Posts for India
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.
Fears about how slums harbor thieves and criminals reflect the fact that we are looking only at the bottom of the food chain of illegality. Photo credit: Cheryl Marland via Flickr Creative Commons
**Cross posted from Informal City Dialogues on NextCity.org**
By Sheela Patel, Chair of SDI Board
In a guest blog post, Sheela Patel, advocate for the urban poor, argues that if illegal activity is a problem in informal settlements and economies, it’s nothing compared to the rampant crime in the formal world. You can read a different perspective on this issue by clicking here.
As a person working on redefining inclusivity in city governance, I am often challenged by the people who have argued, well and based on evidence, that informality is a menace to a city’s development. And maybe when challenged by it — especially when the face of informality is violent, abusive and confrontational — there is a legitimate case to be made for using police and judicial systems to subdue, contain, or manage it. The challenge we face is to examine where cities will be in the future if this is the only method used to deal with informality.
In many Asian and African countries, urbanization is clearly speeding ahead, and conventional regulatory frameworks that plan cities have clearly not been able to adapt to the global trends and local reality in which more poor, unskilled migrants are coming to cities. With no assets or skill sets, and kinship networks in the same situation as they are, they add to the city’s informality of work and habitat. Most of those in informal livelihoods serve the formal city in ways that we don’t acknowledge. Very few economists have sought to calculate how much they subsidize the lives of those who live and work in the formal institutions.
Traditional markets and vendors who brought goods to one’s doorstep have historically been part of the city. Only now, their numbers are expanding exponentially, and unlike in the past when they melted into invisibility, they are in your face, seeking to live and work in and around the formal city streets and near our homes. Today the vendor and hawker pays the equivalent of thrice what a licensed vendor pays to bribe police and municipal workers; similarly, slum dwellers end up paying for stolen water and electricity – resources that are often stolen by the utilities’ own staff, local politicians and illegal entrepreneurs, and then sold at three to four times their original cost to the slum dweller or vendor.
A woman in Dharavi, Mumbai. Slum dwellers end up paying for stolen water and electricity – resources that are often stolen by the utilities’ own staff, local politicians and illegal entrepreneurs. Photo credit: ToGa Wanderings via Flickr Creative Commons
In the face of industrial and manufacturing sectors being closed down, more and more assembly and manufacturing work is occurring in slums. With no safety nets the poor are forced to explore self-employment as hawkers and vendors, and those who are destitute to take up begging. Is the solution filling jails with people seeking to survive? How will we deal with the situation when another 25 percent of the world’s people come to cities in the next twenty years?
Crime and criminality occur across class and race, and for every petty criminal and thug on the street one could argue that the formal, respectable, upper-class elite steal much more per capita. So fears about how slums harbor thieves and criminals reflect the fact that we are looking only at the bottom of the food chain of illegality. The reality is that the city does not police informal settlements, and being out of bounds makes them safe heavens for bad elements.
Just like transport planning has to move beyond investing in roads only for the private cars that 10 to 15 percent of the city owns, cities too have to be planned for all of those who will eventually end up living in cities. Those of us who see cities gearing up to attract foreign direct investments and imitating European cities where populations are shrinking, or being seduced by Northern planners who produce almost 24th century visions of the city, are accelerating this tension and conflict instead of using planning to create cities that make space for all.
Sheela Patel is the Founder-Director of the Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC), a Mumbai-based NGO that has been working on housing and infrastructure rights for the urban poor for the last two decades.
By SPARC-MM-NSDF, India
This document is the first entry in a diary of events that unfolded in the first week of November 2012 when several breakthroughs in negotiations between Milan Nagar, a cooperative of 536 pavement dwelling households formed in 1986, and the City of Mumbai allowed for the rebuilding of a partnership between the two stakeholders and an agreement that all Milan Nagar members would be housed in tenement housing through a relocation and rehabilitation process facilitated by the Indian SDI Alliance of SPARC, Mahila Milan and NSDF.
This diary will tell the story of the events and experiences that make up this process. They may not be in a chronological order but will serve as an attempt to document the communications, visuals that the process on the ground in Mumbai.
Negotiating for a Swap
A number of months ago, pavement dwellers reported that people were illegally occupying tenement homes constructed by the MMRDA and BMC for pavement dwellers from across Mumbai. Of course, this created a problem for the families intended for the allotted housing. When this information was presented to the Mumbai Municipality, discussions began as to how to move the “ghuskhors” (squatters) from the tenements so that pavement dwellers could move in. What emerged from this discussion was the realization that unless the entitled households from the pavements were properly identified, empty houses would continue to be invaded in this manner, as the authorities would have virtually no way of knowing the identities of the entitled households.
It was at this point that Jockin Arputham, president of the National Slum Dweller Federation of India, suggested that the pavement dwellers who were meant to move to the land at Milan Nagar, but have not been able to due to complications there, be able to occupy the tenement homes currently occupied by the “ghuskhors.” In exchange, pavement dwellers from other parts of the city will be able to occupy the housing at Milan Nagar once it is completed. This was accepted as a logical and feasible solution.
After getting the support of the municipality and police commissioner, the plan was finalized. The municipality gave a list of the “ghuskhors” to the police, who then removed them from the tenements and remained on the site for several days. In the meantime, Mahila Milan prepared the list of entitled pavement dwellers, as well as all the necessary documentation to make the allotments and undertake the relocation as soon as the “ghuskhors” were removed.
On 5 November documentation of 70 households living on Water Street in Byculla began. Videos of each street were made, photos of every household taken, and all documentation prepared. The households participated with local leaders in the assignment of housing allotments. On 6 November the “ghuskhors” were removed and on the 7th one person from each allotted household spent the night in their new home. At this point, the NSDF team made sure every house had a functioning fan and light after the previous residents moved out. The next day, on 8 November, the first 70 households began packing and were given transportation to move to their new homes. On 9 November the families broke down their huts on Water Street and the next street will begin the enumeration process, get their allotted home and begin to plan their journey.
Pavement dwellings & daily life in Byculla.
By SDI & SPARC
In the past month a major event has come to pass for the women who began this worldwide movement of slum dwellers nearly 30 years ago on the pavements of central Mumbai. After so many years, the women of Byculla have finally begun to move into their own homes.
In the coming weeks, SDI will cover this important story with a series of blog posts describing the history of Mahila Milan, SPARC and NSDF and how a handful of young professionals connected with a group of women living on Byculla's sidewalks to create the spark that would eventually evolve into a national, and then international, movement.
This first post in the series will take a quick look what it means to live on the pavement, highlighting the innovation of the urban poor and their incredible capacity to find effective solutions to the challenges of daily life.
Sundar Burra offers a helpful definition of "pavement dweller" in his 2000 paper, "A Journey Towards Citizenship: The Byculla Area Resource Center, Mumbai" :
Pavement dwellers are households who live and raise families on pavements (sidewalks). The basic requirement fo the establishment of a dwelling is a stretch of pavement, free from vehicular traffic, usually 2-3 meters long and 1-2 meters deep from the kerb to the wall of the property bordering the pavement. The first occupation of a stretch of pavement is usually a family settling to sleep on the pavement surrounded by their meagre possessions, followed byt he erection of a plastic or saching sheet stretched from the wall to a point near the curb of the pavement.Thereafter the lean-to tent will gradually be replaced with slightly a more permanent structure of second-hand poles, packing cases, timeber boards, cardboard, occasionally loose bricks covered with plastic sheets. A second floor is often build to provde additional sleepling space, though the ground floor 'ceiling height' is rarely more than 1.5 meters and that of the loft a metre.
Please keep an eye on this space for more on the history of Byculla's pavement dwellers, as well as the story of how the women of Mahila Milan have been able to negotiate for alternative housing in a way that provides a win-win solution for the communities and government alike.
Sheela Patel at the Annual General Meeting of the International Monetary Fund, held in Tokyo last week.
Pictured: Far Right, Sheela Patel (Chair of SDI). Next to her Jim Yong Kim (President of the World Bank) and second from left Christine Legarde (President of the International Monetary Fund).
At a related event, Sheela Patel spoke about the role of the urban poor in building our urban future:
"I come to this session with a very confused sense of identity. Everyone has a different idea of what a civil society actor is, so perhaps it will be easier to say why we do what we do, and how we seek to influence.
My organization in India, and the international network of organizations that I represent, Shack Dwellers International, represents people who have found that global investment in cities, infrastructure, and other capital investment, have found these processes produce exponential increases in eviction. As a citizen, the right to be provided services, and so on, cities do not plan to accommodate the poor. Most people that work in human rights in this field, will know that the law upholds the development plan of the city. By giving you a notice, the city has the right to evict, without a responsibility to give you anything in return. The inability of having the right to reside, of citizenship, means the civil society movements emerge form people who feel they do not have the rights that they are entitled to.
Why a global network? Because many of the aspects driving these processes including the thinking, are globalised. All finance ministers control the purse strings, most in the South have rural constituencies, and see the city as simply a place to manufacture and produce.
Our architecture is from grassroots up to local. Secondly that the processes to provide voice, has not yet succeeded. Hence our community leaders who have fought evictions and others, eventually we aspire to have them instead of me and professional advocates sitting here, I and others are seat-warmers.
My colleagues are not enabled to speak in these forums, so if you are in the business of development, learn the language of development, rather than force them to learn the language of these places.
My most important lesson is that most instances the government does not know what the poor want, nor how it could be delivered. Treating poor people as consumers of development is a mistake. The poor survive despite development, and can participate in providing new solutions that go to scale if they are part of the process, its execution and design.
Fourth, the whole issue of engendering development – most of our partners were mainly men who used to fight eviction and development. The issue of habitat, creating safe neighborhoods, the responsibility of doing so is also women’s. So what agency are we giving to them? We promote new generation of women’s leaders.
Note, everything that poor people want in cities is ‘illegal or inappropriate’. We produce our efforts to challenge development norms. We have examples of interaction with the WB, and in many instances WB projects involve eviction – termed ‘involuntary resettlement’. We have shown again and again, that involving poor people in design and execution of projects, you succeed in far more successful projects.
Local economies and processes can hugely benefit form participating in this process. Our work is challenging processes, from local to global. We seek a voice, not by saying ‘we have a right to be there’ but by demonstrating that we can succeed by taking different approaches.
We as development actors require new strategies of interaction – one of the biggest challenges is that the world is becoming more urban. Most people in cities will be working and living informally, so how are these exclusionary practices going to impact that, and what does it mean to be this intermediary in institutions or with individuals who seek development."
For a full report of the event, click here.
SDI is happy to annouce our 2011/12 Annual Report, a reflection of where SDI has grown to over the past 25 years. This includes a discussion of SDI's practices for change, a report on the SDI Secretariat, the building of internal reporting and documentation systems, and SDI's international advocacy and increasing presence on the global stage. The report concludes with a discussion of SDI's approach to key urban issues affecting the lives of the urban poor across the developing south, including water and sanitation, climate change, natural disasters, incremental habitat, enumerations and mapping of slum settlements, and financing slum upgrading.
For the complete document, click here.
**Cross-posted from SPARC's CityWatchINDIA blog**
What is Relocation and Rehabilitation (R&R)?
Whenever people are being continuously evicted from their land by the government or some other national or corporate authority, families must relocate. Often this happens when the government decides to undertake infrastructure expansion projects like road-widening, flyover construction, rail expansion, etc. and these project plans encroach on families living in public places like slums, railways, and power lines. In these situations the government often tries to uproot these families and move them to remote locations. This process of shifting communities away from public land in demand is called relocation. Rehabilitation involves helping to situate and establish communities in their new homes post-relocation.
In this process of relocating and rehabilitating, SPARC and the Alliance help organize communities and encourage them to be active in planning and executing all relocation activities in partnership with the local government. Initiating dialogue with the families, assisting in the shift, helping with registrations and paperwork, and smoothing the social transition from one neighborhood to another are all part of SPARC’s relocation and rehabilitation program.
Concerns Surrounding R&R
While R&R often serves the wider interest of the city, it leads to hardship for the individuals who are forced to move. For this reason SPARC feels that relocation should be minimized to the extent possible, and when R&R is unavoidable the relocation site should be as close to the original communities as possible. Throughout the R&R process, outside individuals and organizations should be as respectful of the needs and demands of the relocated communities.
SPARC R & R Philosophy and Involvement
SPARC supports communities in the relocation process by giving them the tools to conduct surveys and enumerations in their current settlements and future settlements, establishing savings and credit programs so that families have enough money for the shift, and arranging for inspections of the new locations provided by the government to make sure they have legal utilities available and enough space for all in the new relocation site. SPARC also assists with rehabilitation activities like transferring ration cards and election ID to the new relocation site, updating tax paperwork, arranging for government BEST buses to make new stops at relocation sites, identifying good schools in the new neighborhoods for the relocated children and fighting for affordable tuition for these children, and seeking employment opportunities close to the relocation site for relocated community members. In addition to these activities, SPARC also requires that grievance redressal mechanisms exist at the community, federation, and government levels so that people know where they can go to express concerns.
SPARC believes that communities subjected to R&R must be well-organized and deeply involved in the relocation process from the beginning. Throughout the relocation the state contracting institution and relocating communities must communicate and develop a mutually acceptable arrangement for relocation. SPARC can help facilitate this communication since the organization’s role is respected by both parties.
