Tenements, or if used informally vertical semi-slums, are in their own version congested settlements which have been around since the industrial age and have been witnessed in all regions of the world, and especially in particular urban growth stages. These settlements, often strategically located near key urban services (mostly commercial areas) are a representation of the role of market forces in housing provision for a particular class of urban residents. These settlements maximize space use (mostly by exploiting ground coverage and plot ratio standards) and leverage huge capital investments with many housing units for which residents pay “affordable” rents. Like in many parts of the world, this phenomenon is rive in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya and one of the fastest growing cities in Africa. In this article and its subsequent series, we will highlight various aspects of living in tenement buildings in Nairobi as told by individual dwellers.
It is 5 am on Saturday May 11 2013 in Pipeline Estate, Embakasi – Nairobi, one of the most notorious areas for unregularised tenements in the city. Milcah Kioko* (not her real name) has just woken up. No, it isn’t an early day because she has to report to “work”. Throughout her stay in the city, a day must start early, regardless of the fact that she is a housewife. Milka is however somewhat optimistic about landing a reliable job someday that will enable her to support her husband and combat the ruthless and indiscriminative escalating living cost in Nairobi. Having migrated from Eastern Kenya a few years ago to the city, she started urban life in a Nairobi slum, Mukuru kwa Njenga, where she was lucky to be sheltered by her elder married sister while looking for a job. Many slum residents can narrate how agonizing life can be for rural converts, making a fresh start in Nairobi slums. Without critical social networks, such as Milcah’s, the ‘arrival city’ (slums) can turn out to be one legendary, horror narrative to pass to your descendants. Even after being nested by her sister and tirelessly hunting for a reliable job for years, Milka has made very little progress. After the first few years, she had to leave the nest and continue with her job hunt from somewhere else, a move that opened a new chapter in her life. She got married and shifted focus to raising her young family. Life might have improved after her husband managed to move the family from Mukuru kwa Njenga slum to the adjacent ‘concrete jungle’, the high-rise tenements of Pipeline Estate, Embakasi.
Since her move, waking up early is Milka’s Saturday routine. The day normally begins by climbing down the sharply-inclined staircase from her unit on the sixth floor to the ground floor, where she joins the long queue at the water tap. Having migrated from the dry lands of Eastern Kenya, queuing for water is ‘normal’. She migrated from her rural home in the quest of living the ‘urban dream’ and creating a new ‘normal’ life. It’s almost a decade now, and the city still seems unforgiving to her.
Being a Saturday, her two young daughters are in slumberland until mid the morning. It’s not a school day and in any case, they have nowhere to play, except the dangerous and narrow balcony at their doorstep. This is highly unappealing for the kids. The numerous warnings they have received from their mother not to play near the balcony as well as the obvious physical danger has cultivated sufficient fear in them. They have also adapted to routine everyday re-organization of the house. The family lives in a single room, which similarly to a shack, is partitioned by a curtain and is accustomed to space-use transformation at different times of the day. After getting her water, Milcah is going to undertake a makeover of this temporal children bedroom to the living room and the kitchen.
The queue at the tap is long, taking several loops on the open-indoor space at the ground floor. You are never too early for it, unless you have a ‘good relationship’ with the building caretaker, who sends signals to his ‘friendly tenants’ when he is about to open the tap. That’s how powerful this position can be in these kinds of tenement buildings where communal facilities exist and infrastructure services are rationed. Often, the caretaker (mostly men) doesn’t send the signals for free; there are ‘payments’ involved. The ‘payments’ range from cash money to a beer in the bar at the ground floor and/or more ‘personalised’ forms from certain female tenants. This system is a clear illustration of how survival in tenements can be constructed through social networks. In these residences, the city council and utility companies are partially to blame for the inadequacy of services. The other half involves complex dealings with all sorts of actors, mainly including the landlord, property care taker, utility company workers, and service cartels.
Milcah has no choice but to join the queue and get her usual ration—4 jerricans (20 litres each). She is no party to the ‘exclusive club’ in the building, hence no favours from the care taker. As an offer of support, her husband will give her a hand in ferrying the water to their unit in the sixth floor, before he goes for work. Despite the building exceeding 4 floors (recommended threshold for a lift in Kenya), this particular building does not have a lift.
Her husband will also help to ferry the household solid waste (collected into a polythene bag) to dump it somewhere along the road side, on his way to work. Solid waste collection is yet another scarce service here. At least the City Council will pick up that garbage, when the ‘mountain’ gets visible enough.
The building used to have a booster pump which pumped water from the mains at the ground floor to the 7th floor. However, this pump worked only for a few months when the building was new. After its starting to malfunction, the landlord did not bother to repair or replace it. Surprisingly, Milcah is not even aware that there was such a pump in the building, even after living there for over a year. She is actually surprised that water indeed flowed in the taps and shared toilets/ bathrooms beyond the ground floor. It is not that she is ignorant, she just copes with the situation as is, and is motivated by the fact that her rent is just worth what she gets.
In most tenements, the utility bills (mainly water and electricity) are inclusive in the rent and only the landlord knows what goes to the service providers. In roomed tenements, sharing of toilets and bathrooms is the norm. The maintenance of these shared facilities is in most cases left to the tenants. Where there is no proper ‘maintenance plan’ formulated and followed by the tenants, the ‘tragedy of the commons’ triumphs. Should the later prevail, chances are that some tenement residents will find themselves grappling with the dilemma of ‘to have or to avoid guests’, just as it has been narrated by numerous shack residents. The dignified visitors could easily loathe the reception at the “small rooms”, especially those coming from upmarket areas. In most cases tenants develop a duty rooster for maintaining common spaces and facilities. Its not surprising to see tenants being actively engaged in managing the asset for the landlord, to whom they pay rent. For them, the free service they offer semi-consciously for the landlord is more to their benefit, and particularly in safe guarding their public health.
Similar to shack areas, infrastructure services in most tenements are constrained, either as a result of collapsed (or on the verge of collapse) building infrastructure, or inefficacies of the service provider. For electricity, the stories are agonizing as well and particularly in buildings where billing is on a shared meter. In these areas, meter reading is classified information that should only be known to three parties – the service provider, the care taker and the landlord. If not rationed by hours, the voltage limit will not permit tenants like Milcah to use certain appliances such as iron boxes, cookers, water heaters etc.
Milcah’s experience is just a tip of the iceberg. Life in Nairobi’s tenements is deeply dynamic and cannot be covered enough within the scope of this article. Mathare-Huruma, Pipeline, Zimmerman, Githurai, Roysambu and Kawangware neighbourhoods epitomize the tenement phenomenon in Nairobi. In these areas, buildings have plot coverage’s of 100% and plot ratios of upto 10 times the recommended standards. Yes, the buildings are built back-to-back, from beacon-to-beacon, go as high as 8floors, and use designs, shapes and space standards that can never be found anywhere else. The vertical densities in these neighbourhoods are extreme, filled with densely massed multi-storey buildings. The facades often decorated by hanging clothes or repugnant like windows that appear as engraved rather than fitted, and at times a view from the street will land on a solid wall.
In tenement areas, social life is influenced by the codes stipulated by landlords to tenants, and fully enforced by the tenants, such as locking the gate or the main entrance at certain times of the night.
The roads in these areas are rough and dusty. When it rains, they turn to muddy streets making walking and driving unbearable. Space convertibility is a key element in these areas, with streets converting into busy business areas in the mornings and evenings. During these times of day, the massive activities taking place on the main streets leading to public transport stops often mimic mass migration.
Subsequent series to this article will illustrate some of the urban qualities produced by tenements, the variety in housing they offer, their production and perhaps their implication to the urban future in Nairobi.
“As women we are in a very, very risky place.” - Doris Museti, Mukuru Kwa Reuben, Nairobi
I arrive in Nairobi on Friday and head straight to Muungano House. The building is home to the offices of the Kenyan SDI Alliance, made up of Muungano wa Wanavijiji (the Kenyan federation), Muungano Support Trust (MuST; support NGO to Muungano) and Akiba Mashinani Trust (the finance facility for Muungano). Muungano House is nestled in a cluster of green just off the busy main road, which bustles with the constant rumbles and hoots of Nairobi’s traffic.
I am here to meet with a group of women living in Mukuru kwa Reuben, one of the many villages in the Mukuru belt of slums that stretches across the eastern section of Nairobi. These women have come together to address challenges they face in gaining access to safe, adequate water and sanitation services in their village.
Before making my way to Mukuru Kwa Reuben, I meet with Jane Weru and Edith Kalela of Akiba Mashinani Trust, and Joseph Kimani of MuST. Both organizations have a key part to play in the women’s campaign for improved water and sanitation services. Jane and Edith have been working on a legal case that addresses land ownership issues for the whole of Mukuru. Since the Mukuru slums are located on privately owned land, the government is not able to make any interventions to improve infrastructure or basic services. In addition the threat of eviction is steadily increasing along with the value of land.
Jane Weru, Executive Director of AMT, begins by describing the unique circumstances of Mukuru. “It’s a contiguous belt of slums that the SDI team guesses is larger than Kibera[*],” she begins. “These slums have a special need because they are settled on privately owned land, unlike Kibera and Korogocho.”
Jane then takes me through something of a timeline of events in Mukuru. In 2008 the need to engage became clear, and by the end of 2011 – when slum dwellers from Mukuru came to Muungano House with threats of eviction in hand – it was clear that the time had come to take action in Mukuru.
When a fire erupted in Mukuru Sinai in September 2011, the door was opened once again for landowners to begin sending eviction threats to Mukuru residents. According to Jane, the fire was very bad press for slum dwellers, and landowners took the opportunity to attempt to take back their land.
She tells me that no one really knows who owns the land in Mukuru. AMT realized that they would need to understand the ownership patterns before they could move forward. They started investigating but were met with countless roadblocks. Eventually they were able to put together a good bit of information for cases against those landowners threatening eviction. By working with the community to mobilize and build awareness, AMT and Muungano got orders preventing any more dealings from taking place on the land while the case(s) are being sorted out, staving off evictions in Mukuru for the time being.
The connection was made between land issues and women and sanitation a few months ago when a woman from Mukuru mentioned in a community meeting at Muungano House that water and sanitation services are very poor in Mukuru because of the fact that the settlement sits on private land, outside the orbit of government’s jurisdiction for infrastructure improvements. Despite the fact that Kenya’s constitution (passed by Parliament in 2010) calls for the right to adequate sanitation, the state cannot take action on this unless the settlement is on state-owned land. Because of this, the women are asking that the state take back the land so that improvements to infrastructure and basic services can be made. The slum dwellers, alongside AMT, claim that the land is not being put to use by the landowners who gained ownership nearly 20 years ago, and that the state should take back ownership in order to put the land to use for the good of the city.
The women are busy collecting 10,000 signatures from other women across Nairobi to support their campaign, with between six and seven thousand collected to date. In addition, AMT has begun to broadcast the campaign to media outlets in Kenya and beyond. Already, local and international journalists have begun to pick up the story, a tack that AMT and the women of Mukuru hope will put added pressure on the government to do something about the conditions in the Mukuru slums.
In the afternoon, Edith Kalela and I drive across town to meet with the women of Mukuru Kwa Reuben. In Kwa Reuben and neighboring Kwa Njenga alone AMT estimates that there are about 800,000 households – all of which would be affected by evictions were they to take place. But today, free from evictions, these 800,000 households have other challenges to contend with: poor drainage, totally inadequate sanitation services, and little access to clean, potable water, to name a few.
We bump down a rough, dirt road, between factories shielded by tall cement walls from crowded streets lined with stalls selling everything from fruit to cell phones to sneakers. People mill about in the afternoon sun as we enter Kwa Reuben. The street narrows and becomes bumpier. I could probably reach out my window for a fresh mango. Soon we pull up across the road from a small patch of grass where Doris Museti stands waiting for us. Doris is one of twenty women from Kwa Reuben who has been mobilizing the community to advocate for improved sanitation and collecting the 10,000 signatures to present to government.
Doris leads us into the heart of Kwa Reuben. We come upon a large field. Children are playing football and chasing after tires in the dusty heat. As we walk, Doris and Phyllis Mulewa, another community leader from Kwa Reuben, inform me that this is the only play area in the whole of Mukuru.
Continuing further into Kwa Reuben the road narrows again and the ground becomes muddy with run-off and storm water that has nowhere to go. Doris turns off the main road and into a narrow walkway, barely wide enough for two people to pass each other. Here I get a better understanding of what it means to have inadequate sanitation facilities. Doris and Phyllis point out that the run-off between the shacks, flowing into the walkway where we stand. Women and children use these narrow, exposed spaces behind their shacks (about 60 cm wide) as a space for bathing and relieving themselves at night, when walking the distance to the bush means running the risk of violent attack and rape.
“Getting to the toilet at night is very difficult,” says Doris, “They are closed, so you have to get an alternative. So we come to the bush, and it is very risky. You have to get two or three women to escort you. If you do not come with two or three people, it is a rape case and it will never be reported. Some women fear to escort you… As women we are in a very, very risky place.”
It’s not much better during the day. Paying for multiple trips to the public toilet facilities is out of the question for most families, leaving no choice but for children to relieve themselves in these alleyways. Later on Doris refers back to “those houses where you can see drainage coming out like a bathroom,” explaining that, “…they are not bathrooms, they are corridors. So most people are bathing in the corridors because they don’t have bathrooms. You can tell people, ‘Don’t come out! I’m taking a bath!’”
Doris continues describing the conditions that force women and children into these corridors, “You don’t have a bathroom, you have to take a bath, the house is 10 ft. by 10 ft., you are four or three people [in the house], other people have other business in the house, so you take a bath outside… the house just smells of dampness if you take a bath in there. The water goes on the carpet, and the house is always damp. Mosquitoes are full throughout.”
So there is no option, really, but to use these alleyways. Because of the run-off, the walkways are flooded and filthy. When it rains, it is much worse. Sewerage mixes with rainwater and floods people’s homes. Disease runs rampant during these times. “Having cholera, typhoid, is very easy,” Doris says, “We had an outbreak of cholera – it was very bad. You would hear someone is sick today, and dies tomorrow.”
Even the few toilet facilities that exist are problematic. Doris and Helen Nyaboke, another resident of Kwa Reuben, describe the process of emptying the pit latrines in the settlement, “There are two or three men who come and empty your pit latrine. After emptying, they go around pushing the cart. It will spill everywhere. When they [find] a drain, they pour [it] there and then go back and drain again. What impact does that bring? They have emptied this toilet, they have spilled everything on the road, and then they have poured it in that drainage.” The drainage they are referring to is a shallow gulley that runs alongside the walkways. When they flood or clog, they spill over into the roads and walkways. I can understand their frustration with the system.
Doris relates this back to the diseases she spoke of earlier, “It has an effect on us and on our kids.” Referring to sewerage water and human waste contaminating walkways, Doris says, “Children don’t differentiate [between] that and cleanliness.” Another woman pipes up, saying, “And STI (sexually transmitted infection) is very, very high because we are sharing one toilet between more than 150 people.”
Sharing one toilet between more than 150 people. I ask the women about this, about sharing facilities with so many people, about bathing in their small homes with children and husbands running around. Phyllis Mulewa describes it to me, “About the privacy, you never know if someone is looking in the door or in the iron sheets [walls], because most of them have holes… For us as women, we feel this is not for us. Maybe it is for animals, but not for us. But what can we do?”
Evelyn Apondi, a young woman in her mid-twenties, tells me that she lives in a 10 ft. x 10 ft. “cube” with eleven other family members. “It is very difficult for us,” she says, “especially when there are fathers, brothers, sisters and mothers in the same cube and you can’t bathe, because bathing is a basic need. And apart from that, there are no toilets. It has been very hard.”
Doris and Evelyn describe what it’s like for women who are menstruating. They have to hide their sanitary towels, throwing them on top of their shacks or in the road so that they are out of the way. There is nowhere to dispose of them inside the house. Family members complain about the smell. Women are made to feel ashamed of this natural, monthly occurrence, and are forced to dispose of sanitary towels in a manner that leaves the settlement dirty, and its inhabitants at greater risk of disease.
It is the same story when a woman gives birth. There is nowhere to dispose of the afterbirth, so it is kept in a tin can in the house; “The container will remain in the house until very late in the evening,” Doris says, “What is she to do with it? She will have to wait until very late to dispose of it, maybe mix it with dirty water and then throw it out…. Nowadays, blood carries everything.”
Evelyn tells me she wants to get a job so that she can rent her own cube, have some privacy and maybe even start a family of her own, but like so many of these women, she has not been able to find steady work. “We have just been surviving,” she says.
Most of the women I speak to rely on casual work for their incomes. “You wake up in the morning and try to find a job,” says Doris. “You can sometimes find something for the day, for the week, but it is very insecure. Some women do washing. There are [lots of] small-scale traders… But it is very hard.”
I am interested to know what these women see as a potential solution to the sanitation issues they face in Mukuru. I ask them what would make the most difference in their lives with regard to sanitation. Both Doris and Phyllis suggest the same thing: “The government coming in and planning with us. Then we will have sewers and everything… Then the structure owners will be forced to do something. If the government plans for us – if they plan for residential rather than factories, and if people build their houses in order, then we can have proper drainage and proper roads.” =
I recognize this proposal from my discussions with Jane Weru earlier in the day. They want the government to claim back the land from the current landowners and re-plan the whole of Mukuru as a mixed-use area, serviced by bulk infrastructure connected to the rest of the city. This would mean widespread access to basic services and increased security of tenure for Mukuru’s residents. Doris comments on the threats of eviction that she and other Mukuru residents have faced in recent years as land values in Nairobi continue to rise:
“We are here, and then that person - after 40 or 30 or 50 years - they are claiming back the land. Where do we go? We are not trees. Imagine you have a place, your home – how can a person come to build in your home? You have grandchildren here, they have children, and then you want to chase them out. Where do we go?”
These women have lived in Mukuru for at least fifteen years. Most of them were born here. This is their home and they want to improve it – to work with the government to make Mukuru a safe, secure place for them and their families to live. But because of the landownership issues, Muungano, AMT and MuST cannot move forward with sanitiation improvements in Mukuru. So instead they have proposed a precedent-setting pilot project in Mathare, another settlement north of Mukuru that is settled on government land. The hope is that this project will set an example for the kind of upgrading that could take place in Mukuru once the land ownership issues are sorted out.
According to Irene Karanja, director of Muungano Support Trust (MuST), the first phase of the project will assist 800 households residing in three clusters of Mathare settlement. The total population of these three clusters is equal to roughly 2620 households. At present, the residents of Mathare have two sanitation options: they can either pay a large fee to private businessmen to connect to the informal sewer system, or they can pay to use the few community toilets, many of which are unsafe and unsanitary.
Because local businessmen own the informal sewer system, the costs for connecting to the main pipe are unaffordable for most Mathare residents. It costs USD $46 for households within 30 meters of the river to connect to the informal sewer line, and up to USD $170 for the families furthest from the river. Because of this, families elect not to pay the high connection fees and instead dump sewerage into the river.
To combat this, MuST has proposed a solution that seeks a low-cost, sustainable and scalable model for sanitation in informal settlements. Specifically, the project seeks to find:
a) An environmentally sustainable model which seeks to demonstrate to the State how to manage human waste without contaminating natural resources
b) A model that is able to leverage resources from the State while at the same time utilizing community contributions for the development of a permanent sewer solution. The main innovation here is finding low-cost financing for sanitation upgrades.
c) A model that demonstrates that state investments for any trunk infrastructure targeted at the poor increases the integration of poor communities into the formal systems of the city.
More information about the proposed project is forthcoming. Please watch this space for more information.
[*] Kibera is generally regarded as Nairobi’s largest slum.
"Rahman had a capacity to pick up on the potential of people, and believe in them until they had no choice but to believe in themselves."
It is a natural human instinct to celebrate those that leave us. But a tribute to Perween Rahman is like sharing some of the stuff that real legends are made of. Not the people of big awards and media coverage, but those that make change on the ground while shunning publicity; the true heroes of Pakistan.
