Posts for June 2012
By Sheela Patel, SDI Secretariat / SPARC
Culture is Produced by the People
Cities are now at the cross roads of making choices in relation with what attributes they concede to the production of culture. Planning norms and practices have begun to identify buildings, districts and heritage sites, and often end up protecting them against people!
Cities are truly the creatures of living cultural heritage, and its inhabitants must face the challenge of dealing with seemingly sensible rules and regulations that are not working for a large section of their populations. Instead of creating mechanisms to arbitrate between diverse interests and conflicts, these processes are producing mono cultures that stamp out the rights of many for the fulfilment of rights for a few. These challenges are most obvious in cities of the global south, although these tensions and processes operate in all cities around the world.
All southern cities are crowded by people generally using non-motorized transport. There are large crowds everywhere, in markets and on the streets and in temples. There are festivities erupting in cosmopolitan neighbourhoods where modern global “good practices” seek to reduce sound pollution and thereby put restrictive use of public spaces where traditional celebrations takes place and where the poor participate in large numbers. As a result, the spontaneous yet structurally robust confusions created by celebrative events in the heart of cities - are being stamped out by rules created out of fear and demand for clearing the public spaces for cars of the elite. Gated communities, shopping malls, fly-overs, all new symbols of modernity and success and progress are destroying living city cultures that have evolved through many decades and in some instances through centuries.
How should the rules of engagement for cities be developed? How can universal guidelines work to identify, deepen and make robust that which is celebrated and produces a public and street culture that “modernity” and “the new monocultures” are systematically killing? What are “the precious elements ” which creates identity, relationships and networks in cities? What can and should be changed in order to produce more equity, more inclusion and breach old cultural practices? Who is it in the power to decide?
Not a optimistic picture
The present situation is not very optimistic. In many cities both the built heritage and cultural traditions are first demolished and then their loss is bemoaned, by which time it cannot be reconstituted. Often the reasons for the loss are hidden and not understood by those who lost these spaces and lived through the processes of cultural change. What they do recognise are that what happened seems to lead to reduced tourisms or reduced livelihood options and reduced revenue, which again brings a sense of crisis into the challenges already faced when addressing cultural issues.
Cities and towns in the global south seek copy the development of cities of the north without acknowledgement that in their past industrial stage they faced similar challanges. Development imageries are imported from northern post- industrial cities and imposed along with their development regulations, and end up making cities work for a few and make the majority’a usage of the city illegal. The use of public spaces for informal habitats and livelihoods have become unacceptable by the rule of law based on the planning norms from the “global north”. International development and knowledge systems and “modern town planning schemes” further assists deepen this process. In some places the needs of 10-15% of the population elite, overrides the needs of the whole city.
Countries, cities and localities in denial of their cultural heritage
Culture is not just old buildings, it’s how individuals, neighbourhoods and cities create rituals and practices to transact their lives, produce processes and systems which enable them to cohabitation. Each generation has to assess these practices and choose what works for their time, and what is intergenerational and critical for future generations to retain.
Markets, neighbourhoods, walled cities are under threat by modernity, mainly because the lands on which these operate are now seen as valuable to capitalize on. Wet markets (vegetable markets) which are in every city and town in the global south, where the rich and poor buy their food and other daily needs, are gradually being phased out. Malls are replacing the wet markets, and many studying this phenomenon clearly see that the natural cross-subsidy for fresh produce and vending opportunities are lost to a large majority.
Most cities have the poor, the markets, and the “modern city” competing for a place within the city centre. Many cities seek to kill the organic development process by putting up roads and big buildings in an attempt to provide some “order”. Evictions of poor neighbourhoods are seen as inevitable in the name of investing in the public good, and many households have not even been given compensation because they do not have legal deeds to the land; they have only lived there for many decades.
The questions to be addressed are: Are there other options? Can the right for life and livelihood be invoked to protect the rights of the poor? Can solutions be developed through dialogue and discussions? Can large infrastructure projects consider these processes as investments worth making in both the time it takes to build consensus as well as to produce increased inclusion? The fact is that traditional neighbourhoods and their livelihoods are being destroyed every day as we are searching for evidence for “best practice”.
Take the challenges of informality
Most of the urbanization in the global south is informal, and the largest employment takes place within the informal sectors within a bazaar culture; such as vending and recycling businesses. Street markets, crowded sidewalks are all part of the life in the cities and the markets are venues for many a cultural practice that modern planners seek to control, and in their task often destroy.
Take the instance of waste pickers in Cairo and for that matter all cities in the south. For centuries communities have traded in recycling and have created livelihoods which cities could nurture and link to the city’s garbage management. These processes are sustainable and all they need from the state is the right to have space to sort and transport recyclable waste. Yet almost in all instances the city hires private sector waste recyclers who rarely sort and separate the garbage collected. The traditional waste recyclers need contractual agreements that include them in the garbage industry. What is being done today by city planners is that they seek expensive and unsustainable solutions of garbage handling systems from “the north”, from countries which just recently has started in the recycling of garbage business.
Everyone at odds with slum dwellers
Cities are now at the cross roads in relation to what attributes they concede to the production of culture. Planning norms and practices have begun to identify buildings and districts and heritage sites and often end up protecting them against people! Informal settlements look like a sea of roofs from the outside and so impenetrable that the only way that planners figure to deal with them is by demolishing them. In reality these are complex neighbourhoods that are evolving and changing. Their ability to morph into viable neighbourhoods is dependent on the involvement of the state to assist and support this process. The poor living in the city centres are competing against the elite: Struggling towards the power of the vertically structured commercial house and land market infiltrating their neighbourhoods.
The next few decades will exacerbate our urban challenges
It is already globally announced that more than half of the world population lives in cities and that even more will settle down in the already crowded cities of the south. For some decades cities have had to accommodate very large numbers. It seems that in future, most houses will be self-built incrementally because cities and national governments can’t develop financing mechanisms to aid them at the rate and pace they need. Most residents will be employed informally and will stay at odds with the laws, the laws which they cannot accept because they are framed to exclude them. In many cities household people squat on sidewalks and bridges in order to be near work, work which again very often forms informal occupations servicing registered institutions and businesses as well as elite households.
