“We are able to appreciate that we need to have a more holistic view of the cities where we are working” (Frederick Mugisa, Uganda, SDI Alliance).
“...now we are planning the profiling in the settlements we are working and also see city wide settlement profiling to help in planning of the city with the slum dwellers” (Shekar and John Samuel, NSDF/SPARC, India, SDI Alliance)
While focus on the local remains the core concern of SDI federations, the question, increasingly pertinent is, how does the global network of the urban poor make itself globally visible and relevant on the global urban development agenda? Peer exchanges have long served SDI federations as a learning space to share experiences of everyday life. They serve as a platform from which urban poor communities can share local concerns, challenges and successes. Like SDI enumerations and settlement profiles they too have traditionally been centred on particular contexts and the particular concerns of local slum dwellers.
SDI and Santa Fe Institute’s (SFI) global slum profiling project aims to aggregate and analyse the around 7,000 federation profiles collected over the past twenty years in more than 15 countries across the global south. The objective is to yield a "science of slums" powerful enough to leverage city wide and global sustainable developmental appeal for ‘slum data’. With renewed vigour the network is looking towards two of its most powerful tools (exchanges and enumerations) as learning and innovation spaces to foster this goal.
Making slum communities visible to their local authorities has been the driving force behind local actions to stave off evictions and leverage land, basic services and upgrading of slums. Mugisa, Shekar and Samuel’s appreciation of the value of the June learning exchange around the SDI and SFI Partnership, during the SDI-SFI Field Visit Cape Town June 2013, echoes the hope expressed by Sheela Patel, director of Indian NGO SPARC and SDI Board Member, that “communities of the urban poor living in informal settlements [will come] to believe that aggregating information about settlement and households is a valuable tool towards improving their lives” (Patel in Fieuw 2013 and elsewhere ).
Over the course of ten days in and around Cape Town’s UT Section, Khayelitsha, federation members along with NGO support staff from Malawi, Kenya, India, Zimbabwe, Uganda, South Africa and Namibia were able to test the new tools (including a questionnaire, geo-tagging smart phone application, etc.) developed through the SDI-SFI collaboration to improve and standardise the data capturing processes of the network. Rosey Mashimbye of FEDUP, South Africa, commented that the use of these new technologies is certainly an improvement from manual capturing. While there remain some concerns among federation members that the new standardised questionnaire may not speak to all their local concerns, according to the Namibian alliance’s report, “standardised rituals and practices [may have] the possibility to incorporate local concerns/issues” (Harris, Namibia Alliance).
Informal settlement communities have come a long way in showing that their settlements and communities are not just spaces of perceived and real deprivation, but rather innovation and resourcefulness. They have consistently shown that slum dwellers themselves are the most capable of showing local authorities, who they are, how they live, make their livelihoods and contribute to the economies of the cities from which they are so often excluded. By standardising profiling and enumerations and marrying our techniques to cutting edge technology and analysis through the learning space of peer-exchanges, we are well on our way to leverage on of the most powerful tools of the federations of the urban poor in creating sustainable and resilient inclusive cities.
SDI President, Mr. Jockin Arputham (Right), signs MoU with Mr. Conrad Sidego, Mayor of Stellenbosch Municipality, in Langrug settlement, South Africa.
Our network of urban poor federations has, over almost two decades, pioneered community organization strategies that are able to influence formal authorities in an age of quickening city growth. SDI’s “ten cities” program over the past three years has made clear the terms of engagement for building cities that include the poor. The link between the “hard” outcomes of infrastructure accessibility and economic opportunity, and the “soft” processes of planning and decision-making for provision of such infrastructure is the chief driver of urban development today.
The urban poor federations and professional NGOs that comprise the SDI network now have a set of experiences that speak to the main challenges that persist in engaging the link of processes and outcomes. We understand these challenges through three major themes of finance, planning, and politics.
We have learned that financing shelter for the poor is about much more than mobilizing the resources for increasing access to land, services and housing. Most important is developing the systems for delivering projects and scaling up projects that make this finance meaningful. The urban poor federations in the SDI network have used the basic unit of the savings group as the means of building financial capacity in order to impact project planning and political capacity internally. The lessons from these experiences implicate persistent trends towards highly rational top-down project financing for city development.
Our approach to evaluating calls for funds from individual affiliates has always emphasized the need for projects to leverage: (a) funds from external sources, in addition to SDI’s Urban Poor Fund International (UPFI), and (b) relationships with formal authorities that extend the voice of the urban poor in planning and decision-making. This report shows how thinking about the financial equation of urban development in this way changes the ways in which projects actually get delivered.
When SDI federations have tried out alternative development financing approaches with government authorities they trigger new relationships that can scale up project delivery at citywide scale. For example, in Pune, authorities were utilizing funds for informal settlement upgrading projects that often could not reach their promised delivery outcomes. Both grassroots leaders in Mahila Milan and bureaucratic officials acknowledge that it has not been the lack of allocated funds that made projects often fail to get off the ground. Instead, the primary impediments were the top-down mechanisms for using the funds that excluded community priorities and voices.
So the Indian Alliance worked to build partnerships with government programs to demonstrate through practice how these institutions can be better designed to put more of the financial management and decision-making in a joint relationship with informal settlement community leadership. Now the Indian Alliance has been able to make federated groups of women-led savings groups in Mahila Milan an intermediary institutional mechanism for large-scale delivery of upgraded informal settlements, especially in terms of provision of housing and communal toilets.
We have learned that planning is not just about policies and physical designs on paper. Most important are the specific institutional designs and relationships through which physical planning interventions occur. By building accountable and strategic leadership at the citywide level, urban poor federations in the SDI network are creating an institutional mechanism through which development decision-making can change meaningfully. These experiences suggest that governments, especially at the city level, need to focus on supporting and engaging the mobilization of urban poor communities to represent themselves and network across the city. Once informal settlement communities have strong, accountable leadership and network across the city, they are able to put forth an articulate vision with authentic grassroots backing. Likewise, governments are enabled to orient development decision-making to incorporate better the priorities of urban poor communities, and to counter-balance much more dominant actors that drive urban growth.
One approach has been to scale up community planning activities, such as profiling, enumeration, and mapping, to regional and citywide scale. For example, in Kenya, communities have linked across the Mathare Valley in Nairobi to enumerate every household. Further, they have documented the exact availability of public services across this major informal region of the city. These activities have allowed Muungano wa Wanavijiji, the Kenyan federation, to bring together communities to link with University of Nairobi, and University of California — Berkeley, to develop a joint “zonal plan” for upgrading the entire Mathare Valley. Now, Muungano is beginning to sit with local authorities to see how the institutional environment can best be mobilized to achieve this plan.
Building institutional capacity to deliver on the promise of inclusive governance remains a major challenge as SDI gains a wider and richer set of experiences in working citywide. For example, in Kampala, Uganda, the National Slum Dweller Federation of Uganda has negotiated a joint Kampala Community Development Fund in which the Kampala City Council and the Federation sit together to manage funds specifically earmarked for informal settlement upgrading. The fund is growing in terms of available finance, and the governance of the fund proves to be the major growing pain, in order to respond to the acute demand for upgrading projects that the Federation is articulating.
We have learned that very significant impact for SDI urban poor federations occurs through policy changes. Projects and political relationships have to be geared towards enabling significant policy reform in order to make development processes more inclusive of the poor. Over the past year, urban poor federations in SDI have been able to achieve various key policy shifts. These changes have been possible because a mass mobilization of informal settlement residents has called for them and proven their viability through federation-led projects.
Indeed, the challenge here is to innovate through practice, and then to institutionalize the learning that occurs. In Cape Town, South Africa, the South African SDI Alliance now has multiple precedent-setting projects for “re-blocking” dense informal settlements. This approach to community-based design of shack alignments, has generated new community leadership structures, and enabled the city government to install basic services for residents. And this is in settlements where the government had initially planned to relocate large percentages of residents because the neighborhood was deemed too dense for upgrading.
The South African Alliance has utilized a formal partnership with the City of Cape Town to make the case that these pilot approaches to in situ upgrading of informal settlements can be scaled up to the city level. And the city has responded. Now the city council has approved a new policy on “re-blocking” citywide. This emphasizes both the need to redevelop informal settlements in their current physical location and the extent to which influential participation of the community is a prerequisite for successful implementation of such a physical intervention.
This article highlights the lessons of SDI’s work to trigger city development processes that are more inclusive of the poor. In our 2012 / 2013 Annual Report, we begin to uncover the process of learning that is taking place within the network for impacting the flows of finance, planning, and politics that drive urban development. The lessons learned are the basis of a poor people’s agenda for triggering the relationships between the poor and formal authorities that will produce more inclusive city growth.
To the casual observer, a road is simply a tarmac to allow for different usages. Perhaps we can also define it as a line of communication, which is connected to a greater network through bridges, tunnels, support structures, junctions, crossings, interchanges, and so forth. Roads connect our neighborhoods and cities to one another, and give us right of passage. These road hierarchies are usually planned well, and neighborhoods and cities grow around these cadastral maps.
But in informal settlements, smaller pathways emerge as needed. In many ways, the informal city grows exactly in the opposite direction than the formal city. In the formal city, cadastral maps are carefully designed, but in the informal city, planning emerge through means of negotiating space in the process of place making. What then happens when formal regulations start to interact with informal ways of city-building?
In Langrug, an informal settlement located 3km outside the town of Franschhoek, an example has emerged where the informal processes of settlement has interacted with formal city-building planning processes. This article will not delve into the history of the settlement, which is available here. Important for contextual purposes, the community has been engaging the Stellenbosch Municipality since 2010 around the in-situ upgrading of the settlement, for which the community won the prestigious award from the South African Planning Institute in the “Community” category. The Stellenbosch Municipality applied for Upgrading of Informal Settlement Programme (UISP), or Part 3 of the National Housing Code, funding from the Western Cape Province. The UISP project has advanced to Phase 3, which includes full services.
Last week, the Municipality started paving secondary roads which has emerged organically through the years of settling on the land. The secondary roads have been well planned by the community, when they conducted an intense spatial mapping exercise in March 2011. The Alliance’s report on the spatial mapping in 2011 gives insight into the spatial knowledge the community has generated, which has made a significant contribution to the servicing of the settlement:
CORC supplied an aerial photograph of the terrain as well as some guidance on conducting spatial analysis, and in particular on what indicators to look for and how to identify an area’s constraints or opportunities for development. Then, photograph and markers in hand, the team went out into the February heat to locate all the infrastructure and facilities that they had agreed could benefit from improved maintenance or upgrading. The result was an interim map that detailed the position and conditions of all Langrug’s toilets, water taps, drains, drainage gullies, electricity boxes, street lights, and commercial activities, and thus threw light on some of the settlement’s most pressing issues.
In the coming month, the Stellenbosch Municipality’s appointed contractor will start the groundworks to implement a central access road. The community’s vision for an incremental upgrading approach to developing the neighbourhood has been a powerful guide in imagining what the community could look like.
The 16 week Planning Studio with UCT’s School of Architecture Planning & Geomatics (SAPG), a department in the Engineering & the Built Environment (EBE) faculty, has generated many other proposals for a responsive spatial development framework which can guide the future upgrading of the settlement. The Alliance will continue to report on the development of Langrug informal settlement, and the partnership with the Stellenbosch Municipality.
By Walter Fieuw, CORC, South Africa (on behalf of SDI Secretariat)
Community-driven settlement profiling, enumerations, and spatial mapping are practices that federations associated with SDI have developed over two decades. These become valuable tools in negotiating more equitable resource flows from the public and private sector to urban poor communities. Profiling is a “top-level scan” of the most important features of the settlement, an estimation of the number of shacks, socio-economic and demographic information and access to services. It is also often times the first point of contact of the federation to a non-affiliated settlement/slum and opens a dialogue on the networking of community structures at the city level to influence city governments. Over the past two decades federations have used this tool to categorise and map out slums in cities. Countries use different questionnaires, data capturing systems, and mapping tools to reach this goal. In order to upscale this data to give a global narration based on credible and community-driven quantitative data, SDI has engaged the Santa Fe Institute, who are supporting a process of standardisation. The goal of this process is apparent upfront: To enhance the federations’ ability to generate settlement information in a standardised format for city, regional, national and global analysis, while maintaining all the social mobilisation characteristics that have made profiling a powerful tool in the first place.
In a two-day workshop between 13 – 14 April 2013 held in Nairobi, federations from Africa and Asia came together to discuss the purposes, community structures and impact of profiling, and to chart the way forward. Jockin Arputham, president of SDI and coordinator of the National Slum Dwellers Federation of India, opened the workshop by reflecting on the progress to date:
This meeting has been called to alert and request everybody to create an action programme for the profile. We all have different questionnaires, although we say we are one family. Settlement profiles need to be captured, and we need to stay consistent in the questions we require. If the country needs more information, you need to add another page. We need one SDI questionnaire, so we can use the information globally. We want to understand what the magnitude of our power is. We want to make different cases to different audiences. We want to collaborate with all the actors speaking about land, housing, infrastructure; all the people speaking about the urban.
This practice first started in India where slum dwellers were exposed to slum eradication in the 1960s and '70s. Shekar Mulyan recalled the experiences at a young age.
I was born in a Bombay slum, and composition of the settlement was that of migrant workers. My father and Jockin were the first generation leaders. I was six years old when an eviction started that changed the way we would think about organised communities.
Baba Atomic Centre owned the land where we lived. The government recognised the strategic importance of the land, and started planning a large resettlement/eviction process. Jockin was organising protests, but we were failing on all fronts. We did not have any information about of settlement, even though were engaging trade unions, government agencies, and so on. We lost the court case, and the government commanded us to move once again.
We realised that no other community had to go through what we went through. We started thinking about ways to assist communities in similar situations, and how we can best support them. We started counting all the slums in Bombay. This happened over weekends, and there were no resources to support the process. When we compared the numbers the state put forward, and that what we collected, we saw a large discrepancy: the state was always undercounting and minimising the urban crisis.
By creating a “slum dweller perspective” on city planning processes through the practice of profiling informal settlements, groups networking at the city level have better information on their position in the city. City governments often view informal settlements as being “black holes” of demands on state resources; that poor people don’t contribute to the resource base and demand more services and social allowances and grants. This false belief often diverges development capital from poor neighbourhoods towards middle and upper classes, believing that the cost of such infrastructure investments will be recovered through a larger tax base. In this way, cities become more divided, more unequal and the chance of poverty alleviation is seen as a trickle down effect from the market, which has been proven to be untrue.
Alternative views on the organisation and vibrancy challenge these (neoliberal) assumptions of city building. Poor people operate in an economic and social structure that is beyond the control of the state. Here jobs are created, livelihood networks are established, crisis committees respond to disasters, and people build cities from the bottom up. Federations associated to SDI are generating critical information that builds these counter-hegemonic views of the urban poor, rendering a rich and diverse picture of the productive life of slums and slum dweller communities.