I first met Perween eleven years ago. After being disillusioned by the role of mainstream architects in making the kind of change that was needed in our cities, I had decided to plunge into the NGO sector. The replication of the OPP (Orangi Pilot Project) model in Punjab had begun, adding to its recognition as a development alternative with much promise. I expected Perween to be the proverbial ‘NGO-type’: scary, aggressive, intimidating. She was none of these. With a warm smile, a chirpy voice, and a kind demeanour, she welcomed me to the OPP-RTI (Orangi Pilot Project-Research and Training Institute) and told me that I should spend the first two weeks just trying to understand the work of the organisation.
OPP was at the time and still is, running on the momentum of Dr Akhtar Hamid Khan’s teachings; simplicity, frugality, and the ideals of love and humanity. Two of the first of Dr Sahib’s axioms I was told I must remember were: “I made a mistake”, and “I have not understood”. Being used to an academic and professional world where flaunting one’s knowledge, talking more than listening, and proving one’s point often in heavy jargon, were characteristic of ‘strong’ professionals — this new ethos was most liberating, and one of the things that made me fall instantly for the OPP’s development philosophy.
Anyone interested in being a part of this most beautiful process of true, rooted change, could just sit back, listen, observe, and internalise when ready. There was no room for ego. Also, where mainstream development work is about ‘doing’ for the poor, this was about learning from the poor, and supporting their initiatives with whatever know-how is appropriate, from technical input, to maps and training. It was the self-help model, committed to bringing human dignity back into the formula of helping the poor help themselves.
It was this that I learnt most from Perween and those at OPP: working for ‘real’ development is, more than anything else, a spiritual discipline.
On the operational side of the organisation, there was the weekly Monday meeting. In appearance just a tedious reporting of the week’s progress by every OPP-RTI team member including Perween herself, in reality it is an exceptional tool for accountability, transparency, and inclusive decision-making. It was the platform for debate, disagreement, acknowledgement of failures, and a celebration of small and big successes.
In work ethic, Perween was a disciplinarian and this had trickled down to all members of the institution. Work was the temple, the worship; there was no compromise. While she was gentle, she was as firm and upright as the trunk of an oak tree. The OPP-RTI research objective was clear: advocacy for the poor. The methodology was simple — interview, mapping, writing, and dissemination.
And then there was Perween’s insistence on using the right words; “It is the terms we use that shape our biases towards the poor,” she would say. Perween was not opposed to the city’s ‘mafias’ any more than she was saddened by the government’s indifference in solving the problems of the poor. She had come to realise that the term ‘mafia’ is misleading; in a system that is not fair by its very nature, and where the majority has no choice but to fend for themselves, a ‘mafia’ was simply an opportunist’s response in a crisis.
The word ‘katchi abadi’ she would say, leads to an automatic anti-poor prejudice. It was merely ‘People’s Housing’, “They are people who have found no alternative and this reflects the failure of the government to absorb them”. And ‘informal settlements’? Perween had concluded that there is no such thing; it was simply that which was ‘unofficial’ planning, unofficially supplied services, and unofficial systems, versus what was ‘officially’ done and recognised. And it was these ‘unofficial’ systems that existed often in collusion with the government, and supported the lives of 70 per cent of the city’s population, hence the need to recognise and understand them.
Perween was high on life. Along with countless people from community-based organisations in Sindh and Punjab, we travelled across the country several times a year, trying to understand and support poor peoples' initiatives. Travel was not just business; while the tone was always jovial, it was above all an opportunity to make connections and give people hope. It is this people-building that was the real and lasting investment. Perween had a capacity to pick up on the potential of people, and believe in them until they had no choice but to believe in themselves. She would instil idealism, humane values, and a work ethic without overtly ‘preaching’. She was that rare combination of mentor and friend.
Perween was not the change itself, she was one of change’s most potent agents — the faith of change, the brain behind change. In her inside-out understanding of the city’s ways, and in the networks and relationships with government and communities that she had forged over the years, Perween had crystallised a movement of sorts, where the marginalised were shown ways in which they would really no longer be the city’s ‘Citizen X’. And it is always the true change-makers of the world that shake the hold of those who live only to maintain a ruthless status quo.
Many theories abound about who would want to so heinously rob this gentle soul of her life, this soul that couldn’t hurt an ant. The truth is simply that in the years since she first joined OPP, Perween had quietly grown and come to a point where she could move mountains. The OPP’s ground-breaking low-cost sanitation model, and the upgrading of housing in Orangi, were the primers. The Karachi master plan for the conversion of Karachi’s open nallahs into box culverts was achieved through an arduous process of lobbying with the KWSB. Research into the truth about Karachi’s water crisis, and unearthing water ‘thefts’ was geared by the OPP.
The 2006 floods in Karachi and their connection with the choking of Karachi’s storm-water nallahs due to encroachments by government and private interests alike, was investigated by the OPP. And now the Secure Housing Initiative, wherein it was discovered that pre-partition villages or Goths in Karachi’s peripheral areas, were being evicted by political interests in order to create new constituencies for political parties. Where the government’s figures recognised these goths to be 400 in number, through research the OPP-RTI discovered that there were more than 2000. The OPP-RTI had entered into a process of mapping these goths, and supporting goth dwellers to advocate for land title.
In 2010, these maps helped convince the government to issue land titles to over half of those communities. Now, by 2013, more land titles were on their way. “The maps did it. Maps help to build relationships,” she would say, “The maps tell us what to do, where to go, who to lobby. They help professionals to understand the reality and have the courage to accept it. They help government to understand the reality and accept it too, because they are no longer the only ones that have that information. The people have this information now, and the NGOs and media have it too.” Most of these maps of the goth settlements have now been accepted as official government maps. “It is the community youth who actually do the mapping. We only help train them, and then take a back seat, become invisible.”
Despite negativity and despair all around, with the youthful spirit of a sixteen-year-old, Perween never stopped being an incurable optimist.
In a presentation she made in Bangkok in February at a meeting of community-based organisations from Asia, Perween’s words are the only solace one finds in the midst of this painful turn of events: “Today Karachi is in flames, and one of the aspects of the violence in the city is the politics of land and who gets title to it. Getting land title for these goth settlers, who have lived there since long before partition in 1947, has been a very powerful step forward for the peace and the political balance of Karachi. We were just saying amongst ourselves that if we die today, we will die so happily, because we have done it.”
This was Perween Rahman. With the childlike vivacity of a fluttering bird, the resolve of a revolutionary, and the magnanimity of a sage, this gentle soul had helped to change the map of Karachi.
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.
The Biblical formulation of the jubilee principle denotes: “and thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and the space of seven sabbaths of years shall be unto thee nine and forty years. Then shalt thou cause the horn (Vuvuzela) of the jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the horn sound throughout your land. And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all its inhabitants; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family” [Leviticus 25, 810]“.
If a person was obliged to sell his land to pay off a debt, and could not manage to regain possession of it – in the jubilee year his land would be restituted free of charge (A call by Muungano wa Wanavijiji to the land owners and Kenyan Government, on lands occupied by slum dwellers). The same goes for a house, (except for a dwelling house in a walled city). Likewise, “if thy brother… be impoverished, and be sold to thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve thee as a slave: but as a hired servant and as a resident laborer he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of jubilee: and then he shall depart from thee, he and his children with him, and shall return unto his own family, and unto the possession of his fathers shall he return.”
This is the Point!
Nevertheless, Muungano wa Wanavijiji in conjunction with other actors such as Akiba Mashinani Trust, and a coalition of churches have dared to thrust and capitalize on the reformist thinking, with the aim of securing the future of the current and subsequent generations, where secure of land tenure and basic infrastructure that would help slum dwellers in Kenya gain access to better and cheap housing. In fact, the Kenya slum Jubilee Campaign March 2012(Held on 8.12.12) ,graced by over 10,000 slum dwellers from more than 12 towns in the country was indeed an attempt to institutionalize periodic social upheavals.
The most conspicuous difference between the biblical revolution and socialist revolutions is that the latter are supposed to occur once and for all, while the jubilee revolution should occur at regular intervals. According to plans based on the socialist ideal, a just distribution of land especially to communities living in slums (and measures of social justice in general). According to the Biblical plan, economic life will preserve after the jubilee full liberty from abject poverty for further changes.
However, one area of concern that would be left to the charisma of mother nature, to this kind of social change pioneered by Muungano wa Wanavijiji, to affect change in the slums; is that people will continue to make projects, to scheme, to struggle and compete; some will become rich, some will become poor; life will keep the character of an arena in which it is possible to lose or win, show initiative and fail or succeed.
The true hope of the Kenya Jubilee Slum campaign is that the Jubilee axe sweeps once in a while like a storm over the forest of humanity, and cuts down those treetops which have grown above the average; debts are cancelled, the impoverished regains his property, the slave goes free. Balance is restored, and the economic game starts over again, until the next upheaval when gains of this initiative shall me accounted for.
Last week (8th December 2012) slum dwellers from over 14 towns in the country attended the Kenya Jubilee Slum Campaign march at the historic Jevanjee Gardens in Nairobi. Next year Kenya will mark 50 years since gaining Independence in 1963, the aim of the slum march was basically to consider the biblical principles of Jubilee and enumerate what could possibly be done to give Nairobi’s urban poor dwellers something to really celebrate and smile about in the Jubilee year.
It is out of this sheer reason that over 10,000 slum dwellers from 14 towns in Kenya took to the street to peacefully march in the streets of Nairobi to express their dissatisfaction of policies related to secure tenure and housing. The communities simultaneously entered the city through the five gates of the city, which were; Waiyaki Way, Mombasa Road, Juja Road, Ngong Road and Jogoo Road. Slum dwellers were jubilant and excited by the Jubilee march which was organized to blow the Jubilee trumpets in readiness for restitution, donning colorful attires reflecting the colors of the National flag.
The intention of the whole Kenya Jubilee Slum Campaign is to literally prevent families living in our slum environments from viciously getting trapped in a perpetual cycle of poverty and to ensure that large tracts of land owned by a few while the majority became landless tenants and even slaves. In the course of 50 years perhaps a family would fall on hard times, perhaps they would be forced to sell their land or even themselves as slaves to the rich. But now with the revolution that the Kenya Slum Jubilee Is pitching would like to see a scenario where each family has hope that in the Jubilee year they would be released from slavery and could return to their land, the main means of income guaranteed by a government that is keen to the needs of the poor.
In Mukuru belt slums, every single day we see families getting trapped in cycles of poverty, household heads end up raising their kids and grand-kids in the slum, and poverty is passed on from generation to generation. Nairobi is considered to be one of the world’s most unequal cities, where successive governments since independence have periodically ignored the plight of the poor by addressing policies that would empower the poor to come out of poverty. Picture this scenario; A family residing in the leafy suburbs of Muthaiga (apparently Muthaiga boarders Mathare Valley and are held apart from each other by the million dollar road project, Thika Super Highway) and Karen, where an average family 5 persons live on a 5 acre piece of land while in Kibera/Mukuru/Korogocho/ a family of 8 to 10 live in one 10×10 foot room.
Administration Police Band Escort Slum dwellers during the march
The problem of homelessness and establishment of slums in Kenya and many other cities around the world defies generalization, essentially because the growth of every city and the way the authorities attempt to manage its growth are rooted in its history, culture, as well as its local politics. It is for this reason that through the Jubilee Mission that Slum Dwellers are appealing to its political class to address the issue of inadequate housing. As the limitations of public housing policies in Kenya become evident, the government has continued to exercise laxity in investing in upgrading of slums and squatter settlements, leaving its role to multinational agencies such as the World Bank. In most developing nations governments often contribute to slum growth by failing to provide for the needs of the poor and incorporate them into urban planning. Some governments simply cannot respond to rapid urbanisation quickly enough or lack the tools to deal with the situation. Others take a hostile approach to urbanisation, believing that providing services to the poor will attract more people and cause slums to grow.
An example of a 10 by 10 shack in Mukuru slums.
The problem of homelessness and establishment of slums in Kenya and many other cities around the world defies generalization, essentially because the growth of every city and the way the authorities attempt to manage its growth are rooted in its history, culture, as well as its local politics. It is for this reason that through the Jubilee Mission that Slum Dwellers are appealing to its political class to address the issue of inadequate housing. As the limitations of public housing policies in Kenya become
Many people do not realize just how big an issue sanitation — or lack thereof — is especially in urban slum areas. Muungano wa Wanavijiji seeks to advocate for an optimum sanitation solution that is sustainable to the urban poor. Whenever Dorcas Moseti and her family must use the bathroom it is always an anxious moment. For the middle-aged lady, options in Mukuru Kwa Njenga settlement are limited. During the day, there are long queues for latrines that cost Ksh5 to use which to a common slum dwellers is not sustainable. At night, her family must relieve themselves in a plastic bag to be disposed of as a “flying toilet,” early the next morning.
Reality on inequalities on Land allocations. A comparison of Kibera slums and the Kilimani leafy suburbs.
There are about 200 different slums and informal settlements in Nairobi with each community living in these settlements having its own unique history of how they ended up in the slums. The driving force of communities behind the Kenya Jubilee Slum Campaign have considered how the principles behind the biblical Jubilee can be well applied in Kenya today to achieve land rights for the urban poor, perhaps not land-ownership but at least security of tenure that families would not need to fear bull-dozers coming in the dead of the night to destroy their homes and communities that they have struggled so hard to build. The other aspect of the campaign is to find sustainable ways of how families can find a secure means of income, since many people living in informal settlements are casual laborers. In Nairobi, the capital city, 60 per cent of the population lives in slums and levels of inequality are dangerously high, with negative implications for both human security and economic development.
Feelings of insecurity in many of the city’s informal settlements have heightened considerably since the violence following the contested election results of December 2007. Poverty in the city is worst amongst those with low levels of education, another cause for concern given that considerably fewer children attend the later stages of school in Nairobi than in Kenya’s rural areas, and many slum areas have few or no public schools. Meanwhile gender inequalities remain severe, with female slum-dwellers being 5 times more likely to be unemployed than males.
This Journey that slum dwellers in Nairobi and other towns have unanimously decided to embark is not easy let alone some of the complex issues that require the undivided attention of various actors to work together to achieve real change, but it is clear that both the local churches supporting this quest and NGOs supporting the basic human rights of the poor need to engage with these issues and seek ways to ensure the voice of the urban poor is not ignored but amplified in creative and constructive ways. Major activities are also lined up for 2013 as Kenya marks its 50th symbolic year, the year of Jubilee. Slum dwellers in Kenya have also been encouraged to register as voters in order for them to speak with one voice to elect leaders who are keen on the plight of the urban poor especially in the capital.
By Sandra van Rensburg (on behalf of CORC and ISN)
After more than four months of legal proceedings, the Constitutional Court delivered a ruling in favor of the displaced Marlboro families following evictions in Marlboro South, an industrial area in Sandton, Johannesburg. This ruling rendered the action of the City of Joburg as unlawful and the court called on the parties to “engage meaningfully to reach agreement on the supply of materials for building, the type of shelters allowed to be built and the final date for completion”, according to the Lawyers for Human Rights.
The following resolutions were delivered:
COJ must provide the 141 families with sites in Marlboro.
COJ must provide material for the construction of temporay shelters.
COJ has 4 months to more land if needed to accomodate the 141 families.
COJ must start a meaningful engagement regarding the balance of families evicted later during the month of August.
COJ must pay all legal costs.
Louise du Plessis, attorney for LHR’s Land and Housing Unit, was cited in the Lawyers for Human Rights press release,
This is a significant settlement in getting the City to provide the building materials but the onus is now on the City to deliver on its responsibilities to the community and to engage with everyone involved. We are happy that our clients will be able to get their own shelter and hope that this is the last time that a municipality will use excuses like sinkholes, dilapidated buildings and bylaws to act unlawfully and evict occupiers without following due process
The Marlboro settlement, and more specifically the Warehouse Crises Committee, is a networked structure under the Informal Settlement Network. In September, the ISN organised a provincial wide solidarity march to raise the plight of the poor struggling against evictions and lack of meaningful engagement with the cities of Joburg, Ekurhuleni, Tswane, Mogale City, and Midvaal municipality. Subsequent meetings with the office of the Gauteng premier has been around the formation of memorandums of understanding between affected informal settlement communities and city governments, with clearly defined schedules of activities attached. While these informal settlements wait for government to get its house in order, communities have been implementing small scale improvement projects through the Community Upgrading Finance Facility.
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.
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.
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.
On Wednesday 12 September hundreds of city dwellers from the Mukuru belt, including Mukuru Kwa Reuben, Mukuru Kwa Njenga and Maendeleo settlements, converged at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park I. The agenda was a simple but powerful one: mobilising those affected by rampant land grabbing, poor service delivery, insecure tenure, and inhumane evictions, which contravenes Kenya’s new constitution.
The Kenyan slum dwellers federation, Muungano wa Wanavijiji, coordinated this march of solidarity, bringing together a constituency of organised communities, pastors, legal experts, small scale traders and supporters of this quest. After more than three months of intensive mobilisation, mass general meetings, and administrative and logistical preparation, residents arrived en mass at the Uhuru Park where they would later march to the Milimani Law Courts to lay a claim on some of the lands within the Mukuru belt that are currently in the hands of corrupt business people and well-connected political figures.
The march was catalysed by the recent forced evictions of informal dwellers living in the industrial zone of Mukuru Kwa Reuben and Mukuru Kwa Njenga. The Mukuru settlement community lodged an immediate interdict against Kenya’s Former President Daniel Arap Moi, Subsequent Commissioners of Land during Moi’s tenure, an aspiring Presidential Candidate in the upcoming 2013 General elections, just to name but a few. The slum dwellers were represented in court by a team of lawyers associated by The Katiba Institute. This case, which is serves as an example of all past evils committed against slum dwellers by the wealthy and mighty, informs a more direct agenda for holding government to account.
Communities in Nairobi City have been taking the initiatives to dialogue with local and central governments for more than a decade now. Government has not been entirely responsive to any of these initiatives.
Kenya’s Minister of Lands, James Orengo said he was not aware of the land grabbing cartel in his Ministry, but will take time to act on some of the petitions and synthesized reports highlighting some of the culprits involved in “auctioning of the slum dwellers”, but that it will take time to investigate and report his findings to the Mukuru dwellers. He also reiterated that the community is exercising its right within the constitution to seek justice over the land issue.
Leading the memorable peaceful demonstrations were Joseph Muturi, Ben Osumba and Evans “Papa” Omondi of Mukuru settlement, all members of Muungano wa Wanavijiji. Papa said of the demonstrations, “We are here to support and protect our people from forced evictions engineered by selfish personalities who practice forced evictions without caring about the future of the urban poor.”
“We don’t want people to be homeless, in fact we demand security of tenure which we also hope the government is ready to negotiate for. Thereafter we demand housing for all, said Joseph Muturi.
The peaceful march was indeed a success and Muungano wa Wanavijiji proved their point. The matter is currently before court and the federation will respect the outcome of the court process.
On Tuesday the 11th September, thousands of shack dwellers from Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni (the mining belt), Tswane (Pretoria) and smaller towns and cities such as Mogale City, Midvaal, and Sedibeng gathered on Mary Fitzgerald square in Newtown, Johannesburg. The agenda was a simple but powerful one: mobilising those affected by poor service delivery, insecure tenure, and evictions.
The Informal Settlement Network (ISN) coordinated this march of solidarity, bringing together a constituency of organised communities that have been engaging in vain with local and metropolitan governments in the Gauteng Province. After more than a month’s intensive mobilisation, mass general meetings, and administrative and logistical preparation, residents arrived in their masses on taxis and busses. More than 100 settlements were represented.
ISN handed out t-shirts with large slogans reading “no upgrading without us”. The sea of orange, green, yellow, red, black and white rallied around the procession leaders from ISN. At 11am, the march started and continued on Bree Street. The City was brought to a stand still as shack dwellers marched peacefully in solidarity of the campaign against poor service delivery, land and tenure, evictions and disenfranchisement from decision making processes. The tall buildings of Joburg’s Central Business District enhanced the procession music.
The march was a roaring success and the ISN proved their proved their point: the voices of the poor are to be respected and acted upon. People in informal settlements are organising to promoted people-centred, pro-poor and inclusive city building. Only when the poor are central partners in development can cities be socially sustainable.
