Posts for Zimbabwe
In July 2013 the Southern Africa Regional Hub - consisting of the SDI-affiliated urban poor federations from South Africa, Malawi, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Angola, Namibia, and Botswana - met in Windhoek, Namibia. The meeting allowed affiliates to report on the progress and challenges faced by their various processes and plot future strategies and work plans, bearing in mind regional trends. The meeting was an ideal learning platform for new processes such as Swaziland, Botswana and Angola who are being drawn into the SDI fold. Key issues discussed included sustainability within the scope of diminishing donor funding, challenges of loan repayment (especially around housing), strengthening of the community voice and leadership, shared learning across border towns in different countries, the possibility of a regional hub fund and organizing to prevent evictions.
A key aspect of this hub meeting was that it allowed affiliates to think collectively about challenges which they all face (e.g. diminishing resources) and propose actions at a regional level. This scale of engagement enables strategic cross-pollination of knowledge and planning to address challenges that cut across geographical boundaries. The strength of numbers replicated in a broad-based approach to citywide change can be replicated and achieve added political clout when affiliates strategize collectively to meet challenges.
While Namibia used discussions and field visits to critically address the issue of non-repayment of housing loans (a challenge reflected in most Southern African processes) it was felt that the meeting could also have attempted to develop the Windhoek process' stalled relationship with government. Being used to the political advantage of the local process is also an important component of regional hub meetings. The full report outlines the key activities, discussions and reflections while providing a list of the agreed upon outputs. Discussions are contextualized within SDI’s overarching goals of strengthening local government and building a strong community process.
Click here to read the full Southern Africa regional hub meeting report.
By Anni Beukes, SDI Secretariat
“We are able to appreciate that we need to have a more holistic view of the cities where we are working” (Frederick Mugisa, Uganda, SDI Alliance).
“...now we are planning the profiling in the settlements we are working and also see city wide settlement profiling to help in planning of the city with the slum dwellers” (Shekar and John Samuel, NSDF/SPARC, India, SDI Alliance)
While focus on the local remains the core concern of SDI federations, the question, increasingly pertinent is, how does the global network of the urban poor make itself globally visible and relevant on the global urban development agenda? Peer exchanges have long served SDI federations as a learning space to share experiences of everyday life. They serve as a platform from which urban poor communities can share local concerns, challenges and successes. Like SDI enumerations and settlement profiles they too have traditionally been centred on particular contexts and the particular concerns of local slum dwellers.
SDI and Santa Fe Institute’s (SFI) global slum profiling project aims to aggregate and analyse the around 7,000 federation profiles collected over the past twenty years in more than 15 countries across the global south. The objective is to yield a "science of slums" powerful enough to leverage city wide and global sustainable developmental appeal for ‘slum data’. With renewed vigour the network is looking towards two of its most powerful tools (exchanges and enumerations) as learning and innovation spaces to foster this goal.
Making slum communities visible to their local authorities has been the driving force behind local actions to stave off evictions and leverage land, basic services and upgrading of slums. Mugisa, Shekar and Samuel’s appreciation of the value of the June learning exchange around the SDI and SFI Partnership, during the SDI-SFI Field Visit Cape Town June 2013, echoes the hope expressed by Sheela Patel, director of Indian NGO SPARC and SDI Board Member, that “communities of the urban poor living in informal settlements [will come] to believe that aggregating information about settlement and households is a valuable tool towards improving their lives” (Patel in Fieuw 2013 and elsewhere ).
Over the course of ten days in and around Cape Town’s UT Section, Khayelitsha, federation members along with NGO support staff from Malawi, Kenya, India, Zimbabwe, Uganda, South Africa and Namibia were able to test the new tools (including a questionnaire, geo-tagging smart phone application, etc.) developed through the SDI-SFI collaboration to improve and standardise the data capturing processes of the network. Rosey Mashimbye of FEDUP, South Africa, commented that the use of these new technologies is certainly an improvement from manual capturing. While there remain some concerns among federation members that the new standardised questionnaire may not speak to all their local concerns, according to the Namibian alliance’s report, “standardised rituals and practices [may have] the possibility to incorporate local concerns/issues” (Harris, Namibia Alliance).
Informal settlement communities have come a long way in showing that their settlements and communities are not just spaces of perceived and real deprivation, but rather innovation and resourcefulness. They have consistently shown that slum dwellers themselves are the most capable of showing local authorities, who they are, how they live, make their livelihoods and contribute to the economies of the cities from which they are so often excluded. By standardising profiling and enumerations and marrying our techniques to cutting edge technology and analysis through the learning space of peer-exchanges, we are well on our way to leverage on of the most powerful tools of the federations of the urban poor in creating sustainable and resilient inclusive cities.
For more on SDI enumerations and profiling see pages 46-52 in our latest Annual Report.
SDI signs an MOU with Cities Alliance and United Cities & Local Governments of Africa (UCLGA).
The experience of federations of the urban poor that make up the SDI network underlines the interconnections of actions that impact both locally and globally. Every time a foreign corporation, government, or other type of organization expresses interest in land or development in a city or in a country, it impacts the everyday lives of the poor. The people who live in cities, and their governments, face constant external pressures regarding the choices that determine whether ordinary poor people have access to land, services, shelter, and economic opportunity.
The challenge, then, is to build organizations and alliances able to balance the influence of powerful global processes with local needs to make urbanization work for all. The lesson here is that local actors, especially in city government, through exploring the potential of working and supporting citywide federations of the urban poor, become more effective in managing these processes.
At the global level, SDI is increasingly serving as a platform for allowing representatives of organized urban poor constituencies to speak directly with decision-makers in major international organizations and forums. The aim and impact of these interactions is to strengthen the local processes through which federations form and build citywide alliances. How do they do it?
First, by building new mechanisms for accessing and managing the financial resources required for an inclusive vision of development. The global financial flows that drive city development comprise a juggernaut in comparison to the amounts of money the federations of savings schemes collect. However, these savings serve as the basis for creating citywide funds to finance informal settlement upgrading projects and employment generation projects. Savings also builds financial literacy and management skills amongst the organizations of the poor in order to take up projects to upgrade and improve their settlements with the city
Even more promising is the spread of citywide funds that are joint endeavors between city governments and city federations. These institutions have begun to get formalized in different forms in cities in South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe. They provide the space for city governments and federations to work together to leverage resources within government, within communities, as well as from external institutions in the private sector. These are quintessential examples of the ways in which urban poor federations are a mechanism through which city governments can get a handle on flows of finance that impact urbanization.
Harare Citywide Slum Upgrading Fund
In Zimbabwe, Dialogue on Shelter, an NGO affiliated with Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI) is in the final stages of negotiating the terms of a citywide fund with the City of Harare. The fund is a practical financial instrument reflective of the partnership between the Zimbabwean SDI alliance and the city, creating shared political and financial responsibility for slum upgrading.
The fund will comprise of financial contributions from SDI, the City of Harare and the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation. Other donors have also expressed an interest in contributing to the fund, making it a possible conduit for finances to flow from donors to the urban poor. Not only does this blending of finance create an attractive mechanism to which various parties can contribute but it is a manner in which the participating parties can hold each other accountable.
