In the slum dweller communities of Uganda — where over 60 percent of the urban population lives – the purported benefits of urban agglomeration are not being felt. Despite rapid urbanization, urban areas are characterized by rising unemployment and inadequate access to basic services. Rather than waiting passively for the benefits of urban agglomeration, Uganda’s slum dwellers have adopted a proactive strategy that is harnessing the potential of collective action.
The strategy is one that has evolved within the Slum Dwellers International (SDI) network. It involves the clustering — or federating — of community saving groups into urban poor federations. The National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU) is one of 33 federations in the SDI network. Founded in 2002, the NSDFU today comprises almost 500 savings groups and approximately 38,000 members. Savings are used to bring people together, build their capacity to act collectively, and build organizational capacity and trust.
When savings groups begin, they often focus solely on livelihood issues and income generation. But, with time and greater exposure to SDI rituals, such as enumeration and peer-to-peer exchange, communities formulate an urban agenda that looks beyond group members and toward transforming the settlements in which they live. This is when benefits to service delivery begin to accrue as part of a collective upgrading agenda. The spatial proximity of urban savings groups allows for the agglomeration of collective capacity necessary to create a critical mass of urban poor to hold public officials accountable, to collaborate with municipalities and leverage their savings. This critical mass is required to make community participation more than a platitude and aid more effective, and it is uniquely possible in the urban setting.
The positive externalities of this agglomeration of collective capacity are not hard to see. The NSDFU is the key community mobilizer in the Government of Uganda’s Transforming Settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda (TSUPU) program. The NSDFU has capitalized upon the opportunities of this Cities Alliance-funded program to expand from Jinja and Kampala to Arua, Mbale, Mbarara, and Kabale. Within this national program, the NSDFU has demonstrated that organized communities can: improve urban governance by organizing citizens to demand accountability; improve urban planning by generating information on slum populations; improve living conditions for members and non-members alike through slum upgrading projects; and improve the environment by upholding their responsibilities to keep cities clean and maintain public services.
Over the past 10 years, the NSDFU has constructed sanitation units and community halls the slums throughout the country. Last year it began extending clean water and improving drainage, while in Jinja it has commenced construction of a low cost housing project. In almost every case projects were built upon land provided by municipal council, demonstrating true partnership.
The increasing returns to scale for the agglomeration of collective capacity are also evident. The more the federation grows, the easier it becomes to negotiate with government, mobilize members and savings, leverage funds, and implement projects. Because the NSDFU is part of SDI, the returns to scale also benefit tremendously from the growth of the global urban poor movement.
NAIROBI, 18 APRIL 2013 | SDI has officially joined the World Urban Campaign, a lobby and advocacy platform on sustainable urbanization for “Better City, Better Life,” coordinated by UN-HABITAT.
The World Urban Campaign brings together partners from across sectors. It is designed to facilitate international cooperation, and acts as platform to converge organizations in order to collaborate on solutions and build consensus towards a new urban agenda for the Habitat III conference that is expected to take place in 2016.
SDI, now a partner in the World Urban Campaign, will help engage cities around the world through the I’m a City Changer campaign, aimed at raising awareness on urban issues and to include the voice of the people to propose positive solutions to urban challenges.
SDI will also have an opportunity to represent the voices and interests of the poor, and thereby engage slum dwellers as city changers, while working closely with key World Urban Campaign partners around the world to ensure improved cities and to integrate poor communities in the management and development of their cities.
UN-HABITAT runs a series of strategic programmes designed to help make cities safer, to bring relief in countries suffering the aftermath of war or natural disasters, and to promote sustainable cities and good governance. Under the Urban Management Programme, an initiative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UN-HABITAT, the World Bank and various bilateral donors, the agency fosters urban management in the fields of participatory urban governance, urban poverty alleviation, environmental management, and the dissemination of this information at the local, national and regional levels.
UN-HABITAT also develops indicators of good urban governance with two principle aims. The first aim is to help cities identify urban governance priorities and assess their progress towards the quality of city-life and the second aim is to develop a global Good Urban Governance Index. The agency has a Training and Capacity Building Branch which works at national and local levels in various countries to strengthen capacity building through high-level policy dialogues seminars, consultations and expert workshops.
The SDI team, led by Jockin Arputhum, Sheela Patel, Rose Malokoane and Joel Bolnick, expressed enthusiasm for continuing to collaborate with UN-HABITAT and use the campaign platform to work with other organizations in order to improve urban life for all.
In her speech to the press, Rose Molokoane one of the SDI Coordinators said;
“We feel really honored for the recognition by UN-HABITAT as a partner in World Urban Campaign. It is the basics of engaging the communities that has brought us this far, through savings and placing the women at the centre of collective community leadership, has created engagements with governments and local authorities. This has set precedent for government and other stakeholders that organized communities can bring about transformation.
Slum dwellers know how settlements can be planned. This can only happen by involving the poor in the planning process, deal with slums not slum dwellers. The urban poor are the only ones who can open up cities for development; therefore they should be seen as partners who are well able to change the cities, to achieve this, governments should give the urban poor security of tenure to witness urban development”.
SDI Chairperson Sheela Patel acknowledged that it was indeed a special moment for SDI. She said that change requires transformation, and through the Memorandum signed between UN-HABITAT and SDI, the urban poor global network can seek to demonstrate the potential for transformation especially from below. “ This kind of partnership has been waiting to happen for a long time, we have tried to engage in the past, some have been successful while some unsuccessful, either way we hope to change how stakeholders view the urban poor,” said Ms. Patel.
On his part as the SDI President, Jockin thanked the Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, for agreeing to sign an MOU with Slum Dwellers International, for it has opened a new chapter. ”SDI is privileged to partner with UN-Habitat on the urban transformative agenda. Being part of the decision making process, this partnership will bring change through the involvement of the poor, and we take it as a challenge in helping to realize the Millennium Development Goals. The issue of lack of proper sanitation infrastructure is a major impediment to development. We are going to work together and show the world how we are going to change, we have the information and we know how to plan”, said Jockin.
Dr. Joan Clos, UN-HABITAT Executive Director expressed appreciation for the work that SDI has done and continues to do, and for SDI’s unique makeup and tireless efforts to create inclusive cities and to promote participatory processes beginning at community level to city wide transformation.
“SDI has become a force in favor of the poor by demanding the recognition of the poor as far as the urban agenda is concerned. Slums are a source of innovation (citing Mumbai), therefore there will be no bulldozing of livelihoods of the people living in these settlements, any transformation in urban poor settlements need be in participatory of slum dwellers because these communities are well organized, something governments are yet to do,” said Clos.
He also noted the importance of this collaboration in bringing the urban poor to the forefront of shaping the global urban agenda, and the important role SDI has continued to play in building inclusive cities.
By Namibia Housing Acton Group (NHAG) & Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN)
The below report refers to an exchange that took place from 6 - 8 March 2013.
Purpose of the Exchange:
The exchange was initiated by the Namibia Housing Action Group (NHAG), supporting NGO for the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN), in order to expose municipal officials, the federation members and the NGO itself to upgrading as a result of an enumeration process. The municipal officials and community members on the exchange are directly or indirectly involved in the Community Land Information Program (CLIP), Namibia’s version of the enumeration process. Upgrading as a result of this enumeration process has not yet taken place. Cape Town and Stellenbosch provided a great platform for the exchange delegates to learn and influence a change in mind-set and the promotion of a bottom up approach to planning procedures in their local authorities and influence national government policy in the future.
Langrug Site Visit, Stellenbosch:
The exchange started off with a site visit to Langrug informal settlement in Stellenbosch. Trevor, a community leader, explained the outcome of the survey to the delegation:
“Mapping is done in the community to identify all the issues that the settlement is faced with. Alfred from the ISN ‘two years back, enumeration showed the community that they can talk to the municipality. The leadership for the enumeration is divided into sections, with each one having a subject to focus on; from health, social issues and mapping. The lawsuit form the Rupert family brought about the presentation of the needs analysis of the community to the municipality. With the enumeration we focus on building up people so they can build communities. Through the enumeration a working team was created, 16 families were relocated within the settlement. The communities have taken the ownership of their own development and the municipality added value; the current projects in the settlements are the outcome of a needs analysis. Community members are encouraged to make small contributions to get access to development. The important outcome of the enumeration was that it helped the team get the numbers to request for development in the area; especially the grey water runaway passages build by the community. As the enumeration provided a clear view of the people in the area that are affected by different issues, support groups have been formed for health issues. The washroom facility was one of the main outcomes from the project, the community members are assisting in the construction and small contributions will have to be made by the members for the sustaining and usage of the facility. The mapping will also assist the community in the re-blocking process.”
There was also a short introductory meeting with the Stellenbosch Municipality to give an overview of the relationship that has developed between the community and the municipality.
Mshini Wam settlement, Cape Town
The community facilitators from the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) showed the delegation around, explaining the process of re-blocking and the benefits it brought and will bring in the future. Since the structures have been re-arranged there are clear pathways for the community members to easily move around the settlement. The creation of space between the clusters formed provides space for the municipality to be able to bring services in the future as you can see in the photo below. The clusters have been set up in such a way that all the households, doors and windows are facing each other, so as to provide security among the households from possible intruders. Within clusters there are small gardens.
Lessons learnt on the exchange:
Municipality’s role in the delivery of services through the use of surveys and partnership.
Projects initiated by the community through enumerations. The norm for Namibia is that communities complete the enumerations, present it to the local authorities with the hope their development needs will be made a priority in planning. Through the exchange we learned that we could push for our own programs in the community, such as the establishment of support groups and the community contribution to facilities.
There is a need to have agreements signed with the local authorities in order to have a greater understanding of the roles and responsibilities when it comes to involving the community in upgrading.
The budgeting system of the Stellenbosch municipality provided a clear picture on how to prioritize funds for communities involved in upgrading
Communities pushing the local authority for an upgrading plan to be jointly developed.
The relationships developed on the exchange are important as now the different local authorities have an in-depth understanding of the possible outcomes of enumerations. The federation members and the local authority officials interacted on the exchange thus creating an opportunity to foster an “open door approach” with local government which could lead to important meetings around enumerations and settlement upgrading.
Impacts of the exchange on projects and relationships in Namibia:
The federation members will start working on programs with the community to promote upgrading options. This will change the normal procedure of always waiting for the municipality to deliver on upgrading. Communities will start working on programs to support each other.
Planning the layout with the Gobabis municipality to re-block Freedom square (Damara block) informal settlement
Municipality of Grootfontein to find an approach to involving the community in settlement development programs and signing an agreement with the NHAG and SDFN
The Community development officer from Keetmanshoop to use the community approach to managing the new reception area in the town.
Keetmanshoop municipality to strengthen relationship with the community. Work together on finding solutions to the communities housing and service issues in informal settlements.
Strengthening of collaboration and cooperation on enumerations
Possible inclusion of the community in the Targeted Intervention Program for Employment Creation and Economic Growth (TIPEEG).
Namibian Delegation. from left; Community Development Officer Gobabis, Councilor Keetmanshoop, SDFN member Keetmanshoop , Community Development Keetmanshoop, Councilor Gobabis. Back; Municipal CEO Grootfontein
By Nkokeli Ncambele, Informal Settlement Network, Cape Town (edited by Walter Fieuw, CORC)
Nkanini is a large section of about ten informal settlements on the far south-east region of Khayelitsha. In 2002, when the railway station Chris Hani servicing the area was completed, many people from Makhaza, Site C, Langa, Gugulethu, and other areas settled on the land. Many of the new settlers were living in overcrowded backyarder shacks, where rents and utility services were charged at a premium. Law enforcement often clashed with the new settlers, but could not prevent the inevitable. Today, Enkanini consists of more than ten informal settlements on this low lying area.
Many of these settlements are associated with the Informal Settlement Network (ISN), particularly Chris Hani and lower Chris Hani, Stendini, Shuka Section, Newlands, Isigingqini, ARC Section, and Zweledinga. On Friday the 5th of April, a coordination meeting was called to bring together all these settlements and start up a conversation about the needs and aspirations in the settlements.
I, Nkokeli Ncambele, an ISN coordinator, gave the delegates from the above mentioned informal settlements a welcome brief and upfront said that the ISN has not been in contact with the area for some time, but it is time to re-connect and talk about the future upgrading of the settlements. I gave a brief background the work of the ISN over the past three years and the progress made in ensuring a partnership with the City of Cape Town. We talked about the kinds of upgrading projects that have been completed, and how these could be a reference point for some of the settlements. This includes 22 informal settlements planned to be upgraded, with different priorities. There is emerging consensus from the City to provide 1:1 toilets in re-blocked settlements, but this remains an ideal. All these intiatives are aimed at building a network across the City to create a platform for the voices of the urban poor to be united and stand in solidarity.
The question of representation of settlements were a significant point of discussion. Anton, a community leader from Newlands, asked whether each of the settlements in Enkanini would form part of these “sectional forums”. Do we need to publicly elect people in each of the areas to distribute the information. I reflected on our experience of setting up a community committee where I lived in Mfuleni. We were democratically elected at a general meeting. The community entrusted us to represent them in matters of engaging government on development and service delivery. All the people sat down together and we talked collectively about the problems and needs in the area. After that we create a plan for development and talk to the City. Services are now coming to Mfuleni because we stood together. So each area needs to have at least 4 people. But you need to tell ISN what you need. You need to take the initiative and come up with solutions.
Some of the community members suggested that a general meeting is needed to discuss in more depth the needs and aspirations of each of the settlements. Bonwisa, the representative from Standini settlement, called out that these meeting should happen at times convenient for all to attend, such as weekends or after a day’s work. I responded by saying that yes, Nwe need to have a big date to call together the whole community. We need to have an agenda for that large meeting, and then discuss with all the community. At that time, we need to discuss the completion of the enumerations, which was stalled in 2009 for a number of reasons. I told those present that as the network coordinator, we can not plan anything if you are not with us. All the leaders need to agree on the programme, and then we will have real representation. We are not coming in and tell you what to do; you need to tell us.
The settlement representatives spoke among themselves and a number of core issues were presented. For instance, in Newlands and Isiginqini, there were no post boxes and people had no proof of address. This complicated a lot of everyday life, such as applying for jobs, opening a bank account, and so forth. Chris Hani settlement said that many of the mama’s were ready to start saving towards school fees for their children, but because they did not have a bank account, they often had to travel to Zone 40 to deposit money. I mentioned to them that we can support them around setting up local savings schemes, and our partner grassroots network, the Federation of the Urban Poor, has a lot of experience in doing so.
Nkanini section is located far from the city, and accessing opportunities remains a large challenge. Despite the geographic disadvantage, Anton from Newlands said,
We live here in a beautiful area. Here in the plain we have the best view of the city. You can see Table Mountain there and Stellenbosch mountains on that side. But we do have issues regarding moving around and the busses are scarce. I am frequently on the community forums with the City. We usually talk about the lack of busses, but they usually say they can not allocate more bustime to us. 3,000 drivers need t0 service this whole area, but there are only 10 controllers in this Nkanini area. Chris Hani train station is close by, but people living on that wide [Western side - Stendini, Town 3, etc] have to go to the far [Eastern] end, which means you have to take a taxi to go there. The station was designed for Makaza people, not for us.
Another community leader reflected that there big promises of job creation with the construction of the Monwabisi Beach, which they said will become like a Waterfront. The City promised that there will be many jobs. Some people travel to Stellenbosch for seasonal work on the wine farms. But it is very dangerous, and people are frequently attacked. Others work in the light industries in Durbanville and Kraaifontein, and as far as Houtbay.
ISN will continue to host community forums in Site B, Site C, Victoria Mxenge and other surrounding areas. These forums aim to bring the communities together to talk about their daily challenges and the ways to which they respond to these. Forums are also linked to prioritising development, and starts the community process at the grassroots.
As part of their initiatives to improve the sanitation situation in the slums of Accra, Ghana, a delegation of four members of the Ghana Federation of the Urban Poor (GHAFUP) – Haruna Abu, Janet Abu, Imoro Toyibu and Naa Ayeley – participated in a learning exchange to Cape Town, South Africa to learn more about the waste management initiative underway in the settlements of Cape Town. Painting a picture of the waste and sanitation situation in the slums of Accra, Ghana, Janet Adu, a member of GHAFUP, described the discarded plastic bags and other trash littering the narrow pathways of Ghana’s slum communities, adding to the already poor sanitation situation. To begin addressing this issue, GHAFUP and People’s Dialogue Ghana began brainstorming about waste management programmes that will clean up the slums while simultaneously generating income for the Federation.
The Blue Sky Solid Waste Management Company is the business side of the waste-management facilities. The initiative operates out of the offices of Sizakuyenza, a small community based NGO that originated from the FEDUP health network’s cleaning programme. Starting as a small initiative, with volunteer slum dwellers sorting waste for a small income, the initiative has grown into a completely self-sustaining programme with about 400 volunteer community trash collectors, or waste pickers, from various informal settlements across Cape Town who sort through waste to collect recyclables.
The sorted waste is then collected through the initiative’s mobile buy-back programme in which two pickup trucks manned Blue Sky drivers pick up the collected waste from various settlements around Cape Town, paying the pickers cash upon pickup for their recyclables. After another sorting at the Blue Sky Solid Waste Management facilities, the waste is sold to buyers and recycling companies. Using the profits made from these business transactions, the Blue Sky Solid Waste Management programme pays the pickers for their trash collection, salaries for the workers that run the company while also revolving the remaining profits back into the programme to sustain it and maintain its facilities.
Over the two-day exchange, the Ghana delegates focused their attention on the business side of the Blue Sky Solid Waste Management programme: observing the market opportunities in waste collection and recycling, meeting with local pickers in the Bengali community, learning waste sorting techniques and how to build relationships with recycling companies. The days were split into two sections: 1) interactions with the buyers and learning the market and 2) interacting with the pickers and how this activity has helped slum communities around Cape Town.
Day one of the visit fell on the day Blue Sky Solid Waste Management meets with buyers to sell the recyclable material that the pickers collected throughout the week, giving the Ghanaians an opportunity to learn the values of various recyclable goods. As explained by Mr. John Mckerry, team leader at Blue Sky, certain companies are looking for certain types of waste, which is why it is so important to look at the market opportunities in your city before beginning a recycling program. This way the federation can be well informed on what types of materials companies are looking for in order to generate the most income.
Following a lively discussion inside, Mr. Mckerry and Mr. Gershwin Kohler, the project consultant for the Blue Sky Solid Waste Management programme took the group on a quick tour of the Blue Sky Solid Waste Management facilities. They described the structure of staff and participants in the programme and identified the various types of waste collected and how it is sorted and its value (per kilo).
After the tour, the Ghana delegates joined Mr. Mckerry, Mr. Kohler and two of the of the Sky Blue waste collectors. Together the group visited waste companies such as S.A.B.S., where the Blue Sky staff negotiated and sold the collected and sorted waste. Through these interactions, the delegates were able to witness the market opportunities for recyclable goods in South Africa and compare these prices to the Ghana values.
Mr. Gershwin Kohler discusses the value of glass recyclables.
Waking bright and early on a Saturday morning, the delegation met with the Bengali community where community pickers had begun the work of collecting and sorting waste. As explained by Mr. Kohler the day before, “their job is to collect garbage and they focus on what they want to collect.” Some participate in the programme once in a while to generate some extra income for themselves and their families; for others this is a full time job, picking and sorting daily in order to make as much profit as possible. Furthermore, there are some people who choose to only collect one or two types of waste (e.g. plastic bottles and newspaper), while others collect and sort whatever types of waste they know Blue Sky might be interested in. When the sun has reached its highest point the pickers’ day of work is complete, though there are some dedicated individuals who will continue through the afternoon.
Upon collection by the mobile buy-back truck, the pickers’ collections are weighed separately to determine payment - paid by the kilo for paper, crushed glass, cardboard, plastics, etc. or paid by each whole plastic or glass bottle collected. Pickers are informed of the different rates for each type of waste collected and the importance of sorting waste before collection. Each individual’s collection is recorded to maintain accurate data collection and minimize conflict between people. Pickers are then paid for their collection, no matter how little or big the amount collected.
Mr. John McKerry describes the process of collecting, sorting and selling recyclables.
Providing a job opportunity within the slums of Cape Town, the waste management programme motivates people to participate as pickers to sustain their livelihoods; however, this programme has also helped clean up the slums, creating a cleaner and healthier community environment. Simply put by Mr. Kohler, “[slum communities] become reverse supplier of raw materials.”
Throughout the exchange, the Ghana delegates brainstormed the aspects of the Blue Sky programme that would be applicable to their planned project in Ghana. This is not the first waste management programme for GHAFUP. Having started a waste project in Old Fadama, the largest slum in Accra, the Ghana federation has already begun to address the slum’s sanitation and waste issues. Thinking on a larger scale, GHAFUP began planning how to scale up the project in Old Fadama and create an income generating aspect of the programme in order to sustain the project and add to the general funds of the federation.
Using the lessons learned from the Blue Skye Solid Waste Management programme in Cape Town, the Ghana delegates took ideas from the process used in Cape Town to adapt to their situation in Accra. As stated by the team in their exchange report, “the system of waste management [in Cape Town] is different from Ghana because they buy the waste from the household/pickers.”
The Cape Town programme’s mission is to mobilise slum communities around recycling and waste collection, demonstrating the benefits of clean communities and how participating in this programme can help generate income for individuals/families.
According to the delegation, GHAFUP is planning to manage and run the solid waste management programme as a service for slum communities in Accra, where federation members act as pickers, from the picking and waste collection to building relationships and selling to recycling companies in the Accra area so as to generate income and sustain the project. The funds from this project can also help finance some of the federation’s other activities if possible.
Following Mr. Kohler’s advice to “start in your on house”, the Ghana delegates plan to begin the project amongst themselves. Collecting, sorting and recycling materials in their own households, GHAFUP will begin mobilising and educating other slum dwellers around recycling and waste management. While doing this, GHAFUP members will begin researching the recycling industry in Ghana; identifying the waste that has a market – keeping in mind that the market values will fluctuate – and beginning to build relationships with potential buyers. However, the main outcome highlighted by the Ghana team was that the exchange “encouraged [GHAFUP] to act as a community on waste management,” which is the main lesson the Ghana delegates plan to share with their fellow slum dwellers in Ghana.
By Kotimi Kéré, resident of spontaneous zone “Taabtenga” in Ouagadougou (translation by Chantal Hildebrand, SDI Secretariat)
Photo above: Kotimi Kéré, adjoining treasurer of the “Association ‘Id-rayim-taab yeele,” and community member of sector 45 “Taab-Tenga” (a spontaneous zone of in Ouagadougou).
Taking part in the study tour to Ghana from 21-26 January 2013, I got a better understanding of the SDI strategy. It is a matter of mobilizing poor communities to improve their living conditions and be able to influence the actions of decision-makers in the favor of these populations.
Aspects of SDI strategy that arouses the most interest during this exchange included:
Mobilising communities around a common project and/or idea;
The introduction of savings groups within urban poor communities. People living in slums are a the priority poor. Having faith in an individual project, each community member, to the best of their ability, will put aside a little bit of money everyday to add to their savings book (for example, 2 cedis, 5 cedis, etc.);
The possibility of savings group members being able to save enough to support individual projects;
The solidarity and team spirit found within the savings groups in terms of supporting each member even if they experience difficulties in repaying a loan;
The main lesson I learned from this trip is the following:
The modernization of cities is often a process split into two speeds. On the one hand, the institutional principles set by national and local policy makers, and on the other side, the poor settlements in cities who have difficulty fitting into the formal principles. The inclusion and non-marginalization of the urban poor are esstential to the modernization of cities.
The alternative is to make the urban poor aware of their own abilities to change their destinies. We do not always need to wait for others to do everything for us and lift us out of our misery. Overcoming poverty and improving our lives depend primarily on us. It is necessary to know our prioities to first realise our own progress with patience and self-confidence. Although poor, I can find ways to spare a little of what I earn each day to support projects that benefit my life. The battle for registering poor communities in urban development is based primarily on our abilities to improve our own living conditions.
From what I have seen and learned, in my opinion it would be selfish to keep it to oneself. I come from a community living in a precarious neighborhood (slum) of Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. In my opinion, I think the first action to do on my return to my country is to mobilise my own community to change our current living conditions and our lives.
To read Kotimi Kéré's testimonial in French, please click here.
Photo above of Ouagadougou delegation that participated in the exchange to Ghana: Florent Y. Bakouan (representative from Laboratoire Citeyonnetés), Madeleine Bouda (community member from Taabtenga), Kotimi Kere (community member from Nioko 2) and Franck Kabore (representative from le Coalition Nationale pour L’Habitat).
Part II: The Way Forward
By Chantal Hildebrand, using “Restitution Ghana report” by Florent Bakouan.
Upon their return to Burkina Faso, the Ouagadougou delegation who participated in the learning exchange to Ghana met to discuss how to implement some of the lessons and tools they learned in the spontaneous zones of Ouagadougou. It was agreed that they would begin by sharing the lessons learned in Ghana with their own communities specifically Nioko 2 and Taabtenga – the two spontaneous zones where Mrs. Bouda and Ms. Kéré live.
Beginning with Nioko 2, a presentation was conducted by Mrs. Bouda reporting her experience on the Ghana exchange and presenting the SDI approach and core rituals. Attended by 150 community members and members of a local women’s group called “Songr Nooma la Zamstaaba” (which Mrs. Bouda is a member), the presentation resulted in a collective interest in implementing some of the SDI approach in the Nioko 2 community. Identifying lack of access to safe drinking water in households as a key issue in the community, the interested residents decided to mobilise the rest of the Nioko 2 community around this priority. The community, with the help of Laboratoire Citeyonnetés and the other individuals who participated in the Ghana exchange, have begun mobilizing community members through the establishment of a savings scheme, with current membership totaling 130 people. Future plans include:
Conducting an enumeration of Nioko 2, identifying areas with available drinking water, the number of households without water, those who want water, etc;
Conducting a mapping exercise focusing on the current water situation in the community.
A meeting in Taabtenga is scheduled for Sunday 10 March 2013. As explained by Mr. Florent Bakouan, a representative from the Laboratoire Citeyonnetés who participated in the Ghana exchange, in Taabtenga, like Nioko 2, “Nous allons partager ce que nous avons appris au Ghana, susciter l'adhésion des habitants à l'approche SDI et envisager avec eux un projet commun pour le réaliser par eux et pour eux.” – English translation: “We will share what we have learned in Ghana, build support from the residents around the SDI approach and consider a joint project with the residents to help facilitate community-run upgrading and work with them on a communal project to realize by them for them.”
He ends by saying, “En conclusion…Nous avons mis l'accent d'abord sur l'adhésion des populations à l'approche SDI, ensuite à leur mobilisation autour d'un projet commun. Nous allons progressivement étape par étape pour avoir plus de chances de réussite.” – English translation: “In conclusion… we focus first on public support around the SDI approach, then their mobilisation around a common project. We are progressing gradually, step by step, to have a better chance of success.”
The partnership between the Federation and local government in Arua municipality has emerged exemplary in the first phase of TSUPU. This is thanks largely to community engagements and actually standing for what the program is based on. TSUPU, meaning Transforming Settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda, has served its purpose to a great extent in Arua Municipality.
Arua municipality, located approximately 480 kilometers northwest of Kampala, and the largest city in the district, has demonstrated an impressive understanding as far as TSUPU is concerned. When you find communities informed of all the development programs under TSUPU and having participated in the actual implementation of the same, then you know there has been positive impact on local governance in Arua. For communities to be in possession of all the community upgrading fund projects’ documents for all the transactions involved means there has truly been a transformation and empowerment of settlements of the urban poor. You can actually touch it! And it is exciting to witness this happening.
In a recent monitoring exercise, communities in Arua and the municipality technocrats clearly showed how meaningful collaborative working relationships can be developed and sustained for the development of Arua. The manner in which issues have taken course in Arua leaves one full of admiration and awe and calling for such powerful collective effort to be replicated elsewhere in the country. Arua municipality and the community have managed to form a web of interconnected efforts that support one another.
Arua federation is now an active change agent in the municipality, having been awarded monies to take on different projects in the municipality after a successful proposal competition. Through this undertaking the communities have felt valued by the municipality; they are thriving and want to go the extra miles to make their municipality a city. It is now clear that collaboration of different efforts is a sine qua non to development; it cannot be achieved in isolation.
Generally, the TSUPU project in Arua has contributed greatly to bringing the municipal officials and the communities closer. In the past, communities felt left out in many of the development ventures in Arua, but from a couple of interviews with the different communities and municipal technocrats who gave their account of the TSUPU projects, this initiative has been one of a kind.
When the community upgrading funds were received in Arua municipality, the news was publicized to raise citizens’ awareness and participation in the utilization and accountability of the fund. Communities started coming up with different projects to undertake and forwarded them to the municipality for approval. The communities in Arua were truly recognized as partners in development and were involved in the selection and planning of the projects. They also participated actively in project implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
The Community Development Officer Mr.Geoffrey Edema, who was working closely with the secretary to the Municipal Development Forum, Mr. Martin Andama, together subjected the communities’ proposals to technical appraisal so as to clarify any issues, and later invited the same communities to go through the pros and cons of different proposals. After deciding which projects to implement communities received communication from the municipality in writing as to whether their projects’ had gone through the selection phase successfully or otherwise. Those projects whose proposals were successful then received funds for the project in their various accounts.
The different groups then sourced for contractors to carry out the different projects (with guidance from the municipality) so as to make the whole process as transparent as possible. Several contractors were considered, depending on prior experience and to ensure nobody takes advantage of unsuspecting communities.
After agreeing on the contractors to carry out the work, communities - with guidance from the municipality - took charge of the process of approving project commencement. A contractor would write directly to a community with a copy to the municipality requesting a particular sum of money to carry out specific tasks, but would not get the funds without inspection of the work already on the ground by the community in charge of the project with the municipal engineer and other technocrats. In this way, the contractor was kept in check and he could not afford to do sub-standard work.
In case of delays where the contractor felt he was falling behind schedule, he would write to the community with a copy to Arua municipality requesting for an extension of the time given. There was no time for verbal apologies or broken promises as has been common in the past; the process was strict and very transparent.
In the words of one Abbas Matata, a slum dweller in Arua and a leader in the federation in charge of negotiations and partnership, the TSUPU projects in the first phase gave communities the sense of being part and parcel of their own development. ‘When you hear us roaring, don’t just wonder, now you know, we felt so much in charge of these projects. we were like people working in those offices we once feared before and just putting down our signatures to approve the millions of funds in our accounts for the projects felt so good, we felt empowered’’ .
Of the six projects implemented in Arua under TSUPU, five are complete and are already serving the communities in the municipality. They have registered positive impacts and they have become the talk of the municipality. What is left is to have a Memorandum of Understanding put in place between the municipality and the communities, especially those that are directly linked to a community (such as the water projects) to ensure the projects are kept in the hands of communities for sustainability and replication of the same in other needy areas. By 'sustainability' the federation means to ensure that the project is maintained in good condition: for example that the water bills are paid in time to avoid disconnection and the collection area kept clean to ensure water is clean at all times. His Worship, the Mayor of Arua, Charles Asiki and the Deputy Mayor Kalsum Abdu have assured the federation of their support in this regard, as well as in other upcoming activities for the development of Arua city.
Below are the projects in detail:
PROJECT: FENCING OF BIBIA PRIMARY SCHOOL
LOCATION: PANGISHA WARD
GROUP AWARDED: ALIODERUKU MIXED GROUP
The project involved the fencing of a public primary school, Bibia Primary School, which serves as an educational facility for the children of Pangisha ward and the neighbouring parish Mvara. Before the fencing, the school was in such a state that every person would trespass onto the school premises and the children would not concentrate because of this kind of interruption. The school property was also vandalized; for instance, school doors and windows would go missing from time to time. The school sanitation facilities were always in a mess because they were used by the general public. The school land would get encroached from time to time and there were disputes over this. The school’s performance was low and absenteeism was high because children could come and go as they pleased. Parents and guardians could not monitor them and some would join dangerous groups due to peer pressure in the pretext of attending school.
Alioderuku Mixed savings group, a group in Oluod cell made up of 30 members (22 women and 8 men) wrote the proposal to have the school fenced because of the aforementioned issues. Most of the members in this group are widows and have children and grandchildren in the school and they wanted to correct the state of affairs.
Since the fencing of the school, many positive impacts have been registered: children are now kept in school and they can be monitored by their parents and teachers. The school’s performance has also gone up and it is now taking in more pupils than before. The school’s property is now protected and there are no more disputes over the school’s land. What exists now in the area is peace and a good learning environment to study so as to make responsible persons of Uganda’s future leaders. The project shows that the federation recognizes education as a key element to development. The project has meant greater exposure for federation practices in Arua and people are very aware of the works of the federation, with many having joined after seeing such tangible evidence coming right into their community. They have been introduced to the federation rituals of saving and are doing just that to ensure they are change agents in Arua municipality.
The group continues to save and have a total of UGX 3,500,000 in daily savings and have loaned UGX 3,000,000. They have an excellent loaning system with a strict loan officer – an elderly lady called Alupo, also nicknamed ‘catechist ‘because of her strict nature and emphasis on adherence of loan repayment. Their urban poor basket has UGX 355,000. They have several projects such as poultry farming, confectionery, and tailoring and they are also traders of honey from the Congo-Uganda and Sudan-Uganda border. According to the chairperson of the group, Chandiru Esther, the members are thinking of writing a skills development proposal to try and see if they could benefit from the 2nd phase of TSUPU by getting some funds to assist in skill development so as to continue uplifting themselves. PROJECT: CONSTRUCTION OF CULVERT BRIDGE ON AFRA STREAM
LOCATION: KENYA WARD
GROUP AWARDED: AFRA B SAVING GROUP
This project involved the construction of a foot bridge connecting several areas in the municipality; Pajulu-Prison, Adiko cells and Bazaar and Mutu cells. The project came in place due to bad experiences the community had as a result of flooding. Arua generally has hot and dry climate but it has some rainy seasons when the region experiences heavy rains that sometimes cause floods and affect many households. The culvert bridge was constructed to guard against such an occurrence because it will divert the water to appropriate channels. In the past, such floods would mean no business between the neighbouring counties during the rains, it would also cause death of young children and animals who would be carried away by the waters of Afra. The bridge therefore would serve as a remedy for this.
The bridge is now in place and has addressed these needs. The residents are no longer afraid of the wet rainy season; they know things will be different this time around. It has also reduced the distance between the neighbouring cells. Nowadays, residents do not have to trek long distances or go through another cell to access the neighbouring one. It is now simple. School children are also enjoying the facility; in the past they would cover long distances to and from school, leaving little time to study. Business is now booming, keeping in mind that Arua people are very enterprising and hardworking with a big number of immigrants from Congo and Sudan. It is clear that this town is growing at a very fast pace.
Afra B savings group, the group responsible for bringing the project into the locality, have all the documents concerning the project and actively participated in its implementation. At one time there was a delay in completing as the project specified and the contractor had to formally write to the group requesting a grace period. This shows the strictness observed in this project and the communities now feel very valued in the whole process. Mzee Khamisi Marjan had this to say, ‘I could not believe the contractor writing to us apologizing for not completing in time but committing himself to finishing over a specified period, this was unheard of, we have never heard of this! we felt respected for that,. I am an old man and I tell you I have witnessed it projects left incomplete by contractors who knew nobody would do anything to them. But in our case, it was different, we knew we mattered’
PROJECT: WATER PROJECT
LOCATION: AWINDIRI WARD
GROUP AWARDED: NSAMBIA SOUTH UNITED COMMUNITY GROUP
This project involved the provision of water in the locality of Nsambia in order to ease access to this precious commodity for the many households in this area. Before the project establishment, the community would crowd around the only available water point or consume water from unknown sources after purchasing it from people who circulate water on bicycles, which in many cases would lead to diseases.
According to the households interviewed, this project has saved them from paying exploitative costs for water charged during the dry season. In the past they would pay UGX 700 per jerry can; but now they only pay UGX 100 for the water. It has also reduced congestion and quarrels at water points. These are now issues of the past, and people are very organized now. From various views of many men in the area, the project has had an impact right at the family level; misunderstandings between husbands and wives over suspicion of unfaithfulness when the women are out fetching water for long hours are no longer there. Some women also reported that cases of rape and harassment have gone down because they do not walk in the dark anymore. In the past such misfortunes were common, though they would go unreported because women feared reporting to the police due to reprisals. Women are now more productive, having more time to utilize for other activities, rather than spending much of it seeking water. Many of the community members interviewed also shared that the water point has greatly contributed to reduced cases of waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid. The epidemics are a thing of the past in Arua municipality. To the federation at large ,the project has been able to mobilize many into the federation and they have joined saving groups.
PROJECT: BOREHOLE WATER PROJECT
LOCATION: ZAMBIA CELL, MVARA
GROUP AWARDED: NYALUMVA WOMEN GROUP
This project was awarded to a group in Zambia cell made up of women, most of who are wives to teachers in Mvara senior secondary school. They implemented the project in conjunction with Arua municipality and they possess all the necessary documents for the project. The project was to serve several zones in Mvara which lack water. According to residents, they have suffered from the lack of water for as long as they can remember. Since completion of the project, the borehole is now operational and is serving more than 250 households in Mvara. Its management is organized in such way that each zone is represented in deciding matters concerning the borehole, including the charge per month, the collection, and security and maintenance of the borehole.
There are five zones in the area i.e. Coast zone, Ndrifa zone, Orube zone, Anyafio West and Anyafio East zones. Each zone has two representatives on the borehole management committee. The representatives meet regularly to discuss matters pertaining to the borehole & water delivery and propose suggestions for the monthly charge to be paid by consumers. This creates a unified meeting after mobilizing residents of the various zones they represent and then the proposed charges are discussed to arrive at a consensus. Other matters of security and fencing of the borehole also take the same course. The federation is well represented in the committees and is doing a good job of mobilizing other members into the federation and into the culture of saving. PROJECT: CONSTRUCTION OF CULVERT BRIDGE AT OLI A and OLI B
GROUP AWARDED: ARICEN WOMEN A1, A2, B1, B2, C1C2, D1 savings group
This project is soon coming to completion and all operations are moving well to ensure that it is finished within the period of grace granted. It suffered several setbacks from the weather conditions to community dynamics and land disputes but all has been resolved to ensure that the community gets the long-awaited foot bridge to connect Oli A and Oli B to Dadama County. Through consultative meetings between the municipality and the communities, many matters were resolved with a few communities compensated over land. The bridge is set to complete in the month of March and is very welcome in the area. It will shorten the distance covered to access different cells, widen the economic window and diversify economic activities in the area, ultimately putting a stop to the problems caused by floods in the area during the rainy season.
The Aricen women savings group is made of many women, with a few men having joined the group after seeing the successes it was registering. The group has all the documents pertaining to the project and has been very instrumental in resolving disputes around the project, some emanating from the very contentious item - land. They also helped iron out the expectations and misconceptions of TSUPU as a project in the area.
Aricen is a powerful, large federation group (as the name suggests) from A to D covering various cells in Oli. They have a very good loaning system and have been able to undertake several livelihood projects such as goat rearing, basket making, mat weaving, tailoring and bead works, which generate some good income for them. The ability to partner with the municipality on this project has been a very big achievement to them. PROJECT: REFUSE COLLECTION
LOCATION: BAZAAR NETWORK OLD BUS PARK ARUA
This project was implemented by communities, most of them local council leaders in Arua, but not specifically members of the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda. The implementers have however employed many slum dwellers who collect the refuse in the various localities of Arua town to keep the town clean. They have also provided garbage skips in different locations of the town to act as collection points. The project is doing well and although there is a need to scale up to keep Arua clean, the project has been able to contribute positively to the reduction of refuse around the central business district. There are already scenic benefits and the air is not heavy or filthy anymore. With time, and probably with the guidance of the municipality, the group will find ways of scaling up. Solid waste management is proving to be a vibrant area to invest in; it could bring back so much and provide employment to many people if well organized.
Conclusion Looking at how the first phase of TSUPU has taken course in Arua, one is left admiring the collaboration between the municipality and the federation and hoping that things will continue getting better and better as we get into the second phase. Community capacity has been built, their negotiations, management and procurement skills sharpened; they have been empowered and are change agents in the municipality. TSUPU has received a lot of credit among the Arua residents as a program that promotes good, governance and management, for the prudent utilization of the funds to benefit the Ugandan citizenry, especially the poor and marginalized, as well as foster equitable national development.
In 2012 the community of Mshini Wam initiated an innovative approach to the in-situ upgrading of their dense informal settlement. Working closely with the Informal Settlement Network (ISN)—a collective network of informal settlements linking informal settlement civil society groups in five cities in South Africa—and the support NGOs Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC) and iKhayalami, the community worked with City of Cape Town officials, engineers and field officers to upgrade their informal settlement.
Reblocking is a community-led in-situ re-arrangement of shacks in accordance to a community design framework which opens up safer and more dignified public spaces (called “courtyards”). The community was in charge of implementing this project and more than 50 short term job opportunities were created through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) in partnership with the City of Cape Town.
Through the “re-blocking” and community mobilisation processes, topographical, institutional and social issues have been overcome. The “re-blocking” is a priority as it will allow better access to services. To further protect against fires, the community is hoping to use fire-resistant materials when re-building their houses. The city will partner to provide sewer and water lines, as well as electrical poles and electrical boxes for each family.
Re-blocking is more than just technical solutions to improving access to services. It is about a community process that starts with the empowerment of woman through savings schemes, the cohesion and unity of community working together on a broad-based project, and the formation of partnerships with government and other stakeholders in the long term development of the Settlement.
In November 2012, the Mshini Wam community was introduced by long-term development partners Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) to Stephen Lamb and Andrew Lord of Touching the Earth Lightly (TEL). A pilot project was initiated around the building of a “green shack”, which incorporates low-tech, cost effective and sustainable design principles in the in-situ upgrading of informal settlements. By installing vertical gardens on shack walls and “liter of light” which amplifies natural light through a chemical-based dispenser installed in the roof of the shack. The pilot project drew a lot of media attention. The gardens were installed and subsequently the community started greening the courtyards created through reblocking by installing similar gardens.
The Green Shack looks at how simple, low-tech design can transform temporary spaces into “home” spaces. It is focused entirely on what we can achieve now… The next two sides of the cube represent the sun-facing walls of the shack. On these two sides The Green Shack suggests they be wrapped with a fire-proof boarding, covered by a vertical thriving organic vegetable garden. This wall garden creates food for the household. This wall is drip irrigated using a low tech, slow-release gravity fed system via a pipe made of re-cycled car tires. Rain water is also captured off the roof and stored on site. The slow-drip nature of the irrigation system ensures that the wall is constantly wet.