In March I came across Mukta Naik’s piece for Global Urbanist blog on her firm’s involvement in a project to redevelop two slum clusters in Delhi as part of the national Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) housing scheme. While her piece highlights a number of key principles in the creation of cities that include rather than marginalize the urban poor – arguing, for example, for in situ upgrading rather than relocation, and the central participation of slum dwellers in the planning process - I felt as though in the end, there was at least one critical departure from my take on the role of slum dwellers in the production of future cities. Naik concludes her piece with a statement that, “in the end, many of the demands of slum dwellers are not implementable” and the onus lies on the urban planning professionals, architects and engineers to advocate on their behalf for more realistic solutions, and to convince local governments of their rationale and viability.
The experience of urban grassroots social movements and individual communities proves that slum dwellers are more than capable of devising realistic, implementable, solutions to their own housing and infrastructure needs. Although the process may be longer than one driven by professionals, its success is often more sustainable, and more relevant – characteristics that benefit both the government and the slum dwellers in the long term. To this end, local governments across India and the developing world have in many cases (and often after much negotiation, exchange visits to other projects, and even some heated disagreements) been brought into the process, convinced of the viability of these projects, and seen the concrete benefits of involving communities in all stages of the upgrading process – from planning to design to construction to maintenance. In addition, I would argue that the role of the professional is not to provide the right answers, but instead to ask the right questions; not to advocate for the urban poor, but rather to support their voice so that they can advocate for their own needs and, ultimately, their own solutions.
One of the most notable examples of this is happening 1,500 kilometers from the scene of Naik’s article, in Pune, India, the second largest city in Maharashtra state after the megacity of Mumbai. Here, organized communities of the urban poor have been working for roughly twenty years to build a social movement that results in concrete improvements in the lives of slum dwellers. This alliance includes a national collective of women’s savings groups, Mahila Milan, a national slum dweller federation, NSDF, and their support NGO, SPARC
During a trip to Pune in January, I met the leaders of Pune’s Mahila Milan (MM) in their local office above a community toilet project constructed and managed by the women of MM. This group of women manages projects ranging from housing construction to water and sanitation to large-scale government-sponsored resettlements. Starting with management of daily savings, the MM women have learnt the necessary skills for management and coordination of human as well as financial resources.
Pune’s Mahila Milan began their upgrading work by taking up an in-situ upgrading project for 1,200 households in the settlement of Yerwada under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission’s (JNNURM) Basic Services to the Urban Poor scheme (BSUP). Here, old tin shacks have been torn down and replaced with one, two and three-story single and multiple family homes in the style of townhouses and small apartment blocks. Inevitably, political battles crop up during this aspect of such projects. The process of demolition and reconstruction requires the facilitation of intense negotiation by MM’s members and leaders. The ways of managing these grievances are maybe the most important lesson of all, and highlights MM’s integral role in the process.
In Yerwada, MM have driven all aspects of the project: from community mobilization to design of re-blocking plans and upgraded houses to negotiations with city government around building regulations and provision of infrastructure and basic services. Using social technologies such as self-enumeration, community mapping, and daily savings, the women of Mahila Milan have been able to engage at all levels, bringing empowering tools and information to both the people on the ground and the officials in town hall.
One of the most fascinating things about this project is the use of space. Most of the homes' footprints are no bigger than 250 square feet. By adding a second floor, this footprint is nearly doubled, allowing extended families to live comfortably together. One woman's home is a narrow triangle of only 170 square feet. The second story nearly doubles this, and MM has ensured that she has permission from the municipality to build a third story once she can afford it.
In addition to reconstructing the homes, MM worked hard in Yerwada to realign the structures, widening pathways and making space for municipal water, sewerage and electricity connections. Management of construction was made easier thanks to MM’s direct involvement as overseers of the construction process. Footpaths, widened from crevices to lovely pathways, are now lit by street lamps. MM worked with the families to construct homes suited to their needs and personal aesthetic. Homes are painted bright colors, and front doors hung with bright flowers. It is clear that this is a community. Not a slum. Not an informal settlement. It is a neighborhood, with families living and working, improving their homes and walking their kids home from school.
Following the successful upgrading in Yerwada, the Indian SDI Alliance’s community-owned construction company was contracted by the city to construct 750 homes in 7 additional settlements across Pune: Bhatt Nagar, Chandrama Nagar, Mother Theresa, Netaji Nagar, Sheela Salve Nagar, Wadar Wasti and Yashwant Nagar.
Prior to PMM’s involvement in slum upgrading in Pune, city government had experienced local resistance in their attempts at slum upgrading. This was due largely to a lack of community involvement in the development of upgrading plans. The state was proposing high-rise housing projects or individual subsidies and loans, neither of which appealed to the communities. Once Pune’s MM got involved, they were able to assist the wider community to develop housing solutions for in situ development and relocation that are at the same time community designed and delivered and viable in the eyes of the city government. So far, Pune MM has constructed roughly 3,000 units in situ across Pune using a blend of subsidies, loans, and community contributions.
These citywide successes provide an important node for learning across a transnational network of organized slum dweller federations that spans the Global South. Groups of slum dwellers, support professionals and government officials from across India and the developing world travel frequently to Pune to learn from the experiences of the Pune MM and city officials. In the past few years, these exchanges have inspired groups from neighboring Orissa to South Africa to Brazil as to the power of community participation in the upgrading process.
In addition to serving as a center of learning, Pune has become an example of successful slum upgrading for the wider urban development community. Students from Pune University and KRVIA in Mumbai, as well as universities in Sweden, Australia and the United States have all traveled to Pune for research work and urban planning studios.
The upgrading experience in Pune clearly disputes claims that slum dwellers are not capable of conceiving and implementing their own solutions. Of course, professional expertise is often necessary in implementing large-scale upgrading projects, but it must be deployed in ways that support the experience-based knowledge of slum dweller communities. Indeed, it is this experience, skill, and history that led this community to come into being in the first place. We have to constantly be thinking and acting with the question in our mind: Does this further marginalize the urban poor? Does my work as a professional minimize the decision-making influence of residents in planning for physical upgrades that will affect their lives? Do my thoughts, actions and words serve the creation of an inclusive city, or a fragmented one, where the urban poor are kept on the periphery?
For it has been proven that through the mobilization of organized slum dweller federations like Pune’s Mahila Milan, the urban poor can take the reigns of their own development, and that city governments are often quite happy to come on board.
On Tuesday the 11th September, thousands of shack dwellers from Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni (the mining belt), Tswane (Pretoria) and smaller towns and cities such as Mogale City, Midvaal, and Sedibeng gathered on Mary Fitzgerald square in Newtown, Johannesburg. The agenda was a simple but powerful one: mobilising those affected by poor service delivery, insecure tenure, and evictions.
The Informal Settlement Network (ISN) coordinated this march of solidarity, bringing together a constituency of organised communities that have been engaging in vain with local and metropolitan governments in the Gauteng Province. After more than a month’s intensive mobilisation, mass general meetings, and administrative and logistical preparation, residents arrived in their masses on taxis and busses. More than 100 settlements were represented.
The march was significantly spurred by the recent draconian evictions of informal dwellers living in the industrial zone of Marlboro South. See previous blog posts (“Spatial narratives”, “The demolition of Chico’s Ice Cream Factory”) and the press release on the emergency situation of evicted families living in interim tents in record cold weather. CORC, in collaboration with the University of Johannesburg’s architecture department, launched a design studio with the community of Marlboro to find technical, social and spatial solutions for the long term upgrading and development of Marlboro. The studio is now regrouping to present locally responsive solutions for the resettlement of Marlboro, although the circumstance have changed fundamentally. The Marlboro community lodged an immediate interdict against the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) and was represented in court by Lawyers for Human Rights. This case, which is a microcosm of the daily lived experience of many informal settlements, informed a more direct agenda for holding government to account.
Communities in Gauteng have been engaging local and metropolitan governments for more than three years. Government has not committed to any of the initiatives the ISN launched in e.g. Johannesburg with the upgrading of Ruimsig settlement. A general consensus was reached that more direct measures was imminent, and preparations for the solidarity started. Both the City of Joburg and Gauteng Province alleged in an article by The Sowetan (“Squatter to march against evictions” by Vusi Xaba, 10 September, page 8) that they were not aware of the march.
"City of Johannesburg spokesperson Gabu Tugwana said he was not aware of the march. Mokonyane’s spokesperson, Thebe Mohatle, said the office of the premier had not received any letter from the metro police, informing them of the intended march"
Mary Fitzgerald square filled up by 11am on Tuesday. Read this eyewitness account by communities and reporters leaving their settlements and preparing to join other settlements in central Johannesburg. Many grassroots organisations were represented. Said Thandi Sangweni of the Gauteng Concerned Community (GCC), “The GCC is a movement very much concerned about the needs of people like service delivery and the problems of our communities. Of course, we are supporting this march in solidarity with forums and organisations in South Africa and outside”. Leading the smaller processions on the square, Eunice Matsini from the Voices of the Poor and Concerned Residents. Eunice said of the march, “We are here to support the people who have no houses. We don’t want people to be sleeping on the road. We demand housing for all”. Rights-based groups were also present, and a coordinator from Protea South for the Landless People’s Movement said that
"… our struggles are based on the issues of land that government is supposed to implement, restitution, and tenure. But due to the system, we are seeing that government has failed us. This is when we established the movement. In this march today, we have solidarity and network with other social movements. But this initiative to us is about showing our own government that we as the poor will not stay silent"
ISN handed out t-shirts with large slogans reading “no upgrading without us”. The sea of orange, green, yellow, red, black and white rallied around the procession leaders from ISN. At 11am, the march started and continued on Bree Street. The City was brought to a stand still as shack dwellers marched peacefully in solidarity of the campaign against poor service delivery, land and tenure, evictions and disenfranchisement from decision making processes. The tall buildings of Joburg’s Central Business District enhanced the procession music.
At noon, the march came to a standstill in Simmons Street where communities rallied around the premier’s office. Rose Molokoane, national coordinator of the Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) shushed the crowd as she prepared to read the memorandum to be handed over to the Premier. Provincial Human Settlements department spokesperson Aviva Manga met Rose on the back of the bakkie. As Rose read the memo (read the memo here), the banners of the residents flew in unison.
Upgrade informal settlements NOW!
Partnerships not evictions!
The doors of development is closed. Left in limbo.
5 families in one house means no sex
Patrick Magebula, chair of the ISN, and Aviva Manga signed the memorandum. The ISN called for a response from the Province by the 10th of October, but Mr. Manga declared that the Province would reply by the end of September.
The march was a roaring success and the ISN proved their point: the voices of the poor are to be respected and acted upon. People in informal settlements are organising to promoted people-centred, pro-poor and inclusive city building. Only when the poor are central partners in development can cities be socially sustainable.
As had been agreed upon in last night's mass meeting, in Marlboro Industrial Area, Johannesburg, the Marlboro residents began to mobilize one another and demonstration began as early as 3am on Wednesday. Throughout the protest, no arrests took place. Only roads leading into the community were barricaded. Teargas was only fired once when the residents attempted to barricade the old Pretoria road opposite the Total Garage. The demonstration and barricading of roads was done by the residents to protect themselves and shelters from further destruction by the JMPD as well as drawing the attention of the officials that include the councillor and the Mayor. The protest ended at about 11am. The leadershisp then decided to go and meet with the station commander of Bramley Police Station (SAPS).
The leadership, with support from four ISN members and CORC, met with the Station commander and five other officers who were present during the demonstration. The purpose of the meeting was to request the SAPS to play a mediating role in the conflict between the concerned residents and the JMPD. The Marlboro residents expressed their disappointment in the lawlessness being demonstrated by the JMPD in spite of the community's efforts to engage in formal legal procedures. In addition to the above, a background of the eviction was given and this was outlined up to the current desicion made by the High Court. The station commander had a full understating of the community's position and his response was that it is in his best of interest to protect the community, however in so doing he does not want the SAPS to be caught up in legal issues without proper knowledge of the current court ruling.
Before the arrival at the police station, the SAPS had already been given a letter by the City's legal representatives that states that the Judge's ruling only allowed the residents to occupy the open space ERF 799 and 1008, but hindered them from erecting any form of shelter. In so doing the City's lawyers did not provide the court interdict to the SAPS. The provision of the original interdict copy by the residents and the explanation that if the CITY/JMPD disputed the court's ruling or could not comprehend enhanced the understanding of the SAPS in the sense that the JMPD/CITY was supposed to make an urgent court application for further clarity from the High Court. While the meeting progressed, the station commander immediately contacted one of the JMPD head of officers and immediately arranged a meeting that will be facilitated by the SAPS. By the time the meeting ended, attempts where still being made to contact the City Officials so that they can also be part of the meeting. The JMPD agreed to avail themselves and it was agreed that the meeting shall be held at the Bramley Police Station on 23 August 2012 at 9am. The community leaders shall take part in the meeting with support from ISN and CORC.
During the day, Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) arrived on site to assess the situation on the ground. Their site visit was mainly triggered by the letter they received yesterday from the city's legal representatives who deny knowledge of yesterday's destruction of shelters erected on ERF 799 and 1008 after the court had authorised the temporal return of the former residents of the aforemetioned sites until the 29th of August when the matter is finalised. Before the end of day yesterday, LHR had already made an urgent interim interdict application to the high court. Tomorrow at 10am the matter shall be heard in court. The leaders of Marlboro have already deployed members to attend the SAPS/JMPD meeting at 9am as well as the High Court matter at 10am.
Due to the lack of availability of toilets in many communities and the dissatisfaction that communities feel towards toilets provided by municipal corporations, SPARC has launched its own community toilet block initiative in partnership with local communities.
SPARC believes that community toilet blocks are the best way to confront the issue of unsatisfactory sanitation conditions in slums. SPARC advocates for community toilets rather than individual toilets because the size of most slum dwellings means that in-house toilets tend to dominate the interior space of the home, leaving less space for living and sleeping. Furthermore, the smell of in-house toilets overwhelms homes and requires constant maintenance and attention. Alternatively, community toilets allow for more space in individual homes and less overall time spent on cleaning and maintenance of the toilet facility.
Toilet block construction projects facilitated by SPARC differ from the toilet blocks built by government municipal corporations in many ways. Whereas municipal corporations will build new toilet blocks without consulting communities, SPARC ‘s toilet blocks utilize community participation at every level—in design, construction, and maintenance. SPARC toilet blocks are always connected to a main sewer line with access to adequate water and electricity even if that means building both overhead and underground tanks, whereas municipality toilet blocks do not always come with legal grid connections and extra capacity. SPARC toilet blocks ensure privacy by including separate entrances and areas for men and women, and a separate squatting area for children. SPARC toilet blocks also always come with a care-taker, appointed from the community who is responsible for the facility. This is an improvement upon the municipal corporation model that does not consider maintenance of the toilet block to be a priority and does not account for maintenance practices in pricing or construction. Last of all SPARC sells monthly subscriptions to the community toilet block where monthly family passes cost Rs. 20-25 irrespective of the number of family members or the number of toilet uses. This system, coupled with an additional income of 1 rupee per use paid by passers-by, ensures that the toilet block remains financially accessible to all families while also funding its own operation.
SPARC sees community toilet blocks not only as a product that has the capacity to improve sanitation in slums, but also as a process in which toilet block design and construction can serve to rally community members to mobilize, organize, collaborate, and negotiate.
SPARC’s model of toilet block construction, subscription, and maintenance seems to deliver the desperately-needed clean and safe waste disposal facilities that families seek, which in turn improves health, productivity, safety and quality of life within urban communities. SPARC has constructed 358 community toilet blocks to date and has also secured contracts to build another 613 toilet blocks moving forward. This means 371450 individuals in 74,290 families currently have access to safe and clean toilet facilities, and the number of people impacted by the projects continues to rise as new contracts are secured. SPARC’s community-built toilets work because they are affordable and well –maintained and because families have a stake in their creation, use, and maintenance.
A toilet in one of the most successful community toilet blocks in Dharavi, Mumbai.
After a SPARC toilet block was constructed in her community, Sukubai Dengle from Kamgar Putala slum in Pune raved about the many improvements brought about by the new toilet block: “The two-storey toilet block has been built by SPARC and Mahila Milan. There is water in the toilets and no queues. There is no tension. And the toilets are so clean. I have a toilet in my house, but actually I like the new public toilets so much that I prefer to use them. Ever since the new toilets have been built, there is less sickness. The old toilets used to be so dirty that larvae used to come out of the chambers. The filth caused sickness. And children used to defecate in the open drains. Now there is such a good arrangement for children to squat that they go to the toilet happily. The new toilets have made a big difference in my settlement. I feel I live in a good area.”
Community toilet blocks are much more than structures or products; they are catalysts that enable community mobilization, coordination, empowerment, and improvement. Proper sanitation in communities and safe and clean facilities for disposing of human waste have an impact that reaches beyond basic safety and health, instilling in poor communities a sense of ownership, commitment, and pride that will inspire further organization and growth.
Wednesday 16 May 2012 was a glorious day for the citizens of Ashaiman, an town in Greater Accra, since after months of careful preparations the spatial component of a multi-pronged Cities Alliance programme called Land, Services, and Citizenship (LSC) was finally kicked off. The Ghana Urban Poor Federation's (GHAFUP) mandate with regard to this SDI-backed initiative consists of profiling all the slums in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Region (GAMA), an exercise that will provide communities with in-depth knowledge of their own constituencies and a strong tool with which to negotiate settlement and poverty reduction interventions with both government and private stakeholders.
One of the reasons that made Accra and its satellite municipalities appealing to international donors is the existence of a strong local federation which, through concerted efforts to organise its constituencies into a cohesive force, has been successfully lobbying against the twin scourges of forced evictions and deteriorating living conditions for over a decade. Currently the country's shining beacon for the pursuants of bottom-up development is the mammoth settlement of Old Fadama - aka Sodom and Gomorrah for its now fast withering detractors - which in the space of a few years has managed to transform its reputation from that of a biblical hotbed of crime into a flagship example of grassroot power.
But while all the attention was focused on this mud-and-tin spatial incongruity a stone's throw from Accra's CBD, away from the spotlight and unbeknown to most, another expansive slum community had been following Old Fadama's proactive approach to self-betterment by engaging a historically hostile government into upgrading discussions. In this case, however, negotiations were facilitated by the fact that the slum in question is a municipality in its own right, recently born as an autonomous administrative division out of what some describe, with a typically Ghanaian penchant for biblical references, as the rotten rib of the formerly prosperous port of Tema. Originally conceived as a commuter neighbourhood for the workers of Ghana's premier dockyard, and following rising unemployment levels in the 2000s, Ashaiman slowly morphed into the epitome of tropical urban blight, a dusty shackland where as many as 90% of households meet UN-Habitat's criteria for the definition of a slum. In numbers, this translates into approximately 300,000 of the municipality's estimated 340,000 inhabitants living without water and sanitation or occupying overcrowded, ramshackle structures with little ability to withstand the vagaries of West African weather.
Yet, Ashaiman is a lively, buzzing, and tight-knit collection of communities with a thriving informal economy, a harmonious environment that has favoured the establishment of a local arm of GHAFUP rivalling, for strength and cohesiveness, its counterpart in Old Fadama. Thanks to the ingenuity and, to an extent, the more favourable tenure situation of the city's constituent communities, the Ashaiman Federation has been able to roll out an impressive array of upgrading projects, ranging from a 47-unit, mixed-use housing development to a citywide upgrading programme whose ambitious goal is to install private toilets in 100 households. All these initiatives, which were facilitated by low-interest loans from SDI and incentivised by a budding partnership with the local municipality, rely heavily on the existence of strong savings collectives and the willingness of the residents of Ashaiman to contribute to their own socio-economic upliftment.
To return to our story, on a sunny Wednesday morning a fifteen-strong, gender equal delegation consisting of settlement profilers, opinion leaders, and assembly members, congregated for the first of a series of focus groups designed to uncover facts and figures related to the eight most severely deprived communities in the municipality of Ashaiman. The focus groups, which were facilitated by Mensah Owusu, a programme manager from the local support NGO (People's Dialogue), and Charles Zuttah Chartey, a GHAFUP leader, were structured as day-long workshops designed to provide participants with the opportunity to thoroughly unpack issues as diverse as the number of stand pipes in each settlement and the literacy level of the population. According to Halid Alhassan, one of the leading members of the Ashaiman Federation, the exercise was very well received by the residents, which perceived it as a great opportunity to involve the local government into the management of their living environment.