SPARC’s History of R & R
In 1995 pavement dwellers were included in the list of people entitled to government R&R and SPARC began helping pavement dwellers throughout India relocate onto freed government lands. Also in 1995, SPARC helped design the R&R policy for the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP), which affected slum dwellers along the railway track. Since then, SPARC has worked with Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) to relocate these households. In 2000, households from Rafique Nagar along the airport runway were relocated with the Government of Maharashtra’s department of housing facilitating this process. In 2008 SPARC also began working with Tata Power Company to relocate 2,000+ households away from electricity lines so that the company could expand and update its distribution network to provide more reliable power to households throughout Maharashtra.
MUTP: An R & R Success Story
In the 1990s people riding on the Mumbai railway system could reach their fingers out of the rail cars and touch the slums. Slums encroached on the rail lines all up and down the tracks, with some people making their dwellings just a few feet from the trains whizzing by. People living on the side of the railway needed to constantly cross the tracks for daily activities like visiting the markets, walking to school, defecating, or gathering water. Day to day countless people were hit and crushed dead by the trains. Train drivers suffered psychological trauma from killing so many innocent people, even though they drove at only 15 km/hr to avoid as many killings as possible.
One Mahila Milan member, Sulakshana Parab, explained how she lived on a small 6×13 plot on the side of the railway in Tata Nagar, Govandi, with no water, electricity, or toilet access. She would spend her days in constant fear that trains might kill her husband, children, or neighbors while they were out of the house.
Something had to be done, and the Mumbai Urban Transportation Project (MUTP) was the response. MUTP required that 10m of space be cleared and protected by high walls on either side of every rail line. This would enable trains to run safely along the tracks at 45 km/hr, allowing three times as many trains to run through the city each day and one third of the prior commuting time for all those dependent on rail to get to work. With nobody living along the rail lines, many fewer deaths-by-train would occur and train drivers could do their job without killing innocent civilians.
In order for the MUTP dream to become a reality, the city would have to relocate some 20,000 people away from the railroad track. But where could they move? The World Bank agreed to fund the project on the condition that the people living on the side of the railways get relocated and rehabilitated to a safe and permanent location.
Even before relocation was announced, some rail-side communities had began forming into federations to protect women in the community who faced danger of rape and assault when were forced to defecate on the rail tracks because of a lack of proper sanitation facilities. Upon hearing about a possible relocation for all rail-dwellers, federations rallied to organize themselves for the proposed move. First they made plain table surveys and maps and numbered every house in their neighborhoods. Then they assigned individuals in the community to represent every block of twenty households, and registered each of these households so that they could prove the existence of their rail-side homes to the governments. Every Sunday for eight years members of the federation went out to survey lands throughout the city in hopes of finding suitable lands for relocation.
In addition to embarking on these many surveys and enumerations, federations initiated their own savings programs. At first most families could not scrape together 100 rupees of savings, but after participating in well-structured and reliable savings programs implemented by the federation families reached the point of having 15,000-17,000 rupees each stored away in their individual housing savings: enough to construct a new home. The savings programs also enabled people to take out loans in emergency situations or to start their own businesses. With strong savings rail-dwellers became confident that they would be capable of building and funding their own homes if they could acquire a suitable plot of land. Some communities hosted housing exhibitions with model homes made out of cardboard, saris, or cement and other real construction materials to introduce the community-at-large to the various designs that were being considered for the new homes.
Originally the government had planned to temporarily resettle the rail-dwellers in Mankhurd in northeastern Mumbai. The government was not sure who owned the land in Mankhurd, but the federations knew that the land was available because of the extensive surveys they had carried out over eight years. Families began to relocate to Mankhurd, and soon after they settled in there the World Bank adopted a policy that governments undertaking relocation had to provide new shelter for families before their current homes could be demolished. Because the Indian government had not lived up to this demand, the once-temporary Mankhurd land was ruled to become a permanent relocation site for the rail-dwellers.
In total 20,000 people were relocated away from the rail-side under MUTP, and 17,000 of them were assisted in the relocation and rehabilitation process through the work of SPARC, NSDF, and Mahila Milan. In the new Mankhurd relocation site, children are safer since they can play outside without the threat of speeding trains. “Here the kids’ lives and our lives are saved,” Sulakshana Parab remarked. She was relocated from the rail-side to a new apartment in Mankhurd Building 98 and speaks highly of her new home.
The federation in Mankhurd now takes the form of a “Central Committee” of 17 buildings, each of which has its own leader. The Central Committee has done much work to clean the sewage connection and ensure that it stays functional, and they also work on improving the general cleanliness and garbage management of the Mankhurd neighborhood.
When people lived along the railway tracks the threat of trains was petrifying and nobody wanted their sons or daughters to marry into the rail community out of fear that eventual grandchildren would grow up in unsafe conditions. Once the families moved to a permanent and safe location, this mentality changed. Formal buildings made the rail-dwellers formal and acceptable citizens.
When instituted correctly relocation and rehabilitation can be a huge opportunity for families to uplift their living situation, safety, and employment. The key is that communities themselves must provide the energy and momentum to move the relocation process forward, and they must drive the process from its inception. The poor know what kind of solutions will actually address and overcome their problems, and they are capable of making these solutions come to life through proper organization and collaboration.
By Ariana K. MacPherson, SDI Secretariat
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 Ariana K. MacPherson, SDI Secretariat
In March I came across Mukta Naik’s piece for Global Urbanist blog on her firm’s involvement in a project to redevelop two slum clusters in Delhi as part of the national Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) housing scheme. While her piece highlights a number of key principles in the creation of cities that include rather than marginalize the urban poor – arguing, for example, for in situ upgrading rather than relocation, and the central participation of slum dwellers in the planning process - I felt as though in the end, there was at least one critical departure from my take on the role of slum dwellers in the production of future cities. Naik concludes her piece with a statement that, “in the end, many of the demands of slum dwellers are not implementable” and the onus lies on the urban planning professionals, architects and engineers to advocate on their behalf for more realistic solutions, and to convince local governments of their rationale and viability.
The experience of urban grassroots social movements and individual communities proves that slum dwellers are more than capable of devising realistic, implementable, solutions to their own housing and infrastructure needs. Although the process may be longer than one driven by professionals, its success is often more sustainable, and more relevant – characteristics that benefit both the government and the slum dwellers in the long term. To this end, local governments across India and the developing world have in many cases (and often after much negotiation, exchange visits to other projects, and even some heated disagreements) been brought into the process, convinced of the viability of these projects, and seen the concrete benefits of involving communities in all stages of the upgrading process – from planning to design to construction to maintenance. In addition, I would argue that the role of the professional is not to provide the right answers, but instead to ask the right questions; not to advocate for the urban poor, but rather to support their voice so that they can advocate for their own needs and, ultimately, their own solutions.
One of the most notable examples of this is happening 1,500 kilometers from the scene of Naik’s article, in Pune, India, the second largest city in Maharashtra state after the megacity of Mumbai. Here, organized communities of the urban poor have been working for roughly twenty years to build a social movement that results in concrete improvements in the lives of slum dwellers. This alliance includes a national collective of women’s savings groups, Mahila Milan, a national slum dweller federation, NSDF, and their support NGO, SPARC
During a trip to Pune in January, I met the leaders of Pune’s Mahila Milan (MM) in their local office above a community toilet project constructed and managed by the women of MM. This group of women manages projects ranging from housing construction to water and sanitation to large-scale government-sponsored resettlements. Starting with management of daily savings, the MM women have learnt the necessary skills for management and coordination of human as well as financial resources.
Pune’s Mahila Milan began their upgrading work by taking up an in-situ upgrading project for 1,200 households in the settlement of Yerwada under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission’s (JNNURM) Basic Services to the Urban Poor scheme (BSUP). Here, old tin shacks have been torn down and replaced with one, two and three-story single and multiple family homes in the style of townhouses and small apartment blocks. Inevitably, political battles crop up during this aspect of such projects. The process of demolition and reconstruction requires the facilitation of intense negotiation by MM’s members and leaders. The ways of managing these grievances are maybe the most important lesson of all, and highlights MM’s integral role in the process.
In Yerwada, MM have driven all aspects of the project: from community mobilization to design of re-blocking plans and upgraded houses to negotiations with city government around building regulations and provision of infrastructure and basic services. Using social technologies such as self-enumeration, community mapping, and daily savings, the women of Mahila Milan have been able to engage at all levels, bringing empowering tools and information to both the people on the ground and the officials in town hall.
One of the most fascinating things about this project is the use of space. Most of the homes' footprints are no bigger than 250 square feet. By adding a second floor, this footprint is nearly doubled, allowing extended families to live comfortably together. One woman's home is a narrow triangle of only 170 square feet. The second story nearly doubles this, and MM has ensured that she has permission from the municipality to build a third story once she can afford it.
In addition to reconstructing the homes, MM worked hard in Yerwada to realign the structures, widening pathways and making space for municipal water, sewerage and electricity connections. Management of construction was made easier thanks to MM’s direct involvement as overseers of the construction process. Footpaths, widened from crevices to lovely pathways, are now lit by street lamps. MM worked with the families to construct homes suited to their needs and personal aesthetic. Homes are painted bright colors, and front doors hung with bright flowers. It is clear that this is a community. Not a slum. Not an informal settlement. It is a neighborhood, with families living and working, improving their homes and walking their kids home from school.
Following the successful upgrading in Yerwada, the Indian SDI Alliance’s community-owned construction company was contracted by the city to construct 750 homes in 7 additional settlements across Pune: Bhatt Nagar, Chandrama Nagar, Mother Theresa, Netaji Nagar, Sheela Salve Nagar, Wadar Wasti and Yashwant Nagar.
Prior to PMM’s involvement in slum upgrading in Pune, city government had experienced local resistance in their attempts at slum upgrading. This was due largely to a lack of community involvement in the development of upgrading plans. The state was proposing high-rise housing projects or individual subsidies and loans, neither of which appealed to the communities. Once Pune’s MM got involved, they were able to assist the wider community to develop housing solutions for in situ development and relocation that are at the same time community designed and delivered and viable in the eyes of the city government. So far, Pune MM has constructed roughly 3,000 units in situ across Pune using a blend of subsidies, loans, and community contributions.
These citywide successes provide an important node for learning across a transnational network of organized slum dweller federations that spans the Global South. Groups of slum dwellers, support professionals and government officials from across India and the developing world travel frequently to Pune to learn from the experiences of the Pune MM and city officials. In the past few years, these exchanges have inspired groups from neighboring Orissa to South Africa to Brazil as to the power of community participation in the upgrading process.
In addition to serving as a center of learning, Pune has become an example of successful slum upgrading for the wider urban development community. Students from Pune University and KRVIA in Mumbai, as well as universities in Sweden, Australia and the United States have all traveled to Pune for research work and urban planning studios.
The upgrading experience in Pune clearly disputes claims that slum dwellers are not capable of conceiving and implementing their own solutions. Of course, professional expertise is often necessary in implementing large-scale upgrading projects, but it must be deployed in ways that support the experience-based knowledge of slum dweller communities. Indeed, it is this experience, skill, and history that led this community to come into being in the first place. We have to constantly be thinking and acting with the question in our mind: Does this further marginalize the urban poor? Does my work as a professional minimize the decision-making influence of residents in planning for physical upgrades that will affect their lives? Do my thoughts, actions and words serve the creation of an inclusive city, or a fragmented one, where the urban poor are kept on the periphery?
For it has been proven that through the mobilization of organized slum dweller federations like Pune’s Mahila Milan, the urban poor can take the reigns of their own development, and that city governments are often quite happy to come on board.
**Cross-posted from the SPARC CitywatchINDIA Blog**
Due to the lack of availability of toilets in many communities and the dissatisfaction that communities feel towards toilets provided by municipal corporations, SPARC has launched its own community toilet block initiative in partnership with local communities.
SPARC believes that community toilet blocks are the best way to confront the issue of unsatisfactory sanitation conditions in slums. SPARC advocates for community toilets rather than individual toilets because the size of most slum dwellings means that in-house toilets tend to dominate the interior space of the home, leaving less space for living and sleeping. Furthermore, the smell of in-house toilets overwhelms homes and requires constant maintenance and attention. Alternatively, community toilets allow for more space in individual homes and less overall time spent on cleaning and maintenance of the toilet facility.
Toilet block construction projects facilitated by SPARC differ from the toilet blocks built by government municipal corporations in many ways. Whereas municipal corporations will build new toilet blocks without consulting communities, SPARC ‘s toilet blocks utilize community participation at every level—in design, construction, and maintenance. SPARC toilet blocks are always connected to a main sewer line with access to adequate water and electricity even if that means building both overhead and underground tanks, whereas municipality toilet blocks do not always come with legal grid connections and extra capacity. SPARC toilet blocks ensure privacy by including separate entrances and areas for men and women, and a separate squatting area for children. SPARC toilet blocks also always come with a care-taker, appointed from the community who is responsible for the facility. This is an improvement upon the municipal corporation model that does not consider maintenance of the toilet block to be a priority and does not account for maintenance practices in pricing or construction. Last of all SPARC sells monthly subscriptions to the community toilet block where monthly family passes cost Rs. 20-25 irrespective of the number of family members or the number of toilet uses. This system, coupled with an additional income of 1 rupee per use paid by passers-by, ensures that the toilet block remains financially accessible to all families while also funding its own operation.