The term “blocking” refers to building or re-building shack according to a spatial development plan. The concept of the “Green Shack” is intended to “piggy-back” this infra-structure development and create what we call “Green Blocks”
With TEL’s low-tech, cost effective and sustainable design products, embedded in the social processes of ISN and the reblocking support from CORC, iKhayalami and ISN technical coordinators, the “green shack” and “green blocks” could inform a new way of looking at productive spaces in informal settlements. For this reason, the South African SDI Alliance partnered with TEL at this year’s Design Indaba at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. This is a opportunity for exhibiting community based planning meeting innovative design.
Be sure to visit the green shack from 1 – 3 March 2013 and have a first hand experience of “green shack” built on site.
Stephen Lamb showcasing the vertical gardens at Design Indaba 2013
The “green shack” from the inside, a 20sqm floor space
This report is intended to document and share aspects of a collaborative project between Slum / Shack Dwellers International (SDI) and the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU).
The project's aim was to construct an ablution facility and a community facility / centre in Kinawataka market, Kampala, Uganda. For this, an architect from SDI, Greg Bachmayer, worked in the office of NSDFU from May - June 2012 to help with cost reductions and design improvements.
Hopefully this report weill communicate in plain terms the technical and social processes that these projects go through and what they intend to achieve.
Community members of Kinawataka, a slum in Kampala, took it upon themselves to upgrade the living standards in their neighbourhood. In the process, they formed a federation, enlisted members who worked and saved together to achieve their common goals.
After having performed an enumeration of their area, mapping structures, surveying the demographics, people’s incomes and other relevant data they had enough to make informed decisions.
This enumeration of Nakawa in 2011, revealed that Kinawataka has over 1,500 families with only 40% of these having access to sanitation. With that in mind, the federation leaders decided that it was imperative that a public sanitation facility be built to service these needs, prompting this project.
An ablution facility would be built that would benefit at least 600 households, and on top would be a community facility that the federation could use as an office.
Kinawataka is a suburb/region, within Kampala, sitting roughly 6.3 km to the north east of the CBD. The are has a mix of residential, commercial and industrial uses.
The site for this facility is a market place in Kinawataka. The Federation leaders have plans to eventually upgrade the whole market place but this was thought to be done in stages. For the time being, they have demolished part of the market place where they want the toilet block to go.
The site is set back off busy Kinawatake Road, which is lined with small businesses setback roughly 20 meters from an active railway line. Behind these shops is where many families reside.
Work done to date
A design had been done by an outsourced architect, who provided the following design (see plans below). As the documents show, there is no reference to any site details. A similar design, by the same architect, was almost complete in Jinja. The first task assigned was how the cost of this design could be reduced.
The first thing done in looking at reducing costs was going through the existing design and looking at itemized costs of various components. The components, which added extra and large costs unnecessarily, included the pitched roof, cast in-situ concrete staircase, window frames and metal balustrades. All of these could be replaced with alternatives made from cheaper sourced materials and labour.
Window frames could be replaced with brick/breezeblock screens and polycarbonate sheeting.
Pitched roof could be replaced with a raked roof
Steel balustrades could be replaced with brick walls.
Cast in-situ staircase could be replaced with a precast concrete system developed and used extensively in East Africa
These discussions were facilitated by an in-house engineer with extensive experience in local building and costing. This is uncommon in most affiliates but demonstrates the capacity to significantly strengthen the technical capacity of other similar organisations.
The local Council in Nakawa agreed to provide assistance with this project. Before works could proceed, a contract needed to be signed between the Council, the Federation, and SDI regarding the terms and conditions for assistance. In this contract, it was agreed that SDI would provide 60% of the funding in the form of a loan, repaid at an interest rate of 8%. The Council would provide 20% of project costs (land and technical assistance), the community provides 20% (cash and labour) and a 60% loan from SDI's Urban Poor Fund International.
When the mayor’s deputies read through the contract they were alarmed by this, claiming that they had not known this money would be “loaned” and thought it would be a donation. The initial reaction was that they couldn’t agree to these terms.
It took a 2 hour meeting to sufficiently explain that the "loan” would create a revolving fund, meaning that the money never returned to SDI. When the money is fully repaid, the money would go towards another community and facilitate the construction of a similar project. The money would not be repaid by approaching individual community members and requesting payment in the form of a tax, but rather achieved through charging individuals a small amount to use the facilities. This business model would then allow several facilities to be built in a more sustainable way than the previous model of donating the whole amount and only building a single building.
Inflation in Uganda sits at roughly 18%, so with an interest rate of 8%, this “loan” is actually free money, depreciating at a rate of 16% every year (assuming this rate of inflation continues). Thus the fund will eventually be worn away in time.
Once this was all understood, it was agreed that Council needed to get its legal council to go over the details, but in short, the project had the Mayor’s blessing. SDI was given an informal green-light to proceed with the project.
A visit to the site revealed that the drawings produced by the previous architect were too big for the area. Significant planning and scale changes were required to make this building work with the immediate context. Other issues which were raised by this included the topography of the site as there is a significant slope with varying levels. The drawings provided had no reference to any levels at all.
Typical procedure would be to get a formal survey done of the site, including topography, trees (height + radius), building footprints, roof ridges and any other significant landscape features.
In this case, there were various political aspects pushing this project and they needed to build the facility as quickly as possible. To put this in perspective, the site visit was on the 5 May and the federation wanted to have the first floor built by 28 May. Two weeks… A lot would need to be decided on site as it was built.
Taking into consideration the discussions in replacing components, changes in site proportions and also looking at making the building more aesthetically pleasing, a redesign was done.
In short, the planning remained almost the same, except that the accessible toilet was made bigger (to meet then Ugandan standards) and 2 cubicles were removed to accommodate the downscaling in size.
A combination of brick screens and polycarbonate sheeting were used on the ground floor to create a more cost friendly opening whilst using a visual language on slits in the building fabric. This was also applied on the level 1 balcony to create a screen and a courtyard effect. The bottom half would remain as exposed brick (savings on rendering) whilst only the top half would be rendered and painted white, standing out as a civic point of reference in a landscape of single storey shacks.
The windows on the top floor would be made from locally made breezeblocks with a fly screen backing and a small eave to prevent water getting in. This would help constant ventilation and shading without compromising security.
The raked roof would also maximize the amount of water the building could harvest. Storing the water tank on the first floor balcony placed it close to the gutter and allowed gravity to apply the water pressure to re-use this in the toilets.
Do the communities and the government engage with each other on matters of development? How is this relationship? What is the need of this relationship? What impedes this relationship? How has the relationship evolved between communities and local authorities in Uganda? How can we ensure that these relationships are sustainable even in the future to come? These questions, among others, were the purpose of the recent German Agency for International Corporation (GIZ) and SDI mission to Uganda in late January 2013.The team consisted of David Satterthwaite from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), Celine D’Cruz, an SDI coordinator and co-founder of SPARC, and Sonia Fadrigo, the SDI regional coordinator for Asia.
Jinja was one of three cities to be visited as part of the GIZ project. The two other cities selected include Harare, Zimbabwe and Pune, India. The team's main focus was on joint projects between local government and the urban poor and the conditions that allow such projects to succeed.
The communities and the Jinja Municipality were very receptive during this mission. The officials at the municipality availed themselves and were very cooperative while interacting with the team.
The Jinja municipality officials - the Town Clerk, Deputy Town clerk as well as other technocrats - showed a lot of interest while giving their account of how their relationship with local Jinja urban poor communities has evolved over time. According to the Town Clerk of Jinja, the relationship between the municipality and the slum dwellers' communities in Jinja can be termed as ‘protective’ in such a way that even if some individual wants to overstep then the rest will keep an eye on him or her. Jinja municipality has become a learning site for most municipalities who want to explore the successes in Jinja. Mbarara, Lira and Rukunjiri municipalities have visited the municipality on learning missions to learn about how to drive development in their municipalities.
The physical planner of Jinja municipality described the relationships as a cordial one that dates back to 1995 when research exercises initiated programs such as the Danida project in Walukuba division. Several settlements have been set aside for planning: Soweto, Kikaramoja, Kibuga Mbata.The structural plans to enable this are being developed. A detailed plan has been prepared for Soweto where the municipality will work on roads. A consultative meeting was planned for Soweto that afternoon.
In Kibuga Mbata, consultative meetings are underway on how to best plan for the settlement. People have to be sensitized that planning standards are not an obstacle but that they facilitate good development for beauty, orderly development and it is important to economic,environmental,health benefits’.
The team was keen to learn how community expectations are reconciled with the Municipality's mandatory requirements such as building codes and construction designs, which are usually set to be followed by law. Such issues are bound to arise, especially due to affordability of houses while dealing with the poor. To this, the physical planner shared that such cases are addressed by holding community discussions around an issue. A case in point was Kawama construction site whose building plans had to be realigned so as to fit an agreed design reached at after several meetings between the council, ACTogether and the communities. The technocrat’s offices are always open and the parties are ready to interact with communities over issues.
Issues on the sustainability of this relationship were also explored in view of changing government and structural adjustments which might bring new persons on board who might not be as supportive to communities and their projects as their predecessors. To this query, the town clerk shared his experience in Jinja. He is new in Jinja and has been at the station now for four months but he has been working with the communities like he has known them for 10 years and beyond. The relationship is strong and almost natural because the communities are also eager to collaborate and bring development to Jinja. It leaves one with no choice but to blend in and move with the times. He says he was briefed by his predecessor upon taking office four months ago and this is what happens to any new technocrat joining the municipality. This has ensured continued collaboration with communities. A Memorandum of Understanding is also to be signed to seal this deal amidst other joint working group exercises already underway in Jinja between the municipality and the communities of slum dwellers.
The question of local revenues contributing to developing Jinja municipality was also broached and, according to the technocrats at the Jinja municipality, local revenues mobilized in Jinja are necessary but not sufficient to develop and supply adequate services for the fast-growing population. Jinja local goverment, originally founded as colonial administrative institutions, has not been restructured to cope with the fast-growing population. The municipality is financially weak and relies on financial transfers and assistance from the central government. Moreover, tax administrations are often inefficient and not able to properly account for revenues collected. For instance, 25% of the local revenue collected goes to the Local Council leaders and, once distributed, leaves no finances to develop the many zones and parishes in Jinja municipality.
Cities Alliance TSUPU Projects
In a meeting with the Commissioner of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, the relationship between the Government and communities was further expounded. There has been a change in the way communities relate to the Government and vice versa, especially under the TSUPU project. The Government carried out a few projects before trying to address the issue of slums in Uganda, for instance in Namugongo settlement in Kampala. The Government acquired land but did not conduct comprehensive engagements with the slum dweller communities. The communities were not regarded as partners but as beneficiaries, and in fact regarded themselves as beneficiaries; they felt that the Government was doing them a favour and hence let the Government take control of everything such that even when the construction was over, the now-planned area started suffering from lack of public accountability and collective responsibility for sustainable development. Soon after the market values of the area went up, because the area was now planned. The people were bought off (silent eviction); they sold their houses and moved to a nearby wetland, hence creating another slum, (Kanyogoga/Soweto in Kampala). That project was not sustainable because it did not involve the partners (slum dwellers) who the settlement was being planned for.
The Government has learnt a great deal from then on and has tried to take in lessons from partners such as the SDI who recognize that slum dwellers are part of the urban economy. Urbanization in Uganda, unlike in other developed nations, is driven by poverty. The high rural-urban migration is a major contributor, with people coming to town to make a little more income than they make in the rural areas. Upon arriving in the cities, people then decide to make their stay permanent, leaving the unprepared cities which have to absorb these migrants. This tells us that the slum issue is not about to end and hence the time to act is NOW.
The people in Uganda have the power to solve many issues if only they are organized; one of the good practices of SDI is organizing slum communities into a unified group championing a cause. In Uganda, elective politics is practiced and this gives communities an upper hand in deciding on leadership, for example they can choose pro-poor leaders and engage in profitable partnerships to change their lives.
Experiences of TSUPU in Uganda
The program of TSUPU by the Cities Alliance and World Bank has been a successful one and one that has clearly shown a shift in the way the Government relates to local communities. It is a collaboration between the central government, local governments and the communities working together in a complimentary nature. The program has three major components: the urban forums, the Community Upgrading funds and now the Municipal Development funds.
Urban Forums have been a forum in which the slum dwellers, the middle class, the academia, municipal officials and generally the public have been engaging in discussions to develop their municipalities. These forums have now scaled down to settlement level where we have the communities engaging with their leaders, such as local council leaders, over issues aimed at bringing development in their settlements. In the past there was a little tension, whereby the middle class felt the slum dwellers should not be part of the discussions, but over time people were made to realize the need of engaging each and everyone in the discussions
How do the Community Upgrading funds operate?
All the Ministries are required to have accounts with the Central Bank. A Memorandum of Understanding is signed between the Ministry and the municipality. The ministry then transfers the funds to the municipalities’ accounts in US dollars. The Community Upgrading Fund is regarded as a public fund, managed as the law requires. It calls for procurement of services from a contractor by competitive basis.
The current CUF procurement guideline is rigid because it excludes slum dwellers who do not have companies themselves to compete with those who have been in business for ages. This can be corrected by either revising the CUF guidelines and including a clause which calls for communities' / slum dwellers' certification of payment to a contractor only after the work is well done. This is in view of the shoddy work some of the CUF projects portray. (One example is the Masese toilet which is only 3 feet deep! This is very disturbing especially because this is a community facility. Logic suggests that even a household toilet is much deeper than this! Yet it’s a community project, even a household toilet is much deeper.)
The second option would be to register a slum dwellers construction company that would be able to compete favorably with the other companies once a bid is out. The federation has a history of excellent community facilities and they would surely give competition to other firms when that time comes.
How can local authorities support the local communities in accessing financial services?
From a visit to BAMU (Bring Amber Coat Members to Unite), a savings group in Amber Coat market, there is a lot of financial discipline among members of the saving group. The loaning system is up to task with members being fined if the rules set out by the group are not adhered to. This group has borrowed large sums of monies from a financial institution - Pearl Micro Finance - which has a very high interest rate (36% per annum) and collateral of 60% of the total loan required which is very expensive for the communities. The community hopes to continue engaging the municipality to find out how the issue of collateral security can be addressed so that they can access funds. This is however a long shot because most, in fact all financial institutions in Uganda, are privately owned and are very profit oriented.
BAMU savings group is also seeking a loan from SUUBI (the Ugandan Alliance's national urban poor fund) for the second time. They have a good history with repayments of large-sum loans and it is hoped that BAMU will act as a successful pilot for the SUUBI to be scaled up to other community groups in due course.
Local communities in many municipalities are able to access Community Driven Development funds (CDD), but these are usually small sums of monies not exceeding UGX 5,000,000 (approximately USD $1,899).This kind of money is welcome but it cannot support big projects that have a big impact to communities such as construction of toilets, water stand points, opening of roads, among others. The remedy here would be to widen the threshold for the CDD funds so that communities are able to access them, since they are further limited in getting these funds when it comes to the Community Upgrading funds as of present.
USMID: How does the USMID program feed into the TSUPU project?
Uganda Support to Municipal Infrastructural development (USMID) is an extension of TSUPU in which 9 more municipalities will be supported by the World Bank and Cities Alliance with the aim of responding to the municipal local governments’ challenges in the context of the Government of Uganda’s broader Local Government Development Program. This will be done by addressing the need for the institutional and financial strengthening of selected municipal Local Governments’ and financing limited infrastructure investments needs by introducing an enhanced urban window to the government Local Government Development Program.
Uganda's 5 Cities Program (TSUPU) has been a training ground, and the experiences are invaluable for USMID though the lessons are still being learnt. For instance, there will be need to collaboration with the Ministry of Local Government especially on the issue of transfers of municipal town clerks over the USMID program period. Such transfers have, in the past under TSUPU, caused major delays andprogram reception problems. There also still needs a mentality change at the municipal council level; the municipality should stop viewing TSUPU as a Ministry’ program but as a program for their own municipalities and designed to benefit their own municipalities.
The mission was very beneficial to all the parties involved as it is always good to get an outsider's view of how the Federation is working and how the relationship between the government and the local communities is evolving. Lessons from other SDI affiliate countries were shared and ideas exchanged on how we can all continue to build from best practices to develop Uganda.
Langrug informal settlement hosted an SDI-AAPS studio this past year.
By Noah Schermbrucker, SDI Secretariat
Last week's 5 Cities Seminar focused on building relationships; relationships between urban poor communities and government, between federations of the urban poor in different cities who face similar, yet unique, challenges and between the formal and informal worlds that shape rapidly urbanizing cities. Throughout the conference, urban planners from the African Association of Planning Schools (AAPS) have joined communities and officials to learn about incremental informal settlement upgrading.
Partnerships with university planning schools can produce tangible results and leverage resources for urban poor communities. Over the past year, AAPS and SDI have facilitated a number of planning studios (In Uganda, Cape Town and Malawi) with various outputs (e.g. settlement-wide upgrading strategies, circulation and infrastructure designs, and detailed maps of previously undocumented settlements). The studios have started to remove planners from the comfort of their offices and challenged antiquated norms and standards, ensuring a serious engagement with urban poor communities. These engagements need to be sustained and not once off interventions so that their value is not significantly diminished.
On the third day of the 5 Cities conference, planners from across Africa held a separate reflection session where they received a detailed brief on the Cape Town planning studio which took place in the beginning of 2012 and discussed the other studios that had taken place in Kampala and Malawi. The Cape Town studio, a partnership between the South African SDI Alliance and The University of Cape Town has taken place for the last two years. The 2012 studio was a 6-month engagement with Langrug, the informal settlement that the 5 Cities delegates visited on day 1 of the conference.
Students with backgrounds in urban planning and architecture worked with the community to produce upgrading plans for the settlement to be used by the local municipality with whom the community already has an MoU. A significant challenge is what actual impacts such long terms plans have, and if more immediate short or medium term plans would have led to more immediate results for the community, rather than grand scale long term visions.
Further discussions ranged across a number of studio related topics, including what type and level of students have worked on the studios, how studios should become sustainable permanent fixtures in the curriculum, the importance of drawing in government officials to maximize political capital and momentum and how the studio, in a dialogic engagement between community leaders and students, should set community priorities and have tangible outputs.
An important point raised by Professor Mtafu Muanda from Malawi was about working in communities that do not have a large SDI presence. He related how the planning studio in Salisbury Lines, Mzuzu had worked with a much larger community and there was a relatively insignificant SDI federation. He explained that for a studio to be effective it had to draw in the whole community and not just a select group of federation members as this fragments the community and might undermine traditional leadership structures. In the case of the Blantyre studio, the Federation used the studio to mobilize the larger community and make them aware of their activities. The traditional leadership structure, and their buy-in into the studio, also assisted greatly with making the studio a community wide process.
Images from the SDI-AAPS Studio at Salisbury Lines settlement in Mzuzu.
In addition, new studios were mooted, especially outside of South Africa, for the upcoming year. In Tanzania preparations are already underway for a collaborative studio between the SDI affiliate (CCI - Center for Community Initiatives) and Ardhi University; a Namibian studio will take place later in the year and the possibility of a studio in Zimbabwe was raised. The point was stressed that such studios need to become a part of the curriculum and not singular events.
Just as planning does not occur in a silo, separated form local contexts of informality, neither does the shaping of a city. The links between legislators, planners, implementers and communities are evident, although all too often not given enough consideration. Because of these links, it makes sense that AAPS planners form part of the 5 Cities programme and learn about informal settlement planning and upgrading, themes that are relevant to experiences and conditions of informality in South Africa and across the African continent.
Building relationships between planners and urban poor communities is an important part of SDI’s ongoing efforts to link the formal with the informal. There is certainly a space for planners within such partnerships, as long as they are positioned not as “top down” professionals but as co-learners who work with the community to produce tangible results based on community priorities and grounded reality.
Community members and government partner from Harare, Zimbabwe talk about their experiences with the 5 Cities Programme.
By Chantal Hildebrand, SDI Secretariat
Following the first two days of site visits and walkabouts in Mtshini Wam and Langrug, the final day of the 5 Cities Seminar consisted of country and municipality presentations and discussion in the City of Cape Town government building located in the heart of the city. Unlike the first days’, which focused on sharing the Cape Town partnership, projects and overall experience, the final day’s schedule was dedicated to learning from the other 5 Cities around Africa.
After brief opening remarks from Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member for Utility Services Shehaam Sims thanking all the delegates for the participation in this conference, the delegation from Ghana was given the floor. Through the 5 Cities Programme, the collaboration with the municipality of Ashaiman and the Ghana Homeless People’s Federation has made significant strides in terms of innovation around sanitation. Based on a common goal of providing toilets and waste management services to slums in Ashaiman, an area included in the Greater Accra region, the municipality and communities have come together address this community priority. As stated by the government official, Mr Anass Atchulo, this partnership has led to some significant changes in policy, with the creation of an informal settlement-upgrading department in the city of Accra is underway. Adding to Mr Atchulo’s words, Mrs Janet Abu, a community leader from Old Fadama settlement in Accra, mentioned the importance of community's involvement, stating that without their initiative and work none of these projects could be realised.
Following Ghana's presentation, Mr Costly Chanza from the Blantyre City Council, shared the challenges and successes experienced during the formation of a partnership between the Municipality of Blantyre and the Malawi Homeless People's Federation. Proving that all slums are decidedly unique, the slums of Malawi are rather peri-urban, with low densities and characteristics reminiscent of a rural villages. As it was explained by Mr Partick Chikoti, a member of the supporting NGO in Malawi, “We cannot plan like the communities of Langrug or Mtshini Wam because the nature of our slums are completely different [with structures made out of home-made brick and cement]… so we find our own way of planning.” This is where the City comes in, sharing their technical support and advice to help the community implement projects such as sanitation units and drains. Similar to Ghana, the outcomes of this collaborative work has led to both the communities and city planners advocating for the creation of a human settlements planning section of the municipality to further meet the needs of the slums in Blantyre.
Continuing to share other experiences, the Zimbabwean delegation highlighted crucial lessons learned through the 5 Cities programme and the realities of creating partnerships. Through the partnership between the city council of Harare and slum dweller communities, the weight of responsibilities the city is faced with in terms of providing for its people has been lifted with the help of community-run initiatives. Mr James Chiyangwa from the city council of Harare shared that the communities “provide back-up systems of services that the city has failed to provide [to slum communities].” In turn, the city provides technical assistance, equipment, and advice to the communities in terms of planning. This collaboration has led to crucial changes in policy, including incremental buildin, which have been adopted as city policy, and the creation of a finance facility for the funding of slum upgrading to which both the governments and communities contribute. Drastically changing the mind-set of the government of Harare from the pervious belief that slums did not exist in Zimbabwe to beginning to recognize the existence of these settlements and finally to creating a working relationship between these two parties, this partnership allows these previously unseen informal settlements to take an active role in improving their living conditions and participating in local governance. As Mrs Sekai Catherine Chiremba, a federation member from Zimbabwe, summed it up, “we are planning with them, not them planning for us.”
The Uganda delegation finished the round of presentations adding their striking work in sanitation, water and waste management in multiple settlements in Kampala and across Uganda. With projects focusing on these central issues facing slum communities (along with the collaborative work between the community and the city), the KCC (Kampala City Council) has asked the National Slum Dwellers Federation in Uganda to submit a proposal of how the city can scale up current community-run sanitation and solid waste programmes. This achievement, along with the joint-work teams made up of the community members and city planners, has graduated the federation of Uganda to “a key ally [of the KCC] in terms of the processes geared towards improving the living conditions of slum communities,” (Mrs Sara Nandudu, federation member). This status has also been replicated in other municipalities where the federation and communities have begun partnerships with local governments.
Sara Nandudu of the National Slum Dweller Federation of Uganda.
Although there are notable achievements that have been realised through these partnerships, it would be unrealistic to omit the challenges. All the delegations (including those from Cape Town and other South African cities) mentioned similar challenges, including:
Slow results – as mentioned by multiple delegates from Uganda, Malawi, Cape Town, Ghana and Zimbabwe the processes are slow and the work takes time which can lead to community and municipal frustration and tensions;
The struggle faced by many politicians and technocrats to learn how to do planning the way it is done by slum communities – as explained by many city representatives, planners do not learn how to work with or like the community, so the way communities plan does not follow the guidelines and procedures that the planners are taught. This can cause clashes between the two and can obstruct the progress of projects;
Federation creating strong relationships with some departments in municipality while other departments are reluctant to participate in the partnership;
Confusion of roles and responsibilities within municipal departments;
Disagreements between federation members and municipality of how to proceed with the work;
Strains due to lack of funds.
As Mrs Melanie Manuel summarised it − using a metaphor coined by Ms Rose Molokoane comparing these partnerships to marriages, “husbands and wives always fight…like we do in our partnerships… [Now we must think of] how do we enhance our partnership? How can we make this marriage work?”
It was agreed that the best way to answer these questions is through trust. Borrowing the phrase of Mr Chinyangwa of Zimbabwe, “without trust you cannot move forward.” Both municipalities and communities must learn to trust each other through these relationships. However, for this to be successful it is essential that these partnerships be inclusive, where slum dwellers are involved from the planning stages through implementation and finally into evaluation. Without community participation throughout the process the work is not sustainable. As Patrick Magebhula said, it is essential to have “community involvement, not just leadership…this is what is needed in order for projects to succeed.”
Following the presentations of the visiting countries, the podium was opened for the representatives of municipalities outside of Cape Town, including the city of Johannesburg, Buffallo City and Nelson Mandela Bay Metro.
These presentations included little mention of current or future community participation or partnerships. Programmes already in place in many of these cities demonstrated a separation between communities and their governments, treating the slum dwellers as solely beneficiaries rather than key partners in upgrading initiatives. When questioned about this fragmentation, some of the municipalities mentioned their perception that the informal communities are disorganised, making it hard to work with them and appealed to ISN and CORC to help these communities mobilise.
Lutwamma Muhammed of the Ugandan support NGO.
In concluding the conference, Ms Rose Molokoane posed a final question to the municipalities: “What are the critical issues that we would like to do with communities?” This brought up the topic of sharing between municipalities. Mr Lutwama Muhammed, from the support NGO in Uganda, shared that the municipalities’ presentations talked “more about what they are doing in terms of projects rather than describing how they learn from one another.” The invitation to these South African cities was extended in order to encourage learning and spark future plans for exchange visits and learning workshops. Ms Molokoane extended this invitation further by sharing a vision of these five cities (Buffallo City, Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, Cape Town and Stellenbosch) becoming the examples of a national level 5 Cities programme for South Africa.
The ending reflection brought up key points to address upon delegates’ return to their own cities and to discuss in future 5 Cities seminars. These subjects included:
Discussions of how the pioneers who work with SDI can help share the core practices and support other cities who show interest in creating inclusive processes;
Need to capacitate communities to create their own partnerships or, as Trevor Masiy eloquently stated, “communities need to learn to speak for themselves.”
Begin looking at the structural issues of why we have slums and the root causes of their existence;
Considerations of other forums for these discussions and exchanges (such as the South African City Network);
How to ensure that agreements made in these forums and conferences will be realised on the ground;
And finally, the importance of scaling up and bringing these discussions and initiatives to city-wide and nation-wide levels.
Ms Molokoane tied off the three-day 5 Cities Seminar with these final words, “Let’s not only look at building projects, but building ourselves, taking care of ourselves, and making our lives better.”
Community members showcase model homes in Mtshini Wam.
By Ariana K. MacPherson, SDI Secretariat
The second day of the 5 Cities Seminar kicked off in Mtshini Wam, a settlement of roughly 200 households located in the greater Joe Slovo Park area of Milnerton, Cape Town. The day focused a lot of attention on the change that is possible through re-blocking, or blocking out, a community-led upgrading methodology that reconfigures a community’s layout to transform tiny passageways, dangerous and impassable, into wide walkways with courtyards where children can play and women can hang washing to dry. Shacks upgraded with fire-retardant material face each other, providing added safety for families who can now find shelter from the Cape’s sometimes harsh conditions.
A wide walkway and upgraded shacks in re-blocked Mtshini Wam.
Mtshini Wam was founded in 2006 when settlers occupied open spaces of a government-funded housing settlement in Joe Slovo Park. Though the Western Cape Anti-Land Invasion Unit responded with threats of demolitions, The South African National Civic Organization (SANCO) and Informal Settlement Unit (City of Cape Town) were able to prevent evictions.
Mtshini Wam settlement expanded and continued to grow. Households in Mtshini Wam depended on water and services from the formal RDP houses, paying up to R50 (USD $6) a month for water. When Mtshini Wam asked the City to provide them with service delivery, they were told this could not be done because the settlement’s density was too high and there were no access roads. Greg Exford, Informal Settlements Manager for the City of Cape Town, said during his welcoming remarks on Wednesday that, “This area was, per capita, so dense that under normal conditions the City would never have been able to make it work.”
In 2009, responding to a lack of services and the challenges they had faced in trying to work with City, community leadership from Mtshini Wam approached the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) for support. “Prior to re-blocking, the settlement was very dense,” said community leader Nokwezi Klaas, “There were no passageways and when there were fires it was virtually impossible to get into the settlement. All the toilets were on the outskirts and there were only three water taps for over 200 households in the settlement.”
Local community leader Nokwezi Klaas describes her work in Mtshini Wam.
2009 was the starting point of a partnership between the Mtshini Wam community, CORC and ISN and the City of Cape Town. To date, this partnership has allowed the community to carry out a settlement-wide enumeration and re-blocking process, install chemical toilets and water taps, and upgrade their shacks using durable, fire-resistant material. Both the City and the community agree that this would never have been possible without a strong, dialogic partnership.
Representatives from ISN, including Western Cape coordinator Mzwanele Zulu (pictured on far left) and the City of Cape Town, including Greg Exford, Informal Settlements Manager for the City of Cape Town, were present at the gathering in Mtshini Wam on Wednesday.
“This project will go down in the history books of human settlements,” said Mr. Exford, “It shows what can be done when the community works together with partners in government… In order to make government work for informal settlements, we have to fuse the conventional with the unconventional, otherwise it’s not going to work.”
Councillor Ernest Sonnenberg, the Mayoral Committee Member for Utilities Services, echoed this point, stating that, “Unless you physically take the community with you and ask them how we are going to achieve change together, you are going to get nowhere. In this way, you can find the synergy between what is demanded and what is feasible.”
Luthando Klaas, another community leader and supervisor for the Mtshini Wam technical team, described some of the more technical aspects of the upgrading process in Mtshini Wam. There are seven teams, made up solely of community members, responsible for different aspects of upgrading. These include a technical team, gardening team, carpentry team, cleaning team, compacting team, demolition team and a building team.
Mr. Klaas describes the various aspects that influenced the design process for the layout planning of the settlement. “When they started the design process,” he says, “one of the important things was to see how to improve services and improve safety and security so that police and emergency vehicles can come into the community and the community can feel safe in their space.”
In addition to this, he describes the sometimes-challenging process of negotiating with the community about the size of structures. During the enumeration, it became apparent that the size of structures varied considerably from one household to the next. In order to make adequate space for each household, community members agreed that no structure would exceed 20 sq. meters in size, allowing those households occupying the smallest shacks (some under 5 sq. meters in size) to live in more comfortable, livable spaces. This willingness to sacrifice individual gain for the benefit of the whole community is something that is quite understandably nearly impossible without a community-led process.
Mr. Klaas spoke confidently about the community’s plans for the future, stating “we don’t want to be in shacks forever.” Members of the technical team showcased housing models that illustrate the community’s hopes for permanent, brick houses and their determination to continue upgrading their settlement. Klaas emphasized that, “it does not end with iKhayalami [upgraded] shacks. The community was able to move from wooden shacks to safer structures, and now they want to continue to move up to more livable structures for themselves – brick houses.”
Following these presentations by the community, the group of roughly 100 participants had a chance to walk around the settlement and witness the change made through the processes of re-blocking and upgrading. Wide walkways give way to courtyards where clothes hang to dry and kids play under their mothers’ feet. Each cluster contains between 10-15 shacks and is built around a courtyard, sharing a communal vegetable garden that grows everything from spinach to dill to tomatoes. Shacks without adequate exposure to sunlight are lit with low-cost solar lights made from a plastic soda bottle filled with water and bleach. A community member welcomes a few others and me into his home so that we can see just how much light one of these bottle-lights can provide.
A community member from Mtshini Wam describes his solar-powered light to another community member from Zimbabwe.
Community leader Nokwezi Klaas shows a community garden to a community member from Ghana.
All in all, the most striking thing about Mtshini Wam is the spirit of the community. They have transformed their impassable settlement into a neighborhood. There is a sense of pride and enthusiasm that is contagious, a reality which is evident in the inspired words of the city officials present at the gathering.
After a morning in Mtshini Wam, the afternoon was spent in the chambers of the City of Cape Town government building. Participants were given the opportunity to discuss and reflect on their experiences in Langrug and Mtshini Wam. The afternoon session began with introductions by Vuyani Mnyango, a local ISN leader, and Mkhabela Estavao, a FEDUP leader from KwaZulu-Natal province. Mr. Mnyango began by describing the formation of the ISN in Cape Town and the steps that were taken to build a partnership with the City.
“In 2011,” Mnyango says, “it was decided that the partnership needed to take action on the ground.” Today, CORC, ISN and the City of Cape Town are engaged in re-blocking processes in the settlements of Mtshini Wam, BBT Section of Khayelitsha, Vygieskraal and Masilunge.
Mkhabela Estavao describes South Africa’s Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), a national network of women’s centered savings groups that, in partnership with CORC and ISN, mobilizes poor people to improve their lives. FEDUP was started in 1991 and is one of the oldest federations in the SDI network, having given birth to a number of other affiliates across the African continent. Membership currently sits at roughly 20,000, but Ms. Estavao emphasizes that this number does not even begin to capture the number of families that have been impacted by the work of FEDUP. For example, she states that over 80,000 families have received housing through the Federation’s processes. When FEDUP realized that they could have even greater impact by involving men more actively, ISN was formed.
Leon Poleman, Project Manager with the City of Cape Town, was next to speak. He spoke of his experience working with CORC and ISN on upgrading and re-blocking, of his inexperience planning for informal settlements and his initial skepticism at the somewhat unconventional methods already being implemented by ISN in Mtshini Wam when he arrived on the scene.
“I come from a formal engineering background,” he said, “When you go to university and technikon, no one speaks of the design of informal settlements, or at least not in my time. So it was quite simple: In my day there were no informal settlements, and this re-blocking thing, we don’t know anything about it, so off you go! And back into our meetings we went to keep discussing how we go about this.”
But what Mr. Poleman quickly realized was that these unconventional methods were the perfect compliment to his formal engineering background, and that through working hand in hand with the community, they were able to find solutions that would have been impossible had the community not been involved. He concluded with a reminder to the other professionals in the room: “We have to understand that this is informal by its nature,” and that therefore, the solutions we find must speak to this informality.
Shortly after this, the discussion was opened up to comments and questions from the floor. Councillor James Slabbert, Portfolio Head for Human Settlements for the City of Cape Town, expressed a keen interest in learning more about the work being done in Langrug, and welcomed CORC and ISN’s input in utilizing their experience with re-blocking to provide input to the drafting of policy around informal settlement upgrading for the City. Mzwanele Zulu, ISN Coordinator for the Western Cape, was pleased to hear the City’s willingness to make re-blocking part of informal settlement upgrading policy, and urged the City to stick to its word on this point. Following the meeting, arrangements were made by CORC staff and ISN leaders to meet with Mr. Slabbert at a later date to continue these discussions.
Another issue that came to the fore during this session was the question of secure tenure for residents of settlements like Langrug and Mtshini Wam, questioning whether upgrading and re-blocking do enough towards this aim. Patrick Magebhula, national coordinator for ISN, confirmed that “the reasons for upgrading is to allow people to live where they are now, so re-blocking is just another way to give people land tenure where they live.”
Greg Exford echoed this point, stating, “If we do upgrading [in our informal settlements], people are given security of tenure. If we do enumerations, as soon as we have that person on [the City’s] database, they have security of tenure.”
The meeting closed on a positive note, with a colleague from Zambia commending CORC, ISN and the City of Cape Town. “What you have achieved in Mtshini Wam is a huge achievement. This is a wonderful first step. Now how do we get other communities on board so that we can spread upgrading to more communities?”
This is the key question for the 5 Cities Programme. Earlier in the day, Mzwanele Zulu had expressed his eagerness to scale up the activities in Mtshini Wam to settlements across Cape Town. In Cape Town, thanks to a growing partnership with the City, this becoming more of a reality. Despite challenges and setbacks, experiences like that of Mtshini Wam is evidence of the promise these partnerships can bring when the community takes the lead.
By Chantal Hildebrand & Ariana K. MacPherson, SDI Secretariat
Today marked the first day of the third 5 Cities Seminar, being held in Cape Town, South Africa from 5 – 7 February. Delegations made up of slum dwellers, government officials, support staff, and academic partners from across South Africa, and from the cities of Accra in Ghana, Kampala in Uganda, Blantyre in Malawi and Harare in Zimbabwe have come to share in the learning over the course of these three days.
The 5 Cities Programme is an initiative started in the aforementioned cities in Malawi, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Ghana and South Africa to support slum communities and local governments to work together with the goal of taking incremental slum upgrading to the citywide scale. Through collaboration on precedent-setting projects, slum communities and their municipalities begin a dialogue where the experiences and knowledge of the slum dwellers plays a crucial role in the development of their cities. These discussions have led to innovative and scalable slum upgrading projects, which demonstrate the strength of truly inclusive partnerships between the formal and informal in changing the face of their communities.
Rose Molokoane, a member of the SDI board and national coordinator of the South African Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), opened the day’s programme with an enthusiastic speech, addressing both the slum dwellers and government officials present at Franschoek Town Hall. She made it clear that SDI’s objective is to “connect the world from the bottom to the top, putting the people in front.” She stressed the importance of building partnerships in order to do this, comparing the relationships being built between slum communities and their local governments to the building of a marriage. Ms. Molokoane expressed that, although these relationships have their ups and downs, in the end we hope to be able to look at each other as equals. With this mindset, and the implementation of collaborative work between municipalities and slum dwellers, projects in these five cities will set a precedent of slum upgrading at scale, and will be able to serve as a model for other cities around the world. Ms. Molokoane ended her speech with the promise that, “When we go together as 5 Cities, we come together as a collective and leave as one!”
Following Ms. Molokoane’s address, the Mayor of Stellenbosch, Mr. Conrad Sidego, spoke about the municipality’s experience working with the community of Langrug, an informal settlement on the slopes of a mountain in the beautiful Franschoek valley. With a historical past, Stellenbosch has experienced many challenges and setbacks in terms of slum upgrading. Using the words of the Mayor, “We can’t change our past, but with time we can change the course of history…which is what we are trying to do today.”
Following these welcoming remarks, roughly 104 delegates joined the Langrug community for a site visit to the Langrug settlement. As “a settlement in transition” (borrowed term from a slum dweller from Johannesburg), Langrug, like many of the settlements in the other five cities present at the seminar, is currently working on a number of projects in collaboration with the Stellenbosch municipality around housing, water and sanitation, and general upgrading.
The delegation broke into four groups with community members as the group leaders. The groups spent an hour visiting four different sites: re-blocking, sanitation, relocation and a WASH facility (water, sanitation, hygiene). At each site, community members, government officials and support staff explained the details of the projects, and visiting delegates were given time to ask questions and experience the work taking place in Langrug..
At the reblocking site, the Langrug community presented maps and plans for the reblocking project taking place in F block, the largest section of the community. The presenters explained that the process of reblocking begins with community-led profiling and enumeration of the settlement. After this process, community members are trained in GIS mapping and planning, where they use these skills to create their own maps of their community. Together, the community plans how they will rebuild each section to best fit the wants and needs of the community members living there.
Based on the results of the profiles and enumerations, the main priorities of F block were identified as: security, building community through communal space, and drainage. Using this information, the community planned to reblock the section with the doors and windows facing inwards, towards a communal space which facilitates dialogue between community members, a safe area where their children can play and a space where the women can hang up the washing. The community designers explained that “the most important part of the planning was listening to what the people in F block wanted and making sure to plan blocks that people want to live in.” This plan has already been approved and now plans are being made to begin the re-blocking process.
Alfred Ratana, a local community leader, describes the relocation process.
Following the re-blocking site was the relocation site. Coming upon an open area, paved with ball courts and equipped with a jungle gym, the group faced four community toilets delicately painted with pictures to appeal to the children of the communty, a water tap, community built drain pipes and an open space before a perfectly lined set of houses which demonstrate the improvement that can be made to a settlement through relocation when it involves community-led initatives such as reblocking. Aditya Kumar, a member of CORC staff who actively supports the work in Langrug, and Alfred Ratana, a community leader from Langrug, explained the process of relocation that took place here. In November 2010, a neighboring farm owner obtained a court interdict against the Municipality for the settlement’s greywater runoff into their irrigation dam. The municipality was forced to start negotiating with the settlement, because 14 families were to be relocated in the reserve earmarked for an access road construction. Cape Town's Informal Settlement Network (ISN) was introduced to the settlement after the municipality engaged the network, opening a year-long relationship-building window. Ever since, a full scale in-situ upgrade project has been launched; providing better service with minimal disruption to residents’ lives.
In addition to the relocation, Mr. Ratana directed the delegates’ attention to toilets and a water tap, also constructed as part of the relocation project, and addressing some of the settlement’s sewerage issues. In addition, the community used rocks from the mountain to construct four drainage pipes, which catch the grey water and help with the overall sanitation of the community, providing a solution to the issue of grey water run-off.
Another impressive site was the WASH facility. With collaboration and funding from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in the USA, the Langrug community was able to construct their first multi-purpose WASH centre. According to Trevor Masiy, another community leader from Langrug, this WASH centre will house toilets and showers for men, women and children, a toilet that is handicap accessible, a salon for income generation, a reading centre for children and youth and sinks with seats where women will be able to do washing. Run and managed by the community, Mr. Masiy was clear that “this centre is not free, community members will have to pay to use showers and toilets…then the funds generated from the centre will be added to our UPF [urban poor fund] for other projects.”
Trevor Masiy describes the WASH facility.
At the fourth site, David Carolissen, Deputy Director for Stellenbosch Municipality, and Langrug community members presented an impressive sanitation facility, complete with roughly ten toilets and eight water taps. This sanitation unit was constructed following an enumeration which found that households in this part of the settlement had no access to sanitation. Mr. Carolissen then shared his perspective saying, “[in Langrug] we mobilise around community commonalities.” By bringing the community together around a problem that affects everyone, such as sanitation, they are more likely to work together to find a solution.
Although questions were posed throughout the site visit, it was not until the final discussion session after lunch that a panel from the Stellenbosch municipality and the Langrug community addressed comments and questions about the settlement. The visiting professionals seemed very skeptical of the sustainability and worth of the projects they witnessed at Langrug. Many questions from their side surrounded the funding mechanisms, the permanency of the shacks currently being built and the plans for permanent, formal housing in the long term. These concerns were addressed by Mr. Carolissen, who pointed out that planning for Langrug is based on the idea of a “rising platform of services.” In most informal settlements, this means starting with no services, moving then to communal services, to bulk service infrastructure, and ultimately to an formal house with on-site services for each household.