The second phase of this profiling exercise consists in the validation of the physical data from the focus groups. To this end, dedicated mapping teams are currently walking the streets of Ashaiman to localise, with the aid of GPS technology, infrastructures like public toilets and stormwater channels as well as essential services like schools, creches, and clinics. The reasoning behind this exercise is that the spatial representation of a settlement's infrastructure is a valuable add-on to narrative profiling since it can help stakeholders determine where new facilities are needed the most.
While the Ashaiman profilers are busy with this pilot study, the other programme beneficiaries, namely the cities of Tema, Accra, and Ledzokuku-Krowor (LEKMA), are following in their leading sister's footsteps by exploring their own community-held knowledge through roundtables and focus groups, which will be followed by infrastructure and service mapping once all the socio-economic data has been gathered. Completion of the LSC programme is expected for the first quarter of 2013, after which it will be extended to the remaining GAMA municipalities of Ga South, Ga East, Ga West, and Adenta.
Information is Power
But why is this initiative so important? Firstly, it generates awareness within a community and raises the profile of the urban poor. A prime example of how self-administered census-type surveys can change people's perception of a slum is provided by the parable of Old Fadama, which ascended from the pits of being branded “a menace in Accra” and a “catastrophe waiting to happen,” to the heights of mediatic praise after the community took the lead in the implementation of a desilting project designed to mitigate the impact of its booming population on the surrounding eco-system. What enabled such a productive partnership between government and landless dwellers was a string of SDI-backed enumerations that, since 2004, have been projecting into the public domain the image of a cohesive community that is part and parcel of the urban habitat.
One of the biggest challenges faced by slum dwellers all over the world is in fact the stigma attached to living in an environment that is routinely depicted as an impenetrable jungle of ignorance, sloth, and self-inflicted deprivation. As Grace, a long term resident of Old Fadama, explains: “people blame us for where we live [and] think that we are criminals or beggars [just] waiting for a handout”. Yet nothing could be farther from the truth, since according to the latest enumeration a staggering 96% of Old Fadama's residents are gainfully employed as traders in the nearby Agbogbloshie market or as small business owners in the settlement itself. The power of profiling and enumerations lies thus in their ability to open up “the slum universe” to the world, to humanise the mysterious “other” and ultimately to portray slum dwellers as valuable players in the city's economy.
Secondly, profiling highlights a community’s most urgent needs in a format that can be used to leverage funds for upgrading; moreover, when the exercise is conducted at a regional scale it allows settlements to be classified according to their deprivation level. Therefore, it is hoped that the efforts being undertaken in GAMA will allow interventions to be prioritised and directed at those most in need. In Halid's concluding words: “we are very satisfied with the way our communities are driving the process and we hope that the information [we are acquiring] will give us the power to engage the assembly [into a constructive dialogue] to solve the problems that affect our residents [the most]”.
Yesterday we reported to you about evictions taking place in Marlboro Industrial Area of Johannesburg. Today we have a full write up from the South African SDI Alliance on the evictions, and the ways in which FEDUP, ISN and CORC have been fighting against this brutality.
On the 13th of August, heavy machinery rolled in on the tattered and teared Marlboro Industrial area. Charles and Tapelo, community leaders in Marlboro, had to look on as the bulldozers started tearing into Chico’s Ice Cream Factory, which was home to 109 families, or 282 people. Chico’s Ice Cream Factory is but one of 53 derelict buildings that the Marboro community, in partnership with ISN and CORC, enumerated between September and October 2011. Community members were trained to administer the questionnaire and worked closely with the CORC Johannesburg office in capturing the data into databases.
Early in August, the Alliance reported on the evictions that started on August 2nd when Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) cracked down on the settlement with no eviction order. In the early morning hours, when residents were leaving for work, the JMPD moved in on 3 occupied sites and demolished 300 dwellings. They refused to talk to the community leadership and presented no formal interdiction from the court, only offering NGO representatives a hand written statement in a note book as paperwork for such eviction. They claimed that notice was given with no supporting documentation, then went on to say they don’t need to give notice because the of the 72 hour trespassing by-law which according to legal representatives requires even more paperwork than a general eviction order. The JMPD has not communicated its mandate with the housing department and now as result over 400 residents of Marlboro are now out on the street with no alternative housing options.
Evictions have been ravaging the area since the 2nd of August, leaving many people homeless. The Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD), and more specifically, the by-laws management department, have been carrying out these illegal evictions. These are illegal, because according the laws protecting poor people from the onslaughts of local governments and/or land owners, the evicting party needs to formally obtain an eviction order, which is granted by regional courts. In these hearings, the judges consider all the aspects of the evicting party’s request, which includes whether alternatives to upgrading has been considered (such as upgrading the informal area), what the impact on vulnerable people would be (woman, children and the elderly), and what the relocation options are (such as consolidation with other informal areas, housing developments, etc). Constitutional Court cases have resulted in a number of processes that needs to be adhered too. The JMPD did not follow any of these legal routes, and have been on a rouge mission to clear the Marlboro area of all informal settlers.
Chico’s is one such a factory that is now being destroyed, and all 282 inhabitants have been displaced. Although the Alliance, through the Community Upgrading Financing Facility, have been able to secure three army-style tents to the value of R30,000, this merely serves 40 families. More tents are now forthcoming as relief donations are trickling into Marlboro area. There does not seem to be any hope that the residents of Chico’s will be sleeping in even the most elementary accommodation for the next while.
The factory used to have a very peculiar housing typology. To make more space available, the community built a sturdy 2nd level of shack above the first. These pictures illustrate the nature of settlement in one of these factories.
With the decline in industrial activity in the late 1980s, the factory owners rented out these buildings to poor families living in overcrowded conditions in neighboring townships such as Alexandra. Charles, a community leader in the area, mentioned that
the history here is actually that people started staying in these factories. They were renting because some owners advertised for rentals. So the people came in their numbers. But later on, the City actually gave some court orders that people had to vacate. We boycotted that and went back to the owners and they ran away and stayed with the City. We had a media statement that says we can not be moved from these areas unless they have an alternative. So that is how they started staying in these buildings.
Chico’s used to be an Ice Cream factory located on 4th street, where not even the brave footsoldiers of Google Streetview dared to venture (when dragging the Google Streetview icon over Marlboro area, on 5th Street is covered). But the enumeration of Chico’s, as with all other 53 factories in the Marlboro area, goes much deeper than technology can reach. The enumeration has captured a socio-economic and demographic profile of all the residents that used to live here. Although the residents have faced fires in the past, such as the 18 June 2010 fire that destroyed a large number of shacks, as reported by Africa Media Online, the community has been able to regroup and assist those who lost it all. These social ties are more than moral solidarity but display the resilience of communities to adapt and recover.
Chico’s factory is also called Building 77. These building were referenced by these numbers before the enumeration started. The enumeration data therefore has two levels: by building, and by shack number (which was numbered in the enumeration exercise). By referencing both building data and shack data, a common dataset is developed that serves as the basis for spatially tagging enumeration data. In this way, the data becomes alive. The data tells the stories of what used to be left of Chico’s Ice Cream factory.
In October 2011, CORC produced a short video documenting the impressions of Marlboro community leaders on the enumeration process. At 2:18 in the video, an interview with a young man living in Chico’s is captured. He said,
I live here in Chico’s. I have been living here for 11 years. I stay with my mother. Here in Chico’s we are very poor, if I can put it like that.
In another interview, a young man living with his girlfriend said the following when asked by Charles what his expectations are for development in the area:
Up to date, I have been living in this area. Now the problem that I am having is unavailability of jobs and better accommodation. From the information I am receiving from different people, there are promises to improve the area, but I don’t know how long it is going to take.
CORC has drafted a preliminary enumeration report on the findings. The enumeration breaks down the enumeration data of all 53 factories and categorises the findings by population statistics, migration, education levels, social grant recipients, occupation and income levels, and finally, tracks the communities’ development aspirations. On the enumeration process, Charles said
The ISN and FEDUP have introduced a programme of enumeration. So with the enumeration, we are trying to arm ourselves and say to the City, “We are the people of Marlboro. How many are we? We stay in a space of this size”. And so we will be able to talk how then the development will be. So we hope with the programme of the FEDUP and ISN we believe that something will come up. We are saving, and saying to the government, “This is what we are doing, then can you come in and join us in making the area we are living in better”.
Charle’s wishes will not realise. Chico’s have been destroyed. But the sword cuts both ways. While the positive side of community based knowledge generation through enumeration, as experience by millions of people making up the federations aligned to Shack / Slum Dwellers International (see this series of research papers), materialises citizenship when this grassroots knowledge drives development agendas, the data will now be used as a protections mechanism in the court of law. The community possess the most detailed data on the individuals and families affected in the evictions. The sword of knowledge will now be deployed to fight back on the inhumane and draconian actions of the City of Joburg.
Marlboro community is working alongside Lawyers for Human Rights and instructed them instructed to demand an end to the evictions and failing that, to proceed on an urgent basis to the High Court for relief. Said Louise du Plessis, senior attorney in LHR’s Land and Housing Unit,
This situation is shocking. The law is clear. There are countless court orders requiring a court order before an eviction can take place. This blatant disregard for what the courts have repeatedly said is especially worrying considering JMPD is tasked with upholding the law.
Who are giving these orders? Are the factory owners involved in the eviction process, or is this a rouge mission by the JMPD? These are the questions that the community with support by CORC and Lawyers for Human Rights will be uncovering.
According to eyewitness accounts, and the latest from Marlboro area in Johannesburg, the JMPD is still razing through the area and even demolishing some of the factories now. One site was completely razed to the ground today, leaving more than 300 families homeless
Cities are complex systems, comprised of elements both natural and human. Little wonder that they hold great interest to those who study biological processes of development, in addition to those who study social and political processes.
Cities are also places where ordinary people make decisions with extraordinary consequences. Sometimes it would be hard to believe this is true given the gospel of “world class cities” that serves as a model for planning decisions in cities as diverse as New York, Paris, Hong Kong, Mumbai, Nairobi, Johannesburg, Bangkok, and Rio de Janeiro. In all of these cities — and many more — the gospel of control and order covers up an altogether different kind of reality for residents. This is especially so for the poor residents of growing cities in the developing world.
One city that has received a great deal of praise over the last few years is Lagos in Nigeria, which has generally been known for anything but order and control. But Lagos state governors such as Babatunde Fashola and his predecessor Bola Tinubu have won plaudits for trying to control the growth of the city. As Fashola’s popular Yoruba slogan goes, “Eko o ni baje” (Lagos will not be spoiled). According to a slew of international newspaper reports on Fashola’s Lagos, the city has become a foreign investment attraction by clearing out informal traders, and exerting tough fines on illegal postering, littering, and loitering.
In a recent report in the Financial Times, Fashola cited a people-centred approach to city management: “It’s a big asset,” he said, referring to the population of Lagos. “[It’s] bigger than the challenge the people represent by their sheer number. People are the biggest and most dependable resource.”
It’s a story that repeats itself in various iterations across the cities of the South. In the name of progress, the poor are nothing but roadblocks to be shunted aside and overcome. Though city managers and planners are increasingly sympathetic to the language of “people-centred” approaches, “participation,” and “inclusiveness,” the inhuman march of development proceeds. Outrage and condemnation are reactions popular amongst professional activists and humanitarian observers to the Makoko evictions like many similar cases before.
But, for poor people in cities like Lagos, a more complex set of questions emerges. Where to go? Where to sleep for the night? Where to find work? How to maintain a façade of stability for children? Where to rebuild the social connections that sustain in times of extreme need? How to ensure that this doesn’t happen again?
Indeed, evictions like that ongoing in Makoko deserve our outrage and condemnation. The violence and insecurity that the urban poor experience in cities like Lagos is a direct result of developmental decision-making that sees the poor as expendable. How to reconcile claims that “people are the biggest and most dependable resource” with the reality of eviction and displacement?
Over the last three decades, we have begun to see organizational strategies of the poor that can fundamentally alter the calculations that go into the decisions that result in this kind of massive displacement. In Mumbai, pavement dwelling women have organized since the 1980s to come together, negotiate with police and city authorities, and remain in their pavement hutments. At the same time they use their bonds of solidarity to collect information about themselves through self-surveys known as enumerations, save daily, and develop plans for housing development. This allows them to negotiate with authorities to not only mitigate the threat of eviction, but also to begin changing the calculations that local authorities make about a place for the poor in a spatial development framework that is otherwise weighted greatly towards the moneyed influence of domestic and foreign investment.
Through exchanges within and between cities and countries, informal settlement dwellers around the world, who almost all face common threats of eviction and dislocation at the hands of both the state and the market, are sharing these kinds of strategies. They are strategies that move beyond a reactive approach once the decision to evict has already been made.
The complexity of cities can provide cover for a logic predicated on order and control. This decision-making framework rests on the assumption that economic growth cannot be achieved without a strong hand of the state.
But the experience of poor communities to not only fight eviction but also to develop alternatives upends this kind of naturalization of violence of the state and the market. Indeed, a substantive “people-centred” approach locates urban poor communities as generators of ideas and strategies for more effective governance, instead of positioning poor individuals and families as passive recipients of decisions made in the halls of power.
City growth may exhibit similarities to biological development. Still, the decisions that craft this development are anything but natural. Conscious organizing has developed not only louder voices for the poor, but also real impact on the way city managers and politicians make developmental decisions. As we decry the cruel, inhuman logic of growth in Lagos and many other cities, it is also time to see where to support the learning, solidarity, and profound strategic innovation that is located within the very same poor communities that find themselves under such constant threat.
By 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.
A World Bank report released this month estimates Uganda loses USD $177 million annually due to poor sanitation. According to the report, Economic Impacts of Poor Sanitation in Africa - Uganda, the majority of these costs come from the annual premature death of 23,000 Ugandans from diarrheal disease, including 19,700 children under the age of five. Nearly 90 percent of these deaths are directly attributable to poor water, sanitation, and hygiene. The study estimates 13.8 million Ugandans use unsanitary or shared latrines and 3.2 million have no latrine at all and defecate in the open.
The National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda is working to address the country’s sanitation crisis, which is experienced most severely by those living in the country’s crowded slums. Having already completed two sanitation units, one in Kisenyi – a slum in central Kampala – and one in Rubaga, a slum in Jinja, the federation is pushing to scale up its approach throughout the country. It has begun construction of a unit in Nakawa, Kampala and is about to commence construction of units in Mbale, Mbarara, and five other settlements in Jinja. The federation prioritizes settlements revealed by enumerations to be particularly underserved.
Federation-built sanitation units vary in size, depending on the amount of land the federation is able to secure through negotiations with landowners and municipal councils. Generally, however, the federation attempts to design units with at least 3 stances for males and 3 for females as well as bathing and disabled facilities. In addition to the sanitation services, a second floor is constructed for use as a community hall. This hall can be used for federation meetings, saving money on renting space, and also rented to others to generate income.
Project funds typically come from three sources: the first is community contribution. This contribution takes the form of financial capital (usually 20% of project costs in order to secure a loan) and also community labor and management. An additional contribution is sought from the municipal council in order to strengthen collective responsibility for sanitation and contribute towards the kind of institutional strengthening required to take the strategy to scale. The final contribution comes from SDI’s Urban Poor Fund International (UPFI). This money comes to the federation as a loan at an interest rate of 8%.
In order to repay the UPFI loan the community has structured their sanitation units as income generating facilities. Community members pay a small user fee – typically much lower than that charged by similar facilities – and can rent out the community hall. The fees collected are used to maintain the facility and repay the loan. The federation conservatively expects to repay a loan of $25,000 within 6 years based on use projections for the toilet and bathing facilities.
During the construction phase the federation forms a Project Management Committee (PMC) headed by a PMC chairperson and PMC treasurer. The PMC has 4 sub-committees: Procurement committee; Finance Committee; Construction Committee and a Security and Store Committee. These sub-committees are comprised of federation members, members of the local community that are not in the federation but may be central to the project – such as the landowner or market chairperson – and local authorities. The PMC receives training from other federation members in the SDI network and where necessary outside experts. A recent training held in Uganda, for instance, was conducted by the World Bank for the purpose of exposing the federation to procurement standards in the hope that the federation will be better equipped to participate in future large scale Bank projects.
Once construction is complete, the PMC changes. The project operations PMC is comprised of 2 caretakers to maintain the facilities to a high hygienic standard, 2 collectors responsible for day-to-day collection and banking of user fees, and federation Health and Hygiene representatives, a treasurer and project chairperson. All projects within the federation are overseen by regional leadership and the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda’s National Executive Committee (NEC).
As the projects grow, so too will the number of Ugandans with access to adequate sanitation. The federation will continue to strengthen partnerships with outside actors and streamline its internal processes to make its approach more efficient and more scaleable. This is how the federation is working to reduce the incidence of premature death, preventable disease, and the wasted precious resources outlined in the Bank’s report.
Many development narratives provide theoretical analysis and debate based on community orientated social movements. While such analysis is interesting as an academic and theoretical exercise it often overlooks the practicalities of day-to-day processes and the resultant infrastructure developments in favour of a more abstracted reading.
How exactly do communities manage infrastructure projects? How do they secure land and finance, procure affordable building materials, organize construction, secure assistance from the state, plan for long-term sustainability and negotiate the daily challenges of project management. Make no mistake; communities are more than capable of building their own infrastructure, especially if this process is “nested” within a mobilized and organised social movement.
Over the coming weeks I will provide examples of SDI federation members describing the trials and achievements of managing their own infrastructure projects. These snippets are intended to provide insight into the practicalities of the process illustrating examples and experiences that resonate across the SDI network. We begin with the case of Kambi-Moto in Kenya, described by federation member Joseph Muturi.
I will just share some experiences from Kenya. We have several projects but the biggest project which we have is Kambi-Moto (Camp of Fire) community of about 270 families. After many years of negotiating we got a piece of a land from the city council and an MoU showing that the land is a special planning area. They gave us free land and we came up with unique designs and they have not been done anywhere in Kenya before. We got some money from our savings and from some donors (UPFI). We do not get any money from the government. We do not enjoy the kind of support from the government you get in Uganda – so we have to negotiate everything ourselves. Our NGO subsidized and gave us the technical people - then everyone had to dream and draw the kind of house they wanted (women, men, children). The architects and professionals take these drawings and take into account affordability, if possible…
We came up with the design - ground +1. We go up to save space and we share walls. As a federation our responsibility was to figure out how we are going to manage the site. We have a community Procurement Manual - how do we go about the business of procuring materials so what we did was to look at what we need for the next few weeks. They sit down and work it out - we send community people and we get quotations from different suppliers of materials, then we sit down and look at who is offering the best deal and will deliver on time. The procurement team and the construction team ensure the quality of the materials (quantity and standards). Sometimes people were bringing their friends and delivering less material…. We try to make things transparent and easy to manage.
For us we do not withdraw all the money. The executive draws money and gives it to the construction team and they pass this on to the procurement team. We need to sit down with the professionals who tell us for the next few weeks what we need and what we have to do. They can guide us and give us good advice.
The project management committee is at the regional level [in Uganda] - in Kenya it is at the local level. It comprises the beneficiaries of the houses - the only external people are the engineers, architects and other external people. They sit down and discuss things and the way forward every few weeks - the project team is at the site and its people who are locally available. The other advantage of having a local team on site is that we do not have outsiders to blame for our mess - we only have each other to blame. The construction team does weekly revue meetings - how far has the project progressed and how long it will take. The construction teams have a list of all the beneficiaries - they have to work themselves or pay someone to work for them. This process is taking a long time so now we are getting some subsidy contractors from within the community.
The more you expand and grow the more the challenges will grow-we will learn as we go along. This is just a basic framework of how we procure. Executive-finances, Construction-building and the Procurement team that is completely separate and buys the materials. We have community procurement manual - basic steps to go through and how we should go through the business of procuring.
Dzivareasekwa Extension (DZ Ext.), located 18km west of Harare, Zimbabwe, was established by the government in 1993. Originally, over 2,000 families resided here. Today, DZ Ext. is home to 450 families living in semi-permanent structures built from materials including brick and mortar, wood, polythene and sheet metal. Communal toilets service sanitation needs, and water is provided from 3 boreholes located throughout the settlement. DZ Ext. is located on state-owned land allocated to the Zimbabwe Homeless People's Federation in 2007 by the Ministry of Local Government Rural and Urban Development.