The negotiations about the fund’s financial structure reflect a concrete manner in which groups of the urban poor can influence financial flows that directly affect their lives. Opening this political space for communities to articulate their needs at a citywide decision-making level is core to SDI’s role, and in the case of Zimbabwe, reflective of long-term partnership building. The Zimbabwean federation argued for the fund to focus on incremental settlement upgrading as opposed to only housing, forwarded loan provision and repayment strategies based on their experiences of daily savings, addressed issues of affordability and planned to extend loans to non-federation members.
This is a clear example of how a voice of the urban poor can negotiate changes that have the potential for citywide impact in a manner beneficial to the poor and more contextualized in “on the ground” circumstances.
The calculation shifts. No longer is it a struggle of poor people to self-finance improvements to their settlements amidst national and global processes that often increase the vulnerability of the poor. Rather, poor people’s organizations and city governments are now working together to generate internal and external financial power to achieve the kinds of infrastructure improvements that reduce vulnerability and increase opportunity.
SDI’s global reach then allows for these experiences to add up through exchanges amongst cities, and exposure of agencies and corporations in both the private and public sectors. Now, globalized flows of finance are beginning to contend with the alternative approaches that SDI federations are enabling at the local level.
Second, the dearth of information about informal settlements persists, even amidst global trends of “big data,” “city sensing,” etc. With over 9000 city profiles and 4000 enumerations, SDI federations are becoming world leaders in generating data about informal life in cities. In partnership with the Santa Fe Institute, with a focus on uncovering complex processes of development, SDI federations are finding new ways to use their data to show the hidden side of vulnerability and survival that is the daily experience of the urban poor. Instead of being invisible, or having their homes and livelihoods thought of merely as hotbeds of crime and disease, urban poor federations are making the case, through hard data, that informal settlements have the potential to be the engines for more inclusive strategies of city development.
Enumeration Data Leads to Slum Upgrading in Uganda
In Uganda, the National Slum Dwellers Federation (NSDFU) acknowledges that “Knowledge is Power” and that this power is something that slum dwellers on the ground can wield if they are organized. To this end, NSDFU has completed five citywide slum enumerations in the secondary cities of Jinja, Arua, Mbale, Mbarara, and Kabale. The Federation understands that this information, gathered by communities, is trusted and more accurate because of the participatory approach employed. In each of these five municipalities the information collected has been used to plan slum upgrading projects and prioritize future projects. The information has also been central in negotiations with local authorities and has been used in Municipal Development Forums to lobby for upgrading funds and improved services. In addition, the data has been used by municipal planning and budgeting committees, helping federation members to gain seats on these committees. The information is also used internally by the federation to guide project planning, highlighting communities’ needs. For example, in Mbale the federation’s data collection skills resulted in the municipality employing federation members and using their tools to help collect informal household and informal market data which will be used to inform city wide development plans by communities and local authorities.
Bit by bit, this information is showing policy-makers and global decision-makers that development that is equitable and sustainable is impossible without addressing the needs and vulnerabilities of the poor. This is particularly so with respect to prioritizing basic infrastructure and shelter. Likewise, this requires prioritizing economic development approaches that finally recognize the strategies that people in informal settlements use to survive and, sometimes, thrive.
Jockin Arputham speaks on a panel at a plenary session at World Urban Forum 6 in Naples, Italy.
Third and finally, urban poor federations in the SDI network are not letting the data and the experts do the talking for them. Instead, they attend global forums and present their own understanding of the power of relationships of learning, and share its impact on their long-standing approaches to negotiation and exchange. Through peer exchanges, the strategies of learning and negotiations undertaken in one country are shared across SDI. As these practices demonstrate their application in different countries and in different contexts they can be presented externally as possible strategies for governments and development agencies to explore.
SDI federations have a long tradition of taking their partners in city governments with them as they travel to other cities and countries. In this way, federations in countries such as India, Kenya, Malawi, Philippines, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, have utilized international forums and exchange programs to help build more inclusive and participatory institutions at the national and city level for making decisions about developmental priorities and programs.
Changing the Approach to Upgrading: Expanding Learning in Southern Africa
In South Africa, the local SDI Alliance, in partnership with the City of Cape Town, is engaged in pilot upgrading projects in 22 settlements across the city. The Alliance’s work in one of these settlements, Mtshini Wam, which has included re-blocking and upgrading of shacks, has drawn local, national and international attention and has contributed to the drafting of a re-blocking policy for slum upgrading in Cape Town. In addition, technical teams from support NGOs iKhayalami and CORC have expanded training workshops for the Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), the Informal Settlement Network (ISN), and local communities beyond Cape Town and Stellenbosch to settlements in the provinces of the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. As a result, communities have begun working with government to develop settlement plans that involve upgraded services and homes.
These skills and learning are being transferred to other affiliates through international learning exchanges. In March 2013, a delegation from the Namibian SDI affiliate, accompanied by a delegation from the Gobabis local municipality, traveled to Stellenbosch, South Africa to learn about the impact of linking enumerations to slum upgrading. Following this interaction, the Gobabis municipality resolved to work with the local community on the re-blocking of settlements in their municipality.
To read more on how starting from the bottom up and connecting on-the-ground activities to global urban development processes leads to effective change, read our 2012 / 2013 Annual Report.
Savings groups form the basis of collective action in urban poor communities. The establishment of community savings is a core ritual of the urban poor federation building process, and the central participation of women in community savings significantly improves the quality of the process and the probability of sustainable change. Community savings schemes help meet the needs of low-income urban dwellers and create the foundation for building urban poor federations that provide their savers with more influence and scope for action.
By being members of small daily savings groups, women with the lowest and least stable incomes are able to create a consolidated voice to help bring about the changes they seek in their city. They also realize their capacity to influence and change the nature of leadership from individual to collective, within and between communities, and thus effect even greater change. This is the essence of the federation-building model in SDI: it is by addressing the needs and aspirations of the city’s poorest women that the rest of the community begins to see meaning in coming together.
Sheila Magare of the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation recounts the effects of community savings in her life and her community:
“…I started getting small loans as well from the group to improve my vending business and I repaid the loans. I then joined other members of the group and got a big loan and we started a collective business of buying and selling snacks from our vegetable markets. This was a huge success and we never looked back. The profits from the business we used to buy building materials for houses even though we were landless. We used our savings booklets as evidence of the capacity of the poor to save and to collectively build their own houses. Armed with our savings records we engaged the City of Harare to allocate us land to build houses. The officials were surprised by how much we had saved. We earned their respect. In turn they changed their conditions for registering on the Municipal waiting list for accommodation… Even though it took us 5 years the City eventually allocated us land to build houses.
Using the same method we started talking to national government ministers as well. Our message was simple - that we were slum dwellers but we were not hopeless. We wanted government to change the policies that make it difficult for the poor to live decently in towns. We wanted the government to give us money to add to our savings. That way more poor people can have decent homes and safe water to drink and proper toilets. Mayors and government ministers in Zimbabwe now know me by name because, with other federation leaders we never get tired of fighting for other poor families.”