Enkanini, Stellenbosch, South Africa Settlement Profile based on Enumeration Map
The experience of the Homeless People's Federation of Malawi speaks directly to these points as Mphatso Njunga, a federation leader, reflected at the workshop:
We are also using our profiling process to understand the budgeting processes in cities, and we are pushing the government to open up participatory spaces to influence the allocation of budgets. In Blantyre, we were never aware of special budgets to development infrastructure in informal settlements, and now we are more involved. We are also working with universities around planning for upgrading. The profiling helps us to categorise the most pressing needs, and create an action plan.
Moving beyond the influence on state resources towards building critical mass of community capacity and social capital, the experience of the Homeless People's Federation of Tanzania inspired a lot of discussion between the federations.
I am from a slum in Dar es Salaam and I have been involved in enumerations since the federations started. We started in 2005, which focused on mobilising savings schemes. The SDI team assisted us to build the template questionnaire, and they mobilised two groups. In 2006, we did another enumeration, which was spurred by eviction threats. The government played up the tenants and the occupants against one another, and wanted to evict last mentioned group. The Kenyan team helped us with numbering, measuring plots, and capturing data. (Husua, federation coordinator)
Once communities have generated sufficient “critical mass” and information about slums, alternative democratic spaces can emerge in which the federation has an influence on the flow of resource which determines whether cities become more pro-poor. Brenda from the Zambian federation recalled their working partnerships with government’s structure.
We network with the government’s ward development committee (WDC) and get introduced to the community. The WDC plays an important role in making bridges between the formal and the informal.
We have collected 139 settlement profiles on the total number of 255 slums. This spreads over three cities. Working with the NGO we collect and analyse the data, clean it and process it, and then share it from the bottom up: the community, WDC, city and national minister.
The federations closed the two day meeting on reflecting on the way going forward. Countries agree to a 2 month and 6 months action plan to prioritise profiling in cities. SDI will continue to track the progress and application of this new and emerging system for collecting slum profiles.
By Nkokeli Ncambele, Informal Settlement Network, Cape Town (edited by Walter Fieuw, CORC)
Nkanini is a large section of about ten informal settlements on the far south-east region of Khayelitsha. In 2002, when the railway station Chris Hani servicing the area was completed, many people from Makhaza, Site C, Langa, Gugulethu, and other areas settled on the land. Many of the new settlers were living in overcrowded backyarder shacks, where rents and utility services were charged at a premium. Law enforcement often clashed with the new settlers, but could not prevent the inevitable. Today, Enkanini consists of more than ten informal settlements on this low lying area.
Many of these settlements are associated with the Informal Settlement Network (ISN), particularly Chris Hani and lower Chris Hani, Stendini, Shuka Section, Newlands, Isigingqini, ARC Section, and Zweledinga. On Friday the 5th of April, a coordination meeting was called to bring together all these settlements and start up a conversation about the needs and aspirations in the settlements.
I, Nkokeli Ncambele, an ISN coordinator, gave the delegates from the above mentioned informal settlements a welcome brief and upfront said that the ISN has not been in contact with the area for some time, but it is time to re-connect and talk about the future upgrading of the settlements. I gave a brief background the work of the ISN over the past three years and the progress made in ensuring a partnership with the City of Cape Town. We talked about the kinds of upgrading projects that have been completed, and how these could be a reference point for some of the settlements. This includes 22 informal settlements planned to be upgraded, with different priorities. There is emerging consensus from the City to provide 1:1 toilets in re-blocked settlements, but this remains an ideal. All these intiatives are aimed at building a network across the City to create a platform for the voices of the urban poor to be united and stand in solidarity.
The question of representation of settlements were a significant point of discussion. Anton, a community leader from Newlands, asked whether each of the settlements in Enkanini would form part of these “sectional forums”. Do we need to publicly elect people in each of the areas to distribute the information. I reflected on our experience of setting up a community committee where I lived in Mfuleni. We were democratically elected at a general meeting. The community entrusted us to represent them in matters of engaging government on development and service delivery. All the people sat down together and we talked collectively about the problems and needs in the area. After that we create a plan for development and talk to the City. Services are now coming to Mfuleni because we stood together. So each area needs to have at least 4 people. But you need to tell ISN what you need. You need to take the initiative and come up with solutions.
Some of the community members suggested that a general meeting is needed to discuss in more depth the needs and aspirations of each of the settlements. Bonwisa, the representative from Standini settlement, called out that these meeting should happen at times convenient for all to attend, such as weekends or after a day’s work. I responded by saying that yes, Nwe need to have a big date to call together the whole community. We need to have an agenda for that large meeting, and then discuss with all the community. At that time, we need to discuss the completion of the enumerations, which was stalled in 2009 for a number of reasons. I told those present that as the network coordinator, we can not plan anything if you are not with us. All the leaders need to agree on the programme, and then we will have real representation. We are not coming in and tell you what to do; you need to tell us.
The settlement representatives spoke among themselves and a number of core issues were presented. For instance, in Newlands and Isiginqini, there were no post boxes and people had no proof of address. This complicated a lot of everyday life, such as applying for jobs, opening a bank account, and so forth. Chris Hani settlement said that many of the mama’s were ready to start saving towards school fees for their children, but because they did not have a bank account, they often had to travel to Zone 40 to deposit money. I mentioned to them that we can support them around setting up local savings schemes, and our partner grassroots network, the Federation of the Urban Poor, has a lot of experience in doing so.
Nkanini section is located far from the city, and accessing opportunities remains a large challenge. Despite the geographic disadvantage, Anton from Newlands said,
We live here in a beautiful area. Here in the plain we have the best view of the city. You can see Table Mountain there and Stellenbosch mountains on that side. But we do have issues regarding moving around and the busses are scarce. I am frequently on the community forums with the City. We usually talk about the lack of busses, but they usually say they can not allocate more bustime to us. 3,000 drivers need t0 service this whole area, but there are only 10 controllers in this Nkanini area. Chris Hani train station is close by, but people living on that wide [Western side - Stendini, Town 3, etc] have to go to the far [Eastern] end, which means you have to take a taxi to go there. The station was designed for Makaza people, not for us.
Another community leader reflected that there big promises of job creation with the construction of the Monwabisi Beach, which they said will become like a Waterfront. The City promised that there will be many jobs. Some people travel to Stellenbosch for seasonal work on the wine farms. But it is very dangerous, and people are frequently attacked. Others work in the light industries in Durbanville and Kraaifontein, and as far as Houtbay.
ISN will continue to host community forums in Site B, Site C, Victoria Mxenge and other surrounding areas. These forums aim to bring the communities together to talk about their daily challenges and the ways to which they respond to these. Forums are also linked to prioritising development, and starts the community process at the grassroots.
As part of their initiatives to improve the sanitation situation in the slums of Accra, Ghana, a delegation of four members of the Ghana Federation of the Urban Poor (GHAFUP) – Haruna Abu, Janet Abu, Imoro Toyibu and Naa Ayeley – participated in a learning exchange to Cape Town, South Africa to learn more about the waste management initiative underway in the settlements of Cape Town. Painting a picture of the waste and sanitation situation in the slums of Accra, Ghana, Janet Adu, a member of GHAFUP, described the discarded plastic bags and other trash littering the narrow pathways of Ghana’s slum communities, adding to the already poor sanitation situation. To begin addressing this issue, GHAFUP and People’s Dialogue Ghana began brainstorming about waste management programmes that will clean up the slums while simultaneously generating income for the Federation.
The Blue Sky Solid Waste Management Company is the business side of the waste-management facilities. The initiative operates out of the offices of Sizakuyenza, a small community based NGO that originated from the FEDUP health network’s cleaning programme. Starting as a small initiative, with volunteer slum dwellers sorting waste for a small income, the initiative has grown into a completely self-sustaining programme with about 400 volunteer community trash collectors, or waste pickers, from various informal settlements across Cape Town who sort through waste to collect recyclables.
The sorted waste is then collected through the initiative’s mobile buy-back programme in which two pickup trucks manned Blue Sky drivers pick up the collected waste from various settlements around Cape Town, paying the pickers cash upon pickup for their recyclables. After another sorting at the Blue Sky Solid Waste Management facilities, the waste is sold to buyers and recycling companies. Using the profits made from these business transactions, the Blue Sky Solid Waste Management programme pays the pickers for their trash collection, salaries for the workers that run the company while also revolving the remaining profits back into the programme to sustain it and maintain its facilities.
Over the two-day exchange, the Ghana delegates focused their attention on the business side of the Blue Sky Solid Waste Management programme: observing the market opportunities in waste collection and recycling, meeting with local pickers in the Bengali community, learning waste sorting techniques and how to build relationships with recycling companies. The days were split into two sections: 1) interactions with the buyers and learning the market and 2) interacting with the pickers and how this activity has helped slum communities around Cape Town.
Day one of the visit fell on the day Blue Sky Solid Waste Management meets with buyers to sell the recyclable material that the pickers collected throughout the week, giving the Ghanaians an opportunity to learn the values of various recyclable goods. As explained by Mr. John Mckerry, team leader at Blue Sky, certain companies are looking for certain types of waste, which is why it is so important to look at the market opportunities in your city before beginning a recycling program. This way the federation can be well informed on what types of materials companies are looking for in order to generate the most income.
Following a lively discussion inside, Mr. Mckerry and Mr. Gershwin Kohler, the project consultant for the Blue Sky Solid Waste Management programme took the group on a quick tour of the Blue Sky Solid Waste Management facilities. They described the structure of staff and participants in the programme and identified the various types of waste collected and how it is sorted and its value (per kilo).
After the tour, the Ghana delegates joined Mr. Mckerry, Mr. Kohler and two of the of the Sky Blue waste collectors. Together the group visited waste companies such as S.A.B.S., where the Blue Sky staff negotiated and sold the collected and sorted waste. Through these interactions, the delegates were able to witness the market opportunities for recyclable goods in South Africa and compare these prices to the Ghana values.
Mr. Gershwin Kohler discusses the value of glass recyclables.
Waking bright and early on a Saturday morning, the delegation met with the Bengali community where community pickers had begun the work of collecting and sorting waste. As explained by Mr. Kohler the day before, “their job is to collect garbage and they focus on what they want to collect.” Some participate in the programme once in a while to generate some extra income for themselves and their families; for others this is a full time job, picking and sorting daily in order to make as much profit as possible. Furthermore, there are some people who choose to only collect one or two types of waste (e.g. plastic bottles and newspaper), while others collect and sort whatever types of waste they know Blue Sky might be interested in. When the sun has reached its highest point the pickers’ day of work is complete, though there are some dedicated individuals who will continue through the afternoon.
Upon collection by the mobile buy-back truck, the pickers’ collections are weighed separately to determine payment - paid by the kilo for paper, crushed glass, cardboard, plastics, etc. or paid by each whole plastic or glass bottle collected. Pickers are informed of the different rates for each type of waste collected and the importance of sorting waste before collection. Each individual’s collection is recorded to maintain accurate data collection and minimize conflict between people. Pickers are then paid for their collection, no matter how little or big the amount collected.
Mr. John McKerry describes the process of collecting, sorting and selling recyclables.
Providing a job opportunity within the slums of Cape Town, the waste management programme motivates people to participate as pickers to sustain their livelihoods; however, this programme has also helped clean up the slums, creating a cleaner and healthier community environment. Simply put by Mr. Kohler, “[slum communities] become reverse supplier of raw materials.”
Throughout the exchange, the Ghana delegates brainstormed the aspects of the Blue Sky programme that would be applicable to their planned project in Ghana. This is not the first waste management programme for GHAFUP. Having started a waste project in Old Fadama, the largest slum in Accra, the Ghana federation has already begun to address the slum’s sanitation and waste issues. Thinking on a larger scale, GHAFUP began planning how to scale up the project in Old Fadama and create an income generating aspect of the programme in order to sustain the project and add to the general funds of the federation.
Using the lessons learned from the Blue Skye Solid Waste Management programme in Cape Town, the Ghana delegates took ideas from the process used in Cape Town to adapt to their situation in Accra. As stated by the team in their exchange report, “the system of waste management [in Cape Town] is different from Ghana because they buy the waste from the household/pickers.”
The Cape Town programme’s mission is to mobilise slum communities around recycling and waste collection, demonstrating the benefits of clean communities and how participating in this programme can help generate income for individuals/families.
According to the delegation, GHAFUP is planning to manage and run the solid waste management programme as a service for slum communities in Accra, where federation members act as pickers, from the picking and waste collection to building relationships and selling to recycling companies in the Accra area so as to generate income and sustain the project. The funds from this project can also help finance some of the federation’s other activities if possible.
Following Mr. Kohler’s advice to “start in your on house”, the Ghana delegates plan to begin the project amongst themselves. Collecting, sorting and recycling materials in their own households, GHAFUP will begin mobilising and educating other slum dwellers around recycling and waste management. While doing this, GHAFUP members will begin researching the recycling industry in Ghana; identifying the waste that has a market – keeping in mind that the market values will fluctuate – and beginning to build relationships with potential buyers. However, the main outcome highlighted by the Ghana team was that the exchange “encouraged [GHAFUP] to act as a community on waste management,” which is the main lesson the Ghana delegates plan to share with their fellow slum dwellers in Ghana.
In 2012 the community of Mshini Wam initiated an innovative approach to the in-situ upgrading of their dense informal settlement. Working closely with the Informal Settlement Network (ISN)—a collective network of informal settlements linking informal settlement civil society groups in five cities in South Africa—and the support NGOs Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC) and iKhayalami, the community worked with City of Cape Town officials, engineers and field officers to upgrade their informal settlement.
Reblocking is a community-led in-situ re-arrangement of shacks in accordance to a community design framework which opens up safer and more dignified public spaces (called “courtyards”). The community was in charge of implementing this project and more than 50 short term job opportunities were created through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) in partnership with the City of Cape Town.
Through the “re-blocking” and community mobilisation processes, topographical, institutional and social issues have been overcome. The “re-blocking” is a priority as it will allow better access to services. To further protect against fires, the community is hoping to use fire-resistant materials when re-building their houses. The city will partner to provide sewer and water lines, as well as electrical poles and electrical boxes for each family.
Re-blocking is more than just technical solutions to improving access to services. It is about a community process that starts with the empowerment of woman through savings schemes, the cohesion and unity of community working together on a broad-based project, and the formation of partnerships with government and other stakeholders in the long term development of the Settlement.
In November 2012, the Mshini Wam community was introduced by long-term development partners Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) to Stephen Lamb and Andrew Lord of Touching the Earth Lightly (TEL). A pilot project was initiated around the building of a “green shack”, which incorporates low-tech, cost effective and sustainable design principles in the in-situ upgrading of informal settlements. By installing vertical gardens on shack walls and “liter of light” which amplifies natural light through a chemical-based dispenser installed in the roof of the shack. The pilot project drew a lot of media attention. The gardens were installed and subsequently the community started greening the courtyards created through reblocking by installing similar gardens.
The Green Shack looks at how simple, low-tech design can transform temporary spaces into “home” spaces. It is focused entirely on what we can achieve now… The next two sides of the cube represent the sun-facing walls of the shack. On these two sides The Green Shack suggests they be wrapped with a fire-proof boarding, covered by a vertical thriving organic vegetable garden. This wall garden creates food for the household. This wall is drip irrigated using a low tech, slow-release gravity fed system via a pipe made of re-cycled car tires. Rain water is also captured off the roof and stored on site. The slow-drip nature of the irrigation system ensures that the wall is constantly wet.