On the other hand, the community’s questions and interests were focused on the community initiatives and the future of the partnership between the community and Stellenbosch Municipality. Some of the question posed included:
How long has it taken to get the partnership to the current level (between Stellenbosch municipality and Langrug)?
How are the R2 million managed for Langrug?
Which policy is being used when looking at levels for electrification? Much of the settlement was electrified, how was this achieved?
What motivates the municipality to engage or work in these areas?
The day’s final discussion demonstrated the continuous tug of war between the formal and the informal, as some still struggle to see the value of community-run, incremental initiatives for fear that it will not fit into the expectation of a permanent, formal settlement. Hopefully the next two days will continue to demonstrate the value of these types of incremental improvements, for while an improved shack is still a shack, a working toilet, access to clean water, and space for your children to play, combined with a structure that can withstand the realities of fire and rain, are surely steps towards a more dignified life, particularly when achieved through a process of co-production, hand-in-hand with key stakeholders who were previously out of reach.
For more information on the upgrading work taking place in Langrug, click here.
Planning for the National leaders meeting in November began in June 2012. This was a gradual outcome of several exchanges to and from Bolivia over the last three years by SDI. In June 2012 the Government of Bolivia came out with a regularization law, which created a lot of commotion amongst the informal communities. There were many rumors spreading and the leadership did not understand the implications of this new law for the land that they occupied. There are informal settlements on municipal lands, state lands, private lands and so on. Ownership for much of these occupied lands is unclear, creating numerous complications as the law has different implications for those residing on different types of lands.
For the Bolivian support NGO, Red de Accion Comunitaria (RAC), the first response was to strengthen and consolidate the slum enumeration process in District 8, a settlement in Cochabamba, which started long before the law was in sight. This settlement data proved to be mouth watering to both the national and local government who have no information at all. The local officials in District 8 are in dialogue with the community leaders who are mostly men. District 8 was one of the first settlements to respond, but similar concerns were raised by informal settlements in other cities. This prompted the need to plan for the November meeting in Cochabamba where the leadership - both men and women - from the four cities would have the space to discuss the law and its implications for residents of informal settlements across Bolivia.
During the planning phase it was decided that the objective of the November meeting was 1) To understand the new regularization law and its implications for informal settlements with regard to issues of land ownership, and 2) To consolidate the voices of the leadership from the four cities to create a national federation of the urban poor.
Participants at the conference included about 150 community women from the 4 cities in Bolivia, 4 representatives from neighboring countries of Brazil, Ecuador and Columbia with three representatives from SDI including SDI Coordinators Celine d’Cruz (India) and Rose Molokoane (South Africa) and SDI Board member Sonia Fadrigo (Philippines).
In addition to these participants, about 7 - 8 local government officials (men and women) and one representative from the National government (also a woman). This configuration ensured maximum participation from women during the course of the conference. It was amazing how well some of the women narrated their stories about issues around the regularization of their land, their collective savings, and how their experiences with banks and micro credit institutions captured the attention of the both the local and the national government officials present. This is something all the officials will take back home. For the community leaders it was the first time they had the chance to speak in public; this event was a good opportunity for them to understand their own capacities and skills.
This conference was the first time that the leaders from the four cities were meeting each other.In her introduction, Sonia Fadrigo said, “You are all women and are all saving. You are clearly on the right track.”
There are signs of a relationship being formed between communities, local governments and national government in all four cities. This needs to be pursued consistently and strategically.
The two women leaders from Brazil were very motivated after this meeting. For example, they asked Maria Eugenia Torrico of Bolivia if they could come for 15 days in January to spend time with the community leaders to learn and go back home and strengthen their own community savings.
Rose felt that SDI was doing so much good in all these places around the world especially with these very poor women from Bolivia.
The woman from Ecuador had a lot of experience with housing and had come to both share and learn. Their community-based organization is free to learn about the SDI rituals and replicate them in their context.
Adriana from Colombia plans to take some of the lessons and test them out in Colombia with the agency working on poverty issues. We also started a dialogue on possible ideas of strengthening a people’s process within a national government program.
The Peruvian women did not arrive as one of them was sick and so the other did not want to travel alone. This would be their first time out of their country without any NGO support and this may have caused its own set of dynamics within their community and with their men. Eli and Maria will follow up with them and understand better what transpired. It has been a struggle finding a support NGO in Peru. It was decided that if the community leaders who are saving do not want to continue then we may want to stall Peru for awhile till we find an individual or an NGO willing to walk through this path. SDI needs to review this.
There were a number of key outcomes of the conference. There was an MOU signed between the Director of Housing from the national government and RAC. However, with no federation in place yet none of the community leaders could sign this MOU. Government, community leaders and RAC are learning to work with each other while building their separate capacities.
This meeting enabled both the local and national government representatives to better understand the community building process through community savings, slum enumerations and slum upgrading works. The Villa Vista upgrading was a good example to the all present.
As a result of the conference, RAC better understands the need for a national level leadership that they will work in tandem with. The idea emerged to create and build a collective leadership, which is more horizontal, and not just a couple of leaders who have power on the top.
RAC will work in the coming month to select the national leadership from a locally driven process. RAC estimates that there are at least 20 leaders in the four cities who can take on the responsibility of national leadership.
-- A brief outline of the conference events is included below:
Day 1: After the inaugural speeches the group divided into ten groups according to their land titles and discussed issues relevant to their land ownership. There was a very good reflection within the groups, which the leaders presented at the end of the day. A lot of very important issues came up and the local officials sitting with these teams had a chance to respond or advise the group on how to take this forward. Maria and her team worked to consolidate some of the important lessons for each of the groups and what needs to be followed up.
Day 2: The morning was spent on presentations by the women to the National government representative on their savings, their experience with the local banks and with micro credit. The government is planning to have a new bank law encouraging micro credit. Listening to the stories of the women pressed panic buttons with the Director for Housing who said she would try to see what she could do about this. There was an MOU signed with the Director before she left. She has promised to work on a couple of pilots with RAC so that they can refine their learning together.
The afternoon session was on slum enumerations and the leaders broke up into groups and discussed the progress of the settlement profiles in their respective cities. Sonia and Celine wrapped up by presenting the SDI perspective on slum enumerations.
Day 3: Event planned at District 8 to inaugurate the slum enumeration process in one of the new settlements. Ended with a closing ceremony and street theatre.
Day 4: Morning, reflection with RAC and the core leadership on the event and the future steps to be taken. Afternoon spent time with the core leaders and the some of the District 8 leaders on explaining some core ideas and concepts of savings and enumerations.
By Joseph Kimani (Muungano Support Trust, Kenya) and Joseph Muturi (Muungano Wa Wanavijiji, Kenya)
Imagine a world without slums. Fine, let's keep it close: imagine the city of Nairobi, Cape Town, Mumbai or your favorite city without a single informal settlement, slum or shacks. That is exactly the thing…your mind is probably saying, "Well it is possible." Perhaps you are also wondering how this could be possible and, in reality, how that could happen. Most likely you are also pondering whether we have the same definition of slums or shacks. Are the favellas in Brazil the same as the ghettos in Kenya, or are the slums in India the same as those in South Africa? Can slums in Nairobi, Mumbai, Brazil, South Africa or anywhere be defined the same way? Are access to sanitation, water, infrastructure and services and secure tenure the only indicators that we should use to measure the extinction of slums? These were some of the main issues addressed at Habitat III, a UN Habitat sponsored international conference that took place in November 2012 in Rabat, Morocco.
The three-day conference was organized by the Government of Morocco under the patronage of His Majesty King Mohammed VI and under the authority of UN-HABITAT as an effort to share best practices on policies and the implementation of slum upgrading, eradication and prevention programmes by local and national governments around the world. The organizers invited 20 top countries that have been rated as having performed best in making slums history. The specific objectives of the conference were:
Develop specific recommendations and guidelines for slum improvement policies and the development of well-adapted housing alternatives to prevent new slum formation (the Rabat Declaration).
Devise the strategy required to revise Target 7-D of the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) and adjust it more closely to the diversity of national conditions and circumstances.
Share successful experiences, methodologies and evaluation methods with regard to slum reduction.
Broaden the scope of experience-sharing within the conference to bring in Least performing Countries (and African countries in particular), to help them implement effective slum reduction policies.
Strengthen partnerships between Morocco and other African countries.
The Rabat Conference brought together over 150 participants representing 24 government delegations. The countries identified as the 20 best performers in slum upgrading invited were: Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Peru, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Turkey, Uganda and Vietnam.
Summary report of the plenary discussions, workshops and expert group meeting:
Some of those who spoke at the conference included the Minister of Housing, City Planning and Urban Policy of Morocco, the UN-Habitat Director, Cities Alliance, World Bank and SDI. In our main presentation, we were able to present SDI's background, mandate and experience by highlighting the role of the community in slum upgrading. We then shared our perspectives on slums post-2015 MDGs or perspectives that we thought stakeholders in slum upgrading need to consider as UN HABITAT proposes to develop Sustainable Development Goals. We presented three key points that we argued were important in helping a slum upgrading process to take shape, and some of our perspectives regarding the development of Sustainable Development Goals. Here our main argument was with respect to the issue of community organization and the role of the rituals of the federations in promoting community ownership and community led initiatives. We provided examples of Huruma Slum Upgrading in Huruma, Kenya and our experience of the Kenya Railway Relocation Programme. Our second point stressed that land delivery was a prerequisite for any slum upgrading to happen.
Using our Kenyan example again we shared the challenges of attempting to make slums history when in a situation like Nairobi in which 50% of the slums are on private land and another 40% are on land considered to be unlivable (i.e. riparian and railway reserve and high-risk zones such as those living under the high voltage electrical powerline). This allowed us to highlight the need of government and all actors address the issue of land. Our third point was the need to scale up successful cases by not only choosing to deal with the settlements that are appealing, but to also invest in finding solutions to deal with informal settlements that appear to be difficult. Our major issue on this matter was to encourage all players to consider looking at slum upgrading as both functional and spatial and as a broader strategy of poverty alleviation.
Joseph Muturi of Muungano wa Wanavijiji addresses the audience.
Below is a sample of comments and suggestions captured during sessions by SDI representatives.
“We would have wished to see more representation of the slum dwellers, especially from the case studies, shared in this conference. One would have hoped that the hosts would have had in this conference representative of upgraded areas as well as those that have not succeeded or waiting to benefit”. - Joseph Muturi, during the thematic workshop session on Planning, Land Management and Urban.
“In the spirit of sharing could we have in the future conferences representation by countries considered to be under performing in slum upgrading processes or those that have the potential and yet challenged in whatever form. It is amazing to hear stories of change and success and one hopes some of countries would have benefitted a lot from the experiences shared here and could have re-kindled hope to those that have despaired and lost hope of assisting the poor.” - Suggestion by Joseph Kimani, Program Manager at MuST during the South-South Cooperation Session.
“I want to acknowledge and appreciate that this conference has provided most of us with valuable knowledge and experience. In fact I kind of agree with most of the presenters who holds that we can make slums history in our world. However I strongly propose that we ensure that the message we are taking home to all our governments and slum upgrading stakeholders is that the role of the community in this processes should not be underrated at all. In fact is it possible for all of us professionals and Government as well to allow the slum upgrading process to be led by the slum dwellers while we journey with them in this process, so that the issue is not just mere participation and inclusion for the sake of it but to carry with us the spirit and commitment that requires the people to be at the center of their own developments.” - Statement by Joseph Kimani during the Expert Group Meeting.
Our main question: Is it possible to make slums history? How did the Morocco attain this goal?
The Moroccan speakers took all the participants through their journey of making slums history in their nationwide “Cities without slums” programme which focuses on improved shelter conditions for over 1,742,000 people living in informal, substandard housing, contributing to better urban inclusiveness and social cohesion. We learnt that since 2004 the Morocco programme has achieved over 70 per cent of its overall objective. The speakers too acknowledged there were challenges that they are facing as a government while implementing the programme but emphasised that the 70% success so far has been as a result of the strong push of their strong leadership, political will, well defined objectives, an appropriate modus operandi and adequate budgeting.
In a nutshell as documented in the National Report (2012) the ‘Cities without Shanties” programme has made it possible to:
Reduce the demographic weight of household dwellings in shanties across Moroccan cities and towns from 8.2% to 3.9% between 2004 and 2010;
Improve the living conditions of roughly 1 million inhabitants;
Declare 45 cities without shanties out of a total of 85.
In achieving the above, Morocco and many other countries in the world have managed to beat MDG Target 7-D by a multiple of 2.2, namely to “significantly improve living conditions for at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020." UN HABITAT estimates that, between 2000 and 2010, a total 227 million people in developing countries have experienced significant improvements in living conditions.
General lessons drawn from the conference:
The presentations by best performing countries like Brazil, China, Morocco, Turkey highlighted the extent countries and their governments can go to to improve the standards of those living in informal settlements through scaled-up housing developments. However, it should be noted that caution should be taken to ensure that the large scale housing developments do not create shells of void, silence and emptiness by ignoring the value of human development. This is summarized in the quote below:
“What we aim at... is not simply to have shanty-free cities, still less to set up soulless concrete slabs which thwart all forms of sociable living. We rather intend to evolve cities that are not solely conducive to smart, friendly, and dignified living, but also investment-friendly and productive spaces - urban areas, that is, which are attached to their specific character and to the originality of their style.” - Extract from the Speech delivered by His Majesty King Mohammed VI on the occasion of the National Convention of Local Collectivities Agadir, 12/12/2006.
The fact that some of the presenters and participants appreciated and acknowledged the role of SDI in facilitating and enabling urban poor communities i to be the drivers of slum upgrading and human development was very encouraging and inspiring. It is with this same spirit that we hope those of us within SDI will continue to work hard in ensuring that slum upgrading does not only become a rhetoric of the state authorities and institutions but remains real and focused towards addressing the economic, social and physical needs of the people. It is our desire to see countries like Kenya respond by speeding up efforts to scale up slum improvements. The ability is there, the resources are with the public and private institutions, and all that we hope for now is the government's goodwill and commitment.
SDI delegates take part in a reflection on the Land, Services and Citizenship Project hosted by Cities Alliance at Africities
By George Masimba, Dialogue on Shelter, Zimbabwe
The recent Afri-Cities conference was held in Dakar, Senegal and took place under the theme - ‘Building Africa from its territories: which challenges for local governments’. About 5 000 delegates from African cities and beyond converged in the coastal city of Dakar to deliberate issues confronting modern African cities. The concept of territory in the theme referred to, among other things, exploring the role of Africa’s institutions and resources as major components for catalyzing the growth of the continent. In particular, the focus was centered on the local government sphere as a critical institutional space for mediating development processes. This year, Slum Dwellers International (SDI) was able to send a delegation consisting of five countries (South Africa, Ghana, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe) accompanied by Mayors from cities where affiliates have established strong links. Through their presentations, the five country affiliates highlighted how they had escalated their engagement with their respective to the brokering of meaningful agreements and equal partnerships.
The session titled ‘Strategies for people’s participation and citizenship’ saw Ghana, Uganda and Zimbabwe sharing experiences from their countries on the topic. The Zimbabwean delegation presented the Harare Slum Upgrading Project that is being jointly implemented with the City of Harare as an example of how a partnership had evolved out of a precedent-setting slum improvement project. The presenters narrated how the relationship had evolved first through land allocations that supported community participation to more equal relationships grounded and firmed up with memorandums of agreements. In Harare, it was noted that the slum upgrading project had not only improved slum conditions but more significantly had provided a site to test alternative solutions to the challenges that slum dwellers face in slums. Construction of ecological sanitation units (ecosan toilets) under the project, for instance, was one such alternative that the partners were able to pilot in the Dzivarasekwa Extension settlement where previously families had to rely on pit-latrines.
Besides testing practical solutions, the Harare Slum Upgrading Project has also enabled the City of Harare and the alliance of Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation and Dialogue on Shelter to develop a slum upgrading strategy for the city, undertake a review of the building regulations and explore the establishment of a city-wide pro-poor slum upgrading finance facility. The upgrading strategy now acts as a protocol detailing a set of procedures for dealing with slums. Additionally, the city-wide slum upgrading fund initiative was an important step in innovating joint funding mechanisms that combine city and communities resources. These activities were reported as significant milestones in addressing the systemic causes underlying the emergence of slums in the city.
Mayor of Harare officially launching a book at the Cities Alliance booth at the Africities Conference in Dakar, Senegal
In Ghana, the presenters from the alliance of Ghana Federation and People’s Dialogue related their interaction with local government indicating how this had birthed very strong partnerships. The Ghana experience centered on the Land, Services and Citizenship (LSC) program, a 3-year project targeting mobilization of savings groups, community infrastructure, profiling, mapping and organization of city-wide forums. Under the first phase of LSC 18 slum settlements have been mapped and profiled in two cities and a memorandum of understanding signed with Ashaiman Municipal Assembly. A Project Implementation Team (PIT) has been set to jointly oversee the implementation of project activities. Municipal Assembly staff provides technical assistance to anchor the profiling and mapping activities while local councilors support Federation groups around community mobilization efforts. It is through such projects that interactions with city governments have been changed from undertaking once-off projects were communities simply participate to carrying out partnership projects with enduring results that alter relations and increase the scope for going to scale.
The SDI delegation from Uganda was supported by the Mayor of Mbale, the Presidential Advisor on Poverty Alleviation and the Commissioner of Urban Development from the local government ministry. In Uganda, central government, local governments and urban poor communities have been brought together around the ‘Transforming Settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda (TSUPU) project. Like its Ghanaian counterpart, TSUPU is also supported by Cities Alliance and aims to: establish urban forums at various tiers of government, develop city development strategies, undertake mapping and enumeration of slums and set up community upgrading funds.
The Ugandan presentation centered on the TSUPU project, which is being undertaken in the cities of Mbale, Jinja, Arua, Mbarara and Kabale. In three of these cities, (Mbale, Jinja and Arua) MOUs have been signed with urban forums having been set up. These forums are community-wide development platforms that rally together all urban stakeholders. During the session, the Mayor of Mbale commended the Ugandan Alliance’s achievements and committed continued support to the Federation.
The next session in which SDI participated centred around the Know Your City Project (KYC), also supported by Cities Alliance. The panelists for this session were from the Zambian SDI Alliance, Lusaka City Council’s Director of Planning, the Mayor of Kitwe, the Mayor of Ndola, the Mayor of Harare and the representatives from Burkina Faso. The Zambian presentation commenced with the Lusaka City Council outlining the background and context of slums in Lusaka. It was indicated that the Improvement Areas Act is a piece of legislation that provides the necessary legal ingredients for upgrading, setting out the procedures for undertaking upgrading. Therefore, armed with such legislation, communities and local authorities joined hands in Zambia’s two major cities under the Know Your City Campaign to collect and document information that would feed into slum upgrading.
An MOU had been signed between Lusaka City Council, Zambia Homeless People’s Federation and People’s Process on Housing and Poverty in Zambia earlier in 2012, which has helped to define the roles and vision of the partnership. The Zambian Federation reported that with support from Lusaka City Council they had been able to conduct profiling, enumerations and mapping in slum areas such as George Compound. A National Housing Forum was convened to discuss the findings from these information gathering exercises and government declared three slums improvement areas. It is through joint execution of these project activities that these partnerships have engendered trust and confidence amongst the partners. Through this co-operation, urban communities from these slums have been given a chance to offer solutions to their challenges and design sustainable strategies together with local government.
These SDI sessions were capped with a presentation from Rose Molokoane during a political session on Africa’s Integration where she presented alongside the former presidents of Benin and Cape Verde. Rose stressed that SDI has shifted gears from participation to partnerships with local governments. She also emphasized that urban poor communities have a great deal of information which cities can use to transform slum settlements. Whilst African leaders have established the African Union, slum dwellers had also rallied together around their own African Union of the Urban Poor through the SDI network.
On 12/12/12 the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU) celebrated its 10th Anniversary. From a few savings groups in Kisenyi, the federation has spread over the last decade across Kampala, to Arua in the north, Mbale and Jinja in the east, to Kabale and Mbarara in the west. The federation is now comprised of over 38,000 slum dwellers and approximately 500 savings groups. NSDFU and its support NGO ACTogether Uganda decided it was important to mark this milestone and bring together members and partners for a very special event that would serve as a time not only for celebration, but reflection and mobilization.
Planning began in November. NSDFU members and ACTogether staff decided to approach Uganda’s most famous artist, Bobi Wine, known affectionately as the “Ghetto President.” They asked Bobi whether he would be interested in helping Uganda’s slum dwellers to celebrate the event and generate publicity for the work of the federation. At the meeting NSDFU member, Katana Goretti, who hails from the same slum as Bobi Wine – Kamwoyka – explained the work of the federation, its history, and its hopes for the future. ACTogether and SDI explained the larger movement to which the NSDFU is part. Bobi listened intently and asked many questions about federation work before informing the group he was honored to be approached and would work with ACTogether and the NSDFU to put on a historic event. He instructed his management team – Angry Management, led by the tireless Lawrence Labeja – to give full support. It was decided that a free concert for slum dwellers would be the grand finale of the anniversary celebrations.
NSDFU was committed to ensuring the event be more than a mere celebration. One of the most frequent pleas of federation groups is to gain access to markets for their goods. It was decided the event would provide such a space. With Christmas a mere two weeks after the event, the timing for a huge slum dweller’s income generating activity market was right. A Savers’ Convention and SUUBI (Urban Poor Fund) sensitization drive would also be held on the day. Housing and sanitation models would be displayed, and donor and government partners would be invited to attend. The event would also provide the perfect space to launch the Federation’s book, 10 Years of Okwegatta: A History of the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda Narrated by Members. In the book, member stories are transcribed to tell the history of federation work, federation regions, federation slum upgrading and livelihood projects, as well as federation achievements and challenges. The book can be viewed at this link: www.sdinet.org/media/upload/documents/10YearsofOwegatta_opt.pdf
At the November National Executive Council (NEC) meeting members were briefed on their respective roles and responsibilities. The logistics involved in hosting such an event were managed with ease by the well-organized federation. Each region was charged with coordinating the savings groups in their networks, arranging transport for members, providing lists of those wishing to participate in the livelihood market, and producing t-shirts to sell, and making a banner to show who they are. The federation in Kampala searched for a venue for the big day. The NSDFU was keen to host the event in Kampala Central, where the federation began, and it was decided that the most cost efficient option for such a huge crowd was Old Kampala Secondary School. The school has two huge football fields and the management agreed (special thanks to Mr. Okumu) to give the federation free use of tables and benches for the exhibition, and toilets on the day. Once the venue was set, the advertising began.
Flyers were produced and Angry Management arranged for truck drives which would announce the event and the work of the federation over a loud speaker from the back of a truck as it drove through the slums of Kampala. Federation member and aspiring DJ, “DJ X” from Makindye, took the microphone and did a fabulous job of inviting all slum dwellers to attend the NSDFU’s anniversary. Cloth banners were also hung by the Angry Management team around Kampala’s slums to raise awareness (shown below). Pioneer Easy Buses – Kampala’s city-wide bus company – showed advertisements for the event on the televisions in all buses.
Uganda’s national newspaper, the New Vision, was approached to continue its work to raise awareness for issues facing slum dwellers. With support from the South African Trust the New Vision dedicated a significant amount of space in its papers in 2012 to highlighting the work of Ugandans to improve living conditions in the country’s slums. It also trained journalists in community engagement and identification of change makers in slums. During the feature, the NSDFU was profiled twice in full-page color articles. The articles can be viewed at the following link: http://www.newvision.co.ug/mobile/Detail.aspx?NewsID=635886&CatID=434
NSDFU and ACTogether asked the New Vision to announce the winner of the Ugandans Making a Difference urban feature at the event, provide advertisements for the event free of charge, and compile a full page color write up following the event. The New Vision was also requested to provide a cash sponsorship of UGX 8,500,000 (USD $3,400). The New Vision Group eagerly agreed and special thanks must be extended to Ben Opolot, John Eremu, Cathy Mwesigwa, and Daniel Komunda. Following discussions with New Vision, ACTogether staff member Helen Nyamweru and newly appointed board member, Dr. Steven Mukiibi, were asked to sit on the panel which choose the winners. An article about the competition can be viewed at the following link: http://www.newvision.co.ug/news/638028-vision-group-unveils-slum-project-winners.html
On the 11th of December members from the furthest municipalities from Kampala began their journey. Members from Arua (approximately 480km from Kampala) and Kabale (approximately 420km from Kampala) had a long journey to make. NSDFU members agreed that no regions would be provided accommodation support for the event, as the costs would become too great resulting in fewer members being able to attend. Arua region decided it would still come the day before and members would sleep in the community hall of the Kisenyi III federation sanitation unit. The unit was the first NSDFU project in Uganda and there could not have been a better way for it to be used on the anniversary! Members slept on the floor, in hallways, and in chairs. Some members took it upon themselves to ‘guard’ the others and report that the federation members were in high spirits despite the cramped conditions.
Though the event did not officially start until 2pm, members came to the site early to help set up. Groups with tent and chair rental projects were asked to bring them to the event and erect them early before the anit-terrorism unit arrived to conduct a sweep. Pepsi Cola agreed to provided tents, chairs, and 2,500 free sodas in sponsorship of the event. Nile Breweries agreed to supply tents. Barefoot Solar generously decided their sponsorship contribution would be to outfit one of the federation’s sanitation units with solar power in 2013. Pioneer Buses – Kampala’s city-wide bus system – offered free promotion of the NSDFU anniversary on all its buses and social media, while Record TV also provided free coverage. Individual donors Heather Gardiner, Christine and Tiree Dobson, and Caroline Power also provided sponsorship support.
Each region selected 10 ushers. These members were charged with all the logistical responsibilities involved with setting up and clearing up their income generating activity and project displays. Regional ushers were allocated tags (shown below) so they could be easily identified by security personal. It should be noted that security was a very serious concern for the federation and the authorities. In the lead up to the event, NSDFU member Lubega Edirss and NSDFU chairman Hassan Kiberu did an exceptional job securing permission to host and secure the event from the Inspector General of Police, the Kampala Metropolitan Police, the District Police Commissioner, the Kampala Capital City Authority, and the Anti-terrorism Authority. Securing such support required endless trips to these offices and Lubega now boasts of having the phone number of every high-level security officer in the country!
All 11 regions of the federation were allocated a space to exhibit and sell their goods. Some of the livelihood projects included: candles, liquid soap, clothes, beads, bags, briquettes, shoes, jewelry, grass mats, baskets, amaranth products, bread, donuts, cookies, soaps, mushrooms, clay stoves and more. The vast majority of these projects were initiated and are managed by women.
Approximately 70% of all NSDFU members are women and they constituted the bulk of those in attendance on the day. The groups reported good sales on the day both from fellow members and guests. In addition, members moved to their fellow savings groups for ideas and contacts during the day so they can test the income generating activities of fellow members in their own settlements.
NSDFU is planning to create more regional livelihood projects in 2013 following the success of the Nakawa Region Candle Project in which numerous candle-making groups came together to form a regional alliance. Networking the project groups regionally means they can fulfill larger orders and access larger markets. Since the event, the Nakawa candle makers have been asked to fill another large bulk order. Members are exploring other regional projects through contacts made at the event and groups they learned of in the 10 Years of Okwegatta book.
The book and the exhibition at the anniversary highlight the incredible array of skills to be found in the NSDFU and also the power of collective action toward livelihood improvement. The savings groups in the federation extend small loans for livelihood projects and their organizational capacity allows them to grow their businesses, account for their monies, and diversify their products as they learn from fellow slum dwellers in the network. The partnerships the federation forges with municipal councils helps these groups get access to the Ugandan Government’s Community-Driven Development (CDD) funds owing to their demonstrable capacity to manage such funds effectively.
No NSDFU event would be complete without singing and dancing. Many groups in the federation have singing or drama groups, which raise awareness for federation rituals and in many cases also generate income for groups when they are hired for functions. Each region was asked to prepare a performance for the anniversary celebration. The performances were so colorful and inspired and a delight for fellow federation members and guests to witness. The groups performed songs and plays about savings, women’s empowerment, and lifting oneself out of poverty.
They performed in the traditional style of their region highlighting the great diversity of culture within the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda. The Bakiga from Kabale performed the Ekizino Royal Dance, full of vigorous stamping and jumping. The Lugbara from Arua were painted in the traditional style and performed a thrilling local dance. The Baganda people from Kampala peformed the ever-delightful Bakisiimba, traditionally performed for the Kabaka (King), while the Basoga from Jinja, the Bagisu from Mbale, and the Banyankole from Mbarara delighted with songs, plays, and dances from their respective cultures.
As mentioned, members decided the event would also provide the perfect space for a massive SUUBI sensitization effort and savings drive. SUUBI is Uganda’s Urban Poor Fund, which was established in 2010. It has extended loans for housing, sanitation units, and livelihood projects to federation groups throughout Uganda. SUUBI is designed as a basket fund to which the urban poor, their partners in government, and donor agencies contribute. The unique element of SUUBI is that is a fund that the urban poor control themselves. The monies that their small daily savings and organizational capacity leverage are directed to projects the members prioritize, design, and implement themselves.
At the event federation leaders explained the function of SUUBI and members were encouraged to save to SUUBI that very day. There was a competition for SUUBI savings, with the winner receiving a 10 million shilling loan for a community slum-upgrading project. On the day, members saved over 3,400,000 shillings (USD $1,400) and DFCU Bank – in which the SUUBI account is held – was invited to participate in the verification and banking of member savings on the day.
Chairman, Hassan Kiberu, announced the savings of each region and declared Arua region the winner. Members from Arua saved, on average, close to 4,000 shillings (USD $1.60) per person. At this announcement Arua region came running onto the main field waving their pink saving books, dancing and ululating with excitement!! The win was consistent with Arua’s history as the federation region with the strongest daily and SUUBI savings. Since returning to Arua, the members decided to use the loan to construct a sanitation unit – a project prioritized following community conducted enumerations (slum surveys) – and have already negotiated for land in Arua municipality.
In the lead up to the event, federation members, led by Robert Kakinda, Vicky Nakibuuka, and the ACTogether engineer, Waiswa Kakaire, constructed models of the sanitation units being built by the federation and a low-cost, multi-storeyed house model. The models were exceptionally detailed and Robert Kakinda spent the day explaining the designs and costs to guests and federation members. These models helped visitors to appreciate the kinds of projects SUUBI makes possible thanks to the exceptional organizational capacity of the NSDFU members. The models helped demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of federation projects and the fact that good design can reduce cost and simplify the construction process so that slum dwellers can build for themselves. At present, the NSDFU has one housing project in Jinja, an sanitation unit projects in Kisenyi, Kinawataka and Bwaise in Kampala, as well as Mbale, Jinja, and Mbarara. The sanitation units are double-story and house a community hall on the top floor which is used to host regional federation meetings and rent out for income generation. The sanitation facilities, including toilets and showers, are for men and women and have provisions for the disabled.
The guest of honor, State Minster of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Rosemary Najjemba officially opened the event and spoke to those gathered about the work of the Ministry. She praised the efforts of the federation and encouraged them to continue to work hard and resist the temptations of corruption as they grow. Robert Kakinda and Sarah Nandudu explained the models to the Minister, who asked many questions and then signed the NSDFU message board with the following message: “I would like to see cities without slums therefore I support the NSDFU!”
The federations travelled with many of their municipal council partners. Mbale municipality came with the Mayor as did Nakawa Region. Many regions came with councilors, and Arua came with its Community Development Officer. One member, Sarah Kiyimba, told me, “sometimes municipal council representatives – and even members – don’t really believe the federation has so many members and does so much work, but at the event they really saw.” Mbarara region even made a sanitation unit model out of cake (shown below)! The cake was auctioned off by the Mayor of Nakawa to raise funds for the completion of the unit in Mbarara. The total raised was UGX 230,000 (USD $92).
Bobi Wine arrived at about 4pm to greet the federation and whip up excitement for the concert to come. Bobi Wine was also presented with an award by New Vision for the work he has done in Kamwoyka to improve drainage and sanitation. His car, with its “Ghetto” number plates was parked at the entrance of the school, much to the delight of passers by.
In the evening Bobi performed a free show in front of thousands of screaming slum dwellers. He spoke of the ingenuity to be found in the ghettos of Uganda and the potential within each and every person in attendance. He spoke of his own rise from a slum dweller to an international superstar. Bobi sang live, with a full band, and his opening acts were members of the Firebase Crew. Joining him for the main show, was fellow Ugandan sensation Nubian Lee.
The NSDFU and ACTogether know that the challenge in 2013 is for the slum dweller movement in Uganda to consolidate the impressive gains made in the past 10 years (to build an autonomous urban poor movement, raise awareness for the issues faced by slum dwellers, begin to work at city-scale, improve sanitation, become an established learning center in the SDI network, achieve national recognition, create an urban poor fund, and promote good governance and womens’ empowerment) and intensify the leveraging of slum dweller social and political capital for greater improvements to the lives of the urban poor.
On the 1st January 2013, Tuesday in the early hours of the morning a man in the furthest eastern part of BM Section informal settlement in Khayelitsha fell asleep while he was cooking food on a hotplate stove. A fire started at 4am. With gale-force winds blowing the fire quickly swept out of control. With the strong southeaster and being hampered by lack of access the middle of the settlement the fire department failed to contain the blaze, finally ‘putting out’ the fire at 10.30am when it had virtually run its course – blazing a trail of destruction right through the settlement leaving approximately 5000 people homeless, 1 000 shacks guttered, 3 confirmed deaths and one person in a critical condition. On January the 2nd of January a fourth body was found in the debris and on the 4thof January the man who had 80% burns passed away in hospital.
On the 2nd of January, Wednesday Phumezo Sibanda who resides in Khayelitsha and is a leader of the ISN called Andy Bolnick from Ikhayalami to talk to her about the disaster and start thinking through what kind of support could offered. It was agreed that Phumezo would go to site to assess things and meet with the BM leaders.
Shortly after Phumezo’s call one of Ikhayalami’s main funder for disaster relief/re-blocking efforts (for the past 6 years), Mr. Gerald Fox from the Percy Fox Foundation, called. He had heard about the devastating fire and offered immediate resources so that Ikhayalmi could respond with a sizeable number of shelters in order to potentially attract more resources to a response effort and to do a re- blocking. Bolnick then sent a letter to senior Corc and SDI staff and ISN leaders (who have access to email) in an attempt to bring everyone on board and develop a coordinated response.
In the meantime Phumezo who rallied support from two other ISN leaders in the Khayeltisha area - Thozama and Nombini Mafikhana - attended the tail end of a Disaster Management meeting at the OR Tambo hall, which has since become the nerve center of relief efforts. Following the meeting they engaged with some of the BM leadership.
Phumezo then asked Bolnick to come to site to meet with some of the leadership who informed us that they ‘want the city to level the area and open up roads’. They said that this is what they discussed in the meeting with the city that morning.
Bolnick enquired about whether the leadership had a list of all the residents of BM. The leadership said that there is a list that the city has. Bolnick suggested that they get hold of this list, verify it and if need be start compiling their own list. Phumezo and Bolnick also spoke about the potential of spatial reconfiguration in addition to merely demarcating roads. Mention was made to the potential of the availability of between 150 – 200 shelters from Ikhayalami (20 immediately and the remainder after the 15th) to assist with a spatial reconfiguration/re-blocking if the community decided to go this route. There was also some discussion about the potential of arranging an exchange visit to Sheffield rd and Mthisni Wam for BM leaders.
While on site the leaders were informed that a fourth body had been found in the debris. We left the leaders to attend to the pressing issues at hand.
The site is so vast – standing in the middle of the site – on the one side people were still collecting rubble and clearing the site, on the other side the site was almost cleared.
3rd of January, Thursday community leaders and NGO support staff attended a joint meeting of stakeholders. Those present were members of a crisis committee that was formed the day before comprising of a few leaders from BM section, delegates from the city (Disaster Management dept), Social Dev Services, SASSA, Home Affairs, Law Enforcement, KDF, SANCO, VPUU, Amaxesibe Traditional Council, an ANC delegation, a church group and other people from the community and our delegation. Important points were raised but no one was listening to each other. As soon as an important point was made another person would talk about something inconsequential or petty and the vital point would be lost. There was also information that a separate disaster response committee comprising of provincial government members was meeting separately in Belville. This created further frustration. Party political issues were being raised that included laying blame and arguing. The BM leadership were getting angry and wanted action.
Issues that were raised pertained to insufficient food, the need for more mattresses, frustration that the city had not started leveling. The city called for all the debris to be removed by the community, talk also revolved around how to take care of people’s debris who were still in the Eastern Cape on holiday – where could it be stored and how the city would take care of the debris so that when construction began people could get their burnt material back to use for reconstruction. It was agreed that all the debris would be removed from site by 2pm the following day. There was also an urgent plea to get the ‘list’ verified. This task was given to the Principle Field Officer (PFO) and VPUU.
Bolnick suggested that it would be imperative that the BM leadership be involved in this process. On behalf of the SDI alliance delegation attending the meeting she offered support to the city and VPUU to work with the leadership on getting the list of victims sorted. This being a key SDI tool it was felt that it could act as an entry point for ISN to start mobilizing the community and give them the power with regards to information (the list) and start building a working relationship with VPUU.
Bolnick also mentioned that should the BM leadership and the people of BM (as well as the city) agree to do a blocking out Ikhayalami had raised funds for the provision of 200 shelters and would support this process together with our alliance partners.
With regard to the ISN supporting the City, VPUU and the leadership in compiling a verified list the first time Bolnick mentioned this, the point was lost. The second time she managed to get the offer accepted by City’s the Principle Field Officer.
After the meeting the ISN members as well as NGO support staff met with four of the BM leadership to discuss a way forward. It was agreed that at 4pm that afternoon an exchange would go from BM section to Sheffield Rd and Mshini Wam. Vuyani and Nkokeli felt that ISN should not be involved with supporting the leaders, VPUU and the city in sorting out the list of victims. Their rationale was that the leadership knows their own communities. Corc staff felt that they could not support the BM leadership if ISN had decided not to assist with the compilation of a verified list. At 2pm we all left the OR Tambo Hall.
Vuyani and Nkokeli went to Du Noon to offer support and assess the situation following a fire that occurred there on the 31st of December where 125 shacks had burnt down. A meeting was arranged for the following morning at the Corc offices for ISN and staff to regroup especially if we needed to make a decision concerning supporting Du Noon and or BM section.
At 4pm Melvyn from Ikhayalami and arrived at the OR Tambo Hall to fetch members of the BM community who had been elected to visit Sheffield Rd and Mshini Wam. The exchange was positive. The leaders from BM who attended the exchange were able to get a better grasp of what was meant by blocking-out.
4th of January, Friday – the regroup meeting scheduled for 8.30am was called off. Nkokeli reported that people in Du Noon had already rebuilt their shacks and that ‘we should focus our attention on BM’. It was agreed to meet at OR Tambo Hall to attend the crisis committee meeting. The Mayor of Cape Town, Patricia De Lille, Councilor Sonnenberg, E.D Mr. Seth Maqetuka and Head of Informal Settlements Department Mr. Zwandile Sokupa as well as other officials from the various departments’ attended this meeting.
The Mayor would hear non-of-this and became angry that people were meddling in politics while there was a crisis at hand. She also confirmed all the support that the city had provided up to that stage. Fortuitously Naledi Pandor the Minister of Home Affairs walked into the meeting. She too said that it was not a time for politics and that the focus should be on aiding the people and moving forward. Minister Pandor made a number of practical recommendations with regard to processing ID’s and the immediate provision of portable toilets.
A site-specific report was given. Mr. Maqetuka reported that ‘the City is working on a short-term plan and is also developing a short to medium term plan’. The Mayor asked that the meeting focus on the immediate disaster response. The city engineer reported that ‘there was an agreement for Solid Waste to clear the material and that they were on site and machinery will come on site this afternoon to do leveling’.
Councilor Sonnenberg stressed the importance of a verified beneficiary list. Mr. Sokupa and Mr. Maqetuka acknowledged Ikhayalmi’s offer to support the process with the provision of 200 shelters should there be a need for a re-blocking.
The Mayor agreed to be part of the crisis committee and said that all her engagements will be done through the Ward Councilor in line with protocol.
After the meeting Mr. Maqetuka and Mr. Soup met with the SA SDI Alliance delegates briefly. Bolnick requested access to the site layout for fire-breaks/roads. They informed us that the City was not yet sure in which direction the relief effort would go as they were in consultation with the Province and there was a likelihood that they would embark on a UISP project, so as of yet there were no concrete plans. They asked us to be a patient and said they would draw us in when needed. Thereafter most of the officials and political leaders went on a site visit. The alliance delegates stayed in the vicinity of the hall and managed to meet a city engineer who said that there was layout for the roads but that he did not have it with him.
On 5th of January, Saturday Phumezo, Thozama, Nombini and Bolnick went to the OR Tambo Hall to meet with the engineer and attend the crisis committee meeting. Disaster Management chaired the crisis committee meeting. The Mayor and officials who had been in the meeting the previous day were not present. Disaster management reported on progress with regards to the delivery of more mattresses, medi-packs and nappies. The responsibility of distribution had been given to the BM leadership. The confirmed number of people registered and staying in the OR Tambo hall was 1660 made up of almost an equal number of males, females and children and 55 babies. The confirmed list of fatalities were given – 3 deaths reported on the 1st, one found on the 2nd of January in the rubble and the fifth person who passed away in hospital from 80% burns on the 4th of January.
It was also confirmed that disaster management and social services would remain on site until further notice. Discussion arose around WB Section where there had also been a fire on the 31st Dec affecting 54 households. People complained that WB Section was not getting the same kind of support that BM was getting. It was reported that people in WB had already received the city’s starter packs and that most people had rebuilt their homes. The crisis committee agreed to find ways of supporting victims in WB section.
With regard to work on the site it was reported that two front loaders and one digger loader where on site clearing and leveling the land and that a land surveyor was on site assessing where the firebreaks should go. Another plea, this time from SASSA was made for the urgent need for a verified beneficiary list. The meeting was then adjourned.
Phumezo, Nombini and Bolnick decided to go to site with two BM leaders. En route they checked the measurement of an existing road to get a sense of scale in anticipation of finding out the width that the city was planning to use.
The main reason why they decided to go to site (apart from viewing the leveling) was to find a land surveyor, engineer or even a truck driver, in fact anyone who could give them some information about the proposed fire breaks as these would be key starting points in thinking through a new layout and at the very least to consider if the proposed roads make sense to the community.
While on site they found a city official who was able to disclose the type of information they had been seeking. Firstly he told them that the width of the roads would be 5m. Secondly the City is planning on putting in two roads through the settlement and one ring road around the area that was burnt (there was previously a road at the bottom of the settlement) and thirdly the city was going to arrange for a plane to fly overhead and take high-resolution aerial photographs. From these photographs the proposed roads would be confirmed. As things progress it is clear that these images will be vital for planning purposes and are images that the alliance should try to access as soon as possible.
After this engagement the group walked to the middle of the site to assess things and think things through from a spatial perspective.
