucket system was not in operation in this settlement. In conducting further workshops with this community it became clear that often people had no choice but to resort to the bucket system.
Community members discussing an enumeration questionnaire in Cape Town
In another informal settlement in Milnerton hundreds of shacks were being serviced by a few chemical flush toilets. In a discussion about this particular community’s needs toilets were obviously high on the agenda but as important to the residents was the problems they had with crime. For them it was just as important to get a stronger police presence in their settlement, as it was to gain access to better toilet facilities.
These were the first opportunities I had to engage communities in Cape Town around the rather technical side of enumeration. But amidst the methodological discussions on what constitutes good questions for enumeration and what could be done through settlement profiling, communities were always willing to take the discussion to a deeper level. In doing so they revealed the many layers of complexity that also need to be considered when dealing with informal settlements. It is not always about how many toilets or taps you can throw at the problem, but also about achieving a holistic overview of the settlement through the eyes of the people who live there. In the weeks ahead I will be interacting with these communities around ever more technical topics but there will always be the space for a good long discussion about their many needs. Often as development practitioners we enter settlements with preconceived ideas about what the focus should be but these experiences have once again reminded me that nothing teaches you more about a community and their settlement than an open discussion with its members. Community ownership of the upgrading process does not lie only in their participation in installing the infrastructure or services but also in the knowledge production of information about their settlement. Here in lies the real power of the enumeration exercise, it opens up the space for discussion and a two-way knowledge exchange between the formal and the informal.
By Jack Makau, SDI Secretariat
A forum of African city governments with the support of SDI will organize the third SDI dialogue on citywide slum upgrading later in 2012. This key agreement was arrived at the second dialogue held at the end of March in Harare, Zimbabwe. The agreement represents a deepening of relationships, not only between national SDI federations and the their local authorities, but also the linkages between cities around shared approaches to slum upgrading. The need for connectivity and continuation between the Dialogues was accentuated in the event’s concluding remarks by dialogue moderator, Beth Chitekwe-Biti.
While the first dialogue, held in September 2011 in Uganda, invited the participation of local authorities, the Zimbabwe Dialogue was hosted by the city of Harare and presided over by the Mayor, His Worship Muchadeyi Masunda. In his opening address, Masunda emphasized the importance of synergies between cities, slum dwellers federations with the support of donor agencies. He cited the USD 5 million support to Harare by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that has enabled the city to have productive engagement with the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation. This, he said, has provided a basis for interaction and learning between the city council of Harare and other city councils both in Zimbabwe and around Africa.
The Harare Dialogue drew in city authorities from the southern African cities of Harare, Windhoek, Lilongwe, and Lusaka as well as the Zimbabwean towns of Bulawayo, Chinhoyi, and Kariba. Speaking at the Dialogue, the Town Clerk of Lusaka in Zambia, Mr. Andrew Mwanakulange further underscored the need for a regional city fora, around which the next dialogue would be organized. “It is effective if we reach out to our counterparts in Luanda, Nairobi and so on, to be part of this effort”, he said.
Accompanying the city officials to the dialogues were representatives of the slum dweller federations and planning school professors from each of the cities. The participation of universities marked a second stream of partnerships that the Dialogue sought to animate. Prof Peter Ngau, from the University of Nairobi, said, “one of our key purposes of being here is because we have been discussing change of the teaching curriculum to reflect the realities that our cities are trying to address”. In 2009 SDI signed a memorandum of understanding with the Association of African Planning Schools that aims to lend advocacy and technical support capacities to the citywide slum upgrading approaches being applied by the slum dweller federations.
Each of the city-federation-university delegations made presentations on progress on their joint work. A key concern was the lack of a monitoring framework that could be used to assess progress achieved between Dialogue sessions and indeed the impact that the partnerships have in their respective cities. A call was made to SDI to facilitate the development of the monitoring framework.