All southern cities are and will continue to be crowded. People will continue using non-motorized transport. There will be crowds in markets, mosques, churches, and temples. Festivities will be erupting in cosmopolitan neighbourhoods increasing this spontaneous yet structurally robust confusion, which again will continue to be contested for every new formalizing city rule created: Created out of fear and demand for clearing the public spaces for cars and the elite.
When the state ignores problems people have to create institutions for representation
SPARC started its work seeking the rights of households who live on pavements to prevent eviction without alternatives. From 1986 to 1995 pavement dwellers in Mumbai created organizations that fought to be accepted by the city of Mumbai. Today they have a joint program, but it took ten years for the policy to be formed and in the next 15 years the households should be moved.
The National Slum Dweller Federation (NSDF) of India that seeks to bring the voice of the poor into the development table, formed an alliance with SPARC and Mahila Milan in 1996, and together they founded Slum/Shack Dwellers International (SDI) which now operates in 33 countries across Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Together, the SDI network seeks to build a culture of dialogue amongst the urban poor and to facilitate dialogue between cities and local communities. Federations in SDI have managed to change some rules, and increasingly global and local development actors, are beginning to examine SDI's solutions as means to address the challenges of conflict in cities. The role of social movements is to produce civilized dissent and demands for inclusion.
What is needed urgently: Capacity to arbitrate
Reconciling, negotiating and balancing are tough acts, and cities need leaders with such capacities. Incremental city growth and crowded streets are there and it is important to take a reality check into this environment before plotting strategies of how to manage cities and make them work for all. The questions related with this endeavour are many, and include: How should rules of engagements for cities become developed? How can universal guidelines work to identify, deepen and make robust that which is celebrated and produces a public and street culture that “modernity” and this new monoculture systematically killing what is precious and which creates identity, relationships and networks in cities? What should be the role of local national and global players which we now see becoming intricately woven into our increasingly connected globalizing world? There is a need to stay focused on the local while building national and global terms of engagement. Capacity building efforts are often treated as “knowledge transfer projects”, instead they need to build skills enabling people to negotiate and arbitrate - THAT IS ALSO CULTURE.
By Anacláudia Rossbach, Interacao, Brazil
SDI started its activities in Brazil through the local NGO Interação simultaneously with the beginning of what can be proved to be the most significant transformation in urban and housing policies in the country. At the same time, the country initiated a journey of intensive economic growth with a social transformation process in course due to the impact of both: (i) intensive infrastructure investments, especially in “informal” settlements; and (ii) increase on income levels and decrease of poverty.
Interação was founded in the beginning of 2005 in a context of no resources for urban rehabilitation, but soon after, important progress took place in terms of legislation: the approval of the City Statute. By this time, a selected number of professionals and activists were aware of the importance of leverage for urban policies in Brazil and the need to make cities more inclusive, on the other hand, homeless social movements, born in the seventies during our military dictatorship in the southeast part of the country, were expanding to national level and struggling to institutionalize their “self-help mutual construction” programs successfully implemented in some cities of the country.
In this scenario, of having approved in 2001 the most progressive legislation in the world in terms of recognizing the right of the city for all with the creation of concrete legal, economic and planning tools to keep slum dwellers where they are living and create more room in urban centers for new low income housing development, the Ministry of Cities was created shortly before the foundation of Interação, in the year 2003.
The Ministry of Cities had two main challenges, despite its small size and technical capacity: (i) create a national level urban and housing policy; (ii) implement real programs in order to promote change in the urban context. However, because Brazil is a federal country, municipalities have been the real drivers of urban and housing policy since 1986 when the national level institution for housing (Brazilian Housing Bank – BNH) was extinguished, but in a very heterogeneous way, some of them being more aggressive and some of them lacking political and institutional capacity in the sector.
So, when Interação started in 2005, although the population had already started to improve its income, the “boom” came later and started to be publicly recognized by 2008/09 with all statistics screaming about the emerging of a “new middle class” and the decrease of poverty levels in the country: in the period 2004 – 2012 approximately 40 million people emerged from below the poverty line. On the other side, no strong urban and housing program was implemented yet by the recent created Ministry of Cities and the future scenario was not clear at all, would the federal government really invest in slum upgrading?
Basically in the settlements where Interação started to work in the surroundings of São Paulo, communities had being suffering with the lack of inclusive urban policies and a wrong approach of some municipal governments of creating “provisory” and unsustainable solutions (for example construction material and promoting the densification of new and existing slums). They were being bypassed by government, politicians and bad entrepreneurs, trust was not there and basically they were very closed for new opportunities. Overcoming this barrier was only possible with hard and intensive work of professionals and community leaders who believed in a different reality, SDI presence, through exchanges was very important to leverage some mobilization and open up the horizons of these frightened communities.
The barriers for Interação and the first engaged community leaders were immense, communities were targeted by politicians and social movements/organizations in a context of “competition” where one tried to push harder than the other to control the settlements and its residents. On the other hand labor market and access to credit was expanding (although still very expensive) so that individual interests were slowly overcoming collective approaches.
When the Growth Acceleration Program (PAC) was finally launched by the Ministry of Cities in 2006, and later on the subsidies program called “Minha Casa, Minha Vida” (MCMV) the situation became even more complex. The amount of investments on slum upgrading and infrasctruture is about US$ 250 billion for a 9 year period (06-14) and under MCMV access to about 3 million houses in total should be provided by 2014, which represented a major change of scale on addressing the slum and housing problems in Brazil. Communities supported by Interação also got their share on investments, with more than US$ 70 million of investments for infrastructure, housing and titling.
With the PAC, many strong construction companies moved their portfolio and started to gain expertise on slum rehabilitation and the private sector was also strongly attracted by social niche provided by the program, since 2,5% of infrastructure investments have to be directed to social support programs in slums.