Looking at the site it did not make sense to put a ring road around the burnt area (the sides and bottom were virtually from one section of the settlement to the other so this could make sense but the top section still has shacks that did not burn and is about 17m to the main road). The width of the burnt out area looked around 35m wide with a length of approximately 100m. The top part of the ring road was the road that did not make sense as in essence if they are to go ahead with this it would mean that 500sqm would be taken up (over and above the other justifiable roads) for purpose of a road as apposed to land for those affected. It would make more sense to extend the two roads in the middle of the settlement to meet Landsdowne Rd. From the edge of where shacks still remained to Landsdown rd it is approximately 17m. This would mean that 17m x 5m x 2 roads = 170sqm would be used for roads as apposed to 500sqm. It is reasons like these that it is important that community leaders get drawn into the design processes so that they can make recommendations that make sense and work better for the broader community.
On the 6th of January, Sunday at 9.30am Mr. Sokupa phoned Bolnick to confirm the number of shelters that Ikhayalami could provide, how soon and how many per day. Bolnick confirmed that should a plan be reached and all parties including the BM leadership and ISN agree then Ikhayalami could make 20 shelters available immediately and from the 17th of January when factories re-opened could supply 20 per day.
Thozama, Nombini and Phumezo went to the OR Tambo Hall to attend the crisis committee meeting where the Mayor was scheduled to attend. The Mayor and the Premier arrived at the confirmed time, that being 2pm. They insisted that the crisis committee and other people in the boardroom vacate so that they could hold a meeting with the Ward Councilor. People who were in the boardroom (where meetings had been held every day since the disaster) were outraged. After some commotion two separate meetings took place –one with the Premier, Mayor and Ward Councilor and one with the crisis committee. The Ward Councilor came to the crisis committee meeting and said that he would represent the crisis committee in the meeting with the Mayor and Premier. At times he came out of the meeting to consult with members of the crisis committee.
The Premier and Mayor stated that only 250 families will return to the site, the rest will be relocated to the area next to the OR Tambo hall and others next to Busasa on SANDF land. The BM leadership informed the Ward Councilor that the Premier should not put a set number to how many households will return to the site ‘as the community intends to work on their own layout that would accommodate many more than the 250 households
On Monday the 7th of January it was time for the SA SDI alliance to regroup. A meeting was convened to reflect and strategise going forward. Vuyani, Nkokeli, Bunita, Olwetu, Zipho and Andy formed part of this meeting. A report on the past 5 days was given comprising the above.
In the reflection meeting it was agreed that the situation in BM is a complex and that the community is ‘about to go to a big war without any tools’ (Vuyani). As such it is imperative that the ISN work with the BM leaders with whom there is now a connection and go deeper so as to reach the street committee leadership and the community at large. The idea is that three Khayelitsha ISN leaders who have been involved in meetings on site since the 2nd of January will work with Vuyani and Nkokeli to develop a strategy on how to deepen ISN’s presence within the broader community. It is also vital that FEDUP get drawn in into this process so that woman can start supporting one another in this difficult time.
It also became clear that Vuyani and Nkokeli’s reluctance to get involved had to do with fact that they are not from the Khayelitsha area, that they view the situation in BM as highly political and that previously in 2010 as leaders of the ISN they did not succeed (through no fault of theirs) in doing what the BM leadership had asked of them and were worried this would come back to haunt them. It was agreed that in spite of all the difficulties and complexities it is vital that the ISN support the BM community in their time of need.
On Tuesday the 8th of January Phumezo, Nkokeli, Thozama, Vuyani and Nombini met at the OR Tambo hall. They agreed that they should call a meeting with the BM leadership that includes the street committees. Unfortunately this meeting did not materialize and ISN are planning to do it as soon as possible. That evening a leader from BM called Phumezo and Bolnick saying that the crisis committee (of which Ikhayalami had previously been invited to participate by the broader committee) would be meeting with the Mayor on the 9th of January.
Wednesday morning the 9th of January at 9am Ikhayalami’s support at the meeting at the Civic Centre was confirmed by the BM leadership.
In the coming days things will unfold and we will constantly assess what type of support we can offer. Politics is firing and misfiring everywhere from petty politics to political mud slinging to high level politics. The petty politics and mud slinging politics are bedfellows. Every community forum/organisation in Khayelitsha has been jostling to be ‘powerful’. Disaster Management and other government relief effort departments are trying to complete their tasks and get the hell out of there. The high level politics are invisible to most, taking place behind closed doors and off site.
In an attempt to offer support and respond to the disaster Ikhayalami’s involvement has been to 1) to support the BM leaders/community to see through and make sense of the murky waters so as to be in a better position to plot an equitable as possible way forward, and 2) to assist them in starting to think one step ahead and to open doors for the ISN and FEDUP.
The alliances role going forward should include the following agenda – to support the BM leadership to negotiate with the state, to act as a bridge between community and the state, to support our city partners in this huge task in a way that gives voice to the BM community, to gain access to the plans and aerial images and draw the community into the planning and to set up women savings groups.
An old South African song of the anti-Apartheid struggle is called “Meadowlands”. It commemorates a forced removal of many black and coloured people from the bustling, multi-cultural neighbourhood of Sophiatown in Johannesburg to the suburban township of Soweto in the late 1950s. The creolised tsotsitaal lyrics echo through the African continent’s historic urban transformation, which is well underway today: Ons daak nie, ons pola hie. “We are not leaving, we are staying right here.”
Inclusion. A place to call home. Such are the essential challenges that urbanisation has evoked for ordinary people and communities throughout the continent. The lessons emerging from both the successes and challenges of city growth in Africa suggest that developmentally sound approaches hinge on the extent to which ordinary people are incorporated into the financial flows, planning institutions and political processes by which it takes place.
Yet these lessons are not part of the dominant understanding of processes of urbanisation and development in Africa. This is true whether we look at the worlds of academia and theory, or the worlds of policy and politics. The urban population in Africa has almost tripled in fifty years, and this has been accompanied by a proliferation of informal settlements that lack access to basic services such as water and toilets, land tenure, housing and formal employment. These inequities are the overwhelming experience of the continent’s young, urban population. Over one-fifth of Africa’s population is between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four, and in eastern and southern Africa, this proportion rises to one-third.
Building a Strategy
Economic inequalities track closely with political exclusion. In truth, approaches such as “participation”, while common to the sustainability agenda, carry little weight in the big decision-making flows that actually impact on African urbanisation. Instead, they have been watered down to mean either a) consultation with ordinary people and communities on projects and programs that have already been conceived by large actors in government and the private sector, or b) the ability of communities to hold such actors accountable for promises after they make them.
“Political sustainability”—a broad notion of social and economic inclusion—coupled with environmental sustainability, is quite simply not the dominant paradigm of development and urbanisation in Africa. If we can generalise at all about African cities—a questionable task in and of itself—then the image of fancy skyscrapers rising next to sprawling informal settlements perhaps best represents this process. Economic and political inequality, environmental degradation and social insecurity are all too common as part of the urbanisation process in Africa.
So the task is twofold: first, to understand what we mean by “sustainability” in the first place; second, to strategise for embedding “sustainability” in the influential agendas that drive African urbanisation in the present and for the future. Such an approach has to link housing, land and employment in order to build inclusion into the urbanisation process. It also has to identify where the kinds of citizen groupings and organisations are emerging that allow for more responsive approaches to this triangle of needs.
Finance, Planning, Politics
The exclusion of the urban poor from planning for growth implicates three major trends.
First, the financial arrangements that determine urban development are exacerbating divides of inequality in terms of access to services, land and employment opportunities. Little finance is allocated in either national or international aid budgets for the upgrading of informal settlements. Local governments struggle to collect property and land taxes, and have little financial discretion to direct resources to the upgrading of informal settlements. Urban development is still an unpopular policy orientation, and the money that is directed at poverty alleviation continues to exhibit “rural bias”. Meanwhile, the finance available to industrial and real estate development in urban areas has a sharp [G1] tendency to not benefit the people and interests that fall outside of the formal sector.
Take two examples of spatial disparities in East Africa, which demonstrate the stark inequalities of financial flows to African cities. In Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, over 70 percent of households are on land whose ownership rights the law does not recognise. In other words, the vast majority of the city is “informal”. Even starker is the situation in Nairobi, where recreational space occupies more total land than do slums. Sixty percent of the city’s population lives in slums. While the formal world is accessing finance and the power it accompanies, the populations that are growing most quickly in African cities experience deeper exclusion.
Second, the institutional arrangements and planning processes that impact on urbanisation build and reinforce inequalities. Planning standards condemn informality in contexts where governments need to embrace and integrate informal populations. Participation is all too often a byword for using the poor as a means of an ex post facto rubber stamp of consent after key decisions around project conception and even implementation have been made by governments, private investors, and external aid agencies.
The challenge is not only a question of whether there is a moral need to include the poor, but even more, a question of how responsive existing institutions are to changes on the ground. The financial flows of urbanisation in Africa currently override the shaping capacity of institutions, especially in both local and national governments. The imperatives of private developers and corporations override the potential for the state to intervene effectively to mitigate the negative effects of the market.
In a sense, this is another version of how economist Joseph Stiglitz described what has happened to Western financial institutions in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse, in which processes of economic growth have been “privatizing gains but socializing losses”. Charles Sabel and Sanjay Reddy have identified the key institutional problem as an inability to “learn”. Hence they propose steps for “learning to learn”, a method for examining the constraints of both supply and demand that policy-makers and institution-shapers must address. This means identifying new problems for policy, and opening up decision-making to be more accountable and, in fact, empirical.
Yet this can come off as pie-in-the-sky dreaming. Cities in Africa are a crucible for both the new global order of nations and new institutions that make the decisions that impact on economic growth patterns. In such areas, as Mark Swilling, director of the Sustainability Institute in South Africa, recently noted, institutions and ordinary people alike require “the ability to learn and unlearn very quickly in the blink of an eye as context shifts”. How can Sabel and Reddy’s “learning to learn” framework possibly address this reality?
The third and related cause of exclusion, and the necessary impact of inclusion on the sustainability agenda[G2] , concerns the political processes of urbanisation in Africa. In essence, the current exclusion of the poor from decision-making, project conceptions and fundamental re-imaginings of city development fundamentally impedes a more responsive set of institutions along the lines of “learning to learn”. When the urban poor are considered objects of developmental decisions of others—when ordinary people are a nuisance to be ignored or evicted—informality continues to hinder economic growth and the development of social fabric in cities.
Most poverty alleviation approaches are focused on supporting individuals and households to achieve basic human needs. But from the sustainability perspective—understood broadly—this actually undercuts the need for political inclusion. Given the constraints on political agency and economic opportunity that exist among many communities of the poorest of the poor, representative organisations of the poor are of particular significance.
It is therefore time to pay more attention to the kinds of popular institutions of the poor that can be effective at influencing formal institutional structures. These exist in many parts of the world currently undergoing rapid urbanisation. Even those cities that are not in Africa offer significant learning opportunities for alternative political approaches. A few different types include a) city-wide community networks of informal settlement dwellers in Thailand that work with a government program for slum upgrading called Baan Mankong; b) street committees in places like Karachi, Pakistan, that work with local government through the Orangi Pilot Project; and c) national and city-wide slum dweller “federations” in many countries in Africa and Asia, that are part of a global network called Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI). In all of these cases, the most important lesson concerns the ability of government, especially at the local level, to reform existing institutions or create new ones that allow communities and officials to speak with each other as equals and to make decisions jointly.
Investing in Community Organisations and Networks
With this triangular framework for understanding the challenge of the sustainability agenda as it pertains to urbanisation in Africa—finance, planning, and politics—we need to begin understanding the strategy for actualising such an approach. We need to get deep into the real-world practices that, over time, cohere to create this kind of impact-driven approach to sustainable urbanisation. The notion of “learning”, as Sabel and Reddy, amongst others, have put it, is useful for describing how small changes in institutional practice can be geared towards exactly this kind of high impact.
In particular, we need to consider the lessons of communities that are actually involved in a learning process with elements of local bureaucracies. These relationships help to develop alternative mechanisms for delivery and to construct deeper bonds of citizenship through the links of community associations with state bureaucracies.
An instructive case is a set of interactions between community associations and low-level bureaucrats in the Informal Settlements Unit of the Department of Housing in the municipality of Stellenbosch in South Africa.
The informal settlement of Langrug is home to about eighteen hundred households, according to a community-led household survey in 2011. The settlement had gone with approximately forty toilets for all eighteen hundred families for many years. In 2010, a rich landowner nearby threatened to sue the municipality for the polluted runoff coming from the settlement on to his property.
The rich were making the claim in this case. But it is the poor who have gained attention from the claim. The municipality had long tried to provide services to Langrug through ad hoc, top-down methods. These previous attempts had been met by vandalism and destruction, as the community felt that there was no consultation about the needs or priorities of the settlement.
Over 2011 and 2012, both the community and low-level bureaucrats have changed. The bureaucrats visit the community much more often and sit in joint meetings with community leaders to plan improvements for the settlement. The city has also begun employing community members, who work on upgrading projects through short-term public works programs. In just a year, the community has achieved more toilets and water points, reorganised shacks near small flood plains in the settlement, and cleaned drains. The community and city government have begun working together to formalise the settlement and provide land tenure to residents. The community has also begun to alter and deepen its governing structures in the wake of its new experience in working with local government. Leaders have created smaller block committees, as well as issue-based committees (e.g., to plan for a new community hall that will serve a number of businesses and social organisations, and a health committee).
These lessons echo throughout the country and throughout the world. Langrug is linked to the Informal Settlement Network, a social movement that is part of the global SDI network. SDI has therefore used its international reach to bring communities and city officials from elsewhere in South Africa, and from other countries in Africa and Asia, to learn from the approach that the Langrug community and the Stellenbosch authorities have been exploring.
Merging the “Top” and the “Bottom”
From the perspective of actors working at the “bottom” of urban politics—community organisations, professional NGOs, legal advocates—“sustainability” too often turns into small projects that appear sustainable, but that do not make any impact at the large scales of financial flows, planning institutions and political processes. Without an articulation of precisely this sort of impact—a broad theory of change to achieve sustainable urbanisation in Africa—we cannot expect to see sustainable cities emerge from the urbanisation process well underway. Often this means that the “bottom” needs to be prepared to find new modes of working with large “formal” actors, especially the state.
From the “top”, the sustainability agenda demands the inverse of such a critical perspective. National and local governments in Africa have struggled to build in the adaptive responsiveness required to deal with rapid change in populations, built environment and economies. Those that have are learning to develop and invest in partnerships with community-based groups and organisations, especially those that constitute themselves at the city-wide level. This is not the simple decentralised model of private-public partnerships, but an approach to partnership that leverages the strategic strength of the grassroots to strengthen public institutions in their ability to perceive and adapt to the rapid changes of urbanisation.
“Path-dependent” views of development have long suggested that historical and especially colonial legacies condemn people in Africa to overwhelming poverty and suffering. Consequently, intervention by aid agencies, multilateral institutions, private actors and national governments has too often manifested in a context that either ignores these legacies and “path dependence” altogether, or assumes that their outcomes make the urbanisation of poverty a historical fait accompli. This mix of hubris and fatalism has led to flows of funds, institutional designs and political power that not only ignore, but actively exclude the poor. Ordinary people continue to persist as objects of interventions by those who are much more powerful, and therefore have little voice.
So we return to the old South African song, “Meadowlands”. Such a collective plea for belonging needs to underpin the sustainability agenda if it will be able to impact on an alternative view of urbanisation in African cities. This means investing in the capacities of communities, just as much as it means investing in the projects and programs that are geared towards achieving the physical “outputs” of inclusionary development: basic services, land, housing, employment.
This also means investing in community organisations, and the networking of these organisations—especially at the city-wide scale—in order to build the political processes at the city and national level that can achieve such physical outcomes. An integrated approach to sustainability will embed the human need for belonging to place, to land, and to community, within the broader processes of urbanisation. This may be our only path to upending a phenomenon that, in Africa, has thus far exhibited all-too-prevalent tendencies of exclusion.
 “Meadowlands,” performed by Nancy Jacobs and Sisters. Amandla! A Revolution in Four Part Harmony (ATO Records, 2003).
 John Vidal, “Africa warned of 'slum' cities danger as its population passes 1bn”. The Guardian Global Development Blog. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/24/africa-billion-population-un-report
 United Nations Population Fund, “Africa: Why Investing in Africa's Youthful Population Can No Longer Wait”. http://allafrica.com/stories/201210020326.html
 UN-Habitat, State of the African Cities 2010, 3.
 “Upgrading of Low Income Settlements: Country Assessment Report—Tanzania.” World Bank Institute, Africa Technical Unit. http://web.mit.edu/urbanupgrading/upgrading/case-examples/overview-africa/country-assessments/reports/Tanzania-report.html
 Florence Dafe, “No Business like Slum Business? The Political Economy of the Continued Existence of Slums: A Case Study of Nairobi”. Development Studies Institute, London School of Economics Working Paper, 12.
Joseph Stiglitz, “The Current Economic Crisis and Lessons for Economic Theory.” Eastern Economic Journal, forthcoming (President’s address at the 2009 Eastern Economic Association Conference, New York, February 2009).
 Charles Sabel and Sanjay Reddy, “Learning to Learn: Undoing the Gordian Knot of Development Today”. Challenge, M.E. Sharpe, Inc., vol. 50(5), October 2007, 73–4.
 Mark Swilling, “The Power of Quiet Encroachment”. Lecture delivered at TedXStellenbosch, 29 July 2011. http://youtube/GBnN62-Lp7U
As part of its ongoing quest to bridge informal urban settlements into city planning, an important first step has been to get communities of the urban poor living in informal settlements to believe that aggregating information about their settlement and households is a valuable tool towards improving their lives.
This process clearly has many outcomes. It produces data rarely collected by city goverments; it organizes inter-settlement networks that form organizations and begin to dialogue with the city; it forces cities to begin to accommodate new information that it chose to ignore in the past and to address the needs of the poor in its fiscal and organizational planning.
While this process began in India, it has now been adopted in various forms in different SDI affiliates in Asia, Africa and Latin America. In its initial form and thanks to its important role as a learning tool, communities looked at what others did and developed their own formats, aggregated their data as they felt relevant.
However, while information was very useful at the time of doing the survey, many challenges have since emerged. The data is stored in different ways, sometimes the data sheets are lost; most data is not stored in digital form and is not compatible across countries. SDI, whose role is to deepen and strengthen local processes and produce global advocacy to legitimate the co-production of informal settlements data with communities taking lead, cannot do so unless this data can be aggregated.
Initially through an internal learning and reflection process, ten affiliates met in India in January 2011 to reflect on their national processes and develop an SDI agenda around enumerations: to retain local focus but to begin to develop at least 70% data which could be aggregated across cities. It also agreed that city wide slum profiles were critical to collect and should be attempted in as many cities as possible. Finally, the decision was made to attempt to develop a SDI wide data base. Issues related to enumeration have now been published in Environment and Urbanization (IIED UK) and are available online.
When attempts were finally made to compile all the gathered data at one web-based location, many challenges emerged and, while in discussions with different support organizations of SDI, the uniqueness of how data is collected by affiliates, its usage and its advocacy value were highlighted, yet clearly the present data was not amenable to be digitalized.
The Gates Foundation has linked SDI to the Santa Fe Institute (SFI), and financed a project which will assist the two to work together to begin such aggregation and improve SDI's data collection and management systems. From the side of SDI, this partnership will seek to:
Standardize questions for settlement profiles
Aggregate globally and disaggregate locally appropriate information for advocacy and local negotiation
Develop indicators to measure levels of vulnerability of slum settlements within cities
Some members of SDI, from its Secretariat, affiliates and federations are presently in Santa Fe meet with partners there and discuss how this project will be taken forward. They in turn will coordinate with SFI and SDI affiliates to improve standardization without losing capacity to bring in local realities, while also working with the team to build a data management system at SDI and national level.
This is a year-long project and will operate at the city, national and international level. It will deepen capacity of federation leaders to clean up their city level data, dialogue with city government and and other key stakeholders and expand their federation as widely as possible across the cities. Through SDI and association with various city mayors networks SDI will seek partnerships to undertake such projects in collaboration.
It is the new global challenge to make information and knowledge equally accessible to design solutions, execute them and monitor them locally while seeking global attention to the poor of bottom up solutions for sustainable development.
Good afternoon everyone. My name is Ben Bradlow, and I'm working with Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI), a network of community-based organizations of the urban poor in 33 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. One of the key aspects of our work is to develop mechanisms by which urban poor communities and networks can access finance, in order to put together projects that build more inclusive political processes in their cities and countries. A large aspect of this work was the subject of Katia Savchuk's recent article on this site about SDI's Urban Poor Fund International (UPFI): http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2012/oct/08/urban-poor-fund-communities-determine-future
A central pre-occupation for SDI as a network of grassroots urban social movements, is that the institutions of international development aid need to open up to the voice and agency of the poor. In providing resources to such a network, development aid institutions are acknowledging that the physical outcomes of development — eg. improved access to water and sanitation, housing, land, etc — are most sustainable when tied to improvements in the influence and inclusion of urban poor organizations in the governance of cities.
Look forward to participating in this chat.
A key question that we often ask ourselves is, "how do we understand the nature of impact and scale in our work?" The challenge, then, is to articulate political process of change. By "political," I mean in terms of changing power relations, and not really in terms of formal political parties. A physical project is never just significant as a physical project. So much of development aid gets stuck in the weeds of single projects that can never be replicated. What we try to do is pursue projects that can attract other actors, especially in local governments, to think WITH communities about how to change the way that they work to include communities in how projects and programs get conceived, planned, financed, and implemented. By seeking to change these institutional relationships, a single project can achieve a city-wide impact, or greater. This process is very hard to see without an appreciation of the political change that is a precondition for success. Political changes can take a very long time, and through very indirect routes.
Part of the challenge is in what both funders and NGOs are hoping to achieve. So much of this sector is hoping to achieve improvements in physical outcomes of development (eg. taps, toilets, houses, etc), but, on their own, NGOs can never take this to scale. So funding in this sector barely makes a dent in our existing framework for thinking about development success.
Meanwhile, the big actors — such as the private and public sectors — reach — or have the potential to reach – much greater scale in their activities, and serve quite different social functions. NGOs cannot replace these sectors, but they can be agents for drastic changes in how they work. Hence, metrics for evaluating aid funding need to appreciate the processes behind physical outcomes, in addition to the physical outcomes themselves.
A related point is to appreciate the differences between funding professional NGOs and grassroots or community-based social movements. So much of development aid is supposed to support people in poor communities, but so rarely do these very people have a voice in how the money reaches them, even when funding goes to local NGOs, and what they can do with it.
Accountability has to be a principle that is internal as well as external. A practice common in the SDI network is to have Federations (the networks of primarily women-led savings groups that are the backbone of SDI) from one or two countries "review" the work of another Federation. For example, Federations from Kenya and South Africa have traveled to Uganda, and vice versa. In such visits, communities from different countries share and learn from each other, while evaluating each other in a spirit of horizontal, mutual accountability, as opposed to stratified vertical approaches that are endemic to the donor-recipient relationship.
Once this kind of horizontal accountability is established, it then becomes much easier to communicate the authentic organizational priorities for accountability that need to exist between recipients and donors.
This is definitely a big challenge, and speaks to the need to consider the ways in which NGO professionals work with grassroots movements. Generally the need for NGO professional work as you describe it, can crowd out the creativity and leadership of community-based actors. We need to be very clear that NGO professionals need to work in ways in that support the priorities of the grassroots, and not dictate to people in such communities. In a sense the question is not what are the "new models that work better," but what are the new kinds of relationships that lead to a more empowering system for grassroots movements.
This means re-imagining professional work such that it is in this supportive mold that empowers the poor to speak and decide for themselves, and does not encourage professional intervention in the lives of the poor based on what we think we know is "best." In this sense, the current dominant modes of NGO work with grassroots movements too often replicate the vertical nature of power between donors and NGOs.
Thanks all for a great discussion and thanks for including SDI as part of it.
NAIROBI, Kenya, November 13 | The Norwegian Minister for International Development, Heikki Holmas and UN-HABITAT Executive Director, Dr Joan Clos, visited Mukuru Kwa Njenga slums to share experiences with the slum dwellers as well as tour some of the ongoing projects such as the Mukuru Greenfields housing project.
The two visited the settlement to offer encouragement to the Kenyan people living in slums and encouraged the communities to instill confidence and scope to some of the projects they are engaged in, under the stewardship of Muungano wa Wanavijiji. The visit was organized by UN-HABITAT, SDI, the Norwegian Embassy, and the Kenyan SDI Alliance: Muungano wa Wanavijiji, Akiba Mashinani Trust and Muungano Support Trust.
Min. Holmas is received by founder of Mukuru Kwa Njenga settlement, Mr. Mzee Njenga.
During the visit, Minister Heikki Holmas made the following statement: “The objective of the visit by representation of the Norwegian Government and UN-HABITAT to Mukuru slums is to give support and encouragement to the Kenyan people and the country’s institutions as it continues to bring about reforms in Kenyan land and housing. The right to own a home gives one and his family the opportunity to grow as a human being. There have been strong movements in Norway that campaign for home ownership. There is also the need for public policy on land and housing to affect the housing agenda in Kenya, this will then give organized communities the opportunity to develop areas where they live in conjunction with their government.”
Mr. Heikki Holmas also took notice of the tool of savings, which helps community mobilize under a common vision, which in future will be a model to future generations within and without the country for years to come.
ED of UN Habitat, Joan Clos, addresses the gathering.
UN-Habitat Executive Director, Dr. Joan Clos, shared the following: “I appreciate the real change that we have been able to spot on the ground which is essential in every communal setup. The world today is growing fast, specifically if I take issue with Nairobi which is one of the fastest growing cities in Africa, with the new constitutional changes and devolved county governments the country’s growth will continue to be felt. I must say the grass root organizations around savings is important especially to some of the projects you are involved in, this is fantastic. UN-HABITAT will continue to support such movements be it technically or socially that they took root.”
Dr. Clos also took note of the need for technical officials working with communities that we provide advice on technical aspects underlying fundamental things and not delegate knowledge to communities to initiate projects at the beginning which can easily compromise the well being of the project at its initial projects.
Mukuru community members gather for the visit.
The Millennium Development Goal 7, Target 11 commits the international community to improving the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by the year 2020. However, rural-urban migration, natural increase and expansion of urban centres all contribute to rapid urbanisation resulting in the constant increase in the number of slum dwellers.
Secure land tenure and property rights are fundamental to shelter and livelihoods, and a cornerstone for the realisation of human rights and for poverty reduction. Secure land rights are particularly important in helping reverse gender discrimination, social exclusion of vulnerable groups, and wider social and economic inequalities linked to inequitable and insecure access to land.
It is now well recognised that secure land and property rights for all are essential to reducing poverty, because they underpin economic development and social inclusion. Secure land tenure and property rights enable people in rural and urban areas to invest in improved homes and livelihoods. They also help to promote good environmental management, improve food security, and assist directly in the realization of human rights, including the elimination of discrimination against women, the vulnerable, indigenous groups and other minorities.
It’s now being witnessed that changes in land policies, which reflect these principles, are being implemented in a variety of countries across the world. Today, however, land resources face pressures and demands as never before, and developing countries still lack the tools, systematic strategies and support necessary to deliver secure land rights for all.
Sound land policies should protect people from forced removals and evictions, or where displacement is determined by legitimate processes as necessary for the greater public good and is carried out in conformity with national and international norms, policies should ensure that citizens have access to adequate compensation. Another critical dimension is ensuring gender equality, because women face such widespread discrimination around land and property. When women enjoy secure and equal rights, everybody benefits. Also, secure land rights for all citizens contributes to conflict reduction and improvement in environmental management as well as household living conditions.
During the visit, the following projects were presented to the Norwegian Government and UN HABITAT by Muungano wa Wanavijiji and the Kenyan Alliance:
1. Finance Modeling Through Community Tools- MUKURU GREEN FIELDS HOUSING PROJECT
Faith Moraa, an architect with AMT, explains the designs for the Mukuru Green Fields housing project.
Urban development and sustainable development are not contradictory. There have been recent efforts by Slum Dwellers International to show that urban growth and development can be managed to make cities more livable and to curb the issue of inadequate housing, especially when it comes to the poor living amongst us. However, the tendency to think that urbanization is primarily responsible for unsustainable development is still predominant.
Under this subheading, we look at the Mukuru Greenfield Project. As the clamor for better housing by the urban poor continues, the need for secure land tenure is indeed becoming a major problem for the poor. It is out of such circumstances that 2,000 community members using the SDI tool of savings came together to address their plight- housing and secure tenure. The community identified a 23 acre piece of land in Mukuru Kwa Njenga’s sisal area.
Akiba Mashinani Trust (AMT) then took the mantle to help the community to negotiate the price of the land with the owner of the land on the behalf of the community. The negotiations began and a substantial price value were arrived at. The quest for acquiring the land began, AMT negotiated with ECO Bank for a loan to the 2,000 community members to offset payment for the 23 acre land. The loan was granted with Slum Dwellers International as the guarantor in the land acquisition deal.
Having been able to continuously save their personal resources, the community has been able to repay their loan to Eco Bank and have embarked on putting forward deposits for the next phase which is house designs and construction. The designs are awaiting approval from the Nairobi City Council and it is expected that ground breaking process will be in January 2013.
Opportunities that arose from the Process
Community Mobilsation and Savings
Access for basic services and infrastructure
Security of tenure to over 2,000 Kenyan citizens
House dreaming processes for the urban poor to ensure participation and project ownership
Embracing current market cross subsidies strategies, hence affordability of housing infrastructure by the poor
Competitive Community tendering process
Incremental house improvement strategies.
2. Changing the Planning Discourse- MATHARE ZONAL PLAN
Edwin Simiyu of MuST and Emily Wangari of Muungano explain the Mathare Zonal Plan.
Mathare is an informal settlement that is home to nearly 188,000 people confronting a range of challenges. Mathare is one of the largest slums in Nairobi, a city where over half of the approximately 3.5 million residents live in over 180 different slums. Like many informal settlements, Mathare is characterized by unsafe and overcrowded housing, elevated exposure to environmental hazards, high prevalence of communicable diseases, and a lack of access to essential services, such as sanitation, water and electricity. Residents in Nairobi’s slums frequently suffer from tenure insecurity, while widespread poverty and violence further increase their vulnerabilities.
The Zonal plan offers planning strategies for thirteen villages in Mathare Valley. The analyses and recommendations in the plan emerged from an ongoing collaborative project involving residents, the non-governmental organization Muungano Support Trust (MuST), the University of California, Berkeley (UCB) Department of City and Regional Planning, the University of Nairobi (UoN) Department of Urban and Regional Planning and Slum Dwellers International (SDI).
Guiding Principles and Goals of Mathare Zonal Development Plan
The Mathare Zonal Plan aims to integrate the dimensions of our Relational Model for Participatory Upgrading. Using this approach, we developed Community Planning Teams comprised of residents from each village in Mathare that focused on valley-wide issues. Through this process, the project worked with residents to build new awareness of the opportunities and challenges for infrastructure planning at the zonal scale.
While the Community Planning Teams generate ideas for improving the settlements’ physical conditions, we recognize that local action alone is insufficient and broader policy change will also be necessary to improve living conditions and the lives of slum-dwellers. Thus, our approach rejects single-issue slum improvement approaches and instead focuses on the inter relationships between poverty alleviation, securing infrastructure and services, improving housing, economic opportunities, food security, human health and safety, among other issues.
Key project principles and goals include:
1. Build upon existing community assets and strengths.
2. Use infrastructure planning as an entry-point to address other related issues.
3. Ensure meaningful participation & community ownership.
1. Generate Valley-wide analyses of existing conditions and concrete ideas for improving lives and living conditions.
2. Provide evidence & ideas that can strengthen community organizing, leadership and coalition building.
3. Provide a framework for addressing emerging policies and plans at the county, municipal, and national level aimed at slum dwellers.
4. Inspire service providers to invest in valley-wide infrastructure provision.
3. Linking the National and International Development Agenda to Community Needs and Processes: Railway Relocation Action Plan (RAP)
David Mathenge (MuST) and Jack Makau (SDI) present the concept behind the RAP.
In 2004 the government of Kenya through various state agencies issued eviction notices to persons living on public lands that were considered riparian. It’s to this effect that the Federation of Slum Dwellers (Muungano wa Wanavijiji) initiated advocacy and lobbying campaigns to address the looming danger of forced evictions which would have rendered millions of people homeless. Out of these efforts the evictions were suspended and dialogue given a chance.
The federation, with the help of SDI, approached Kenya Railways to foster discussions on suitable mechanisms of preventing mass evictions. It is estimated that 10,000 people live along the railway riparian. Through an exchange programme organized by SDI, government officials from the Ministry of Transport and Kenya Railways toured India to learn how the country had dealt with a similar situation.
This then led to the formalization of an engagement between the World Bank and the Kenyan Government on the need of coming up with a Relocation Action Plan (RAP). The Kenyan SDI affiliate, through recognized tools of enumerations and mapping was able to develop concrete recommendations and plans that would see 10,000 people resettled. It is estimated that the project cost was USD 40 million.
4. Kenya Jubilee Campaign
On 12 December 2013 Kenya will celebrate 50 years as an independent republic, marking the nations Golden Jubilee celebrations. The Fiftieth Anniversary marks a significant milestone in a nation’s heritage, a very symbolic moment. In the Bible it formed the year of Jubilee, a year that literally signified “True Liberty – Ukombozi wa Kweli”. The Jubilee is an announcement of freedom, restitution of land and property, ending inequalities created by the extremes of wealth and poverty. In Nairobi, slum land is claimed by three distinct categories of owners, namely:
The Registered Title Deed Holder
The Kenya Jubilee campaign was started to build awareness to the plight of issues affecting urban poor Kenyans and to give hope to Kenyans. Those who occupy slums live under the shadow of constant threat of demolitions, violent evictions, fires, floods and insecurity. Their neighborhoods often lack the most basic amenities and infrastructure and this situation is often preserved by powerful forces within Government and the private sector. The Jubilee campaign is meant to set a legal precedent to deal with land occupied by the slum dwellers and the development of legislation with a bias on guidelines on evictions and community land ownership bill.
The Women and Sanitation campaign is a comprehensive campaign to improve sanitation conditions for Nairobi’s slum dwellers, beginning in the expansive slum of Mukuru. Women are the most severely affected by a lack of toilets and bathing facilities in informal settlements, as they become vulnerable to sexual assault, unique health problems, and a lack of dignity.
It is rather obvious that lack of sanitation facilities in poorly planned areas has got a tremendous impact on the health and economic development of communities, unfortunately women and girls are the hardest hit by absence of toilets and bathrooms within the areas they reside.
In crowded urban settlements women go through the entire day without relieving themselves and also risk harassment or even rape when accessing toilet facilities in the cover of darkness. In urban areas, shame, embarrassment and the great desire for privacy force women to defecate in secluded areas where they risk assault or underneath their beds put plastic containers that act as emergency toilets. Needless to say, menstruation, pregnancy and postnatal bleeding add further complications and discomforts.
By Jhono Bennett and Walter Fieuw, CORC South Africa
Post-apartheid urban and housing policies have underscored the necessity of progressively integrating the poor as a means of restructuring spatially fragmented cities and eradicating asset-based poverty. Post-apartheid urban policies had to redress apartheid fragmentation and segregation and the subject of transformation in democratic South Africa has been the historically constructed uneven development of ‘islands of spatial affluence’ in a ‘sea of geographic misery’.
With the relaxing of influx controls during the late 1980s, South African cities have been subject to rapid urbanization and resultant growth of informal settlements in inner-city and peripheral areas. The growth of informal settlements in the past two decades have by far exceeded government’s efforts to deliver better services, provide adequate housing and mitigate against disasters and vulnerability. Despite the government’s efforts to deliver more than 2.5 million housing units since 1994, the housing backlog have remained at 15-17% of the urban population (2.1 million units outstanding). Today there are more than 2,600 informal settlements, and continue to grow between 5-7% across different regions. This is a stark increase from 300 informal settlements in 1994. Urban vulnerability has increased, juxtaposed with worsening human development indices, service delivery constraints, insecure tenure, and safety and security concerns.
Since 2004, with the introduction of Breaking New Ground, and through consecutive National Housing Codes (2004, 2007, 2009), the Department of Human Settlements have introduced the concept of “upgrading informal settlements”, which aims to progressively integrate informal settlement into the broader urban fabric, deliver better services, and incrementally secure tenure. To this effect, a performance agreement was signed between the Presidency and National Minister of Human Settlements, Mr. Tokyo Sexwale. Output 1 of the Presidency’s Outcome 8 (Sustainable Human Settlements and improved quality of household life) aims to upgrade 400,000 households in-situ by 2014. Moreover, such interventions are also spotlighted by Chapter 8 of the National Development Plan (also called “Vision 2030”) which calls for the integration of informal settlement into the urban fabric through upgrading, incremental security of tenure, and better service delivery.
Community organisations of the poor have been systematically sidelined through the governments supply-sided approach to urban restructuring and housing delivery. The rally call of social movements in South Africa has been that of greater inclusion in decision making processes and meaningful engagement around settlement improvement. The Informal Settlement Network (ISN) has emerged as an alternative social movement that prioritises pragmatic engagement with government around collaborative approaches to upgrading of informal settlements. However, in Gauteng, communities have been systematically disregarded, which lead to the mobilization of thousands of informal settlement dwellers to march on the office of the premier.
In the wake of the Asihambe solidarity march on the 11th September, and in response to the growing demand from communities to start small scale and autonomous improvement projects, the Johannesburg CORC office has begun a renewed effort through the CUFF project process of engaging and supporting the informal settlement communities in Gauteng around a range of projects.
The Community Upgrading Finance Facility (CUFF) is an initiative of the South African Alliance. The fund is capitalized by CORC, uTshani Fund and contributions from SDI. The Fund’s board—made up of 60% shack dwellers and 40% support NGO professionals—receives proposals for upgrading projects, but the community is ultimately responsible for writing up the project description, get quotes from suppliers, and implement the project (with support from ISN, CORC and uTshani Fund).
The CUFF projects are one of several tools CORC uses to support the ISN/FEDUP in mobilising organised communities towards development. The CUFF projects work synergistically with the Savings,Enumeration, and Community based planning methodologies alongside partnership formalisation with local government, and call for the identification of a key developmental item needed by a community. The leadership and community members then work with ISN/FEDUP and CORC technical members to design, quantify and cost the project. In order to proceed, the community members are required to collect and save a fraction of the project cost towards the contribution of the overall costs that, once approved by the CUFF community/NGO board, will be implemented in the community. The objectives of the CUFF projects are to set precedents for Govenment and Community partnerships in informal settlement upgrading by providing technical assistance and seed capital for pilot projects. This process should ideally create systems, procedures and structures that enable communities to work in collaboration with government institutions.
In order to meet these growing demands, the Johannesburg CORC office has employed the help of several new interns from the 1:1 Student League Network, having gained experience in this network through the University design/build projects, they are open minded and ready to engage with the difficulties involved in the socio-technical support of community driven development processes. These interns are working under the supervision and guidance of the ISN/FEDUP’s technical community groups and the various leadership structures in the settlements.
New intern Sumaya described her experience in working directly with the community
We met with leadership at the community hall to initiate community mapping process where we mapped out key areas and “problem” areas, as described by the Magandaganda community. Members expressed a desire to have their own yards as they are experiencing disputes regarding unclear tenure. A few members of the leadership also showed some hostility and hesitation as they felt that their concerns are not being taken further fast enough. They also expressed concern regarding the risk of crossing the rail-line that borders the settlement.
The CUFF teams are working on several projects in the City of Johannesburg and Ekurheleni such as Marathon, Delport, Peter Mokaba, Innesfree and Magandaganda. These projects vary from the installation of communal taps to the allocation of plots in denser settlements.
Mohau Melani, regional ISN coordinator, explained the process of engaging the communities as follows,
The enumeration will provide the settlement committee with total knowledge of everybody who is the settlement. This will also assist the community in dealing with and control of allocation into sites once their measured into a layout … The community has promised to provide us with the background history of the settlement when the community meets with ISN and CORC technical teams. ISN delegates assist the community with the measurement and costing of the pipes in order to increase a number of taps in the settlement.
The collaboration between community organisations and committees that drive local development agendas, networking at the regional level via ISN, and receive technical support from CORC and ISN is proving to be an indispensable model for community driven development.
Simultaneously the CUFF project teams are profiling and collecting critical data to prepare identified settlements for larger development processes through the National Upgrading Support Programme (NUSP).
http://www.info.gov.za/issues/outcomes/index.html. Other outputs of Outcome 8 is to improve the access to basic services (Output 2 includes the following improvements: Water – from 92% to 100%; Sanitation – from 69% to 100%; Refuse removal – from 64% to 75%; Electricity – from 81% to 92%), facilitate the provision of 600,000 accommodation units in the gap market (earning between R3,500 and R12,800), and mobilisation of well located public land for low income and affordable housing.
There were a number of comments from professors at the AAPS Conference in Nairobi (October 16-18) about the name that should be given to Urban Studios. Should they be called practical planning studios? Reality studios? How can they be distinguished from the studios to which planners are accustomed? For SDI, as one programme officer pointed out, “they could be called pineapples for all we care, as long as they do the work and have productive outcomes.”
This reality check was, in many ways, the reason SDI was invited to this gathering of planning professors from across Africa. A partnership between AAPS and SDI is working to make planning more responsive to the realities of life in developing cities by bringing planning students into partnership with slum dweller federations in SDI’s network.
Sheela Patel, one of the founders of SDI and chair of the organization's board, gave the keynote address, which undoubtedly ruffled the feathers of a few professors who questioned the focus on slums, informality, and even the urban sector.
Sheela didn’t sugar coat her relationship to planners either. “I used to love to hate planners”, she said. As the years passed, however, she came to realize it is necessary to examine the reasons why planners were not serving the needs of the urban poor and work to change it. She said her blood would boil as a young professional when she would be forced to sit across from a planner who ordered eviction after eviction, but she focused on finding the cracks and the loopholes, that would enable a critical mass of urban residents to generate solutions. For the critical mass, finding solutions was easy. The city could not plan for what it did not know.
She urged participants to work toward disconnecting planning from 19th century principles and recognize that planning is deeply political. Despite endless platitudes to the urban poor, she argued, the judiciary continues to uphold deeply exclusionary urban planning systems. This, she warned, could have terrible consequences for the cities of the developing world where she doubts young, impatient, and aspirational populations will not be prepared to wait for years for their cities to recognize them. She said the time has come for African planners to move away from Eurocentric models and generate their own.