The term “blocking” refers to building or re-building shack according to a spatial development plan. The concept of the “Green Shack” is intended to “piggy-back” this infra-structure development and create what we call “Green Blocks”
With TEL’s low-tech, cost effective and sustainable design products, embedded in the social processes of ISN and the reblocking support from CORC, iKhayalami and ISN technical coordinators, the “green shack” and “green blocks” could inform a new way of looking at productive spaces in informal settlements. For this reason, the South African SDI Alliance partnered with TEL at this year’s Design Indaba at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. This is a opportunity for exhibiting community based planning meeting innovative design.
Be sure to visit the green shack from 1 – 3 March 2013 and have a first hand experience of “green shack” built on site.
Stephen Lamb showcasing the vertical gardens at Design Indaba 2013
The “green shack” from the inside, a 20sqm floor space
Langrug informal settlement hosted an SDI-AAPS studio this past year.
By Noah Schermbrucker, SDI Secretariat
Last week's 5 Cities Seminar focused on building relationships; relationships between urban poor communities and government, between federations of the urban poor in different cities who face similar, yet unique, challenges and between the formal and informal worlds that shape rapidly urbanizing cities. Throughout the conference, urban planners from the African Association of Planning Schools (AAPS) have joined communities and officials to learn about incremental informal settlement upgrading.
Partnerships with university planning schools can produce tangible results and leverage resources for urban poor communities. Over the past year, AAPS and SDI have facilitated a number of planning studios (In Uganda, Cape Town and Malawi) with various outputs (e.g. settlement-wide upgrading strategies, circulation and infrastructure designs, and detailed maps of previously undocumented settlements). The studios have started to remove planners from the comfort of their offices and challenged antiquated norms and standards, ensuring a serious engagement with urban poor communities. These engagements need to be sustained and not once off interventions so that their value is not significantly diminished.
On the third day of the 5 Cities conference, planners from across Africa held a separate reflection session where they received a detailed brief on the Cape Town planning studio which took place in the beginning of 2012 and discussed the other studios that had taken place in Kampala and Malawi. The Cape Town studio, a partnership between the South African SDI Alliance and The University of Cape Town has taken place for the last two years. The 2012 studio was a 6-month engagement with Langrug, the informal settlement that the 5 Cities delegates visited on day 1 of the conference.
Students with backgrounds in urban planning and architecture worked with the community to produce upgrading plans for the settlement to be used by the local municipality with whom the community already has an MoU. A significant challenge is what actual impacts such long terms plans have, and if more immediate short or medium term plans would have led to more immediate results for the community, rather than grand scale long term visions.
Further discussions ranged across a number of studio related topics, including what type and level of students have worked on the studios, how studios should become sustainable permanent fixtures in the curriculum, the importance of drawing in government officials to maximize political capital and momentum and how the studio, in a dialogic engagement between community leaders and students, should set community priorities and have tangible outputs.
An important point raised by Professor Mtafu Muanda from Malawi was about working in communities that do not have a large SDI presence. He related how the planning studio in Salisbury Lines, Mzuzu had worked with a much larger community and there was a relatively insignificant SDI federation. He explained that for a studio to be effective it had to draw in the whole community and not just a select group of federation members as this fragments the community and might undermine traditional leadership structures. In the case of the Blantyre studio, the Federation used the studio to mobilize the larger community and make them aware of their activities. The traditional leadership structure, and their buy-in into the studio, also assisted greatly with making the studio a community wide process.
Images from the SDI-AAPS Studio at Salisbury Lines settlement in Mzuzu.
In addition, new studios were mooted, especially outside of South Africa, for the upcoming year. In Tanzania preparations are already underway for a collaborative studio between the SDI affiliate (CCI - Center for Community Initiatives) and Ardhi University; a Namibian studio will take place later in the year and the possibility of a studio in Zimbabwe was raised. The point was stressed that such studios need to become a part of the curriculum and not singular events.
Just as planning does not occur in a silo, separated form local contexts of informality, neither does the shaping of a city. The links between legislators, planners, implementers and communities are evident, although all too often not given enough consideration. Because of these links, it makes sense that AAPS planners form part of the 5 Cities programme and learn about informal settlement planning and upgrading, themes that are relevant to experiences and conditions of informality in South Africa and across the African continent.
Building relationships between planners and urban poor communities is an important part of SDI’s ongoing efforts to link the formal with the informal. There is certainly a space for planners within such partnerships, as long as they are positioned not as “top down” professionals but as co-learners who work with the community to produce tangible results based on community priorities and grounded reality.
Community members and government partner from Harare, Zimbabwe talk about their experiences with the 5 Cities Programme.
By Chantal Hildebrand, SDI Secretariat
Following the first two days of site visits and walkabouts in Mtshini Wam and Langrug, the final day of the 5 Cities Seminar consisted of country and municipality presentations and discussion in the City of Cape Town government building located in the heart of the city. Unlike the first days’, which focused on sharing the Cape Town partnership, projects and overall experience, the final day’s schedule was dedicated to learning from the other 5 Cities around Africa.
After brief opening remarks from Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member for Utility Services Shehaam Sims thanking all the delegates for the participation in this conference, the delegation from Ghana was given the floor. Through the 5 Cities Programme, the collaboration with the municipality of Ashaiman and the Ghana Homeless People’s Federation has made significant strides in terms of innovation around sanitation. Based on a common goal of providing toilets and waste management services to slums in Ashaiman, an area included in the Greater Accra region, the municipality and communities have come together address this community priority. As stated by the government official, Mr Anass Atchulo, this partnership has led to some significant changes in policy, with the creation of an informal settlement-upgrading department in the city of Accra is underway. Adding to Mr Atchulo’s words, Mrs Janet Abu, a community leader from Old Fadama settlement in Accra, mentioned the importance of community's involvement, stating that without their initiative and work none of these projects could be realised.
Following Ghana's presentation, Mr Costly Chanza from the Blantyre City Council, shared the challenges and successes experienced during the formation of a partnership between the Municipality of Blantyre and the Malawi Homeless People's Federation. Proving that all slums are decidedly unique, the slums of Malawi are rather peri-urban, with low densities and characteristics reminiscent of a rural villages. As it was explained by Mr Partick Chikoti, a member of the supporting NGO in Malawi, “We cannot plan like the communities of Langrug or Mtshini Wam because the nature of our slums are completely different [with structures made out of home-made brick and cement]… so we find our own way of planning.” This is where the City comes in, sharing their technical support and advice to help the community implement projects such as sanitation units and drains. Similar to Ghana, the outcomes of this collaborative work has led to both the communities and city planners advocating for the creation of a human settlements planning section of the municipality to further meet the needs of the slums in Blantyre.
Continuing to share other experiences, the Zimbabwean delegation highlighted crucial lessons learned through the 5 Cities programme and the realities of creating partnerships. Through the partnership between the city council of Harare and slum dweller communities, the weight of responsibilities the city is faced with in terms of providing for its people has been lifted with the help of community-run initiatives. Mr James Chiyangwa from the city council of Harare shared that the communities “provide back-up systems of services that the city has failed to provide [to slum communities].” In turn, the city provides technical assistance, equipment, and advice to the communities in terms of planning. This collaboration has led to crucial changes in policy, including incremental buildin, which have been adopted as city policy, and the creation of a finance facility for the funding of slum upgrading to which both the governments and communities contribute. Drastically changing the mind-set of the government of Harare from the pervious belief that slums did not exist in Zimbabwe to beginning to recognize the existence of these settlements and finally to creating a working relationship between these two parties, this partnership allows these previously unseen informal settlements to take an active role in improving their living conditions and participating in local governance. As Mrs Sekai Catherine Chiremba, a federation member from Zimbabwe, summed it up, “we are planning with them, not them planning for us.”
The Uganda delegation finished the round of presentations adding their striking work in sanitation, water and waste management in multiple settlements in Kampala and across Uganda. With projects focusing on these central issues facing slum communities (along with the collaborative work between the community and the city), the KCC (Kampala City Council) has asked the National Slum Dwellers Federation in Uganda to submit a proposal of how the city can scale up current community-run sanitation and solid waste programmes. This achievement, along with the joint-work teams made up of the community members and city planners, has graduated the federation of Uganda to “a key ally [of the KCC] in terms of the processes geared towards improving the living conditions of slum communities,” (Mrs Sara Nandudu, federation member). This status has also been replicated in other municipalities where the federation and communities have begun partnerships with local governments.
Sara Nandudu of the National Slum Dweller Federation of Uganda.
Although there are notable achievements that have been realised through these partnerships, it would be unrealistic to omit the challenges. All the delegations (including those from Cape Town and other South African cities) mentioned similar challenges, including:
Slow results – as mentioned by multiple delegates from Uganda, Malawi, Cape Town, Ghana and Zimbabwe the processes are slow and the work takes time which can lead to community and municipal frustration and tensions;
The struggle faced by many politicians and technocrats to learn how to do planning the way it is done by slum communities – as explained by many city representatives, planners do not learn how to work with or like the community, so the way communities plan does not follow the guidelines and procedures that the planners are taught. This can cause clashes between the two and can obstruct the progress of projects;
Federation creating strong relationships with some departments in municipality while other departments are reluctant to participate in the partnership;
Confusion of roles and responsibilities within municipal departments;
Disagreements between federation members and municipality of how to proceed with the work;
Strains due to lack of funds.
As Mrs Melanie Manuel summarised it − using a metaphor coined by Ms Rose Molokoane comparing these partnerships to marriages, “husbands and wives always fight…like we do in our partnerships… [Now we must think of] how do we enhance our partnership? How can we make this marriage work?”
It was agreed that the best way to answer these questions is through trust. Borrowing the phrase of Mr Chinyangwa of Zimbabwe, “without trust you cannot move forward.” Both municipalities and communities must learn to trust each other through these relationships. However, for this to be successful it is essential that these partnerships be inclusive, where slum dwellers are involved from the planning stages through implementation and finally into evaluation. Without community participation throughout the process the work is not sustainable. As Patrick Magebhula said, it is essential to have “community involvement, not just leadership…this is what is needed in order for projects to succeed.”
Following the presentations of the visiting countries, the podium was opened for the representatives of municipalities outside of Cape Town, including the city of Johannesburg, Buffallo City and Nelson Mandela Bay Metro.
These presentations included little mention of current or future community participation or partnerships. Programmes already in place in many of these cities demonstrated a separation between communities and their governments, treating the slum dwellers as solely beneficiaries rather than key partners in upgrading initiatives. When questioned about this fragmentation, some of the municipalities mentioned their perception that the informal communities are disorganised, making it hard to work with them and appealed to ISN and CORC to help these communities mobilise.
Lutwamma Muhammed of the Ugandan support NGO.
In concluding the conference, Ms Rose Molokoane posed a final question to the municipalities: “What are the critical issues that we would like to do with communities?” This brought up the topic of sharing between municipalities. Mr Lutwama Muhammed, from the support NGO in Uganda, shared that the municipalities’ presentations talked “more about what they are doing in terms of projects rather than describing how they learn from one another.” The invitation to these South African cities was extended in order to encourage learning and spark future plans for exchange visits and learning workshops. Ms Molokoane extended this invitation further by sharing a vision of these five cities (Buffallo City, Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, Cape Town and Stellenbosch) becoming the examples of a national level 5 Cities programme for South Africa.
The ending reflection brought up key points to address upon delegates’ return to their own cities and to discuss in future 5 Cities seminars. These subjects included:
Discussions of how the pioneers who work with SDI can help share the core practices and support other cities who show interest in creating inclusive processes;
Need to capacitate communities to create their own partnerships or, as Trevor Masiy eloquently stated, “communities need to learn to speak for themselves.”
Begin looking at the structural issues of why we have slums and the root causes of their existence;
Considerations of other forums for these discussions and exchanges (such as the South African City Network);
How to ensure that agreements made in these forums and conferences will be realised on the ground;
And finally, the importance of scaling up and bringing these discussions and initiatives to city-wide and nation-wide levels.
Ms Molokoane tied off the three-day 5 Cities Seminar with these final words, “Let’s not only look at building projects, but building ourselves, taking care of ourselves, and making our lives better.”
Community members showcase model homes in Mtshini Wam.
By Ariana K. MacPherson, SDI Secretariat
The second day of the 5 Cities Seminar kicked off in Mtshini Wam, a settlement of roughly 200 households located in the greater Joe Slovo Park area of Milnerton, Cape Town. The day focused a lot of attention on the change that is possible through re-blocking, or blocking out, a community-led upgrading methodology that reconfigures a community’s layout to transform tiny passageways, dangerous and impassable, into wide walkways with courtyards where children can play and women can hang washing to dry. Shacks upgraded with fire-retardant material face each other, providing added safety for families who can now find shelter from the Cape’s sometimes harsh conditions.
A wide walkway and upgraded shacks in re-blocked Mtshini Wam.
Mtshini Wam was founded in 2006 when settlers occupied open spaces of a government-funded housing settlement in Joe Slovo Park. Though the Western Cape Anti-Land Invasion Unit responded with threats of demolitions, The South African National Civic Organization (SANCO) and Informal Settlement Unit (City of Cape Town) were able to prevent evictions.
Mtshini Wam settlement expanded and continued to grow. Households in Mtshini Wam depended on water and services from the formal RDP houses, paying up to R50 (USD $6) a month for water. When Mtshini Wam asked the City to provide them with service delivery, they were told this could not be done because the settlement’s density was too high and there were no access roads. Greg Exford, Informal Settlements Manager for the City of Cape Town, said during his welcoming remarks on Wednesday that, “This area was, per capita, so dense that under normal conditions the City would never have been able to make it work.”
In 2009, responding to a lack of services and the challenges they had faced in trying to work with City, community leadership from Mtshini Wam approached the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) for support. “Prior to re-blocking, the settlement was very dense,” said community leader Nokwezi Klaas, “There were no passageways and when there were fires it was virtually impossible to get into the settlement. All the toilets were on the outskirts and there were only three water taps for over 200 households in the settlement.”
Local community leader Nokwezi Klaas describes her work in Mtshini Wam.
2009 was the starting point of a partnership between the Mtshini Wam community, CORC and ISN and the City of Cape Town. To date, this partnership has allowed the community to carry out a settlement-wide enumeration and re-blocking process, install chemical toilets and water taps, and upgrade their shacks using durable, fire-resistant material. Both the City and the community agree that this would never have been possible without a strong, dialogic partnership.
Representatives from ISN, including Western Cape coordinator Mzwanele Zulu (pictured on far left) and the City of Cape Town, including Greg Exford, Informal Settlements Manager for the City of Cape Town, were present at the gathering in Mtshini Wam on Wednesday.
“This project will go down in the history books of human settlements,” said Mr. Exford, “It shows what can be done when the community works together with partners in government… In order to make government work for informal settlements, we have to fuse the conventional with the unconventional, otherwise it’s not going to work.”