Municipalities and state governments started than to launch biddings to hire construction companies and also “social work” companies to implement the social support for slum upgrading. Now, besides the usual politicians and social organizations, the social workers started to gain space in poor communities, bringing even more complexities for an already complex situation.
Brazil has now become a donor country, contributing to the reconstruction of Haiti and even to the current economic crisis in Europe. But where are the social movements and the federation in this scenario?
Until now the approach of SDI of promoting collective action and gather information and resources in the communities was crucial not just for the settlements where Interação and the Brazilian leaders were present and active, in Osasco, Várzea Paulista and Recife (besides others where footprints and seeds were left: Sorocaba, Santos, Novo Gama, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro), but also for shaping the new national policy, in terms of reinforce the importance of community strengthening in the process of urban rehabilitation. It is important to highlight that the institutional partnership between SDI and the Ministry of Cities started in 2005, even before the launching of the relevant investment programs.
Some communities where SDI had strong influence, like Portais in Osasco, and Vila Real in Várzea Paulista reached high levels of improvement, with the implementation of full sanitation systems, streets, drainage, new houses and public services like schools, health units, and day care. The municipal policies certainly were influenced by SDI approach, with for instance the recognition of self enumerations as official data, even by the National Institute of Statistics. Residents from these areas also improved their personal lives, there are jobs available, children get education and there is even time and resources for leisure activities, such as vacation trips and others.
Other communities are still struggling to find their identities among these major transformations and the diversity and number of actors now involved in the “slum business”. Interação and SDI support some of these communities, but the strategies must be flexible and we must reinvent ourselves everyday.
The successful communities in Brazil planted the first seeds for Bolivia, a neighboring country with high levels of poverty and no urban policy, and more recently in Peru. The alliance with the Brazilian government has been important to influence local and national government and enable some changes, which might open new ways for the urban poor in the country.
At the current stage a group of community leaders from Osasco, Várzea Paulista and Recife are envisioning the consolidation of city level organizations, which might be the first step to build a national federation alone or in an alliance with existing federations. One important pillar is constituted by the lessons learned throughout several exchanges to and from Asia and African countries, but especially from the last joint visit with Bolivia to the Philippines. Although savings and loans are not the strongest side of Brazilian SDI groups, the understanding of the importance to leverage savings and loans in order to build trust and solidarity is gaining space, so as the notion of savings being the core of peoples mobilization which will be a paradigm shift on the historical social movements approach where hierarchical systems, massive mobilization and a strong influence from political parties were the main ingredients for their struggle.
The emergence of a federation of low income communities in a context of significant social and economic transformation and with a different culture of mobilization and powerful stakeholders (governments, private sector, national level social movements) has absurd challenges, but even if those strong will leaders never succeed on building a national level federation they will leave behind footprints in a history that is right now changing the life of the urban poor in Brazil and maybe in the rest of the developing world.
**Cross-posted from The Age of Zinc**
When I arrived at P in 1982 I found myself amongst some of the very poor in our communities. I was lying on my back on a mattress covered with a plastic material so as to protect the mattress from the blood from bruises and wounds inflicted on me by my attackers in Newlands East in Durban. I was in pain, hurt, bruised, scared, and confused. I did not know this part of the city.
I had lived in the bush at a younger age and then I was frightened by snakes, wild animals and hunger. Here I was in one of the most notorious settlements in Inanda in Durban. I was scared of (izigebhengu) crooks, thieves, warlords, shack bosses and hunger.
I was put in a shack in a sector of the community now known as E. My neighbors never saw me arrive. They were busy drinking and dancing the night away. The person who organized me this shack was the mother of my eldest child who had come to my rescue that night when I was together with my friends being attacked. At the time our relationship was not serious and we had not yet had a child.
She had organized this shack for me and hid me there. Because she was the only person who knew where I lived in Inanda she would bring me groceries and cigarettes, which she collected from my aunt. At least once a week she made her way by taxi to Newlands and exploited my aunty’s generous nature for my benefit.
In those first three weeks I lived like an animal that sleeps during the day and hunts at night. I used to piss in a bucket and go out to shit at night. Eventually I got to know some people, which was just as well since my stocks from my aunt were no more coming. So I had to make friends. Because of the survival experiences I had picked up at boarding school and reformatory, it was easy for me to adapt to this jungle.
Oh there were many types of human animals here. The conmen, thieves, murderers, shebeen kings and queens, self-appointed head men, self-imposed “councilors” – those con political leaders of that time. And we thought we got rid of them forever when we chased them out of the townships in the 1980’s!
This place was a challenge to my young mind. In my life I had only known gang bosses, headmen and indunas, prefects and bullies. Here it was just the same – probably worse. And I had to survive. I started by trying to know the who’s who of the area.
I soon found out that the different residents of this area called P were actually normal people who were all trying to make a living. There were shebeens, brothels, gambling dens, and stokvels in a manner of speaking — not the one where money is saved and shared but ones where the trade was in people’s emotions and passions: people used to out-buy, out-dance, out-drink, take one another’s wife or husband. Out-eat, out-drink, out-dance, out-play the whole weekend. The place was a hive of activity.
I quickly became known because I was someone who could talk almost every subject and besides I could be very convincing because I was an honest liar. I always wanted to find a peaceful outcome, to help people with my jokes and my stories to find agreement with their friends who have betrayed them, with their enemies, their victims or their tormentors. This is a cruel world and one has to have cunning. My cunning was to make everybody laugh and even for a moment forget their anger or their jealousy, their sadness and even their pride. The ground is uneven and life will always be uneven and unequal. Sometimes the one who feels too deeply hides his anger, his hurt, his fear, in the costume of the clown.
I was in demand all over the settlement. Whether it was a party or feast or a simple indaba, the elders and people of the settlement always wanted me there. I also was a very respecting person. I could listen very attentively without blinking an eye … often because I was bored fast asleep.
I lived like this for some time until one day S, my girlfriend, told me she was pregnant. That was when I saw my life change.