SPARC sees community toilet blocks not only as a product that has the capacity to improve sanitation in slums, but also as a process in which toilet block design and construction can serve to rally community members to mobilize, organize, collaborate, and negotiate.
SPARC’s model of toilet block construction, subscription, and maintenance seems to deliver the desperately-needed clean and safe waste disposal facilities that families seek, which in turn improves health, productivity, safety and quality of life within urban communities. SPARC has constructed 358 community toilet blocks to date and has also secured contracts to build another 613 toilet blocks moving forward. This means 371450 individuals in 74,290 families currently have access to safe and clean toilet facilities, and the number of people impacted by the projects continues to rise as new contracts are secured. SPARC’s community-built toilets work because they are affordable and well –maintained and because families have a stake in their creation, use, and maintenance.
After a SPARC toilet block was constructed in her community, Sukubai Dengle from Kamgar Putala slum in Pune raved about the many improvements brought about by the new toilet block: “The two-storey toilet block has been built by SPARC and Mahila Milan. There is water in the toilets and no queues. There is no tension. And the toilets are so clean. I have a toilet in my house, but actually I like the new public toilets so much that I prefer to use them. Ever since the new toilets have been built, there is less sickness. The old toilets used to be so dirty that larvae used to come out of the chambers. The filth caused sickness. And children used to defecate in the open drains. Now there is such a good arrangement for children to squat that they go to the toilet happily. The new toilets have made a big difference in my settlement. I feel I live in a good area.”
Community toilet blocks are much more than structures or products; they are catalysts that enable community mobilization, coordination, empowerment, and improvement. Proper sanitation in communities and safe and clean facilities for disposing of human waste have an impact that reaches beyond basic safety and health, instilling in poor communities a sense of ownership, commitment, and pride that will inspire further organization and growth.
By Benjamin Bradlow
Cities are complex systems, comprised of elements both natural and human. Little wonder that they hold great interest to those who study biological processes of development, in addition to those who study social and political processes.
Cities are also places where ordinary people make decisions with extraordinary consequences. Sometimes it would be hard to believe this is true given the gospel of “world class cities” that serves as a model for planning decisions in cities as diverse as New York, Paris, Hong Kong, Mumbai, Nairobi, Johannesburg, Bangkok, and Rio de Janeiro. In all of these cities — and many more — the gospel of control and order covers up an altogether different kind of reality for residents. This is especially so for the poor residents of growing cities in the developing world.
One city that has received a great deal of praise over the last few years is Lagos in Nigeria, which has generally been known for anything but order and control. But Lagos state governors such as Babatunde Fashola and his predecessor Bola Tinubu have won plaudits for trying to control the growth of the city. As Fashola’s popular Yoruba slogan goes, “Eko o ni baje” (Lagos will not be spoiled). According to a slew of international newspaper reports on Fashola’s Lagos, the city has become a foreign investment attraction by clearing out informal traders, and exerting tough fines on illegal postering, littering, and loitering.
In a recent report in the Financial Times, Fashola cited a people-centred approach to city management: “It’s a big asset,” he said, referring to the population of Lagos. “[It’s] bigger than the challenge the people represent by their sheer number. People are the biggest and most dependable resource.”
That’s the rhetoric. Consider the reality. Within the past week, up to a quarter of a million Lagos residents find themselves under threat of homelessness in the wake of the Lagos state government’s eviction of the waterfront Makoko slum. About 30,000 people have already been forced to leave their homes due to an eviction order that the state government gave with only 72 hours notice. Local police are reportedly to blame for at least one violent death.
It’s a story that repeats itself in various iterations across the cities of the South. In the name of progress, the poor are nothing but roadblocks to be shunted aside and overcome. Though city managers and planners are increasingly sympathetic to the language of “people-centred” approaches, “participation,” and “inclusiveness,” the inhuman march of development proceeds. Outrage and condemnation are reactions popular amongst professional activists and humanitarian observers to the Makoko evictions like many similar cases before.
But, for poor people in cities like Lagos, a more complex set of questions emerges. Where to go? Where to sleep for the night? Where to find work? How to maintain a façade of stability for children? Where to rebuild the social connections that sustain in times of extreme need? How to ensure that this doesn’t happen again?
Indeed, evictions like that ongoing in Makoko deserve our outrage and condemnation. The violence and insecurity that the urban poor experience in cities like Lagos is a direct result of developmental decision-making that sees the poor as expendable. How to reconcile claims that “people are the biggest and most dependable resource” with the reality of eviction and displacement?
Over the last three decades, we have begun to see organizational strategies of the poor that can fundamentally alter the calculations that go into the decisions that result in this kind of massive displacement. In Mumbai, pavement dwelling women have organized since the 1980s to come together, negotiate with police and city authorities, and remain in their pavement hutments. At the same time they use their bonds of solidarity to collect information about themselves through self-surveys known as enumerations, save daily, and develop plans for housing development. This allows them to negotiate with authorities to not only mitigate the threat of eviction, but also to begin changing the calculations that local authorities make about a place for the poor in a spatial development framework that is otherwise weighted greatly towards the moneyed influence of domestic and foreign investment.
In Nairobi, Kenya, residents of the railway line slums of Kibera and Mukuru have organized over the past decade to stop evictions linked to the development of the railway line. They have done so using similar strategies, many of which they learned from their counterparts in the railway line slums of Mumbai. In both cities, residents counted themselves, mapped their settlements, and used these tools to negotiate with authorities.
Through exchanges within and between cities and countries, informal settlement dwellers around the world, who almost all face common threats of eviction and dislocation at the hands of both the state and the market, are sharing these kinds of strategies. They are strategies that move beyond a reactive approach once the decision to evict has already been made.
The complexity of cities can provide cover for a logic predicated on order and control. This decision-making framework rests on the assumption that economic growth cannot be achieved without a strong hand of the state.
But the experience of poor communities to not only fight eviction but also to develop alternatives upends this kind of naturalization of violence of the state and the market. Indeed, a substantive “people-centred” approach locates urban poor communities as generators of ideas and strategies for more effective governance, instead of positioning poor individuals and families as passive recipients of decisions made in the halls of power.
City growth may exhibit similarities to biological development. Still, the decisions that craft this development are anything but natural. Conscious organizing has developed not only louder voices for the poor, but also real impact on the way city managers and politicians make developmental decisions. As we decry the cruel, inhuman logic of growth in Lagos and many other cities, it is also time to see where to support the learning, solidarity, and profound strategic innovation that is located within the very same poor communities that find themselves under such constant threat.
By Skye Dobson, CCI, & SPARC
As with many projects in the SDI network, the Tanzanian federation’s community policing project was in large part inspired by the experience of slum dwellers during a peer-to-peer exchange. These exchanges are a key ritual in the SDI toolkit and the principal mechanism through which lessons are shared amongst the 1.2 million slum dwellers in the SDI movement. The exchange that catalyzed the Tanzanian project involved members from the Tanzanian Urban Poor Federation visiting the Indian federation in Mumbai.
In most of the slum settlements in which members of the Tanzanian Federation live, crime is an ever-present threat and police response has been inadequate. Slum dwellers in the Tanzanian Federation were frustrated by the inability of the police to effectively meditate conflicts within the community. The Tanzanian Federation learned that their fellow slum dwellers in India were running an effective community policing project and organized an exchange to Mumbai. To ensure maximum benefit from the exchange, the federation invited the Commissioner of Police for Dar-es-Salaam to accompany them.
The exchange participants learned that in Mumbai, where slums are notoriously under‐manned in terms of police personnel, the Indian federation launched the Panchayat project. The project has been successful in increasing citizens’ safety rights and addressing the distrust that exists between the poor and the police. Despite the fact that more than half of the population lives in slums, the Tanzanians learned that the proportion of the police allotted to these areas accounts for less than a third of the force.
The exchange revealed that the idea behind the Panchayat is that community disputes should be resolved at the local level whenever possible. The Panchayat mediates family and neighbor quarrels as well as instances of domestic violence. They have been able to do this effectively and thus greatly reduce the caseload for the police. Women form the majority of the Panchayat due to their in depth knowledge of the community and time spent at home.
The Panchayat members have gained such a positive reputation that they are now asked to help the police maintain peace and order when there are festivals in the city. They are also invited to meetings by the police department on critical issues. At present, there are 64 active Panchayats in Mumbai and the federation anticipates this number will grow.
The Tanzanians appreciated the community policing principle of dispute resolution at the local level. These slums disputes if not resolved can lead to serious and pervasive crime. Upon returning home, the Tanzanian Federation decided that this principle would form the core driver of the Tanzanian project, as well as civic education and counseling to youth and children on safety and crime prevention.
Implementation of the Tanzanian Federation community police program began with an enumeration focused on crime and safety within slum settlements in Dar es Salaam. The enumeration – a community conducted household survey – allows the federation to identify key priorities of the community.
Following the identification of areas and issues to be prioritized, the Federation established community police teams. Training and orientation of the community police on their roles and responsibilities was conducted and the federation worked hard with the regional police force to ensure the linkages between its work and that of the community police were clear.
In Tanzania, as with the Panchayat in India, the federation has been especially effective addressing domestic quarrels and disputes among neighbors. The central role of women in the implementation of the community policing is setting a new precedent for crime prevention within cities. Moreover, through the counseling program, slum youth are taught about the effects of drugs and the importance of attending school, which it also believes is reducing crime prevalence.
The implementation of Federation community policing program has thus prompted new thinking in the country’s slums, particularly regarding issues of crime and safety – so much so that the Chief of Police of Tanzania has encouraged all regions in Tanzania to initiate community police programs. Indeed, while the Federation community police program started in Dar-es-Salaam – where five Federation groups are now engaged in community policing activities – the initiative has since been expanded to Arusha, Dodoma and Mara. In each of these cities, the Tanzanian Federation has developed a very close working relationship with the Regional Police office. This has resulted in a shift in the way slum residents are viewed in matters of crime prevention.
As the Tanzanian Federation moves forward with its community policing project, it seeks to establish livelihood projects to support the work of the volunteers. While the federation has received financial support in Arusha and Dodoma from the regional police office, the federation thinks it wise to bring additional resources to the project to ensure a continuity of service. The community policing teams require small funds for communications, transport, and trainings. One group in Dodoma, for instance, has already begun supporting its activities by selling soft drinks. In addition, the federation hopes to secure more funds from the Government and private sector.
By Ariana K. MacPherson, SDI Secretariat
We talk a lot about exclusion and inclusion. The urban poor are excluded from the city. Therefore, we are trying to build inclusive cities - cities where the urban poor are at the center of their own development process, and that of the city as a whole. In South Africa, the Informal Settlement Network is spearheading a "Right to the City" campaign, bringing a new approach to improving the ties betweeen socio-spatial justice and citizenship on the one hand, and improved living conditions on the other. They are doing this by advancing the people-centred, community-driven approach known so well across the SDI network, and by taking that to scale through concrete, continued engagements with city government.
We talk about these things a lot. We write a lot about them. I have read and written about urban poverty, informality and exculsion for years. But that is not what made me decide to study urban planning or to relocate from my home in New York City back to Cape Town. And that is not what keeps me coming back to my desk every day, to read and write more about these issues. In fact, I had never really thought about these issues until I saw them. Perhaps this is why learning exchanges, where a group of slum dwellers and city officials leaves their hometown to meet their counterparts on the other side of the province, country or planet, are some of the most significant of SDI's social technologies. It is not until we humans see and speak to each other that we begin to make real these abstract theories and ideas. It is only then that we begin to feel the gravity of the situation, and of working towards a solution.
We talk a lot about slums, about urban poverty and exclusion, about living in a one-room shack with your entire extended family without clean water or electricity or a toilet. We talk about these things. But do we ever see them?
Childhood, Freetown, Sierra Leone
Collecting water, and paying a price, Free Town, Sierra Leone
Finding a place to call home, Old Fadama, Accra, Ghana
"If they demolish my house, I have no where to go." | Old Fadama, Accra, Ghana
Walking home with water, Nairobi, Kenya
The pavement dwellers of Byculla, with modern high-rises in the background, Mumbai, India
Playground, Dharavi, Mumbai, India
Afternoon in Burundi, Cape Town, South Africa
A room to call home, Old Fadama, Accra, Ghana
Along the canal, Dharavi, Mumbai, India
By Celine D'Cruz, SDI Secretariat
Zabaleen is Arabic for Garbage People.
Our visit to Cairo in late January 2012 was planned on the invitation of Ezzat Naem Gunn, a leader from a local Egyptian NGO called Spirit of Youth (SOY), run and managed by residents from the Zabbaleen community.
The objective of this visit was for SDI to understand how the Zabbaleen organise themselves and create a voice and an identity for themselves in the city of Cairo. This visit also gave the opportunity for SDI to share with members of SOY, SDI’s strategy for organising and creating a voice of slum dwellers locally, nationally and internationally. Though SDI does not specifically work with issues of garbage collectors and recycling, it does work with settlements where communities also recycle among many other occupations. For example, in Dharavi, in Mumbai, NSDF/SPARC have been working towards making sure that the interest of the recycling communities are taken care of while the government is planning the redevelopment of Dharavi.
Past exchanges by members of the SDI federation members from South Africa and Kenya to Cairo focused essentially on sharing technical information on the recycling process and savings. The focus of this particular visit was to understand the evolution of the leadership and organisational set up of the Zabbaleen.