In addition to community savings, members of many savings groups also save towards a national fund. This is a fund that is used to leverage the savings of the urban poor to support larger investments in slum upgrading. As savings groups come together (or “federate”) at the settlement, city and national level, they begin to look beyond the needs of their savings group alone to the needs of the federation and the urban poor at large. In the same way, committees found at the level of the local savings group are replicated at network, regional, and national levels. This enables the generation of a self-governing national movement that is rooted in the hopes, aspirations, and challenges of its members.
Both functions reinforce each other. The savings and loans systems at the group level prepare communities for much bigger loans and project management demands when upgrading is undertaken. Federation savings groups see savings as uniting the community and building collective capacity to address larger issues with a wider impact beyond a particular group. Traditional savings associations work to the benefit of the members of the group. Within the federations, however, savings groups serve as building blocks for community institutions that in turn enable them to address and invest resources in issues that affect the entire community or city, stretching beyond those of livelihoods alone.
The development of the city-level federation is inextricably linked to the federating of the savings groups. The city-level federation grows out of the networking and institutional structures that arise from the coming together of savings groups in the same settlement or network, regional, and national level. In Uganda, this process started in Kampala and Jinja regions, and then spread to other areas through community learning exchanges.
Leaders groomed at the saving group level that demonstrate their capacity and dedication have the opportunity to rise to positions of leadership at higher levels, where they can provide mentoring to the citywide agenda that is firmly rooted in the ideals of the savings groups. In this way, the voices of the poor are taken from savings group level meetings to network-level meetings, and from there are able to inform the city agenda. Thus, the city federation is driven from the bottom, not the top. Network, regional and national level meetings are critical to maintaining this bottom-driven process. These, rather than projects, are what make the savings groups feel part of a larger process, a larger agenda, a movement.
One example of this is in Jinja, Uganda, where there are 42 savings groups across the city. These savings groups come together as six networks, each network having eight program facilitators – 60% of whom are women. The program facilitators (for issue-based committees on evictions, health, loaning, auditing, etc.) come together to form the regional council. The regional council provides a space where representatives of the savings groups are able to come together to plan and strategize. Facilitators are chosen for the capacity and accountability they have demonstrated in their savings groups. Five representatives from the Regional Council – three of whom are women – sit on the National Executive Council – the space for national planning rooted in the struggles and ideals of the savings groups.
Check out SDI's 2012 / 2013 Annual Report to read more about how community savings impacts urban change through organized communities and strong women leadership.
By Noah Schermbrucker, SDI Secretariat
One of the major challenges faced by urban poor communities is unlocking finance for their upgrading needs. Formal financial institutions like banks are extremely reticent to provide finance to the poor. Although traditional micro-finance options have had significant traction, interest on loan repayments can be high and the transaction is purely financial without the added benefit of generating political capital. The formulation of a citywide upgrading fund that draws in government through financial commitment creates collective political and financial responsibility for slum upgrading. It is hence a political indication of intent as much as a financial mechanism that the poor can access. Citywide upgrading funds are a “pot” of money that is attractive to other investors (e.g. funders) who can also contribute along the guidelines devised by all parties involved.
In Zimbabwe Dialogue on Shelter, an NGO affiliated with Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI) is in the final stages of negotiating the terms of such a citywide fund with the City of Harare. The fund is a practical financial instrument reflective of the partnership between the Zimbabwean SDI alliance and the city. Harare is the first city in Zimbabwe to adopt a slum upgrading strategy (HSUP- Harare Slum Upgrading Programme), a process facilitated by the work, and precedent setting projects, of the Zimbabwean alliance. The fund is seen as an instrument to achieve the goals of this policy and partnership. During negotiations around the structure of the citywide fund a team from Uganda supported the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation (ZHPF) in their discussions with the City of Harare. The philosophy of the Ugandan federation is embodied by the following quote by Katana Goretti, a national leader of the Ugandan Slum Dwellers Federation (USDF).
“The federation in Uganda started in 2002. The central idea was how can the community be part of the city because we belong to the city” –Katana Goretti (Leader USDF)
The citywide fund will comprise of financial contributions from SDI, the City of Harare and the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation. Other donors have also expressed an interest in contributing to the fund, making it a possible conduit for finances to flow from donors to urban poor recipients. Not only does this blending of finance create an attractive mechanism to which various parties can contribute but it is a manner in which the participating parties can hold each other accountable. A fund constitution that clearly outlines roles and responsibilities as well as the configuration of the fund allows progress to be checked against agreed upon rules and structures. Financial accountability is translated into politically accountability while enabling the flexibility needed for finance to be responsive to the needs of the poor, rather than determined by the strictures of policy. Catherine Sikai, a leader from the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation, summed up these principles during discussions with the city.
“We want to be together with the city-not just us accountable to the city. So we can learn from each other and that people are encouraged to pay back loans that can then revolve. We want to work together-to disburse the loans.”
The negotiations about the funds financial structure reflect a concrete manner in which groups of the urban poor can influence financial flows that directly affect their lives. Opening this political space for communities to articulate their needs, at a citywide decision making level, is core to SDI’s role, and in the case of Zimbabwe, reflective of long term partnership building. One of the key issues discussed included the nature of loans. That is would loans just be for housing (as government officials advocated during the meeting) or would they cover a range of upgrading activities (sanitation provision, drainage, incremental housing construction, water provision). The Zimbabwean federation, given the political space, was able to present a rational argument based on why they believed a fund focused solely on housing would not reach scale, be sustainable or have meaningful impact. This is a clear example of how a voice of the urban poor can negotiate changes that have the potential for citywide impact in a manner beneficial to the poor and more reflective of local circumstances. The quotes below are recorded from the discussion with the City of Harare.
“Housing cannot be the greatest priority because you cannot build a house without land and services. We want to address things incrementally and not start at the end. We need to address what people in the community need if that’s water then we must support that.” – Davious (ZHPF)
“Housing is not in isolation – it is complex. We look at land, water, sanitation and shelter. All of these 4 items contribute to housing. How does the finance facility support WATSAN, land acquisition, superstructure and incremental housing?” - Shadreck (ZHPF)
The federation, based on their experience of savings, was quick to point out the benefits of loans being collective and extended to people outside the Federation (granted that they can prove an ability to save). The importance of reaching scale, and the financial mechanics of doing so, are captured by this position. Group responsibility for loan re-payments spreads limited resources to more people and creates collective impetus to repay loans taken hence diminishing risk. The political impact of wider “reach” is also of benefit to the urban poor, whose strength and ability to express their demands is often based on “collecting” large numbers of people.
“We used to lend to individuals but there was no impact. We prefer a situation were small resources are used to benefit many and make a change within the community. We must bring a change within the slums themselves.” – Davious (ZHPF)
The Zimbabwean federation’s experience of providing loans, through the Guungano Urban Poor Fund, stresses the importance of an incremental approach to housing and infrastructure provision. An individual, supported by her savings group, will secure a loan to build a house to the slab level, once this loan has been repaid a loan is given, to build the walls and then finally the roof – with each step being paid off. Such an approach does not saddle the poor with a “once off” large debt that they are unable to pay. Building houses, or infrastructure, incrementally is far more affordable to the poor who generally have fluctuating and piecemeal economic circumstances. Thus when the meeting turned to the maximum loan amount, interest rate, grace period and systems of repayment the Zimbabwean federation leaders were able to provide concrete advice motivated by “on the ground” financial experience.