She also changed. She became moody, stingy, jealous, curious, and suspicious all the time. I don’t know how many times I slept outside. Sleeping outside in a Durban Mjondolo in the mid 1980s was not a very safe thing to do. I don’t know how many times I got attacked by self-imposed community law enforcers. It could have been a lot worse.
It was at this time I started thinking about doing something else. You see by this time my relatives had forgotten about me. I had broken contact with them because my lady used to provide everything for me. Clothes to wear, from underpants to socks, cigarettes, alcohol, sex and false dreams. When she got pregnant she suddenly realized that I was not what I think she wanted. Every time we had an argument or disagreement she would publicly embarrass me by telling the community that even the smile on my face she had purchased from the local supermarket.
When the child was born she embarrassed me by telling people the truth: that I could not even buy napkins and baby food. She would sometimes even leave the child with me for days so that I would have to scrounge around for something.
One day I asked one of my neighbours to look after my son so I could try and get him some food. When I came back in the afternoon to my shock and horror, my child was in King Edward Hospital because the granny who had cared for him during the day ran out of milk and fed him moonshine. The child almost died. He survived and today does chemical engineering. Maybe it has something to do with the moonshine.
Of course going to the police at that time in history was like a sin. I almost killed her. That’s the justice of the slums. But my days in a Catholic Boarding school had the desired effect. Like I always do in tough times I decided to pray first and ask God to give me the strength to kill her. But God is unpredictable and instead of giving me power he asked me to forgive her. She can thank her lucky stars I listened.
Then one day a friend of mine, by the name of F gave me a ten rand because he heard that he and I were from the same rural area in Zululand. He told me to buy something to eat. Instead I bought a box of apples and a packet of oranges and began selling fruit. After a week of this I began seeing money. By the end of the month I had a full mini-market with potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and all the different fruit you can think of.
After about six months people were calling me “boetie” and “baas” because I could now lend people money, I could give people food to put on the table, I could now afford to take care of my son. I could now buy any shoes and socks I wanted. But still S decided to take the child and I did not see him again for almost ten years.
In the meantime I was making progress. I could now take decisions. I could now make suggestions. You know what I mean?
Chapter 2: The Beginning of Life, KwaZulu Natal
The portion of land I once called home still exists on a farm in the hills of Melmoth in the heart of Kwazulu. The three graves in the middle of the land are the little evidence that my family once lived here.
My great grandfather, I am told, was given this piece of land as compensation for his work in the British army, deployed to South Africa to fight the Boers in the Anglo-Boer War. He was an army officer by the surname of H. He settled on this land and married an African woman, never an uncommon event in South Africa history except for the years of National Party rule from 1948 to 1994, when these natural attractions were declared against the law. The Zulu woman who married my English great grandfather gave birth to a son, my grandfather, who in turn also married an African woman. These women, I believe, were all traditional healers from different clans in Kwazulu.
My father C H was the eldest son of H H who was also the eldest of his father’s sons and I am also the eldest of my siblings. If the men in my family were a mix of racial genes, the women in my family were “100 percent Zulu girls.”
If you follow the trend of intermarriage between white and African, and coloured and African in my family, you may be tempted to believe that by the time I was born in 1958, I was already diluted so much that I barely resembled my grandmother and my mother uMariam Khumalo who was born in Enkhandla in the 1940s.
I grew up there on this farm and we all lived there together and like all rural African children the houses of almost all my uncles and aunts became my home, not just my parental home.
My mother’s family KwaKhumalo believed I was theirs and they named me Jabulani Khumalo. My father’s family named me P. Also, my father had not paid or completed his “lobola” responsibilities. Therefore, I became a contested being.
I want to believe that they named me Jabulani because they were happy that a son was born. But even though this was the time of high apartheid there were still reasons to be happy, especially for a happy-go-lucky kid like me. But one thing we were not too happy about was the fact that the head of the household, my grandfather was a sickly man and my father soon became responsible for the entire family. This meant that he took care of his brothers, my uncles, and his sisters, my aunts. He had to, at the same time, take care of his wife uMaKhumalo and his children who were: myself P, my brothers, N and B and my sisters Z and S.
He had to put food on the table, make sure that the fields were ploughed and harvested, and make sure that the cows were safe. I became one of the herdboys, but not for long. When I turned seven I began to attend school.
This is the time also when my mother became the mother, the domestic worker, and the slave of the family. My grandmother passed away and so her life become one long sentence of hard labour. She washed, she cooked, she became the nanny for my aunt’s children and she even had to care for my father’s younger brother and sister who were but children themselves.
I am not one of those children who has memories of a mother’s tender love and nurturing. I have not even one photo of my mother breast feeding or even holding or touching her own children. Nor do I have any pictures – I am talking about pictures in my mind and my heart in the form of treasured memories.
I only remember her bent over a big bath washing, or standing over a huge table in the kitchen cutting up potatoes or pumpkins, or pounding and making home-made bread from maize.
She never ever had time for us. She really had a very painful life and her pain has long outlived her. It is the backdrop to my life. My heart still aches for her, and I think this is why I subconsciously chose the type of community work that I do.
My father was a very strict, even aggressive man. He did sometimes beat up his younger brothers and sisters to make a point. He also beat up my mother. He was a jealous man because she was one of the most beautiful human beings you could ever meet. These are the sad and ugly ways of some men, too many men.
C. or uJuly, as my father was known, was also very protective of his family. His role as patriarch and his protective nature made the youngsters believe he could sometimes anticipate danger. I remember how one hot morning as we played in the long grass at the edge of the yard he quietly walked up to us. He stood about 2 meters from an old drum that was standing there. My aunt, his younger sister Judy, was jumping in and out of the drum.
My father gestured to me to fetch his knobkerrie and shouted at my aunt to move away from the drum. He then hit that drum as if it had done something very bad to him. After a few minutes of shouting and swearing and hitting this drum, a fierce one a half meter long green mamba came out hissing and striking and trying to fight back.
Of course C. killed it with a series of quick blows with his knobkierrie. Then he turned to us and said, “I am telling you and I am always right when I tell you to be careful. It is not because I want to harass you but it is the danger I see.”