In January 2012, an architecht from SDI, Greg Bachmayer, worked with the Zimbabwe Federation and support NGO Dialogue on Shelter (DOS) on a slum upgrading project in DZ Ext. This was an opportunity to develop new affordable housing models that could sustainably increase the density and the status-quo. The attached report provides insight into the techincal and social processes involved in such a project, as well as a vision of the road that lies ahead for the project's completion.
By National Executive Council (NEC), National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU)
The following letter was submitted as an OpEd to the Daily Monitor in Uganda following a tragic shooting during an eviction by the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) in Kampala in January 2012.
Many opinion pieces in this newspaper have, rightfully, condemned the violence that accompanied the recent eviction by KCCA of kiosks in Port Bell. They have lamented the dysfunctional legal system that allowed Agaba to be released on bond; the trigger-happy security operative; and KCCA’s heavy-handed approach when it comes to dealing with the deprived.
Like the rest of you, we watched in horror the sickening footage of the Port Bell eviction and shuddered at every gunshot. For too many years we have witnessed brutality in the name of development as community members in places such as Loco, Kisenyi, and Nakawa have been not only stripped of their homes and livelihoods, but also in some tragic instances their lives.
Despite wishing to add our voice to those condemning the operation we also wish to take the discussion a step forward by suggesting a way to ensure such events do not occur again.
As the governing body of a national urban poor organization – the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda – which is linked to over 30 such federations around the world, we can categorically state: there is another way.
We fully accept that sometimes evictions are necessary. Sometimes they are necessary to protect residents from hazards, sometimes in the name of infrastructural development, and sometimes to protect the environment. Throughout the Slum Dwellers International (SDI) network to which we belong, community-based organizations of the urban poor have been involved in this process to ensure that those affected understand the process, that resettlement options are presented, and that, where appropriate, adequate compensation is granted.
In Kenya, our affiliate is working with the government to relocate over 10,000 families from along the country’s railways; our Indian affiliate is assisting the government with the resettlement of 25,000 pavement dwellers and has already helped resettle about 14,000 families from along their railways; in Tanzania our affiliate federation has assisted the relocation of tenants from the land upon which Dar es Salaam’s port is being expanded; and in Ghana our affiliate federation is working with the Accra Municipal Authority to resettle around 3,000 residents from vulnerable wetlands.
How do they do this? The federations use tried and tested tools such as enumeration, mapping, and negotiation. Enumerations are like community run censuses, in which communities move door-to-door and collect information about families in the area. When officials and professionals attempt to extract such information they are often met with fierce resistance from fearful residents, but when local organized urban poor groups manage the process they are able to move much more freely.
Enumerations are often followed by community mapping, which is conducted in order to spatially represent the information collected. These maps are often vital for planning purposes and community involvement has proven successful in ensuring local residents appreciate the need for the proposed development and resettlement options. With their data in hand, communities can furnish local authorities with accurate and up-to-date information so that planning is more responsive to on the ground realities. To the negotiating table they also bring financial resources, mobilized through the daily savings of thousands of members.
The negotiation that follows is one based on mutual respect: respect for the need to plan our cities and an equal amount of respect for the residents of those cities who – often through no fault of their own – live at odds with long neglected or recently adopted urban development plans.
As the KCCA works to turn Kampala into a planned city, let it work with organized communities of the urban poor. Perhaps the process will move slightly slower than an early morning bulldozer raid, but it will legitimize the development agenda and prevent the loss of more innocent lives.
For more information on the National Slum Dweller Federation of Uganda, visit their website www.nsdfu.org.
Muungano wa Wanavijiji, the Kenyan slum dweller federation, expresses its grave concern on the ongoing evictions and threatened forced evictions taking place in Nairobi’s informal settlements. The latest settlement to be demolished is Mukuru Kwa Njenga’s Wape Wape village where three people lost their lives as they scampered to safety.
The federation is aware that there are plans to demolish houses located near power lines in a number of our communities, particularly along the Mukuru belt and other areas. This comes at a time when Kiang’ombe and Mitumba settlements were demolished by the Kenya Airports Authority due to their location under JKIA flight path. It is my view that there are more humane ways of addressing slum issues, but forced evictions have never made that cut.
A good example are the negotiations that have taken place between the communities living along the Mukuru-Kibera railway line and the Kenya Railways, who sat at a round table to discuss on the modalities of a Railway Relocation Action Plan. This lead to thousands of people reaching consensus that, "indeed we are living on the railway line and other than living on a public land we shall agree to relocate.”
These threatened demolitions have caused widespread panic, fear and confusion in our urban poor communities. Of immediate concern to us is the likelihood that tens of thousands of people will be rendered homeless and left no alternative areas to call home. In addition, we are concerned that the evictions will provoke physical conflict and violence.
Slum dwellers across settlements and villages have made it an agenda to always scuffle over who occupies the limited space that is available after demolitions. There are instances where structure owners resist evictions, which inevitably would result into violence.
Moreover, we are very concerned that the government is undertaking these forced evictions without regard for the law or established human rights norms. In most scenarios there has been no official notices served to the potentially affected parties that their structures will be demolished. General statements made in newspapers do not constitute adequate and reasonable notice as required by law.
In addition, we have found that government and private investors have in most instances failed to consult with or inform communities about the parameters of the evictions. This is the reason why Muungano Wa Wanavijiji, is pushing for the enactment of the eviction guidelines, which will ensure that the urban poor are treated with respect. As it stands, people do not know when and if they are going to be evicted.
And most notably, the government has not provided the people living in the slums any compensation for resettlement or alternative housing, which Is a basic minimum requirements of the government when it undertakes forced evictions. This applies even when the evictions are justified or somehow necessary.
It is a fundamental human rights principle that any process to evict people must follow a peaceful and lawful process that protects the rights and dignity of the poeple. Development of any kind cannot take precedence over the human rights of the poor.
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
Most native English speakers will recognize the word “fundi” as describing someone who is an expert within a specific field. During a recent SDI visit to Tanzania I was surprised to learn that the word originates from Swahili and its popular usage denotes anyone who has detailed knowledge and experience relating to a specific trade. For example computer, TV and cell phone fundi’s are experts in selling and maintaining their respective products. The knowledge and expertise that “fundis” possess can be acquired through informal channels and transferred to others through apprenticeships. The word resonates with the way that SDI rituals empower community members with the knowledge and skills to implement, manage and sustain their own practical interventions and how this knowledge can be transferred throughout the SDI network.
In Tanzania, federation members have, in the local vernacular, become toilet fundi’s. They have built, managed and maintained toilets in informal settlements such as Keko Machungwa in Dar es Salaam. Through the rituals of daily savings women have been able to access finance and toilets serving several families have been built. Technologies appropriate to the conditions of the settlement were selected and both men and women from the federation assisted in the toilets construction. Asha Muhidini, a federation member, explains “ Before our toilets were flooding, this meant that we had many problems with disease and there were often outbreaks in the settlement. Now this has been reduced. Many federation members are now toilet construction fundis and these are mostly women.” To date 9 toilets for federation members and 6 private toilets have been built in Keko Machungwa.
Federation built toilet
A community toilet block, managed by federation members has also been constructed at the market. A federation member informed me “The toilet at the market is benefiting everyone who does not have a toilet like visitors, stall owners and residents. We have learnt to keep the toilets clean, the mixing of disinfectants and we have learnt to manage the finances. A toilet attendant has a book where he records all the transactions.” The public toilet not only meets the sanitation needs of the community but also generates income for the federation members that manage it.
Public Toilet block next to the local market
Not only have the federation worked to improve sanitation within Keko Machungwa but also, with the assistance of the Centre for Community Initiatives (CCI), water boreholes have been drilled and water kiosks established. Buckets of water are sold to community members at each kiosk. The system is managed by a water committee and maintained by the community. A number of kiosks are dotted across the area. The community has also formed a solid waste collection team that not only keeps the streets clean but also collects garbage from houses on a weekly basis charging a small fee for the service. The refuse is then transported to a central point where it is collected by the local municipality. Toilet construction and management, water kiosks and solid waste management exemplify the transformative ability of a community-led process that gains traction precisely because it is anchored within a local socio-economic context and not externally determined.
Without formal training or much assistance from the government the residents of Keko Machungwa have begun to manage their own water, sanitation and environment. Using the solidarity created by daily savings federation members have begun to organize and improve their own communities. In doing so they have accumulated practical knowledge and expertise in building, maintaining and managing basic services. Creating the conditions in which this type of community based knowledge and experience can emerge is critical for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it practically demonstrates that communities are more than capable of managing their own development projects. Secondly, it builds community solidarity around tangible results that improve the entire community. Thirdly, it takes place in context. Nobody understands the unique contexts, politics, history and socio-economic challenges of an area like those living there. Projects that overlook these facets of community development have the potential to fail. Fourthly, since work is contextualized and practitioners are community members deliverables can be replicated in similar conditions in the city, especially since SDI comprises of a network of the urban poor who continuously meet and exchange ideas. The sharing of ideas, methods, successes and failures in a supportive environment comprising of people who face similar challenges negates deterministic top down relationships. Projects then have the potential of going to scale across informal settlements and the city.
The onus is on local authorities and national government to create the conditions in which community-led development can gain traction and go to scale. Evicting the poor from the city is never the answer. The Tanzanian example illustrates the amazing capacity of the urban poor to manage and develop their own communities with the little resources that they have. By creating pro-poor urban planning regulations, subsidizing centrally located land for the poor, providing basic amenities, regulating the formal market to cross-subsidize for the poorest of the poor, favoring incremental in-situ upgrading over eviction and advocating projects that are creative and people-centered, the role of the state is integral in achieving inclusive cities. SDI federations work to leverage these and other resources from the state, challenging the policies and mindsets that create conditions that exclude the urban poor from the benefits of the city.
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.
“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.
It is nearing the end of my stay in Mumbai, and I know I am going to miss this city as soon as I board the plane. I have spent the past week getting to know her streets and her people, and it is an experience I will certainly not forget. Mumbai is the kind of city that stays with you – the fragrance of the food, the colors of the sky at dusk, the buzz of people and traffic in the streets. Like other great cities of the world, its rhythm is invigorating and awe-inspiring – the vibrancy and speed of everyday life, set against the beautiful backdrop of history.
Over the past few days, I had the opportunity to revisit Dharavi: to walk the streets and narrow alleyways of the potters’ village and the recycling areas of the vast informal city-within-a-city, the world’s most well known slum.
We make our way from Bombay Central to Dharavi by train. It is past rush hour, so the great crowds I have heard so much about have subsided. The train is cool and quiet as it rumbles along the Central Line, and it is not long before we arrive at Sion station, the entrance to Dharavi. Actually, there is more than one train stop in Dharavi, making it very easy to access from almost anywhere across Mumbai. This, along with its central location, is one of the main factors contributing to increased interest in Dharavi as a site for private re-development. But re-development plans have not taken into account Dharavi’s place as a commercial hub in Mumbai’s informal and formal economies. They have not accounted for the outdoor kilns in the potters’ village, or the vast workshops where all means of recycling take place. Nor have they accounted for the long tradition of food production, leather shops, and textile mills. For now, plans are at a standstill. But there is a long road ahead if the vibrant economy of this bustling town is to be preserved.
We start off in the potters’ village. Here, thousands of local people work with hundreds of pounds of clay every day, stamping, pounding, molding and spinning it into beautiful pots, urns, serving dishes, candle holders for Diwali and statues of the Indian god Ganesh. Orders come in from all over Mumbai. Pottery is sold to housewives and retailers. We walk for half an hour, past shops and workshops, each one with a home overhead. Men sit inside, spinning handmade pots on wheels. A woman is polishing water pots outside her home, rubbing wet clay onto just-fired pots to smooth over imperfections. There are hundreds of the same pots lined up a few feet away. I ask her how much these sell for. Sharmila, one of the women working at the Indian support NGO, SPARC, translates for me. “About 100 or 120 rupees,” she says. This is equivalent to about US $2. This isn’t much, of course. But it is US $2 more than nothing, and when you multiply it by the 50 or 100 pots beside her, it’s a significant income. Multiply that by the many other workshops around her, and it becomes clear that Dharavi is more than a small piece of Mumbai’s vibrant economy.
From here, Sharmila takes me to another area of winding streets, this time lined with one recycling workshop after another. I have heard about Dharavi’s recycling industry, but again it is something else to see it up close and personal. Each workshop is busy with men and women sorting through, cleaning and producing every type of plastic imaginable. Women sit outside in the alleyways sorting through plastic cutlery and take-away boxes, as men work away inside on melting and shredding them to be reused across India and beyond. Dharavi is home to the largest plastic recycling industry in India. If the proposed redevelopment took place, where would this industry move to? How could it not be accounted for? How could it be seen as anything less than integral to the very heart of the city’s economy?
The next day I visit the Mahila Milan-NSDF office in Byculla. This was the neighborhood where SPARC first began its work back in the 1980s, when they made links with the community of pavement-dwellers who had their homes along these streets. Today, the streets are still lined with homes and shops, people milling about, living and working in the heart of central Mumbai, just blocks away from Bombay Central train station. Again, I am struck by the presence of the informal right alongside the formal city. Not even alongside it, but smack in the middle of it. Part of it. Contributing to it. We spend some time speaking with the women of Mahila Milan living here. They have been members of MM for over twenty years. They have negotiated with local government for toilets, for water taps, for electricity. Now each home is hooked up to the electrical grid, they have access to community toilets, and many people have water taps inside their homes. And they have prevented demolitions, prevented the threat of middle-of-the-night bulldozers and unannounced evictions.
The women know they will not be able to stay in Byculla forever, but in many ways it is better than moving out to Mankhurd, further away from jobs and schools. They made their homes here on purpose, and although they know they will have to leave eventually, it becomes clear yet again that a home is so much than a formal house. It is a community, a sense of security, access to the services and opportunities that bring rich and poor alike to the cities of the world. Why then should the right to enjoy these be a privilege only afforded to the rich? In Mumbai, the poor have claimed their space in the city – their right to it. Now the question is how they will hold onto that, and how the rest of us will support them.
For more photos from Ariana's trip to Mumbai, visit our Facebook page.
We left the city in an early morning haze of pollution and sunrise, making our way through flat green valleys and into Western Ghat mountains. We are on our way to the smaller city of Pune about three hours north of Mumbai. With a population of roughly 3 million, Pune is the second biggest city in Maharashtra state after Mumbai (population ±16 million).
Mahila Milan (MM) has had a presence in Pune for years. Savita Sonawane, one of the longest-standing members of MM in Pune, first met the women from Mumbai when she was only 22 years old. That was nearly twenty years ago. Today we meet Savita in MM's Pune office, located above a community toilet project constructed and managed by MM. She is sitting alongside her daughter and her two baby grandchildren. Savita has made lifelong friendships with the other women of Mahila Milan, and with Celine d'Cruz, a colleague of mine at SDI who has spent thirty years working with the women of Mahila Milan in Mumbai and Pune. Celine and Savita sit cross-legged beside each other, laughing as Savita's granddaughter, little Arya, writes out the alphabet and pours us imaginary tea. These connections, these friendships, make up the foundation for Mahila Milan's strength, their ability to persevere, their determination and courage.
Alongside a group of local leaders, Savita manages projects ranging from housing construction, slum upgrading, and government sponsored resettlements. Starting with management of daily savings, the MM women learned the necessary skills for management and coordination of human as well as financial resources.
The first project we visit is at Yerwada, a settlement near Pune city centre where Mahila Milan has facilitated a very impressive slum upgrading project. Old tin shacks have been torn down and replaced with one, two and three story single and multiple family homes in the style of townhouses and small apartment blocks. The most fascinating thing about this project is the use of space. Most of the homes' footprints are no bigger than 250 square feet, but adding the second floor nearly doubles this space, giving the family a significant increase in their amount of living space and allowing for space for extended family to live comfortably together. One woman's home is a narrow triangle of only 170 square feet. The second story nearly doubles this, and MM has ensured that she she has permission to build a third story once she can afford it.
In addition to reconstructing the homes, MM worked hard to to realign the structures in order to widen pathways and make space for municipal water, sewerage and electricity connections. The pathways, widened from crevices to lovely pathways, are lit by street lamps. Each home has been designed in partnership with the family, so no two are alike, and construction overseen by the women of MM. They are painted bright colors, and front doors hung with bright flowers. It is clear that this is a community. Not a slum. Not an informal settlement. It is a neighborhood, with families living and working, improving their homes and kids walking home from school.
Next we travel a bit further out of Pune to a settlement called Shanti Nagar, where the second phase of slum upgrading is taking place. Being further from the city, this settlement is far less dense than Yerwada, making roads and pathways wider and the footprints of houses larger. They have recently started demolition of homes here, so much of the settlement is still under construction. Of course, convincing people to demolish their homes and live in rental housing for six months can be a challenging task, and MM must take each family's situation into consideration. Some people are not ready to make this kind of commitment. Children are in the midst of exams, or they do not have the money to pay rent while their house is reconstructed. These are things that would hardly be taken into consideration if the government, or even an external NGO, was heading up the process. But with MM working on the ground within their own communities, there is sensitivity to these realities.
On our way out of Pune we visit a resettlement project that is still under construction. The government has requested that MM assist in relocating just over 1,000 families to these new buildings to make way for various public works projects. Mahila Milan has agreed, but it is going to be a challenging task. They have not been involved in the design phase of this development, and the blocks of flats are looming structures, towering high into the sky and far from the city centre. Perhaps the one saving grace are the middle-class developments sprouting up on either side. Jobs as domestic workers and drivers for these middle-income families might serve as incentive for families to relocate here, as they will be next door to (some) economic activity. But still, for many this will be a hard move. The buildings lack character. The footprints are small, there is little cross-ventilation, and the location is not great. But Savita says they will come. They have to. And once here they will form housing societies, start daily savings, become an organized community with a voice, and they will be heard.
The air in Accra is humid and full of dust. After spending days inside heavily air-conditioned conference centers and nearby hotels, you start to forget the realities of city life. Luckily, I got a reminder.
I spent my last day in Accra in the centrally located settlement of Old Fadama. Old Fadama is an informal settlement occupying 31.3 hectares of land along the Odaw River and Korle Lagoon in central Accra. Established in 1981, its population of roughly 80,000 inhabitants is made up of traders and migrants from across Ghana as well as other neighboring West African countries.
The community has resisted threats of eviction for nearly a decade through use of tools such as enumerations, mapping and lengthy negotiations with the Accra Municipal Authority (AMA). Most recently, the Ghana Federation of the Urban Poor (GHAFUP) and the Old Fadama Development Association (OFADA) have been in negotiation with the AMA around the clearing of structures from land around the Korle Lagoon in preparation for a large-scale de-silting project, funded by the Netherlands Government. Korle Lagoon has experienced decades of pollution serving as the main runoff for the entire city of Accra and its shores as dumping ground for much the city’s solid waste.
Initially, the AMA requested that 100 feet of land be cleared to make way for the project. GHAFUP and OFADA members estimated that clearance of 100 feet would mean demolition of nearly 3,000 structures and eviction for roughly 7,000 inhabitants. They quickly entered into negotiations, proposing that the amount of land be reduced to 50 feet. Immediately, the community went to work enumerating the 50-foot area. Reducing the amount of cleared land to 50 feet meant a reduction to 1,192 residential and commercial structures and 3,000 people. Still not ideal, but certainly a marked difference.
Armed with their enumeration data, GHAFUP and OFADA met with city authorities at the AMA and succeded in negotiating for their proposed 50-foot area instead of original 100 feet, reducing the number of people affected significantly.
The next step was a community led demolition and realignment of structures on right of access identified and negotiated jointly between the residents and the City Authorities. Members of GHAFUP and OFADA led this process, first meeting with community members to explain the demolition and relocation process.