“The reason that we disburse incremental loans is that the first projects disbursed by the Guungano fund had low rates of repayment. The loan becomes a burden and we making the members poorer. We then decided to structure our loans in stages-first you get the loan for land and you have to pay 75% and then you can apply for the second loan and so on… Over a period of 2 years you can still get USD 2000 by paying 6-month installments of USD500.”- ZHPF Member
“We agreed to only lend to savings schemes that have saved for 6 months and more. For the loans given people have to raise a deposit of 10% of the total loan for which they would like to apply. We agreed already to lend to groups and not individuals. We agreed that the loan size (when we calculate per individual) should be a maximum of USD 500. Like in all other funds there is a grace period-for this fund there will be zero grace period. The repayment period will be between 6 months and 2 years. The interest rate must cover inflation, administration and capital costs. There should be an allowance for people to reschedule loans. – Davious (ZHPF leader)
From the above quotes it is clear that the participation of Zimbabwean federation in discussions around the nature of a citywide fund adds significant value. The grounded suggestions they bring to the table help shape the nature of the fund in a pro-poor manner that would not be possible without their inclusion. Creating the organizational space for the urban poor to participate in financial decision-making at the city level is one of the key roles of SDI at the city and global scale. Changing policies are important statements of intent but this needs to be backed up by participation in mechanisms (such as financial flows) through which policy is implemented. Tracking these pragmatic changes, and the level of the poor’s participation in them, are essential to understanding the impact of SDI’s work.
“If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.” — Charles Darwin
“The Great Ball on which we live. The world is our home. It is also the home of many, many other children, some of whom live in far-away lands. They are our world brothers and sisters.”
— Primary school geography textbook, Alabama, USA, 1936
Quote and photograph both from The Age of Zinc's Memoir of a Zimbabwean Slum Dweller. Read more here.
By Walter Fieuw, CORC
When the question of collaboratively testing new techniques in profiling informal settlements was raised, Cape Town was proposed as the gathering place for federations from Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Zimbabwe, India, Namibia, and South Africa. Community leaders and NGO representatives from these countries have in common the quest for improving data capture processes. The agenda has a global imperative: first, to analyse the 7,000 profiles federations have captured over two decades in more than 15 countries, and second, to look forward at improved processes for citywide settlement profiling.
SDI and SFI Partnership Background
Delegations gathered for an intense 10 day programme, which started on the 3rd of June 2013. Old friends reunited, and new contacts were made. This project is a collaboration between SDI and the Santa Fe Institute (SFI), which is supported by an 18-month, $1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It is anticipated that this project could yield a “science of slums” if SDI’s data and SFI’s methodology are successfully paired.
SFI’s special research focus on Cities, Scaling, and Sustainability, which is the key department working with SDI, has a “… particularly important focus [of this research area] is to develop theoretical insights about cities that can inform quantitative analyses of their long-term sustainability in terms of the interplay between innovation, resource appropriation, and consumption and the make up of their social and economic activity”. SFI Professor Luis Bettencourt, who is the SFI project leader, remarked on evolving partnership with SDI in an interview with Txchnologist. “We want to find ways to make the greatest use of the data SDI collects,” Bettencourt says. “In this way, the project will help create standards through which informal communities can collect and use data about themselves and develop economic models to sustain these efforts.“
The project has been a work in progress since January 2013, when key representatives from India, Uganda, South Africa and Kenya visited the SFI group in the USA to discuss the make-up of the project. Sheela Patel, Director of the Indian NGO SPARC and Chair of the SDI Board, reflected on the evolving partnership with SFI in a SDI blog article. “As part of its ongoing quest to bridge informal urban settlements into city planning, an important first step has been to get communities of the urban poor living in informal settlements to believe that aggregating information about their settlement and households is a valuable tool towards improving their lives."
After the 7,000 slum profiles were collected and analysed, Federations came together again in Kenya in April 2013. Read the article on the workshop here.
Cape Town Workshop
The workshop started with a meet and greet, and presentations and informal conversations on the vastly diverse experiences of profiling informal settlements followed. Luis Bettencourt from SFI presented on the work of the institute, bringing into focus the dynamics of city growth by drawing on recent research SFI has conducted through GIS modelling. This was also a touch point for how SDI data could help federations understand cities better. Federations shared different experiences of profiling informal settlements. At the grassroots level, the data helps communities understand their settlements better and build relationships with government. Even though this is a practice commonly shared, SDI affiliates have, over the years, developed different mechanisms and processes for collecting information. The challenge and advocacy agenda of SDI saw it crucially important to start a horizontal conversation on how to integrate all the different data sets.
Sheila, a community leader from the Zimbabwe Homeless People's Federation, said that the federation has been profiling informal settlements since the early 2000s. Initially they had challenges to store and analyse the data, and this also delayed the feedback to communities. The Federation decided that involving members from the local savings schemes was the most efficient way to move forward. In this way, they were much more involved, and they were also the first to pick up on errors. There were accounts of political interference, because the politicians were still denying the natural urbanisation. We have now come to a point where we can compare and integrate information to find workable solutions to upgrading.
The issue of data management seemed to be familiar in the Ugandan experience. The National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda is presently comprised of 355 savings groups operating in six cities: Kampala, Arua, Jinja, Kabale, Mbale, and Mbarara. Katana Goretti elaborated that the question of local language difference was a further motivator to involve local people. For instance, people would lie about how many children they had because they thought there would be a kickback for their families. This is resolved in the verification process, "We had to update the database in response to increased evictions, since the data the government cites in justification of their actions are out of date. The large database helps us assist one another in times when other settlements are facing evictions."
The cultural and experiential exchanges were important to align the various experiences. But the main focus was on learning by doing, and the Informal Settlement Network (ISN), a South African social movement linked to the Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), the South African SDI affiliate, suggested that UT Section was perfect location.
Learning by Doing in UT Section, Khayelitsha
UT Section is a dense informal settlement in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, located south of iKhusi Primary School. Founded in 1985 when people moved from other neighborhoods such as Crossroads to make a new home, UT section has seen incremental development throughout the years. At first service levels were very low, and the City government handed out buckets since toilets could not be installed. Years later, the settlement received grid electricity. Listen to Snax talk us through his settlement.
The delegations from Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Zimbabwe, India, Namibia, and South Africa and SFI team had several meetings in UT Section between 4 – 8 June. The new profiling questionnaire was discussed and tested with various technologies, such as an Android phone application coded with the questions, GPS coordinates, and pictures pinned to certain points of interests, such as waste removal skips. Community also experimented with identifying shack usage and mapping out shack numbers by means of large printed satellite photos.
UT Section community mapping team assisted by Shekar (far left) from the Indian SDI Alliance.
Structure use identification through community mapping.