The Harare Dialogue, and the Kampala Dialogue before it are part of SDI’s Seven Cities project series. These projects aim at building new strategies for community driven citywide slum upgrading. The projects aim at inclusive, pro-poor interventions in large informal settlements that will serve as centers for learning. The cities identified for SDI’s seven-city strategy are: Kampala, Blantyre, Accra, Harare, Windhoek and Nairobi in Africa and Mandaue in Philippines
By Noah Schermbrucker, SDI Secretariat
Most native English speakers will recognize the word “fundi” as describing someone who is an expert within a specific field. During a recent SDI visit to Tanzania I was surprised to learn that the word originates from Swahili and its popular usage denotes anyone who has detailed knowledge and experience relating to a specific trade. For example computer, TV and cell phone fundi’s are experts in selling and maintaining their respective products. The knowledge and expertise that “fundis” possess can be acquired through informal channels and transferred to others through apprenticeships. The word resonates with the way that SDI rituals empower community members with the knowledge and skills to implement, manage and sustain their own practical interventions and how this knowledge can be transferred throughout the SDI network.
In Tanzania, federation members have, in the local vernacular, become toilet fundi’s. They have built, managed and maintained toilets in informal settlements such as Keko Machungwa in Dar es Salaam. Through the rituals of daily savings women have been able to access finance and toilets serving several families have been built. Technologies appropriate to the conditions of the settlement were selected and both men and women from the federation assisted in the toilets construction. Asha Muhidini, a federation member, explains “ Before our toilets were flooding, this meant that we had many problems with disease and there were often outbreaks in the settlement. Now this has been reduced. Many federation members are now toilet construction fundis and these are mostly women.” To date 9 toilets for federation members and 6 private toilets have been built in Keko Machungwa.
Federation built toilet
A community toilet block, managed by federation members has also been constructed at the market. A federation member informed me “The toilet at the market is benefiting everyone who does not have a toilet like visitors, stall owners and residents. We have learnt to keep the toilets clean, the mixing of disinfectants and we have learnt to manage the finances. A toilet attendant has a book where he records all the transactions.” The public toilet not only meets the sanitation needs of the community but also generates income for the federation members that manage it.
Public Toilet block next to the local market
Not only have the federation worked to improve sanitation within Keko Machungwa but also, with the assistance of the Centre for Community Initiatives (CCI), water boreholes have been drilled and water kiosks established. Buckets of water are sold to community members at each kiosk. The system is managed by a water committee and maintained by the community. A number of kiosks are dotted across the area. The community has also formed a solid waste collection team that not only keeps the streets clean but also collects garbage from houses on a weekly basis charging a small fee for the service. The refuse is then transported to a central point where it is collected by the local municipality. Toilet construction and management, water kiosks and solid waste management exemplify the transformative ability of a community-led process that gains traction precisely because it is anchored within a local socio-economic context and not externally determined.
Without formal training or much assistance from the government the residents of Keko Machungwa have begun to manage their own water, sanitation and environment. Using the solidarity created by daily savings federation members have begun to organize and improve their own communities. In doing so they have accumulated practical knowledge and expertise in building, maintaining and managing basic services. Creating the conditions in which this type of community based knowledge and experience can emerge is critical for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it practically demonstrates that communities are more than capable of managing their own development projects. Secondly, it builds community solidarity around tangible results that improve the entire community. Thirdly, it takes place in context. Nobody understands the unique contexts, politics, history and socio-economic challenges of an area like those living there. Projects that overlook these facets of community development have the potential to fail. Fourthly, since work is contextualized and practitioners are community members deliverables can be replicated in similar conditions in the city, especially since SDI comprises of a network of the urban poor who continuously meet and exchange ideas. The sharing of ideas, methods, successes and failures in a supportive environment comprising of people who face similar challenges negates deterministic top down relationships. Projects then have the potential of going to scale across informal settlements and the city.