AAPS is deeply cognizant of this need and the conference highlighted the urban pineapples conducted by SDI affiliates and AAPS member schools. The studios highlighted were conducted in Uganda and Malawi and the Kenya federation shared its experience working with students. The presentations highlighted the benefit to students and communities through such partnerships. The sense that the university is an ivory tower with little to no relevance to the urban poor was turned on its head. Each studio aimed to infuse Africa’s future planners with the knowledge that planning developing cities simply cannot ignore the reality of life in the informal settlements where the bulk of the urban population resides. As student Sam Nuwagira, a studio participant from Uganda, remarked, “As planners we are taught that we are gods. The studio helped me to see that the gods are the community as they have the knowledge about their areas.”
This point was reinforced by federation member and “community professor” Katana Goretti, “In communities we know the number of settlements, services and origins of the people. We know how they spend their money and how they would like to develop their areas. You cannot plan from the office but if you go to the ground and speak to people and learn from them it can help you plan better.” As part of the urban studio in Uganda, Katana delivered lectures at Makerere University, took students on transect walks through Uganda’s slums, and helped student planners understand the necessity of planning with communities.
Critically, the studio work will need to impact upon the planning curriculum. There was much discussion about how this might be possible and also much concern about the bureaucratic barriers within universities. This discussion will continue within the AAPS community. Many professors present expressed interest in conducting similar studio to the ones conducted with SDI and countries such as Nigeria, Mozambique, and Rwanda expressed interest in starting SDI affiliate federations.
For SDI the vision is to see organized communities become the drivers of pragmatic and inclusive urban planning. Building partnerships with actors typically charged with urban planning – such as municipal and city councils, urban ministries, and academic institutions – is seen as the most viable strategy for incrementally generating systemic changes to the practice of urban planning. Critically, partnerships – like pineapples – can look good from the outside, but be brown, mushy, and useless at the center. True partnerships involve negotiation and engagement between equals. Community professors still face challenges being perceived as such, but SDI believes it’s headed in the right direction.
By the Zimbabwe Homeless People's Federation & Dialogue on Shelter
Unlike the previous global urban meetings, WUF6 will be remembered with a difference by the Zimbabweans. At this year’s World Urban Forum, the Mayor of Harare was awarded the UN Habitat Scroll of Honour - a prestigious global recognition given to an individual or organization for outstanding contribution to human settlements. The award is an acknowledgement of the role that Mayor Masunda has played in the local government sphere in general. In particular, the award recognizes the work done in partnership with the alliance of the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation and its technical partner Dialogue on Shelter under the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded Harare Slum Upgrading Project.
Today, the Harare Mayor invited the slum dwellers to his official residence in Harare to join him in celebrating this prestigious award. Mayor Masunda noted how the relationship with the alliance of the Federation and Dialogue has assisted the City of Harare to accomplish work that ordinarily would have been impossible without this partnership arrangement. The Federation’s power to organize and engage on critical developmental issues was one asset that the City had benefited from in dealing with the alliance. The Mayor explained how the partnership with the alliance, through the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), has managed to create opportunities for leveraging resources to support slum upgrading. The slum upgrading project in Dzivarasekwa Extension was pointed out as a unique pilot that has put Harare on the global human settlements map. In particular, new innovations around achieving densification, affordability and the testing of alternative infrastructure technologies under the project were cited as the key aspects of the project that have helped to build a strong case for Harare as a model.
Through slum upgrading, the Mayor of Harare and indeed the entire City of Harare was demonstrating that engaging the urban poor through meaningful partnerships remains a sustainable solution to informality instead of confronting slums using bulldozers. It is thus through championing these new shifts in urban development practice that work by Mayor Masunda has not only put Harare on the map but also Zimbabwe in general. It is a reflection of the fact that the slum agenda has now become the city agenda. For Harare, therefore the slum issue is no longer an imaginary problem that the city can insulate itself from but rather a challenge that should be acknowledged and addressed through constructive engagement with the urban poor.
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."
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.
Watch this documentary film by the Pretoria Picture Company Inc. on the changing dynamics and identities of Slovo Park settlement south of Soweto. Slovo Park is also aligned to the Informal Settlement Network, and in collaboration with universities and other stakeholders, design solutions have been tabled in partnership meetings. The documentary surfaces some of the finely granulated nuances in building sustainable human settlements. According to the film makers,
Slovo Park is situated in a politically and socially sensitive stretch of land south of Soweto. The community has been known by national government as Nancefield, by local council as Olifantsvlei and in the last five years as Slovo Park – named in honour of South Africa’s first minister of housing and former Umkhonto we Sizwe General, Joe Slovo.
This forced changing of identity reflects an on-going struggle faced by the leadership of Slovo Park to gain recognition as a legitimate settlement to access governmental support. This battle has been fought through constant shifts in governmental policy, power and promises for the community of Slovo Park. Amidst the struggle, stories of sinister land dealings have emerged, outlining a possible truth that the ground beneath Slovo Park could have been sold from under the community’s feet. These allegations surface as the leadership of Slovo Park prepares itself to take action.
This video illustrates how incremental upgrading releases the imagination of communities in engaging local governments. The communities intimate understanding of infrastructure grinds and networks makes service delivery, development and ultimately sustainable human settlements possible. Buck’s, one of the community leaders, deliberations on the nature of service delivery is particularly insightful:
Because already we have got sewerage pipes that are running as far as Soweto. The one alongside the boundary road is running from as far as Leratong, and imagine we don’t have sewerage here but we can transport other people’s stuff from as “Die Kloof”. We have the dams adjacent to us; it is not even 100m to walk to the dam, and still we cant get pipes to there. But still the engineers are saying that it is impossible to have sewerage in the area. But already there are pipes running in the area and so you ask yourself, “Why is it so diffent and difficult if we must get, but the previous engineers, the previous government, installed the sewerage pipes that are running through the informal settlement that we are in”. So you ask yourself, “is it different from this year’s engineers to yesteryear’s engineers”. I don’t know how to call it, but that is what they say!
If government can’t come to us, let us do it for ourselves. We have started with a hall, which we want to expand into a multi-purpose centre for the community. We don’t have playggrounds, we don’t have parks, we don’t have a hall, which makes it difficult for kids to concentrate on their lives. So the multipurpose will help to bring them together and giving them something to do. At the same time, as the community, we will have a space to have our meetings for our offices (because we have many forums in the community, such as the business forum). My wish is to have a proper toilet, just like everyone else. Just like the premier Nomvula Mokonyane, just like our president Jacob Zuma’s toilet, that’s my wish. That has been my wish since I was a kid, and I am already 44 years old. My family has accepted this is how we will live in the meantime.
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.
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 Mara Forbes, SDI Intern, The New School, New York
“The municipality was very impressed with the report because it truly acknowledges the truth on the ground and the Town Clerk repeatedly mentioned that they would use this tool to ensure that services reach the community.”
Sarah Nandudu, Federation Member, Jinja
“This [enumeration] report is an opportunity to make demands for quantity and quality of services. If someone denies basic services, they need to be held accountable.”
Community Development Officer (CDO) of Arua
The four-month SDI/Makerere University Urban Studio project has come to a successful close. On July 5, Makerere and New School students along with Federation members traveled to Arua, Kabale, Jinja, Mbale, and Mbarara to deliver the final published Enumeration Reports to the municipalities.
As discussed in earlier posts, through partnerships, negotiations, and precedent setting projects, federations have attempted to create new spaces in which community knowledge can influence development decisions. The Urban Studio partnership is one example of how these new knowledge regimes are being developed. As part of the studio, students from Makerere University accompanied federation members into the informal settlements of 5 Ugandan municipalities to learn about the challenges faced by slum dwellers and the ways in which the federation is combating the lack of information available for planning in such places. At Makerere University and in the municipalities, the federation members became ‘community professors’ teaching the students the importance of knowing their communities through different community-driven data collection methods and processes.
The Makerere students, in conjunction with New School graduate students, cleaned the federation’s enumeration data and disaggregated it at the settlement level. They then used the data to compile easy-to-understand reports to be presented back to the community and municipalities. The enumeration reports are designed to be used as tools by community members to negotiate and lobby with government for more responsive urban interventions and partnerships. The reports fill a major gap in the urban sector, giving up-to-date and comprehensive data on the informal settlements which make up around 60% of Ugandan cities.
The reports present enumeration data on issues of education, income and savings, tenure status, land ownership, and access to services such as water, sanitation, and electricity within the informal settlements. The data was collected by the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda and its partners in 2011 as part of a national slum upgrading agenda being spearheaded by the Ministry of Lands Housing and Urban Development. With these reports the slum dwellers now have concrete information on the informal settlements in which they live. They have ownership of the information because they collected it themselves, and they have the organizational capacity to ensure the reports are used as tools for negotiation and planning.
In July 2012, the final reports were launched in each municipality. At the launches both community and municipal officials praised the reports. Approximately 100 federation members attended the enumeration launch in Arua and the Deputy Mayor and CDO represented the municipality. The event kicked off with songs from the community about savings and empowerment. The regional chairman of the federation, CDO, and Deputy Mayor all gave speeches commending the community and students for their work and urging the community to use this report to hold government accountable. The Deputy Mayor stated that “it is now time for top leadership to bend down and start cooperating with the community and this report is a tool that will make it easier to address issues and problems faced in the settlements, such as cholera.” The Deputy Mayor officially endorsed the report and promised the council would start using it immediately for budgeting and planning.
In Jinja both the Town Clerk and Deputy Mayor attended the launch. Like the Aura officials, the municipal representatives expressed gratitude to the federation and the students for their contribution towards a better understanding of the urban situation in Jinja municipality. They expressed that the reports would be used to start planning for toilet and water projects within the communities highlighted in the report to be particularly underserved. The Town Clerk pointed out that the report not only shows the challenges faced by the community but also the strengths and what the community is doing well. According to federation member Sarah Nandudu, “the municipality was very impressed with the report because it truly acknowledges the truth on the ground and the Town Clerk repeatedly mentioned that they would use this tool to ensure that services reach the community.” The Municipality was also impressed by how the federation had already used the information they collected to negotiate for sanitation interventions.
In Kabale, federation members emphasized the importance of settlement-level data and commended the students for accurately presenting their enumeration information. The Deputy Mayor promised to review the report thoroughly and endorse. "Before the federation came to Kabale, we had undermined the issue of slums in our municipality and we thought ‘they’ should go back to where they came from but this enumeration exercise enlightened us and we have to include slum dwellers in our plans" said the Deputy Mayor. Federation member Sarah Nambozo, who attended the Kabale launch, explained that “the report showcases information gathered by the community and the municipality must use the report to incorporate community challenges into the budgeting and planning process.” In fact, the municipality is already using the report to identify projects that can be implemented within the Transforming Settlements of the Urban Poor Fund (TSUPU) program.
A municipal strike in Mbale meant that most municipal officials were unable to attend the enumeration report launch. However, the Regional District Commissioner (RDC) and Assistant Town Clerk represented local council and the LCIII of Industrial Division, represented the mayor. Each acknowledged that the enumeration report “not only shows the challenges faced by the community, but also the opportunities that exist within the slums.” The enumeration report was later signed by the Mayor who expressed eagerness to use the report as a planning tool. Semanda Twaha bin Musa, the regional chairman of the Mbale federation, said “the event went marvelously and was very successful.” He described how excited the federation was at the event because of the work they had done and how it had produced a report that was recognized and praised by the municipality. He said that, “because of the report, the municipality now respects the community because it shows the quality of work the community is capable of.”
The reports were also highly praised in Mbarara. The Deputy Mayor was impressed with the work of the community and how well the report depicts what is happening on the ground. The CDO was also present and highlighted the issues of sanitation and water as areas that need more attention from the municipality as revealed by the report. The Deputy Mayor officially endorsed the report by signing it during the launch and agreed to use it in future planning and budgeting at the municipal level. The CDO challenged the community to use the report as a way to define the roles of the community and municipality and to work together to identify possible development projects. Federation member Brian Manzi explained that because of the report, the town council is already identifying settlements that are in need of water and sanitation units. The CDO hailed the Mbarara slum dwellers for the role they are playing in the slum upgrading campaign and told members who attended the launch to try and get copies of the enumeration report and find the role they will able to engage themselves in towards the development of Mbarara.
Critically, the enumeration reports and the community gathered data they contain must slay ‘alive.’ The reports are not automatically useful and will not, on their own, improve service delivery and targeting of programs and projects. The communities that compiled them must continue to use the information to guide negotiation, partnership formation, planning, budgeting, and advocacy.
Much was learned during the Urban Studio. Through the cleaning and analysis of the federation’s enumeration data, both Makerere and New School students gained a deeper understanding of the realities faced by Ugandan slum dwellers, which they discovered are unique to each settlement. They learned that understanding these realities is integral to inclusive and effective planning and that authentic community involvement must be central to collect accurate information in slums.
Federation members deepened their capacity to generate information and to engage with the traditional institutions of knowledge production in a very different manner. The municipal councils have witnessed the capacity of communities to drive applied urban research and make local academia more relevant to domestic demand.
Stay tuned for a full report of the entire SDI/Makere Urban Studio to be posted soon.
By Andy Bolnick (CORC/iKhayalami) and Benjamin Bradlow
The roller coasters and carnival games at Ratanga Junction Park in the Milnerton area of Cape Town may appear as a middle class child’s idyll, even amidst the winter cold and rain. But only a kilometer away, shack dwelling mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers, daughters and sons, in an informal settlement called Mshini Wam in Joe Slovo Park are coming together to build a better life for their children. Collectively, they are influencing city government in a way that is, step-by-step, producing lessons for a future in which all children grow up in safe, vibrant, and nurturing neighborhoods.
The settlement of 250 families, is becoming a learning center for improving informal settlements throughout Cape Town. Yesterday, the community, which links with informal settlement leadership throughout the city through the Informal Settlement Network (ISN), invited city officials from the Informal Settlements Management Unit, Extended Public Works Programme, and city council, to celebrate what they have achieved. In less than one week, residents of Mshini Wam have begun transforming the physical layout of their neighborhood, through a partnership with the city government, ISN, and a supporting NGO called the Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC). The ceremony celebrated the community’s work in “re-blocking” the dense, flood and fire-prone settlement, into organized clusters of 8-10 shacks.
The first cluster was completed on 23 February to demonstrate blocking-out to the community and to the Deputy Minister of Human Settlements, Ms Zou Kota Federicks who had come to Mshini Wam to attend the community led enumeration (household socio-economic survey and neighborhood map) launch. With three clusters done, the project is due to be completed in the next 3 months. In addition to the re-blocking, many of the shacks were improved with fire-proof, environmentally friendly materials.
The residents of Mshini Wam have, from the outset, claimed and owned this project. A community design team led the cluster-based redesign, with technical assistance from an architect at CORC. Luthando Klaas, when introduced to a reporter from the local Cape Times as a community leader, interrupted the reporter’s question. “No, no, no. I’m a community designer.”
This kind of assurance was behind the words of Nokhwezi Klaas when she spoke at a short ceremony with the invited parties. As she stood fighting back a mild cough, she spoke of the effect of the project on the community that she leads, and her own personal life: “As you can see, I am sick all the time because my shack is constantly damp from flooding.”
She then pointed to the “re-blocked” shacks and described how they were organized in a way that not only protected residents from flooding, but also created the space for the city to pave emergency access roads, and install electricity, and water and sanitation piping. Further, the community has been able to open up savings schemes that breed financial accountability and management skills amongst residents, who have then been able to contribute to voluntary shack improvements, in addition to the re-blocking effort. Community savings currently total R29,200.
As ISN leader Vuyani Mnyango noted, the upgrading effort is of dire importance in a settlement that not only suffers from frequent flooding, but has only 16 chemical toilets and 3 water taps for 250 households.
At the end of last year, the city authorities, ISN, and CORC agreed that, in order to do the required infrastructural improvements in Mshini Wam, it would be necessary to relocate between 20 to 50 households to an area nearby. The plan was for the city to come in and do the necessary earthworks and service provision and then the families were to move back. However, it became very difficult for the city to approve land that the community had identified for this purpose. No progress was made from March until last week.
The community wanted to begin and were getting very frustrated at the delays. The community leadership and ISN realized together that the best way to harness the community’s energy was to start blocking-out in an entirely in situ manner with no temporary relocations. Early last week, the city came on board in terms of supplying resources such as materials for the roofs of households (part of emergency starter kits), sand filling, crusher stone and compacting machinery.
The level of activity and community participation is palpable. Women are particularly active — clearing the site, collecting debris, loading wheelbarrows, carrying wheelbarrows, learning how to make the upgraded panels and then making them.
Yesterday, Mshini Wam’s Nokhwezi Klaas, along with ISN leaders, urged a representative from the city’s Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP) to join in this partnership. This would ensure that community members who work on such upgrading work are not only compensated, but also gain recognition for the skills development that occurs in a project like the re-blocking of Mshini Wam.
But this is not a project that is just affecting one community. Most significantly, Mshini Wam is a proving ground for a city-wide partnership for informal settlement upgrading between networked communities across the cities and the Cape Town municipal authorities. This alliance was consecrated in a memorandum of understanding signed with Mayor Patricia de Lille earlier this year. The re-blocking strategy, which re-arranges shacks in densely-packed settlements to open up common public space, access roads, and basic service infrastructure installation, is currently being rolled out in four settlements throughout the city this year, which is then set to expand to at least 18 more settlements. Through partnership between ISN, CORC, and Cape Town local authorities, the city is also able to explore other appropriate informal settlement upgrading strategies in a deliberate and collective manner. Overall, the city has committed R6 million for infrastructure, and is supporting community-led enumerations in all the identified settlements.
While policy-makers, academics and professional organizations struggle to gain even the smallest bit of traction on the ground to begin improving the lives of shack dwellers throughout the country, an alternative paradigm is emerging into focus. Little of this appears in the textbooks and policy codes. Rather, it is through practice that we can make out this new approach. When shack dwelling communities come together, and pool their own knowledge and resources, they are able to partner with local authorities and catalyze city-wide processes. As informal settlement-based learning centres spring up throughout Cape Town, communities are gaining influence, access to resources, and improved settlements and lives.
Cities are now at the cross roads of making choices in relation with what attributes they concede to the production of culture. Planning norms and practices have begun to identify buildings, districts and heritage sites, and often end up protecting them against people!
Cities are truly the creatures of living cultural heritage, and its inhabitants must face the challenge of dealing with seemingly sensible rules and regulations that are not working for a large section of their populations. Instead of creating mechanisms to arbitrate between diverse interests and conflicts, these processes are producing mono cultures that stamp out the rights of many for the fulfilment of rights for a few. These challenges are most obvious in cities of the global south, although these tensions and processes operate in all cities around the world.
All southern cities are crowded by people generally using non-motorized transport. There are large crowds everywhere, in markets and on the streets and in temples. There are festivities erupting in cosmopolitan neighbourhoods where modern global “good practices” seek to reduce sound pollution and thereby put restrictive use of public spaces where traditional celebrations takes place and where the poor participate in large numbers. As a result, the spontaneous yet structurally robust confusions created by celebrative events in the heart of cities - are being stamped out by rules created out of fear and demand for clearing the public spaces for cars of the elite. Gated communities, shopping malls, fly-overs, all new symbols of modernity and success and progress are destroying living city cultures that have evolved through many decades and in some instances through centuries.
How should the rules of engagement for cities be developed? How can universal guidelines work to identify, deepen and make robust that which is celebrated and produces a public and street culture that “modernity” and “the new monocultures” are systematically killing? What are “the precious elements ” which creates identity, relationships and networks in cities? What can and should be changed in order to produce more equity, more inclusion and breach old cultural practices? Who is it in the power to decide?
Not a optimistic picture
The present situation is not very optimistic. In many cities both the built heritage and cultural traditions are first demolished and then their loss is bemoaned, by which time it cannot be reconstituted. Often the reasons for the loss are hidden and not understood by those who lost these spaces and lived through the processes of cultural change. What they do recognise are that what happened seems to lead to reduced tourisms or reduced livelihood options and reduced revenue, which again brings a sense of crisis into the challenges already faced when addressing cultural issues.
Cities and towns in the global south seek copy the development of cities of the north without acknowledgement that in their past industrial stage they faced similar challanges. Development imageries are imported from northern post- industrial cities and imposed along with their development regulations, and end up making cities work for a few and make the majority’a usage of the city illegal. The use of public spaces for informal habitats and livelihoods have become unacceptable by the rule of law based on the planning norms from the “global north”. International development and knowledge systems and “modern town planning schemes” further assists deepen this process. In some places the needs of 10-15% of the population elite, overrides the needs of the whole city.
Countries, cities and localities in denial of their cultural heritage
Culture is not just old buildings, it’s how individuals, neighbourhoods and cities create rituals and practices to transact their lives, produce processes and systems which enable them to cohabitation. Each generation has to assess these practices and choose what works for their time, and what is intergenerational and critical for future generations to retain.
Markets, neighbourhoods, walled cities are under threat by modernity, mainly because the lands on which these operate are now seen as valuable to capitalize on. Wet markets (vegetable markets) which are in every city and town in the global south, where the rich and poor buy their food and other daily needs, are gradually being phased out. Malls are replacing the wet markets, and many studying this phenomenon clearly see that the natural cross-subsidy for fresh produce and vending opportunities are lost to a large majority.
Most cities have the poor, the markets, and the “modern city” competing for a place within the city centre. Many cities seek to kill the organic development process by putting up roads and big buildings in an attempt to provide some “order”. Evictions of poor neighbourhoods are seen as inevitable in the name of investing in the public good, and many households have not even been given compensation because they do not have legal deeds to the land; they have only lived there for many decades.
The questions to be addressed are: Are there other options? Can the right for life and livelihood be invoked to protect the rights of the poor? Can solutions be developed through dialogue and discussions? Can large infrastructure projects consider these processes as investments worth making in both the time it takes to build consensus as well as to produce increased inclusion? The fact is that traditional neighbourhoods and their livelihoods are being destroyed every day as we are searching for evidence for “best practice”.
Take the challenges of informality
Most of the urbanization in the global south is informal, and the largest employment takes place within the informal sectors within a bazaar culture; such as vending and recycling businesses. Street markets, crowded sidewalks are all part of the life in the cities and the markets are venues for many a cultural practice that modern planners seek to control, and in their task often destroy.
Take the instance of waste pickers in Cairo and for that matter all cities in the south. For centuries communities have traded in recycling and have created livelihoods which cities could nurture and link to the city’s garbage management. These processes are sustainable and all they need from the state is the right to have space to sort and transport recyclable waste. Yet almost in all instances the city hires private sector waste recyclers who rarely sort and separate the garbage collected. The traditional waste recyclers need contractual agreements that include them in the garbage industry. What is being done today by city planners is that they seek expensive and unsustainable solutions of garbage handling systems from “the north”, from countries which just recently has started in the recycling of garbage business.
Everyone at odds with slum dwellers
Cities are now at the cross roads in relation to what attributes they concede to the production of culture. Planning norms and practices have begun to identify buildings and districts and heritage sites and often end up protecting them against people! Informal settlements look like a sea of roofs from the outside and so impenetrable that the only way that planners figure to deal with them is by demolishing them. In reality these are complex neighbourhoods that are evolving and changing. Their ability to morph into viable neighbourhoods is dependent on the involvement of the state to assist and support this process. The poor living in the city centres are competing against the elite: Struggling towards the power of the vertically structured commercial house and land market infiltrating their neighbourhoods.
The next few decades will exacerbate our urban challenges
It is already globally announced that more than half of the world population lives in cities and that even more will settle down in the already crowded cities of the south. For some decades cities have had to accommodate very large numbers. It seems that in future, most houses will be self-built incrementally because cities and national governments can’t develop financing mechanisms to aid them at the rate and pace they need. Most residents will be employed informally and will stay at odds with the laws, the laws which they cannot accept because they are framed to exclude them. In many cities household people squat on sidewalks and bridges in order to be near work, work which again very often forms informal occupations servicing registered institutions and businesses as well as elite households.
All southern cities are and will continue to be crowded. People will continue using non-motorized transport. There will be crowds in markets, mosques, churches, and temples. Festivities will be erupting in cosmopolitan neighbourhoods increasing this spontaneous yet structurally robust confusion, which again will continue to be contested for every new formalizing city rule created: Created out of fear and demand for clearing the public spaces for cars and the elite.
When the state ignores problems people have to create institutions for representation
SPARC started its work seeking the rights of households who live on pavements to prevent eviction without alternatives. From 1986 to 1995 pavement dwellers in Mumbai created organizations that fought to be accepted by the city of Mumbai. Today they have a joint program, but it took ten years for the policy to be formed and in the next 15 years the households should be moved.
The National Slum Dweller Federation (NSDF) of India that seeks to bring the voice of the poor into the development table, formed an alliance with SPARC and Mahila Milan in 1996, and together they founded Slum/Shack Dwellers International (SDI) which now operates in 33 countries across Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Together, the SDI network seeks to build a culture of dialogue amongst the urban poor and to facilitate dialogue between cities and local communities. Federations in SDI have managed to change some rules, and increasingly global and local development actors, are beginning to examine SDI's solutions as means to address the challenges of conflict in cities. The role of social movements is to produce civilized dissent and demands for inclusion.
What is needed urgently: Capacity to arbitrate
Reconciling, negotiating and balancing are tough acts, and cities need leaders with such capacities. Incremental city growth and crowded streets are there and it is important to take a reality check into this environment before plotting strategies of how to manage cities and make them work for all. The questions related with this endeavour are many, and include: How should rules of engagements for cities become developed? How can universal guidelines work to identify, deepen and make robust that which is celebrated and produces a public and street culture that “modernity” and this new monoculture systematically killing what is precious and which creates identity, relationships and networks in cities? What should be the role of local national and global players which we now see becoming intricately woven into our increasingly connected globalizing world? There is a need to stay focused on the local while building national and global terms of engagement. Capacity building efforts are often treated as “knowledge transfer projects”, instead they need to build skills enabling people to negotiate and arbitrate - THAT IS ALSO CULTURE.
SDI started its activities in Brazil through the local NGO Interação simultaneously with the beginning of what can be proved to be the most significant transformation in urban and housing policies in the country. At the same time, the country initiated a journey of intensive economic growth with a social transformation process in course due to the impact of both: (i) intensive infrastructure investments, especially in “informal” settlements; and (ii) increase on income levels and decrease of poverty.
Interação was founded in the beginning of 2005 in a context of no resources for urban rehabilitation, but soon after, important progress took place in terms of legislation: the approval of the City Statute. By this time, a selected number of professionals and activists were aware of the importance of leverage for urban policies in Brazil and the need to make cities more inclusive, on the other hand, homeless social movements, born in the seventies during our military dictatorship in the southeast part of the country, were expanding to national level and struggling to institutionalize their “self-help mutual construction” programs successfully implemented in some cities of the country.
In this scenario, of having approved in 2001 the most progressive legislation in the world in terms of recognizing the right of the city for all with the creation of concrete legal, economic and planning tools to keep slum dwellers where they are living and create more room in urban centers for new low income housing development, the Ministry of Cities was created shortly before the foundation of Interação, in the year 2003.
The Ministry of Cities had two main challenges, despite its small size and technical capacity: (i) create a national level urban and housing policy; (ii) implement real programs in order to promote change in the urban context. However, because Brazil is a federal country, municipalities have been the real drivers of urban and housing policy since 1986 when the national level institution for housing (Brazilian Housing Bank – BNH) was extinguished, but in a very heterogeneous way, some of them being more aggressive and some of them lacking political and institutional capacity in the sector.
So, when Interação started in 2005, although the population had already started to improve its income, the “boom” came later and started to be publicly recognized by 2008/09 with all statistics screaming about the emerging of a “new middle class” and the decrease of poverty levels in the country: in the period 2004 – 2012 approximately 40 million people emerged from below the poverty line. On the other side, no strong urban and housing program was implemented yet by the recent created Ministry of Cities and the future scenario was not clear at all, would the federal government really invest in slum upgrading?
Basically in the settlements where Interação started to work in the surroundings of São Paulo, communities had being suffering with the lack of inclusive urban policies and a wrong approach of some municipal governments of creating “provisory” and unsustainable solutions (for example construction material and promoting the densification of new and existing slums). They were being bypassed by government, politicians and bad entrepreneurs, trust was not there and basically they were very closed for new opportunities. Overcoming this barrier was only possible with hard and intensive work of professionals and community leaders who believed in a different reality, SDI presence, through exchanges was very important to leverage some mobilization and open up the horizons of these frightened communities.
The barriers for Interação and the first engaged community leaders were immense, communities were targeted by politicians and social movements/organizations in a context of “competition” where one tried to push harder than the other to control the settlements and its residents. On the other hand labor market and access to credit was expanding (although still very expensive) so that individual interests were slowly overcoming collective approaches.
When the Growth Acceleration Program (PAC) was finally launched by the Ministry of Cities in 2006, and later on the subsidies program called “Minha Casa, Minha Vida” (MCMV) the situation became even more complex. The amount of investments on slum upgrading and infrasctruture is about US$ 250 billion for a 9 year period (06-14) and under MCMV access to about 3 million houses in total should be provided by 2014, which represented a major change of scale on addressing the slum and housing problems in Brazil. Communities supported by Interação also got their share on investments, with more than US$ 70 million of investments for infrastructure, housing and titling.
With the PAC, many strong construction companies moved their portfolio and started to gain expertise on slum rehabilitation and the private sector was also strongly attracted by social niche provided by the program, since 2,5% of infrastructure investments have to be directed to social support programs in slums.
Municipalities and state governments started than to launch biddings to hire construction companies and also “social work” companies to implement the social support for slum upgrading. Now, besides the usual politicians and social organizations, the social workers started to gain space in poor communities, bringing even more complexities for an already complex situation.
Brazil has now become a donor country, contributing to the reconstruction of Haiti and even to the current economic crisis in Europe. But where are the social movements and the federation in this scenario?
Until now the approach of SDI of promoting collective action and gather information and resources in the communities was crucial not just for the settlements where Interação and the Brazilian leaders were present and active, in Osasco, Várzea Paulista and Recife (besides others where footprints and seeds were left: Sorocaba, Santos, Novo Gama, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro), but also for shaping the new national policy, in terms of reinforce the importance of community strengthening in the process of urban rehabilitation. It is important to highlight that the institutional partnership between SDI and the Ministry of Cities started in 2005, even before the launching of the relevant investment programs.
Some communities where SDI had strong influence, like Portais in Osasco, and Vila Real in Várzea Paulista reached high levels of improvement, with the implementation of full sanitation systems, streets, drainage, new houses and public services like schools, health units, and day care. The municipal policies certainly were influenced by SDI approach, with for instance the recognition of self enumerations as official data, even by the National Institute of Statistics. Residents from these areas also improved their personal lives, there are jobs available, children get education and there is even time and resources for leisure activities, such as vacation trips and others.
Other communities are still struggling to find their identities among these major transformations and the diversity and number of actors now involved in the “slum business”. Interação and SDI support some of these communities, but the strategies must be flexible and we must reinvent ourselves everyday.
The successful communities in Brazil planted the first seeds for Bolivia, a neighboring country with high levels of poverty and no urban policy, and more recently in Peru. The alliance with the Brazilian government has been important to influence local and national government and enable some changes, which might open new ways for the urban poor in the country.
At the current stage a group of community leaders from Osasco, Várzea Paulista and Recife are envisioning the consolidation of city level organizations, which might be the first step to build a national federation alone or in an alliance with existing federations. One important pillar is constituted by the lessons learned throughout several exchanges to and from Asia and African countries, but especially from the last joint visit with Bolivia to the Philippines. Although savings and loans are not the strongest side of Brazilian SDI groups, the understanding of the importance to leverage savings and loans in order to build trust and solidarity is gaining space, so as the notion of savings being the core of peoples mobilization which will be a paradigm shift on the historical social movements approach where hierarchical systems, massive mobilization and a strong influence from political parties were the main ingredients for their struggle.
The emergence of a federation of low income communities in a context of significant social and economic transformation and with a different culture of mobilization and powerful stakeholders (governments, private sector, national level social movements) has absurd challenges, but even if those strong will leaders never succeed on building a national level federation they will leave behind footprints in a history that is right now changing the life of the urban poor in Brazil and maybe in the rest of the developing world.
The SDI/Makerere University Urban Studio is entering its final stage and things are moving along very well. A smaller selection of Makerere Students are working together with graduate students from the New School in New York to further clean the enumeration data and disaggregate information by settlement. The New School students are in Kampala as part of their International Fieldwork and the team of five Makerere students was selected for demonstrating commitment and professionalism during the studio’s first two phases. These local students have just finished their final exams so are now officially graduates and this work experience and mentoring thought the SDI/Makerere Urban Studio will be invaluable as they enter the job market or pursue further studies.
The settlement-level data disaggregation that the teams are carrying out is critical because each settlement has a unique set of circumstances. The interests on the use of land differs between settlements in the same city and this has significant implications for development interventions. Slum upgrading efforts need to be cognizant of existing land use and the corresponding social and economic realities. While the interests on the use of land will be constituted typically of resident tenants, resident and non-resident structure and land owners, business, institutional and public interests, the proportions of these interests will vary greatly from one settlement to the next.
As a result of such variations, the negotiation the federation will engage in around the enumeration data will seek to achieve a solution that reconciles the greatest number of interests in a specific settlement. This is differentiated from conventional approaches to upgrading based on fixed planning standards. For the students involved in the studio the learning is constant. This assertion is supported by a selection of comments from the team:
Sophian (Makerere): “This has taught me a lot like being social, punctual and above all getting involved in data analysis. The process of analyzing data has proved a lot about informal settlements in Uganda like a lot of imbalance in the education levels where we have males being the pioneers, limited access to water, toilets, poor housing etc. “
Audrey (Makerere): “We started off with this exercise with the students of Makerere University and New York cleaning up of the data from Mbarara city. As we completed the cleaning up, we analyzed each of the settlements on their own and we started the drawing of the charts in the respective areas that are we think the graphs are needed.”
Carol (Makerere): “During this exercise we were coordinated by Mara [New School student] whom we consider our group leader. All of us who are doing the cleaning and analyzing of the data are currently working for SDI which has given us the opportunity to learn more which has been a blessing to all of us.”
Judith (Makerere): “Everyone is so great so far and I am so sure every one has learnt so much already. Personally, I wasn’t good with Excel, but now I am unbelievably so good. We have so far finished analyzing the data for Mbarara, Kabale and Arua settlements and have done the graphs for the reports for each of the settlements as well. At the end of last week, we had started writing the reports and we are hopeful that we will be through with them by the end of this week. Thank you so much for this opportunity because the experience I have so far, I would not have gotten it anywhere else.”
Sam (Makerere): “Through this work so far we have done, I have managed to gain some skills and added them to what I already had and I think as we go on, we will continue to teach each other new things in the due course. The work with both Makerere students and students from New York is going well and we are looking forward to produce quality for the community so as to satisfy the set goals and objectives.“
Mara (New School): “The process of cleaning the enumeration data and compiling the reports has given me deeper insight into the work of SDI. In analyzing the data we have been able to see discrepancies in basic services such as education, access to water, and access to sanitation both at the settlement and city level. This data also shows that not all informal settlements are alike and face the same challenges; each is unique and has different needs. Working with the Makerere students has been great. We have been able to exchange ideas and work together, all learning different skills from each other. I am looking forward to the next step of presenting our work back to the community and seeing how they can continue to use these reports to empower and provide the necessary services to their communities.”
Sam (New School graduate): “The enumeration exercises are impressive in their scope and ambition. The data they produce are very interesting and potentially useful because they provide such detail about marginal communities. You cant just google this information! There have been some challenges in working with the data so far, due to incompleteness or errors in data capture. The current review and editing process is a great opportunity to learn from the past and improve how data is captured and reports are written for the future. It is clear that the students, community members and various workers all put a tremendous effort into producing the enumerations and reports, and it is a pleasure to build on their work and support this project.”
We will keep you posted on the final stage of this unique studio which has brought together slum dwellers, local academics, international academics, and local authorities in the pursuit of community-driven information gathering and inclusive, pragmatic planning. During the final stage the students will return to the various cities and accompany the federation as it presents its data to the municipalities.
The dystopia of the urbanisation of poverty is a confounding reality, to say the least. People eek out a living in the harshest environment, are subject to environmental torture, and have little prospect of escaping the vices of modern life. Under imperial and apartheid South Africa, the right of non-Europeans/ non-whites to urban life was continuously supressed, if not denied fully. In fact, the very existence of the racist regime was premised on segregated urban spaces. This is why, argues philosopher Achile Mbembe of Stellenbosch University, “most social struggle of the postapartheid era can be read as attempts to re-conquer the right to be urban.”
This confounding reality is often worsened and aggravated by government policies that do not recognize the urban crisis. For many years, governments have shied away from devising comprehensive policies that tackle the challenges of urban poverty, and that harness the potentials for innovative development, which have historically been associated with urbanization. In the global South, the import of modernist planning norms and standards from the global North has perpetuated the existence and recurrence of peripheral urban slums by creating sanitized spaces for the elite.
What are the real prospects for social and political change in this new democratic dispensation? The high waves of market forces, income inequality, and worsening human development indices rock the tattered and bruised vessels of the urban poor. For some miracle of resilience and agency, the poor continue to press forward. In many cases, the hope of a more equal and fair society has found expression in the agency of the underclass, of the excluded, of the marginalized. These societies have depended on a forgotten art: the art of ark building.
Despite the introduction of potentially more progressive, transformative and situational responsive policies contained in the “second generation” of human settlement legislative frameworks (the first ten years being a dismal failure), local governments have struggled to come to grips with the extensive community engagement and difficult engineering and geotechnical interventions implicit in the upgrading of informal settlements. Organised communities are filling the voids created by lack of political will, social facilitation, and technical expertise by generating a resource base they own: knowledge about their settlement.
For this reason, Premier of the Western Cape, Ms. Helen Zille, paid a visit to Franschhoek on the 8th of May. She wanted to witness the progress made by the Langrug community in partnership with the Stellenbosch Municipality. Langrug is a large informal settlement on the slopes of Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve on the outskirts of Franschhoek. Seasonal laborers working on the wine farms and a large dam construction project established the settlement in the early 1990s. This settlement construed a forgotten people for many years, until the municipality was forced to action when the neighboring farm owner obtained a court interdict against the Municipality for the settlement’s greywater runoff into his irrigation dam. The municipality was forced to start negotiating with the settlement, because 14 families were to be relocated in the reserve earmarked for an access road construction. Cape Town's Informal Settlement Network (ISN) was introduced to the settlement after the municipality engaged the network, opening a year-long relationship-building window. Ever since, a full scale in-situ upgrade project has been launched; providing better service with minimal disruption to residents’ lives.
Premier Zille opened her address by saying that there is no more difficult policy environment than housing. The question of the spread of resources – either a serviced house for a few or better services and incremental tenure security for many – has continually shaped the South African housing policy debate. During the visit, Zille commented, “the important point about this informal settlement is that it is one of the first where we have a viable partnership with the community. And now, working with the community, we are installing stormwater, greywater systems, toilets, washing facilities, road and upgrading the place generally … but the existing thing about this project is that we are upgrading shacks where they are instead of moving people out and starting from the beginning”. Western Cape MEC for Housing Bonginkosi Madikizela said: “It is a fantastic model. The message to the rest of the country is that any development is a partnership between government and communities. They become partners rather than passive recipients”.
Much attention was called to the “model” of community participation espoused by Informal Settlement Network (ISN). Zille argued that this new “model” could be better articulated by having a single window policy approach to refining the government’s ability to navigate complex (and fragmented) policy frameworks. Although such an approach could be instructive, a model without agency has no value. Organised communities have an agency to transform urban landscapes by transforming their settlements. One of the failures of the government-driven and top-down implementation of housing developments in post-apartheid era was exactly this: the entrenchment of the forgotten apartheid ghettos. But informal residents are taking the lead in integrating their development with the greater evolution of their surrounding urban spaces. The ark communities are building is an inclusive one; one that has the capacity to deliver social and political change. This ark does not look or function like any of the government’s planning apparatuses, which are often founded on principles that entrench existing spatial inequalities. No, this ark is different. It is different because the ones designing the ark are different. Communities and government can only revive the lost art of ark building when they partner around deliverables such as improved living conditions. In this way, power is shared, and solutions are co-produced.
Photo: Structure Owners (Yellow) and Tenants (Blue) in Mission Cell, Mbale
By Skye Dobson, SDI Secretariat
The National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU) pushes ahead with its innovative mapping work in Mbale Municipality. The federation conducted a city-wide slum enumeration in 2011 as part of the Government of Uganda’s Transforming Settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda Program – which is supported by Cities Alliance. The enumeration was conducted just like any other SDI enumeration, but because of its role in this national-level government program – active in 5 Ugandan secondary cities - the federation hopes it will set a precedent for the way community collected data can inform the development of municipal development strategies and slum upgrading strategies country-wide.
Following enumeration, NSDFU seeks to link its enumeration data to spatial data to create maps than can be used to generate discussion between slum dwellers and local authorities on upgrading. NSDFU’s mapping efforts were given a boost recently with support from a joint partnership between UN-Habitat and SDI. Thanks to a new tool developed by the Global Land Tool Network (GLTN), the federation expects to improve and refine the outputs of community enumeration and mapping – particularly related to land use and tenure. The land tenure issue is inextricably linked to the upgrading issue and NDSFU is starting the difficult process of disentangling the web of claims and counter claims in the country’s slums that often pose an intractable barrier to development interventions.
The land information tool called Social Tenure Domain Model (STDM), was piloted in Mbale municipality by the federation over the last six months and was received well by NSDFU, the Mbale Municipal Council and the Ministry of Lands Housing and Urban Development. The pro-poor information system is based on free and open source software, is user-friendly, and is a welcome example of how sensible technological innovation can respond to and encourage social innovation by aiding the information gathering and negotiation steps in a community-driven strategy.
Federation members, officers from the Ministry of Lands Housing and Urban Development, as well as municipal officials have been trained to use the software. The federation in Mbale, which was able to negotiate for office space within the Mbale Municipal Council offices, now has the software installed on its computer and is able to update the database without assistance from professionals.
At a recent reflection, the federation discussed methods for taking the process further. They decided that further sensitization is required to ensure there is no suspicion in the participating communities and they strategized ways to conduct such sensitization in conjunction with elders, local councilors and municipal officers. The federation discussed the need to be mindful of political events that may coincide with mapping activities as these have a tendency to complicate sensitization efforts. They designed guidelines for future training of questionnaire administrators and mappers and emphasized the importance of verification activities.
Critically, the federation discussed how they would use the information gathered and the maps completed. They reinforced the fact that the information is useless unless it informs negotiation and dialogue – both within the federation and with local authorities. The federation determined strategies for using the information to plan for increased service provision and potentially generate certificates of residence that will provide a first step toward incrementally improving the tenure security of Mbale slum residents.
The STDM pilot project in Mbale is supported by Cities Alliance and Government of Uganda through the Ministry of Land, Housing and Urban Development (MoLHUD) as well as the Federation of Surveyors (FIG) Foundation.