On Saturday the 8th of June, the full settlement enumeration of UT Section was launched with a kick-off party. Government officials from the City of Cape Town’s informal settlement management department and principle field officers (PFO) were invited to the celebration. At the launch, PFO Natalie Samuels remarked:
“In 2009 a partnership was formed between CORC and ISN and the City of Cape Town… and communities were able to petition the City on important needs in informal settlements. The main purpose of this exchange is the profiling of informal settlements and the value that it adds to our communities.”
The on-the-ground learning environment has been a major success. Groups have developed new skills and technologies for profiling and spatially understanding their settlements. The open and transparent learning environment will go a long way in building local capacity to generate better quality spatial and socio-economic enumeration data.
By Walter Fieuw, CORC, South Africa (on behalf of SDI Secretariat)
Community-driven settlement profiling, enumerations, and spatial mapping are practices that federations associated with SDI have developed over two decades. These become valuable tools in negotiating more equitable resource flows from the public and private sector to urban poor communities. Profiling is a “top-level scan” of the most important features of the settlement, an estimation of the number of shacks, socio-economic and demographic information and access to services. It is also often times the first point of contact of the federation to a non-affiliated settlement/slum and opens a dialogue on the networking of community structures at the city level to influence city governments. Over the past two decades federations have used this tool to categorise and map out slums in cities. Countries use different questionnaires, data capturing systems, and mapping tools to reach this goal. In order to upscale this data to give a global narration based on credible and community-driven quantitative data, SDI has engaged the Santa Fe Institute, who are supporting a process of standardisation. The goal of this process is apparent upfront: To enhance the federations’ ability to generate settlement information in a standardised format for city, regional, national and global analysis, while maintaining all the social mobilisation characteristics that have made profiling a powerful tool in the first place.
In a two-day workshop between 13 – 14 April 2013 held in Nairobi, federations from Africa and Asia came together to discuss the purposes, community structures and impact of profiling, and to chart the way forward. Jockin Arputham, president of SDI and coordinator of the National Slum Dwellers Federation of India, opened the workshop by reflecting on the progress to date:
This meeting has been called to alert and request everybody to create an action programme for the profile. We all have different questionnaires, although we say we are one family. Settlement profiles need to be captured, and we need to stay consistent in the questions we require. If the country needs more information, you need to add another page. We need one SDI questionnaire, so we can use the information globally. We want to understand what the magnitude of our power is. We want to make different cases to different audiences. We want to collaborate with all the actors speaking about land, housing, infrastructure; all the people speaking about the urban.
This practice first started in India where slum dwellers were exposed to slum eradication in the 1960s and '70s. Shekar Mulyan recalled the experiences at a young age.
I was born in a Bombay slum, and composition of the settlement was that of migrant workers. My father and Jockin were the first generation leaders. I was six years old when an eviction started that changed the way we would think about organised communities.
Baba Atomic Centre owned the land where we lived. The government recognised the strategic importance of the land, and started planning a large resettlement/eviction process. Jockin was organising protests, but we were failing on all fronts. We did not have any information about of settlement, even though were engaging trade unions, government agencies, and so on. We lost the court case, and the government commanded us to move once again.
We realised that no other community had to go through what we went through. We started thinking about ways to assist communities in similar situations, and how we can best support them. We started counting all the slums in Bombay. This happened over weekends, and there were no resources to support the process. When we compared the numbers the state put forward, and that what we collected, we saw a large discrepancy: the state was always undercounting and minimising the urban crisis.
By creating a “slum dweller perspective” on city planning processes through the practice of profiling informal settlements, groups networking at the city level have better information on their position in the city. City governments often view informal settlements as being “black holes” of demands on state resources; that poor people don’t contribute to the resource base and demand more services and social allowances and grants. This false belief often diverges development capital from poor neighbourhoods towards middle and upper classes, believing that the cost of such infrastructure investments will be recovered through a larger tax base. In this way, cities become more divided, more unequal and the chance of poverty alleviation is seen as a trickle down effect from the market, which has been proven to be untrue.
Alternative views on the organisation and vibrancy challenge these (neoliberal) assumptions of city building. Poor people operate in an economic and social structure that is beyond the control of the state. Here jobs are created, livelihood networks are established, crisis committees respond to disasters, and people build cities from the bottom up. Federations associated to SDI are generating critical information that builds these counter-hegemonic views of the urban poor, rendering a rich and diverse picture of the productive life of slums and slum dweller communities.
Enkanini, Stellenbosch, South Africa Settlement Profile based on Enumeration Map
The experience of the Homeless People's Federation of Malawi speaks directly to these points as Mphatso Njunga, a federation leader, reflected at the workshop:
We are also using our profiling process to understand the budgeting processes in cities, and we are pushing the government to open up participatory spaces to influence the allocation of budgets. In Blantyre, we were never aware of special budgets to development infrastructure in informal settlements, and now we are more involved. We are also working with universities around planning for upgrading. The profiling helps us to categorise the most pressing needs, and create an action plan.
Moving beyond the influence on state resources towards building critical mass of community capacity and social capital, the experience of the Homeless People's Federation of Tanzania inspired a lot of discussion between the federations.
I am from a slum in Dar es Salaam and I have been involved in enumerations since the federations started. We started in 2005, which focused on mobilising savings schemes. The SDI team assisted us to build the template questionnaire, and they mobilised two groups. In 2006, we did another enumeration, which was spurred by eviction threats. The government played up the tenants and the occupants against one another, and wanted to evict last mentioned group. The Kenyan team helped us with numbering, measuring plots, and capturing data. (Husua, federation coordinator)
Once communities have generated sufficient “critical mass” and information about slums, alternative democratic spaces can emerge in which the federation has an influence on the flow of resource which determines whether cities become more pro-poor. Brenda from the Zambian federation recalled their working partnerships with government’s structure.
We network with the government’s ward development committee (WDC) and get introduced to the community. The WDC plays an important role in making bridges between the formal and the informal.
We have collected 139 settlement profiles on the total number of 255 slums. This spreads over three cities. Working with the NGO we collect and analyse the data, clean it and process it, and then share it from the bottom up: the community, WDC, city and national minister.
The federations closed the two day meeting on reflecting on the way going forward. Countries agree to a 2 month and 6 months action plan to prioritise profiling in cities. SDI will continue to track the progress and application of this new and emerging system for collecting slum profiles.
Langrug informal settlement hosted an SDI-AAPS studio this past year.
By Noah Schermbrucker, SDI Secretariat
Last week's 5 Cities Seminar focused on building relationships; relationships between urban poor communities and government, between federations of the urban poor in different cities who face similar, yet unique, challenges and between the formal and informal worlds that shape rapidly urbanizing cities. Throughout the conference, urban planners from the African Association of Planning Schools (AAPS) have joined communities and officials to learn about incremental informal settlement upgrading.
Partnerships with university planning schools can produce tangible results and leverage resources for urban poor communities. Over the past year, AAPS and SDI have facilitated a number of planning studios (In Uganda, Cape Town and Malawi) with various outputs (e.g. settlement-wide upgrading strategies, circulation and infrastructure designs, and detailed maps of previously undocumented settlements). The studios have started to remove planners from the comfort of their offices and challenged antiquated norms and standards, ensuring a serious engagement with urban poor communities. These engagements need to be sustained and not once off interventions so that their value is not significantly diminished.