The onus is on local authorities and national government to create the conditions in which community-led development can gain traction and go to scale. Evicting the poor from the city is never the answer. The Tanzanian example illustrates the amazing capacity of the urban poor to manage and develop their own communities with the little resources that they have. By creating pro-poor urban planning regulations, subsidizing centrally located land for the poor, providing basic amenities, regulating the formal market to cross-subsidize for the poorest of the poor, favoring incremental in-situ upgrading over eviction and advocating projects that are creative and people-centered, the role of the state is integral in achieving inclusive cities. SDI federations work to leverage these and other resources from the state, challenging the policies and mindsets that create conditions that exclude the urban poor from the benefits of the city.
By Skye Dobson, SDI Secretariat
As the world becomes increasingly urban, so too does the challenge for adequate and affordable housing. No where are affordable housing challenges greater than in the slums of the Global South. Like most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana’s affordable housing sector is characterized by an acute inability to meet rapidly growing demand due to inefficient land markets, a lack of affordable credit, and poor planning. It is believed Ghana needs to build a minimum of 500,000 homes a year to address the housing deficit – not accounting for population growth. In urban centers it has been reported that 5.7 million additional rooms will be required by 2020. While such predictions must be taken with a grain of salt, it is clear that the magnitude of challenge is immense.
Ghanaians are by now familiar with tales of housing schemes gone bad. The Ayigya project, for example, involved the construction of 800 apartments of various sizes on 50 acres of land. The project, which reportedly cost some ¢300 billion, has not been maintained and was recently reported to be home to over 1,000 squatters. The fate of the project is similar to that of many donor and state interventions. In general, government provision of affordable housing has, like elsewhere, proven to be overly expensive, incapable of going to scale, and unresponsive to the needs of the urban poor who presently account for the bulk of the affordable housing demand. Market-led strategies are also problematic. For the urban poor, mortgages for the most basic housing are unaffordable. Interest rates are too high, wages are too low, and collateral that would satisfy a commercial bank can rarely be found in communities of the urban poor. In short, institutional dysfunction precludes the vast majority of the Ghanaian population from access to affordable housing.
Throughout the Global South, Slum Dweller Federations are attempting to address this institutional dysfunction. The Ghanaian Urban Poor Federation (GHAFUP) is no exception. GHAFUP has approximately 131 savings groups comprised of almost 11,000 members. These groups spread across 7 regions and are networked not only nationally, but engage regularly with federations throughout the global SDI network.
In Ashaiman, a Ghanaian municipality in which almost the entire population lives in slums, the adequate and affordable housing needs are acute. Formerly part of the Tema Municipality, Ashaiman has long been settled by those serving the industrial needs of Tema – Ghana’s prime industrial and harbor city. The community in Ashaiman has been hard hit by the industrial decline of Tema, with unemployment crippling the capacity of residents to invest in housing.
In order to address this state of affairs, GHAFUP mobilizes communities into savings groups. They save daily, mobilizing not only financial resources but collective capacity as members meet weekly, manage their funds, and discuss issues of concern to their communities and strategies for addressing them. GHAFUP members formed the Amui Dzor Housing Cooperative and set about planning a housing development to house 32 families. GHAFUP’s collective efficacy facilitated the formation of a partnership with the UN-Habitat Slum Upgrading Facility. UN-Habitat helped negotiate a long-term mortgage for the cooperative from a commercial bank at an interest rate of 12%. SDI extended loans from the Urban Poor Fund at an interest rate less than 5%. Together this credit enabled the GHAFUP members to commence construction.
The project, named the Amui Dzor Housing Project, is a social housing project. The three-story structure consists of 15 commercial units, one and two bedroom apartments, and a 12-seater public toilet (managed by the cooperative), which subsidizes the cost of the housing. Visitors pay a small fee to use the services and the housing cooperative collects this money and uses it to help pay back its loans. Unlike many public sanitation facilities in Ghana, this unit is maintained well thanks to the collective capacity of the cooperative managing it.