Day1:Visited Al Mokattam (the hills) close to where one of the six zabbaleen communities of Cairo is located. The Mokattam township houses one of the six garbage collectors settlements in Cairo. This is also where SOY has its office. Since it was a Sunday most of the recycling workshops/ businesses were closed, but we noticed women sort the garbage backlog from the previous days collection. Most of the Zabbaleen are Coptic Christians and being a Sunday they took us to see the St. Simon’s church at Al Mokattam located very close to the community.
Ezzat, 43 years, who gives leadership to SOY, lives with his family in the Mukattam village and was also a garbage collector as a young boy. He was one of those bright boys who decided to start his own NGO, “Spirit of Youth” to work for the rights of garbage collectors like him. Not knowing any better, they decided to create an NGO with members from the Zabbaleen settlements. Ezzat gave us a background of their history and politics of garbage in the city of Cairo. Later that afternoon we got more of the history and context from Laila Iskander (not a Zabbaleen) but who was invited to be on the Board of SOY.
What Got our Attention...
The differentiation between the garbage collectors - mostly men and young boys - who use trucks (they used donkey carts in the past, however, the quantity of garbage they collect has increased and they have had to invest in trucks) to collect garbage from door to door in their respective areas. On the other hand, the garbage sorters are mostly women and children who are responsible to sort the waste once the truckloads of garbage return to the settlement. They separate the garbage in different categories but mainly they separate the organic from the inorganic waste. The inorganic waste like paper, plastic, metal etc. are then recycled in the recycling workshops owned by members of the Zabaleen community who have been able to afford to buy the machinery over time. In the past the Wahahi’s controlled this part of the process as they made the profits from recycling.
History and politics of garbage in Cairo is very interesting. The Zabaleen families manage the waste of about 60% of the cities population. The other 30% is managed (or not so well managed) by private companies. The rest of the 10% of the slums get left out, as they cannot afford to pay for their garbage removal. The slum dwellers also consume less as compared to the others citizens in the city, making their garbage valueless to the garage collector. So according to Zabaleens they recycle 80% of the garbage they collect (it use to be 100% when the pigs were around), while the corporations recycle 25% of the garbage they collect, and put the rest in landfills.
The history of garbage collection in the city of Cairo began with the people who migrated from the oasis (Wahiyas) who came first to the city in 1910. They monopolised garbage collection in Cairo by signing contracts with building owners. In turn, they collected money each month from families who lived in these apartments. In the second wave of migration around the 1940’s, families, mostly farmers from Upper Egypt affected by the drought, migrated to the city in search for jobs. The Wahiyas who were Muslims made a deal with these new migrants who were Coptic Christians that they would give them access to the areas that they collected their garbage from and promised them land if they collected their garbage for them. The Wahiyas controlled the right to collect garbage and took responsibility for waste removal in the city and the Zabaleen managed the hauling and the disposal of the garbage. Though this meant working under the control of the Wahiyas, the early leaders agreed to this, as it seemed like a reasonable deal. In the early days when the Wahiya’s managed this process by themselves, the organic waste was used for heating water in the public baths (also called hamams in Arabic) and for cooking large pots of beans which needed long hours of slow cooking. When the Zabaleen arrived, they began to purchase the organic waste from the Wahiyas to feed to their pigs. This worked well for the Wahiyas as well, as the common baths and community kitchens for cooking beans was soon dated.
The government realised how lucrative the garbage business is and, in 1989, decided to take more interest in the city’s garbage. They decided to regulate the garbage collection process and give out contracts to private corporations to look after different sections of the city. The government did not compensate the Zabaleen for these changes, and as a result, the privatisation of waste collection threatens the socio-economic sustainability of the Zabaleen community. The Wahiya’s who continue to have some control and have struck deals with the city and the private corporations on behalf of the Zabaleen. However, the Zabaleen have overtime understood that they need to create their own private businesses and register as companies so that they can bid for contracts directly just like the private corporations do.
More recently, in April 2009 the Zabaleen have faced another challenge when the Mubarak government, ordered the culling of all pigs in Cairo, They used the spread of H1N1 (a type of hepatitis) as an excuse. However, the Zabaleens are clear that this was a way to appease the Muslims who have had a long standing issue about the pigs. This has had its own implications for the Zabaleens and the city, both negative and positive. This was a major setback to the Zabbaleen and the city because the pigs ate all the organic waste. Immediately after the culling of the pigs, there was a visible increase of trash piles and rotting food on the streets of Cairo. However, the young people in the community having now lived without pigs since 2009 like it that way. The community is divided about having pigs and this is also pushing them to think of compositing their organic waste (a fairly new idea). They are also rethinking about creating pig farms away from their home (with the change in government in the last year they think they can get the pigs back) separate from their present living space. There are also worries that the government is seeking to remove the Mokattam Village, also known as "Garbage City" on grounds that their occupation is hazardous and therefore want them to relocate outside of Cairo.
Forming a Syndicate of Garbage Collectors is the next strategy. That evening there was a celebration of the Zabaleen Syndicate, a new born institution created by SOY, as a next step to create an identity and voice for the Garbage Collectors in the city. The idea of the syndicate is in the process of being refined and the leadership have yet to get clarity on the role and function of the syndicate and how they wish to see this grow and evolve. They defined it more as a union while Shekar and I felt that the scope would be greater if it was created as a federation of garbage collectors, a concept that was larger than the union, which is to organise and build their capacity and their voice as a movement of the urban poor garbage collectors in the city.
Day 2: Visited APE, an income generation focussed NGO run by a group of middle and upper class women in Cairo whose mission is to generate income for the Zabaleen women. They train women in making home-based products from recycled material like cloth and paper. Women learn how to weave carpets and do patch work and make items from cloth and paper and sell their produce from an outlet that they have on the same premises. APE calls this “learning by earning.”
However, most of these women who come here also continue to sort garbage, which is their main source of income.
Establishing companies is the next step to create a formal identity as garbage collectors so that they are able to bid for contracts. We spent most of the day with members of SOY at Al Mokattam visiting different recycling businesses. We tagged along with a team of young men who were visiting the Ministry of Investment to register a new Company for Garbage Collectors. This seems to be a recent preoccupation of SOY as a way to deal with the politics of garbage in their city. They have a target to register 100 such companies. The Zabaleen have decided to create companies and formalise themselves so that they can also bid for contracts like the private companies. It was very interesting for us to see that they have their act together, have obviously mastered the procedures and had their paper work in place. They confidently entered the Ministerial office along with us where we were met by the manager of this new company also a Zabbal (single garbage collector). Thereafter we visited an outfit called “GAFI” (General authorities for Investment and free zone), also government-run, that gives advice to emerging and young enterprises. Our three men seemed to have a very professional and long relationship with the officer they were meeting.
This young officer was very enthused to explain to us what his job entailed. We were struck by how passionately this young man was involved in their new company and said that he got his happiness from supporting the Zabaleen. This surprised us but was also not so unusual as it reminded us of similar people in government who care about slum dwellers and want to support them in the cities SDI works with. He also said that he was not the only one and that there were many of his colleagues who feel the same way and want to do what ever they can to support the Zabaleen’s. The Zabaleen’s have found an in road into the government system, which is a smart move on their part. Forming companies as a way to formalise their relationship with government so that they continue to get business.
DAY3: After visiting the Pyramids at Giza, Shekar and I requested for some time with the SOY team. We wanted to use this time to ask questions to SOY and to present the organisational strategies of SDI and have an exchange of ideas.
We had three questions:
- We wanted to know the connection between SOY, CID (a private consultancy company started by Laila Iskander) and APE, the income generation NGO that we visited the previous day.
- We wanted to understand the Zabaleens’ vision of establishing companies and how they saw this in the big picture, with the formation of their own organisation and the newly formed syndicate.
- We clearly saw with our eyes that the women were at the bottom of the garbage pyramid (just like the women in Dharavi, Mumbai). They sat there painstakingly taking care of the details and sorting the garbage thoroughly and looking for little treasures that they may find. We wanted to know how they planned to include these women in their new Syndicate. Would there be a role for these women who merely sorted the garbage too participate? After all they were not the garbage collectors or the recyclers but were a significant actor in the process.
Ezzat and his young team were very interested in NSDF’s and SDI’s story and organisational vision. The main messages were the role of savings and information gathering as a means to organise the communities and as a new way to talk to government and other institutions. The other message that came across was that SDI’s success was mainly due to the participation by women at the level of 60-80% of membership at the city and national level, which gave them something to reflect about.
Our reflections and potential follow up:
- What struck us was the similarity in the role of women in Cairo and Mumbai in the recycling process. They were at the bottom of the pyramid, very powerless and very vulnerable. We strongly feel that there is scope to initiate savings among these women who sort garbage.
- Similarly a large number of children are involved in collecting and sorting garbage. SOY has started a recycling school for them but there is scope to design nutrition and health programs to support the women and children as way to address their needs but also as way to find a more integrated way to address their needs along with the children. The savings groups can take ultimately take responsibility for these other programs as well.
- The Egyptian government does not respect NGOs in the same way that they do with the private sector. The formation of companies is a therefore a very good strategy for the Zabaleen’s in their socio political context.
- Cairo and Bombay are both mega cities are like a mirror image of each other in their energy fields. The Zabbaleen of Cairo may have lessons to learn from the organisation building strategies of NSDF, the slum dwellers from Mumbai, which may be useful to the Zabbaleen leadership and the recycling communities. In turn the slums of Mumbai can learn from the occupation-specific knowledge and skills and negotiations of the Zabaleen.
- Housing and land does not seem to be an immediate problem for most of the Zabaleen. When they first migrated to city they lived in tin shacks. They have since been evicted at least 3-4 times in their history before settling down where they presently have. Now that they seem to be in a fixed place for a long time they have invested much of their income in constructing 3-4 storied buildings of brick and cement. They start with a single brick structure and slowly construct a floor each and move upwards depending on the needs of the family. Not sure if the city has any set building regulations but the construction of these buildings seem unplanned and ad hoc but serves their purpose. The garbage is sorted and stacked in all the by lanes of the settlement. They could have planned better for storage facilities if they had the luxury of making a settlement plan. Each house has its own toilet and water connection and electricity. However, it will be interesting for SDI to understand and compare the housing context of the Zabaleen’s to the slum dwellers of Cairo who we were told continue to live in tin shacks in many areas.
By Ariana K. MacPherson, SDI Secretariat
It is nearing the end of my stay in Mumbai, and I know I am going to miss this city as soon as I board the plane. I have spent the past week getting to know her streets and her people, and it is an experience I will certainly not forget. Mumbai is the kind of city that stays with you – the fragrance of the food, the colors of the sky at dusk, the buzz of people and traffic in the streets. Like other great cities of the world, its rhythm is invigorating and awe-inspiring – the vibrancy and speed of everyday life, set against the beautiful backdrop of history.
Over the past few days, I had the opportunity to revisit Dharavi: to walk the streets and narrow alleyways of the potters’ village and the recycling areas of the vast informal city-within-a-city, the world’s most well known slum.
We make our way from Bombay Central to Dharavi by train. It is past rush hour, so the great crowds I have heard so much about have subsided. The train is cool and quiet as it rumbles along the Central Line, and it is not long before we arrive at Sion station, the entrance to Dharavi. Actually, there is more than one train stop in Dharavi, making it very easy to access from almost anywhere across Mumbai. This, along with its central location, is one of the main factors contributing to increased interest in Dharavi as a site for private re-development. But re-development plans have not taken into account Dharavi’s place as a commercial hub in Mumbai’s informal and formal economies. They have not accounted for the outdoor kilns in the potters’ village, or the vast workshops where all means of recycling take place. Nor have they accounted for the long tradition of food production, leather shops, and textile mills. For now, plans are at a standstill. But there is a long road ahead if the vibrant economy of this bustling town is to be preserved.
We start off in the potters’ village. Here, thousands of local people work with hundreds of pounds of clay every day, stamping, pounding, molding and spinning it into beautiful pots, urns, serving dishes, candle holders for Diwali and statues of the Indian god Ganesh. Orders come in from all over Mumbai. Pottery is sold to housewives and retailers. We walk for half an hour, past shops and workshops, each one with a home overhead. Men sit inside, spinning handmade pots on wheels. A woman is polishing water pots outside her home, rubbing wet clay onto just-fired pots to smooth over imperfections. There are hundreds of the same pots lined up a few feet away. I ask her how much these sell for. Sharmila, one of the women working at the Indian support NGO, SPARC, translates for me. “About 100 or 120 rupees,” she says. This is equivalent to about US $2. This isn’t much, of course. But it is US $2 more than nothing, and when you multiply it by the 50 or 100 pots beside her, it’s a significant income. Multiply that by the many other workshops around her, and it becomes clear that Dharavi is more than a small piece of Mumbai’s vibrant economy.
From here, Sharmila takes me to another area of winding streets, this time lined with one recycling workshop after another. I have heard about Dharavi’s recycling industry, but again it is something else to see it up close and personal. Each workshop is busy with men and women sorting through, cleaning and producing every type of plastic imaginable. Women sit outside in the alleyways sorting through plastic cutlery and take-away boxes, as men work away inside on melting and shredding them to be reused across India and beyond. Dharavi is home to the largest plastic recycling industry in India. If the proposed redevelopment took place, where would this industry move to? How could it not be accounted for? How could it be seen as anything less than integral to the very heart of the city’s economy?