On the third day of the 5 Cities conference, planners from across Africa held a separate reflection session where they received a detailed brief on the Cape Town planning studio which took place in the beginning of 2012 and discussed the other studios that had taken place in Kampala and Malawi. The Cape Town studio, a partnership between the South African SDI Alliance and The University of Cape Town has taken place for the last two years. The 2012 studio was a 6-month engagement with Langrug, the informal settlement that the 5 Cities delegates visited on day 1 of the conference.
Students with backgrounds in urban planning and architecture worked with the community to produce upgrading plans for the settlement to be used by the local municipality with whom the community already has an MoU. A significant challenge is what actual impacts such long terms plans have, and if more immediate short or medium term plans would have led to more immediate results for the community, rather than grand scale long term visions.
Further discussions ranged across a number of studio related topics, including what type and level of students have worked on the studios, how studios should become sustainable permanent fixtures in the curriculum, the importance of drawing in government officials to maximize political capital and momentum and how the studio, in a dialogic engagement between community leaders and students, should set community priorities and have tangible outputs.
An important point raised by Professor Mtafu Muanda from Malawi was about working in communities that do not have a large SDI presence. He related how the planning studio in Salisbury Lines, Mzuzu had worked with a much larger community and there was a relatively insignificant SDI federation. He explained that for a studio to be effective it had to draw in the whole community and not just a select group of federation members as this fragments the community and might undermine traditional leadership structures. In the case of the Blantyre studio, the Federation used the studio to mobilize the larger community and make them aware of their activities. The traditional leadership structure, and their buy-in into the studio, also assisted greatly with making the studio a community wide process.
Images from the SDI-AAPS Studio at Salisbury Lines settlement in Mzuzu.
In addition, new studios were mooted, especially outside of South Africa, for the upcoming year. In Tanzania preparations are already underway for a collaborative studio between the SDI affiliate (CCI - Center for Community Initiatives) and Ardhi University; a Namibian studio will take place later in the year and the possibility of a studio in Zimbabwe was raised. The point was stressed that such studios need to become a part of the curriculum and not singular events.
Just as planning does not occur in a silo, separated form local contexts of informality, neither does the shaping of a city. The links between legislators, planners, implementers and communities are evident, although all too often not given enough consideration. Because of these links, it makes sense that AAPS planners form part of the 5 Cities programme and learn about informal settlement planning and upgrading, themes that are relevant to experiences and conditions of informality in South Africa and across the African continent.
Building relationships between planners and urban poor communities is an important part of SDI’s ongoing efforts to link the formal with the informal. There is certainly a space for planners within such partnerships, as long as they are positioned not as “top down” professionals but as co-learners who work with the community to produce tangible results based on community priorities and grounded reality.
Community members and government partner from Harare, Zimbabwe talk about their experiences with the 5 Cities Programme.
By Chantal Hildebrand, SDI Secretariat
Following the first two days of site visits and walkabouts in Mtshini Wam and Langrug, the final day of the 5 Cities Seminar consisted of country and municipality presentations and discussion in the City of Cape Town government building located in the heart of the city. Unlike the first days’, which focused on sharing the Cape Town partnership, projects and overall experience, the final day’s schedule was dedicated to learning from the other 5 Cities around Africa.
After brief opening remarks from Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member for Utility Services Shehaam Sims thanking all the delegates for the participation in this conference, the delegation from Ghana was given the floor. Through the 5 Cities Programme, the collaboration with the municipality of Ashaiman and the Ghana Homeless People’s Federation has made significant strides in terms of innovation around sanitation. Based on a common goal of providing toilets and waste management services to slums in Ashaiman, an area included in the Greater Accra region, the municipality and communities have come together address this community priority. As stated by the government official, Mr Anass Atchulo, this partnership has led to some significant changes in policy, with the creation of an informal settlement-upgrading department in the city of Accra is underway. Adding to Mr Atchulo’s words, Mrs Janet Abu, a community leader from Old Fadama settlement in Accra, mentioned the importance of community's involvement, stating that without their initiative and work none of these projects could be realised.
Following Ghana's presentation, Mr Costly Chanza from the Blantyre City Council, shared the challenges and successes experienced during the formation of a partnership between the Municipality of Blantyre and the Malawi Homeless People's Federation. Proving that all slums are decidedly unique, the slums of Malawi are rather peri-urban, with low densities and characteristics reminiscent of a rural villages. As it was explained by Mr Partick Chikoti, a member of the supporting NGO in Malawi, “We cannot plan like the communities of Langrug or Mtshini Wam because the nature of our slums are completely different [with structures made out of home-made brick and cement]… so we find our own way of planning.” This is where the City comes in, sharing their technical support and advice to help the community implement projects such as sanitation units and drains. Similar to Ghana, the outcomes of this collaborative work has led to both the communities and city planners advocating for the creation of a human settlements planning section of the municipality to further meet the needs of the slums in Blantyre.
Continuing to share other experiences, the Zimbabwean delegation highlighted crucial lessons learned through the 5 Cities programme and the realities of creating partnerships. Through the partnership between the city council of Harare and slum dweller communities, the weight of responsibilities the city is faced with in terms of providing for its people has been lifted with the help of community-run initiatives. Mr James Chiyangwa from the city council of Harare shared that the communities “provide back-up systems of services that the city has failed to provide [to slum communities].” In turn, the city provides technical assistance, equipment, and advice to the communities in terms of planning. This collaboration has led to crucial changes in policy, including incremental buildin, which have been adopted as city policy, and the creation of a finance facility for the funding of slum upgrading to which both the governments and communities contribute. Drastically changing the mind-set of the government of Harare from the pervious belief that slums did not exist in Zimbabwe to beginning to recognize the existence of these settlements and finally to creating a working relationship between these two parties, this partnership allows these previously unseen informal settlements to take an active role in improving their living conditions and participating in local governance. As Mrs Sekai Catherine Chiremba, a federation member from Zimbabwe, summed it up, “we are planning with them, not them planning for us.”
The Uganda delegation finished the round of presentations adding their striking work in sanitation, water and waste management in multiple settlements in Kampala and across Uganda. With projects focusing on these central issues facing slum communities (along with the collaborative work between the community and the city), the KCC (Kampala City Council) has asked the National Slum Dwellers Federation in Uganda to submit a proposal of how the city can scale up current community-run sanitation and solid waste programmes. This achievement, along with the joint-work teams made up of the community members and city planners, has graduated the federation of Uganda to “a key ally [of the KCC] in terms of the processes geared towards improving the living conditions of slum communities,” (Mrs Sara Nandudu, federation member). This status has also been replicated in other municipalities where the federation and communities have begun partnerships with local governments.
Sara Nandudu of the National Slum Dweller Federation of Uganda.