But I will also never forget how he once killed a cat just for meowing and crying for meat while my mother was cooking.
I remember how he gave his cattle the most unusual names, named after politicians of that time; names like Verwoerd, Schoeman, Hitler. This was his way of showing contempt. This still happens today where people name their dogs and animals by the names of people they hate.
My grandfather died of TB and my father followed a few years later, maybe three to be exact. This is where — I think — all the poverty started.
Chapter 3: Leaving Childhood Behind
I want it to be understood that we were not a poor family and our neighbours were also not poor. Abakwamajozi, Madela, Dhladla, Ntombela and many more families had cattle to milk for milk, had maize to eat, and many other vegetables that are organic and just grow without being planted. For example, natural herbs, pumpkin leaf herbs.
It is a myth that all rural Africans during the apartheid years were desperately poor. The vast majority suffered incredible hardships, but even during those hard times there were those who were good farmers who were able, at the very least, to make ends meet.
There was always something to eat. This was besides the odd chicken that we would have to chase almost the whole day and once it was caught only my father and few adults will get a taste. I suppose my mother, who would cook the chicken, would get the feet. Us children would have to fight for the head. At that time this was very exciting and we looked forward to these chicken chases.
There was also a type of delicious wild berry that grew on these hills, slopes and valleys that we ate whenever we felt like it. It was crushed to make jam and juice. As young boys, we would roast sweet potatoes and cane rats and we never ever slept hungry. Sheep and cattle were slaughtered twice or thrice a year. We lived off the fat of the land – and in Melmoth the land was still fat. This did not only happen at our family but also in the other nearby homesteads. This encouraged a sort of community relationship where people visited one another because one family would never be able to eat a cow alone. This was almost a weekly activity.
There were times when my uncle would wake me up at night and we would go to nearby farms to steal sheep. We never stole goats. Goats are very noisy. Sheep were easier to steal and quieter than other animals. They remind me of passive communities who get led to more poverty by politicians and corrupt city officials and councilors.
We would slaughter these sheep and bury them along river beds so that they remained fresh for a long time. This would provide us meat for the duration of the holidays. There were times when we would use traps to trap wild buck and sometimes animals like jackals and monkeys would get trapped. It was very painful and cruel to these animals.
When my father passed away this all came to an end. His family, my uncles, aunts, and my other grandfathers got involved in such a terrible power struggle for control of the family and resources that this killed every thing. The results of this power struggle are still felt today.
The family was scattered and many relatives went away and never came back. The cattle were sold while we were left to mourn my father’s death. I was ten years old and my youngest sister S. was eight months old. Family history, documents and even secrets disappeared.
One of my great uncles, G, started a moonshine distillery on the property and we became the young labourers of that distillery. I remember how we used to run about a kilometer to fetch water with enamel heavy buckets to keep the water cool so that this moonshine could be made.
We were saved by being sent to boarding school but would come back during holidays and continue with work for which we got beatings for payment. We were brought to our knees by my father’s death.
My uncle F, whom we thought would hold the fort and hold the family together, was a proper upside down corrupt and sly crook who helped in destroying the family’s resources.
Apparently while we were at boarding school there was a family discussion and the outcome of the discussion resulted in my whole life being affected. My mother was evicted from the farm. The reason given was that the person who had brought her to this family was dead. Her children had to leave as well. She was not even allowed to wait for the holidays to gather us together before she left. She was chased off like a dog. When we got back from school she was gone and no one could tell us where we could find her.
The months — even years — that followed were the most painful in my life. I remember how I used to cry at night under my blankets in the hostel dormitory because I was afraid the other students would hear me, see me, and laugh at me. I used to listen to them share stories about their experiences with their parents. I listened with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. With dread and terror I counted the weeks, the days, the hours, the minutes, and the seconds before it was time to leave school for the holidays. As the day approached I felt sick to my stomach as my school friends spoke of their mothers waiting for them at bus stops and how they would be coming to fetch them.
This pain never went away. Until this very day I carry it around with me. But the first term, shortly after my father died and my mother disappeared was living hell. My brothers and sisters who were much younger than me believed that things had returned to normal and they would look forward with growing excitement and expectation to their reunion with their father and mother. What choice did I have, while I was dying from my own grief and fear, but to give them hope and encouragement, but also at the same time I would try to send signals that their dreams would never happen. I would reassure them with tears in my eyes and a smile. I wanted to rip my heart out my chest, and hold it in my hand so that they could see it was broken but still beating.
The day eventually arrived when school was closing for the holidays. We caught the bus with the other children going in the direction of our village. At every stop along the way we watched how the other children were greeted kissed and hugged by their parents and relatives. There was no greeting for us when we arrived in Melmoth.
We were alone. We were really alone. We walked slowly and silently from the bus stop. I led my little brothers and sisters to a tiny shack my father had built in the bush years before. It had no furniture, beds, or stove and of course no food. We had to try and get something to eat. I went looking for some of the neighbours and bumped into one of my uncles, and he gave me some tea and bread. My brothers and sisters greeted me with excitement and after their miserable meal they indulged in the serious business of playing, just like any other children play.
I would think and think and think and pray just like any other ten year old would have done in this situation. It is out of these moments that I remembered my father and especially my mother who was alive somewhere and who had also suffered this terrible loss of husband, home and us, her children. There were times when we did not have a meal for a whole week. I remember just eating orange peels from the ground.
By Skye Dobson, SDI Secretariat
The SDI/Makerere University Urban Studio is entering its final stage and things are moving along very well. A smaller selection of Makerere Students are working together with graduate students from the New School in New York to further clean the enumeration data and disaggregate information by settlement. The New School students are in Kampala as part of their International Fieldwork and the team of five Makerere students was selected for demonstrating commitment and professionalism during the studio’s first two phases. These local students have just finished their final exams so are now officially graduates and this work experience and mentoring thought the SDI/Makerere Urban Studio will be invaluable as they enter the job market or pursue further studies.