The next day I visit the Mahila Milan-NSDF office in Byculla. This was the neighborhood where SPARC first began its work back in the 1980s, when they made links with the community of pavement-dwellers who had their homes along these streets. Today, the streets are still lined with homes and shops, people milling about, living and working in the heart of central Mumbai, just blocks away from Bombay Central train station. Again, I am struck by the presence of the informal right alongside the formal city. Not even alongside it, but smack in the middle of it. Part of it. Contributing to it. We spend some time speaking with the women of Mahila Milan living here. They have been members of MM for over twenty years. They have negotiated with local government for toilets, for water taps, for electricity. Now each home is hooked up to the electrical grid, they have access to community toilets, and many people have water taps inside their homes. And they have prevented demolitions, prevented the threat of middle-of-the-night bulldozers and unannounced evictions.
The women know they will not be able to stay in Byculla forever, but in many ways it is better than moving out to Mankhurd, further away from jobs and schools. They made their homes here on purpose, and although they know they will have to leave eventually, it becomes clear yet again that a home is so much than a formal house. It is a community, a sense of security, access to the services and opportunities that bring rich and poor alike to the cities of the world. Why then should the right to enjoy these be a privilege only afforded to the rich? In Mumbai, the poor have claimed their space in the city – their right to it. Now the question is how they will hold onto that, and how the rest of us will support them.
For more photos from Ariana's trip to Mumbai, visit our Facebook page.
By: Ariana K MacPherson, SDI Secretariat
We left the city in an early morning haze of pollution and sunrise, making our way through flat green valleys and into Western Ghat mountains. We are on our way to the smaller city of Pune about three hours north of Mumbai. With a population of roughly 3 million, Pune is the second biggest city in Maharashtra state after Mumbai (population ±16 million).
Mahila Milan (MM) has had a presence in Pune for years. Savita Sonawane, one of the longest-standing members of MM in Pune, first met the women from Mumbai when she was only 22 years old. That was nearly twenty years ago. Today we meet Savita in MM's Pune office, located above a community toilet project constructed and managed by MM. She is sitting alongside her daughter and her two baby grandchildren. Savita has made lifelong friendships with the other women of Mahila Milan, and with Celine d'Cruz, a colleague of mine at SDI who has spent thirty years working with the women of Mahila Milan in Mumbai and Pune. Celine and Savita sit cross-legged beside each other, laughing as Savita's granddaughter, little Arya, writes out the alphabet and pours us imaginary tea. These connections, these friendships, make up the foundation for Mahila Milan's strength, their ability to persevere, their determination and courage.
Alongside a group of local leaders, Savita manages projects ranging from housing construction, slum upgrading, and government sponsored resettlements. Starting with management of daily savings, the MM women learned the necessary skills for management and coordination of human as well as financial resources.
The first project we visit is at Yerwada, a settlement near Pune city centre where Mahila Milan has facilitated a very impressive slum upgrading project. Old tin shacks have been torn down and replaced with one, two and three story single and multiple family homes in the style of townhouses and small apartment blocks. The most fascinating thing about this project is the use of space. Most of the homes' footprints are no bigger than 250 square feet, but adding the second floor nearly doubles this space, giving the family a significant increase in their amount of living space and allowing for space for extended family to live comfortably together. One woman's home is a narrow triangle of only 170 square feet. The second story nearly doubles this, and MM has ensured that she she has permission to build a third story once she can afford it.
In addition to reconstructing the homes, MM worked hard to to realign the structures in order to widen pathways and make space for municipal water, sewerage and electricity connections. The pathways, widened from crevices to lovely pathways, are lit by street lamps. Each home has been designed in partnership with the family, so no two are alike, and construction overseen by the women of MM. They are painted bright colors, and front doors hung with bright flowers. It is clear that this is a community. Not a slum. Not an informal settlement. It is a neighborhood, with families living and working, improving their homes and kids walking home from school.
Next we travel a bit further out of Pune to a settlement called Shanti Nagar, where the second phase of slum upgrading is taking place. Being further from the city, this settlement is far less dense than Yerwada, making roads and pathways wider and the footprints of houses larger. They have recently started demolition of homes here, so much of the settlement is still under construction. Of course, convincing people to demolish their homes and live in rental housing for six months can be a challenging task, and MM must take each family's situation into consideration. Some people are not ready to make this kind of commitment. Children are in the midst of exams, or they do not have the money to pay rent while their house is reconstructed. These are things that would hardly be taken into consideration if the government, or even an external NGO, was heading up the process. But with MM working on the ground within their own communities, there is sensitivity to these realities.
On our way out of Pune we visit a resettlement project that is still under construction. The government has requested that MM assist in relocating just over 1,000 families to these new buildings to make way for various public works projects. Mahila Milan has agreed, but it is going to be a challenging task. They have not been involved in the design phase of this development, and the blocks of flats are looming structures, towering high into the sky and far from the city centre. Perhaps the one saving grace are the middle-class developments sprouting up on either side. Jobs as domestic workers and drivers for these middle-income families might serve as incentive for families to relocate here, as they will be next door to (some) economic activity. But still, for many this will be a hard move. The buildings lack character. The footprints are small, there is little cross-ventilation, and the location is not great. But Savita says they will come. They have to. And once here they will form housing societies, start daily savings, become an organized community with a voice, and they will be heard.
By: Ariana K MacPherson, SDI Secretariat
Mumbai has a constant buzz. That is the best way to put it. The city is always moving, coming and going in all directions And full of light. I arrived in Mumbai three days ago, and immediately was taken aback by the vibrancy of it. Even as I made my way from the bustling airport at 1am to my hotel, taxi cabs lined the streets and pavement dwellers sit in front of their tin shacks, eating around fires.
I am here to visit the Indian SDI alliance, an impressive trio of organizations consisting of Mahila Milan (the women's savings collectives, which are federated citywide as well as nationwide), the National Slum Dwellers Federation (a network of male-dominated slum dweller federations operating at the same scale as MM) and the support NGO, SPARC. I have heard tales of the dynamism, innovation and success of MM-SPARC-NSDF, but truly there is nothing like seeing it for yourself. The same goes for Mumbai, for Dharavi, for all of it: you can read all the books, see the movies, read the newspaper and taste the food abroad, but there is nothing like coming face-to-face with the life of the city, of the people, to make you really understand.
Yesterday was my first day in the field. Alongside a colleague from SPARC, I visited three of Alliance's projects in Greater Mumbai. First we stopped at a housing project in Dharavi called Rajiv Indira, designed by the women of Mahila Milan. The building is light and airy, with children playing and riding small bicycles in the wide corridor. On the ground floor there is an open courtyard, where women congregate with their kids, chatting about the day. All but the top two floors of the building have been constructed with 14-foot ceilings so that families can build a mezzanine floor to maximize the 225 sq ft space.
The women make this happen through financing from various sources, but savings is a big part of it. Not only does money collected through daily savings go towards financing the actual housing projects, but it also serves as a means to organize, mobilize and unify the group around a common vision for the community. Even after moving into the building, the women continue to save in order to pay for maintenance and further improvements to their homes. It is not a project-based activity, but instead becomes the very core of their activities.
I have read so much about Dharavi. How residential and commercial uses co-exist. How many millions of dollars are generated there. How high the population density is. How poor some of the living conditions. How vibrant, and dynamic a place it is. But again, nothing compares to reality. It is not simply a slum - Dharavi is a town. The true essence of an informal city, existing right in the centre of the formal city, feeding into it minute to minute and day by day. We make our way to a community toilet project, turning off the main (4-lane) road and onto a crowded, winding side street. We pass a Hindu temple, painted bright with garlands and incense adorning the entrance, and are shaded by green canopies of tall, old trees. A white cow passes us on the right.
We arrive at the community toilet and it is bright, airy and clean. My colleague explains that it is used by 226 families (roughly 1,300 people), each of whom pays 20 rupees per month (about USD .40). Others pay 2 rupees per use. There is a caretaker who looks after the facility daily, closing it only from 1am - 5am. He has a room upstairs that he shares with his family, and there is a lovely roof terrace with a mosaic tiled floor that can be used by the 226 families for community events and meetings. There are basically two other options for toilets in Dharavi: 1) shit wherever you can find a hole, which often means holding it in until it is safe (especially for women), and of course causes numerous health risks; or 2) use one of the government-provided communal toilets, which tend not to be well looked after, and are often dark, smelly and unpleasant to use. By making this a community project, it has kept the toilet clean and pleasant to use. One of us even stopped to pay the 2 rupees to use it during our visit!
The last site we visit is a housing project called Milan Nagar, also designed by the women of Mahila Milan, located in Mankhurd settlement quite a ways from the centre of Mumbai. This group of women were pavement dwellers, perhaps Mumbai's poorest population, and some of Mahila Milan's oldest members. They lived in shacks along the sidewalks, crowding the streets near Bombay Central station. The women tell us that one of the biggest differences in their lives today is that they are no longer called "pavement dwellers" - that they are respected by others because they now live in formal housing. But pavement dwellers chose their spots on the streets to be close to economic activity, and the women say this is one of the challenges of their new home. It is further to go to work, and they cannot come home between jobs to spend time with their children. There are three different design options within the building, each one consisting of a mezzanine floor like the building in Dharavi. The homes are modest but beautifully maintained, with sparkling pots and pans and spotless floors. Children play in the hallways, and music pours down the stairwells as a family upstairs prepares for an upcoming wedding.
After spending the afternoon at the SPARC offices, housed in a beautiful old municipal building in South Bombay, another colleague whisks me off to a Mahila Milan function in honor of a Hindu holiday celebrating the beginning of spring. This is the real thing. There are hundreds of women, all dressed in colorful saris and their best gold jewelry. We are asked to come on stage, and are honored with flowers, and decorated with saffron and turmeric on our foreheads. We eat sesame sweets and listen to the women speak about their daily realities, from the importance of daily savings to their struggles with crime. Before the close of the evening, traditional music comes on and the women begin to dance. We are drawn into the crowd and a young women smiles and grabs my hand. We dance together, laughing and I doing my best to imitate her every move. It is infectious - the vibrant soul of this community. Empowered and real, dancing under the scaffolding of 900 new homes.
The Indian SDI Alliance, SPARC-NSDF-Mahila Milan, alongside long-standing partner PRIA initiated events in various states in India to seek deeper community participation on government poverty linked programs in cities. Participants explored ways that state and city authorities and NGOs can facilitate effective partnerships with communities, making space for them to be centrally involved in upgrading, infrastructure and design projects.
This small video attempts to share glimpses of initial workshops help in Patna, Bihar, and Ranchi in Chhattisgarh, India. These initial workshops will be followed up more in depth engagements, so stay tuned to the blog for updates.
**For the full article, please visit The Global Herald**
By Sheela Patel, Chair of SDI Board
Water and sanitation represent the most clear and obvious amenities that link cities citizens, their local government and national state. SDI Board Chair Sheela Patel sent the message at the World Water Week 2011 that the existing deficit in sanitation is obvious and clearly one of the unachieved Millenium Development Goals set out by the United Nations nearly twelve years ago. Dr. Patel went on to say that this deficit reflects the real deficit in governance, since for the poorest in the city, inclusion and concern about them gets reflected in whether they get access to these amenities. Below is an excerpt from her article, which originally appeared in The Global Herald.
“A secure place to live, and access to basic amenities, followed very closely by the right to undertake livelihoods are the crucial safety networks for the urban poor. Yet these have remained outside the purview of the increasing informal habitation seen in cities, and this exclusion has impacts and implications for an average of 25%, but often up to 60%, of the city residents. Accountability must be sought in national and local policies that continue to ignore the urgent need to address the terrible conditions in which the poor live in informal settlements…
Change has to come now, so that deficits can be addressed and growth in urbanization in the next decade does not have to see such terrible inequities in cities in the future. And this cannot happen unless the poor and their organizations and settlements are seen as partners addressing this challenge. Events like World Water Week have to have community leadership to bring their voices to such debates and it was telling that I, as a professional, was their lone representative among over 2500 people who registered.”
To read the full article, visit The Global Herald here.
By Mitali Ayyangar
In January, 2011, the Indian Alliance of SPARC, NSDF and Mahila Milan hosted a four day workshop with SDI affiliate members from across Africa and South-East Asia to consolidate members’ enumeration processes and experiences. The workshop was intended to create a space for, firstly, collective reflection on the importance of this fundamental SDI activity and, secondly, to develop strategies to strengthen the SDI Secretariat’s ability to assist member federations expand and deepen their enumeration processes.
About Enumerations: Functionally, enumerations and surveys are tools by which the community collects information about its resources, land ownership, history, services that are provided and the community’s priorities. The various forms in which enumerations are exercised are detailed here. This information forms an important basis for addressing deprivations in slum areas, long-term strategic planning and for negotiating with authorities for land, tenure and infrastructure.
However, enumerating activities do much more than that. They are used not only as a tool to collect information about their communities, but also as a means of connecting and reaching out to people, and through this process, give individuals a collective sense of identity. They provide communities and their aggregated federations with a sense of who they are, what their collective needs are and information and data to produce insights about their situation. People learn to explore processes of contestation with the state about information the state has generated about the poor, which is often not comprehensive and can generally not be disaggregated to produce projects and investment possibilities or to benchmark what needs to be improved upon.