In many ways the Orangi Pilot Project is probably the closest ideological kin to an SDI urban intervention. At the heart of both organizations is the philosophy that organized communities are the most vital component in any process that aims to improve living conditions for the urban poor. Based in Karachi, Pakistan, OPP has facilitated the installation of a sanitation system for more than 1 million households living in the city’s Katchi Abadis, which are differentiated from slums mostly by state acceptance of the unofficial land tenure rights of the residents. However, the residents of the Abadis are, in almost every other way, the same as the slum dwellers that SDI is organized around.
SDI and OPP are contemporaries and have shared the same space, and similarity of opinion, within development circles since the 1990s. Yet, while there is no active contestation, or any call for it, there is divergence in approach. A distinctiveness which becomes apparent only when you dismantle the approach of each organization into separate pieces and juxtapose comparable pieces from each organization. So you have historical and local contexts that pit OPP’s Karachi experience against SDI’s intervention in Kampala. Or the sources and amount of development finance that has gone into 1 million individual household sanitation connections in Karachi and 2,000 communal sanitation units in Mumbai, and so on.
Photos of Orangi Pilot Project, courtesy of www.oppinstitutions.org.
In January, architect, activist, and writer and now-retired founder of OPP, Arif Hasan engaged SDI’s national affiliates through workshops held in Nairobi and Lilongwe. In open-ended discussions, Hasan laid out learning from three decades of OPPs experience. The attending SDI affiliates, including Uganda, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ghana, Namibia, Kenya, and Malawi, also told their individual stories about experiences over the last decade and a half. However, the most poignant achievement of the workshops was the disaggregation of both OPP’s and SDI’s approaches.
Having dissected and studied the approaches, it follows that we hold a discussion on the question, “How then do we, or you, construct (using the OPP and SDI components) an urban intervention that has real impact on poverty in a city?” – any city.
Over the next four weeks, we will feature a discussion on four components that OPP and SDI have designed differently – with varying degrees of success. This is an attempt at isolating the DNA of a successful intervention in how to reverse the impoverishing impacts of urbanization.
The first in the series will be a discussion on community organization. The two approaches under discussion are OPP’s “component sharing”, where the formation, sustenance and management of community organizations is almost entirely a community responsibility. This is looked at against the SDI tools of community organization, collectively called “federation building;” a model where organization is prescribed and the responsibility is shared between communities and development agencies. The discussion seeks to establish the structure for a successful interventions
The second part of the series will focus on the ways communities interact with the city. Who do communities talk to? How do they do this? And what do they say? This section discusses the strategy of interventions.
How is delivery resourced – who pays for what? This constitutes the third part of the series. What are the appropriate proportions of community contributions; government, private sector and external development finance.
The last part of the series is a discussion on achieving scale: what is distinct about the OPP strategy for scale against the SDI strategy?
Please join us in the coming weeks as we continue this important discussion.
Even in the Athenian demos, representation was never universal. Only once you crossed the threshold of citizenship — to be land-owning and a male — then the democratic promises of political space and opportunity for voice became a reality. Theories of participation can be of varying utility depending on the extent to which they address the extent to which deeper values of participation are embedded in the institutional structures designed to enhance such approaches. By deeper values, I am, in part, referring to similarly broad constructs such as “inclusion.” But I am also concerned with something much more practical. The key question for me is how does government build an active citizenry through making the everyday tasks of governance both more effective and more empowering.
We can think of inclusion around three broad themes of governance: finance, planning, and politics. Finance includes activities like budget allocations, raising capital for projects, and management and disbursement of funds. Planning includes information gathering, as well as project planning and implementation. Politics includes accessing public voice, as well as the influence of this voice in setting general political priorities of individual institutions and social agglomerations such as states.
One democratic “innovation” that has been the subject of many academic studies has been participatory budgeting. This approach puts ordinary citizens in rather close proximity to decision-making around finances (or at least some designated pool of money usually at the city level). The most prominent example of participatory budgeting is in Porto Alegre, Brazil. There, three scales of administration characterize the approach: (1) popular assemblies, which are constituted at neighborhood and regional levels, (2) regional budget forums, (3) a municipal budget council. There are particular aspects of formal institutional design that have enabled the success of participatory budgeting in Porto Alegre, especially a significant amount of decentralization that empowers municipal-level decision-making. This is particularly so, of course, with respect to controlling the budget. In turn, Porto Alegre has seen great gains in both participation and redistributive action. At least in broad strokes, an active citizenry has gone hand-in-hand with successful governmental intervention to benefit the poor.
I want to delve deeper into one particular aspect of the approach in Porto Alegre, namely the role of representative organizations versus that of individuals. This remains quite a contentious issue in many parts of the world, where government and civil society are exploring forms of inclusionary institutional design. In some ways, the participation — and influence — of the “poorest of the poor” is much more suspect in the Porto Alegre case. As Graham Smith, a researcher from the UK, has noted, “the costs of participation generally remain too high” for those who live in precarious living conditions, with little money for non-employment related transport. In turn, their voices tend to have much less bearing on the budgeting decisions that have been so crucial to achieving otherwise successful redistributive developmental activities.
In turn, this suggests that, given the constraints of political agency and economic opportunity that exist among many communities of the poorest of the poor, representative organizations may have a lot to offer. The theoretical benefits of direct democracy and participation are clearly unavailable in practice. Therefore, democratic and institutional theorists need to pay much more attention to the kinds of popular institutions of the poor that can be effective at influencing formal institutional structures such as participatory budgeting. Three different types are a) city-wide community networks of informal settlement dwellers in places like Thailand that work with a government program for slum upgrading called Baan Mankong, b) street committees in places like Karachi, Pakistan, that work with local government through the Orangi Pilot Project, c) national and city-wide slum dweller “federations” in many countries in Africa and Asia, like those in SDI. These are by no means exhaustive.
We should not conflate “inclusion” and “participation” as catch-all theoretical approaches that will necessarily address the poorest of the poor. Similarly, we must be vigilant that we foreground the needs and voices of the poorest of the poor in development, both as a normative value as well as a functional strategy for coherent and sustainable society-building. One way to do this is to think of “democratic innovations,” in the broader frame of finance, planning, and politics that I propose at the beginning of this memo. I see this frame as much closer to the theories of “co-production” that researchers such as Peter Evans and others have proposed. In doing so, we become more aware of the ways in which institutional forms within society — especially those that represent the poorest of the poor — can influence not just one aspect of the governance equation, but all of them. Large contradictions of representation and accountability may persist, but the significant achievements of representative organizations of the poorest of the poor should be cause for much closer examination of their role in designing inclusive, and “pro-poor” formal institutions.
A forum of African city governments with the support of SDI will organize the third SDI dialogue on citywide slum upgrading later in 2012. This key agreement was arrived at the second dialogue held at the end of March in Harare, Zimbabwe. The agreement represents a deepening of relationships, not only between national SDI federations and the their local authorities, but also the linkages between cities around shared approaches to slum upgrading. The need for connectivity and continuation between the Dialogues was accentuated in the event’s concluding remarks by dialogue moderator, Beth Chitekwe-Biti.
While the first dialogue, held in September 2011 in Uganda, invited the participation of local authorities, the Zimbabwe Dialogue was hosted by the city of Harare and presided over by the Mayor, His Worship Muchadeyi Masunda. In his opening address, Masunda emphasized the importance of synergies between cities, slum dwellers federations with the support of donor agencies. He cited the USD 5 million support to Harare by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that has enabled the city to have productive engagement with the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation. This, he said, has provided a basis for interaction and learning between the city council of Harare and other city councils both in Zimbabwe and around Africa.
The Harare Dialogue drew in city authorities from the southern African cities of Harare, Windhoek, Lilongwe, and Lusaka as well as the Zimbabwean towns of Bulawayo, Chinhoyi, and Kariba. Speaking at the Dialogue, the Town Clerk of Lusaka in Zambia, Mr. Andrew Mwanakulange further underscored the need for a regional city fora, around which the next dialogue would be organized. “It is effective if we reach out to our counterparts in Luanda, Nairobi and so on, to be part of this effort”, he said.
Accompanying the city officials to the dialogues were representatives of the slum dweller federations and planning school professors from each of the cities. The participation of universities marked a second stream of partnerships that the Dialogue sought to animate. Prof Peter Ngau, from the University of Nairobi, said, “one of our key purposes of being here is because we have been discussing change of the teaching curriculum to reflect the realities that our cities are trying to address”. In 2009 SDI signed a memorandum of understanding with the Association of African Planning Schools that aims to lend advocacy and technical support capacities to the citywide slum upgrading approaches being applied by the slum dweller federations.
Each of the city-federation-university delegations made presentations on progress on their joint work. A key concern was the lack of a monitoring framework that could be used to assess progress achieved between Dialogue sessions and indeed the impact that the partnerships have in their respective cities. A call was made to SDI to facilitate the development of the monitoring framework.
The Harare Dialogue, and the Kampala Dialogue before it are part of SDI’s Seven Cities project series. These projects aim at building new strategies for community driven citywide slum upgrading. The projects aim at inclusive, pro-poor interventions in large informal settlements that will serve as centers for learning. The cities identified for SDI’s seven-city strategy are: Kampala, Blantyre, Accra, Harare, Windhoek and Nairobi in Africa and Mandaue in Philippines
As the world becomes increasingly urban, so too does the challenge for adequate and affordable housing. No where are affordable housing challenges greater than in the slums of the Global South. Like most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana’s affordable housing sector is characterized by an acute inability to meet rapidly growing demand due to inefficient land markets, a lack of affordable credit, and poor planning. It is believed Ghana needs to build a minimum of 500,000 homes a year to address the housing deficit – not accounting for population growth. In urban centers it has been reported that 5.7 million additional rooms will be required by 2020. While such predictions must be taken with a grain of salt, it is clear that the magnitude of challenge is immense.
Ghanaians are by now familiar with tales of housing schemes gone bad. The Ayigya project, for example, involved the construction of 800 apartments of various sizes on 50 acres of land. The project, which reportedly cost some ¢300 billion, has not been maintained and was recently reported to be home to over 1,000 squatters. The fate of the project is similar to that of many donor and state interventions. In general, government provision of affordable housing has, like elsewhere, proven to be overly expensive, incapable of going to scale, and unresponsive to the needs of the urban poor who presently account for the bulk of the affordable housing demand. Market-led strategies are also problematic. For the urban poor, mortgages for the most basic housing are unaffordable. Interest rates are too high, wages are too low, and collateral that would satisfy a commercial bank can rarely be found in communities of the urban poor. In short, institutional dysfunction precludes the vast majority of the Ghanaian population from access to affordable housing.
Throughout the Global South, Slum Dweller Federations are attempting to address this institutional dysfunction. The Ghanaian Urban Poor Federation (GHAFUP) is no exception. GHAFUP has approximately 131 savings groups comprised of almost 11,000 members. These groups spread across 7 regions and are networked not only nationally, but engage regularly with federations throughout the global SDI network.
In Ashaiman, a Ghanaian municipality in which almost the entire population lives in slums, the adequate and affordable housing needs are acute. Formerly part of the Tema Municipality, Ashaiman has long been settled by those serving the industrial needs of Tema – Ghana’s prime industrial and harbor city. The community in Ashaiman has been hard hit by the industrial decline of Tema, with unemployment crippling the capacity of residents to invest in housing.
In order to address this state of affairs, GHAFUP mobilizes communities into savings groups. They save daily, mobilizing not only financial resources but collective capacity as members meet weekly, manage their funds, and discuss issues of concern to their communities and strategies for addressing them. GHAFUP members formed the Amui Dzor Housing Cooperative and set about planning a housing development to house 32 families. GHAFUP’s collective efficacy facilitated the formation of a partnership with the UN-Habitat Slum Upgrading Facility. UN-Habitat helped negotiate a long-term mortgage for the cooperative from a commercial bank at an interest rate of 12%. SDI extended loans from the Urban Poor Fund at an interest rate less than 5%. Together this credit enabled the GHAFUP members to commence construction.
The project, named the Amui Dzor Housing Project, is a social housing project. The three-story structure consists of 15 commercial units, one and two bedroom apartments, and a 12-seater public toilet (managed by the cooperative), which subsidizes the cost of the housing. Visitors pay a small fee to use the services and the housing cooperative collects this money and uses it to help pay back its loans. Unlike many public sanitation facilities in Ghana, this unit is maintained well thanks to the collective capacity of the cooperative managing it.
The federation has driven the housing project since its inception. They negotiated with the traditional council to secure the land for the project – even taking members of said council to India on and exchange to view the housing projects of the Indian federation. GHAFUP was also central to the process of formulating a relocation strategy for housing those displaced by the construction process in transitional housing. In addition, GHAFUP partnered with architecture firm Tekton Consultants to design the structure, they sourced construction materials, dug trenches, and assisted with grading. Members selected beneficiaries for the project themselves, and negotiated with local authorities for support. The project has created tremendous goodwill between the federation and the Ashaiman Municipal Authority.
During focus group discussions held at the project in February 2012 the federation emphasized the greater understanding the project has generated for federation processes in Ashaiman. They have proven they can manage projects of considerable scale and claim to now be treated with greater respect by local authorities.
At the meeting, federation members reported that repayments are progressing well and money is being funneled back into Ghana’s Urban Poor Fund, which will help to finance other GHAFUP development projects in the country. This is a key element of SDI’s Urban Poor Fund concept. Repayments on loans secured by member federations do not come back to SDI, but rather to a national-level Urban Poor Fund, which continues to revolve money into new capital projects for members. The public toilet project generates an impressive income from users and this money will assist the community to pay back their loans. Women’s business empowerment initiatives are also striving to increase the capacity of members to make loan repayments.
The project’s has been recognized as a model for affordable housing provision. Amui Dzor Housing Project was awarded “Best Social Innovative Housing Project” for the urban poor and low-income people by a panel of housing experts in 2010, while Tekton Consultants was awarded “Best Designed Architectural Concept for a Mixed Use Development in Social Housing for the Urban Poor.” The Ashaiman Municipal Authority and the Traditional Council are eager for the project to be scaled up and plans are underway for a second phase to commence. The importance of having the support of the Traditional Council cannot be overestimated. Over 80% of land in Ghana is owned by traditional chiefs, so taking any affordable housing strategy to scale will require their close collaboration.
The Ghanaian example highlights the effectiveness of the SDI approach to affordable housing. Federations save money as a collective, increasing their capacity to access credit as well as mobilizing the collective capacity and trust required to sustainably manage projects. The savings of the urban poor also decrease the level of subsidy required and increase project ownership. Community involvement serves to reduce costs by mobilizing community labor, utilizing local knowledge in sourcing building materials, and generating the skills required for project maintenance. Partnerships between organized communities of the urban poor and other urban development stakeholders – particularly local authorities – is essential for going to scale and addressing the systemic dysfunction that has for too long excluded the urban poor from decent and affordable housing.
The Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) and the uTshani Fund are two organisations working in alliance to bring the urban poor in South Africa together and bring their huge collective resourcefulness, creativity, energy and social force to the task of delivering secure, affordable housing to everyone. The FEDUP / uTshani Fund alliance has initiated housing projects in urban and peri-urban communities across all nine provinces, improving the lives of some 17,000 households so far.
FEDUP’s primary vision has been to ensure that the urban poor – and particularly poor women – gain full citizenship rights and become key actors in determining the development priorities and policies of cities. The Federation has worked to move both urban policy and poor communities away from crisis-led reactive interventions to gendered long-term partnerships in which the urban poor themselves play a key role as visionaries and partners in generating “win-win” solutions that create revised models of development.
At a mass gathering on March 1st, attended by local, national and international shack dwellers, city officials and NGO staff, FEDUP reasserted its vision to build inclusive and pro-poor cities by positioning the poor as central actors in urban development. They were gathered at Stretford Park in Extension 6 of Orange Farm, where joyous singing and chanting resounded throughout the park, overlaid with the DJ’s big dubstep beats.
While the gathering buzzed and hummed, the deputy minister of Human Settlements Ms. Zoe Kota-Fredericks, and Gauteng Members of Executive Council met in a private meeting to discuss the unlocking of People’s Housing Processes in the province. Patrick Magebula, national FEDUP leader and advisor to the minister of Human Settlements Mr. Tokyo Sexwale, mentioned that the processes in Orange Farm are unfolding across the country, and poor people’s groups across the country are actively contributing to changing the way government engages poor residents. Since March 1992, when women across the country mobilised around savings collectives, the Federation has engaged with formal banking institutions and all three tiers of government, helped setup Shack / Slum Dwellers International (SDI) by participating in and leading international exchanges, and most importantly, ensured the material improvement and tenure security in the lives of thousands of poor people. The FEDUP has shared their successes (and failures) and supported new savings initiatives in encouraged and supported savings groups in Angola, Brazil, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Namibia, Uganda, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
On Ms. Kota-Fredericks’ arrival, she addressed the crowd and said, “We are encouraged that people take their own initiatives rather than waiting for the government to come to them. Through your savings you were able to build yourselves better houses, much better than the RDP houses that the government provides. The government needs this kind of commitment from the community so that we can be able to provide services faster and more efficiently”.
Houses built by the Federation through the People’s Housing Process have been of significantly higher quality than those built through privately contracted government delivered starter houses. The current houses being completed with the subsidy pledge are all larger than 50 m2 in size with a fully fitted bathroom, a kitchen with a sink as well as three to four spacious bedrooms. The houses are fully electrified. The finishing includes plaster inside and outside, and is also painted inside and outside. These are achievable through the savings and contributions of the beneficiaries.
The beneficiaries on the projects are mainly elderly women. Young men and women help the beneficiary to construct the houses. Subsidy forms are completed among the members and submitted to the provincial housing Department for approval before building can commence for any beneficiary.
Said Mrs. Manthoka and Mr. Mangena of Orange Farm about a poor people’s movement, “It was a good experience to work with the Federation. It brought us happiness! It was so unfortunate that the whole thing came to a standstill now… There was a problem with the interpretation of the subsidies. People thought that government would be paying the subsidies upfront”.
Poor people have always been in charge of their own developments, building very innovative, very large, and very effective shelters that meet their needs. These creative, colorful, and appropriate homes tend to constitute the vast majority of the architecture of the Global South. It is thus imperative that shack dwellers themselves be involved in the struggle to house the urban poor. They have the appropriate skills and vision to develop their own, comfortable settlements, with a small amount of professional and financial support from the experts and politicians.
Ms. Kota-Fredericks mentioned the long standing relationship between the FEDUP and the national department of Human Settlements. It started with the pledge from Minister Joe Slovo in 1994, which was followed up by Sankie Mthembu-Mahanyelele. Minister Sisulu also pledged subsidies to FEDUP and uTshani Funds in 2004, but provinces have been slow to release these funds for a number of reasons. Rose Molokoane, national coordinator of the FEDUP, commented that a lot of work still remains, as many people still live in harsh conditions. Said Molokoane, “The majority of our people are still poor and can’t afford proper houses. They are living in appalling conditions in informal settlements. But we are confident that our partnership with the government will grow stronger and will achieve more. When we started banks could not loan us money as we were regarded as high risk customers. But we have never lost hope, we decided to do it on our own and it worked”.
Some quotations borrowed from the following online articles:
In a previous piece on the Makerere/SDI partnership in Uganda, Noah Schermbrucker, questioned the sources of knowledge that guide urban planning. In this second installment I would like to continue that discussion. When considering the planning profession I am often reminded of Michel Foucault’s account of the clinician and the evolution of scientific empiricism in The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception (1963).
The “gaze” of the planner these days is often perceived to possess the same objective and rational wisdom as that of Foucault’s clinician. In urban development circles urban planners are believed capable of revealing the city’s hidden truths and taming urban unruliness through a classificatory kind of wisdom, which enables them to identify nodes of dysfunction with supposedly enlightened and absolute objectivity. The planner, like the medical clinician, is believed to possess no agenda and seek solely to maximize efficiency.
Such scientific empiricism, Foucault explains, abstracts knowledge from the subject. This, I believe, is the danger of modern urban planning and the reason SDI, with support from AAPS, is eager to ensure the planning profession reconnect with the subject of analysis.
In this, the second phase of the partnership, Uganda’s future planners ventured into the field with their community professors – placing the “knowers” firmly in the realm of the “known” – to use Foucault’s terminology. Groups of approximately 10 students boarded buses on the 5th and 6th of March bound for the 5 secondary cities in which NSDFU works. From Arua in the country’s north-west, to Mbarara and Kabale in the south, and Jinja and Mbale in the east, the students secured a rich exposure to the urban challenges facing Uganda.
These 5 cities, part of the Cities Alliance-funded Land Services and Citizenship (LSC) program (called TSUPU in Uganda), have a strong federation presence that is driving community collected information gathering, forging deep and productive partnerships with municipal government, and launching community managed development projects in slums. This new partnership will certainly contribute toward strengthening and deepening this ongoing initiative.
When the students arrived in each of their respective cities they first met with federation leaders who debriefed them on the urban reality in their municipality, the work of the federation, and the enumeration process. The students asked these members many questions and engaged them in rich discussions on issues of land tenure, services, and housing.
The groups then paid a visit to the Municipal Council to meet with various political and technical municipal officials. The federation introduced the students and partnership to the municipal officials and its links to the LSC/TSUPU program. In each city the officials, most of whom had been part of the enumeration effort, praised the new partnership and expressed commitment to supporting the initiative as well as incorporating federation enumeration data into the municipal planning process.
Following the visit to the municipality, students ventured into the settlements in which the federation members live. Armed with the enumeration data the students were able to interrogate the data and enrich their understanding of its meaning. In focus group meetings and one-on-one interviews life was breathed into the data. The stories of members about eviction, lack of services, and housing conditions ensured the students would see the data for what it is: an account of life in slums and an essential ingredient for effective urban planning. They also came to see the local community for what it is: the best resource for local knowledge and the most invested in the urban development agenda.
For most of the Makerere students it was their first time to visit these cities and as the country’s future urban planners they expressed gratitude for the opportunity to see that Kampala’s urban planning needs are not the same as those of secondary cities.
In Kampala, each of the capital’s 5 municipalities (formerly divisions under Kampala City Council, these are now municipalities under the newly formed Kampala Capital City Authority) played host to a group of about 10 students as well. The federation first took the students to the Municipal Offices in Nakawa, Makindye, Rubaga, Kawempe, and Kampala Central. Like they did in the secondary cities, the Kampala students were able to meet officials from the Division and introduce the program as well as ask questions.
The students then split into smaller groups in an effort to verify federation profiling data on each of the parishes within the 5 municipalities/divisions. This was a massive undertaking and one that involved the students covering great distances each day. Though they live and study in Kampala, many of these students had not ventured so deeply into the city’s slums nor examined so closely the socio-economic realities therein.
With their community professors leading the way and the blessing of municpal officers, the students were able to move freely in the slums, ask questions, make notes, and take photographs to enrich the profiling data collected by the community. These observations were critical for the students as it enabled them to problematize the certainties of planning they have learned in the academic world.
The students will now take the data - hopefully no longer abstracted from the subject – and analyze it further in order to compile reports that will be returned to the federation for verification in the next phase of the partnership. After verification, the students will finalize the reports in a uniform format that will be published. In the final stage of the program students will return to the municipalities in which they worked and assist the federation to present the information to local authorities and discuss the critical contribution such information should play in the planning process. They will also share lessons on the way their conceptualization of what it takes to be an effective planner has changed during the program.
In Noah’s blog post he correctly pointed out the power that comes with knowledge. Foucault argues the reason the myth of the clinician’ s objectivity survived for so long is because, “the gaze that sees is a gaze that dominates.” In this first field visit as part of the urban studio, the gaze of the planner was brought closer to that of the subject, which we think is a positive step toward making the planning profession more responsive and more capable of executing its duties.
SDI will keep you posted as the workshop in Uganda unfolds.
“In communities we know the number of settlements, services and origins of the people. We know how they spend their money and how they would like to develop their areas. You cannot plan from the office but if you go to the ground and speak to people and learn from them it can help you plan better”-Katana Goretti (Treasurer of Ugandan Federation)
The old adage that “knowledge is power” is particularly pertinent when it comes to traditional modes of development thought and planning. Who is afforded the right to speak? To what purpose do they speak and in whose interests? Who is included and, far more importantly, who is excluded? Far from being benign such narratives inform practices, models and interventions. They become a version of the truth ratified by officials, academic texts and practitioners. In this case the truth is not absolute it is socially produced within a very specific set of paradigms and engagements which all too often exclude the diversity, flexibility and value of community based knowledge. Surely those living in areas earmarked for development know their own needs best?
If we are to challenge current models of development to be inclusive of communities we have to confront the knowledge regimes that perpetuate them. These are housed within various spheres of society including the state, large development agencies and academic institutions. Through partnerships, negotiations and the setting of infrastructure precedents federations across the SDI networks attempt to create new spaces in which community knowledge comes to influence and inform development decisions. One such example is currently underway in Uganda where future city planners and geographers are being exposed to the knowledge and experience of federation members.
SDI has entered into a collaborative field project with third year planning students at Makerere University. Community members will accompany students in Kampala as well as 5 secondary Ugandan cities (Mbarara & Kabala, Mbale, Jinja and Arua) where students will conduct enumerations, transect walks, mapping exercises and other important community centered rituals. The students will be broken into groups with a specific focus for each member (e.g. housing, sanitation, education). In this manner students will have an in depth engagement around a core issue. Throughout the fieldwork process community members will assist, guide and teach the students about their communities and the obstacles that they face. Not only will future planners, geographers and architects be exposed to conditions of informality but also just as significantly they will come to see the intrinsic value of incorporating informal knowledge and practices in the planning processes.
Community professor Zam explains savings schemes to the Makerere students
The outputs of the project will be detailed reports reflecting community challenges that will be submitted to local authorities that will also be drawn in throughout the process. Reports will validate enumeration data around key issues decided upon by community members at a meeting on the 5th of March. These issues include; water, toilets, roads, health centres, ownership of land and housing typologies. The verification of data arose out of community needs to present concise reports to authorities about their areas in order to create awareness and leverage resources. Importantly this is a demand driven process and not one determined by a top down intervention.
On Wednesday the 29th February federation members visited the Makerere campus for the launch of the collaborative studio project. Katana Gorreti Bwakika Zam and Kasalu Ronald from the Ugandan Slum Dwellers Federation spoke to the students about savings, enumerations, mapping and how these processes had created social and political capital as well as solidarity within slum communities. The importance of knowing ones own community and the collection of information was also stressed. The students received the presentations enthusiastically and by the end of the meeting community members had taught the students the “Umeme” gesture popular amongst the East African federations (waving of the hands instead of clapping, a movement which does not exclude those who cannot clap).
Reflecting on the session over a cool drink in the University cafeteria federation members joked about becoming community professors and teaching students, a position that they never imagined themselves in. As the project progresses this is exactly the role that members of the Ugandan federation will fulfill. As students visit their settlements and become engrossed in the processes that they employ they will be the community professors whose experience, perseverance and knowledge begins to inform practice. Katana tells me “ What I would like to see is the community, students and the government working together…as someone within the community we know best where to put the roads, drainage and garbage.”
Community Professor Katana explaining the SDI rituals
Peter Kassaija, the enthusiastic teacher spearheading the partnership at Makerere stated “ We want students to go beyond sitting in the office and into the field in order to get to know the communities which they plan for. For the federation members the lines of communication are now open and they [the students] will learn as much from you as you will from them.” This is a welcome attitude and one from which many academic institutions can learn. Practical field experience of informal settlements not only debunks myths but exposes students to conditions and people who are normally excluded or given mere “lip service” in planning decisions about their own areas. During this process students will be forced to engage beyond the confines of the classroom with forms of knowledge that are not included in their curriculums but which are absolutely vital to the future equitable development of cities.
It is these types of partnerships that have the potential to not only create new spaces for learning but also enable informal community knowledge to become part of citywide slum upgrading processes. Across the SDI network tireless federation members are working to ensure that the knowledge of community professors is taken seriously and incorporated in developmental frameworks. If we are truly to change the segregated spatial form and exclusionary policies of future cities it is time that we all sat up and took very seriously the lessons which community professors can teach us. As Katana aptly sums up, “ An old broom sweeps better than a new broom. That is community members they have experience of all the corners and the problems in their communities.”
SDI will keep you posted as the workshop in Uganda unfolds.
Water Kiosk, Kosovo Village, Mathare, Nairobi Kenya
By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI secretariat
Cities in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, so often exclude the poor from the political decision-making and financial flows that affect their lives. A meeting of slum dweller federations, local government officials, and academics in Nairobi, Kenya, explored the role of the poor in the growing cities of Africa, and the need to break down the false assumptions of government bureaucracies and professional expertise.
Pakistani architect, activist, and writer Arif Hasan had a simple reflection after a visit last week to the bustling informal neighborhoods of the Mathare Valley in Nairobi, Kenya: “Laws are as good as the rules, regulations and procedures that accompany them. They are as good as the institutions that implement them.”
Slum dwellers in cities throughout the South currently achieve very little through the laws that supposedly govern their lives. Access to water, toilets, electricity, and security of tenure is but a dream for the vast majority of the billion informal residents of cities. The current rules of this life and death “game” of urban development are not only not working, but often actively exclude the poor. So what will it take to build the constituencies with the influence and desire to change these rules?
Such was the underlying charge of a meeting of officials from local government and utility companies, academics, and city/nation-wide slum dweller community organizations, known as “federations,” from Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda. The encounter, hosted by Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI), was ostensibly about identifying “emerging trends in urban cities in Africa.” But the need for a new governing order that includes the poor emerged consistently through interactions in Nairobi’s slum neighborhoods, as well as in the air-conditioned hotel conference room appointed to bring these actors together.
Kosovo, one of 13 “villages” in Mathare, is the site of a new approach to inclusion of the urban poor in water delivery to informal areas. For years, the Kenya Water Company had complained that they were not receiving revenue from the 6,000 Kosovo residents who were using informal water connections. The SDI-affiliated federation in Kenya, known as Muungano wa wanavijiji (Muungano for short), included many of the residents. They began to organize the community to negotiate with the Water Company to achieve greater access to water, and formalize the connections, so that the Company would receive revenue. As Kosovo resident and Muungano secretary Jason Waweru described it to last year, “We said that both us have rights. So who is to say who has a more important right? So we opened a dialogue.”
Collaboration and contestation have gone hand-in-hand, as both Muungano and the Water Company negotiate the tricky terrain of partnership between “informal” and “formal” actors. At one point, community members began digging individual trenches for water pipes without approval from the Company, in order to speed along the process. Eventually, everyone agreed to something called a “delegated management model,” whereby the Company provides bulk infrastructure, while the community members build and manage street-level piping, as well as collection of fees.
Rules for the Kosovo Water Kiosk
It is a model that went beyond the rules and regulations of a utility company that had not previously been willing to cede control of its authority to distribute water in such a way. And now it is a model that is taking hold in informal settlements not only throughout the Mathare valley and elsewhere in Nairobi, but also in the city of Kisumu.
So how do we actually change the rules of the game? Hasan argues that, in part, the professions associated with development tend to be a major impediment rather than enabler of change: “I worked as an architect and I can say that we are perhaps the most retrogressive of professions because we are so wedded to standards,” he said last week. “We need to break this passion for small ideal solutions and move to large-scale, non-ideal solutions.”
The interactions between communities, professionals, and government officials are beginning to produce the kinds of breakthroughs that can go to scale. This is precisely because they move beyond the regulations and rules that Hasan describes as rooted in “the ruins of collapsed [colonial] empires … even though those empires no longer exist.” In fact, many planning and architecture standards throughout cities in Africa are unchanged from the original codes established by colonial authorities.
One strategy popular amongst SDI federations to build relationships that break down such walls is community-led information collection, sometimes known as “enumeration.” In Stellenbosch, a small municipality outside of Cape Town, South Africa, an informal community called Langrug is home to approximately 1,800 households. After residents conducted their own enumeration, both the municipality and community found space to engage whereas previously the relationship had been full of protest, unmet expectations, and little change on the ground.
David Carolissen, municipal head of the Informal Settlements Unit, says that space made all the difference. “The data has on the one hand connected us to the slums. But it has also allowed the community to reflect themselves to us.” Now, the municipality and community are talking and planning together as they install more toilets, water points, clean up drains, build a new multi-purpose community hall, and prioritize 300 new employment opportunities for women-headed households.
Sometimes achieving this kind of change, which is often small at first, means creating “a spirit of trust among all the actors in this drama,” Hasan argues. “Trust will lead to better laws, less laws, and less bureaucracy.”
This means that both communities and professional actors need to prepare to act in new ways to move from the relationships of exclusion and conflict that characterize the urbanization of poverty in our cities. Tools for community organization such as enumeration and women-led daily savings, are working for groups like SDI federations to build political voice that can strike advantageous deals with formal actors to upgrade informal settlements. Settlements from every country represented at the Nairobi meeting could attest to real physical and social improvements that had come about through these initial steps of self-organization.
But for professionals in the “formal” sector — government officials, NGO professionals, and academics — there are few, if any, guiding principles for how they can act to achieve real change. Changing the rules of the game is anything but a technocractic exercise. A set of professional ethics for those working in development makes a lot of sense to create a sense of professional judgment that can approach challenges of urban growth. These are challenges for which no clear formula for technical action exists.
Hasan proposes one set of ethics that could, in fact, be useful for all actors, both “formal” and “informal”:
1. Planning and projects should respect the ecology of the region in which the city/town is located.
2. Land use should be determined on the basis of social and environmental considerations and not on the basis of land value alone.
3. Development should cater to the needs of the majority population, which is usually low and lower-middle income.
4. Planning and projects should respect and promote the tangible and intangible heritage of the communities that live in urban settlements.
Of course, as he notes, given the current paradigm of development, few, if any, projects would be enacted if they had to fill all four of these criteria. But a shift in professional mindset, as well as a shift in the formal strictures of bureaucracy and governance, is a prerequisite for new pathways to more equitable cities.
In July 2011, a national leader of the South African Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), Patrick Magebhula Hunsley, was appointed to serve on the Ministerial Task Team on Water and Sanitation headed by Ms. Winnie Madikizela Mandela. The Team came into being in response to the Makhaza toilet scandal earlier this year, and was tasked with addressing the issue of open-air, incomplete and dilapidated toilets in poor communities across South Africa.
By early 2012, the team is meant to report back to Minister Sexwale of the Department of Human Settlements with recommendations based on their findings on the scale and geographic spread of the problem, as well as any "irregularities or malpractices," of which quite a few have already been unearthed.
In early December, Ms. Mandela was in Cape Town for a National Task Team forum, where community leaders, task teams and members of social movements such as the Informal Settlement Network, one of the members of the South African SDI alliance, presented reports on the state of sanitation in their communities. Following these reports, the SA SDI Alliance made recommendations on upgrading of urban informal settlements based on their experiences of re-blocking at Sheffield Road.
They shared how this process has led to many positive outcomes, including the incorporation of sanitation within the re-blocked clusters, rather than on the periphery of the settlement as is usually the case. Where toilets have been incorporated into clusters, community members reported a marked difference in levels of vandalism and blockages, both of which are problems that can cause the State huge costs in informal settlements.
Upon hearing about Sheffield Rd., Ms. Mandela was eager to visit the community. She spent time meeting with women who have mobilized to turn what was not long ago a maze of dark alleyways with few safe or functioning toilets nearby into a vibrant community working together to bring about permanent change.
The International City Managemement Association (ICMA) has partnered with Cities Alliance, the Government of Uganda and the Uganda SDI alliance on a project that seeks to transform informal settlements starting from mobilization of urban poor women around savings schemes, the backbone of SDI's methodology. In the following interview, Sarah Nandudu, a national leader of the Uganda Slum Dwellers Federation, explains how the Transforming Settlements of the Urban Poor (TSUPU) project in Uganda supports efforts to improve water and sanitation by using these core methodologies. As noted on the ICMA website, "part of ICMA's role in the project is to work with local governments to engage citizens of slums to improve public service delivery, especially water and sanitation."
For more information on the TSUPU project, click here.
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.
“This is a dream come true in bringing City Councils and communities around a table to talk about possibilities of city-wide informal settlement upgrading,” said Jerry Adlard, the facilitator of the 9th November learning event organised by South African, Namibian and Malawian poor people’s movements aligned to Shack/Slum Dwellers International. Paired with these words, was the call for honest reflection on the objective, structure, achievements, lessons learnt and challenges of unfolding partnerships in the cities of Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Ethekwini, Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg, Windhoek and Lilongwe. The learning event was preceded by two days of site visits to re-blocking, sanitation and relocation projects in the City of Cape Town and Stellenbosch Municipality.
How do various actors implicated in urban development build partnerships to ensure pro-poor and inclusive cities? Contemporary African cities are juxtaposed with multiple layers of social, political, economic and environmental realities, which in many ways are aggravated by its colonial past. On the one hand, cities are the spaces of aspiration, innovation and drivers of social change, and on the other, social polarisation, poverty, conflict and environmental degradation narrate the conditions of large portions of city dwellers. In an age that is characterised by urbanisation, said to transform the cities of Africa, Asia and Latin America, there is arguably never been a time where effective partnerships are more needed.
In many cases, slum dwellers are taking the lead in building partnerships with local authorities with the view to significantly influence the way slum upgrading is conceptualised and operationalised. The full participation of slum dwellers in upgrading programmes is central to meeting the outcomes of sustainable human settlements, tending towards social (and political) change. For instance, slum dwellers of the Homeless People’s Federation of Malawi influenced the Lilongwe City Council’s bureaucracy through its large scale enumeration project which involved churches, tribal chieftaincies and other community based organisations (Lilongwe slums span municipal boundaries and averages in sizes of 50,000 residents). This inclusive project resulted in a shift on the part of the City Council from treating urban development as homogeneous to rural development. The establishment of the Informal Settlement Unit, a department which reports directly to the Mayor, was the result of effective lobbying on the part of the urban poor. This partnership illustrates the limitations of technocrats and the possibilities of communities initiating their own developmental priorities.
In Windhoek, the partnership between the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN), City of Windhoek and the Polytech is challenging the limitations to transformation implicated in the inherited colonial land use management norms. Space for policy innovation is opening where the contribution and full participation of informal settlements are at the plinth.
Partnerships unfolding in South Africa through the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) and Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) were also discussed at length. Some of the overarching achievements to date have included pilot projects in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and the mining belt in Ekurhuleni whereby communities successfully re-blocked (e.g. Ruimsig (CoJ) and Sheffield Road (CoCT)), installed drainage (Masilunghe (CoCT)), and resettled (Langrug (Stellenbosch) and Lwazi Park (CoCT)). Innovation through upgrading is challenging the enduring (mis)conceptions associated to the subsidised housing paradigm which only looked after the interests of the nucleus family. The SA Alliance’s aspirations for establishing city-wide Urban Poor Funds – funding facilities that support the initiatives of poor communities – have also partially realised when communities successfully leveraged funds from the Stellenbosch Municipality in financing the relocation project and associated service provision.
The institutionalisation of partnerships for city-wide upgrading initiatives is underway. Reports were heard from city officials and community leaders of respective cities. As communities penetrate the seemingly perceived ‘iron towers’ of city bureaucracy and build effective partnerships that influence budgetary allocation and prioritisation, the emphases are shifting from ‘control’ to ‘participation’.
Delegates argued that if the partnership cannot affect political will, for instance to transform the ward councillor structure (in the SA case), then there is no real power to promote the upgrading agenda. One of the Namibian delegates remarked:
“There is a problem to talk about the poor’s ‘self-reliance’ when the issue actually lies with the state’s orientation. Political space is opened to engage around delivery priorities and this is a two-way process; both the state needs to be held accountable, and citizens, demanding basic human rights, need to be proud and organised. One of the main reasons why the partnerships fail to deliver is that the departments don’t understand the difference between upgrading and housing delivery”.
An exhibition will soon open at the Goethe-Institut in Johannesburg, which will showcase the recent, successful partnership between the residents of Ruimsig, a small informal settlement on the north-western periphery of Johannesburg, the SA SDI Alliance and the University of Johannesburg, Department of Architecture. Ruimsig serves as the site for a pioneering studio for architecture students which aims to highlight the necessity and challenges that come within-situ upgrading in the informal context. Partnerships with the community, several NGOs, as well as the National Upgrade Support Programme (NUSP), have been put in place to ensure that the work produced by the students is closely informed by inhabitants’ immediate and long-term needs. Students, teachers and residents have worked together intensely, in a temporary studio in the settlement, to produce a map towards the sensitive ‘reblocking’ (or site-specific formalisation) of Ruimsig. Apart from the primary re-blocking exercise, various site-specific strategies, for short and long-term upgrading and sustainable growth of the settlement, were also work-shopped and tested, together with the community.
On the 1st of September, the project outcomes were exhibited to community leaders and residents of Ruimsig, as well as to representatives from the SA SDI Alliance, NUSP, project partners and officials from the City of Johannesburg.
As a pilot project its significance is potentially catalytic as its realisation will exemplify government’s goal of upgrading 400 000 informal households by 2014. In this context, students collaborated with ‘Community Architects’ from Ruimsig over a period of seven weeks. The collaboration with Ruimsig residents led to the development and illustration of strategies for the sensitive community-driven upgrading and formalisation of the existing settlement. This exercise builds on the inherent spatial qualities of a settlement which has, over a period of more or less 25 years, grown and evolved into a vibrant, dynamic and self-designed place.
The exhibition at Goethe on Main, opening on Thursday, September 21, will make a summary of the project – and its layered and complex process – available to a broader public. The collected work on exhibition until the 2ndOctober 2011 will portray, primarily through film, the challenging dynamics inherent in the teaching of this course, and the necessary shift required by architects, educators and officials to acknowledge and engage with the informal city and its networks.
Community development is often a hard, slow process that requires patience and dedication. The South African SDI Alliance takes the position that community members are actually the linchpin to the success of community development, and nothing less than full inclusion in their own development processes is sufficient. But how do you tackle the problems the urban poor face if the very city they live in effectively excludes them and government departments operate in isolation, trying to address issues which require an integrated approach? The solution lies in the concept of inclusion, and the Alliance has learnt that the City needs to be included in its efforts. But the inclusion of the City does not rest on the shoulders’ of its Informal Settlement Unit alone and the Alliance knows that a more strategic approach is required by drawing in the help of all role-players.
It was in this spirit that the South African SDI Alliance introduced itself to the new Mayor of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille, at a meeting at the Civic Centre on 4 August 2011. In doing so, the Alliance aimed to garner support from the City for an integrated approach in tackling informal settlement issues and to highlight that community members were a valuable resource along with all government departments. Representatives from the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) and the Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC) described the history and nature of the partnership to the gathering, which included representatives from the City’s Human Settlements, Utilities and Urbanisation Departments as well as the Informal Settlement Unit’s manager. Since 2009, the Alliance has been working with the Informal Settlement Unit within the City of Cape Town’s Housing Department, and together the partnership has identified 23 settlements where joint pilot projects for incremental upgrading would be executed. The Mayor commended the fact that the Alliance was working towards solving one of the country’s biggest problems and affirmed that the City’s new administration was more than willing to work with them in this regard.