Getting the wider community on board has been key to the success of the process. I spoke with a woman whose structure is waiting to be demolished. She has been a member of GHAFUP since 2008. However, she says she doesn't know where she will go when her structure is demolished – that she will simply have to find a piece of vacant land and erect her structure there. Sadly, this means she will likely have to live on the edges of Old Fadama, where the dirt paths are riddled with rubbish and the harmattan hits harder against the shack walls.
Despite these inevitable hardships characteristic of any relocation, resettlement of displaced peoples to other locations within Old Fadama is a success story in and of itself. Most tales of relocation involve displacement to many kilometers outside of the city, far from social ties, employment, and opportunity. Thanks to the successful negotiations of GHAFUP, OFADA and People’s Dialogue Ghana, this is not the case in Old Fadama.
In our discussions with GHAFUP and OFADA, it became clear that a waste management plan will be crucial to the success of the imminent de-silting project in order to prevent continued pollution of the lagoon. This is a key time for GHAFUP, OFADA and People’s Dialogue to put their negotiation skills to use. Waste remains a major issue in greater Accra, and the creation of a community-led waste management program for Old Fadama could serve as a key tool for income generation, community upgrading and negotiation with local authorities around the community’s capacity to engage in the upgrading process.
Farouk Braimah, director of the Ghanaian support NGO People’s Dialogue, stresses, “This whole exercise promises huge benefits and leverages. We anticipate capitalizing on this exercise to strengthen our hitherto weak relationship with the city authorities of Accra and to feed into [other projects] in Accra and Ashaiman.”
Bearing witness to the reality and determination of this community, alongside some of its key leaders, was certainly an experience no conference could compete with.
For more photographs of Old Fadama, check out SDI's albums on Flickr and Facebook.
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 Republic of Kenya, precisely the county of Nairobi, has for the past 48years had a crisis of inequality (unequal distribution of resources). Over time this has led to gross poverty levels in country. Overcrowding has become a norm in most urban settlements with 65 per cent of the total Nairobi populace living on less than 1 per cent of the land mass.
These conditions have resulted in constant threat of demolitions, violent evictions, fires, floods and insecurity of the slum settlements by powerful forces within Government and the private sector.
In breaking this generational cycle, Jubilee (Leviticus 25:8-13) is designed and choreographed to lift from the hearts, the terrible burden of lifelong poverty, bondage, doom and hopelessness whose ultimatum is death.
The British colonialists’ involvement in Kenya began in the 19th Century; this facilitated discriminatory self – allocation of large tracts of land to white settlers immediately after the 2ndWorld War.
This necessitated increased resistance by the Mau Mau to Colonial rule, Oppression and Exclusion in the 1950s led to eventual independence on 12th December 1963. Many Kenyans of Asian origin left for Britain in the wake of the Africanization Policy, however, the Colonial Land Distribution Systems remained in force, and thus the influx of Kenyans moving to Nairobi in search of jobs increased the number of squatters moving into Nairobi’s informal settlements.
Kenyan citizens were left with the “left- over”, they were forced to occupy fragile land zones, steep slopes, river valleys, railway reserves and the available riparian.
Fast forward to the year between 1964-2011, overwhelming evidence suggests that land allocation procedures are routinely by-passed to benefit a small group of powerful individuals, who were and are cabinet ministers in government, senior civil servants, politicians and well-connected businessmen.
Slums in Nairobi can be categorised into two; squatter settlements and those that arise out of illegal sub-divisions of either government or private land. In the country, 60-80 percent of the urban population lives in slums that are characterized by lack of access to water and sanitation, insecure tenure, lack of adequate housing, poor environmental conditions, and high crime rates (UN Habitat, 2008)”.
Rapid growth of informal slum settlements in the city of Nairobi has been mainly due to increasing income inequalities and urban poverty, increasing rates of rural urban migration, inefficient land delivery systems, high costs of urban living and poor investment in low income housing, among other factors.
We have witnessed heavy investments in Nairobi’s vibrant housing market by banks, Real estate developers and other multinational companies, not only excludes the urban poor in acquiring housing units, with less than 2 per cent of funds in financing their housing needs. It also seeks to snatch from them the spaces they occupy, with most stakeholders eyeing the Mukuru Belt, which sits on 2,000 acres of Prime Private Land and has a populace of over 500,000. Evictions are daily orchestrated threats, as developers seek to put up housing structures on this prime land.
The major slums in Nairobi are Kibera, Mathare, Korogocho and Mukuru which comprise of many villages within them, with other over 160 smaller slums which are spread in different areas of the City.
In addition to this divisive politics along tribal lines and bribing slum dwellers just in time for the elections, all in aim of getting votes(vote banking),this then tends answer the old age question , why the poor remain poor and vulnerable and the rich become richer. The gap becomes wide every single day.
‘Jubilee’ literally signifies “True Liberty – Uhuru wa Kweli”. According to Leviticus 25:8-13, it is to take place in the 50th year after 7 cycles of 7 years each. The golden Jubilee is an announcement of Freedom, Restitution of Land and Property, preclusion of inequalities created by the extremes of riches and poverty in Kenya.
This campaign hopes to turn millions of squatters into secure, confident and dignified home owners. It gives Kenya a Holy Window of Opportunity, a kairos moment, “a passing instant when an opening appears which must be driven with force, if success is to be achieved.”
As Kenya prepares to mark her 49th anniversary as an Independent State, The Kenyan Jubilee goal is to ensure that by this timeline, security of tenure and comprehensive slum upgrading commitments are guaranteed for all slum dwellers across the country.
Quotes of the Jubilee Ambassadors
Mzee Mwangi Mbaru, 92 years, a squatter for the last 5 decades
“I last owned a piece of land in Runda in 1952, it was during the same year that the Colonialists declared a state of Emergency and within a blink of an eye, I had lost my piece of land and my home. Ever since, I have remained a squatter in my own country. Am 92 years, I still do not have a place to call home for I am staying with My eldest son, Peter Waweru on less than an eighth acre piece of land . I understand that the Government should provide low cost housing for its people, but since independence this has not materialized ….this is a really painful ordeal that the homeless people like I have to deal with.
I hope in the spirit of the Kenyan Jubilee, (as Kenya waits to celebrate its 50th Anniversary in 2013 as an independent state), let forgiveness, cancellation of bad debt owed to the rich by the poor and most importantly the release of land to the poor in society be a priority on the Governments’ agenda.”
Peter Waweru, 68 years Mzee Mbaru’s eldest Son, also a squatter in Kahawa West
“My father brought up my siblings and I in the slums. Slum life is all that I have ever known. It is unfortunate scenarios that after independence freedom fighters like my dad were neglected. Am really sorry for myself that I too had to bring up my children in such circumstances, but am still hopeful that things will become better as the Jubilee campaign gears itself to address issues of past injustices that the poor and weak in society have had to undergo for the last 50 years. Let’s ask ourselves this important question,
Where did we go wrong as a nation?”
Gitema Mwangi, 47 years, Mzee Mwangi’s Last born son, also a squatter
“The Government is the custodian of the Constitution and is supposed to protect its citizens from any form of abuse of their rights. Parliament should also play its fundamental role of keeping the Government in check, I really take offense when the same Government would just bulldoze into the slums and demolish homes belonging to the poor, in the slums without caring where they would move to. Evictions are not a long-term solution to eradicate slums. Recently residents of Kiang’ombe and Massai villages were forcefully evicted by Kenya Airports Authority living thousands of families out in the cold…what did some families do? They picked up their pieces walked across Mombasa road into Mukuru and are now putting up new structures! Hasn’t the government made this situation even more complicated? Let the authorities’ dialogue with the urban poor and offer them alternative areas for them to relocate if the lands in question are public/private. “
Terresia Njeri, 23 years, Peter Waweru’s daughter and Mzee Mwangi’s grand daughter
“Kenya will go down the annals of history as one of the countries in with no proper policy framework that would guide in the provision of low cost housing for its citizens. It is heart wrenching to accept the fact that my grandfather has been a squatter all his life having brought my dad, uncles and aunties in the slums. The next unfortunate episode of my life is being brought up in the slums too. It’s time the Government take action to provide land and housing to its people, this is indeed a time bomb if necessary action is not taken to remedy the situation.”
Francis Chege, 22 years , Mzee Mwangi’s grandson
“We are living in a digitized world where technology has taken centre stage. It is unfortunate that the Kenyan youth have no access to this kind of basic infrastructure. The Government needs to empower its youthful constituency so that they are able to emerge from the cycles and shackles of poverty. Past injustices especially when it comes to issues of land. I support the Kenyan Jubilee campaign for it is the voice of the voiceless.”
By Walter Fieuw, CORC, and Vernon Bowers, Stellenbosch Municipality
The creation of a new Urban Poor Fund was the highlight of the event: The community contributed R12,000 in savings
The enduring nature and extent of homelessness and landlessness in post-apartheid South Africa has compelled new approaches to housing the urban poor. Informal settlement upgrading – an incremental approach to securing tenure and improving basic service delivery – has gained recognition at local and national levels. The central participation of shack dwellers in the planning and implementation of settlement upgrading is integral to the creation of sustainable human settlements and inclusive cities. The anticipation for ‘deepening democracy’ through governance reform and extensive participation is arguably precursory to the prospects of ameliorating the depressing living conditions of slum dwellers. There has possibly never been a greater need for establishing effective partnerships between civil society and the state capable to navigate the turmoil currents of the urban crisis.
The South African SDI Alliance and Stellenbosch Municipality signed an important Memorandum of Understanding
At a spirited event on 12th November in the informal settlement of Langrug on the outskirts of Franschhoek, the Executive Mayor, H.E. Mr. Conrad Sidego, said: “The benefits of this partnership are far-reaching and should be viewed as a paradigm shift in municipal governance.” This historical event was centred on the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the South African Alliance aligned to SDI and the Stellenbosch Municipality. The establishment of an Urban Poor Fund servicing informal settlements in the borders of the Stellenbosch Municipality concretised this pledge of partnership and renewal to “municipal governance”. Delegates from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Swedish International Development Agency, the Governments of Norway and Uganda, and representatives from poor people’s federations in India, Namibia and Malawi were present. The Urban Poor Fund was financed by contributions by the Alliance and the municipality to the value of R3.5 million. Perhaps most significantly, R12,000 of hard-earned savings by the poor of the Stellenbosch region were also pledged.
In the first financial year, in addition to the capital and operational expenditure of community-initiated projects, the Fund will aim to “build an urban poor platform through a network of informal settlements and informal backyarders” by surveying, mapping and profiling settlements with the view of up-scaling upgrading across the municipality. Provisions are also made to invest in the social institutions of the poor in order to manage the partnership projects (e.g. setting up mini offices in five strategic clusters). Tiers of government and other interested parties to participate, especially role players in urban development, will also be engaged with the view of researching and designing “financial facility that incentivises community participation in informal settlement upgrading”.
Jockin Arputham, the president of SDI and of the National Slum Dwellers Federation of India, addressed the residents of informal settlements across the municipality: “If everyone depends on the waiting list, it might be 25 – 40 years. And then you won’t even get water or a toilet. I think that the Municipality of Stellenbosch has taken a lead, and they have come forward with a very, very big blessing that where ever you live, that is your land of ownership. If you have your land, you can improve your housing and living condition, which is designed by you. It is our pleasure to set up the urban development community fund where people will have access to the money and the work has to be done by you, the way you want it. Your frustration list is the waiting list.”
The Mayor added: “Today is about changing mindsets in providing housing … Just days ago we contemplated that we now have seven billion people on the planet and the challenges going with that … For us as the local government, we also need to understand and face the reality of what we need to do. If we continue with our old thinking, there is no way that we are going to change this.”
International delegates from SDI were present to support the new partnership with Stellenbosch Municipality
These are the words that epitomize the approach the Western Cape Backyarders Network (WCBN) has towards solving the problems that exist within backyarder communities in Cape Town. But how do you build momentum in a community that has had a history of fragmented approaches to solving its numerous problems? The answer for Manenberg has been both simple in its execution and complex in the processes followed to get to where it is today. Various community organisations at work in Manenberg met recently at the People’s Centre at a gathering organized by the WCBN in conjunction with the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) to review the work being done to improve the lives of backyarders in the area.
Organizing the Community
Patsy Daniels, chairperson of the Manenberg Development Coordinating Structure (MDCS) explained the history of community organization within Manenberg. She described how organisations within Manenberg have been competing for funds, resources and exposure, which has seen a very disjointed approach to solving the area’s problems. The role of the MDCS was to provide a coordinated structure for organisations to work together and has provided the platform for the WCBN to start making a real impact on the lives of the backyard dwellers of Manenberg.
Melanie Manuel of the WCBN highlighted the plight of people living in backyard shacks across Cape Town and brought into sharp contrast the unique set of problems faced by slum dwellers who are effectively hidden from the public eye. She explained that with the help of the Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC) and its links to Slum Dwellers International (SDI), the rituals of enumeration and savings were being utilized to begin an upgrading initiative with Manenberg backyarders as well as some of the most overcrowded rental stock houses in the area. The plan of action did not end here, however, and the approach being followed by the organisations tasked with looking after the housing sector in Manenberg included a multi-facetted method, which would seek to draw in various other sections of the community.
Yulene Waldeck, a member of the WCBN and Manenberg Community Management Services (COMS), then took the gathering through the proposals for a multi-purpose centre, which would be located on a vacant piece of land. The centre would provide accommodation for the elderly, drug abuse counseling facilities as well as skills training and support to young mothers who often lived in overcrowded conditions and had no place to go when facing the pressures of motherhood. In addition, the centre would serve as offices for the organisations working with backyard dwellers and give the community a first port of call in addressing the complex issues around backyard living and informality.
Savings and Enumerations
Savings served as the entry point for the work of the Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) in Manenberg. Naeema Swartz of the Manenberg Slum Dwellers explained that even in a community like Manenberg where people are very poor, the need to save is very important. She emphasized that the discipline of savings was key to help many backyard dwellers in the area upgrade and improve their current living conditions. The principle here was to develop the ethos of self-reliance in addressing the concerns of their own community. Gail Julius of the WCBN took the opportunity to highlight another of SDI’s key rituals, that being enumerations and explained how this tool served as an excellent mobilizing and learning tool for the community of Manenberg. The enumeration helped the various role-players understand that overcrowding was one of the biggest concerns facing residents. In one instance the enumeration team had encountered a home where 22 people were sharing a one-bedroom house. The enumerations highlighted the difficulty backyarders had with regards to accessing basic services like sanitation, electricity and water. They would often have to pay for access to these services from the tenants of the rental housing stock. This meant that if there were issues with the tenants the backyarders had no grounds for legal recourse as the City had agreements with the tenants and not with the backyarders, effectively leaving them in limbo.
Henrietta and Lezhaun, members of a family of ten living in an overcrowded one-bedroom house in Manenberg, explained that they have been on the waiting list since 1987. Compounding their overcrowded circumstances was the additional fact that they are both blind. This family in particular raised awareness around the plight of many families where 2nd to 3rd generation members, having no place to move to, simply stayed in overcrowded conditions. In many cases, situations like these have led to the establishment of backyard accommodation which has been the only viable option for people who did not want to move out of Manenberg or lose the social security net that familial networks in the area provided.
Washiela Baker of the Caring Organization, who has been active in community work in Manenberg for over 25 years, stated that she was shocked at the findings of the enumeration. Being able to go into the backyards and witness for herself the conditions people were living under galvanized her to focus more effort towards these people who were hidden from the public gaze.
Providing realistic solutions
The enumeration thus guided the community organisations in the housing sector of the MDCS towards an approach that would seek to upgrade the living conditions of backyard dwellers by improving the dilapidated make shift structures, which thousands of residents in Manenberg find themselves living in today. A secondary proposal looked at the opportunities that existed in demolishing old rental stock houses and building structures that used the space more efficiently to house more people. Melanie Manual explained how the space currently occupied by a five-unit structure could be utilized to build units for eight families and include a courtyard space for children to play in safety.
Unveiling the Upgraded Shack
The main thrust of the gathering was to draw people’s attention to the dire conditions the backyarders found themselves in but at the same time highlight solutions which the community themselves could be involved in. The gathering was invited to take a walk to the site of an upgraded shack in the Manenberg area. Melanie explained that an agreement had been reached with the local government to allow for the upgrading of current structures as long as correct procedures were followed. Backyard shacks housing family of the tenants of council houses could be upgraded provided the tenants were in agreement. This simple step towards an upgrading agenda will mean that thousands of backyarders in Manenberg will finally have the opportunity to live in structures that provide shelter from the harsh Cape Town elements. The upgraded shack was built by an NGO called iKhayalami who specialize in affordable homes and alternative technologies for the urban poor. As people gathered round the new structure a discernable buzz could be felt sweeping through the crowd. Shouts of encouragement and praise rang out as Ms. Sandra Joubert was presented with the key to her new home. To outsiders it would not seem like much, but for this resident of Manenberg who had spent many a winter battling flooding, a leaking roof and the bitter cold, it meant a home that gave her not only shelter but dignity. As the guests who had been invited to view the shack dispersed, a crowd of local residents remained. Their interest had been sparked and inquiries were being made as to how they could access this new kind of shack.
Since the unveiling, Ms. Joubert has had numerous visitors to her upgraded shack all wanting to know how they could get their own shacks upgraded. The WCBN with the help of CORC, FEDUP, ISN and Ikhayalami had clearly struck a chord with the community and upgrading appears to be the more realistic and viable alternative to the never ending waiting list which seemed to offer no hope for the backyarders.
“This is a dream come true in bringing City Councils and communities around a table to talk about possibilities of city-wide informal settlement upgrading,” said Jerry Adlard, the facilitator of the 9th November learning event organised by South African, Namibian and Malawian poor people’s movements aligned to Shack/Slum Dwellers International. Paired with these words, was the call for honest reflection on the objective, structure, achievements, lessons learnt and challenges of unfolding partnerships in the cities of Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Ethekwini, Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg, Windhoek and Lilongwe. The learning event was preceded by two days of site visits to re-blocking, sanitation and relocation projects in the City of Cape Town and Stellenbosch Municipality.
How do various actors implicated in urban development build partnerships to ensure pro-poor and inclusive cities? Contemporary African cities are juxtaposed with multiple layers of social, political, economic and environmental realities, which in many ways are aggravated by its colonial past. On the one hand, cities are the spaces of aspiration, innovation and drivers of social change, and on the other, social polarisation, poverty, conflict and environmental degradation narrate the conditions of large portions of city dwellers. In an age that is characterised by urbanisation, said to transform the cities of Africa, Asia and Latin America, there is arguably never been a time where effective partnerships are more needed.
In many cases, slum dwellers are taking the lead in building partnerships with local authorities with the view to significantly influence the way slum upgrading is conceptualised and operationalised. The full participation of slum dwellers in upgrading programmes is central to meeting the outcomes of sustainable human settlements, tending towards social (and political) change. For instance, slum dwellers of the Homeless People’s Federation of Malawi influenced the Lilongwe City Council’s bureaucracy through its large scale enumeration project which involved churches, tribal chieftaincies and other community based organisations (Lilongwe slums span municipal boundaries and averages in sizes of 50,000 residents). This inclusive project resulted in a shift on the part of the City Council from treating urban development as homogeneous to rural development. The establishment of the Informal Settlement Unit, a department which reports directly to the Mayor, was the result of effective lobbying on the part of the urban poor. This partnership illustrates the limitations of technocrats and the possibilities of communities initiating their own developmental priorities.
In Windhoek, the partnership between the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN), City of Windhoek and the Polytech is challenging the limitations to transformation implicated in the inherited colonial land use management norms. Space for policy innovation is opening where the contribution and full participation of informal settlements are at the plinth.
Partnerships unfolding in South Africa through the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) and Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) were also discussed at length. Some of the overarching achievements to date have included pilot projects in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and the mining belt in Ekurhuleni whereby communities successfully re-blocked (e.g. Ruimsig (CoJ) and Sheffield Road (CoCT)), installed drainage (Masilunghe (CoCT)), and resettled (Langrug (Stellenbosch) and Lwazi Park (CoCT)). Innovation through upgrading is challenging the enduring (mis)conceptions associated to the subsidised housing paradigm which only looked after the interests of the nucleus family. The SA Alliance’s aspirations for establishing city-wide Urban Poor Funds – funding facilities that support the initiatives of poor communities – have also partially realised when communities successfully leveraged funds from the Stellenbosch Municipality in financing the relocation project and associated service provision.