Workshop and its Objectives: In SDI’s collective experience, enumeration processes have been invaluable. Enumerations need to be expanded and carried forward at a large scale – and it was with this overarching objective in mind that the workshop was organised. Within this, a sub-objective was to focus on how support professionals and NGOs can improve their roles in assisting their federation-partners design and execute surveys, manage data and prepare reports.
The Workshop was therefore designed to create a space to:
- Discuss each participating country’s enumeration process, with the goal of clarifying and strengthening the various activities involved, identifying challenges and planning strategies to overcome these challenges
- Identify opportunities for the SDI Secretariat to support country-exchanges for federations to learn about various enumeration processes strategies
- Increase capability of federations and supporting NGOs in terms of data management and analysis
- Exchange thoughts and ideas about the potential for standardization of basic data used by cities and countries
- Discuss the possible future uses of GIS for mapping settlements and possible future production of biometric ID cards
Participants at the workshop included representatives from the SDI Secretariat and NGOs and federations from Ghana, Malawi, Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Philippines and India.
Structure of the Workshop: The Workshop was spread over 4 days. Introductions and outlining individual participants’ expectations of the Workshop dominated the first half of the first day, while the second was dedicated to “setting the stage” – i.e. identifying the current status of federation work, common challenges and an overview of SDI’s near-future objectives. The second day included presentations from each country representative about their enumeration “journey” – each followed by a Q&A session which probed deeper into the role and value of enumerations in addressing needs of federations in that country. On the third day, the Indian Alliance organised a field visit to Pune, where local Mahila Milan presented, on site, their journey from savings and credit activities to enumerations to negotiations with governments to improved housing and sanitation. On the final day, participants evaluated whether their expectations had been met at the Workshop, developed action plans to expand their enumeration activities and identified key peer-to-peer exchanges that would, with the support of the SDI Secretariat, facilitate their goals.
Main themes discussed: Several important issues emerged over the course of the workshop, particularly during the individual country presentations. A brief on each participating country – their enumeration history, processes, key achievements, challenges and top priorities – is included in the full report. Some of the prominent and common issues that emerged were:
- The ‘age’ of NGOs and federations, in terms of experience and capacity for enumerations, in creating processes that lead to effective engagement at the individual/community level and enable a strong federation to take root.
- The importance of building the legitimacy of enumeration processes and data gathered to, firstly, facilitate engagement with outside partners and stakeholders and, secondly, to transform relationships so that federations are valued as partners in national development processes
- Balancing the fundamental commitment of the process to be accountable to its constituents with the demands of governments (and others) to “make data look” a certain way – in an effort to produce information in ways that suit the needs of both, the communities and others
- Understanding the subtleties of the process – including survey design
- Understanding the data – in terms of its findings, its role in bringing communities together and in promoting ownership of the process (translating the data back to the community)
*** A full report with country briefs and other key insights can be downloaded here***
The national government of India has bestowed its highest civilian honor, the Padma Shri award, on Jockin Arputham, President of SDI and the National Slum Dwellers Federation (NSDF) of India, and Sheela Patel, Chair of the Board of SDI and founder of the Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centers (SPARC). The entire SDI family wishes our two dear colleagues and friends a hearty congratulations!
In its citation for Jockin, the Indian government notes his pioneering strategies for facilitating learning between and among the poor, as well as the significant results these methods have achieved. Such an approach to horizontal learning stands as a significant alternative to dominant development models of training workshops and programs determined by professionals:
Through the same sorts of slum-to-slum learning exchanges that he initiated in India, Jockin Arputham has now extended such efforts to several neighboring countries. Through the Slum Dwellers International, which he helped found, Shri Arputham has assisted urban poor communities in South Africa to organize themselves and work effectively with the government and, in Cambodia, to set up the country’s first government-sponsored resettlement program for squatters. Likewise, the Federation's community-organizing techniques and practical know-how has been exported to Sri Lanka, Nepal, Laos, Indonesia, the Philippines, and several countries in Africa.
In electing Jockin Arputham to receive the 2000 Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding, the board of trustees recognized his extending the lessons of community building in India to Southeast Asia and Africa and helping the urban poor of two continents improve their lives by learning from one another.
Ms. Patel’s award cites her commitment to developing a model of professional NGO that supports the work of community-based federations of the urban poor. In particular, the citation notes her success in bridging the gaps between government and such organizations of the poor:
In 1984, she founded SPARC along with other professionals. SPARC came into existence to address the problems of pavement dwellers, the poorest of the poor in the city of Mumbai, who were not recognized as legitimate citizens by public authorities. Soon thereafter, SPARC entered into an alliance with NSDF and Mahila Milan. It would be fair to say that the patient advocacy of the cause of pavement dwellers by this alliance led to their recognition by Maharashtra Government’s State policy and programme to resettle and rehabilitate them.
Smt. Patel and Shri Jockin Arputham, President of NSDF and of SDI, worked closely together to support and create federations of the urban poor both in India and abroad, with a special focus on the empowerment of women – through their savings collectives – and who have now become forces for change all over the world. If one main plank of the alliance’s efforts was to support the organizing processes of the urban poor, the other plank was to build partnerships with municipal, state and central governments so that government policies and programmes would be designed and implemented such that they not only benefited the poor but cities as well.
By Jack Makau, SDI secretariat
Traditionally land information held by most governments (certainly all developing world governments) is stored in cadastral formats. What this means is that governments store records of plot boundaries and who owns those plots.
Meanwhile urbanization has rendered this level of information irrelevant. Often a slum will consist of one or two or three plots, while there are 1000 families living, trading, worshiping, schooling in those plots. If the economic, judicial, and governance systems are based on cadastral information, it is no wonder we cannot solve urban poverty issues, regardless of how much money we throw at the problem.
This huge gap in the ability of Southern governments to understand and govern urban centers is in large part an information gap. The cadastral format cannot reflect the reality of how land is organized in urban areas. It cannot account for 1000 families in 3 or even 20 plots of land. The reality of urban land usage completely belies the fundamental concepts of the cadastral system: families living in ungovernable 10 foot by 10-foot spaces and having their primary toilet function 20 meters away in a 3 foot by 3 foot carton shade; and their kitchen on the sidewalk.
What does this all mean? The contract between citizen and state in Nairobi, Kampala, Cape Town and more in Mumbai cannot take place. The contract is based on the cadastre.
So what about GIS? If we were to change how land information is defined then the challenges of urban slums would not be so intractable. GIS allows you to capture, easily and cheaply, the actual use of space. So instead of government having a plot boundary and owner’s name, they could have, for far less than it costs to survey the plot conventionally, the boundary, the size and type of structures, the actual arrangement of structures, the trees and the owner’s name.
And fortunately this is not just about slums. For example, how does the Cape Town municipality manage water if they do not have a land information system that recognizes swimming pool? How is climate change reversed when plot owners are cutting down trees to put up gazebos? Because planting trees at the outskirts of the cities is not enough.
It’s not the cost of the technology that matters — all of a sudden the constraints of plot sizes are removed. The limitations associated with the management of land (by government) do not exist. They have a true picture of the city. And if someone comes along and builds something at night, government can find out and manage it the very next day. It’s cheap, it’s real time and it’s true.
And, when they are done GIS-bombing Bagdad and Afghanistan and putting navsat in every Bentley, Bimmer and Boxter, what are they going to do with all those satellites?
So, the UN Habitat’s Global Land Tools Network (GLTN) and Social Tenure Domain Model (STDM) experiment in Uganda is the first stirrings of change in altering the way urban land is managed. STDM at the back-end is a land registry system (sort of a cross between Google Earth for governments and the Land Act). At the front end is GIS and Microsoft Excel that’s appropriate for capturing enumeration and mapping information at household level, one base lower than plot level cadastre-type information.
In January, GLTN and SDI started a discussion on testing the newly developed STDM platform in Uganda. This isn’t the first land tool interaction between the two agencies. At UN Habitat, the developers of STDM studied the federations’ enumeration experiences in Mumbai, Nairobi and Kisumu and coded them onto the open source Quantum GIS program.
However, the STDM discussion was a plugin to an activity already underway: The Government of Uganda, Cities Alliance and SDI urban transformation program that targets transformation of urban slums in five secondary cities (Jinja, Arua, Kabale, Mbale and Mbarara). Estimated to reach 200,000 slum families, the program seeks among other things to register all informal settlement in these cities.
So significant is the application of GIS technology to Uganda that the STDM plugin could attain program engine status. Uganda has one of the most complex, un-resolvable urban land tenure systems in the universe. In certain places, like Kisenyi slum right at the heart of Kampala city, the Kabaka — constitutional king of the Buganda kingdom — owns the land. Over time, landowners have recieved land grants, held at the king’s pleasure. In turn they have parceled the land and made out their own leases to structure owners who have built a sprawl of 35,000 shacks and rent them ever month to the city’s urban poor. Any attempt at slum upgrading is confronted with the question, “who among these layered interests is the beneficiary?”
SDI’s Ugandan affiliate, the 29,000-family-strong Uganda Slum Dwellers Federation, and the federation’s support NGO, Actogether, seek solutions that recognize all interests. Solutions that are underpinned by the corresponding usage and investment on the land. That integrate with the city’s aspirations of future sustainability and prosperity. So citywide enumerations and mapping exercises planned for early 2011 are important for determining the usage and investment patterns, are critical in anchoring possible solutions.
The success of this experiment, at least on the land information side, is hinged on the ability of UN Habitat and SDI to get the Ministry of Lands to buy into STDM. Then the federation enumerates, maps and puts the information into STDM and voila! A real urban land information system and 200,000 slum families in Uganda are in the government registry. And thereafter if anyone invests in infrastructure or housing it doesn’t matter because once the land information system changes so will the definition of land ownership. The title deed will be replaced by the use-deed. Effectively we circumvent a herculean slum land tenure mess. And then we take the show to the next land mess in Nairobi or any other rapidly growing city with byzantine understandings of land usage.
Pictured above: SDI President Jockin Arputham speaks while Ugandan Housing Minister Michael Werikhe, and Mats Odell, Swedish Minister for Finance, Local Government and Housing, look on.
By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI secretariat
The Board of Governors for SDI’s Urban Poor Fund International (UPFI) held its second and last meeting of the year last week in Stockholm, Sweden. Such gatherings are a unique chance to mobilize political support for a people-centered agenda for urban development. High-ranking government officials from countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America, joined slum community leaders to discuss how to support initiatives of locally-rooted community organizations in cities throughout the Global South.
The UPFI provides seed funding to local urban poor funds of national federations affiliated to SDI. The idea is that the money provided by UPFI catalyzes local initiatives that can leverage further resources, have an impact on urban policy, demonstrate possibilities for reaching further scale, and increase sustainable financial practices of the poor through savings.
“I see it as a tool that supports the SDI affiliates in upscaling their development,” says Rose Molokoane, member of a savings scheme of the Federation of the Urban Poor in Oukasie, South Africa, and deputy president of SDI. “For us to have one basket of funds draws the funders to come closer together to create space for the poor and strengthens our self-reliance.”
The Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation (ZHPF) is an instructive example of the ways in which the poor control their developmental future through the UPFI. The ZHPF has used the funding to build “eco-san” toilets in cities such as Bulawayo and Chinhoyi. These toilets are pioneering a cheaper, environmentally-friendly alternative to basic sanitation provision in slums where the high cost of traditional basic services has impeded any kind of incremental development.
The Malawian Federation, also affiliated to SDI, served as a horizontal resource for the development of the ecosan model. In March of this year, a Malawian team comprised of three builders, one federation member and a Water and Sanitation Programme Manager, went to Zimbabwe to teach the ZHPF about the ecosan toilets and construct model toilets in those areas. The projects have enabled the ZHPF to change policy at the local level by involving city officials, and have also had an impact up to the national level. The ZHPF is the leading community voice of the poor for housing in negotiations for a new Zimbabwean constitution. The incremental upgrading strategies employed by the Federation, especially with regards to sanitation, are affecting local university planning curricula as well.
The Stockholm meeting of the UPFI board, hosted by the Swedish government, was coupled with a seminar on “reshaping financial markets to make them more relevant to the poorest of the poor.” This seminar featured a mix of slum dweller activists, academics, NGO professionals, and finance experts, presenting on policy and practice in urban settings in Asia, Africa, and South America. Over 75 people from the Swedish business world attended the seminar, and the hope is that private institutions can begin working to develop financial instruments for poor individuals and communities. Access to finance is one of the biggest challenges impeding many people's ability to get out of poverty, especially in urban environment.
Jockin Arputham is the founder of the National Slum Dwellers Federation in India and president of SDI: “To empower the poor you need to organize the people and make them taste the fruit of organizing. Your power is strengthened by your negotiating power. You don’t go empty-handed to negotiate with government. The UPFI helps people to win the kind of power you need to negotiate with government: statistics, finance, everything. Now no government cannot ignore SDI. There’s no way anyone can ignore this process. They have to engage communities,” he says.
The Swedish government has posted a video from a press conference at the UPFI board meeting, as well as documents used in presentations at the following day's seminar.