Councillor Ernest Sonnenberg, the Mayoral Committee Member for Utilities Services, echoed this point, stating that, “Unless you physically take the community with you and ask them how we are going to achieve change together, you are going to get nowhere. In this way, you can find the synergy between what is demanded and what is feasible.”
Luthando Klaas, another community leader and supervisor for the Mtshini Wam technical team, described some of the more technical aspects of the upgrading process in Mtshini Wam. There are seven teams, made up solely of community members, responsible for different aspects of upgrading. These include a technical team, gardening team, carpentry team, cleaning team, compacting team, demolition team and a building team.
Mr. Klaas describes the various aspects that influenced the design process for the layout planning of the settlement. “When they started the design process,” he says, “one of the important things was to see how to improve services and improve safety and security so that police and emergency vehicles can come into the community and the community can feel safe in their space.”
In addition to this, he describes the sometimes-challenging process of negotiating with the community about the size of structures. During the enumeration, it became apparent that the size of structures varied considerably from one household to the next. In order to make adequate space for each household, community members agreed that no structure would exceed 20 sq. meters in size, allowing those households occupying the smallest shacks (some under 5 sq. meters in size) to live in more comfortable, livable spaces. This willingness to sacrifice individual gain for the benefit of the whole community is something that is quite understandably nearly impossible without a community-led process.
Mr. Klaas spoke confidently about the community’s plans for the future, stating “we don’t want to be in shacks forever.” Members of the technical team showcased housing models that illustrate the community’s hopes for permanent, brick houses and their determination to continue upgrading their settlement. Klaas emphasized that, “it does not end with iKhayalami [upgraded] shacks. The community was able to move from wooden shacks to safer structures, and now they want to continue to move up to more livable structures for themselves – brick houses.”
Following these presentations by the community, the group of roughly 100 participants had a chance to walk around the settlement and witness the change made through the processes of re-blocking and upgrading. Wide walkways give way to courtyards where clothes hang to dry and kids play under their mothers’ feet. Each cluster contains between 10-15 shacks and is built around a courtyard, sharing a communal vegetable garden that grows everything from spinach to dill to tomatoes. Shacks without adequate exposure to sunlight are lit with low-cost solar lights made from a plastic soda bottle filled with water and bleach. A community member welcomes a few others and me into his home so that we can see just how much light one of these bottle-lights can provide.
A community member from Mtshini Wam describes his solar-powered light to another community member from Zimbabwe.
Community leader Nokwezi Klaas shows a community garden to a community member from Ghana.
All in all, the most striking thing about Mtshini Wam is the spirit of the community. They have transformed their impassable settlement into a neighborhood. There is a sense of pride and enthusiasm that is contagious, a reality which is evident in the inspired words of the city officials present at the gathering.
After a morning in Mtshini Wam, the afternoon was spent in the chambers of the City of Cape Town government building. Participants were given the opportunity to discuss and reflect on their experiences in Langrug and Mtshini Wam. The afternoon session began with introductions by Vuyani Mnyango, a local ISN leader, and Mkhabela Estavao, a FEDUP leader from KwaZulu-Natal province. Mr. Mnyango began by describing the formation of the ISN in Cape Town and the steps that were taken to build a partnership with the City.
“In 2011,” Mnyango says, “it was decided that the partnership needed to take action on the ground.” Today, CORC, ISN and the City of Cape Town are engaged in re-blocking processes in the settlements of Mtshini Wam, BBT Section of Khayelitsha, Vygieskraal and Masilunge.
Mkhabela Estavao describes South Africa’s Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), a national network of women’s centered savings groups that, in partnership with CORC and ISN, mobilizes poor people to improve their lives. FEDUP was started in 1991 and is one of the oldest federations in the SDI network, having given birth to a number of other affiliates across the African continent. Membership currently sits at roughly 20,000, but Ms. Estavao emphasizes that this number does not even begin to capture the number of families that have been impacted by the work of FEDUP. For example, she states that over 80,000 families have received housing through the Federation’s processes. When FEDUP realized that they could have even greater impact by involving men more actively, ISN was formed.
Leon Poleman, Project Manager with the City of Cape Town, was next to speak. He spoke of his experience working with CORC and ISN on upgrading and re-blocking, of his inexperience planning for informal settlements and his initial skepticism at the somewhat unconventional methods already being implemented by ISN in Mtshini Wam when he arrived on the scene.
“I come from a formal engineering background,” he said, “When you go to university and technikon, no one speaks of the design of informal settlements, or at least not in my time. So it was quite simple: In my day there were no informal settlements, and this re-blocking thing, we don’t know anything about it, so off you go! And back into our meetings we went to keep discussing how we go about this.”
But what Mr. Poleman quickly realized was that these unconventional methods were the perfect compliment to his formal engineering background, and that through working hand in hand with the community, they were able to find solutions that would have been impossible had the community not been involved. He concluded with a reminder to the other professionals in the room: “We have to understand that this is informal by its nature,” and that therefore, the solutions we find must speak to this informality.
Shortly after this, the discussion was opened up to comments and questions from the floor. Councillor James Slabbert, Portfolio Head for Human Settlements for the City of Cape Town, expressed a keen interest in learning more about the work being done in Langrug, and welcomed CORC and ISN’s input in utilizing their experience with re-blocking to provide input to the drafting of policy around informal settlement upgrading for the City. Mzwanele Zulu, ISN Coordinator for the Western Cape, was pleased to hear the City’s willingness to make re-blocking part of informal settlement upgrading policy, and urged the City to stick to its word on this point. Following the meeting, arrangements were made by CORC staff and ISN leaders to meet with Mr. Slabbert at a later date to continue these discussions.
Another issue that came to the fore during this session was the question of secure tenure for residents of settlements like Langrug and Mtshini Wam, questioning whether upgrading and re-blocking do enough towards this aim. Patrick Magebhula, national coordinator for ISN, confirmed that “the reasons for upgrading is to allow people to live where they are now, so re-blocking is just another way to give people land tenure where they live.”
Greg Exford echoed this point, stating, “If we do upgrading [in our informal settlements], people are given security of tenure. If we do enumerations, as soon as we have that person on [the City’s] database, they have security of tenure.”
The meeting closed on a positive note, with a colleague from Zambia commending CORC, ISN and the City of Cape Town. “What you have achieved in Mtshini Wam is a huge achievement. This is a wonderful first step. Now how do we get other communities on board so that we can spread upgrading to more communities?”
This is the key question for the 5 Cities Programme. Earlier in the day, Mzwanele Zulu had expressed his eagerness to scale up the activities in Mtshini Wam to settlements across Cape Town. In Cape Town, thanks to a growing partnership with the City, this becoming more of a reality. Despite challenges and setbacks, experiences like that of Mtshini Wam is evidence of the promise these partnerships can bring when the community takes the lead.
By Chantal Hildebrand & Ariana K. MacPherson, SDI Secretariat
Today marked the first day of the third 5 Cities Seminar, being held in Cape Town, South Africa from 5 – 7 February. Delegations made up of slum dwellers, government officials, support staff, and academic partners from across South Africa, and from the cities of Accra in Ghana, Kampala in Uganda, Blantyre in Malawi and Harare in Zimbabwe have come to share in the learning over the course of these three days.
The 5 Cities Programme is an initiative started in the aforementioned cities in Malawi, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Ghana and South Africa to support slum communities and local governments to work together with the goal of taking incremental slum upgrading to the citywide scale. Through collaboration on precedent-setting projects, slum communities and their municipalities begin a dialogue where the experiences and knowledge of the slum dwellers plays a crucial role in the development of their cities. These discussions have led to innovative and scalable slum upgrading projects, which demonstrate the strength of truly inclusive partnerships between the formal and informal in changing the face of their communities.
Rose Molokoane, a member of the SDI board and national coordinator of the South African Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), opened the day’s programme with an enthusiastic speech, addressing both the slum dwellers and government officials present at Franschoek Town Hall. She made it clear that SDI’s objective is to “connect the world from the bottom to the top, putting the people in front.” She stressed the importance of building partnerships in order to do this, comparing the relationships being built between slum communities and their local governments to the building of a marriage. Ms. Molokoane expressed that, although these relationships have their ups and downs, in the end we hope to be able to look at each other as equals. With this mindset, and the implementation of collaborative work between municipalities and slum dwellers, projects in these five cities will set a precedent of slum upgrading at scale, and will be able to serve as a model for other cities around the world. Ms. Molokoane ended her speech with the promise that, “When we go together as 5 Cities, we come together as a collective and leave as one!”
Following Ms. Molokoane’s address, the Mayor of Stellenbosch, Mr. Conrad Sidego, spoke about the municipality’s experience working with the community of Langrug, an informal settlement on the slopes of a mountain in the beautiful Franschoek valley. With a historical past, Stellenbosch has experienced many challenges and setbacks in terms of slum upgrading. Using the words of the Mayor, “We can’t change our past, but with time we can change the course of history…which is what we are trying to do today.”
Following these welcoming remarks, roughly 104 delegates joined the Langrug community for a site visit to the Langrug settlement. As “a settlement in transition” (borrowed term from a slum dweller from Johannesburg), Langrug, like many of the settlements in the other five cities present at the seminar, is currently working on a number of projects in collaboration with the Stellenbosch municipality around housing, water and sanitation, and general upgrading.
The delegation broke into four groups with community members as the group leaders. The groups spent an hour visiting four different sites: re-blocking, sanitation, relocation and a WASH facility (water, sanitation, hygiene). At each site, community members, government officials and support staff explained the details of the projects, and visiting delegates were given time to ask questions and experience the work taking place in Langrug..
At the reblocking site, the Langrug community presented maps and plans for the reblocking project taking place in F block, the largest section of the community. The presenters explained that the process of reblocking begins with community-led profiling and enumeration of the settlement. After this process, community members are trained in GIS mapping and planning, where they use these skills to create their own maps of their community. Together, the community plans how they will rebuild each section to best fit the wants and needs of the community members living there.
Based on the results of the profiles and enumerations, the main priorities of F block were identified as: security, building community through communal space, and drainage. Using this information, the community planned to reblock the section with the doors and windows facing inwards, towards a communal space which facilitates dialogue between community members, a safe area where their children can play and a space where the women can hang up the washing. The community designers explained that “the most important part of the planning was listening to what the people in F block wanted and making sure to plan blocks that people want to live in.” This plan has already been approved and now plans are being made to begin the re-blocking process.
Alfred Ratana, a local community leader, describes the relocation process.
Following the re-blocking site was the relocation site. Coming upon an open area, paved with ball courts and equipped with a jungle gym, the group faced four community toilets delicately painted with pictures to appeal to the children of the communty, a water tap, community built drain pipes and an open space before a perfectly lined set of houses which demonstrate the improvement that can be made to a settlement through relocation when it involves community-led initatives such as reblocking. Aditya Kumar, a member of CORC staff who actively supports the work in Langrug, and Alfred Ratana, a community leader from Langrug, explained the process of relocation that took place here. In November 2010, a neighboring farm owner obtained a court interdict against the Municipality for the settlement’s greywater runoff into their irrigation dam. The municipality was forced to start negotiating with the settlement, because 14 families were to be relocated in the reserve earmarked for an access road construction. Cape Town's Informal Settlement Network (ISN) was introduced to the settlement after the municipality engaged the network, opening a year-long relationship-building window. Ever since, a full scale in-situ upgrade project has been launched; providing better service with minimal disruption to residents’ lives.
In addition to the relocation, Mr. Ratana directed the delegates’ attention to toilets and a water tap, also constructed as part of the relocation project, and addressing some of the settlement’s sewerage issues. In addition, the community used rocks from the mountain to construct four drainage pipes, which catch the grey water and help with the overall sanitation of the community, providing a solution to the issue of grey water run-off.
Another impressive site was the WASH facility. With collaboration and funding from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in the USA, the Langrug community was able to construct their first multi-purpose WASH centre. According to Trevor Masiy, another community leader from Langrug, this WASH centre will house toilets and showers for men, women and children, a toilet that is handicap accessible, a salon for income generation, a reading centre for children and youth and sinks with seats where women will be able to do washing. Run and managed by the community, Mr. Masiy was clear that “this centre is not free, community members will have to pay to use showers and toilets…then the funds generated from the centre will be added to our UPF [urban poor fund] for other projects.”
Trevor Masiy describes the WASH facility.
At the fourth site, David Carolissen, Deputy Director for Stellenbosch Municipality, and Langrug community members presented an impressive sanitation facility, complete with roughly ten toilets and eight water taps. This sanitation unit was constructed following an enumeration which found that households in this part of the settlement had no access to sanitation. Mr. Carolissen then shared his perspective saying, “[in Langrug] we mobilise around community commonalities.” By bringing the community together around a problem that affects everyone, such as sanitation, they are more likely to work together to find a solution.
Although questions were posed throughout the site visit, it was not until the final discussion session after lunch that a panel from the Stellenbosch municipality and the Langrug community addressed comments and questions about the settlement. The visiting professionals seemed very skeptical of the sustainability and worth of the projects they witnessed at Langrug. Many questions from their side surrounded the funding mechanisms, the permanency of the shacks currently being built and the plans for permanent, formal housing in the long term. These concerns were addressed by Mr. Carolissen, who pointed out that planning for Langrug is based on the idea of a “rising platform of services.” In most informal settlements, this means starting with no services, moving then to communal services, to bulk service infrastructure, and ultimately to an formal house with on-site services for each household.
On the other hand, the community’s questions and interests were focused on the community initiatives and the future of the partnership between the community and Stellenbosch Municipality. Some of the question posed included:
How long has it taken to get the partnership to the current level (between Stellenbosch municipality and Langrug)?
How are the R2 million managed for Langrug?
Which policy is being used when looking at levels for electrification? Much of the settlement was electrified, how was this achieved?
What motivates the municipality to engage or work in these areas?
The day’s final discussion demonstrated the continuous tug of war between the formal and the informal, as some still struggle to see the value of community-run, incremental initiatives for fear that it will not fit into the expectation of a permanent, formal settlement. Hopefully the next two days will continue to demonstrate the value of these types of incremental improvements, for while an improved shack is still a shack, a working toilet, access to clean water, and space for your children to play, combined with a structure that can withstand the realities of fire and rain, are surely steps towards a more dignified life, particularly when achieved through a process of co-production, hand-in-hand with key stakeholders who were previously out of reach.
For more information on the upgrading work taking place in Langrug, click here.
On the 1st January 2013, Tuesday in the early hours of the morning a man in the furthest eastern part of BM Section informal settlement in Khayelitsha fell asleep while he was cooking food on a hotplate stove. A fire started at 4am. With gale-force winds blowing the fire quickly swept out of control. With the strong southeaster and being hampered by lack of access the middle of the settlement the fire department failed to contain the blaze, finally ‘putting out’ the fire at 10.30am when it had virtually run its course – blazing a trail of destruction right through the settlement leaving approximately 5000 people homeless, 1 000 shacks guttered, 3 confirmed deaths and one person in a critical condition. On January the 2nd of January a fourth body was found in the debris and on the 4thof January the man who had 80% burns passed away in hospital.
On the 2nd of January, Wednesday Phumezo Sibanda who resides in Khayelitsha and is a leader of the ISN called Andy Bolnick from Ikhayalami to talk to her about the disaster and start thinking through what kind of support could offered. It was agreed that Phumezo would go to site to assess things and meet with the BM leaders.