The institutionalisation of partnerships for city-wide upgrading initiatives is underway. Reports were heard from city officials and community leaders of respective cities. As communities penetrate the seemingly perceived ‘iron towers’ of city bureaucracy and build effective partnerships that influence budgetary allocation and prioritisation, the emphases are shifting from ‘control’ to ‘participation’.
Delegates argued that if the partnership cannot affect political will, for instance to transform the ward councillor structure (in the SA case), then there is no real power to promote the upgrading agenda. One of the Namibian delegates remarked:
“There is a problem to talk about the poor’s ‘self-reliance’ when the issue actually lies with the state’s orientation. Political space is opened to engage around delivery priorities and this is a two-way process; both the state needs to be held accountable, and citizens, demanding basic human rights, need to be proud and organised. One of the main reasons why the partnerships fail to deliver is that the departments don’t understand the difference between upgrading and housing delivery”.
By: Farouk Braimah, Executive Director, Peoples Dialogue on Human Settlements, Accra Ghana (email@example.com)
In 2002, the residents of Old Fadama settlement in Accra, Ghana were served an eviction notice. After losing a court battle, community members were introduced to SDI methodolgies and conducted a community survey in a last-ditch effort to stave off eviction. The community has prevented evictions for nearly a decade, and in a recent talk in New York City, the Ghanaian vice president made a committment that there would be no forced evictions there. Below is a timeline, compiled by executive director of the Ghanaian support NGO, Peoples Dialogue on Human Settlements, accounting the story of the Ghanaian federation in their fight against forced evictions. For more on the community's struggle in Old Fadama, check out this video.
The Centre for Public Interest Law ( CEPIL) in the year 2000 conducted a human rights fact finding mission on Old Fadama to investigate the potential violation of human rights linked to the Korle Lagoon Ecological Restoration Project (KLERP)
CEPIL fact finding report on KLERP out and under study for next steps.
On 28 May 2002, the residents of Old Fadama were served with an eviction notice by the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA). This followed the completion of series of studies and the formulation of the project know as the Korle Lagoon Ecological Restoration Project, designed to restore this vital marine and river system to a cleaner and more natural ecological state. At a public meeting that was part of the environmental and social impact assessment study (ESIA), one of the consultants conducting the study had “…urged the government to declare Old Fadama a national disaster site and resettle the people.” He said the place was the most deprived in the whole country and “…if immediate steps are not taken to resettle the people in that area, the KLERP would be a waste of resources.” The recommendations in the ESIA report were to be particularly influential in official thinking on KLERP.
In response to the eviction notice, letters of protest were written by a number of organisations (including COHRE) to the government of Ghana and the AMA. The COHRE letter outlined the international legal obligations that would be violated if the forced eviction of the Old Fadama community were to take place, and identified the following transgressions.
All feasible alternatives to the planned eviction had not been considered;
The may 2002 notice had provided too little advance warning
Residents had not been consulted throughout the process; and
Alternative housing or adequate resettlement sites had not been provided.
In addition, the residents, with the assistance of the Centre for Public Interest Law (CEPIL) based in Accra, responded with an appeal to the High Court for an injunction to prevent the AMA from carrying out the eviction. However, on 24 July 2002, the Accra High Court rejected the community’s application and authorized the AMA to evict. There was initial intention to appeal, but for internal organizational reasons in the community, this was not followed through. Since then, there have been repeated assertions by the government that the eviction will definitely go ahead, but deadline have come and gone. The last deadline was set in January 2004, when a Minister of Tourism official was “ emphatic” in stating that “…by September this year, Old Fadama would be empty”
After the High Court ruling in 2002, the residents of Old Fadama in 2003, adopted a softer approach to dealing with their challenges of forced eviction with government by engaging in a dialogue through People’s Dialogue & Shack & Slum Dwellers International approach of using;
Savings & Loans
And community led enumerations
In 2004, the Old Fadama community started partnering and dialoguing with government through the Ministry of Water Resources, Works & Housing, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and the Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Relations to find a better way of solving their challenges.
Old Fadama, was cited as a case study on the World Urban Forum II held in Barcelona, Spain on 16th September 2004, referring to forced evictions as a bad strategy in tackling squatters and slum communities.
Fighting Forced Evictions
The then Mayor of Accra Honorable Blankson committed to working with the community in the Old Fadama in Accra in finding alternative solutions.
The special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, Miloon Kothari highlighted the fact that there enough recognition of the human right to housing by governments and local authorities, and that women’s right to housing and inheritance were not been addressed due to the culture of silence “ Why are people planning on our behalf without our involvement?” says a slum dweller from Kenya underscoring the need to consult with community in finding solutions to the issues of slums. Slum dwellers are saying, “governments need to know that they do not have to solve all the problems” The community can and is willing to work with governments to address the issue of forced evictions”
- SDI visited Ghana and supported the Old Fadama community to conduct a settlement profiling to aid the city authorities and government in its bit to resettle the residents.
- UN Habitat designed a new facility to upgrade slums and Ghana was shortlisted as potential beneficiary
Government of Ghana, through the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development invited the UN Habitat’s Advisory Group on Forced Evictions (AGFE) to conduct a fact finding mission on the Old Fadama community and to assist government.
UN (AGFE) sent a team from Nairobi to Ghana to meet Government and brainstorm on ways to address the challenges of Old Fadama and Ghana’s slums.
As an AGFE member, Farouk Braimah joined the team to conduct the fact finding mission.
Ghana was selected as SUF (Slum Upgrading Facility) global pilot country together with three other countries thus; Tanzania, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
2005 to date, Ghana is still receiving funding and technical assistance from SUF to upgrade selected slums- Ashaiman, Amui Dzor and Takoradi as pilot.
Residents of the Old Fadama Community through the Old Fadama Development Association (OFADA) and Ghana Federation of the Urban Poor (GHAFUP) with support from People’s Dialogue on Human Settlement and SDI carried out some drainage, roads and sanitation protection works.
Old Fadama Undergoes Facelift
(Daily Graphic, Monday July 11 2005)
Squatters at the Country’s biggest slum, (Old Fadama) in Accra, have begun moves to give the slum a new face. As the reports stated;
“They have created 15 access roads through the area, together with the purchase of drainage materials at a cost of about 33 million cedis. People’s Dialogue on Human Settlement, a non-governmental organisation provided about 95% of the funds, while the rest was internally generate. In addition, the settlers will, beginning from next week, clear other settlers living along the Korle Lagoon project area and set up a task forced to protect it, as well as prevent people from dumping refunds indiscriminately to pollute the lagoon.”
The Accra Metropolitan Assembly reacted to the action of the residents with the yardstick that, they were illegal and hence had no business to develop the area.
This was carried on the Daily Graphic, July. 2005
AMA Condemns action of Squatters at Old Fadama
(Daily Graphic July 2005)
The Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) has condemns the action of squatters at Old Fadama in Accra to demarcate roads and plan other development activities for the including a cemetery. It said the squatters had no business in carrying out what they were doing, since their presence at them was illegal and they would be evicted.
Mr. Philip Lamptey, the then chairman of the Environmental Management sub-committee of the AMA said in the report “A probable first option would be to ask the utility companies to stop supplying the area with utility services such as water and electricity. He said there was no need for the squatters to set-up a task force to prevent the indiscriminate dumping of refuse along the Korle Lagoon Project area, since they were not needed in the place.”
Mr. Noel Arcton- Tettey, the then PRO of AMA was also reported to have said that; NGOs were suppose to complement the role of government instead of creating problems for it. And that the action by People’s Dialogue was contrary to what was expected of it.
The Executive Director of People’s Dialogue On Human Settlement, Mr. Braimah Rabiu Farouk responded to the comments made by the AMA, stating emphatically clear that, the NGO will not do anything to undermine the work of the government, let alone create problems for it.
We will not sabotage Government- NGO (Daily Graphic, Monday July 18, 2005)
In this report, Mr. Braimah said the NGO would rather give government all the necessary support to improve the lives of the citizenry so as to ensure a better standard of living for all Ghanaians. Mr. Braimah explained that the move embarked upon by the squatters at Old Fadama was “not to entrench their stay at the place” but to prevent disasters from occurring and that the NGO had educated residents on the negative impact their continued stay could have on the KLERP. He posed the following questions and I quote:
“Do we have to wait for a disaster to occur at the slum for the government to set up a Sodom and Gomorrah disaster fund before we act?”
“He question whether it was for squatters to set up a task force to protect the Korle Lagoon Project on which so much money has been spend.”
The government took a second look at its current policy on squatters and slum communities (FORCED EVICTIONS) and then came out with s paradigm shift, from forced evictions to relocations.
Government haven convinced itself that, relocation was the best strategy, started processes to acquire a parcel of land at Adjin Kotoku in the Amasaman District of Accra to commence the Old Fadama Relocation Project as part of a township concept, government also initiated strategies to raise funds for the successful planning, design and implementation of the Adjin Kotoku Township Project
Government secures some funds for Old Fadama resettlement project.
Government finds 10m Euro for Sodom and Gomorrah resettlement (The Statesman, Friday, July 21 2006)
FINALLY, residents of Old Fadama in Accra considered as one of the world’s notable slums, have every practical reason to expect a justifiable evacuation after Government has managed to find 10 million Euros to find alternative decent accommodation for them.
The Statesman also reported that; it can confirm that, the Ministry of Water Resource, Works and Housing has secured the funding commitment from KBC Bank of Belgium as necessary extension works to complete the environmental and sanitation aspect of the Korle Lagoon Ecological Restoration Project.
The Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, and the Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Relations started interacting and holding regular development meetings with residents of the Old Fadama community to dialogue and plan on the successful implementation of the relocation project.
The Old Fadama Community welcomed the relocation project and started preparing towards it.
The government of Ghana through the Ministry of Tourism and Diapora Relations and PD attended World Urban Forum III in Vancouver on 23 June 2006- This time round to present government policy shift on squatters and slum communities from forced evictions to relocations.
In 2007 the residents of the Old Fadama community, called on the government to speed-up the implementation process of the relocation to pave way for the Korle Lagoon Restoration Project to progress.
Speed up relocation process- residents of Old Fadama cry out (Public Agenda, Monday 29, January 2007)
Squatters of Old Fadama (popularly called Sodom and Gomorrah) would like the government to speed the process of relocating them. The squatters have told this paper that they are not sure what would follow the recent catastrophic fire incident that ravaged the slum, hence if government could do anything to relocate them, they would be grateful.
P.D and the Ghana Federation of the Urban Poor conducted a base line study on Old Fadama in collaboration with the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing, Local Government and Rural Development and Tourism and Diaspora Relations to use for the planned relocation project.
UN Habitat visited Old Fadama and pledges to support government to tackle the problem.
Meetings and preparations for the relocation project intensifies and preparatory work also continued at Adjin Kotoku.
General election clashes and violence started
Clashes in Old Fadama heighten
AMA issues an eviction notice to residents of Old Fadama
Quit by Dec; AMA cracks whip on Sodom & Gomorrah
(Daily Graphic, July 17,2009)
“Sodom and Gomorrah, a slum within the central business district of Accra, will be no more by next December as the Accra Metropolitan Assembly say it has concluded plans to relocate residents of the place to a new site Adzen Kotoku…”
Carnage at Old Fadama
4 Killed in clash at Agbogbloshie Market
(Daily Graphic, Wednesday, August, 26 2009)
Four men believed to be Andanis and Abudus were butchered to death at Agbogbloshie in Accra yesterday after a renewed clash between supporters of…”
Government issues another eviction threat.
Time up for Sodom and Gomorrah, Regional Minister declares
(Daily Graphic, Friday, September, 4 2009)
“Sodom and Gomorrah, a sprawling slum within the central business district of Accra, has been labeled a risk to national security and so should be pulled down now.”
The report indicates government has therefore taken the firm stand to evict the more than 40,000 squatters at Old Fadama without any form of compensation as earlier envisaged.
The Old Fadama Development Association (OFADA) responded with a press release to condemn the violent clash at the community and promises Government and the general public they will quickly address the issues of violence and adhere to good environmental and sanitation practices through a central task force, setting up a mediation center and watch dog committee to…
OFADA request government to return to the table to dialogue on the relocation to Adjin Kotoku as planned.
It is significant to note that, up until now, PD and the Federation has been the only recognized and dedicated voice and force working and coordinating other interest groups for the struggles. Some organizations ,particularly, the media became very supported our the communities struggles. Amnesty International also approached PD and sought collaboration to join in the struggles ,a request we welcomed and facilitated heir entry and participation in the struggles. I must state the involvement of groups such as amnesty Ghana and Centre for Public Interest Law and others has been very instrumental in further strengthening the negotiation power of the community.
AMA continued to renew threats at the least provocation and in most cases without any provocation. Peoples Dialogue and the Ghana federation continued to build their federation in the community and another significant community led enumeration conducted.
As usual the Ghana federation responded by facilitation meetings and dialogue with the Mayor Of Accra. This resulted in the Mayor of Accra requesting the Federation to conduct an enumeration to assist in the final pre and post eviction impact of the planned evictions. Besides, the City quoted 40,000 residents but the federation insisted they were more than that and the negative impact of eviction could be more devastating. The mayor then arranged a short visit between the Director of PD –Farouk and His Excellency the Vice president of Ghana-John Mahama, after which the federation was allowed to conduct another enumeration in 2009 September. The results were out in January 2010, which put the figure at 79,000. This revelation was very useful in putting a strong case for the community and all others involved in the struggles. Not long after this, PD submitted copies of the report to the Presidency, the Mayor and other players like the UN Habitat.
All of this culminated in the Government of the day, convening a High level meeting purposely to find solutions to the problems. The federation again attended this meeting and the outcome was the establishment of a 5 -man Task force to develop a SLUM POLICY FOR GHANA.
Farouk Braimah, the Director of PD, was nominated to serve on that body and remains a member. Government demonstrated that it was actually looking for solutions and was ready to partner groups and individuals who could assist in developing a response to the problem. This intention of Government and the journey in the major position shift was started the very day the Government requested the federation to conduct the enumeration. This collaborative and anti eviction posture of Government was given a further boast when the Government set up the High powered meeting and commissioned a 5 man Task force to find solutions to Ghana’s slums, including Old Fadama.
Kyang’ombe slum which is situated around the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport has been demolished. According to JKIA officials, the slum sits in the direct flight path, which poses a great risk to the safety of planes as well as endangering the lives of the slum dwellers.
Muungano Wa Wanavijiji and local residents believe that there is more that meets the eye. The residents were being evicted because private developers with powerful political connections have acquired the land illegally.
Close to 200,000 people have been left homeless after six bulldozers flattened their houses at Kyang’ombe village off Mombasa Road in Nairobi under the watchful eye and supervision of fully armed Administration Police officers.
The responsible Institution, Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) is said to have given the residents notice to vacate the area, so as to clear it and create space for aircrafts flying over before landing or taking-off from the JKIA International Airport.
On seeking information and justification from KAA corporate affairs manager Dominic Ngigi, who declined to comment claiming that the matter was now out of his jurisdiction and are now in the hands of the local Provincial Commissioner and the Provincial Police Officer respectively.
The evictions began at around 11pm on Friday night catching the resident’s off guard. What raises eyebrows is why did they have to conduct the forceful evictions at Midnight? Where did they expect the women and children to seek refuge? Several schools were also demolished, the schools which also served as examination are now facing dilemma over the candidature of their already registered candidates. More than ten schools, a number of churches, garages, bars, shops and other businesses were destroyed.
Some of the residents managed to secure their household items from the bulldozers’ path but a number of them had no time to remove their items, which were destroyed as the houses were being flattened.
By Saturday morning, about 1300 houses were already destroyed in the melee as the bulldozers advanced towards more than 4000 household units as desperate residents continued to remove their household goods away from the path of the bulldozers. More other houses beyond the scene of the current evictions have also been earmarked for further demolitions.
Most of those persons evicted work as casual labourers in the nearby factories in Nairobi’s Industrial Area and had moved there for easy access.
Permanent houses with shops, mini-supermarkets, concrete apartments and other semi-permanent house build from corrugated iron sheets were not spared either. Some of the residents that we managed to talk claimed they never saw any eviction notice but just heard rumours of the impending evictions since the residents had secured a court order against KAA not to go ahead with the secretly planned demolition in Kyang’ombe.
“I do not know where to go. I have lived here for the past four and a half years,” Kepher Otieno said adding that he and his family have never received any notice to vacate.
“They came with armed police who stood by. There is nothing we could have done. They did not tell us where to go next or where we can get our next meal,”
“There was no written notice,” he said.
He was guarding his household goods together with his wife and a two-year old son and a three months old daughter.
The prevention of evictions and the enablement of secure tenure remain central objectives of the Federations and emerging Federations linked together through SDI.
One of Muungano Support Trust’s important goals is to demonstrate to communities, professionals, city officials and politicians that alternatives to evictions can emerge from the development of negotiated consensus. In order to achieve this consensus the key development actors – organized communities and local governments need to shift perspective and think beyond an “either/or” scenario. From the perspective of communities this normally manifests as “either we win the right to stay where we are, or we do not cooperate”. From the perspective of the city it is a case of “either we relocate you, or you don’t get any development.”
This takes a lot of negotiation. In most cases communities under threat of eviction and state institutions who support these evictions, are in no mental state to negotiate anything.
Over the years the Kenyan slum dwellers federation Muungano Wa Wanavijiji with the assistance of Slum Dwellers International have developed, refined, adapted and transferred a set of tools that are used to pre-empt evictions and move cities from demolition to development. They include.
Community Enumeration. When poor people count themselves it is a great mobilization starter. And as the communities gather more information and learn how to process and use it they get to be equipped with the information and the understanding required for resettlement and upgrading. This is a crucial step in moving poor communities from being victims to becoming direct actors in change.
Settlement Mapping. An important part of this data-gathering is the drawing of settlement maps that include houses, shops, pathways, water-points, electric poles and so on. This helps people to get a visual fix on their physical situation and enables them to plan settlement improvements and to assess the development interventions that outsiders propose. Detailed, accurate, and first-hand these maps are powerful planning and mobilizing tools and also effective bargaining chips when it comes to negotiations for secure tenure.
Surveying Vacant Land. It is not uncommon for city authorities to dismiss arguments in favour of low cost housing by saying that there is no available land in suitable locations. Whilst public land is often limited and whilst market forces make private land unaffordable for the poor, Federations in many southern cities have demonstrated that these realities do not translate into a situation in which there is no suitable land for poor people in the inner city or in areas with easy access to public amenities. Federations in countries such as South Africa, Cambodia, Kenya and India have embarked on elaborate land identification exercises that have ranged from picnics on open land in Mumbai to land audits in Durban and settlement profiling in Nairobi.
Settlement Planning. It is necessary for poor communities to re-locate their participation in the housing delivery process at the level of the practical. This means a move away from the abstraction of a struggle for housing rights, backed with lobbying, demonstration and litigation to the concrete activities of planning, design and actual delivery. In order to do this, communities need to start by dreaming and visualizing the kind of settlements and houses in which they would like to live. From this point onwards it is relatively easy for community members to break the myth that planning and design are the exclusive domain of highly trained professionals, and that regulation and monitoring are the sole prerogative of officials and bureaucrats. Over the years the SDI affiliates have developed effective community based training programmes in which households in affected settlements come together to plan their settlements and design their houses. These programmes vary from country to country but share several key elements. They are dreaming or visualizing neighbourhoods and houses, moving from the abstract to the concrete by means of cloth house models and the creation of basic layout designs. This is followed by the evolution of a common community vision in terms of house type and settlement layout, which is reflected back to the communities through mass meetings and through sustained dialogue within already established savings collectives.
House Model Exhibitions. Many SDI affiliates scale up their cloth models until they become full scale models, normally constructed with timber frames, cloth walls and galvanized roofing. When politicians, officials and other communities are invited to see these physical manifestations of the people’s plans, a lot of interesting things normally transpire. Possibilities are democratised, excitement and self consciousness is generated, city authorities begin to see communities through different eyes, people begin to take ownership of their problems and their solutions, and citizenship is deepened.