The federation has driven the housing project since its inception. They negotiated with the traditional council to secure the land for the project – even taking members of said council to India on and exchange to view the housing projects of the Indian federation. GHAFUP was also central to the process of formulating a relocation strategy for housing those displaced by the construction process in transitional housing. In addition, GHAFUP partnered with architecture firm Tekton Consultants to design the structure, they sourced construction materials, dug trenches, and assisted with grading. Members selected beneficiaries for the project themselves, and negotiated with local authorities for support. The project has created tremendous goodwill between the federation and the Ashaiman Municipal Authority.
During focus group discussions held at the project in February 2012 the federation emphasized the greater understanding the project has generated for federation processes in Ashaiman. They have proven they can manage projects of considerable scale and claim to now be treated with greater respect by local authorities.
At the meeting, federation members reported that repayments are progressing well and money is being funneled back into Ghana’s Urban Poor Fund, which will help to finance other GHAFUP development projects in the country. This is a key element of SDI’s Urban Poor Fund concept. Repayments on loans secured by member federations do not come back to SDI, but rather to a national-level Urban Poor Fund, which continues to revolve money into new capital projects for members. The public toilet project generates an impressive income from users and this money will assist the community to pay back their loans. Women’s business empowerment initiatives are also striving to increase the capacity of members to make loan repayments.
The project’s has been recognized as a model for affordable housing provision. Amui Dzor Housing Project was awarded “Best Social Innovative Housing Project” for the urban poor and low-income people by a panel of housing experts in 2010, while Tekton Consultants was awarded “Best Designed Architectural Concept for a Mixed Use Development in Social Housing for the Urban Poor.” The Ashaiman Municipal Authority and the Traditional Council are eager for the project to be scaled up and plans are underway for a second phase to commence. The importance of having the support of the Traditional Council cannot be overestimated. Over 80% of land in Ghana is owned by traditional chiefs, so taking any affordable housing strategy to scale will require their close collaboration.
The Ghanaian example highlights the effectiveness of the SDI approach to affordable housing. Federations save money as a collective, increasing their capacity to access credit as well as mobilizing the collective capacity and trust required to sustainably manage projects. The savings of the urban poor also decrease the level of subsidy required and increase project ownership. Community involvement serves to reduce costs by mobilizing community labor, utilizing local knowledge in sourcing building materials, and generating the skills required for project maintenance. Partnerships between organized communities of the urban poor and other urban development stakeholders – particularly local authorities – is essential for going to scale and addressing the systemic dysfunction that has for too long excluded the urban poor from decent and affordable housing.
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- SDI Participates in Commonwealth Local Government Conference, Uganda
- Quiet Conflict: Social Movements, Institutional Change & Upgrading Informal Settlements in South Africa
- ‘The Tenement City’: The ‘Inconvenient' Urban Reality Facing Nairobi
- NIMBYism Blocks Development in Havelock, Durban
- An Introspect of the late Benson Osumba, Chair of Muungano wa Wanavijiji
- Creating Organised Communities of Slum Dwellers in Uganda
- SDl Joins World Urban Campaign
- In a Risky Place: Women & Sanitation in Nairobi's Slums
- Using Enumerations for Upgrading: Namibia to Cape Town Learning Exchange
- Benson Osumba on Mindset Change Amongst Youth in Africa
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- August 2010
- July 2010
- June 2010
- May 2010
- April 2010
- March 2010
- February 2010
- January 2010
- December 2009
- November 2009
- Zimbabwe federation holds forum, Southern African hub meets
- The Zabaleen of Cairo
- Community Policing in Slum Settlements
- Slum Dwellers, Academics & City Officials Dialogue in Harare
- Re-designing the city one shack cluster at a time
- Unabated Forced Evictions in Nairobi's Informal Settlements
- The Beginnings of Enlightened Planning?
- SDI at World Urban Forum 6: Making Space for the Urban Poor
- Culture, identity and slum areas: opportunities and challenges seen from slum dwellers’ perspective
- Diary from Mumbai: Part III