Shortly after Phumezo’s call one of Ikhayalami’s main funder for disaster relief/re-blocking efforts (for the past 6 years), Mr. Gerald Fox from the Percy Fox Foundation, called. He had heard about the devastating fire and offered immediate resources so that Ikhayalmi could respond with a sizeable number of shelters in order to potentially attract more resources to a response effort and to do a re- blocking. Bolnick then sent a letter to senior Corc and SDI staff and ISN leaders (who have access to email) in an attempt to bring everyone on board and develop a coordinated response.
In the meantime Phumezo who rallied support from two other ISN leaders in the Khayeltisha area - Thozama and Nombini Mafikhana - attended the tail end of a Disaster Management meeting at the OR Tambo hall, which has since become the nerve center of relief efforts. Following the meeting they engaged with some of the BM leadership.
Phumezo then asked Bolnick to come to site to meet with some of the leadership who informed us that they ‘want the city to level the area and open up roads’. They said that this is what they discussed in the meeting with the city that morning.
Bolnick enquired about whether the leadership had a list of all the residents of BM. The leadership said that there is a list that the city has. Bolnick suggested that they get hold of this list, verify it and if need be start compiling their own list. Phumezo and Bolnick also spoke about the potential of spatial reconfiguration in addition to merely demarcating roads. Mention was made to the potential of the availability of between 150 – 200 shelters from Ikhayalami (20 immediately and the remainder after the 15th) to assist with a spatial reconfiguration/re-blocking if the community decided to go this route. There was also some discussion about the potential of arranging an exchange visit to Sheffield rd and Mthisni Wam for BM leaders.
While on site the leaders were informed that a fourth body had been found in the debris. We left the leaders to attend to the pressing issues at hand.
The site is so vast – standing in the middle of the site – on the one side people were still collecting rubble and clearing the site, on the other side the site was almost cleared.
3rd of January, Thursday community leaders and NGO support staff attended a joint meeting of stakeholders. Those present were members of a crisis committee that was formed the day before comprising of a few leaders from BM section, delegates from the city (Disaster Management dept), Social Dev Services, SASSA, Home Affairs, Law Enforcement, KDF, SANCO, VPUU, Amaxesibe Traditional Council, an ANC delegation, a church group and other people from the community and our delegation. Important points were raised but no one was listening to each other. As soon as an important point was made another person would talk about something inconsequential or petty and the vital point would be lost. There was also information that a separate disaster response committee comprising of provincial government members was meeting separately in Belville. This created further frustration. Party political issues were being raised that included laying blame and arguing. The BM leadership were getting angry and wanted action.
Issues that were raised pertained to insufficient food, the need for more mattresses, frustration that the city had not started leveling. The city called for all the debris to be removed by the community, talk also revolved around how to take care of people’s debris who were still in the Eastern Cape on holiday – where could it be stored and how the city would take care of the debris so that when construction began people could get their burnt material back to use for reconstruction. It was agreed that all the debris would be removed from site by 2pm the following day. There was also an urgent plea to get the ‘list’ verified. This task was given to the Principle Field Officer (PFO) and VPUU.
Bolnick suggested that it would be imperative that the BM leadership be involved in this process. On behalf of the SDI alliance delegation attending the meeting she offered support to the city and VPUU to work with the leadership on getting the list of victims sorted. This being a key SDI tool it was felt that it could act as an entry point for ISN to start mobilizing the community and give them the power with regards to information (the list) and start building a working relationship with VPUU.
Bolnick also mentioned that should the BM leadership and the people of BM (as well as the city) agree to do a blocking out Ikhayalami had raised funds for the provision of 200 shelters and would support this process together with our alliance partners.
With regard to the ISN supporting the City, VPUU and the leadership in compiling a verified list the first time Bolnick mentioned this, the point was lost. The second time she managed to get the offer accepted by City’s the Principle Field Officer.
After the meeting the ISN members as well as NGO support staff met with four of the BM leadership to discuss a way forward. It was agreed that at 4pm that afternoon an exchange would go from BM section to Sheffield Rd and Mshini Wam. Vuyani and Nkokeli felt that ISN should not be involved with supporting the leaders, VPUU and the city in sorting out the list of victims. Their rationale was that the leadership knows their own communities. Corc staff felt that they could not support the BM leadership if ISN had decided not to assist with the compilation of a verified list. At 2pm we all left the OR Tambo Hall.
Vuyani and Nkokeli went to Du Noon to offer support and assess the situation following a fire that occurred there on the 31st of December where 125 shacks had burnt down. A meeting was arranged for the following morning at the Corc offices for ISN and staff to regroup especially if we needed to make a decision concerning supporting Du Noon and or BM section.
At 4pm Melvyn from Ikhayalami and arrived at the OR Tambo Hall to fetch members of the BM community who had been elected to visit Sheffield Rd and Mshini Wam. The exchange was positive. The leaders from BM who attended the exchange were able to get a better grasp of what was meant by blocking-out.
4th of January, Friday – the regroup meeting scheduled for 8.30am was called off. Nkokeli reported that people in Du Noon had already rebuilt their shacks and that ‘we should focus our attention on BM’. It was agreed to meet at OR Tambo Hall to attend the crisis committee meeting. The Mayor of Cape Town, Patricia De Lille, Councilor Sonnenberg, E.D Mr. Seth Maqetuka and Head of Informal Settlements Department Mr. Zwandile Sokupa as well as other officials from the various departments’ attended this meeting.
The Mayor would hear non-of-this and became angry that people were meddling in politics while there was a crisis at hand. She also confirmed all the support that the city had provided up to that stage. Fortuitously Naledi Pandor the Minister of Home Affairs walked into the meeting. She too said that it was not a time for politics and that the focus should be on aiding the people and moving forward. Minister Pandor made a number of practical recommendations with regard to processing ID’s and the immediate provision of portable toilets.
A site-specific report was given. Mr. Maqetuka reported that ‘the City is working on a short-term plan and is also developing a short to medium term plan’. The Mayor asked that the meeting focus on the immediate disaster response. The city engineer reported that ‘there was an agreement for Solid Waste to clear the material and that they were on site and machinery will come on site this afternoon to do leveling’.
Councilor Sonnenberg stressed the importance of a verified beneficiary list. Mr. Sokupa and Mr. Maqetuka acknowledged Ikhayalmi’s offer to support the process with the provision of 200 shelters should there be a need for a re-blocking.
The Mayor agreed to be part of the crisis committee and said that all her engagements will be done through the Ward Councilor in line with protocol.
After the meeting Mr. Maqetuka and Mr. Soup met with the SA SDI Alliance delegates briefly. Bolnick requested access to the site layout for fire-breaks/roads. They informed us that the City was not yet sure in which direction the relief effort would go as they were in consultation with the Province and there was a likelihood that they would embark on a UISP project, so as of yet there were no concrete plans. They asked us to be a patient and said they would draw us in when needed. Thereafter most of the officials and political leaders went on a site visit. The alliance delegates stayed in the vicinity of the hall and managed to meet a city engineer who said that there was layout for the roads but that he did not have it with him.
On 5th of January, Saturday Phumezo, Thozama, Nombini and Bolnick went to the OR Tambo Hall to meet with the engineer and attend the crisis committee meeting. Disaster Management chaired the crisis committee meeting. The Mayor and officials who had been in the meeting the previous day were not present. Disaster management reported on progress with regards to the delivery of more mattresses, medi-packs and nappies. The responsibility of distribution had been given to the BM leadership. The confirmed number of people registered and staying in the OR Tambo hall was 1660 made up of almost an equal number of males, females and children and 55 babies. The confirmed list of fatalities were given – 3 deaths reported on the 1st, one found on the 2nd of January in the rubble and the fifth person who passed away in hospital from 80% burns on the 4th of January.
It was also confirmed that disaster management and social services would remain on site until further notice. Discussion arose around WB Section where there had also been a fire on the 31st Dec affecting 54 households. People complained that WB Section was not getting the same kind of support that BM was getting. It was reported that people in WB had already received the city’s starter packs and that most people had rebuilt their homes. The crisis committee agreed to find ways of supporting victims in WB section.
With regard to work on the site it was reported that two front loaders and one digger loader where on site clearing and leveling the land and that a land surveyor was on site assessing where the firebreaks should go. Another plea, this time from SASSA was made for the urgent need for a verified beneficiary list. The meeting was then adjourned.
Phumezo, Nombini and Bolnick decided to go to site with two BM leaders. En route they checked the measurement of an existing road to get a sense of scale in anticipation of finding out the width that the city was planning to use.
The main reason why they decided to go to site (apart from viewing the leveling) was to find a land surveyor, engineer or even a truck driver, in fact anyone who could give them some information about the proposed fire breaks as these would be key starting points in thinking through a new layout and at the very least to consider if the proposed roads make sense to the community.
While on site they found a city official who was able to disclose the type of information they had been seeking. Firstly he told them that the width of the roads would be 5m. Secondly the City is planning on putting in two roads through the settlement and one ring road around the area that was burnt (there was previously a road at the bottom of the settlement) and thirdly the city was going to arrange for a plane to fly overhead and take high-resolution aerial photographs. From these photographs the proposed roads would be confirmed. As things progress it is clear that these images will be vital for planning purposes and are images that the alliance should try to access as soon as possible.
After this engagement the group walked to the middle of the site to assess things and think things through from a spatial perspective.
Looking at the site it did not make sense to put a ring road around the burnt area (the sides and bottom were virtually from one section of the settlement to the other so this could make sense but the top section still has shacks that did not burn and is about 17m to the main road). The width of the burnt out area looked around 35m wide with a length of approximately 100m. The top part of the ring road was the road that did not make sense as in essence if they are to go ahead with this it would mean that 500sqm would be taken up (over and above the other justifiable roads) for purpose of a road as apposed to land for those affected. It would make more sense to extend the two roads in the middle of the settlement to meet Landsdowne Rd. From the edge of where shacks still remained to Landsdown rd it is approximately 17m. This would mean that 17m x 5m x 2 roads = 170sqm would be used for roads as apposed to 500sqm. It is reasons like these that it is important that community leaders get drawn into the design processes so that they can make recommendations that make sense and work better for the broader community.
On the 6th of January, Sunday at 9.30am Mr. Sokupa phoned Bolnick to confirm the number of shelters that Ikhayalami could provide, how soon and how many per day. Bolnick confirmed that should a plan be reached and all parties including the BM leadership and ISN agree then Ikhayalami could make 20 shelters available immediately and from the 17th of January when factories re-opened could supply 20 per day.
Thozama, Nombini and Phumezo went to the OR Tambo Hall to attend the crisis committee meeting where the Mayor was scheduled to attend. The Mayor and the Premier arrived at the confirmed time, that being 2pm. They insisted that the crisis committee and other people in the boardroom vacate so that they could hold a meeting with the Ward Councilor. People who were in the boardroom (where meetings had been held every day since the disaster) were outraged. After some commotion two separate meetings took place –one with the Premier, Mayor and Ward Councilor and one with the crisis committee. The Ward Councilor came to the crisis committee meeting and said that he would represent the crisis committee in the meeting with the Mayor and Premier. At times he came out of the meeting to consult with members of the crisis committee.
The Premier and Mayor stated that only 250 families will return to the site, the rest will be relocated to the area next to the OR Tambo hall and others next to Busasa on SANDF land. The BM leadership informed the Ward Councilor that the Premier should not put a set number to how many households will return to the site ‘as the community intends to work on their own layout that would accommodate many more than the 250 households
On Monday the 7th of January it was time for the SA SDI alliance to regroup. A meeting was convened to reflect and strategise going forward. Vuyani, Nkokeli, Bunita, Olwetu, Zipho and Andy formed part of this meeting. A report on the past 5 days was given comprising the above.
In the reflection meeting it was agreed that the situation in BM is a complex and that the community is ‘about to go to a big war without any tools’ (Vuyani). As such it is imperative that the ISN work with the BM leaders with whom there is now a connection and go deeper so as to reach the street committee leadership and the community at large. The idea is that three Khayelitsha ISN leaders who have been involved in meetings on site since the 2nd of January will work with Vuyani and Nkokeli to develop a strategy on how to deepen ISN’s presence within the broader community. It is also vital that FEDUP get drawn in into this process so that woman can start supporting one another in this difficult time.
It also became clear that Vuyani and Nkokeli’s reluctance to get involved had to do with fact that they are not from the Khayelitsha area, that they view the situation in BM as highly political and that previously in 2010 as leaders of the ISN they did not succeed (through no fault of theirs) in doing what the BM leadership had asked of them and were worried this would come back to haunt them. It was agreed that in spite of all the difficulties and complexities it is vital that the ISN support the BM community in their time of need.
On Tuesday the 8th of January Phumezo, Nkokeli, Thozama, Vuyani and Nombini met at the OR Tambo hall. They agreed that they should call a meeting with the BM leadership that includes the street committees. Unfortunately this meeting did not materialize and ISN are planning to do it as soon as possible. That evening a leader from BM called Phumezo and Bolnick saying that the crisis committee (of which Ikhayalami had previously been invited to participate by the broader committee) would be meeting with the Mayor on the 9th of January.
Wednesday morning the 9th of January at 9am Ikhayalami’s support at the meeting at the Civic Centre was confirmed by the BM leadership.
In the coming days things will unfold and we will constantly assess what type of support we can offer. Politics is firing and misfiring everywhere from petty politics to political mud slinging to high level politics. The petty politics and mud slinging politics are bedfellows. Every community forum/organisation in Khayelitsha has been jostling to be ‘powerful’. Disaster Management and other government relief effort departments are trying to complete their tasks and get the hell out of there. The high level politics are invisible to most, taking place behind closed doors and off site.
In an attempt to offer support and respond to the disaster Ikhayalami’s involvement has been to 1) to support the BM leaders/community to see through and make sense of the murky waters so as to be in a better position to plot an equitable as possible way forward, and 2) to assist them in starting to think one step ahead and to open doors for the ISN and FEDUP.
The alliances role going forward should include the following agenda – to support the BM leadership to negotiate with the state, to act as a bridge between community and the state, to support our city partners in this huge task in a way that gives voice to the BM community, to gain access to the plans and aerial images and draw the community into the planning and to set up women savings groups.
In early September a large delegation from SDI attended the World Urban Forum in Naples, Italy. The weeklong event was attended by virtually all major players in the urban development field and was host to a wide variety of sessions focusing on everything from water and sanitation to evictions to optimized public transit and green spaces.
SDI’s presence at WUF6, whose overall theme was “The Urban Future”, was marked by a sharp realization during the planning phase that the future WUF6 proposed seemed remarkably devoid of the issues facing the millions of urban poor across the developing world, not to mention their participation in the construction of said future.
In response, SDI leadership decided to host a series of panels at the SDI exhibition stand in addition to participation in official WUF6 events, launching the first annual World Urban Poor Forum (WUPF).