Although there are notable achievements that have been realised through these partnerships, it would be unrealistic to omit the challenges. All the delegations (including those from Cape Town and other South African cities) mentioned similar challenges, including:
- Slow results – as mentioned by multiple delegates from Uganda, Malawi, Cape Town, Ghana and Zimbabwe the processes are slow and the work takes time which can lead to community and municipal frustration and tensions;
- The struggle faced by many politicians and technocrats to learn how to do planning the way it is done by slum communities – as explained by many city representatives, planners do not learn how to work with or like the community, so the way communities plan does not follow the guidelines and procedures that the planners are taught. This can cause clashes between the two and can obstruct the progress of projects;
- Federation creating strong relationships with some departments in municipality while other departments are reluctant to participate in the partnership;
- Confusion of roles and responsibilities within municipal departments;
- Disagreements between federation members and municipality of how to proceed with the work;
- Strains due to lack of funds.
As Mrs Melanie Manuel summarised it − using a metaphor coined by Ms Rose Molokoane comparing these partnerships to marriages, “husbands and wives always fight…like we do in our partnerships… [Now we must think of] how do we enhance our partnership? How can we make this marriage work?”
It was agreed that the best way to answer these questions is through trust. Borrowing the phrase of Mr Chinyangwa of Zimbabwe, “without trust you cannot move forward.” Both municipalities and communities must learn to trust each other through these relationships. However, for this to be successful it is essential that these partnerships be inclusive, where slum dwellers are involved from the planning stages through implementation and finally into evaluation. Without community participation throughout the process the work is not sustainable. As Patrick Magebhula said, it is essential to have “community involvement, not just leadership…this is what is needed in order for projects to succeed.”
Following the presentations of the visiting countries, the podium was opened for the representatives of municipalities outside of Cape Town, including the city of Johannesburg, Buffallo City and Nelson Mandela Bay Metro.
These presentations included little mention of current or future community participation or partnerships. Programmes already in place in many of these cities demonstrated a separation between communities and their governments, treating the slum dwellers as solely beneficiaries rather than key partners in upgrading initiatives. When questioned about this fragmentation, some of the municipalities mentioned their perception that the informal communities are disorganised, making it hard to work with them and appealed to ISN and CORC to help these communities mobilise.
Lutwamma Muhammed of the Ugandan support NGO.
In concluding the conference, Ms Rose Molokoane posed a final question to the municipalities: “What are the critical issues that we would like to do with communities?” This brought up the topic of sharing between municipalities. Mr Lutwama Muhammed, from the support NGO in Uganda, shared that the municipalities’ presentations talked “more about what they are doing in terms of projects rather than describing how they learn from one another.” The invitation to these South African cities was extended in order to encourage learning and spark future plans for exchange visits and learning workshops. Ms Molokoane extended this invitation further by sharing a vision of these five cities (Buffallo City, Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, Cape Town and Stellenbosch) becoming the examples of a national level 5 Cities programme for South Africa.
The ending reflection brought up key points to address upon delegates’ return to their own cities and to discuss in future 5 Cities seminars. These subjects included:
- Discussions of how the pioneers who work with SDI can help share the core practices and support other cities who show interest in creating inclusive processes;
- Need to capacitate communities to create their own partnerships or, as Trevor Masiy eloquently stated, “communities need to learn to speak for themselves.”
- Begin looking at the structural issues of why we have slums and the root causes of their existence;
- Considerations of other forums for these discussions and exchanges (such as the South African City Network);
- How to ensure that agreements made in these forums and conferences will be realised on the ground;
- And finally, the importance of scaling up and bringing these discussions and initiatives to city-wide and nation-wide levels.
Ms Molokoane tied off the three-day 5 Cities Seminar with these final words, “Let’s not only look at building projects, but building ourselves, taking care of ourselves, and making our lives better.”
Community members showcase model homes in Mtshini Wam.
By Ariana K. MacPherson, SDI Secretariat
The second day of the 5 Cities Seminar kicked off in Mtshini Wam, a settlement of roughly 200 households located in the greater Joe Slovo Park area of Milnerton, Cape Town. The day focused a lot of attention on the change that is possible through re-blocking, or blocking out, a community-led upgrading methodology that reconfigures a community’s layout to transform tiny passageways, dangerous and impassable, into wide walkways with courtyards where children can play and women can hang washing to dry. Shacks upgraded with fire-retardant material face each other, providing added safety for families who can now find shelter from the Cape’s sometimes harsh conditions.
A wide walkway and upgraded shacks in re-blocked Mtshini Wam.
Mtshini Wam was founded in 2006 when settlers occupied open spaces of a government-funded housing settlement in Joe Slovo Park. Though the Western Cape Anti-Land Invasion Unit responded with threats of demolitions, The South African National Civic Organization (SANCO) and Informal Settlement Unit (City of Cape Town) were able to prevent evictions.
Mtshini Wam settlement expanded and continued to grow. Households in Mtshini Wam depended on water and services from the formal RDP houses, paying up to R50 (USD $6) a month for water. When Mtshini Wam asked the City to provide them with service delivery, they were told this could not be done because the settlement’s density was too high and there were no access roads. Greg Exford, Informal Settlements Manager for the City of Cape Town, said during his welcoming remarks on Wednesday that, “This area was, per capita, so dense that under normal conditions the City would never have been able to make it work.”
In 2009, responding to a lack of services and the challenges they had faced in trying to work with City, community leadership from Mtshini Wam approached the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) for support. “Prior to re-blocking, the settlement was very dense,” said community leader Nokwezi Klaas, “There were no passageways and when there were fires it was virtually impossible to get into the settlement. All the toilets were on the outskirts and there were only three water taps for over 200 households in the settlement.”
Local community leader Nokwezi Klaas describes her work in Mtshini Wam.
2009 was the starting point of a partnership between the Mtshini Wam community, CORC and ISN and the City of Cape Town. To date, this partnership has allowed the community to carry out a settlement-wide enumeration and re-blocking process, install chemical toilets and water taps, and upgrade their shacks using durable, fire-resistant material. Both the City and the community agree that this would never have been possible without a strong, dialogic partnership.
Representatives from ISN, including Western Cape coordinator Mzwanele Zulu (pictured on far left) and the City of Cape Town, including Greg Exford, Informal Settlements Manager for the City of Cape Town, were present at the gathering in Mtshini Wam on Wednesday.
“This project will go down in the history books of human settlements,” said Mr. Exford, “It shows what can be done when the community works together with partners in government… In order to make government work for informal settlements, we have to fuse the conventional with the unconventional, otherwise it’s not going to work.”
Councillor Ernest Sonnenberg, the Mayoral Committee Member for Utilities Services, echoed this point, stating that, “Unless you physically take the community with you and ask them how we are going to achieve change together, you are going to get nowhere. In this way, you can find the synergy between what is demanded and what is feasible.”
Luthando Klaas, another community leader and supervisor for the Mtshini Wam technical team, described some of the more technical aspects of the upgrading process in Mtshini Wam. There are seven teams, made up solely of community members, responsible for different aspects of upgrading. These include a technical team, gardening team, carpentry team, cleaning team, compacting team, demolition team and a building team.
Mr. Klaas describes the various aspects that influenced the design process for the layout planning of the settlement. “When they started the design process,” he says, “one of the important things was to see how to improve services and improve safety and security so that police and emergency vehicles can come into the community and the community can feel safe in their space.”