The Alliance representatives revealed that there were advantages in partnering with the City but expressed concern that not all departments were committed to the partnership. The Director of Urbanisation echoed these sentiments and explained that steps were being taken to address this issue. The Mayor affirmed this and envisaged practical engagement with the Alliance on a number of fronts and in particular highlighted that the ISN could make valuable input into the City’s five-year Integrated Development Plan, help the City resolve conflicts in areas that the ISN represents, as well as help establish an accurate database of informal settlements and backyard areas. She felt that a Memorandum of Understanding needed to be signed to formalise the partnership. The drafting of this document is currently underway and will be signed the next time the Alliance meets with the Mayor. It is hoped that this will lead to an integrated departmental approach from the City to informal settlement development issues, and through the Alliance the voice of the urban poor would be included in this process.
Floods, Fires. Lurking danger while searching for a place to shit. And, above all, the spectre of police and bulldozers waiting outside your door ordering you to leave your home.
To the academics, planners, and policy-makers, such an existence is informal and illegal. To those living in urban slum settlements throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America, it is the stuff of daily life. Recent engagements between slum dweller networks linked to SDI and universities show how this gap between theory and reality is shrinking.
The challenge of developing institutions to adequately address the very immediate issues that slum dwellers face is often a challenge of having the right information at hand. Usually, professional and academic planners use limited — and usually aggregated — information upon which to base their decisions. They envision cities that extend the ways in which they already live their lives.
But the poor also have visions for their cities. As one South African newspaper headlined a piece by South African Federation president Patrick Magebhula, they are “moving from slum survivors to urban planners.” The SDI network is now developing a range of experiences in which slum dweller communities collect detailed information about themselves in order to organize, plan and impact the ways in which they interact with the formal world.
In Kenya, the Federation, known as Muungano wa wanavijiji, is working with students from the University of Nairobi and University of California—Berkeley in the United States, to develop a zonal plan for the Mathare Valley in Nairobi. The Federation savings schemes in the community work with residents to survey every house, and then use this information to map the settlement jointly using GIS technology. This technology integrates the socio-economic data collected into a visual picture of the way in which the social dimensions of the community exist spatially.
We have often discussed the enumeration, mapping, and profiling activities of SDI federations in this newsletter. Now, federations are using links with planning programs in local universities to build broader understanding of community-led planning activities. In doing so, they are creating new platforms to build political backing for the cities that they envision. These are cities that finally appreciate the contributions of informal organization, and include these contributions in future planning.
The Informal Settlement Network in South Africa is working with two adjacent large informal settlements in Cape Town called Barcelona and Europe. The communities undertook their own processes of enumeration and mapping. Now, they are working with students at the University of Cape Town to translate this information into a vision for the future. The settlements are on top of a landfill site, which is polluting one of the main freshwater reserves in the city. It is clear that this will increasingly come on the radar for city planners, as water resources become scarcer. So the community is getting ahead of the city by developing its own plan.
Here, the role of universities to help translate to the formal world the information that communities collect is vital. The communities use the tools of the academics to articulate their existing social realities and economic contribution to the city as a whole. For instance, economic analysis emerging from the community’s enumeration estimates the community’s economic activity as generating about USD 6 million as yearly expenditure.
A similar case is in a large informal settlement called Langrug in the relatively small municipality of Stellenbosch near Cape Town in South Africa. Residents have enumerated the settlement and, led by two young women without high school education, mapped the information. The community leadership now use this information to negotiate with the municipality for toilets, installation of sewers and water pipes, and to find the space to relocate those members of the community who live in a flood plain next to a small river that runs through the settlement.
Last week, residents of Barcelona and Langrug gave a unique lecture about this work to students in the University of Cape Town’s M.Phil program in Community Development and Planning. Audio of the lecture by Vuyani Mnyango from Barcelona and Kholeka Xuza and Olwethu Mvandaba from Langrug can be found here, as well as an accompanying slideshow here.
This is not the first time that slum dweller leaders from SDI Federations have become professors to the professionals and academics. Last year, members of the Zimbabwean Federation traveled to the University of Manchester in the UK to teach economics students. And earlier this month, community leaders from Cape Town and Durban in South Africa, traveled to Perth, Australia, to present to the annual World Planning Schools Congress. Listen to an interview on Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Futuretense” radio show with the South African Federation’s Melanie Manuel here. In order to further such engagements, SDI signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Association of African Planning School in November 2010.
University students have learned from the communities how informal settlement dwellers live and work, as well as how they organize themselves. The students have then contributed the tools of planners to articulate this information in a way that serves as a platform for the communities to engage with city officials on future planning for the area. For example, in June, after talking with residents from Barcelona and Europe around the plans they developed with the University of Cape Town students, Cape Town municipal officials were pleasantly surprised. “To get to this level of understanding, it can take us years of working through expensive consultants,” said Natasha Murray, Head of Planning for Informal Settlements at the City of Cape Town.
The linchpins of this work are the information collection of activities of Federations and slum dweller communities. These communities collect information at the household level, leveraging a wealth of data that can be entirely disaggregated. They then plot the information onto maps, and work with highly detailed socio-economic and spatial data to develop future plans. Universities help translate this data using formal tools that create a framework for communities to engage as leading partners to plan with city governments.
This is a striking new role for urban poor communities in city development. Such communities are becoming the professors and planners. They are working to use this information to build stronger internal structures and more effective city-wide networks. They are also challenging their newfound partners. Are the planners, academics, and policy makers ready to listen to these doers? And how can they change their practice to a) provide the necessary platforms for communities to tell their long-suppressed stories, and b) to articulate their compelling visions for the future?
Building a bridge between the “informal” and the “formal”: Reflections on slum upgrading in South Africa
In January, the South African SDI Alliance affirmed a vision to build city-wide networks of informal settlement communities that mobilize to upgrade their settlements. Nearly six months later, about 30 representatives of the Alliance partners — the Informal Settlement Network (ISN), Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP), Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC), iKhayalami, and uTshani Fund — met in Cape Town to reflect on the upgrading work that has been accomplished thus far.
On 7 June, visitors from elsewhere in South Africa visited the settlement of Sheffield Road. There, the ISN and CORC have worked with community leadership to re-arrange or “re-block” shacks in the dense settlement built on a road reserve. In addition to re-arranging the settlement spatially, they have built upgraded shack shelters. As the project has fallen within the ambit of a city-wide partnership between the Alliance and the Metropolitan Municipality of Cape Town, the community has been able to work with the City to install new toilets in locations planned by the community as part of the arrangement of shacks.
The Alliance then spent the next two days reflecting on the way in which the upgrading process has unfolded in Sheffield Road. The lessons from this case study served as a springboard for a deeper discussion around basic principles for upgrading projects ongoing or still to come both in Cape Town and in the Alliance nationwide.
The underlying lesson of this discussion is that upgrading informal settlements is anything but the technical exercise presented by many in the formal world such as governments, professionals, and academics. The primary challenge lies in the basic fact that upgrading settlements requires the inclusion of whole affected communities in the processes that go into such improvements. Whether we refer to the political, financial or planning aspects of upgrading, it is the initiative and leadership of organized communities that is the essential ingredient in making a project successful.
Evaluating and learning from Sheffield Road
Critical feedback from all participants emphasized both positive and negative aspects of the process and outcome of the Sheffield Road project. Positives included the demonstration that in situ reconfiguration of space within a settlement can make a large contribution to the building of social bonds and life within a settlement, as well create a safer environment from both crime and natural calamities. Further, the relationship of the city-wide ISN and the leadership of the Sheffield Road community helped build a bridge to municipal officials. This resulted in the provision of new toilets located as part of a spatial layout plan developed by the community. Though leadership structures have been challenged throughout this process, the existence of strong leaders able to mobilize residents through a risky process of tearing down shacks and rebuilding, has been a powerful impetus for the success of the project.
Participants noted an apparent dependency on technical support from the NGO, insufficient contributions from savings, difficulties with uninterested or unaccountable leadership structures, and a general lack of “sensitization” of the community. It was emphasized that community mobilization is the key to the sustainability of any upgrading project. As long as the NGO drives the process, the project fosters a growing sense of entitlement in the community and prevents residents from taking ownership.
What is blocking out?
Blocking out is a way of refining the planning of informal settlements. Put more simply, “blocking out” or “re-blocking” refers to a rearrangement of shacks in an informal settlement. Re-blocking is a way of addressing the larger concept of spatial reconfiguration versus the simple delineation of sites. The difference is between focusing on individual households or space that is used by whole communities. The space can be used for communal amenities, or to create lanes for installation of services such as water, sanitation and electricity.
Blocking out is also understood as a way to increase tenure. It demonstrates community capacity with regard to planning, and makes way for installation of services, which can provide a greater level of security to residents.
In the case of Sheffield Road, iKhayalami, a NGO linked to CORC, provided replacement zinc shelters to residents who moved their shacks as part of the “re-blocking” exercise. The Alliance debated whether this should be linked to “re-blocking” and how it should be done.
Positive aspects of provision of shelter are primarily related to the fact that residents’ shelters may be damaged in the course of moving their shacks. Further, they are only given four walls, so they contribute to the building of their new shacks, breeding stronger ownership of the project. Finally, the provision of a shelter upgrade through iKhayalami was considered necessary for mobilizing the community in a non-disaster situation.
Criticisms of this approach centered on the linking of private housing space — the upgraded shack — to what is primarily a project about public living space — the re-blocked settlement. Some participants noted that the upgraded shelter may be seen as minimizing the existing investments that residents make into their shelters prior to the re-blocking exercise. A related point was that informal settlement residents have demonstrated great resourcefulness in building shacks and sourcing material for these shacks. Therefore, provision of a new shelter may distract from larger upgrading projects. Some suggested that the provision of new shelters in the context of re-blocking could amount to a reduced form of “RDP” housing provision, and could set an example for a R5,000 subsidy for improved shack versus a R50,000 subsidy for a government house.
Another critique suggested that it would not be cost-effective for CORC/iKhayalami to provide heavily subsidized shelter upgrading solutions at any kind of meaningful scale. While some participants saw this as a critique of working to upgrade private shelter through provision of modular iKhayalami-type materials, an additional view was that this was also a way to access the resources of the State for the poor. The NGO would be making an up-front investment to get much greater returns in terms of the potential resources that could be secured from the State. The view is that funds such as those coming from Emergency Housing Fund or Urban Settlements Development Grant could be made available at large scale for such an upgrading protocol, given a proper demonstration model. The popularity of the iKhayalami shelters in the projects proposed to the Community Upgrading Finance Facility (CUFF) board, even with a 10% required contribution on the part of informal settlement residents, indicates that this may be a favorable option.
Finally, there was a discussion about the difference between finance for public upgrading improvements — eg. public space, basic services — and funding constraints for individual improvements — eg. shelter. This led to a discussion of the possibility of trying to implement a financial instrument for shelter upgrades. It could be partly microcredit, which would help provide some recognition for the investments that families make to upgrade their shelters. By the same token, the discussion acknowledged that upgrading an informal shelter is a risk that would be very difficult to get banks to take on without some kind of further guarantee. Hence a mix of grant funding and microcredit was proposed as a way to a) provide access to finance, and deepen formal acknowledgment of investments that the poor make into their shelters, and b) to develop a potentially sustainable mechanism for both securing finances for upgrading informal households from a State nominally keen on providing subsidies for poverty alleviation, while simultaneously “banking” an “unbanked” sector.
How do communities organize to upgrade?
“Blocking out is actually a mobilization tool more than anything else. We are saying that we are an Informal Settlement Network. So we need to be preaching informal settlement upgrading.”
— Rose Molokoane
The case of Sheffield Road highlights a number of challenges regarding community organization. The long time frame of the project is due primarily to difficulties in mobilizing savings contributions for the shelter upgrade. Further, the ISN leadership engagement with the community included the institution of a new community leadership structure that was not initially accepted by the community. Ultimately, there was a sense that it was especially difficult to build a constituency for upgrading at Sheffield Road without dangling the carrot of a shelter upgrade.
But if a community-led approach to upgrading is to be taken to scale within the Alliance, then everyone agreed that the key conversation is about how communities organize themselves. Savings has long been the backbone activity of the Alliance partners. Yet savings has been one of the most difficult activities to mobilize in the upgrading process. A central contradiction is that savings has long been a membership-based activity linked primarily to FEDUP. But upgrading is a community-wide process, which therefore requires community-wide pooling of financial resources.
In Sheffield Road, re-blocking has been done in clusters of about 15 shacks, and savings has also been organized at that level. In Umlazi in Durban, the community divided itself up into five different sections, and has begun saving by section for upgrading projects.
Such strategies for community-wide savings have a big impact on the methods of organization that communities are finding necessary for upgrading at the whole settlement scale. In Slovo Park, in Johannesburg, the community leadership realized that it had to organize structures all the way down to the block or street level in order to be effective. “We realized that we were holding lots of meetings and people weren’t coming,” said community leader Mohau Melani. “We realized that we have to go down to the block level.”
It was further noted that enumeration can be an effective tool for promoting such organization. Perhaps even more importantly the use of enumeration as a tool for understanding the most important needs of a community was underlined. Participants agreed that, in most cases, the enumerations taking place within the Alliance are not being used to the full extent of their potential effectiveness.
A social movement aimed at the upgrading of informal settlements is an issue-based social movement. Therefore, the primary activities of this movement need to be geared towards identifying developmental issues — through tools like enumeration, profiling, and regional dialogues — as well as the pooling of political and financial resources — through the establishment of deeper leadership structures, savings schemes, and participation of women.
The challenge of scale
The establishment of the Community Upgrading Finance Facility (CUFF) is an initiative of the Alliance designed to encourage a constituency for community-driven upgrading projects nationwide. CUFF operates through a bottom-up structure. Informal settlement and backyard shack dweller communities make proposals to a board composed of a majority of slum dwellers, for grant funding for upgrading projects.
The intention of CUFF is to demonstrate a wide multiplicity of upgrading solutions, methods for community leadership of upgrading projects, and institutional structures for bottom-up, city-wide finance facilities for upgrading that can eventually be adopted by the State. CUFF was established earlier this year, but few of the projects that the board has approved are yet up and running. Participants in the meeting agreed that a renewed focus on deep mobilization, as detailed in the previous section, needs to be the primary focus in order to generate a constituency for projects that will be creative, effective, respond to community need, and have potential for going to larger scale.
The number one determinant of an effective upgrading project is an organized community. It was resolved that the following factors are key to evaluating an effective community:
Leadership structures are constituted all the way down to the street or block level. At the settlement-wide level, a Community Development Committee that include all existing structures in a community (eg. women’s forums, business forums, task teams, etc.)
Regular community meetings where residents have a chance to bring up their needs and have them recorded.
Community-wide savings. There are different methods that can exist for how these are organized, but the key is to have transparent and accountable systems that breed trust in the process.
Enumeration. A clear and participatory account of the needs and make-up of the community.
Regional dialogues to draw out the type and scale of needs that exist at the regional or city-wide level.
Participation of women.
Partnership with local authorities. These are designed to increase learning around the challenges and successes of community-led strategies for informal settlement upgrading, and to get these methods adopted as policy.
NGO role is to link communities, provide strategic support for external partnerships, and advise network leaders on building their movement. NGO professionals do not mobilize communities, and should not become primary implementers or managers of a project.
Focus on existing community investments in their settlements. Shelter upgrades should not ignore the pre-existing capacity for building, maintaining, and upgrading shacks in informal settlement communities.
Alliance goal is to develop a large variety of upgrading solutions, and not to standardize a one-size-fits-all approach for all settlements.
Shelter upgrade can accompany other upgrades, but mobilization (meetings and exchanges) should make clear that such work is entirely de-linked from other types of upgrading (eg. blocking out). Role of shelter upgrade is to provide a model that can access further resources from the State for the poor.
SDI federations have long understood the strategic importance of brokering partnerships with local government. This stems from the understanding that in order to scale up federation practices, experiences, and learning, the formal government has to be engaged actively.
At the end of April, SDI’s Zimbabwean affiliate federation — Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation — and support organization — Dialogue on Shelter — were invited to the executive meeting of United Cities and Local Government in Africa (UCLGA) in Dakar, Senegal. There, the Zimbabwean team discussed community-based processes for organization and collection of information.
The Zimbabwean federation has been working in the city of Harare under a new partnership with the city authorities, to jointly collect information and upgrade informal settlements. This is an incredible breakthrough towards a decidedly pro-poor approach in a city where informal dwellers have previously experienced some of the largest mass forced evictions worldwide in the past decade.
The engagement in Dakar has resulted in a new partnership between UCLGA and SDI, which includes a Memorandum of Understanding. Both networks have agreed to support city-wide profiling of informal settlements by communities. The goal will be to mobilize community organizations, and to orient local government towards a partnership-based approach to deal with the growth of informal settlements.
The initial projects in this partnership will take place in two cities, which are yet to be decided. Activities of the project will primarily revolve around information collection such as joint enumeration and mapping. This will serve as the foundation for participatory platform for planning and slum upgrading rooted in the information collected.
This project is to be supported by the Cities Alliance. Both SDI and UCLG — the international body of which UCLGA is a part — are members of the Cities Alliance partnership.
pictured above: The Malawian federation after its presentation to the Malawian Parliament on 14 May.
By Wonderful Hunga, CCODE Malawi
The Malawi Federation met the Budget Committee of the Malawi National Assembly on Saturday, May 14, 2011 at the New Parliament Building in Lilongwe. Apart from introducing itself to the legislators, the Federation lobbied for inclusion of financial support for the low income housing programmes in this years national budget.
The Federation journey to Parliament began almost five years ago through exchange visits that exposed the Malawian Ministry of Lands and Housing to the growing need to support low income housing and shelter initiatives. While top Ministers have changed — since the first trip with Bazuka Mhango in May 2006, five other Ministers including the current one Bande have been involved — the strategy never changed. Exchange visits were still arranged for the Malawi government officials and facilitated by SDI.
Then there was a growing recognition by the Ministry to introduce a housing finance mechanism for the low income households. However, the question remained how that could be done?
In October 2010, there was another exchange to Namibia. It was time to learn how housing initiatives by the poor could be supported. The Malawi delegation, which included, the Minister of Lands, housing and urban development, the director of budgets in the Treasury and other government officials learnt how the government of Namibia supports directly supports low income housing initiatives.
One of the fruits of this eye-opening trip to Namibia was the drawing up of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Malawi and SDI. The MoU ignited a serious of discussions between CCODE, the support NGO for the Malawi Federation, on how the Namibian experience could be replicated in the country. Meetings continue to be held and one of the successes so far is that the parties are close to finalising modalities on disbursement of funds.
However approval from Parliament was required in order for the Ministry of lands, housing, and urban development to support the processes of the federation through the National Budget. Immediately the budget and finance committee of the National assembly came into the picture.
So when it was time for the 23rd Session of the Governing Council of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT GC 23), the Ministry of lands, housing and development, John Bande, MP, requested Hon. Ralph Juma to visit the council in Nairobi Nairobi. Hon. Juma is the chairperson of the budget and finance committee.
The Budget Committee is one of the most powerful parliamentary committees in the Malawi National assembly. The committee is responsible for overseeing the formulation and passing of the national budget. Among other successes, the committee championed the inclusion of hardship allowances for teachers in remote areas of the country.
Hon. Juma learned about the Federation processes in Malawi, and a meeting was facilitated for the Federation, CCODE and the budget and finance committee.
“Where we are now, we are pressed with a huge demand to support shelter initiatives across the country and we are overwhelmed. We need budgetary support. It is time for government to take part in alleviating the housing problem in the country,” explained Mphatso Njunga, a Malawi Federation national leader, in her presentation to the committee.
When the turn came for the budget and finance committee chairperson, Ralph Juma, MP, to speak, the meeting exploded with joy. “What I can assure you is that we are behind you and we will ensure that you get this support just make sure that you finalise on the modalities with the Ministry of Lands,” said Hon. Juma.
CCODE and the Federation are already working on the modalities on the disbursement of the funds with the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development. The modalities have so far been drawn with a few legal hitches to be sorted out. According to the draft modalities, the Federation would access the funds through the Ministry’s vote.
“Maybe we would be worried that the budget formulation process is at an advanced stage before the modalities are agreed on and a contract signed. In any case we will still have the allocation under contingencies to ensure that you still have the funds once all is done,” the Budget and finance committee chair further assured the Federation amid handclapping.
According to an official statement from the Malawi National Assembly the budget meeting will open on May 23, 2011.
This is the first time the Malawi Alliance has engaged the committee. The engagement process showcases the power of exchange visits in bringing change at policy level.
pictured above: In Kariba, members of the Zimbabwe Homeless People's Federation talk about one of their infrastructure projects with representative of the national government's Parliamentary portfolio committee on housing.
Many members of the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation were among the victims of Zimbabwe’s infamous Operation Murambatsvina in 2005. Then, over 700,000 were displaced nationwide by a government program of evicting primarily informal urban dwellers.
Since then, the Federation has rebuilt its membership by mobilizing new savings schemes, and reconstituting old ones. There are currently over 42,000 members actively saving in 53 cities or towns. Further, the Federation has provided 14,450 families with tenure, and built over 2,000 houses.
But it is not just the numbers that speak volumes. In 2010, the Federation, along with support NGO Dialogue on Shelter, began to engage with the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Works and National Housing. This is the committee exploring how housing and shelter issues are to be incorporated into a new constitution for Zimbabwe.
A new report from the Portfolio Committee demonstrates how the patient work of the Federation to translate its struggles to real action on the ground is influencing how shelter issues are understood in the formal political space. In the report, the Committee emphasizes its desire to understand “short-term and immediate solutions to the escalating housing crisis in our nation.” As part of this mission, the Committee visited projects of the Federation in Epworth, which is adjacent to Harare, and Kariba.
A key lesson that the Committee drew from its visits to both areas concerns the importance of an incremental approach to development. There are two primary reasons for this: (1) Incremental development is more affordable. (2) Incremental development is actionable at much larger scale.
The Committee’s report describes the process as follows:
The Federation uses the model of incremental development whereby priority is given to the most important facilities and then gradually followed by the least basic ones. Incremental development is done on either infrastructure or housing development. Water and sewer are put first while roads come at a later stage on infrastructure development. At the beginning those basic services are used communally, and then families graduate into individualized connection when they can afford them. In housing development, poor communities start both with a single or two-roomed unit with a temporary toilet and a stand-pipe and upgrade their structures until the whole house is complete.
Town councils in Zimbabwe have some of the highest standards for housing in Africa. In Epworth, the Parliamentary Committee discovered what poor people have understood for quite some time. A meager 1% of all the houses in Epworth meet the council’s housing standards, and 65% of residents live in informal dwellings. In one ward within the council, everyone lives informally and without serviced stands.
Given this realization, the committee submitted that “there are over 300,000 people who are informally settled [in Zimbabwe] and as such, Government intervention is necessary and unavoidable if the town is to develop and meet the standards required by the Urban Councils Act.”
This is a significant realization in order for any government to begin addressing the scale of urban growth and attendant informality. The resources and regulatory framework provided by government are key determinants of the kinds of interventions that are and will be possible. As such, the Committee made three recommendations for principles to underpin a Constitutional right to housing:
(1) Ensuring 0% eviction rate in the country to ensure that the poor are protected in societies.
(2) Ensuring that the Community Based Organizations pay about 20% of the total cost of the land.
(3) Instituting policies to ensure that the vulnerable groups are accommodated, because as of now, the policies are inhibitive and do not guarantee housing to the poor.
The Committee’s overall observations of the work of the Federation also noted the centrality of women to sustainable urban development:
It was interesting to note that the whole process mirrored the community through effective participation and the community owned and identified with the development. Communities were the agents and actors of development rather than mere beneficiaries. Thus, they developed a strong sense of ownership of both their successes and failures. Community involvement significantly reduced the cost of housing development projects and made them affordable through contributions in the form of ‘sweat equity.’
A striking aspect that was witness by the Committee was the Federation’s strategy that put women in the forefront in all the activities that addressed homelessness and poverty. They led the process of problem identification and development of solutions to both household and community issues. Women worked side-by-side with lead builders as they assisted in the construction of houses. The reason put forward was that women bear most of the challenges of and are hit hardest by poverty. The other reason was that, women were given the space to balance this previously marginalized group. Thus, if women’s lives are changed, the whole community changes.
In conclusion, the Committee recommends four areas of policy changes to help enact the proposed “right to housing” in Zimbabwe’s new constitution:
(1) Poor communities can only afford infrastructure services on an incremental basis. The committee’s recommendation is that Government adopt alternative models such as ecological sanitation to allow the poor to develop houses and accelerate housing delivery.
(2) Government to subsidize the provision of on-site and off-site infrastructure. … Incremental development ought to be accepted by the Government and viewed as a normal way of development for organized low income groups. In view of the fact that the provision of housing is the responsibility of Government, it is the Committee’s feeling that Government work in partnership with Community Based groups on housing issues even in the planning process. … Subsidies may not necessarily be money alone but the cost of development can also be cut, for instance, through approval fee exemptions on bulk standard plans or offering of engineering services to CBOs’ developmental work.
(3) The government can also avail alternative financial options for housing for the poor, and this will alternatively improve the pace at which construction projects are developed. This window can take the form of a Housing Development Bank controlled and owned by Community Based Organizations. This housing finance ought to be channeled directly to the Community Based Organizations.
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.
Editor's note: These stories are taken from the February newsletter of the Bolivian SDI Alliance. All of their newsletters can be found in the original Spanish at the Bolivia country page.
By Maria Eugenia Torrico, Rede de Acción Communitaria (Communal Action Network)
Deep in the old section of the city of Oruro, one finds the neighborhood of San Miguel. It is an informal settlement that is now 20 years old. San Miguel is characterized by a lack of: basic services, access to police and security, and informal house construction. Here, men and women with few financial resources have settled on land that is contaminated, as it is located on top of old mineral reserves.
Most residents of Oruro (known as Orureños) and government officials simply ignore these informal dwellers. Yet their existence is replicated in settlements throughout the mining town. Such settlements comprise the “invisible city” of Oruro.
But what percent of the population is living in these informal settlements? And how many such settlements exist?
Our challenge is to understand the magnitude of the problem, and to find answers collectively to make cities more inclusive. We are inviting those who are now indifferent, to discover the invisible cities of Bolivia, to become familiar with the challenges of the urban poor in our country, and develop broad-based solutions.
Junta Vecinal Taruma counts itself
In the month of February, the community of Junta Vecinal Taruma in Oruro, undertook an enumeration exercise. From 4 to 12 February the “Jefes de Manzano,” a community youth group, trained to be the main participants in the enumeration. They also recognized a growing capacity for youth leadership within the community at-large.
On 13 February, the group went door-to-door and counted all the households in a time-consuming exercise that included the participation of all the community residents.
The next week, on 20 February, the enumeration group, joined by other residents worked with technical assistance from Red de Acción Communitaria to tabulate the results from all the household surveys. The team is currently compiling a final document, and the results are set to be released in a special ceremony.
Savings brings solidarity and action on the ground
The residents of Villa Vista have also decided to form a daily savings group. The goal of this group — 59 families strong — is to save to get title deed for their property. They are already recognizing the solidarity and collective vision emerging from this decision.
On 6 February, the Bolivian Alliance began its work with the community of Junta Vecinal Villa Vista to improve the construction of houses there. This project is being funded by SELAVIP.
In attendance at the brick-laying ceremony were Representative Marcelo Elio and Germán Delgado, president of the Oruro Municipal Council. They each lay a symbolic brick to open the process.
A group of volunteer architects will support the technical assessment of the houses to develop a joint participatory design with the community. The Fundación Pacha Kamacque are giving legal assistance.
The ceremony also served to celebrate the opening a community day care centre for the 20 boys and girls in the community. The initiative is being promoted by Aldea SOS and the government.
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.
Slum dweller community leaders from throughout South Africa made a historic commitment last week to build and network community organizations in order to upgrade informal settlements at scale throughout the country’s cities. The three-day meeting at the Kolping House in Cape Town brought together over 100 delegates from the Informal Settlement Network (ISN), Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), Poor People’s Movement (PPM), Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC), uTshani Fund, uDondolo Trust, and Shack Dwellers International (SDI).
This wide-ranging alliance of community organizations and non-governmental organizations linked to SDI agreed to a program of action designed to build community leadership around issue-based development. Key activities include capacitating communities to collect their own information through household surveys, so as to be active participants in planning for their settlements and cities.
Further, a cornerstone of the agreed resolutions was an intention for networks of community organizations to build partnerships with municipal authorities. These partnerships will form the basis for a program of community-centered planning for upgrading settlements, and managing urban growth.
“Our strategy is a version of that old rally cry: ‘Nothing for us without us,’” said Patrick Magebhula, ISN chair, FEDUP president, and advisor to Minister of Human Settlements Tokyo Sexwale. “The kind of upgrading we speak of is not about land and services alone. This is about realizing real citizenship and equality in our cities.”
Magebhula made the remarks at a ceremony on Friday, 21 January, where the South African SDI Alliance joined hands with housing officials from the municipalities of Cape Town and Stellenbosch to reaffirm their partnerships to upgrade informal settlements. The Cape Town partnership has already led to upgrading projects in 7 informal settlements with active involvement of the local community, facilitated by the ISN as a network of informal settlement communities throughout the city. In total, the Alliance and the municipality have already agreed to work in at least 20 informal settlements.
“I have been walking this road with the Alliance for two years. I have shared the pain and I have shared the joy,” said Mzwandile Sokupa, director of the Cape Town municipality’s informal settlements department. “We bring all resources to the table, in terms of people, in terms of funding, in terms of will … We are also saying, ‘nothing for you without you.’”
Johru Robyn, Town Planner in the housing department of the Stellenbosch municipality, noted the transforming effects of his department’s partnership with the SDI Alliance. “We have pursued many public-private partnerships, but our partnership with [the Alliance] has led to a total rethink of our housing strategy,” he said.
The shift has been two fold. Firstly, Stellenbosch had never before considered an informal settlement upgrading program. Johru also noted the impact that the Alliance has had on the way Stellenbosch engages with informal settlement dwellers: “Now we don’t go to the community to talk to the community. Now we go to the community to speak with them.”
One of three planned partnered upgrading projects is already underway in Stellenbosch, and the city is exploring the creating of a jointly-managed “urban poor fund,” for wider scale upgrading in the municipality.
Nation-wide, the South African SDI Alliance has 23 pilot projects for informal settlement upgrading underway in 7 cities. Another 32 are planned, for a total of 55 pilot projects. Such work is done in partnership between communities, municipal governments, and, in 2 instances, also academic institutions.
FEDUP has long been the largest civil society initiative to empower the poor to build houses for themselves utilizing the governmental People’s Housing Process subsidy. Since 1994, the Federation has built over 15,000 houses.
Federation national coordinator and SDI deputy president Rose Molokoane reflected the Federation’s shift in focus to incremental upgrading during the round of singing that punctuated Friday’s ceremony. After singing an old Federation song about building houses, “Zenzele” (do it for yourself), she pointed to Magebhula who wrote the song. “ Now I want someone who composed this song to make a remix,” she said.
There is not and will never be a one-size-fits-all approach to upgrading informal settlements. Every settlement has its own technical issues such as land ownership, land quality, and shack organization. Every settlement also has its own social issues such as history, communal organization, and labor. SDI has found, through practice, that there are a series of steps by which government and communities, working together, can engage the uniqueness of each settlement, and find ways to upgrade settlements that are sustainable and scalable.
Upgrading through partnership with communities can seem difficult. But the alternative is worse. Officials in almost every municipality in the country can tell at least one story of an upgrade that was refused because there was not enough buy-in to the project on the part of the community. The challenge is to identify and encourage the proliferation of community organizations and networks that can facilitate the following protocols for producing partnership-based informal settlement upgrades. Through partnership, municipal officials can strengthen their cities and towns to be forward thinking, people-centered, and productive places to work, play, and live.
Defining upgrading: Informal settlement upgrading is not simply “site and service,” or the provision of full services minus a top-structure. Upgrading is any intervention that improves the physical properties of a settlement that enhances the lives of its inhabitants. This can either start with or should lead to security of tenure. Therefore, upgrading can many anything from drainage installation, to communal toilets, to the blocking out of shacks, to lighting, to community facilities such as halls or schools or gymnasia, to incremental housing improvements (either individually or in any configuration), etc.
Enumeration: Communities and human settlements can only be upgraded by building on the local knowledge and capacities that exist within a given settlement. Through the practice of enumeration, communities count themselves, develop a detailed socio-economic profile of the settlement, and begin setting developmental priorities. Communities use the enumeration to confirm the identified need for upgrading and to create space for dialogue around planning for the future of the settlement.
Partnership with municipal government is built through the sanctioning of the enumeration by the municipality, including an agreement to incorporate the information gathered into the municipal planning process. Sometimes, local officials may question the validity of statistics gathered by communities. SDI has experienced many cases where communities and officials work together to verify information, so that everyone is satisfied as to their legitimacy. At the end of the day, communities must own the process by which information is collected. This also builds capacity for participatory planning rooted in the information gathered from an enumeration.
Savings: When communities have a stake in the development they are able to sustain it. Experience has proven that when communities contribute actual financial resources to upgrading their settlements, they become active participants in the process. SDI’s experience is that a contribution amounting to approximately 10% of the cost of the upgrading builds ownership and trust within the communities to implement and manage the financial and social aspects of any project.
City-wide networks of communities: Social problems are sure to arise in an informal settlement upgrading project. Upgrading means change, and any process of change is bound to kick up dust. It is important for municipalities to work with networks of poor communities that can serve as interlocutors. These community-based actors can help support a community as it goes through the inevitable challenges of an upgrading process. They can help support the establishment of savings schemes, and the practice of community-led enumerations, as well as help develop practical capacity to work with technical professionals. Network leaders can also support the municipality to engage a community on a sustainable basis. Finally, these networks can facilitate the exchange of learning from one upgrade to many other settlements, so that the capacity for the implementation of future projects is greater.
Following the turn-over ceremony in CLIFF- San Isidro, Jaro in August this year, 18 of the 43 community members already moved in while others are still doing house improvements prior to actual transfer. This first batch of housing participants classified as Category C partly comprised the 172 member-families of the Riverview Homeowners Association, Inc. (RVHOA). It obtained its legal personality from the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) just this year.
Members prioritized improving the basic parts of a house at their own expense including labor and materials. Some members utilized recycled the materials they got from their old house while the others really set aside a portion of their income for house improvements. Incremental developments done so far include installation of windows (19 units), doors (17), stairs (20), ceiling (3), beautification of comfort room (15), floor tiling (4), setback improvement (13), perimeter wall fencing, set-up of individual water system (9) and internal wall partition (1). Improvement costs shelled out from members’ own pocket ranges from Php140,000 to Php1,000 or Php22,000 average.
“It is easier to call for a meeting now because they’re already here in the site unlike before it was really difficult to get a quorum. When we beautify our houses, we also think about beautifying the whole community” says Richie Jacusalem, member of Category C.
“If we think we can build houses for the poor without the poor, we will never make it,” said Jerry Ekandjo, Namibian Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing, and Rural Development. They were words that were echoed by government officials from East and Southern Africa throughout last week’s “Building Cities Through Partnership” conference in Windhoek, Namibia.
After two days of sustained dialogue with 12 SDI slum dweller federations, politicians and officials from Malawi, Naminia, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, were all singing from same hymn book as Ekandjo.
The conference was a unique opportunity for slum dwellers, government officials, and donors to sit at the table and discuss the priorities of the poor. The meeting was chaired and orchestrated entirely by slum dweller leaders from SDI federations.
“Partnership” and “participation” are words that often get stripped of substance when referring to the role and work of the poor. But after presentations by federations from countries in East Africa, Asia, South America, and Southern Africa, the extent of results achieved on the ground by SDI people’s federations was staggering: tens of thousands of houses and tenure secured. Hundreds of thousands of lives changed.
The scale of such achievements has been built through organization around a developmental agenda and people’s empowerment, said SDI president Jockin Arputham. Partnership with the government is a key part of building a voice for the poor. “We are not begging from donors and government,” he said. “We are saying ‘come join hands with us.’”
Such proclamations were followed by action. John Bande, Malawian.Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, signed a landmark memorandum of understanding with SDI for funding slum upgrading projects in his country. This commits the national government and Malawian homeless people’s federation to work together to develop over 2,000 housing units nationwide by the end of 2012. Funds will also be committed from both sides.
The message from slum dwellers, donors, and government officials was clear, said Melanie Walker, senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Pictured above: Harare Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda begins work in Mbare at a ceremony with the Zimbabwe Homeless People's Federation (uMfeladawonye).
The partnership between the Zimbabwe Homeless People's Federation and the City of Harare was formalized today at a groundbreaking ceremony in the high density neighborhood of Mbare.
Mbare was formerly known as Harare, until the neighborhood's name was adopted by the entire city. It is made up of 28 dilapidated and overcrowded housing estates, and a multitude of backyard shacks. It is the starting point of an ambitious project that partners local government and slum dwellers with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Pictured above: Kenneth Gwatura from the Epworth chapter of the Zimbabwe Youth Federation displays his certificate after the GIS course.
By George Masimba, Dialogue on Shelter
In line with the new emphasis on integrating mapping aspects into Federation surveys, the Zimbabwean alliance (uMfelandawonye and Dialogue on Shelter) organised a one-week course on GIS in collaboration with the Department of Surveying and Geo-informatics at the University of Zimbabwe. A total of eleven participants participated in the course. They were drawn from:
1.Dialogue on Shelter — 2 people
2.Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation — 4 people
3.Epworth Local Board — 2 people
4.Ministry of National Housing and Social Amenities – 2 people
5.Department of Surveying and Geo-informatics (University of Zimbabwe student) – 1 person
The participation of players from central and local government was consistent with the current trend of engaging as many stakeholders as possible. Moreover, the National Ministry and Epworth Local Board were involved in the recent enumeration exercise for Epworth’s Ward 7. The training used data gathered during the enumeration for the practical sessions aimed at introducing the participants to geographic information systems with a particular emphasis on the software that is used manipulate and manage spatial data.
In this respect, the course concentrated in helping the participants to familiarise with ArcGIS, software that is used to represent and analyse spatial data. The participants were taken through the steps of extracting spatial elements such as roads, plots and structures as well as checking out and rectifying errors using the software. The following areas were covered during the training: (1)Introduction to GIS, (2) Introduction to ArcCatalog, (3) Introduction to ArcMap, (4) Geographic Phenomena, (5) Vector Representation, (6) Data Entry and Editing, (7) Topology.
After this first GIS training, the plan is to revisit the Ward 7 spatial data so that some of the errors relating to the Epworth enumeration that were noted during the training can be rectified. This process should be done jointly with both the Ministry and Epworth Local Board. After this verification exercise, the next step should be to formally present the findings from Ward 7. It is envisaged that the socio-economic and spatial data from the enumeration will then eventually feed into the regularisation programme for Ward 7. This work can then be replicated in the other wards that are yet to be formalised.
pictured above: Harare mayor opens an "eco-san" toilet block built by the Zimbabwe Homeless People's Federation.
By George Masimba, Dialogue on Shelter
The Zimbabwean Alliance for the first time in its history exhibited at the Zimbabwe Agricultural Show. The exhibition has provided a platform for the alliance to reach out and publicise the philosophy behind the uMfelandawonye (Federation) process. In the same vein, the show has also presented a glorious opportunity for the various Federation business projects to establish and penetrate uncharted markets. But most importantly, this inaugural exhibition was used to showcase the eco-san toilet popularly known as ‘sky-loo’ — a technology imported from Malawi. The SDI family graced the show and was represented by Malawi and Zambia from the southern Africa hub.
The ‘sky-loo’ technology came into being following an exchange visit to Malawi where the concept has been adopted and is being used on a very wide scale. After the trip to familiarise with the technology, which involved both Dialogue on Shelter and the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation, a lot of excitement was generated within the alliance. Soon, negotiations started with Chinhoyi Municipality to allow eco-san units to be built so that families could move onto an allocated piece of land. The municipality agreed and more than 10 eco-san units have been built and over 50 families have so far moved onto their plots. Once the families occupied their plots, they began constructing their own houses. In this regard, the eco-san technology has opened a lot of opportunities for the urban poor.
It is with the possibility to scale up this approach in mind that the alliance resolved to showcase the technology at the Zimbabwe Agricultural Show. An eco-san demonstration unit was therefore constructed at the Federation stand, and as a way of heightening the stakes and potential for buy-in the His Worship the Mayor of Harare was invited to officially open it. Among other stakeholders, the official opening ceremony was attended by Ministry of Housing officials, Harare City Council, UNHabitat, NGOs (ZINAHCO and ZERO) and the University of Zimbabwe. In his speech, the Mayor acknowledged the need to support such innovations around alternative sanitation strategies and expressed that the City was committed to embrace such ideas. The Malawian Federation also presented its solidarity speech which described how this model had helped a number of households to access affordable services and also to contain cholera outbreaks.
On the other hand, besides the eco-san technology, the exhibition has also created opportunities for the income generating projects from across the country’s 43 chapters of the Federation. Following the business skills training sessions that were earlier facilitated by Dialogue on Shelter and the subsequent loans that were disbursed to the various groups by the Gungano Fund, it was only appropriate that all these initiatives be complemented by a strong marketing drive. The exhibition therefore provided a perfect platform to do just that. As a result, Federation exhibitors displayed goods ranging from batik products to herbal medicines and building materials, all produced by uMfelandawonye members in various projects.
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.
A cornerstone of SDI’s working methodology is for federated groups of the urban poor to work to broker deals and develop relationships with the kinds of institutions that facilitate development at scale. More often than not, institutions of the State are the key actors with which organized communities need to engage in order to make an impact.
Such relationships are almost inherently fraught. Slum dweller organizations can end up making deals with governments that in one breath may provide land, services or funds to one settlement, while threatening another with eviction. Government may try to use seemingly participatory processes as a tool for rubber-stamping previously approved government plans.
But in order for slum dweller organizations to achieve developmental scale, they must work with government at the same time that they challenge these very same institutions. It is a delicate balance that belies academic, theoretical imperatives for ideological purity. The politics of pragmatism are often slum dwellers’ greatest strength. For these are their politics of survival and innovation. It is important for planners to see slums the way slum dwellers see their own homes and neighborhoods. Not from the bird’s eye view from the sky, but from the street level on the ground. Similarly, the airborne purity of the ivory tower of academics and professionals bears little relation to the street level skills that characterize the pragmatism of slum dweller organizations in the ways in which they approach their governments.
At an SDI board meeting held in Cape Town, South Africa, on 13-14 July 2010, leaders of affiliated federations reflected on the scale and impact of the relationships that they have forged with their respective governments. These kinds of relationships take place at the local and national level of State administration. These relationships are full of mistakes, corrections, innovations, and lessons learned. Sometimes a formal agreement opens doors that would have otherwise been closed. In other cases, it is the exact opposite experience: the lack of formality facilitates organic, productive relationship building.