The settlement-level data disaggregation that the teams are carrying out is critical because each settlement has a unique set of circumstances. The interests on the use of land differs between settlements in the same city and this has significant implications for development interventions. Slum upgrading efforts need to be cognizant of existing land use and the corresponding social and economic realities. While the interests on the use of land will be constituted typically of resident tenants, resident and non-resident structure and land owners, business, institutional and public interests, the proportions of these interests will vary greatly from one settlement to the next.
As a result of such variations, the negotiation the federation will engage in around the enumeration data will seek to achieve a solution that reconciles the greatest number of interests in a specific settlement. This is differentiated from conventional approaches to upgrading based on fixed planning standards. For the students involved in the studio the learning is constant. This assertion is supported by a selection of comments from the team:
Sophian (Makerere): “This has taught me a lot like being social, punctual and above all getting involved in data analysis. The process of analyzing data has proved a lot about informal settlements in Uganda like a lot of imbalance in the education levels where we have males being the pioneers, limited access to water, toilets, poor housing etc. “
Audrey (Makerere): “We started off with this exercise with the students of Makerere University and New York cleaning up of the data from Mbarara city. As we completed the cleaning up, we analyzed each of the settlements on their own and we started the drawing of the charts in the respective areas that are we think the graphs are needed.”
Carol (Makerere): “During this exercise we were coordinated by Mara [New School student] whom we consider our group leader. All of us who are doing the cleaning and analyzing of the data are currently working for SDI which has given us the opportunity to learn more which has been a blessing to all of us.”
Judith (Makerere): “Everyone is so great so far and I am so sure every one has learnt so much already. Personally, I wasn’t good with Excel, but now I am unbelievably so good. We have so far finished analyzing the data for Mbarara, Kabale and Arua settlements and have done the graphs for the reports for each of the settlements as well. At the end of last week, we had started writing the reports and we are hopeful that we will be through with them by the end of this week. Thank you so much for this opportunity because the experience I have so far, I would not have gotten it anywhere else.”
Sam (Makerere): “Through this work so far we have done, I have managed to gain some skills and added them to what I already had and I think as we go on, we will continue to teach each other new things in the due course. The work with both Makerere students and students from New York is going well and we are looking forward to produce quality for the community so as to satisfy the set goals and objectives.“
Mara (New School): “The process of cleaning the enumeration data and compiling the reports has given me deeper insight into the work of SDI. In analyzing the data we have been able to see discrepancies in basic services such as education, access to water, and access to sanitation both at the settlement and city level. This data also shows that not all informal settlements are alike and face the same challenges; each is unique and has different needs. Working with the Makerere students has been great. We have been able to exchange ideas and work together, all learning different skills from each other. I am looking forward to the next step of presenting our work back to the community and seeing how they can continue to use these reports to empower and provide the necessary services to their communities.”
Sam (New School graduate): “The enumeration exercises are impressive in their scope and ambition. The data they produce are very interesting and potentially useful because they provide such detail about marginal communities. You cant just google this information! There have been some challenges in working with the data so far, due to incompleteness or errors in data capture. The current review and editing process is a great opportunity to learn from the past and improve how data is captured and reports are written for the future. It is clear that the students, community members and various workers all put a tremendous effort into producing the enumerations and reports, and it is a pleasure to build on their work and support this project.”
We will keep you posted on the final stage of this unique studio which has brought together slum dwellers, local academics, international academics, and local authorities in the pursuit of community-driven information gathering and inclusive, pragmatic planning. During the final stage the students will return to the various cities and accompany the federation as it presents its data to the municipalities.
If you haven’t read the previous two blogs on the studio, please view them here: http://www.sdinet.org/tags/Makerere/
By Noah Schermbrucker, SDI Secretariat
The relationship between development donor and recipient is by its very nature a tenuous and unsustainable one. The vagaries of donor funding are subject to sudden sea changes as international development agendas shift focuses and locations. The very fact that phrases such as “development trends” or “funding focus” exist in popular vernacular underscore the impermanence of donor finance. Ironically this occurs amidst a plethora of calls for sustainable projects, cities and resource use. How can projects be sustainable if the funds that support them will not always be available?
Mobilised and organised communities provide a long-term framework with the capacity to develop and maintain infrastructure developments. However if these projects are merely physical manifestations of donor finance they will not have the ability to go to scale across cities-they have to work within the formal market to revolve at least part of the finances invested. In some cases they may even yield a small profit for the urban poor who can re-invest money gained to further improve their areas. Successful models can be tracked, refined and shared across the SDI network taking into account local contexts and constraints. As such projects gain traction and momentum they become more attractive to funders who wish to maximize the limited resources they have to invest and perhaps even other urban poor federations who wish to invest in infrastructure projects and realize a return on these investments.
The communal toilet projects in Nakawa and Rubaga market in Uganda are beginning to grapple with these pressing issues. In working towards a model that can pay for itself and realize a small profit, infrastructure is separated from the donor-recipient cycle and becomes self-sustainable and possibly, at a later stage, self perpetuating. This presents an opportunity for the tangible infrastructure results of a pro-poor community driven process to go to citywide scale.
After providing a brief project background the main focus will be on the project finances and loan repayments for the Nakawa project that demonstrate the possibilities for an economically sustainable pro poor model toilet model. Further community context will be given by a transcribed interview with Mdamba Umar from the Rubaga Market toilet Project Management Committee (PMC).
The Federation’s 2011 enumeration revealed that over 82.5% of slum residents in Jinja do not have access to a toilet on their compound, while 95% do not have access to clean water and sanitation. Rubaga settlement/market alone has a population of over 1000 people who visit the premise on the daily basis. Over the years the market had one pit latrine which filled up and was demolished. Currently, the settlement has no single toilet and thus the population either visits the neighborhood or use plastic bags. The federation has been working very closely with the Jinja municipal council to mobilize and organize the people to address this challenge through a number of interventions. Finally the Jinja municipal councilor has allocated a piece of land to put up sanitation (both toilet and shower facilities) and a community centre to support the affected families and the community. The project is being boosted by a contribution from the Municipality (land) & the Community is contributing labour and savings, and then SDI is contributing seed capital worth USD7843.