During the WUPF launch in which slum dwellers from across Africa and Asia raised their voices in song across the exhibition area, Jockin Arputham, a slum dweller from Mumbai, India and president of SDI, spoke of the importance of bringing the voice of the urban poor to global events like WUF, and the reason for organizing a WUPF alongside the official WUF: “This is the World Urban Forum of the Poor, not the rich. This is the forum for the people who have nothing!” and, “We have to believe that change will come from the poor.”
The three WUPF events focused on themes central to SDI’s core methodologies, and to the lives of slum dwellers across the global south: community-driven sanitation, the importance of partnerships with government, and participatory slum upgrading. Experiences from Uganda, South Africa and India were the focus, with slum dweller leaders and government officials speaking on their joint efforts towards people-driven processes in these three countries. The WUPF events were well attended by slum dwellers, government officials, donor partners, academics and civil society alike.
In addition to these WUPF events, SDI participated in a number of official networking events, and organized a session on another critical issue for the urban future: developing alternatives to evictions. The session, held on the first day of WUF6, was incredibly well attended, with standing room only and people packed into the back of the room and spilling out the doorways. Slum dweller leaders and government officials from Cape Town, South Africa, Harare, Zimbabwe and Iloilo City, Philippines shared their experiences working together to develop locally appropriate alternatives to evictions.
Sonia Fadrigo, a slum dweller leader from the Philippines, spoke about evictions she experienced before the Philippines Homeless People’s Federation developed their relationship with local government, “The demolition team came. I had two kids, ages 10 and 12, they were trembling because they were scared of the bulldozer.”
It was only through developing a relationship with the local government, a relationship that the Mayor of Iloilo City, Mr. Jed Patrick Mabilog, described as being characterized by the policy of “No evictions without decent, affordable housing,” that Sonia and her community were able to rest their fears of evictions. As Sonia said, this was achieved through going to government offices – through demanding alternatives.
Similarly, the Mayor of Harare, Mr. Muchadei Masunda, emphasized his commitment to working with the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation to prevent evictions in Harare. Davious Muvindi, leader of the Federation in Zimbabwe, confirmed this, beginning his commentary saying that the Federation and government in Zimbabwe had moved from “fights to engagement.”
Lastly, the South African SDI Alliance was joined by Ernest Sonnenberg from the local government of Cape Town to speak about their experiences in developing alternatives to evictions. This presentation was particularly poignant as Alina Mofokeng and Rose Molokoane, two slum dweller leaders from Gauteng province, spoke about the recent evictions in Johannesburg’s Marlboro Industrial Area. Since early August, over 300 families have been forcibly evicted, often in the middle of the night, from vacant factory buildings, which were then razed to the ground. Alina and Rose were able to utilize this space on the global stage to highlight their local struggles in the hopes that their government officials, seated in the audience, would feel responsible to rise to the occasion.
Whether or not these global events impact local processes is an important question, for if they don’t – if they serve only as a platform for more empty promises – then what is their use? In the past, SDI has used spaces such as WUF to lay the foundation for successful and productive relationships with donor partners and governments. This year, meetings took place between numerous slum dweller federations and their government officials (i.e. Uganda, Zambia, Malawi, Namibia). Depending on what happens in the coming months, affiliates will be able to determine whether these meetings will bear meaningful fruit on the ground.
One of the key themes that emerged throughout the week was the lack of representation of the urban poor in the majority of WUF events. Indeed, SDI President Jockin Arputham was the only urban poor representative to participate in any of the official WUF Dialogue Events, where he challenged his fellow panelists saying that “Since 1975 when this discussion began…What have we all done since then to make what we discuss actualized in practice? We keep coming to these events, and we ask each other these questions, and then we go away only to ask the same questions again.”
Jockin’s frustration with too much talk and not enough walk was felt by a number of people involved in fighting urban poverty. As David Satterthwaite wrote in his recent reflection on WUF6: “Why weren’t representatives of urban poor organizations, federations and network on the committees organizing this and previous World Urban Forums? Why are the powerful global institutions so reluctant to engage the urban poor directly?” Until these questions are answered through concrete actions towards the contrary (i.e. involving the urban poor directly), it seems these events will continue to do little to make louder the voice of the urban poor, without the unfortunate reality of developing a separate event for that voice. The reality is that, in our pursuit of “inclusive cities” – a phrase heard time and again both at WUF and in urban development circles – we should not be furthering the divide between the urban poor, the informal, and the formal urban development world. Instead, the issues, agenda, and voice of the urban poor should be prioritized at these events, as it is the voice of those whose urban future stands on the most uncertain ground.
By Andy Bolnick (CORC/iKhayalami) and Benjamin Bradlow
The roller coasters and carnival games at Ratanga Junction Park in the Milnerton area of Cape Town may appear as a middle class child’s idyll, even amidst the winter cold and rain. But only a kilometer away, shack dwelling mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers, daughters and sons, in an informal settlement called Mshini Wam in Joe Slovo Park are coming together to build a better life for their children. Collectively, they are influencing city government in a way that is, step-by-step, producing lessons for a future in which all children grow up in safe, vibrant, and nurturing neighborhoods.
The settlement of 250 families, is becoming a learning center for improving informal settlements throughout Cape Town. Yesterday, the community, which links with informal settlement leadership throughout the city through the Informal Settlement Network (ISN), invited city officials from the Informal Settlements Management Unit, Extended Public Works Programme, and city council, to celebrate what they have achieved. In less than one week, residents of Mshini Wam have begun transforming the physical layout of their neighborhood, through a partnership with the city government, ISN, and a supporting NGO called the Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC). The ceremony celebrated the community’s work in “re-blocking” the dense, flood and fire-prone settlement, into organized clusters of 8-10 shacks.
The first cluster was completed on 23 February to demonstrate blocking-out to the community and to the Deputy Minister of Human Settlements, Ms Zou Kota Federicks who had come to Mshini Wam to attend the community led enumeration (household socio-economic survey and neighborhood map) launch. With three clusters done, the project is due to be completed in the next 3 months. In addition to the re-blocking, many of the shacks were improved with fire-proof, environmentally friendly materials.
The residents of Mshini Wam have, from the outset, claimed and owned this project. A community design team led the cluster-based redesign, with technical assistance from an architect at CORC. Luthando Klaas, when introduced to a reporter from the local Cape Times as a community leader, interrupted the reporter’s question. “No, no, no. I’m a community designer.”
This kind of assurance was behind the words of Nokhwezi Klaas when she spoke at a short ceremony with the invited parties. As she stood fighting back a mild cough, she spoke of the effect of the project on the community that she leads, and her own personal life: “As you can see, I am sick all the time because my shack is constantly damp from flooding.”
She then pointed to the “re-blocked” shacks and described how they were organized in a way that not only protected residents from flooding, but also created the space for the city to pave emergency access roads, and install electricity, and water and sanitation piping. Further, the community has been able to open up savings schemes that breed financial accountability and management skills amongst residents, who have then been able to contribute to voluntary shack improvements, in addition to the re-blocking effort. Community savings currently total R29,200.
As ISN leader Vuyani Mnyango noted, the upgrading effort is of dire importance in a settlement that not only suffers from frequent flooding, but has only 16 chemical toilets and 3 water taps for 250 households.
At the end of last year, the city authorities, ISN, and CORC agreed that, in order to do the required infrastructural improvements in Mshini Wam, it would be necessary to relocate between 20 to 50 households to an area nearby. The plan was for the city to come in and do the necessary earthworks and service provision and then the families were to move back. However, it became very difficult for the city to approve land that the community had identified for this purpose. No progress was made from March until last week.
The community wanted to begin and were getting very frustrated at the delays. The community leadership and ISN realized together that the best way to harness the community’s energy was to start blocking-out in an entirely in situ manner with no temporary relocations. Early last week, the city came on board in terms of supplying resources such as materials for the roofs of households (part of emergency starter kits), sand filling, crusher stone and compacting machinery.
The level of activity and community participation is palpable. Women are particularly active — clearing the site, collecting debris, loading wheelbarrows, carrying wheelbarrows, learning how to make the upgraded panels and then making them.
Yesterday, Mshini Wam’s Nokhwezi Klaas, along with ISN leaders, urged a representative from the city’s Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP) to join in this partnership. This would ensure that community members who work on such upgrading work are not only compensated, but also gain recognition for the skills development that occurs in a project like the re-blocking of Mshini Wam.
But this is not a project that is just affecting one community. Most significantly, Mshini Wam is a proving ground for a city-wide partnership for informal settlement upgrading between networked communities across the cities and the Cape Town municipal authorities. This alliance was consecrated in a memorandum of understanding signed with Mayor Patricia de Lille earlier this year. The re-blocking strategy, which re-arranges shacks in densely-packed settlements to open up common public space, access roads, and basic service infrastructure installation, is currently being rolled out in four settlements throughout the city this year, which is then set to expand to at least 18 more settlements. Through partnership between ISN, CORC, and Cape Town local authorities, the city is also able to explore other appropriate informal settlement upgrading strategies in a deliberate and collective manner. Overall, the city has committed R6 million for infrastructure, and is supporting community-led enumerations in all the identified settlements.
While policy-makers, academics and professional organizations struggle to gain even the smallest bit of traction on the ground to begin improving the lives of shack dwellers throughout the country, an alternative paradigm is emerging into focus. Little of this appears in the textbooks and policy codes. Rather, it is through practice that we can make out this new approach. When shack dwelling communities come together, and pool their own knowledge and resources, they are able to partner with local authorities and catalyze city-wide processes. As informal settlement-based learning centres spring up throughout Cape Town, communities are gaining influence, access to resources, and improved settlements and lives.
The dystopia of the urbanisation of poverty is a confounding reality, to say the least. People eek out a living in the harshest environment, are subject to environmental torture, and have little prospect of escaping the vices of modern life. Under imperial and apartheid South Africa, the right of non-Europeans/ non-whites to urban life was continuously supressed, if not denied fully. In fact, the very existence of the racist regime was premised on segregated urban spaces. This is why, argues philosopher Achile Mbembe of Stellenbosch University, “most social struggle of the postapartheid era can be read as attempts to re-conquer the right to be urban.”
This confounding reality is often worsened and aggravated by government policies that do not recognize the urban crisis. For many years, governments have shied away from devising comprehensive policies that tackle the challenges of urban poverty, and that harness the potentials for innovative development, which have historically been associated with urbanization. In the global South, the import of modernist planning norms and standards from the global North has perpetuated the existence and recurrence of peripheral urban slums by creating sanitized spaces for the elite.
What are the real prospects for social and political change in this new democratic dispensation? The high waves of market forces, income inequality, and worsening human development indices rock the tattered and bruised vessels of the urban poor. For some miracle of resilience and agency, the poor continue to press forward. In many cases, the hope of a more equal and fair society has found expression in the agency of the underclass, of the excluded, of the marginalized. These societies have depended on a forgotten art: the art of ark building.
Despite the introduction of potentially more progressive, transformative and situational responsive policies contained in the “second generation” of human settlement legislative frameworks (the first ten years being a dismal failure), local governments have struggled to come to grips with the extensive community engagement and difficult engineering and geotechnical interventions implicit in the upgrading of informal settlements. Organised communities are filling the voids created by lack of political will, social facilitation, and technical expertise by generating a resource base they own: knowledge about their settlement.
For this reason, Premier of the Western Cape, Ms. Helen Zille, paid a visit to Franschhoek on the 8th of May. She wanted to witness the progress made by the Langrug community in partnership with the Stellenbosch Municipality. Langrug is a large informal settlement on the slopes of Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve on the outskirts of Franschhoek. Seasonal laborers working on the wine farms and a large dam construction project established the settlement in the early 1990s. This settlement construed a forgotten people for many years, until the municipality was forced to action when the neighboring farm owner obtained a court interdict against the Municipality for the settlement’s greywater runoff into his irrigation dam. The municipality was forced to start negotiating with the settlement, because 14 families were to be relocated in the reserve earmarked for an access road construction. Cape Town's Informal Settlement Network (ISN) was introduced to the settlement after the municipality engaged the network, opening a year-long relationship-building window. Ever since, a full scale in-situ upgrade project has been launched; providing better service with minimal disruption to residents’ lives.
Premier Zille opened her address by saying that there is no more difficult policy environment than housing. The question of the spread of resources – either a serviced house for a few or better services and incremental tenure security for many – has continually shaped the South African housing policy debate. During the visit, Zille commented, “the important point about this informal settlement is that it is one of the first where we have a viable partnership with the community. And now, working with the community, we are installing stormwater, greywater systems, toilets, washing facilities, road and upgrading the place generally … but the existing thing about this project is that we are upgrading shacks where they are instead of moving people out and starting from the beginning”. Western Cape MEC for Housing Bonginkosi Madikizela said: “It is a fantastic model. The message to the rest of the country is that any development is a partnership between government and communities. They become partners rather than passive recipients”.
Much attention was called to the “model” of community participation espoused by Informal Settlement Network (ISN). Zille argued that this new “model” could be better articulated by having a single window policy approach to refining the government’s ability to navigate complex (and fragmented) policy frameworks. Although such an approach could be instructive, a model without agency has no value. Organised communities have an agency to transform urban landscapes by transforming their settlements. One of the failures of the government-driven and top-down implementation of housing developments in post-apartheid era was exactly this: the entrenchment of the forgotten apartheid ghettos. But informal residents are taking the lead in integrating their development with the greater evolution of their surrounding urban spaces. The ark communities are building is an inclusive one; one that has the capacity to deliver social and political change. This ark does not look or function like any of the government’s planning apparatuses, which are often founded on principles that entrench existing spatial inequalities. No, this ark is different. It is different because the ones designing the ark are different. Communities and government can only revive the lost art of ark building when they partner around deliverables such as improved living conditions. In this way, power is shared, and solutions are co-produced.
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
On Thursday 23 February 2012, while South Africa were debating the implications of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s budget speech, another group was preparing to put action to words. Community leaders from across the country and associated with the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) were gathering in a community hall in Joe Slovo Park, Milnerton, Cape Town. This group attended a workshop during the week on enumerations, mapping and blocking out of their settlements. The energy was bouncing off the walls, and detonated into a joyous singing-dancing affair along Freedom Way.
The group danced and sang their way to the next stop: an open field in Mshini Wam settlement where a gazebo was set up to receive the Deputy Minister of Human Settlements, Ms. Zou Kota-Fredericks. The group sang affectionate songs to the on-lookers, urging them to unite and prepare their communities for improving their living conditions.
Ndikunile isandla [I give my hand]
Ndakunika ingalo [I give my arm]
Ndakunika amabele [I give you my chest / breasts]
Andiyazi byifunayo [I don’t know what else you want]
Yona soze uyifumane [and you wont get it!]
Blocking-out is a term the South African SDI Alliance uses to refer to the community based planning and design processes that lead to the re-organisation of shacks to utilise space much better. The need for blocking out could be anything from opening space to ensure better penetration of emergency services, finding solutions to flooding and fire, security and safety of children in court yards under neighborhood supervision, or better located water and sanitation services. In the case of Mshini Wam – a settlement that has been plagued with fires that not only destroy their belongings, but also have claimed residents’ lives – the community intends to open space to develop roads for emergency services, amongst others. Ms. Kota-Fredericks was led through a narrow alley way littered with the debris of shacks pulled down. However, in the place of the old: the new! Ngcambo, a leader from Mshini Wam, introduced the community designs to the minister in a practical way. He presented the previous layout of shacks with cardboard cut-outs, and rearranged them to show her what the new layout will look like. The iKhayalami team was supporting the affected households on that very same stage, and the minister could see the new synergy of professional builders working alongside unskilled communities. The skills transfer that occurs in this space is notable.