Building Networks via Community Exchanges. A programme of constant exchange visits between settlements in the same city, in different cities and different countries has resulted in the transfer of these and other rituals and skills to thousands of slum settlements all over the world. The absorption of these capacities into new settlements provides them with tools that they will need in their own struggles for land, secure tenure and affordable housing. Together with the transfer of knowledge comes the growth of unity and solidarity, resulting in a stronger voice of the poor, at city, country and international level. This in itself becomes a vital tool for tenure security that SDI forges for its urban poor affiliates.
The people of Kyang’ombe have nowhere to run to. This is an unfortunate event that has cast dark clouds on their lives and those of their children. According to the Constitution and the Millennium development goals, the Government is entitled to provide its citizens with proper shelter for its people. We cannot understand why the evictions were conducted without proper planning for those who were to be affected by the demolitions.
Back in August, Professor Mark Swilling, Academic Director of the Sustainability Insitute at University of Stellenbosch, spoke at TEDxStellenbosch about urbanization in Africa, where nearly 60% of urban dwellers live in slums. He describes this phenomenon of "slum cities," a phenomenon created by rapid urbanization without correlating industrialization. Swilling raises the possibility of the urban poor as co-producers of their own urban environments and of the city as a whole.
In discussing this logic of urbanization, he highlights SDI projects in Kenya and Malawi, where women in urban poor communities mobilize against hopelessness, raising the possibility that tomorrow can be a better day. Swilling showcases an in situ upgrading project in Huruma, Kenya as an example of the SDI affiliate's ingenuity and innovation that allowed them to improve their living structures while remaining on their land, as well as a greenfields development project in Malawi that uses low-cost technologies, which allowed for the construction of 800 secure homes for Malawi's urban poor.
For the last week we have been reporting on the events following last Monday's explosion at Mukuru Sinai, one of the largest slums in Nairobi, where the Kenyan Federation has a strong presence. The stories coming from mainstream media have blamed everyone from the State to the slum dwellers to the Kenyan support NGO, arguing that had the slum dwellers been relocated from the area surrounding the pipeline, such a tragedy could have been avoided. This past week, the the Kenyan Pipeline Company Ltd. (KPC) went so far as to say that the Kenyan support NGO is to blame for stopping the aforementioned relocations. Affiliates in Kenya, however, have described a different reality: that the pipeline's overflow channel drains directly into a river, a river which joins the river home to last Monday's explosion on Sinai slum. In addition, maps presented by the Kenyan SDI alliance locate the explosion quite far from the pipeline itself, calling into question the extent to which relocations would have prevented such a tragedy at all. Getting to the truth with regard to such a tragedy is key, particularly in determining what happens from here. And while SDI and the Kenyan Alliance surely advocate for safe and secure homes for the urban poor, we are at the same time dedicated to monitoring the situation in order to ensure that evictions do not take place in the guise of helping the urban poor.
A statement issued by The Coalition of Civil Society Organizations on Housing in Nairobi voices the position clearly:
The Coalition of Civil Society Organizations on Housing has been working with the Government of Kenya in facilitating discussions around relocation of informal settlements from possible danger zones. A major result of such efforts is the Railway Relocation Action Plan (RAP) that now covers Mukuru and Kibera.
We believe in the urban poor’s right to adequate housing safe environment as provided for in section 43 of the constitution.
We also believe in the responsibility of the state in ensuring realization and protection of these rights as provided for in section 21 of the constitution.
In view of the above, we would like to affirm the position that residents of Sinai, just like all other Kenyans, are entitled to enjoyment of these rights.
It is the onus of the state to put in place measures that essentially ensure that the right to housing for all Kenyans is safeguarded. The fire tragedy in Mukuru Sinai puts in question the state’s commitment to these principles, especially in relation to service delivery to residents of informal settlements.
Subsequent action and utterances by state agencies now leads us to believe that there are plans to evict these residents, as well as residents from other settlements perceived to be in danger zones from their homes.
We would like to categorically state that any eviction exercise should be preceded by a comprehensive resettlement strategy that should not leave the residents in a worse off state than they were before the tragedy.
It is also our position that residents of Mukuru Sinai should be compensated. This stems from the fact that the state failed in its mandate to protect its citizens’ right to housing in a safe environment when it allowed Kenya Pipeline to discharge hazardous materials through channels that cross through densely populated areas.
It is our view that the basis of such discussions is the fact that there was indeed a petroleum spill at the Kenya Pipeline facilities. Initial statements by Kenya Pipeline’s Managing Director are an admission of this fact.
We further submit that this fuel made its way to Mukuru via a series of wastewater drains that cross through much of Industrial Area. In fact, the epicentre of the tragedy was at a point where the drain terminates into an open channel that drains into the Ngong River. It was not envisaged at any time, that any real danger to residents of Mukuru would originate from these drainage channels.
We appreciate previous attempts at relocating residents of Mukuru that were made between 2004 and 2010. But it should also be noted that this only affected residents who settled on a small section of the pipeline. These residents received a resettlement facilitation allowance ranging between 6,000 ksh and 10,000 ksh and Kenya Pipeline has since reclaimed the area in question.
A visit to the scene confirms the fact that, the main pipeline is actually some 400 meters from the disaster area and none of the burnt structures actually sits on the Kenya Pipeline reserve.
While building on top of a fuel pipeline is indeed dangerous and should be discouraged, discharging fuel through storm water drains pose equal or even far greater danger.
In light of the above, we are proposing the following measures in response to the situation.
We are calling for Kenya Pipeline Company to take responsibility and immediately open discussions around possible compensation.
We would like for the government to put in place mechanisms that allow for reconstruction efforts. Such mechanisms should ensure uninhibited access to basic rights such as safe water and sanitation services.
Mid term measures:
In the medium term, we are calling for discussions around development of upgrading options for the area.
If there is need for evictions, these should be in line with the eviction guidelines as contained in Sessional paper no. 9 of 2010.
In the long term, we are calling for development of a comprehensive disaster preparedness and response system. This should take into account the intricate nature of informal settlements, particularly those in perceived danger zones.
Along the same lines, we are also calling for greater involvement of slum dwellers in initiatives that seek to improve quality of life within their settlements.
In conclusion, The Coalition of Civil Society Organizations on Housing, would once again like to express its heartfelt condolences to all those who were affected by this tragedy. We would like to strongly urge the Kenya Pipeline Corporation to take responsibility and to look into compensation for those affected. We would like the Government of Kenya to put in place mechanisms that allow for reconstruction efforts as a matter of priority.
By Irene Karanja, Executive Director, Muungano Support Trust, Kenya
The more I listen to the voices of the poor and to the remorseful government’s reaction to the fire in Mukuru Sinai on Monday, I see a wide gulf between these voices.
The situation of all cities and urban towns in Kenya have a similar archipelago of slums with large densities of poor citizens who live in perpetual fear of evictions or, in such cases as Sinai, fatal accidents.
Its sounds both right and sensible to look at a short-term solution to pay a year’s rent for the victims and then the prevention of another tragedy can be done later. However, the experiences of many countries is that displacement is not a solution. The solution is to improve existing settlements with upgrading programs that address very fundamental issues of the city, such as land tenure and access to basic services for the poor.
It would be strategic for the government to sit back and reflect on aggregating the costs of slum upgrading instead of making small pieces of solutions that do not necessarily lead to a bigger solution. Maybe to make this picture clearer I will quote my post-graduate lecturer who said “It's more expensive to buy cigarettes one-by-one than to buy the whole package. The cost is not one-twentieth of the cigarette box, it's much more than that," -Prof. M. Smolka.
In order for government upgrading programs to successfully run in Kenya, many things have to change in major affiliated agencies in government. This task will not be a comfortable or easy. For example, in the Mukuru belt of slums, land ownership patterns are a maze of confusion. Land is owned by layers of owners who may or may not be known to residents. In major slums in Kenya, thousands of families have lived on the same parcels of land for more than 40 years. New generations, up to the third generation, have been born on these parcels of land. For upgrading programs to take place, security of tenure for these Kenyans must be resolved sooner rather than later. The poor must be freed from the insecurity of the tenure situation.
In 2004, Muungano wa Wanavijiji, the Federation of Slum Dwellers of Kenya, challenged the authorities traditional ways of thinking, which asks: "What should we do to remove these vijijis?” Through the support of Slum/Shack Dwellers International, local authorities attended an exchange to India to learn from the Indian government how to resettle the poor within the confines of their access to the livelihoods and services.
Upon returning to Kenya, a journey to resettle 10,000 households residing on the railway reserve in Mukuru and Kibera began. Communities in these two large slums voluntarily got involved in the enumerations of all affected households as well as the mapping of all the structures.
A group of slum upgrading experts comprising of the community members, sociologists, lawyers, engineers, surveyors, architects and community organisers, sat with the local authorities and the Kenya Railways Corporation to design a solution for resettlement. The resettlement project has been approved by government and the financeer (The World Bank), an implementation starts this year.
The unfortunate outcome of this disaster is the general call for slums to be removed immediately from dangerous places - which is largely where slums are situated, thanks to scarcity of available land - without any serious thought given to where slum dwellers might be relocated to, and how this would effect these communities in the long term. Finding alternatives to eviction and relocation is possible, so long as the people on the ground are brought into the process, and the political will is there. Let's make sure, then, that evictions do not take place now in the guise of helping the urban poor.
By Ariana K. MacPherson and Charlton Ziervogel, SDI Secretariat
The machine of urbanization rolls on. Each year thousands upon thousands of individuals make the move away from rural areas to seek a better life in the city. But what waits in the city is no easy street to riches, but rather a fight for limited space on land that is scarce and valuable. The rural poor make their way to the city only to become the urban poor, and instead of the open arms of opportunity, they slip through the cracks, forced to eke out an existence in the realm of the informal. They are branded illegal, part of a temporary problem that needs to be eradicated. The truth of the matter is that many slum dwellers have been living in the city, working in the city, raising families in the city, for just as long as their “formal” urban counterparts.
Bordering the main road in Kisenyi, Uganda, is an open swath of land, riddled with debris. It is the site of a recent eviction. Hundreds of families were forced out of their homes, their shacks razed to the ground. The remnants of life, chained in by barbed wire. This is the daily threat, and harsh reality, of informal living. Centrally located settlements like Kisenyi sit on some of the city’s most valuable land, “The gold of Kampala, the real gold of Kampala,” says one member of the Ugandan SDI Alliance. He is right. Urban land is scarce, and only becoming scarcer.
This same scene plays itself out in Accra, Cape Town, Harare, Kampala and Nairobi. Slums in these five cities make up some of the largest in the world. Old Fadama in Accra, the N2 settlements in Cape Town, Mbare in Harare, Kisenyi in Kampala and Mukuru in Nairobi are home to many of Africa’s poorest people, living in overcrowded, insecure conditions without access to toilets or clean drinking water and under increasing threat of eviction from ever ready bulldozers hungry for land. At its core, the issue is one of exclusion. The urban poor have been excluded from their right to the city for decades, and as cities grow, the right to urban land becomes increasingly contested between those with access to power and money, and those without.
By asserting their place at the city’s core, residents of informal settlements are made part of the face and a voice of the city, and are given space to engage with local government. Many of these communities have been residing in cities for decades, and yet they remain largely excluded from the city’s formal systems and services. It is time that the officials and politicians recognize this fact. The urban poor are not nameless, placeless masses to be uprooted and moved to the periphery. Their communities, families, livelihoods and social networks are in the city. Eviction, displacement, and relocation to the urban periphery only result in further fragmentation of society, reinforcing the divisions of race and class that have existed for centuries.
What is at stake is more than just providing homes to the homeless, it is about placing people at the center of the urbanization process, ensuring that the city is not just for those with power and wealth. It is about allowing for recognition of those who have actively contributed to the city’s economy, calling it home for years, yet continue to be denied full citizenship.
In recent years, SDI Alliances have begun the necessary move towards incremental, in situ slum upgrading in centrally located informal settlements across the Global South, linking pragmatic survival strategies with rights-based struggles for inclusive cities. Federations of the urban poor across Africa, Asia and Latin America have begun to find ways to make meaningful contributions to the creation of inclusive cities, effectively securing their livelihoods and homes in the face of power, money and greed.
To catalyze these efforts, SDI has selected five focus cities in Africa – Accra, Cape Town, Harare, Kampala and Nairobi – to be home to long-term, precedent-setting pilot projects that provide people-driven, incremental upgrading for housing and basic services such as water, sanitation, drainage, road access, and waste collection. The hope is that this process will give urban poor federations the necessary backing to build partnerships with government officials and leverage government resources in order to bring these projects to scale, counteracting the constant threat of removal and providing steps towards security of tenure to the urban poor.
There is no doubt that the global population is in the throngs of a revolutionary shift towards the urban; the question that remains to be answered is what gives certain people more of a right than others to call the urban sphere their home. If the urban poor are placed at the center of this global process of urbanization instead of land values, capital investments and how to turn the biggest profit, a start can be made to redress one of the biggest failures of the modern era: the use of urban space as an exclusionary tool instead of an opportunity to create vibrant, integrated communities.
From 8 to 10 August 2011, ACTogether Uganda, Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI), and the Uganda Slum Dwellers Federation hosted a conference at Fairway Hotel, Kampala. To read the full conference report, click here.
The conference marked the beginning of SDI's conference series on strategies for upgrading large informal settlements under siege in five cities across Africa, namely: Accra, Cape Town, Harare, Kampala and Nairobi. Through undertaking precedent-setting, people-driven pilot projects, this project aims to create centers of urban learning within the international slum dweller community. These focus cities will be catalysts for scalable strategies for city-wide upgrading that keep communities of the urban poor at their center.
The program is being matched by a significant financial contribution from SDI, which is envisaged to leverage partnerships with governments and additional commitment to urban upgrading at scale.
Uganda was chosen to host the first in the series of conferences to be held in each of the focus cities. The three-day event brought together over 100 delegates including members of slum dwellers federations from the participating cities, representatives from support NGOs and local government partners.
Early on, emphasis was placed upon the need for the conference series to be a forum for learning, sharing, and – most importantly – action. The organizers explained that from the conference, concrete actions and projects are expected. SDI urged Federations to initiate projects that have an impact upon policy and institutional arrangements in the selected cities.
SDI’s president, Mr. Jockin Arputham, was in attendance at the conference. He stressed the need for more action than talk and informed the delegates that specific work plans would be formulated during the course of the conference. These plans are to be reviewed at the next conference, providing a tool for peer-driven monitoring and evaluation to take place, in order to promote greater learning within the SDI network.
To read the full conference report, please click here. Also, please check the Settlements Under Siege section of the SDI blog for updates on the progress of each federation toward the stated objectives and projects, and for reports from future conferences in the series.
We pull into Kisenyi, Kampala’s largest informal settlement, in a packed bus, rattling down muddy dirt roads. A motorbike heads toward us and women and children line the streets, hanging washing after the rain, playing in puddles. We disembark in front of a tall green building, a sanitation project of the Uganda Shack Dwellers Federation. A group of men and women sit on the front stoop behind sewing machines. Zainabu, one of the local federation leaders, tells us that this is an income generation project providing tailoring services to the community. They work away as we head upstairs.
Zainabu welcomes us, explaining that we are in Kisenyi III and that we will be doing a walking tour of the area, stopping to visit a few Federation members’ homes and income generation projects along the way. The group breaks into song – there is always song – the lyrics are about President Museveni, and the improvements he has brought to Kisenyi’s residents despite the injustice inflicted upon much of country’s people. During the early years of Museveni’s presidency, sewerage, electricity and water services were extended to certain segments of Kisenyi. However, the hardships of daily life remain harsh here. Living quarters are extremely close, and basic services like water and sanitation are sub-standard at best, presenting serious health and hygiene risks to the community. But in the face of poor drainage, flooding, insecure tenure and extremely high densities, the residents of Kisenyi have created a bustling, vibrant community in the heart of Kampala.
We head out into the community. At the base of the sanitation project is a cluster of homes owned by Federation members. Salomi Kakuliremu shows us her savings books, explaining that she purchased her home with a loan from the Ugandan Federation's urban poor fund, and is paying it back using money she makes selling pineapple juice here in Kisenyi. Her two little girls peek around the curtain at the front of the house as she shows us her savings books, daily savings and loan repayments recorded meticulously with amounts and dates, a thousand Ugandan shillings per day and a secure roof overhead.
We stop next at a poultry project behind one of the houses. Federation members raise chickens in a small coop, selling them for income. Most of the homes here are made from bricks or wattle and daub, they are low with few windows, and the land they sit on belongs to someone else contributing to the daily threat of eviction.
We come to a main road, where Zainabu shows us her home. It is a large brick structure with a wide, clean gutter out front lined with stone so as to preclude flooding. As we move along the street is lined with children. They follow us through the community, shy and laughing behind me. All around us life is happening. A man sells roast meat and chapatti from a street cart, another shop advertises car parts and electronics.
One of the federation members introduces me to Frank Onyapidi. He is striking young man with dark ebony skin, a tan leather jacket and auburn dreadlocks falling down around his face. He sits with a handful of young men inside a shaded shack, sewing game skins into handbags, cell phone holders and shoes. Frank tells me that this is a local project to generate income for young men, to keep them off the streets and out of trouble. They smile, ask where we come from, and I give him my card, wishing him luck with their project, impressed by their handiwork.
Next we are introduced to another Federation member, Jennifer Bukiwa, selling roasted mealies over charcoal. Everyone is impressed with the innovation of the people here, with their initiative to find creative ways to make a living.
Rounding the corner, we make our way down one of the main arteries, a double-lane road that separates Kisenyi III from Kisenyi II. Bordering the road is an open swath of land, riddled with debris. It is the site of a recent eviction. Hundreds of families forced out of their homes and their shacks razed to the ground. The remnants of life, chained in by barbed wire. This is the daily threat – and harsh reality – of informal living. Centrally located settlements like Kisenyi sit on some of the city’s most valuable land, “The gold of Kampala, the real gold of Kampala,” says one Federation member. He is right. Land is scarce, and becoming scarcer as populations urbanize at a rapid pace. But where do the urban poor fit in? How do communities secure their livelihoods, their homes, in the face of power, money, greed and exclusion?
Federation members have begun discussions for land sharing agreements, attempting to broker deals with landowners in order to secure rights to stay on the land. For the urban poor, Kisenyi is their life, the lifeblood of the city, an economic, social and political engine churning away in the middle of Kampala. To others, however, the urban poor seem to be blocking access to gold, taking up space, a nuisance to be removed and relocated. The challenge put forth is how to reconcile these views, how to legitimize the space occupied by the urban poor and make clear their right to the city - how to claim ownership of these settlements under siege.
In the coming months we will look at a number of centrally located informal settlements in cities across Africa. In Kampala, Harare, Cape Town, Accra, and Nairobi the urban poor face threats of eviction as they attempt to keep their homes on valuable urban land close to the city centers. SDI alliances of the urban poor in these cities have begun to work towards incremental slum upgrading, catalyzing settlement-wide upgrading with precedent setting pilot projects to improve the quality of basic services such as water, sanitation, drainage, road access, waste collection and housing. The hope is that such projects will give urban poor federations the necessary backing to build partnerships with government officials and leverage government resources in order to bring these projects to scale.
As part of this series, SDI will hold conferences in each of the focus cities, bringing together Federation members, their support NGOs and government delegations in a dialogue on citywide incremental slum upgrading strategies. The first conference – during which the site visit to Kisenyi took place – was held in Kampala, Uganda from 8 – 10 August 2011.The official conference report presents a comprehensive look at the conference proceedings, including country action plans for the coming months.
By engaging in such dialogues, the urban poor can take steps to secure the space they have carved out in the hearts of these cities. The underlying vision being the development of protocols for the upgrading of large informal settlements that are under siege. These include in situ upgrading, or suitable and negotiated relocation as opposed to state or market driven eviction or dislocation. Through this kind of incremental, upgrading, cities can begin the necessary task of bridging the informal and the formal, using people-driven, participatory processes to lay the foundations for inclusive, pro-poor cities.
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?
The 80,000 residents of the Accra informal settlement known as Old Fadama have faced numerous eviction threats over the past decade. But these are the people that live, work, and build the growing Ghanaian metropolis. A new publication of Ghanaian journalism students and the Federation explains how people such as female head porters and entrepreneurs survive and organize. Click here to download.