The tables below present a basic breakdown of the most important aspects of the project finance; the initial capital contributions, running costs, profits and projected timeframe for loan repayment. These form a key part of the project and are managed through the PMC and other relevant committees.
Contributions for Nakawa:
20% from community
20% from government
60% from SDI
Labor and savings
Transportation vehicle (no fuel) and Land
Total = 13M (UGX)
Total = 13M(UGX)
Total sought = 40M (UGX)
Projected running costs & profits for Nakawa:
Unit est. daily takings
Running costs (maintenance, wages)
Balance (ie. minimum repayment pa)
Loan Terms and Repayments
In the interests of conservatism and in order to cater for unexpected expenses, the federation would like to spread the loan repayment over 6 years.
Projected loan period: 6 years
Interest rate: 8% pa
Loan amount: 37,440,000 UGX = $15, 600
TOTAL IN USD
Mdamba Umar: Toilet Project Management Committee (PMC)-Rubaga Market Toilet, Jinja
I am from the project managment committee of this sanitation project here in Rubaga market, Jinja region. We aquired land from Jinja municipal council free of charge due to our relationship with the council. Drawings were made by the community and these were approved.
We are constructing this toilet with one side for men and another for ladies and access for the disabled. Above the toilet we are going to put our community hall for Jinja. The municipal council promised to put a sanitation line. Now there is a temporary septic tank.
We have almost 1000 vendors at the market but only one toilet which was not enough-this was made clear by the enumeration. This toilet was a pit latrine but the new one will be a water-borne toilet that can accommodate more people and has a shower. We have used new forms of technology like T-beams and ladders which are cheaper than conventional options
Under the Project Management Committee (PMC) we have a procurement committee, the tender board. First we do material sourcing. We go to suppliers and ask for a formal invoice and quotation which we then compare at our local office. We discuss what material we can purchase, at what price and who is supplying both quanity and quality.
The members of the community will pay for this service. Those who wish to use the urinals will pay 200 shillings and the shower will be 500 shillings. We agreed on these prices after analysing the enumeration information.
The main challenges we face are; funds come in installments so that delays the work, at times the council comes late to supervise the work,. The community has participated fully because they were interested in this project. We have built this modern toilet which is a pilot project not only for Jinja but for the whole of Uganda and all the work has been done by the community.
**Cross-posted from Living the City blog**
By Baraka Mwau, Muungano Support Trust, Kenya
On the dawn of Wednesday 4 April, Mathare valley residents in Nairobi woke up to yet another disaster; a massive rock landslide that left 9 people dead (as of the morning of 5th April), several others hospitalized and another number still unaccounted for. This tragedy follows barely a month ago after an inferno that blazed section of the slum. It is also a sad moment yet again for our nation as we receive sad news from our urban poor and the disenfranchised urbanites sitting on disaster time bombs due to policy and institutional deficiencies in addressing slums and informal settlements. Is this just another talking point for our city/nation?
Mathare is located close of the City’s CBD, in a section where precarious housing (shacks) and environment characterize the informal settlement. This is a catastrophe prone settlement; floods, house sinking and slope instability, landslides and other environmental hazards.A large section of Mathare Valley is an abandoned quarry site that had for long been mined for stone buildings and concrete. It is evident that shacks and buildings in this area sit on landfills and others at the bottom of quarry pits. Situated along the top of the rock cliff where the recent landslide occurred, is a residential development of high-rise buildings with some structures erected at the cliff edge. This definitely raises questions about the structural stability of those buildings. A quick topographical transect of Mathare reveals a sharp steep slope characterized by rugged terrains and two rivers that form part of the Nairobi river basin system flowing through the settlement. Apart from the residents in various villages of the valley living at the edge of unstable rock cliffs, there are thousands also living along the riparian reserve. These households occupying the riparian reserve are at risk of facing floods should the unexpected heavy rainfalls occur as it has recently been witnessed. With the weather patterns becoming more unpredictable, the urban poor in the city are at a higher risk of being victims of extreme weather patterns. The effects of climate change are evident and despite the urban poor in developing world contributing almost zero to global GHG emissions, the wrath of climate change has not spared them.
Sections of 4A, Mathare along the high rock cliff where disaster struck (taken before the disaster)
The Sinai fire disaster is still fresh in our memories; this was one of the disasters that ignited a heated debate on slum upgrading in Kenya but still little has been done to address the environmental safety of hundred thousands of Kenyans living in settlements prone to disasters. Whereas comprehensive slum upgrading could take longer to realize; owing to its intrinsic complexities, resettling of households living in hazardous areas and reorganization of informal settlements to open up for roads and other basic network infrastructures is essential for disaster mitigation & management in the short-term. Currently the city have households living under high voltage transmissions lines, railway line reserves, pipeline reserves, quarries and landfills, riparian reserves and others adjacent to heavy industrial activities. To complicate the puzzle further, informal settlements are highly under-serviced with basic infrastructure networks and environmental pollution is taking its toll. Reading the “State of African Cities report 2010”, Nairobi slum residents face some of the worst living conditions compared to other informal settlements in the rest of continent; extreme high densities and high deficiency of basic infrastructure and amenities.
The recent and previous disasters being recorded in Nairobi slums have painfully been sending the clear message to the government, the city authorities, the civil society, the academia and all relevant stake holders that slum upgrading is a necessity and that slum urbanism is part of us. The government through its previous and current slum upgrading programmes as well as through devolved funds has channeled some revenue to slum upgrading projects. On other side, the civil society expenditure for slums programmes is much higher. Amid that, little impact to the livelihoods of the slum communities and generally the urban poor is evident and this necessitates the formulation of a pragmatic and coordinated comprehensive national and city slum upgrading framework where all stakeholders play their part, with no duplication of roles and with measurable indicators clearly defined.