The delegation moved on to another aspect of the enumeration process that is linked to securing people’s tenure and creates a sense of belonging. This time, the minister handed over identity cards to Mshini Wam residents. The identity card contains the following household information:
Name and national ID number of household head, with a picture of him / her next to his / her numbered shack
Names and identity numbers of household dependents
Shack and block / cluster number
Number of years lived in the shack
This small gesture goes a long way. When the City’s anti-land invasion unit peruses settlements, and allegedly threatens with eviction, residents in enumerated settlements can easily produce tangible evidence to the contrary.
The party then moved on the next venue: Siyahlala settlement across the road from Mshini Wam. “It’s an honor to again have you here amongst the shacks, Minister” said Patrick Magebhula, chair of ISN and advisor to Tokyo Sexwale. “This is where it really matters”. Turning to the buzzing crowd he said, “You need to be a leader with a purpose. A leader that represents solutions to real problems. A leader of the elderly, of the unemployed, of the disabled, of the children. And you will only know your people and your settlement if you have enumerated and discussed the data”. Magebhula also ensured the Minister and officials from the City of Cape Town that ISN, with support of CORC, are preparing a master database of data collected in settlements over the past years.
Member of Mayoral Committee for Human Settlements, Councilor Sonnenberg, also affirmed the City of Cape Town’s commitment to working alongside communities associated with the Informal Settlement Network – in particular the communities of Mshini Wam, BT Section, Burundi, and Vygieskraal. Six objectives in the partnership between the ISN and City of Cape Town were also presented:
Create a shared community vision of the future, especially with regard to informal settlements upgrading and backyard rehabilitation;
Identify and prioritise key issues, thereby facilitating immediate measures to alleviate urgent problems;
Support community-based analysis of local issues, including the comprehensive review of long-term, systemic problems that confront particular service systems and the need to integrate different service strategies so that they are mutually supportive;
Develop action plans for addressing key issues, drawing from the experiences and innovations of diverse local groups;
Mobilise community-wide resources to meet service needs, including the joint implementation of sustainable development projects; and
Increase public support for municipal activities and local understanding of municipal development needs and constraints.
Minister Kota-Fredericks reminded the delegation of minister, councillors and officials that these are the people we serve. She further remarked that the Department is in the process of finalising its budget and at the budget speech, she will report back on the collaborative upgrading initiatives she witnessed in Cape Town.
In closing, minister Kota-Fredericks talked about the “multiplier effect” that small City-wide projects have on national policy deliberations. This starts through organised communities taking the initiative to build horizontal networks of accountability and transparency. Only by building partnerships with all tiers of government, starting at the local level, meaningful engagement will be achieved. The minister walked the talk, and conducted a household level enumeration by completing the CORC questionnaire with a local resident. And in doing so, she also launched the enumeration of Siyahlala settlement.
On a hot Cape Town morning, across the road from where Democracy Mini Market in Joe Slovo Park is located, a group of young men talk through the problems they face in their settlements, and what they could possibly do to remedy their harsh living conditions. Where will the money come from, and who do we speak to? A lady enters the conversation and says that her main concern for Msuluzi Village in Mpumalanga is tenure security as they face regular threats of evictions.
Between Monday and Friday, 20 to 24 February, community leaders associated with the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) from across the country meet in Joe Slovo Park, Milnerton, Cape Town and participate in a national workshop on enumerations. The focus of the workshop is to start a conversation about finding solutions through the information communities gather through enumeration. Enumeration is a social organising tool the ISN utilises by which the community does a survey and assessment of socio-economic and demographic profile, basic services and development aspirations. Communities use this information to build local capacity and develop spatial plans for the upgrading of their settlement.
This information is very valuable. City councils allocate funds to budgets that are aligned to 5-year-development plans – also called the Integrated Development Plan (IDP). The IDP document influences the way the City council prioritises and upgrades informal settlements. City councils need information to do this type of planning, and private consultants are often employed to do surveys and research on the development needs. Yet private consultants rarely drill down into community structures to ascertain a comprehensive vision of a preferred future. Strong organised communities therefore need to build local capacity to influence and interject the imaginations of city builders. This happens when they have self-knowledge, which become power negotiation tools. In this way, communities offer an alternative to top-down development, and offer opportunities to deepen democratic engagement and create an inclusive governance culture, which are the obligations of “developmental local government”.
At the same time, enumerations in different regions in Cape Town and other South African cities have been conducted which did not necessarily lead to stronger communities and development plans. The workshop also seeks to address how enumeration should be a mobilisation tool whereby the entire community is prepared and agrees to the development vision. This requires an in-depth mobilisation of the community. Enumerators need to be able to articulate the enumeration programme, and be able to address the community at large about what this entails and why this is important. This underscores the importance of knowing your neighbor. The congregation agreed that we are not in the business of building individuals, but communities.
The full participation of communities is the only way to have a successful enumeration. We have seen enumerations that were led by a few individuals in the communities and nothing happened there. Therefore, by sensitising the community to the process and the outcomes, you create a focus on projects that builds on community solidarity. It is the leadership committee’s responsibility to involve wide participation in the enumeration process; from the way that questions are framed, to the way data is captured and presented to the community. A number of stories were also heard.
Siyahliwe, Johannesburg: At first, ISN members visited the councillor and the municipality and the organised structures in the community. They went back to their community, and called a general meeting, which was attended by all these parties. They introduced the enumeration programme, and identified the problems in their settlement. Once the community, councilor and municipality were on board, the leaders drew up a map of the settlement, designated blocks, and the enumeration was started.
Mshini Wam, Cape Town: Started in 2010 at the time when they started engaging the regional ISN leaders. For a long time, they were depending on water and services from the formal RDP houses in the settlement. Therefore, they should be seen as backyarders and not an informal settlement per se. They were paying up to R50 per month for water. At the regional ISN forums, they learned a lot from other settlements in their region. The City of Cape Town said they could not install services because of the density and no access roads. After a long engagement, they ensured taps were installed. The idea of enumeration was seen as a way to open space and understand the demographics and spatial relationships of the settlement. They identified the open spaces in their settlement, and have completed the initial plan for the first cluster. In this way they are opening space to construct
Manenberg, Cape Town: We approached the local housing office and asked them how many people do they estimate live in backyarder shacks in Manenberg. The office estimated about 420 people. The enumeration showed the true number to be more than 4,000 people. This revelation had major impact in the way the city saw the Manenberg backyarders; a community that was uncovered through the enumeration process.
The workshop culminates on Thursday with a visit from the Deputy Minister of Human Settlements Ms Zoe Kota-Fredericks where the community of Mshini Wam will demonstrate their validated enumeration results and draft spatial plans, and the community of Siyahlala where Ms. Kota-Fredericks will launch the enumeration at a mass meeting.
Kholeka Xuza, a community leader from Langrug settlement outside Stellenbosch, and myself, a young professional from Cape Town, South Africa, met at Cape Town International Airport late in the evening on 22 January 2012 prior to boarding our first flight north to Norway. We both checked in with no challenges, except Kholeka was not happy when she lost her body lotion and face wash that was in her hand luggage, over 100 ml and not allowed to through security gates. During the wait we were both excited, realizing that there was no turning back now: the next stop is Amsterdam.
We arrived Amsterdam early on the morning of the 23rd. As we arrived at the airport, we could tell we were very far from home due to the cold weather (around 7 degrees). We were shocked at how big the airport was, as we were running through the airport trying to make sure we didn’t miss our next flight to Oslo, Norway. After finding the boarding gate for our flight and looking at the hours we had before our next flight we toured around the airport, amazed by how cheap electronics looked in Euros. Finally around 4pm we made it to Oslo airport in Norway, and for the first time in my life I was in the snow. At this point we were very grateful for the jackets, hats and glovers that SDI brought for us. We geared up as we waiting for the 5pm bus to Ski (Shee as announced by the locals) and took some photos excited and afraid of seeing cold weather.
Day 1: 24 January 2012
Opening address and Welcoming speeches.
After the introduction, the Chair of GLTN Clarissa Augustinus did the opening and welcoming speech, expressing how grateful she was that everyone made it through the GLTN Expert Global Meeting. She introduced the topic “Exploring the Youth Dimensions of the Global Land Agenda” and why it is important that we start thinking about youth involvement in land issues, as they are a marginalized group when it comes to land rights.
After Mrs. Augustinus, Mr. Erik Berg from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed us all to their cold beautiful country. In his welcoming speech, Mr. Berg talked about the importance of human rights education for today's youth, so that the youth can define and defend their rights, knowing exactly what responsibilities they have to their rights as the future leaders of the world.
Mr. Anantha Krishnan from UN-Habitat gave some general information about youth, including the age group that is defined as youth by UN (15-24 years old), and statistics about youth around the world such as :
87 % of youth lives in developing countries.
62 % of the world youth lives in Asia and
17 % in Africa.
He also shared some information about land issues around the world, that 2.7 Billion worth of land is sold in developing countries and that youth represents a marginalized group in land issues.
Asa Jonhsson from GLTN, Un-habitat, officially welcomed all the participants in the Network and stated the vision of GLTN, which is to provide Land Tools at global scale, to give mechanisms that will assist the poor to influence policy making.
Why Focus on Youth and Land?
Siraj Sait from the University of East London presented the GLTN scoping study findings about Youth and Land issues. There is a lot of information that was reflected by the study such as:
There is no clear definition of what age group is considered to be 'youth.' The UN says age group 15-24 years old, African Youth Charter says its everyone up to the age of 35 and UN-habitat fund says up to 32 years old, and those whom are “young at heart”. While in other areas, age is not sole determinant of youth, it depends on race, culture and traditions.
For GLTN the importance of doing research with the youth and using a human rights approach.
A set of hard questions were asked, like can youth work as technical partners in tool developments?
Do youth want land, and can they commit to the process of developing the agenda, and do they have capacity?
On literature review: it was shown that there is little to no literature written about youth in land issues. In the 2007 World Bank Youth Report, there is nothing about youth and land.
The major question that the scoping study asked for me is on the Youth to Youth questions: Why or How is land important to the youth? Some of the participants also asked this question, with no clear answer being given.
During the discussion about the GLTN scoping study, facilitated by Williem van Vliet from University of Colorado, three important questions were asked:
How are youth currently responding to land issues?
What models do youth use to combat their constraints?
How are youth resisting the marginalization on land?
A lot was said in addressing these questions and the outcome was that the struggle for Youth and land needs to be addressed or looked at in the same way that the struggle for woman empowerment was tackled.
Panel: Examples of Projects with a Youth and Land Dimension.
During this panel, four selected projects that work with young people in land issues were selected to present the work they do in their respective countries, which are Kenya (Map Kibera), Brazil (OASIS), South Africa (SDI) and Mexico (World Bank).
Ms. Jamie Lundine from Map Kibera project in Kenya talked about Youth engagement in mapping of informal settlements, and how they use GIS systems and technology to empower young people through training and practice of use the GIS technology to produce a map of their community Kibera, and capture stories of their community so they can influence the development of the community. Please visit www.mapkibera.org for more information on the project.
Mr. Joao Scarpelini from Brazil presented on Empowering communities to achieve their right to the city by playing the OASIS game in the Brazilians favelas in a period of 7 days, where young people and the older generation of a community is brought together to play a game by building a model of they would like to see their community, and take one project and construct it while discussing issues that affect them as a community and what are the possible solutions.
INTRODUCTION: The challenges of informal settlements.
SDI INTERVENTION:- this explored the organogram that SDI works with in different areas and their role working with communities.
LANGRUG CASE STUDY:- This slide introduced the work done in Langrug talking about the background of the project from enumeration and mapping. At this point Kholeka took over the presentation and presentated information about her own community.
A WALK AROUND LANGRUG: - This presented the Langrug enumeration data and the needs of the community, while background pictures provided visuals of community.
LEARNING BY DOING: - this slide explores and explains some of the projects done by the co-reaserchers and the community of Langrug.
CONCLUSION: - Briefly explains the impact that the work done by young people of langrug has in them and their community.
The meeting attendees’ seemed very impressed by the presentation and they were happy about Kholeka being there representing the views of communities as a community member not a professional.
Facilitating Land access to young farmers in Mexico, is a project presented by Mr. Fernard Galeana from the World Bank, shared information about a project that invested in young farmers, by selecting a group of young people that have interest in farming and trained them and gave them a loan of about 30,000 US dollars to start their farming business, but the project failed because there was no clear follow up and the was no community participation through the whole process.
After the presentations Mr. Mabala chaired a discussion were everyone had the opportunity to ask the presenters questions and comment about the different projects, Mr Mabala comment is that all the projects illustrated that all young people have a place in Land issues, and what role they’ll play will be determined by purpose or goal in their different communities.
At this point, all the participants were separated into 4 groups. The groups discussed these following questions:
1. What are the most pressing youth and land concerns globally?
Foreign acquisitions of land in developing countries – pressure on land/resource constraints
Lack of youth participation in policy processes, youth friendly policies
Recognition of rights of young people
Civic education and public participation – realizing your rights and mechanisms to access them
Access to urban land – rental and ownership – landlords vs renters
Unemployment and underemployment (and education) as it relates to ability to secure housing or land
2. Are the any regions/countries and particular issues that stand-out as needing particular attention?
Marginalization (age, certain indigenous groups, girls, women, people with disabilities, etc.)
Inheritance for females in Africa
Europe – collapse of housing market, defaulting on loans and mortgages
The recognition of informality
3. How can youth perspectives best be integrated into Land Projects?
Structural integration and participation in decision making, including inter-generational integration)
Supporting youth structures at all levels
Integration of technology (meeting youth where they are)
Awareness of benefits of youth participation
Day 2: Wednesday, 25 January 2012.
Panel: Programme Responses To Youth and Land Challenges.
1. During this section Mr. Stein Holden presented the Norwegian Government Strategy for Youth and development. The strategy is called 3000 reasons for youth development and looks at how youth can be involved in development issues, and has suggestions on how this can be done and depicts all the role players that must get involved when to assist youth into a position of understanding development. The challenges with this strategy are that:-
There is no clear follow up on the strategy because of the assumption that when a strategy is released the problem is solved.
Little follow up has been done through UN-Habitat.
Is it in line with the MDG?
It doesn’t address a holistic approach to development.
And there is no checklist to measure things achieved through this strategy.
2. Mr. Willem van Vliet presented about Youth Friendly cities. In his presentation, he showed measures that can used to create a youth friendly city, some of his strategic points were :-
The importance of creating a human rights approach that looks at the future and gives a room for development and growth.
An approach that focuses on needs, and addresses the shortcomings of lack that there is.
Creating safe public open spaces that promote a space for dialogue.
Engage young people in discussions around clean water and air.