The Ghanaian federation has faced down eviction threats from various municipalities, most notably in Old Fadama in Accra. These threats have served as entry points for more sustainable relationships with local authorities. For example, after a threat to Old Fadama residents in 2009, the Federation convinced the authorities to accept the results of an enumeration of the 80,000-strong settlement before moving ahead with any future plans. Relationships with traditional councils in some areas have begun leading to the provision of new plots of land for slum dwellers.
The Indian alliance of the National Slum Dwellers Federation, Mahila Milan and support NGO SPARC, signed an MoU with local authorities in Pune. This facilitated the passage of a work order approval and house building has begun. There are five cities where the local authority works with communities to finance housing construction. In each of these cases, the community commits to provide 10% of the total housing cost. The alliance also has MoUs with three different states in the country, while at the national level SAPRC sits on a prime ministerial committee for housing. Arputham argues that the signed document of the MoU is a starting point to get access to begin talking with government. One of the largest accomplishments of such engagements is that the alliance managed to change the policy towards the ubiquitous pavement dwellers in Bombay.
The Kenyan Federation, has an agreement with the Nairobi Water Company for the connection of water for 4000 households in the Nairobi slum of Mathare. The Federation engages with local departments of planning but does so without a formal MoU. Engagements with local authorities are increasing, especially as the Federation becomes acquainted with new municipal configurations, says Federation leader Benson Osumba. It has been more difficult to engage with ministers at the national level, but lower-level professionals who are more stable in the relevant ministries have begun to work with the Federation. For example, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Housing has promised the provision of infrastructure in the Nairobi railway slum of Mukuru.
The emerging Liberian federation has signed a MoU with the Monrovia city council.
Relationships in Malawi between the Federation and the national government were codified in a MoU signed in 2007. This has resulted in the provision of land for 500 housing plots in Blantyre. The national government has also just begun allocations for slum upgrading initiatives, and the Federation is being recognized as a legitimate for ensuring that these funds reach the grassroots. This has been an opening for the Federation to begin advocating for a partnership with government around a revolving fund for slum upgrading. In addition to greenfields housing development, the Federation has begun partnering with the Lilongwe municipality around in situ upgrading.
The federation in Namibia has achieved significant financial commitments from the national government, but the relationship is not codified in a written document. One of the struggles in this relationship, says the National Housing Action Group’s (NHAG) Anna Muller, is convincing the government to work together to establish a revolving fund for housing and informal settlement upgrading. In this financial year, the government has committed approximately USD1.2 million as grant funding for what is known as the Build Together Fund. This was a tripling of the previous commitment from the government. The money is located at the local authority level, and the Federation is finding that repayments to the fund often get lost at that level. The Fund also individualizes the group loans, which has tended to confuse community reporting mechanisms. The national Director of Housing had been interested in setting up a more community-centered revolving fund, but such negotiations were sidetracked when he died earlier this year. The Federation appears in the government’s national development plan, but is still subject to annual budgeting decisions. It is the only non-governmental group to appear in the national development plan.
Local level relationships have been slower to develop for the Namibian Federation. The Community-Led Information Program (CLIP), which entailed the profiling of every informal settlement in the country, allowed the Federation to make links at the local government level in some towns, though they are not formalized, says Federation leader Edith Mbanga. Four towns are already using the information collected through CLIP as part of their local development plans.
Jockin Arputham, SDI president and president of the National Slum Dwellers Federation of India, argues that the Namibian model has a lot to teach other kinds of community groups looking to broker deals with the State. This is especially so with regards to the Federation’s relationship with the national governement: “There is a lot of money being committed. But do not get hung up on getting a formal commitment from government when a lot can come out of more informal relationships.”
The Philippines Federation has begun engaging local authorities through MoUs that are project specific, says federation leader Sonia Cardonigara. Agreements with the Manila local authority have been used to influence other cities such as Ilo Ilo and Montealban. The written MoUs have been helpful to commit authorities when it comes to the provision of land and housing. Involvement in the Community Land and Infrastructure Finance Facility (CLIFF) has been a major catalyst for building such relationships.
Communities in Freetown, Sierra Leone, have faced eviction threats, particularly in seaside slums like Kroo Bay. The community there completed an enumeration that has helped stave off the latest eviction threat issued in August 2009. The uphill slum of Dworzack has worked on a similar enumeration, this time in partnership with the Freetown City Council.
The South African federation has a long-standing pledge of housing subsidies from the national government. However, these subsidies are distributed through provincial government. Bureaucratic hold-ups and even willful negligence have meant that few subsidies actually get through to the Federation. The MoU underpinning this agreement has had limited use on the ground, though it has opened doors at all levels of government to begin engagements. In the City of Durban, municipal authorities have described the MoU as basically meaningless. Federation president Patrick Magebhula suggests that MoUs between cities and towns that are connected to specific projects can be much more effective. However, the national MoU has allowed for engagement primarily at the policy level, where the Federation can challenge issues like housing standards. In the city of Cape Town, a new network of informal settlement communities called the Informal Settlement Network has been working with municipal authorities for the past year on a series of informal settlement pilot upgrading projects. After a full year of working together, now municipal authorities are asking for a MoU to concretize the burgeoning relationship. A recently completed profile of every informal settlement in the Ekurhuleni municipality caused national government to begin talks with the South African alliance around expanding the community-led information gathering method nation-wide.
The new government in Sri Lanka has severely hampered efforts by the slum dwellers federation there. There is no allocation for housing in the latest budget, and housing is now a line function of the ministry of defense. Policy has shifted towards the rhetorical lynchpin of “slum eradication.” The Federation has made tentative steps towards initiating dialogue with the national government, but there is little awareness about the information collection and construction that has already been done.
In Tanzania, the federation has achieved much in the terms of support for community-led housing initiatives in places like Chamazi, Dar es Salaam. But all of this has come without any formal document concretizing the relationship.
The federation in Uganda has had a MoU with the national government dating back to 2002, which applied to the cities of Kampala and Jinja, where the federation was active at that time. This MoU helped facilitate the provision of a communal toilet block in Kampala. However, the MoU expired in 2007. The Cities Alliance program for the “Transformation of Settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda” (TSUPU) has opened doors to formalize relationships with national government, as well as local authorities in the cities where the program is active: Arua, Jinja, Kabale, Mbale, Mbarara. The federation has representation on newly established national and local urban forums. The Jinja municipality has provided land to the federation in the settlement of Kawama.
The Zambian federation has MoUs with four city councils, and is in the process of finalizing such a document with the national Ministry of Local Government. In Livingstone, a relationship with the Water Company has resulted in the provision of water in informal settlements there. The Federation has currently been investing a lot of time in developing relationships with traditional chiefs, as they have a lot of control over land allocations. There is hope of beginning to sign MoUs with such officials.
The Zimbabwe federation has a Memorandum of Understanding with the national Ministry of Local Government and Urban Development. However, says federation leader Davious Muvindi, the MoU has not committed the Ministry to fulfilling its commitments in practice. The government has allocated some land, as stipulated by the MoU. This often does not take place directly, but through the influence of the MoU on local authorities. Over 160 total stands have been located in the authorities of Chiredzi, Kagoma, Nyanga, and Nyazura. However, the overall goal for the Federation is to convince local authorities to work with communities provide infrastructure, water, sewage, sanitation, and road services. The Federation feels it has the capacity to complete the building of house if the services are in place. Information gathering is also becoming a point of engagement with State authorities. The Federation recently completed an enumeration in Ward 7 of Epworth, where it had previously been difficult to work because of political tension. “We were successful because aligned the Ministry, local authority, and the community,” says Muvindi. “Local authorities are working with us, and the Ministry has availed some computers to do the work.”
Patience Mudimu, coordinator of Dialogue on Shelter, which supports the activities of the Zimbabwean Federation, says that the agreements that aren’t codified on paper may be even more effective than those that are. “These are the local authority level on specific development projects using development permits … We were thinking of formalizing the relationship in Kariba, and then the mayor asked why they should change things when the development permits are working.” The national MoU has opened doors at the local level for these less formal relationships. “We have used the MoU beyond what is written,” says Mudimu.
84 families from an informal settlement in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil, will receive keys to formal houses on 3 July. 18 of those families are part of this scheme because of their participation in savings schemes.
Portal do Campo was an informal settlement established around 1999, when the City of Osasco relocated the residents from another informal settlement called Rochdale,. The municipality had promised that land would eventually be provided for the population.
But what was supposed to be temporary became permanent. So in 2007, the City of Osasco purchased the Portais area, which includes Portal do Campo and Portal Menck, to develop a new housing project.
The residents are receiving rental vouchers from the City, while they are wait for the project’s completion. The City is finishing the first stage of the housing project, with 84 units from what is planned to be a total of 600. The criteria adopted to decide which families would enter the new houses first included participation in negotiations with authorities and community meetings, as well as family size, need, and length of time staying in the settlement.
In Portais there are 7 savings groups with 252 savers. They have shown their capacity and confidence through their participation, dedication and organization in this project. Because of their engagement and commitment, 18 savers were included on this first stage.
A couple of photos from the Chamazi housing project in Tanzania. Through a collaborative process with other actors, the Federation has managed to influence Temeke Municipal Council and the Ministry of Land, Housing and Human Settlement Development to reduce the plot sizes from the minimum of 400 square meters to 150 square meters. This is being implemented at Chamazi resettlement housing project. Furthermore the Federation has also participated in the development of the unit title and mortgage finance laws. These housing laws are expected to put in place mechanism for improving housing stock in the urban areas.
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 Pune
* 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.
Savings schemes in Mbale, Uganda, were first established earlier this year. Earlier this month, the Federation decided that it would be important to sensitize informal settlement communities on issues related to hygiene and sanitation.
They engaged the municipality of Mbale, to work together on a city-wide activity that involved cleaning trenches, collecting garbage, and door-to-door sensitization and mobilization in the slum settlements of Namataala, Kikyaafu, Namakweeke, Nkoma, and Mission, among others. All of these activities were done in conjunction with municipal officials (the mayor, senior assistant town clerk and the coordinator of the Cities Alliance-funded program for the Transformation of Settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda from 15-17 May.
This development reflects the strength of the Federation in mobilizing communities, as well as the willingness by the municipal council to work with the poor communities in transforming their living environment. The mayor, in her speech to the participants, thanked the members for coming up with such wonderful initiatives that complement the work of the municipality. She added that each division has a municipal town agent but that such functionaries were not in a position to identify the sanitation challenges as the federation did in just 3 days.
The Mbale federation is growing stronger and the membership is increasing significantly. So far they have a total membership of 1324 members with 1019 members who are female. Total savings is 4,066,7550 Ugandan Shillings. The Federation members have already constituted committee representatives who meet once every month at regional level (city level), twice at network level and weekly at saving scheme level.
MINISTER of Human Settlements Tokyo Sexwale demonstrated a promising tone of seriousness and innovation regarding the challenge of human settlements in his budget speech to Parliament last month.
He warmed the hearts of the poor when he said the challenge of slums must receive at least the same political attention as that currently being given to the World Cup.
The energy the minister hopes to unleash towards a “human settlements 2030” is on his doorstep. The poor communities are best placed to work with government to develop and implement such policy.
The press has a fascination with what are often referred to as “service delivery protests”. The fires and looting make good copy for editors desperate for any kind of violence or scandal.
But there is a much bigger story developing across our biggest cities. The poor are organising, informal settlement by informal settlement, to work with all levels of government and other stakeholders to address their most pressing needs.
We can recall the street and issue-based people’s development committees so effective in the civics movement that organised communities to improve their own lives and bring down apartheid. The Informal Settlement Network (ISN) is the first major attempt in the post-apartheid era to bring South Africa’s settlement-level and national-level organisations of the urban poor under one umbrella, this time to work with government in finding solutions to slum poverty.
In just one and a half years, groups in over 600 informal settlements have come together in the ISN in the country’s five biggest metropolitan municipalities: Jo burg, eThekwini (Durban), Cape Town, Ekurhuleni, and Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth), as well as in the smaller Sol Plaatje municipality (Kimberly).
The ISN includes settlements linked to the largest poor people’s organisations in the country: Abahlali baseMjondolo, the Federation of the Urban Poor , and Sanco.
Groups in informal settlements in these cities are working together to fully understand and address the problems facing residents of each informal settlement. We call these activities city-wide “informal settlement profiling”.
Armed with this knowledge the poor now have the capacity to inform and work with the government.
For example, poor people from Slovo Park in Johannesburg are visiting Joe Slovo on the Cape Flats to learn how they can conceive and implement projects in partnership with local authorities around basic services such as water, sanitation, waste removal, and energy. They are bringing these lessons home with them.
I am so pleased that the minister has called for a shift in policy towards incremental upgrading strategies. This has always been our strategy.
We know, as the minister said last month, that the poor cannot just wait years for a house, without doing anything themselves to improve their living conditions.
We also know that the greatest obstacle to incremental strategies for upgrading informal settlements is the lack of security of tenure.
Let us seize on the minister’s call for innovation by thinking creatively about land tenure issues as they relate to informal settlements.
President Jacob Zuma’s promise to provide land to poor urban dwellers can be coupled with the minister’s strategy to develop new ideas on tenure arrangements.
Sexwale lived much of his life in a shack. Informal settlement life is no mystery to him.
Organised communities of the poor are ready to work with him to make a better life for all.
The Financial Times had an interesting special magazine last week on “the future of cities.” Many of the articles highlighted some of the basic phenomena affecting developing world cities and, in particular, slums. Edwin Heathcote’s article on the growth of “megacities” and so-called “metacities” underlined the importance of social relationships to the new large cities of the Global South:
It is Tijuana’s [Mexico] informal density — the creation of close-knit networks and communities with very limited means — that creates such a severe contrast with its affluent neighbors. And while no one is suggesting that Lagos [Nigeria] or Tijuana are paradigms for the modern city, both create genuine urban activity of a vibrancy and self-sufficiency that seems to elude the west.
Where they collapse is in equality — which represents one of the biggest crises facing the metacity. Studies consistently show that wellbeing is commensurate with a relatively equal society. Yet the emerging megacities — from Mumbai to Sao Paolo — accommodate extreme asymmetries of wealth.
In these conditions, the wealthy begin to fear while the poor become envious. The result is ghettoized cities in which walls and gates become the norm as communities, often in close proximity, vie to exclude each other. These are among the gravest problems facing the metacity. Their size and scale of growth make governance difficult, while exploitation through accommodation becomes endemic.
So if we acknowledge that the lack of capacity to govern cities facing social problems on a unique scale, while at the same time recognize the unique social formations of informal life in the South’s large cities — and their attendant energy and constructive potential — surely the primary emphasis of policy towards slums in these cities should be clear, right? Not so fast.
The magazine focuses on two major solutions to slums in the cities of the South: the private sector and government. Articles about water and sanitation, and housing construction point to the role of the private sector, while Ricky Burdett, a professor of urban studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science, has his own prescription:
A powerful mayor — the new city doctor — who has understood his city’s DNA, identified its problems and come up with a “cure” to turn them around. Cities, it turns out, can be healed as long as the diagnosis and the treatment are correct.
Is it a reasonable expectation that every growing city in the South — every city with growing slum populations — should just wait for a miracle to come down from city hall? And should we wait for this when it is an acknowledged fact that cities and slums are growing at a scale for which there is little capacity to deliver a state-focused response to the issues that come along with such growth?
Most crucially, why are we so dependent on the state (or the private sector), when we acknowledge, as Heathcote does, that the real energy and productive potential of our cities come from the social relationships of the people who live there?
One of SDI’s fundamental propositions, through the actions of all of its associated community-based federations is that the social power of communities organized around their own resources is the greatest tool for development in the cities of the South. These are the activities documented from the 33 different countries where we have affiliates. These are not isolated cases in Bogota, New Delhi, or Copenhagen, where a mayor managed to implement an innovative project, or a private entrepreneur implemented a successful sanitation venture in one slum.
As a network of learning and exchange, SDI builds the capacity of slum dwellers to deliver solutions to their own problems at scale. The learning does not take place in books and published toolkits, but “learning by doing.” Poor people travel and learn from each other where they live. They bring these solutions back to their own communities. They travel some more, sharing new experiences. The wheel of learning, development, and social cohesion continues to move forward.
The public discourse around “the future of cities” has a long way to go if we are continuing to rely on silver bullets that come from above — whether they be “supermayors” or private sector innovations — to solve the problems of people on the ground. SDI federations engage the state and private sector actors because they know that all parties have a role to play. Resources and political will are indispensable to any kind of developmental initiative. But the people affected by development have not only the biggest stake in any project’s success, but also the greatest potential in participating in its conception and implementation. The activities of SDI-affiliated federations chronicled here on this blog are just a small sample of the ways that organized communities of the urban poor are building the most sustainable, scale-able means of growth for “healing” the cities of the South.
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.
On the final day of discussions at the World Urban Forum, SDI hosted its second networking session entitled People's Organization and the Struggle for the Inclusive City. The panel included federation representatives from the Philippines, Zambia, Mexico, Brazil and Zimbabwe, and they discussed in detail the challenges faced by the urban poor in their efforts to be active members within their own societies.
Sonia Fadrigo from the Philippines spoke about how the UPFI gives the communities the initial funds to be taken seriously at the negotiation table - "no one will talk to you if you look poor and you look like you are begging for money," so the Urban Poor Fund International helps to open the door for the communities.
The communities have to save towards the UPFI and Sheela Magara from Zimbabwe highlighted the social benefit of saving. "You collect money, you collect people, you collect problems then you can build people and build houses," she said.
Other overarching themes to come from the session concerned the importance of information gathering, communities coming to the negotiating table with external actors armed with information and seed money. The chances of the meeting being a fruitful one, are drastically increased. And the reality is that the communities already have the answers to their problems — they know exactly what needs to address and in what order. With their information in hand, they are able to channel the government's resources to where it is most sorely needed.
As if to emphasize Sheela's comments on building an individual through savings and financial capacity, the UPFI funds are managed by the communities. UPFI gives communities a sense of self sufficiency and it builds their confidence. Once you have an organized and confident community, they have a voice that cannot be ignored.
The National Movement of Recyclers in Brazil was included in the session, and though not allied to SDI, their experiences were similar. They held a forum of 1800 recyclers in 2001 at which a memorandum was signed, which was the beginning of the Latin American network of recyclers. 2006, second forum in Columbia, which was an international event. They found that through sharing their experiences, they were able to learn from one another. So in short, community organization is the key, combined with dialogue and sharing of experiences among networks of organized communities.
Finally, the Ugandan Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Michael Werikhe spoke about the importance of the UPFI:
It is special because it is for the people at a global level, at a regional level, and a local level. And it is managed and done by the community themselves. As governments, we need to support the slum dwellers in the efforts for information. It shouldn't be an exclusionary process. But with information, you know your strengths and weaknesses. Governments survive on the urban poor majority.
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.
pictured above: Muli Munguti sells his wares in an area dominated by business stalls along the railway lines in Mukuru informal settlement in Nairobi.
By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI secretariat
The railway relocation project in Nairobi is proceeding with all the fits, starts, complications, and inevitable contestations that come with such a high stakes endeavor. I arrived with the exchange team from South Africa on Sunday night and for the past two days we have been learning about — and assisting with — the mapping and numbering of structures to be relocated in the slum of Mukuru. Along with Kibera, Mukuru is one of the slums that is affected by this program, which has been negotiated with the Kenya Railways Authority.
This morning, we were met by the whistle and bright lights of a train that goes through Mukuru on its way to Mombasa. Pamoja Trust, Mungano wa wanavijiji (the Kenyan slum dwellers federation), and other community members are using satellite images of structures to then number each one on the ground once they match it with the satellite picture. Sometimes, one structure as photographed from above is actually two separate stalls, as was the case for many of the self-owned businesses that lie within a couple meters of the railway track. So then a given structure could be numbered as follows: RMS / 465 A/B (Railway Mukuru Sinai -- the name of one of the three sections of Mukuru -- the structure number, and then A/B indicates that it is actually two separate businesses).
The numbering, and even the use of satellite mapping were key points of conflict today. Mobile traders, either those who walk along the railway line selling their wares, or those who have been in the same place — some for close to a decade — nearby, were afraid of not being counted. This fear arises from the perception that there will be compensation attached to being counted, when people are eventually relocated.
I spoke to Muli Munguti (pictured above), age 38, who has been selling his wares for the past six years by laying them across the railway line in the same spot. Whenever a train goes by he folds up his goods inside the track and lets the train roll over them. "You count that one, but you don't count this one. It's not good," he said.
It is the kind of conflict that arises in any large scale enumeration. Every community has different components, all of which want to be heard. Especially in a case like the railway relocation in Nairobi, where there is a clear issue of compensation or relocation tied to being counted — the process is part of a relocation in partnership with Kenya Railways and funded by the World Bank — the enumeration is of particular relevance to every party within the community.
Today, the community enumerators managed to mediate most of these concerns. In a meeting at the end of the day, they spent much of the time reflecting on how to improve the way they handle these issues as they move from mapping and numbering to house-to-house individual surveys. It was hard to avoid the fact that the community was managing the information collection process in order to deal with such contestations.
pictured above: A community enumerator in Mukuru (right) talks to an owner of a business stall along the railway line about whether his structure should be counted as one or two stalls.
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.
The Kenyan federation, Mungano wa wanavijiji, kicked off an enumeration of the railway line slum of Kibera in Nairobi this week. The survey process there is an example of how politically complicated collecting information can get, as well as just how valuable the data actually is.
My colleague Jack Makau has a great in-depth piece on the history of enumerations in Kibera. This is the second large-scale enumeration undertaken by the federation there in the past six years. It is all tied to planned evictions along the line that have never been carried out, as the Kenyan government’s move to privatize the railway line has proceeded in very slow fits and starts. The twists of this process, which was originally envisioned to have finished years ago, shine a light on the combustible combination of resources, government processes, the role of multinational institutions (in this case, the World Bank), and a community’s attempt to organize itself around its own resources and capacities.
Slums in Nairobi face acute tension between structure owners and tenants. An enumeration can highlight such divisions, especially when it is so closely tied to an eviction. Everyone wants to be counted so they can get their hands on the resources associated with the relocation. An exchange team from the South African Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) was supposed to leave a week ago to support the enumeration process, but postponed the trip when conflict between structure owners and tenants delayed the start of the survey. I will be joining the team when it leaves for Nairobi on Sunday, and will be keeping this blog updated with how the process plays out over the next week or so.
The Kibera case complicates what is often seen as a simple binary between evicting and not evicting when some kind of business project threatens people’s homes. In this case, the relocation is allowing slum dwellers to assert themselves in their relationship with government and multinational organizations. It was a big accomplishment for the federation to get the government to agree to let the community count itself, and to have that information be the basis for their relocation.
When the World Bank — a major funding partner of the railway rehabilitation and relocation of the nearby slum dwellers — accepts a methodology like community-led enumeration to serve as the basis for its programs, it is an important first step towards putting organized communities of the urban poor at the center of their own development. At the end of the day, resources — money — are the name of the game. And it is an important development that resources for relocation are directly tied to the results of information that comes out of a community’s own organizational capacity and practice. Land and money will be allocated to those who are counted.
It can be hard to see the full impact of these kinds of activities in the short term. What looks like collusion today can appear to be a major contestation tomorrow. What looks like incremental change today could spark a revolution in five years time.
The process of engagement with government and other key actors like the World Bank is a messy one. But when slum dwellers can get hold of this process and use it to direct resources towards the organized poor, new, people-centered kinds of development can begin to take place. Getting these kinds of institutions to rely on one of the most valuable resources poor people have — information — is an important first step to changing the overall relationship that they have with the poor.
Perhaps even more importantly, it is a step towards changing the relationships that the poor have with each other. As Jack writes about the first enumeration of Kibera in 2004,
What previously were amorphous collections of shacks and stalls transformed into a community. The residents and traders were joined by what they perceived as a common threat. Community organizations formed months ago to fight off eviction found new purpose. Both traders and residents formulated and started to articulate issues that affected them generally. The enumeration would serve to capacitate and federate these groups.
pictured above: Bhubaneswar staff learn to identify and map settlements using Google Maps.
By Alyssa Battistoni, SPARC
Residents of India’s slums have long faced the threat of eviction from or destruction of their homes, the majority of which are built on public property. So when India’s housing minister, Kumari Selja, recently announced a plan to use satellite technology to map slums across the country, she stirred anxiety among settlement residents who worry that the maps will be used to target slums for demolition.
These worries are valid: maps could certainly provide the government with a tool to use in removing residents from desirable land. Yet India’s Society for Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC) believes that this announcement reiterates how important it is that communities produce and map settlement information on their own so that they are able to contest or clarify the maps and information produced by the government and prevent unilateral evictions or demolitions.
Mobilizing communities to get involved in the mapping process helps ensure that governments don’t simply use maps for their own purposes. In the same way that community-based enumerations act as a check on government-produced surveys, community-based mapping provides a visualization of community space that acts as an alternative to that offered by government mapping initiatives. Furthermore, the process of creating maps helps people develop a familiarity with maps and area-based representations of their communities, allowing them to evaluate externally produced maps more confidently and negotiate more knowledgeably.
In recognition of these benefits, and of the challenges posed by the government’s growing interest in mapping informal settlements, the Indian Alliance is starting to explore a process for GIS mapping led by communities. Experimental mapping projects are currently ongoing in three cities: Bhubaneswar, Pune, and Bangalore.
In Bhubaneswar, in the eastern state of Orissa, SPARC is currently beginning a project to train communities to map 337 settlements using Google Maps. The city of Bhubaneswar is in the early stages of implementing a major JNNURM housing scheme, and the municipality is undertaking its own mapping and survey processes in the course of the planning process. The community mapping exercises conducted by the Alliance will be integrated with the government’s plane table surveys to create a deeper, more complex portrait of the city and its informal settlements. Once this process has been completed in Bhubaneswar, community members will participate in exchanges with people from other cities in Orissa to introduce the concept and process of community mapping.
Similar community mapping projects are also taking place in Bangalore, where biometric survey data collected by communities is being linked to Google maps produced by communities, and Pune, where Mahila Milan groups are creating maps of every settlement in the city. Eventually, groups from Bangalore, Pune, and Bhubaneswar will meet to compare processes and determine which strategies work best for creating participatory, information-rich maps. In time, SPARC hopes to expand the community mapping project to other non-metropolitan cities that can use the data produced to help prioritize urban development projects and better understand the development needs of slum communities.
pictured above: Staff and community members have mapped the boundaries of Nuapalli Sabar Sahi, a settlement in Bhubaneswar, Orissa.
pictured above: FEDUP's Alfred Gabuza (far right) speaks at a meeting of the Informal Settlement Network in Roodeplaat, South Africa, on 20 February 2010.
By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI secretariat
Adapted from remarks given at a roundtable discussion on “meaningful engagement” hosted by the University of Western Cape Community Law Centre and the Socio-Economic Rights Institute, on 4 March 2010.
“Meaningful engagement” is a term that has gained currency in South Africa over the last few years primarily through a series of Constitutional Court (the highest court in the country) cases regarding evictions of poor, informal dwellers. These decisions have compelled state actors to “meaningfully engage” in various ways with those they want to evict before pursuing the actual forced removal.
I want to make three related arguments about the limits of a legal framework for engagements between the state and poor citizens. The first is that “meaningful engagement” is a political process, and it is often a messy one at that. What is needed, then, is for governments to prepare to respond appropriately to the capacities of organized communities to engage. My second argument is that because it is such a political process, the inherently technocratic orientation of the law means that it has only a limited role to play in structuring these kind of engagements. Finally, I want to add to a discussion about how poor communities are preparing themselves for sustained, “meaningful engagements” with government.
Real “meaningful engagement” must be sustained engagement, not one-off encounters of the sort mandated by courts or those that constantly require the intervention of lawyers. S’bu Zikode of slum dwellers movement Abahlali baseMjondolo was part of the workshop on “meaningful engagement” hosted by the Wits Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) on 27 July 2009. There, he argued that “meaningful engagement” is part of a greater struggle by ordinary poor people to reclaim their humanity in their relations with the state. According to the report from this workshop put out by CALS, Mr. Zikode suggested that sustained dialogue, negotiation and learning with government officials were key to developing the kinds of relationships necessary for people-centered development.
“Meaningful engagement” is not something that should happen only when the law commits the state to pursue to specific interventions along these lines in order to implement its own policies. From the side of civil society, a “rights-based” approach is only a small part of a much larger effort to empower communities of the urban poor to organize around their own resources and capacities, accumulate local knowledge, set priorities, and engage other stakeholders — often the state — in order to broker deals. These are the basic propositions of Slum Dwellers International affiliate federations in over thirty different countries. In South Africa, our allies are the Federation of the Urban Poor, known by its acronym as FEDUP, and the Informal Settlement Network, a nation-wide network of settlement-level and national-level slum dweller organizations, including Abahlali and FEDUP.
In large part, we tend to only talk about “meaningful engagement” between poor communities and state institutions when conflicts between citizens and the state are reaching their breaking point. Evictions are sometimes a useful starting point to begin such engagements, but for such an engagement to be “meaningful” it cannot end with the resolution of the eviction case in and of itself. Though there have been important victories against evictions, state institutions and private actors continue to seek many more evictions than the number being won in the courts. More widely speaking, more people live without access to water, sanitation, or energy. This country is bound by a constitution widely lauded for its guarantee of rights to basic services. But too many people persist without these services. A legal framework alone is inadequate to address structural inequality and poverty.
Abahlali was responsible for a Constitutional Court victory against the proposed KwaZulu-Natal slums act, which, had it not been struck down, would have paved an even easier path for the state to pursue evictions of informal dwellers than it currently has. This was an important, but, in a sense, limited win. Simply put, evictions are still occurring.
The law can sometimes tell the state not to evict. It can even force the state to consult with the poor. But it just can’t construct a process that is, by nature, an organic, political one. In some eviction court cases, like Olivia Road v. City of Johannesburg, the city is ordered to “meaningfully engage.” In the Olivia Road case, part of the application of the term meant that the city was to conduct a survey of residents of the Olivia Road building, a responsibility it ultimately tendered to an outside professional consultancy. This was anything but “meaningful engagement” with the unique and pre-existing knowledge resources of poor communities.
Organized communities of the urban poor have implements of their own that effect positive outcomes in ways that build “meaningful,” sustainable engagement with the state and other actors who bring eviction orders. When communities organize around their own resources and capacities, chief among these is information. It is on this point that the intention of court-ordered engagement between the state and ordinary poor citizens can get lost.
In other cases of action in the face of eviction threats, communities have organized around their own knowledge capacity to first face down the threat, and then to create the space for dialogue with government that ultimately leads to developmentin situor a truly negotiated relocation. The case of the Joe Slovo community here in Cape Town is a great example. Though the legal battle last year eventually staved off imminent eviction, the possibility for sustained, “meaningful” engagement with the state has only come about through these kinds of organizing measures. Just last month, the community finished up a process of issuing itself informal household ID cards. This was the latest step in an enumeration process, in which the community surveyed every household on a wide range of social indicators. This process of information gathering has assisted significantly in organizing the community to be strong advocates for its own priorities as it negotiates with the Cape Town metropolitan municipal government on how to upgrade the settlementin situ. Even despite many of the obstacles that remain, victories in court appear almost pyrrhic when compared to the developmental achievements of an organized community armed with its own information and priorities prepared to engage with the state. This is an experience we have seen throughout our SDI network.
“Meaningful engagement,” if we take it to be a term that can help describe a greater sense of civic purpose in the ways in which citizens interact with the state, points to a bottom-up approach that is not limited to the Constitution or any other legal framework. Secondly, while a court can enforce specific obligations and rights, a democracy is the sum of much more than just these compulsions. Finally, the state can meaningfully engage by pursuing policies and interactions that facilitate the kinds of community organization that reinforce and grow the capacities of ordinary poor citizens. Organized communities of the urban poor can use their tools of association to workwiththe state towards their own development. It is this kind of bottom-up governance that most effectively empowers citizens to engagewiththe state to help fulfill the social rights agenda that South Africa’s legal framework demands. The law can, on occasion, protect the most vulnerable to defend their rights. But the law alone cannot ensure the growth of the necessary capacities to allow the most vulnerable to take hold of their destinies as proper democratic citizens. “Meaningful engagement” that comes about through the hard work of the organized poor themselves — work and organization facilitated by a truly developmental state — will begin to deliver the kinds of social outcomes and restructuring of social relations that documents like the Constitution can only imply.
pictured above: Federation leader Patrick Biija (standing) explains savings and the process of federation to the Jinja Central Division chairman (left) and senior assistant town clerk (right).
By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI secretariat
When SDI delegates from Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa visited Uganda in the beginning of February it was to help consolidate the process of profiling and federation building that has been underway there since 2002. Another goal was to meet with Cities Alliance in order to explain our process and work with them and government officials to develop a proper framework for developing sound urban policies and implementation activities in five "secondary cities": Jinja, Mbale, Arua, Mbarara, and Kabale.
SDI delegates visited with local federation members and local politicians in Jinja and Mbale, where the CA program is already underway. Municipal-wide profiling has already taken place in both of these cities. The Mbale profiling was conducted while we were there, and the profilers reported that, in addition to successfully collecting data from all 14 informal settlements in the city, they mobilized six savings schemes, in addition to two that already existed.
In Jinja, we met with leaders of each division in the city. In Uganda, the administration of cities is broken down into a number of sub-units, of which divisions are the second biggest after the municipal unit. Discussions with division chairman, senior assistant town clerks, community development officers and the chairs of smaller units within each division, called LCs, were vigorous. In each division, LCs, and other officials challenged the federation to include them in their mobilization of savings schemes, collection of information, and other activities. This is a potentially promising development, as people-led development cannot take place at scale without the support and facilitating power of government officials at all levels.
In the Mpumudde division, the federation is already well known. In part, this is because federation leader Patrick Biija is on the division council. But, beyond this fact, the federation has demonstrated its organizational power there. When we met with the division, Biija presented the plans the federation had drawn up for a housing development in Kawama, located in the division. Biija later told me that this project is a key test for the federation: "We want to show the council that we can develop our own area."
The Kawama plan was developed in 2008. The local federation visited with the division council to consult with the relevant planning authorities. They then went back to talk within the federation to agree on what kind of houses they want, given what was feasible and what would reach the maximum amount of people. The plan ultimately included 208 double-story units, as well as a mixed use sanitation facility that would include a nursery school, an office for the federation and a meeting hall. This building is not unlike one that has already been built by the federation in the slum of Kisenyi in Kampala. Such units have similar models elsewhere in the SDI network, like in India and Zimbabwe.
At the beginning of the month, the plan did not yet have final approval. But this week, I received word that the remaining signatures have been made and the plan is set to begin. The federation now has the title deed for the 7.6 acres of land designated for the project. A big step to demonstrate the capacity of organized communities of the urban poor to work towards their own development hand-in-hand with government in Uganda.
pictured above: The federation-developed Kawama plan, posted during a meeting with political leaders of Mpumudde Division, Jinja.
pictured above: SDI deputy president Rose Molokoane and Michael Werikhe, Ugandan minister of Housing, Land, and Urban Development, at a meeting of SDI delegates and Ugandan officials in Mumbai, India, last week.
By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI secretariat
This week, SDI delegates are traveling through Uganda with members of the Cities Alliance secretariat to meet with Uganda Slum Dwellers Federation-organized communities, ACTogether, an NGO supporting the activities of the USDF, and officials from all levels of government. This is part of a project facilitated through the new Cities Alliance “Land, Services, and Citizenship” program that is focusing on five secondary cities in Uganda (Jinja, Mbale, Arua, Mbarare, and Kabale).
During the Cities Alliance consultative group meeting last week, SDI and ACTogether delegates met with the Ugandan minister of housing, land and urban development Michael Werikhe and his commissioner, Samuel Mabala. The key goal of these engagements, at all levels, is to ensure that organized communities of the urban poor are put at the center of the processes of development in Uganda.
Updates on this greater process of organizing communities through SDI’s tools such as savings, community-driven information gathering, and community-based urban poor funds, will be forthcoming as events progress on the ground in Uganda. As one of the poorest countries in Africa, with a low rate of urbanization (about 15%), this is an exciting opportunity to put organized communities at the center of urban development in its relatively early stages.
The Zimbabwean Homeless People's Federation, along with support NGO Dialogue on Shelter, met last month with Kariba council officials. This was not unusual in and of itself.
But often the documentation of such engagements falls to the federation and support NGO. So it was a welcome turn of events that the Kariba council itself submitted a report on last month's meeting. The report lays out some of the possibilities and challenges facing many local councils working with the ZHPF. The same could, in fact, also be said for similar kinds of partnerships of slum dweller federations and local governments in other countries.
The full report, signed by Kariba's director of housing, is as follows:
Homeless People’s Federation landed in Kariba in April 2001 when they were allocated stand number 2561 Batonga to construct a model house. This allocation was actually a test case meant to gauge the effectiveness of the Federation and its capacity to deliver houses. In 2002 the model house was completed. The Federation managed to construct the required model house within the stipulated time. This proved a point to the Municipality and built confidence in the corporate body.
In March 2004 they were offered 136 stands. These were unserviced but surveyed. The Federation paid for the Engineering designs specifically for the area they were allocated. The Federation members provided labour for the servicing of these stands and they were getting technical assistance from the Dialogue on Shelter and Housing People of Zimbabwe. They successfully completed the servicing of the allocated stands and now they are putting up super structures.
The Municipality further allocated them an additional 12 stands in the same area to cater for extra membership and these successfully serviced and they are now putting the structures.
Then in October 2007 we offered them 52 stands in Batonga 2 and they are currently servicing the stands. In August 2006 they came to council with a request to construct temporary structures whilst developing their permanent houses. Council acceded to this request on the condition that as soon as the developer has completed or partially completed the main house, the temporary structure is demolished. We urge the leadership of the federation to observe this condition.
As council we are very glad that we have found reliable partners in Housing development. The Homeless People’s federation, Dialogue on Shelter and Housing people of Zimbabwe have proved beyond reasonable doubt that they are a reliable vehicle for providing housing/shelter to the poor, not only in Zimbabwe but beyond borders and all local authorities are proud of their work. The hopeless in terms of acquiring shelter have been converted to the hopeful actually reinforcing the concept that “A nation should be a beacon of hope”. The poor widows, orphans ,vulnerable and fully complemented families have been empowered through the provision of their own shelter. As Council we are proud of that.
The Homeless People’s Federation is also into herbal medicines, a venture which actually assist the vulnerable and less privileged members of society in that they cut on medical care. On top of that some of their herbs have proved to be more than modern medicines we get from the shelves of our pharmacies.
Five stands in Batonga are affected by the ZESA power lines and the Council and the Homeless People’s Federation are working together and to rectify this as US6,000.00 is needed by ZESA to divert the power line.
The terrain, the area the Federation is servicing has got an unfriendly terrain. It is rugged and rocky. Council does not have adequate equipment to assist the members. Currently our backhoe, back actor is down, it need to be repaired.
Council does not have dozer to assist in the opening of roads. What we have is a grader.
David A. Smith of the Affordable Housing Institute has a great post about a Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) - led enumeration in Durban last month. It gives a good sense of how the community-led self-surveying is a key tool for community empowerment, as well as how this fits into the greater strategies of community-driven housing delivery and slum upgrading. Here's a key quote from Smith:
Enumeration by the people themselves represents outsourcing an essential governmental function both to accelerate its delivery and to create political standing for the poor themselves.If you won’t do it for us, we will do it for ourselves and make you acknowledge us.
When we talk about "outsourcing an essential governmental function" such as census-taking for evidence-based solutions, I wonder what does it really mean to "outsource" such a project? If governments are not doing it, then is it really an "essential government function"? And what does it even mean to call something an "essential government function"?
The political value of an enumeration sheds some light on these questions. As I mentioned, enumerations are not just about momentary community empowerment for the sake of community empowerment. Having witnessed other FEDUP enumerations, I can say that the show of songs, slogans, and speeches can have a powerful emotional effect, something Smith also describes in his Durban experience. But the real test of enumerations is the way they can change our very notions of government.
It is helpful to think of these surveys not as "outsourcing," which implies that it is some kind of half-hearted, last ditch measure, but rather as the most effective way to do such a survey to begin with. Poor communities are best placed to know the kinds of issues that really need to be surveyed, they stand to benefit the most from the information, and they have the most legitimacy to conduct the surveys. Once they have the information, they can negotiate with governments from a more informed, more organized, and more constructive standpoint.
In fact, it may be more useful to think of such "outsourcing" as the most effective thing government can do on this particular issue. But we can do away with this market-based language (every time I type the word "outsourcing" I think of big telecom companies, but maybe that's my own problem). Ultimately, the government will have to act on this information. Instead of being the driving force behind development of poor communities, governments can think of themselves as facilitators working in partnership with poor communities — in fact, being led by poor communities. Poor communities need the political will, the technical capacities, and the finance that only governments can provide. And governments cannot facilitate these things without encouraging the organization of poor communities around their own resources, a key example being the information gathered through enumerations.
So it is not a binary of either governments leading or governments throwing up their hands and "outsourcing" community development and organization. Instead, governments can be facilitators, encouraging the very people they serve to take the lead and organize themselves. Then, governments will benefit through the strengthened political will and practical expertise to work towards development that can only come from these kinds of "people-centered" approaches.
During last month's SDI Council meeting, I caught up with Patience Mudimu, a project coordinator at Dialogue on Shelter, an NGO supporting the activities of the ZHPF. She told me that the Federation and Dialogue held a number of meetings with local government authorities during the convention. "For possibly the first time, we were getting directors to queue up to have appointments with us," she said.
There have been follow-up engagements with authorities from five different cities — Harare, Masvingo, Chiredzi, Mutare, and Bindura. The plans under discussion in all of these places reveal a lot of the challenges and possibilities of local administration and urban housing in Zimbabwe.
In Harare, Dialogue on Shelter is talking with Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda about a partnership between the ZHPF and local government to renovate hostels in four settlements. Though town planners are often responsible for much of the implementation process of policy, mayoral will is key, Mudimu told me, to give political clout to a project like this.
In Masvingo, the Federation is facilitating exchanges of local ministers between different cities. As part of the exchange program that they agreed to at the housing convention in October, Mayor Femias Chakabuda wants to bring Federation members in Masvingo to visit the Federation-built settlement in Victoria Falls. According to Mudimu, Chakabuda was particularly impressed by his visit to the settlement.
The Chiredzi local authorities invited Dialogue on Shelter and the Federation to give a presentation to the full town council. They gave this presentation in early November about the difficulties that homeless people have in obtaining land.
The authorities in Mutare had given land to the Federation to build boreholes, a project being funded by SDI's Urban Poor Fund International (UPFI). As part of the negotiations at the housing convention, the Mutare authorities gave a verbal go-ahead, but there is still no written agreement on the issue.
Finally, Bindura authorities have offered space to the Federation to build a community resource center.
As Mudimu noted to me, while it can be tough to achieve much publicly at these big housing conventions, the public show can serve as a good backdrop for successful negotiations and partnerships behind-the-scenes.