By Ahona Ghosh
Every day, 65-year-old Sudhir Jagtap, a retired government peon, takes a walk down the narrow alleys of Mother Teresa Nagar slum in Pune to see how far the construction of his new house has progressed. Unlike the crumbling, squalid tin-roofed shack that he has called home for the past 25 years, Jagtap’s new concrete house will have bigger rooms and its own toilet and kitchen. But, more than the stability of concrete and cleanliness, what matters most to him is the fact that the new house will be legal—that his family will own the title, at least for the next 99 years. Looking at the under-construction house, the short, wiry man mumbles: “I don’t know when it will be completed, but they’re doing good work.”
Mother Teresa Nagar is one of seven Pune slums selected for a pilot project under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission’s (JNNURM) plan to improve the living conditions of the urban poor. The programme, rather insipidly titled Basic Services for Urban Poor (BSUP), was launched about 15 months ago. Under it, the national, state and city authorities tie up with NGOs to develop resettlement and rehabilitation solutions for slum-dwellers.
About 17% of the world’s slum population lives in India. Authorities have tried everything from eviction and demolition to resettlement and selling slum areas in the open market to resolve the problem. But their success has been partial at best. The slum rehabilitation effort in Pune, however, is very different.
The project follows an in situ rehabilitation model. Essentially, that means reconstructing and upgrading slums where they are, without moving the residents. Under the BSUP project, about 1,200 families in seven slum areas of Pune—Mother Teresa Nagar, Yashwant Nagar, Bhat Wasti, Netaji Nagar, Sheela Salve Nagar, Wadar Wasti and Chandrama Nagar—will be rehabilitated in upgraded, rebuilt houses. Rs 3 lakh has been allotted for the construction of each house, of which 90% (Rs 2,70,000) will be funded by central, state and civic bodies with the slum-dwellers paying the remaining 10%. They pay Rs 10,000 initially and the remaining Rs 20,000 in four instalments.
According to the grant regulations, all houses are to have an area of 270 sq ft. At about Rs 850 a square foot, the new houses have an estimated value of Rs 2.29 lakh. The rest of the Rs 3 lakh grant goes into conducting surveys and workshops to engage the slum-dwellers. Once the houses are rebuilt, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) will grant a 99-year tenancy lease in the name of the head of each household and establish these slums as legal colonies.
Giving slum-dwellers legitimacy and a chance to restore their dignity is in itself a big achievement, but what is far more significant is the extent of community participation in the programme. That has come about thanks to the partnership with NGOs.
At the start of the project, the PMC invited tenders from NGOs for reconstruction of the houses. The Mumbai-based Society for Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC) bagged the contract to upgrade 750 homes out of a total of 1,200. It works closely with two other sister organisations—the National Slum Dwellers Federation (NSDF) which comprises pavement and slum-dwellers, and Mahila Milan (MM), a network of women’s collectives organised around savings and credit. Avinash Salve, a PMC Corporator from the Yerwada area, is all praise for their efforts. “Without the help of NGOs like SPARC, the process would have been very tedious for us,” he says.
The presence of the NGOs helps in addressing many of the concerns of the slum-dwellers. One big impact is that the potential beneficiaries become active participants in their rehabilitation. Says SPARC founder Sheela Patel: “Our goal is to demonstrate, through such projects, what communities can achieve when drawn in as participants.”
First, there is free flow of communication and information. The NGOs invest a lot of time in convincing the slum residents about the benefits of joining the scheme. There are quite a few fence-sitters, the majority of whom hold back because of financial insecurity; others simply do not trust the authorities. “We take ropes and mark out 270 sq ft to make them understand the increase in space,” says Jon Rainbow, SPARC’s Project Co-ordinator. They also present the slum-dwellers with scale models of the houses—made of cloth and timber—to help them appreciate the benefits of moving into new, bigger houses.
The consultations ensure that the slum-dwellers have a say in the design and planning of the houses. “Interactions like these help them better understand issues and communicate their needs to architects and government officials,” says Patel. On their part, the NGOs have hired a civil engineer, who works closely with PMC officials.
The discussions go on until the new home-owners move in. Of course, sometimes, the exchange of ideas results in disagreements. For instance, the PMC has enforced a 10-metre height restriction on these buildings, which the NGOs oppose. Says Dhannanjay Tukaram Sadalapure, Mahila Milan’s civil engineer: “It makes sense to build vertically as the ground space is often limited in these slums.” His proposal for construction of four-storeyed houses is still pending with the corporation.
Says Kedar Vaze, junior engineer from the corporation, and one of the supervisors of the project: “We are in talks and should soon approve it.”
Another problem cropped up when, halfway through the project, the PMC asked for proof of occupancy dating prior to 1995 from the slum-dwellers. “That was an absurd demand and impossible to fulfil,” points out Rainbow. In the end, the PMC abandoned the condition, but by then work had been delayed by a month.
The loss of time comes at a critical juncture. The corporation is already facing the heat from the state and central governments to finish the first phase of the project and complete 300 houses within 15 months. Nine of those months have already gone by but work has started on just around 20 houses.
Still, neither the PMC nor the NGOs appear to be discouraged by the slow progress. “About 100 houses are being processed and we will try our best to finish 300 by September this year,” says PMC’s Salve. SPARC’s Patel agrees. “We will take time to build the first 50 houses. After that, it will move faster as issues begin to get ironed out.”
The NGOs also have plans to help the slum-dwellers get loans and jobs. Most of them earn between Rs 1,500 and Rs 3,000 a month, and struggle to pay even the token 10% charged by the government towards construction. Pramila Malik Pawar is candid about her need for monetary support. Pawar’s husband, a factory worker, recently had an accident and lost his leg. Her son, the only earning member, works as a driver and earns Rs 2,000 a month. “I have already paid the initial Rs 10,000. Now, I am struggling to pay the instalments. I need help,” says the housewife from Mother Teresa Nagar.
One way out is through microfinance loans. “No slum-dweller can pay the 10% contribution at one go,” points out Jockin Arputham, President of NSDF. He says he is in talks with a few microfinance institutions (MFIs) to help slum residents secure loans to pay the initial loan amount as well as the instalments.
Mahila Milan has a more innovative solution. The organisation is offering construction jobs on the site to people who cannot afford their initial loan amounts.
“Currently, we have employed about 12 people. Once the pace of construction picks up, we expect this number to increase six-fold,” says Savita Sonawane, leader of Mahila Milan, Pune. Mahila Milan’s members also collect socio-economic details and conduct biometric surveys of each household’s members. They submit these details to the municipal corporation, which maintains a record.
A major challenge, however, is transit housing. There is no budgetary provision for transit camps under the JNNURM scheme. Most people are forced to stay with relatives or in rented rooms when their shacks are demolished to make way for the new houses. Says Arputham: “These people cannot pay for transit camps and also pay up 10% of the loan.” Ideally, the project should include budgetary provisions for such transitory housing. Corporator Salve says he is helpless: “Transit camps are not the business of the PMC.”
Still, some effort is being made. The PMC has released government land to build transit homes for the residents of Chandrama Nagar slum. The NGOs are trying to raise funds to build these camps, which will cost Rs 20,000-25,000 per household. “We have approached the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They have shown interest in helping,” says Arputham.
It’s just a small beginning, but it’s a good beginning. And it will enable many like Jagtap to have a concrete future.
Pictured above: Residents of the Kambimoto incremental housing development in Huruma, a slum area in Nairobi, Kenya.
By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI secretariat
Top-down strategies for "eradicating slums" are seemingly always in vogue. Planners, government officials, commentators, and most non-governmental civil society actors, all aim for State-conceived, State-driven solutions to the "problems" of slums. Occasionally, we might hear about the potential of the social energy and even the density of informal settlements. But the solutions, we hear, must always come from the State.
But we can consider for a moment where these "formal" actors are headed, and from where they get their ideas. It is not the State. Governments of the Global South are quite evidently incapable of conceiving and implementing solutions without the people such policies are intended to address. The slums of the South are growing. And in the absence of effective State interventions, the poor — the world of the "informal" — are providing the vast majority of shelter solutions.
So "formal" actors — the State, planners, etc. — are getting their ideas from those who populate the world of the "informal" — the urban poor themselves. Instead of centrally-planned, greenfields housing developments, governments from South Africa to Kenya are talking about "slum upgrading" or "informal settlement upgrading." In India, the term that most closely mirrors this is "redevelopment." To varying degrees, policies that deploy these terms in each country are rooted in "informal" practice. Improvements in the living spaces where people already live.
But "upgrading," while a step in the right direction towards more people-centered kinds of urban policies and planning, is often too vague. It can still mean big projects that results in the removals of many shack dwellers to new slums outside of the city to make way for improvements that often accrue only to a few of the original residents of the area. The goal of any kind of urban policy will always, at some point, mean fully-serviced and titled top-structure housing with secure tenure. Given the capacities of all the actors involved in the policies that would address that kind of goal, in addition to the magnitude of slums in most of the cities of the South, such achievements are still far off in the future.
The poor know this, and address it on a daily basis in the only way they can: incrementalism. To build incrementally is to live within one's means, adding on and improving one's dwelling and environment bit-by-bit. There are obstacles to this approach, namely lack of security of tenure. How can a person save to upgrade when he or she faces the constant threat of being evicted? But even without total security of tenure (i.e. full title), the poor are willing to build incrementally.
I wrote a couple months ago about the Federation incremental housing project in the Kambimoto neighborhood of Huruma in Nairobi, Kenya. There, each homeowner is building the floors of their houses day-by-day, making their own laddi bricks — an alternative egg-shell shape of bricks used for ceilings and floors for the first two floors of the houses — through exchanges with SDI-affiliated savers in India. The residents of this project do not have full title. What they do have is a memorandum of understanding with the city council approving the project. They also receive municipal services. This is just one example about how the poor are leading the way towards new understandings of tenure arrangements and how such attempts to provide security to the poor achieve great things on the ground.
The key is to enable the poor to enact the solutions they already have at their disposal, not to run over them with State-developed, new top-down plans. Even though "formal" actors are beginning to adopt the rhetoric of "upgrading," they usually stray from its original "informal" meaning. "Informal settlement upgrading" still means programmatic, State-driven responses to urban poverty. The "informal" does not fit so easily with the strictures of the "formal." Incrementalism gets brushed aside in favor of rhetorical slights of hand that only glance at the true intentions of "informal" solutions.
The issue of incrementalism got a high-profile mention this week in an article in the Financial Times’ latest installment of its special issues on cities. Heba Saleh reports on development plans in Cairo, where slum dwellers are getting pushed further and further out of the city, while more poor people push back into the city for jobs:
The result is that Cairo is ringed with extensive areas of densely inhabited slums, where the streets are often too narrow for cars to pass and no land has been allocated for services such as schools, hospitals, markets or parks. But affordability and proximity to jobs in the central parts of the city continue to attract people to these neighborhoods, where homeowners build cheap but sturdy housing, adding extra rooms or floors whenever they have the cash.
Laila Iskandar, a development expert who heads CID Consultants, argues that the dynamics in the slums have much to teach government planners when they lay down their schemes for the expansion of the city. “All they are thinking about is how to send people to live in the desert [around the city],” she says. “They still have a top-down European view of the city and they deny that migrants from the countryside need a style of housing that they are not planning for.”
“These people do not have lump sums to pay for flats, and mortgages are out of their reach. Rent is also too expensive for them. They need to be able to build their homes incrementally.”
In the coming months, we will explore this theme further, analyzing examples of incremental solutions, and the ways in which the "informal" world can lead the "formal" world to actionable solutions to the problems of urban poverty. Your comments are, as always, most welcome.
Below is the text of a report by Cape Town Informal Settlement Network leader Vuyani Mnyango on an April exchange to India that included members of the ISN and Cape Town city officials. A report on the same exchange written by the Cape Town city officials can be found here.
15 April 2010
Meeting with Mr. Jockin Arputham & Mr. Sundar Burra
* He introduced himself to the visiting team from South Africa, he also share his long way & stories while in the struggle around the developments for the poor.
* He said that he can just tell the team of the middle -up system not starting from the bottom -up otherwise it will be a long story to tell. He said that they managed to collect people from the streets/ pavements convincing them to form part of the movement (Savings).
* He also stressed that organizing will be the best tool to fulfill the people’s need wherever they will be staying.
* He also encouraged that people need to be patient on whatever they wanted to achieve for communities.
16 April 2010
Federation – Mahila Milan
* They had managed to relocate people from different directions such as Railway line Dwellers, Under – Bridge & Pavement Dwellers & the Harbour Dwellers.
* They convinced these different groups to form part of the movement for the poor (savings) so that they can have a say to the government but the people saw that as a one step forward.
* The Federation had played more than a big role in these different people with different needs.
* Before any development to take place, they also do the enumerations so as to know more about the community its people’s needs.
* There are about 2000 units in each flat that accommodates about 10 000 families.
* Each unit is about 125 square metres wide and that is the size of most units that you can find in each flat.
* These buildings are being managed by these communities.
* The maintenance of these buildings depends to the co-operatives, the people that had chosen by the communities to look after these buildings.
* Each house has its own sanitation (tap & toilet) including electricity; each house has its own electricity box so that the owner is responsible for the use of the service.
* People who were not part of the savings were included in the development to take place in their communities they were not excluded at all.
* Mahila Milan is the platform and the group which is based in the presenting and focusing in the Federation needs but it is presented by people from different communities and different groups.
* The sanitation block is being managed by the communities not the government as the government had failed to look after them.
* People are still saving while in the houses but they called it a general savings which is based on the daily problems that faces the people around the community and that is playing a big role.