Mathare 4A, after the disaster, Source: http://www.capitalfm.co.ke/news/files/2012/04/MATHARE-LANDSLIDE.jpg
An analysis of the urbanization trends in Nairobi and other Sub Saharan cities symbolize slums as a definitive character of our cities. The school of thought that slums as temporal and they will be phased out as cities evolve through the linear trajectory development process is validness in the wake of everyday slum urbanism that has defined urbanization in the global south. This dogma of urbanization calls for the need to address the planning needs of slums and informal settlements and making cities work for the urban poor entangled in these poverty traps. The disasters we have been experiencing recently in our slums and informal settlements could have been averted and easily managed, if the necessary urban planning strategies had been taken. Making Nairobi a city for all, will require more concerted efforts in making planning and urban development more responsive to slum urbanism.
The role of communities in formulating solutions that work for them is essential and currently the potential of engaging communities in informal settlements is higher with the emergence of strong community based organizations in the slums. One of these organizations is the Muungano wa wanajiji and other CBOs that have emerged due to the infiltration of micro finance institutions in the informal settlements. The potential of these CBOs in unlocking intricate slum upgrading complexities, as witnessed in previous projects, cannot be underestimated. Having worked in Mathare for some time, the community is much aware of the hazards they cohabit with and are willing to develop solutions, if the means is provided. Turning a blind eye and assuming that the urban poor are ignorant, uninformed and not development conscious is the wrong assumption. What seems to be lacking is the right means towards achieving positive livelihoods transformations in the informal settlements.
“Faced with what is right, to leave it undone shows a lack of courage”
**Cross-posted from IIED Blog**
By Sheela Patel, SDI Secretariat / SPARC
For residents, having no official documents often means being denied connections to piped water supplies and sewers, and not having access to services such as household waste collections, local policing, and even schooling and/or health care. It often means no possibility of opening a bank account, obtaining insurance or getting on the voters’ register.
If someone has an address and has been counted in a city survey, with documents to prove it, this suggests they (and their neighbourhood) are considered part of the legal city. A legal address can also provide some protection against their house being bulldozed or, should it be destroyed, of getting some compensation.
Truly participatory documentation?
Clearly documentation is important, but what is collected and how it is collected is also crucial. While many development interventions and the surveys associated with them are often said to be participatory, many are not. Assessing participation in documentation should include an assessment of whether inhabitants:
- are involved in setting the questions being asked to them
- have ownership of the information generated from the survey and
- can use the knowledge that the research, surveys and data collection produces for their own discussions of priorities and in their negotiations with local governments
Based on these three assessment criteria, many documentation processes calling themselves participatory would come up short.
People living in informal settlements are well aware of the benefits of documentation and are now carrying out enumerations and mapping their own settlements as a result. This truly participatory work is described in case studies from Ghana, Kenya, India, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda and Zimbabwe in the new issue of the journal Environment and Urbanization.
In Zimbabwe, community-driven settlement mapping and enumeration in Magada, a large informal settlement in Epworth, just outside the country’s capital, Harare, has brought about plans for major changes. The process facilitated an agreement between the residents and their community organizations, and local and national government to work together to improve the conditions, for example, of the settlement’s road layout and water and sanitation systems. The process also provided the maps and data needed to implement this work.
It’s the first time that a local government has agreed to support ‘upgrading’ or improvement works, and it’s the first settlement plan in the country to include meaningful participation by residents in articulating their priorities and in influencing the design. The work to map and number each plot was undertaken by teams that included residents, supported by members of the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation. For more details, see the paper by Beth Chitekwe-Biti, Patience Mudimu, George Masimba Nyama and Takudzwa Jera.
The National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda enumerated informal settlements in five cities where 200,000 people are living. This work developed the skills and capacity of Federation members carrying out the enumerations and mapping, which in turn supported the planning and implementation of upgrading work by federation, local and national government agencies. Read the full paper by Jack Makau, Skye Dobson and Edith Samia for further information.
In Ghana, community-driven enumerations were undertaken in Old Fadama, the largest informal settlement in Accra, whose residents have long been threatened with eviction. Three enumerations have been done to show politicians and civil servants the scale of economic activities carried out in the settlement, and its importance for the city’s economy as a whole. The enumerations changed the city government’s perspective on informal settlements and helped shape policy away from forced evictions towards participatory relocations or rehabilitating the settlement. The enumerations also increased the residents’ confidence to engage with city government. For more details, see the paper by Braimah R Farouk and Mensah Owusu.
In South Africa, the survey and enumeration held in Joe Slovo, an informal settlement of about 8,000 inhabitants in Cape Town, showed the likely negative impacts of a proposed resettlement on the residents. Many residents worked nearby and, if moved further out of the city, would have faced difficulties paying for transportation. The enumeration – which revealed that the population of Joe Slovo was much smaller than expected – helped open up the possibility of redeveloping the existing settlement. The data collected is now being used to facilitate this work, including improving the settlements’ sanitation systems. For more details, see the paper by Carrie Baptist and Joel Bolnick.
The Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia has carried out enumerations and mapping in all the country’s informal settlements. The scale of the work sets a precedent – more than 500,000 people live in the settlements without secure land tenure. The residents were supported to carry out detailed enumerations and mapping to identify development priorities and to provide the information needed for development initiatives. For more details, see the paper by Anna Muller and Edith Mbanga.
A federation of women’s savings groups from the city of Cuttack, Orissa state, India has surveyed and mapped all 331 of the cities’ informal settlements. Meetings with residents were held to create a profile of each of the settlements, and Global Positioning System devices were used to map out settlement boundaries. This information has helped provided the local government with accurate digital maps of the settlements, and has influenced plans to upgrade the slums. For more details, see the paper by Avery Livengood and Keya Kunte.
Similar tools and methods as those outlined above are being used in many other cities around the world by different federations of slum/shack dwellers. These federations, and the local NGOs that work with them, are members of Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI). These community-led documentation processes have become a core practice of the federations – along with supporting community-managed savings groups, and federation exchanges to see and learn from each other’s work. Many of the peer exchanges have involved community leaders experienced in community-led documentation visiting groups in other cities or nations to share their experiences on how this can be done. So, the groundwork is being laid for further community-led documentation of urban informal settlements in the future.
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