He also talked about an assessment toolkit of a child friendly city, that makes sure that a city has spaces where children can Play, Participate in different activities in safe spaces, that have social, health and education services, and this got me thinking of the small projects that we do around Langrug like painting toilets, and abandon concrete slabs, on how important is it for the children in informal settlements and how it can spread to different communities.
3. Ms. Katie Fairlier from FIG young surveyors network, talked about Recruiting young people into Land Profession. She talked about the aims and vision of the network and the importance and the nature of the work the network does and the benefits it gives to young professionals in land issues and the exposure it gives them into different projects. www.fig.net/ys.
4. On the topic Lessons from working on gender and land presented by Mr. Siraj Sait, this presentation explored a study done by GLTN and its partners, some of the subjects are that were explored are:-
The role women have play in acquiring land.
Breaking Youth and Gender may lead to fragmentation.
What’s the holistic approach between Youth and Woman (young woman)?
What are the problems facing Youth: The definition of youth and the fact that young people don’t remain in one place, they turn to move around, and
What is the specific youth political approach
This study posed suggestions that can lead into understanding of a key approach in achieving Land and Youth Human rights approach, and recognize all working within the land sector, despite their gender.
During discussion chaired by Ms. Clarissa Augustinus on the presentations, the following outcomes were discussed:-
Land is about politics, technicalities and high-risks.
Land is still a problem for a lot of people in the world; only 30% of the world population is registered land owners, with documents attaching them to piece of land, so adding youth increases the problem of land issues.
An affordable solution in solving land issues doesn’t mean cheap technology, but how do we not marginalize those that are technological challenged.
This discussion with these points led to Ms. Clarissa Augustinus presentation about GLTN’s responses to Land concerns. The presentation started by defining GLTN, and stating its mission and vision in creating a pro-poor agenda in land issues, by doing research on investigation on the root courses to urban poor rights and developing a tools to combat and facilitate the agenda.
In closing I learnt a lot of information at GLTN meeting and meet a lot of people working relative in the same field as myself, that are passionate about their projects they work in, they have inspired me to look at how to include young people more, while not excluding all the other groups into land issues, and how South African in can champion young people involvement in land issues. Although the is no clear definition on what Land means for the youth and why do young people need land, is it for shelter or agriculture or livelihoods the is a clear role that young people are marginalized when it comes to land culturally and economically and the current systems although it promotes youth development but the is not enough information about young people role in land issues, and as much as this is a challenge, for it is an opportunity for young people all over the world to claim their dignity in their community.
This opportunity also gave myself and Kholeka to exposure to other projects like MapKibera, that we are looking at creating a link with so that we can share and learn from about using GIS in Langrug, and also with FIG see what organization of young surveyors they are working with in South Africa, so we can see how the can help Langrug community and other informal settlements in survey information. Thank you a lot to SDI and GLTN for making this opportunity possible.
To view Sizwe & Kholeka's presentation, click here.
“This is a dream come true in bringing City Councils and communities around a table to talk about possibilities of city-wide informal settlement upgrading,” said Jerry Adlard, the facilitator of the 9th November learning event organised by South African, Namibian and Malawian poor people’s movements aligned to Shack/Slum Dwellers International. Paired with these words, was the call for honest reflection on the objective, structure, achievements, lessons learnt and challenges of unfolding partnerships in the cities of Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Ethekwini, Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg, Windhoek and Lilongwe. The learning event was preceded by two days of site visits to re-blocking, sanitation and relocation projects in the City of Cape Town and Stellenbosch Municipality.
How do various actors implicated in urban development build partnerships to ensure pro-poor and inclusive cities? Contemporary African cities are juxtaposed with multiple layers of social, political, economic and environmental realities, which in many ways are aggravated by its colonial past. On the one hand, cities are the spaces of aspiration, innovation and drivers of social change, and on the other, social polarisation, poverty, conflict and environmental degradation narrate the conditions of large portions of city dwellers. In an age that is characterised by urbanisation, said to transform the cities of Africa, Asia and Latin America, there is arguably never been a time where effective partnerships are more needed.
In many cases, slum dwellers are taking the lead in building partnerships with local authorities with the view to significantly influence the way slum upgrading is conceptualised and operationalised. The full participation of slum dwellers in upgrading programmes is central to meeting the outcomes of sustainable human settlements, tending towards social (and political) change. For instance, slum dwellers of the Homeless People’s Federation of Malawi influenced the Lilongwe City Council’s bureaucracy through its large scale enumeration project which involved churches, tribal chieftaincies and other community based organisations (Lilongwe slums span municipal boundaries and averages in sizes of 50,000 residents). This inclusive project resulted in a shift on the part of the City Council from treating urban development as homogeneous to rural development. The establishment of the Informal Settlement Unit, a department which reports directly to the Mayor, was the result of effective lobbying on the part of the urban poor. This partnership illustrates the limitations of technocrats and the possibilities of communities initiating their own developmental priorities.
In Windhoek, the partnership between the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN), City of Windhoek and the Polytech is challenging the limitations to transformation implicated in the inherited colonial land use management norms. Space for policy innovation is opening where the contribution and full participation of informal settlements are at the plinth.
Partnerships unfolding in South Africa through the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) and Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) were also discussed at length. Some of the overarching achievements to date have included pilot projects in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and the mining belt in Ekurhuleni whereby communities successfully re-blocked (e.g. Ruimsig (CoJ) and Sheffield Road (CoCT)), installed drainage (Masilunghe (CoCT)), and resettled (Langrug (Stellenbosch) and Lwazi Park (CoCT)). Innovation through upgrading is challenging the enduring (mis)conceptions associated to the subsidised housing paradigm which only looked after the interests of the nucleus family. The SA Alliance’s aspirations for establishing city-wide Urban Poor Funds – funding facilities that support the initiatives of poor communities – have also partially realised when communities successfully leveraged funds from the Stellenbosch Municipality in financing the relocation project and associated service provision.
The institutionalisation of partnerships for city-wide upgrading initiatives is underway. Reports were heard from city officials and community leaders of respective cities. As communities penetrate the seemingly perceived ‘iron towers’ of city bureaucracy and build effective partnerships that influence budgetary allocation and prioritisation, the emphases are shifting from ‘control’ to ‘participation’.
Delegates argued that if the partnership cannot affect political will, for instance to transform the ward councillor structure (in the SA case), then there is no real power to promote the upgrading agenda. One of the Namibian delegates remarked:
“There is a problem to talk about the poor’s ‘self-reliance’ when the issue actually lies with the state’s orientation. Political space is opened to engage around delivery priorities and this is a two-way process; both the state needs to be held accountable, and citizens, demanding basic human rights, need to be proud and organised. One of the main reasons why the partnerships fail to deliver is that the departments don’t understand the difference between upgrading and housing delivery”.
By Ariana K. MacPherson and Charlton Ziervogel, SDI Secretariat
The machine of urbanization rolls on. Each year thousands upon thousands of individuals make the move away from rural areas to seek a better life in the city. But what waits in the city is no easy street to riches, but rather a fight for limited space on land that is scarce and valuable. The rural poor make their way to the city only to become the urban poor, and instead of the open arms of opportunity, they slip through the cracks, forced to eke out an existence in the realm of the informal. They are branded illegal, part of a temporary problem that needs to be eradicated. The truth of the matter is that many slum dwellers have been living in the city, working in the city, raising families in the city, for just as long as their “formal” urban counterparts.
Bordering the main road in Kisenyi, Uganda, is an open swath of land, riddled with debris. It is the site of a recent eviction. Hundreds of families were forced out of their homes, their shacks razed to the ground. The remnants of life, chained in by barbed wire. This is the daily threat, and harsh reality, of informal living. Centrally located settlements like Kisenyi sit on some of the city’s most valuable land, “The gold of Kampala, the real gold of Kampala,” says one member of the Ugandan SDI Alliance. He is right. Urban land is scarce, and only becoming scarcer.
This same scene plays itself out in Accra, Cape Town, Harare, Kampala and Nairobi. Slums in these five cities make up some of the largest in the world. Old Fadama in Accra, the N2 settlements in Cape Town, Mbare in Harare, Kisenyi in Kampala and Mukuru in Nairobi are home to many of Africa’s poorest people, living in overcrowded, insecure conditions without access to toilets or clean drinking water and under increasing threat of eviction from ever ready bulldozers hungry for land. At its core, the issue is one of exclusion. The urban poor have been excluded from their right to the city for decades, and as cities grow, the right to urban land becomes increasingly contested between those with access to power and money, and those without.
By asserting their place at the city’s core, residents of informal settlements are made part of the face and a voice of the city, and are given space to engage with local government. Many of these communities have been residing in cities for decades, and yet they remain largely excluded from the city’s formal systems and services. It is time that the officials and politicians recognize this fact. The urban poor are not nameless, placeless masses to be uprooted and moved to the periphery. Their communities, families, livelihoods and social networks are in the city. Eviction, displacement, and relocation to the urban periphery only result in further fragmentation of society, reinforcing the divisions of race and class that have existed for centuries.
What is at stake is more than just providing homes to the homeless, it is about placing people at the center of the urbanization process, ensuring that the city is not just for those with power and wealth. It is about allowing for recognition of those who have actively contributed to the city’s economy, calling it home for years, yet continue to be denied full citizenship.
In recent years, SDI Alliances have begun the necessary move towards incremental, in situ slum upgrading in centrally located informal settlements across the Global South, linking pragmatic survival strategies with rights-based struggles for inclusive cities. Federations of the urban poor across Africa, Asia and Latin America have begun to find ways to make meaningful contributions to the creation of inclusive cities, effectively securing their livelihoods and homes in the face of power, money and greed.
To catalyze these efforts, SDI has selected five focus cities in Africa – Accra, Cape Town, Harare, Kampala and Nairobi – to be home to long-term, precedent-setting pilot projects that provide people-driven, incremental upgrading for housing and basic services such as water, sanitation, drainage, road access, and waste collection. The hope is that this process will give urban poor federations the necessary backing to build partnerships with government officials and leverage government resources in order to bring these projects to scale, counteracting the constant threat of removal and providing steps towards security of tenure to the urban poor.
There is no doubt that the global population is in the throngs of a revolutionary shift towards the urban; the question that remains to be answered is what gives certain people more of a right than others to call the urban sphere their home. If the urban poor are placed at the center of this global process of urbanization instead of land values, capital investments and how to turn the biggest profit, a start can be made to redress one of the biggest failures of the modern era: the use of urban space as an exclusionary tool instead of an opportunity to create vibrant, integrated communities.
Floods, Fires. Lurking danger while searching for a place to shit. And, above all, the spectre of police and bulldozers waiting outside your door ordering you to leave your home.
To the academics, planners, and policy-makers, such an existence is informal and illegal. To those living in urban slum settlements throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America, it is the stuff of daily life. Recent engagements between slum dweller networks linked to SDI and universities show how this gap between theory and reality is shrinking.
The challenge of developing institutions to adequately address the very immediate issues that slum dwellers face is often a challenge of having the right information at hand. Usually, professional and academic planners use limited — and usually aggregated — information upon which to base their decisions. They envision cities that extend the ways in which they already live their lives.
But the poor also have visions for their cities. As one South African newspaper headlined a piece by South African Federation president Patrick Magebhula, they are “moving from slum survivors to urban planners.” The SDI network is now developing a range of experiences in which slum dweller communities collect detailed information about themselves in order to organize, plan and impact the ways in which they interact with the formal world.
In Kenya, the Federation, known as Muungano wa wanavijiji, is working with students from the University of Nairobi and University of California—Berkeley in the United States, to develop a zonal plan for the Mathare Valley in Nairobi. The Federation savings schemes in the community work with residents to survey every house, and then use this information to map the settlement jointly using GIS technology. This technology integrates the socio-economic data collected into a visual picture of the way in which the social dimensions of the community exist spatially.
We have often discussed the enumeration, mapping, and profiling activities of SDI federations in this newsletter. Now, federations are using links with planning programs in local universities to build broader understanding of community-led planning activities. In doing so, they are creating new platforms to build political backing for the cities that they envision. These are cities that finally appreciate the contributions of informal organization, and include these contributions in future planning.
The Informal Settlement Network in South Africa is working with two adjacent large informal settlements in Cape Town called Barcelona and Europe. The communities undertook their own processes of enumeration and mapping. Now, they are working with students at the University of Cape Town to translate this information into a vision for the future. The settlements are on top of a landfill site, which is polluting one of the main freshwater reserves in the city. It is clear that this will increasingly come on the radar for city planners, as water resources become scarcer. So the community is getting ahead of the city by developing its own plan.
Here, the role of universities to help translate to the formal world the information that communities collect is vital. The communities use the tools of the academics to articulate their existing social realities and economic contribution to the city as a whole. For instance, economic analysis emerging from the community’s enumeration estimates the community’s economic activity as generating about USD 6 million as yearly expenditure.
A similar case is in a large informal settlement called Langrug in the relatively small municipality of Stellenbosch near Cape Town in South Africa. Residents have enumerated the settlement and, led by two young women without high school education, mapped the information. The community leadership now use this information to negotiate with the municipality for toilets, installation of sewers and water pipes, and to find the space to relocate those members of the community who live in a flood plain next to a small river that runs through the settlement.
Last week, residents of Barcelona and Langrug gave a unique lecture about this work to students in the University of Cape Town’s M.Phil program in Community Development and Planning. Audio of the lecture by Vuyani Mnyango from Barcelona and Kholeka Xuza and Olwethu Mvandaba from Langrug can be found here, as well as an accompanying slideshow here.
This is not the first time that slum dweller leaders from SDI Federations have become professors to the professionals and academics. Last year, members of the Zimbabwean Federation traveled to the University of Manchester in the UK to teach economics students. And earlier this month, community leaders from Cape Town and Durban in South Africa, traveled to Perth, Australia, to present to the annual World Planning Schools Congress. Listen to an interview on Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Futuretense” radio show with the South African Federation’s Melanie Manuel here. In order to further such engagements, SDI signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Association of African Planning School in November 2010.
University students have learned from the communities how informal settlement dwellers live and work, as well as how they organize themselves. The students have then contributed the tools of planners to articulate this information in a way that serves as a platform for the communities to engage with city officials on future planning for the area. For example, in June, after talking with residents from Barcelona and Europe around the plans they developed with the University of Cape Town students, Cape Town municipal officials were pleasantly surprised. “To get to this level of understanding, it can take us years of working through expensive consultants,” said Natasha Murray, Head of Planning for Informal Settlements at the City of Cape Town.
The linchpins of this work are the information collection of activities of Federations and slum dweller communities. These communities collect information at the household level, leveraging a wealth of data that can be entirely disaggregated. They then plot the information onto maps, and work with highly detailed socio-economic and spatial data to develop future plans. Universities help translate this data using formal tools that create a framework for communities to engage as leading partners to plan with city governments.
This is a striking new role for urban poor communities in city development. Such communities are becoming the professors and planners. They are working to use this information to build stronger internal structures and more effective city-wide networks. They are also challenging their newfound partners. Are the planners, academics, and policy makers ready to listen to these doers? And how can they change their practice to a) provide the necessary platforms for communities to tell their long-suppressed stories, and b) to articulate their compelling visions for the future?