* Mahila Milan is also looking at poverty that also affects poor families by supplying food parcels and that is done through the help of SPARC (the NGO that is helping the Federation its needs for its communities.
* Out of their savings they had managed to buy the land which was not that expensive at all they paid for it.
* These buildings had been built after year 2000, but these buildings looked very old on the outside as if they are more than old.
* Mahila Milan is busy on the designing of the plans of the houses (flats) and they also play another role of training the people who will be building the houses training them on how to build from the bottom to the top.
17 April 2010
* The team SA was looking at the contractor when it was starting to build houses in the in-situ upgrading at Pune at Mother Teressa informal settlement.
* Also the savings here are playing a big role amongst the community development as the people are keen to be part of any kind of a change in their communities, even if somebody has to move so that the in-situ upgrading has to take place but people are all in the same page nobody is against of anything.
* They said that Mother Teressa had once visited this settlement that is why they also called it by her name just after she left.
* The in-situ upgrading is taking place in this settlement without of any disturbances from the community side.
* The government is being told by the people on what they wanted & on how it should be done.
Sanitation Block (Toilets)
* SPARC had also played a big role in the construction of the sanitation blocks to these communities with the help of the Federation as they are working closely.
* They had convinced & explained the communities for the need of these sanitation blocks to be built in their communities.
* There are about 300 – 500 families that are using these toilets in daily basis.
* People had to pay for the membership in order to use these facilities and pay the monthly fees the use of them but that is done by each family in the community.
* These toilets are being managed & maintained out of the monthly payment that is being paid by each family.
* The toilets before were not in a good condition for the use of the public (people of each community).
* There is a small amount of money to be paid by the community that will be specifically for the toiletries to keep these toilets healthy.
* The ones for the city are totally different from the ones that are for the projects according to the management of them.
* All the communities had the same way of controlling crime in each area.
* There are about 4 females and the males are about 4 to make what we call it a Police Forum but they call it a Police Panchayat.
* This more than linked to the state policing as this had played a big role in decreasing crime in each community.
* This is only based to the abuse, civil cases including the criminal cases.
* They take the person to the police station where a person has to pay a huge amount regarding that will be reported.
* This had been recognized & authorized by the Commissioner as it will be helpful to the communities at large.
* This had made a big change as it had decreased the crime rate throughout the country.
General Points that had been found in the Indian Exchange (Summary)
* People of India are more than commitment when it goes to the development of their communities.
* They show more than a willingness to co-operate in any kind of process that will lead to the success of their developments.
* They are also peaceful as they will all be wishing to be the go -getters, they won’t fight during the developments.
* They are having more patients to wait for what they want even if it can come after 10 – 20 years but they will wait.
* The human rights are not an issue there, people are focusing on their priority needs and they go for them.
* The communities need to be taught about the processes of the developments to be followed during the period of the development.
* Federation had managed to organized to gather together different people from (i) Pavement Dwellers, Railway Line Dwellers, Under –Bridge Dwellers & the Harbour Dwellers.The savings is the best tool that the communities had put more focus on as the best tool to be used when organizing people but it is based their daily needs.
* They had been taught on how to keep their hope around what they wanted to achieve in future.
* They had also been taught about on how to be strategic when dealing with organizing people for the development of their communities.
* Poor people are more than involved in the developments that will affect them on the ground for making decisions of what they want & how to go for it.
By Sheela Patel, SPARC
Adapted from remarks given at Habitat Norway's panel discussion on "The role of cultural heritage in poor urban settlements," 5 October 2009, in Oslo.
Despite the rapid spread of urbanization, we do not know enough about cities and who lives in them. Words like “degradation” and “deprivation” are frequently used to describe slums, with little recognition of their amazing capacity for growth and change. It is this capacity that brings people to cities, and that makes them incredible engines for transformation. It does not make sense for people to stay in villages where they have no jobs, no incomes, and no opportunities when cities offer the chance for a brighter future. Instead of bemoaning the problems caused by the growth of cities, therefore, we need to revisit and rethink images of slums, cities, and urbanization.
Urbanization is hardly a new phenomenon. Many Northern countries have forgotten the former poverty of their own countries and the migration of millions of people from villages to the growing urban centres of Europe and North America just a century ago. Many neighborhoods in those cities were also slums, but they were transformed over time into historical districts that reflect the heritage of their cities and countries. Yet few plans to redevelop the slums of the global South recognize this potential for transformation or the value of what those who live in the slums have built.
At the same time, it is clear that Southern cities will never become European cities. Already, many are five to ten times larger and still growing: the slums of Mumbai, for instance, are home to more people than the entire country of Norway. We must therefore work with the development community to adapt the lessons of Northern cities to a uniquely Southern context.
Envisioning a new urban future will also require us to reevaluate the way we think about slums. The word slum conjures images of squalor, crime, and disease. Yet slums are places of enterprise, of innovation, of creativity, and of hard work. Despite their seeming chaos, slums are vital and energetic, efficient and purposeful. Nothing is wasted, and no opportunity is missed. The culture of the slums is built on the unique knowledge that communities own and use to address the challenges that they face. This local, community-produced knowledge is key to the resilience, growth, and vitality of the thousands of informal settlements in cities throughout the global South, even as they are being threatened by development schemes that do not acknowledge their strengths and needs.
It is estimated that 70% of people in Southern cities work in the informal sector, a sector that is frequently described as “marginal” even though it accounts for the majority of the population. Yet for all the vitality of the slums, they are slowly crumbling for lack of infrastructure. This is in part because development plans have tended to privilege the private domain over the public. Whether consciously or unconsciously, all development investment makes huge decisions about this issue. These decisions have tremendous consequences for the future of Southern cities, and ripple effects that stretch far beyond their intended impacts. Although the informal sector, for example, is currently thriving, it is being threatened by certain types of development. As foreign investment comes in, informal markets are being demolished to make room for air-conditioned malls, and street food vendors selling traditional fast food like samosas and sev puri are being replaced by Western chains like McDonald’s.
These choices about public and private goods are also made on a very large scale. Mumbai, for example, planned two transportation projects to be built in tandem: one public transportation upgrading plan, and one aimed at improving roads and private transportation infrastructure. The public project was negotiated with the World Bank, and has been in progress for fourteen years and counting. The second project, consisting mainly of upgrades to roads and flyovers, cost the same amount but was finished in 4.5 years. This is clearly a case of misplaced priorities in a city where just 5% of the population drives cars as opposed to the 65% who use public transport systems on a daily basis. Yet elites in Southern cities are often aligned with the Northern development elite in their view of what a city should be, favoring investment in private over public goods.
Poor people are not merely objects of development to be dealt with. Of course, almost no one in the development community would argue otherwise: individually, we all want people to be able to make choices about their lives. We talk about participatory planning, community-led development, and so on, but institutionally and organizationally, we have yet to see these principles truly put into practice. And so we must ask, how do we make choices about development? What is the culture of development that does not allow communities to make their own decisions? What role do poor people really play in development and what contributions do they make?
Community-led decision-making is time-consuming, messy, and complicated, to be sure. And nothing is messier or more complicated than dealing with slums. Their problems encompass not just the slums themselves, but an entire system that has ignored the rights of people who have uprooted themselves in pursuit of their aspirations. But why do we run away from things that are messy and complicated? It is those processes and issues that have the greatest potential for transformation. Instead of dealing with them head-on, however, cities and countries have attempted to create boundaries to stem the migratory tide. But it cannot be stopped: it is not a tide, but a tsunami. Throughout history, across continents, people have always moved when they see greater possibility over the horizon, and have proved themselves willing to make any sacrifice to change the lives of their children for the better.
The solutions offered by global institutions often result in consequences that communities were not able to truly accept because they did not have a true choice. The ability to dissent requires institutional capacity, and most informal communities do not have the type of institutions that allow them to make their views known. So when those of us in the development community seek to make changes in slums, we need to recognize the extraordinary sacrifices people have made to come to cities and the extraordinary capacity they have shown to thrive once there. We must listen to the people who have built their homes from the bottom up, and hear what they have to say about plans to redevelop their communities. This is what SPARC seeks to do by supporting the urban poor in organizing their own communities and learning from each other’s experiences. It is only by putting power in the hands of the communities themselves—the power to know the options available, the power to discuss and negotiate for one’s interests, and the power to ultimately make a choice about one’s future—that development can truly claim to be community-led.
By Louise Cobbett, SDI secretariat
The second day opened with the same unforgiving humidity that Rio is famous for. Let there be no confusion – it is very, very hot here, but the majority of the SDI delegates are taking it in their stride. It is just this reporter who is the delicate flower and is finding it a struggle to survive…
There was a session on the IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa) development challenges, and there were some very interesting points to have come out of it. Firstly the panel, which was made up of various governmental individuals, highlighted that cities reproduce poverty, and that poverty is defined by location. Brazil has been attempting to produce better equity and therefore equality within it’s cities, but that public resources are stacked.
The panel had therefore indirectly supported SDI’s constant belief in the enumeration. If the resources are stacked against the poor, the only way they will be able to challenge the flow of resources, is if they are organized. After conducting an enumeration communities then know where the resources need to be channeled – sanitation, electricity or flood prevention
The Indian minister revealed that India is only 30% urban, and here is clearly an opportunity for SPARC, Mahila Milan and the National Federation of Slum Dwellers to build upon their success and work with governments to prepare for the eventual urbanization of India.
Edith Mbanga of the Namibian Shack Dwellers Federation gave a presentation to the Global Land Tools Network (GLTN) of the United Nations on the power of enumerations in the community process:
I felt it went very well, and even though I was sitting up there as SDI, we were able to give examples from other countries. I was talking about enumerations, which is something that happens all over the SDI countries.
By Louise Cobbett and Jack Makau, SDI secretariat
The first day of the World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, began with SDI making a grand – and visual – entrance. The 67 delegates broke the traditional monotony of the gray suit brigade. It was a fitting visual representation of SDI’s way of saying that it’s what happens in the communities, and not the meetings, which counts.
The forum's opening ceremony featured a very well choreographed dance production. But the message that the toned dancers were trying to get across, was somewhat lost on the 3, 500 strong crowd. Perhaps it is the best analogy of the fear that SDI has about the conference.
It gave deeper meaning to Jockin’s advice the previous day, which was to make full use of the opportunities to get governments to make firm commitments on land and services.
For example, on the first day the Tanzania, Ghanaian and Zimbabwean federations organized meetings with their respective governments.
Highlights of the first day were SDI’s networking event, called "Protocols for large informal settlement upgrading." It was probably the only session that started and ended with a song. The session featured 5 case studies and of struggles for secure tenure and fights against eviction. There was Mzwanele Zulu from Joe Slovo in Cape Town; Jack Makau from SDI spoke about Kibera in Nairobi; Philip Kumah spoke about the process of upgrading Old Fadama in Accra; Claudius Pereira of URBEL (Urbanisation Company of Bele Horizonte) and Marcos Landa, the coordinator of the Brazilian movement talked about Osasco, which is a settlement in Sao Paulo and finally Jockin, the president of SDI and the National Slum Dweller’s Federation of India gave his views on the experiences of Dharavi in India.
Jack Makau’s impression of the event was it was a session about things that people have done, rather than a session about hypothetical situations and new thinking. And there are very few sessions like that. The examples of concrete achievement largely consist of answers coming out of communities, which is exactly what SDI is here to showcase and build upon.
- Community Planning (111)
- Zimbabwe (29)
- South Africa (57)
- Kenya (43)
- Haiti (2)
- Brazil (9)
- Ghana (17)
- Uganda (46)
- India (29)
- Namibia (11)
- Tanzania (10)
- Malawi (17)
- Philippines (9)
- Sierra Leone (4)
- Zambia (4)
- Bolivia (6)
- Developing Alternatives To Evictions (13)
- Enumerations And Mapping (32)
- Exchange And Learning (47)
- Nigeria (1)
- Partnerships (89)
- Savings (34)
- Settlements Under Siege (48)
- Slum Upgrading (104)
- Uncategorized (1)
- Women (47)
- SDI Participates in Commonwealth Local Government Conference, Uganda
- ‘The Tenement City’: The ‘Inconvenient' Urban Reality Facing Nairobi
- NIMBYism Blocks Development in Havelock, Durban
- An Introspect of the late Benson Osumba, Chair of Muungano wa Wanavijiji
- Creating Organised Communities of Slum Dwellers in Uganda
- SDl Joins World Urban Campaign
- In a Risky Place: Women & Sanitation in Nairobi's Slums
- Using Enumerations for Upgrading: Namibia to Cape Town Learning Exchange
- Benson Osumba on Mindset Change Amongst Youth in Africa
- Project Diary: Kalimali Sanitation Unit, Uganda
- May 2013
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- December 2012
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- December 2011
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- November 2010
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- December 2009
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- Zimbabwe federation holds forum, Southern African hub meets
- The Zabaleen of Cairo
- Community Policing in Slum Settlements
- Slum Dwellers, Academics & City Officials Dialogue in Harare
- Re-designing the city one shack cluster at a time
- Unabated Forced Evictions in Nairobi's Informal Settlements
- The Beginnings of Enlightened Planning?
- SDI at World Urban Forum 6: Making Space for the Urban Poor
- Diary from Mumbai: Part III
- Culture, identity and slum areas: opportunities and challenges seen from slum dwellers’ perspective