In addition to this, he describes the sometimes-challenging process of negotiating with the community about the size of structures. During the enumeration, it became apparent that the size of structures varied considerably from one household to the next. In order to make adequate space for each household, community members agreed that no structure would exceed 20 sq. meters in size, allowing those households occupying the smallest shacks (some under 5 sq. meters in size) to live in more comfortable, livable spaces. This willingness to sacrifice individual gain for the benefit of the whole community is something that is quite understandably nearly impossible without a community-led process.
Mr. Klaas spoke confidently about the community’s plans for the future, stating “we don’t want to be in shacks forever.” Members of the technical team showcased housing models that illustrate the community’s hopes for permanent, brick houses and their determination to continue upgrading their settlement. Klaas emphasized that, “it does not end with iKhayalami [upgraded] shacks. The community was able to move from wooden shacks to safer structures, and now they want to continue to move up to more livable structures for themselves – brick houses.”
Following these presentations by the community, the group of roughly 100 participants had a chance to walk around the settlement and witness the change made through the processes of re-blocking and upgrading. Wide walkways give way to courtyards where clothes hang to dry and kids play under their mothers’ feet. Each cluster contains between 10-15 shacks and is built around a courtyard, sharing a communal vegetable garden that grows everything from spinach to dill to tomatoes. Shacks without adequate exposure to sunlight are lit with low-cost solar lights made from a plastic soda bottle filled with water and bleach. A community member welcomes a few others and me into his home so that we can see just how much light one of these bottle-lights can provide.
A community member from Mtshini Wam describes his solar-powered light to another community member from Zimbabwe.
Community leader Nokwezi Klaas shows a community garden to a community member from Ghana.
All in all, the most striking thing about Mtshini Wam is the spirit of the community. They have transformed their impassable settlement into a neighborhood. There is a sense of pride and enthusiasm that is contagious, a reality which is evident in the inspired words of the city officials present at the gathering.
After a morning in Mtshini Wam, the afternoon was spent in the chambers of the City of Cape Town government building. Participants were given the opportunity to discuss and reflect on their experiences in Langrug and Mtshini Wam. The afternoon session began with introductions by Vuyani Mnyango, a local ISN leader, and Mkhabela Estavao, a FEDUP leader from KwaZulu-Natal province. Mr. Mnyango began by describing the formation of the ISN in Cape Town and the steps that were taken to build a partnership with the City.
“In 2011,” Mnyango says, “it was decided that the partnership needed to take action on the ground.” Today, CORC, ISN and the City of Cape Town are engaged in re-blocking processes in the settlements of Mtshini Wam, BBT Section of Khayelitsha, Vygieskraal and Masilunge.
Mkhabela Estavao describes South Africa’s Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), a national network of women’s centered savings groups that, in partnership with CORC and ISN, mobilizes poor people to improve their lives. FEDUP was started in 1991 and is one of the oldest federations in the SDI network, having given birth to a number of other affiliates across the African continent. Membership currently sits at roughly 20,000, but Ms. Estavao emphasizes that this number does not even begin to capture the number of families that have been impacted by the work of FEDUP. For example, she states that over 80,000 families have received housing through the Federation’s processes. When FEDUP realized that they could have even greater impact by involving men more actively, ISN was formed.
Leon Poleman, Project Manager with the City of Cape Town, was next to speak. He spoke of his experience working with CORC and ISN on upgrading and re-blocking, of his inexperience planning for informal settlements and his initial skepticism at the somewhat unconventional methods already being implemented by ISN in Mtshini Wam when he arrived on the scene.
“I come from a formal engineering background,” he said, “When you go to university and technikon, no one speaks of the design of informal settlements, or at least not in my time. So it was quite simple: In my day there were no informal settlements, and this re-blocking thing, we don’t know anything about it, so off you go! And back into our meetings we went to keep discussing how we go about this.”
But what Mr. Poleman quickly realized was that these unconventional methods were the perfect compliment to his formal engineering background, and that through working hand in hand with the community, they were able to find solutions that would have been impossible had the community not been involved. He concluded with a reminder to the other professionals in the room: “We have to understand that this is informal by its nature,” and that therefore, the solutions we find must speak to this informality.
Shortly after this, the discussion was opened up to comments and questions from the floor. Councillor James Slabbert, Portfolio Head for Human Settlements for the City of Cape Town, expressed a keen interest in learning more about the work being done in Langrug, and welcomed CORC and ISN’s input in utilizing their experience with re-blocking to provide input to the drafting of policy around informal settlement upgrading for the City. Mzwanele Zulu, ISN Coordinator for the Western Cape, was pleased to hear the City’s willingness to make re-blocking part of informal settlement upgrading policy, and urged the City to stick to its word on this point. Following the meeting, arrangements were made by CORC staff and ISN leaders to meet with Mr. Slabbert at a later date to continue these discussions.
Another issue that came to the fore during this session was the question of secure tenure for residents of settlements like Langrug and Mtshini Wam, questioning whether upgrading and re-blocking do enough towards this aim. Patrick Magebhula, national coordinator for ISN, confirmed that “the reasons for upgrading is to allow people to live where they are now, so re-blocking is just another way to give people land tenure where they live.”
Greg Exford echoed this point, stating, “If we do upgrading [in our informal settlements], people are given security of tenure. If we do enumerations, as soon as we have that person on [the City’s] database, they have security of tenure.”
The meeting closed on a positive note, with a colleague from Zambia commending CORC, ISN and the City of Cape Town. “What you have achieved in Mtshini Wam is a huge achievement. This is a wonderful first step. Now how do we get other communities on board so that we can spread upgrading to more communities?”
This is the key question for the 5 Cities Programme. Earlier in the day, Mzwanele Zulu had expressed his eagerness to scale up the activities in Mtshini Wam to settlements across Cape Town. In Cape Town, thanks to a growing partnership with the City, this becoming more of a reality. Despite challenges and setbacks, experiences like that of Mtshini Wam is evidence of the promise these partnerships can bring when the community takes the lead.
By Chantal Hildebrand & Ariana K. MacPherson, SDI Secretariat
Today marked the first day of the third 5 Cities Seminar, being held in Cape Town, South Africa from 5 – 7 February. Delegations made up of slum dwellers, government officials, support staff, and academic partners from across South Africa, and from the cities of Accra in Ghana, Kampala in Uganda, Blantyre in Malawi and Harare in Zimbabwe have come to share in the learning over the course of these three days.
The 5 Cities Programme is an initiative started in the aforementioned cities in Malawi, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Ghana and South Africa to support slum communities and local governments to work together with the goal of taking incremental slum upgrading to the citywide scale. Through collaboration on precedent-setting projects, slum communities and their municipalities begin a dialogue where the experiences and knowledge of the slum dwellers plays a crucial role in the development of their cities. These discussions have led to innovative and scalable slum upgrading projects, which demonstrate the strength of truly inclusive partnerships between the formal and informal in changing the face of their communities.
Rose Molokoane, a member of the SDI board and national coordinator of the South African Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), opened the day’s programme with an enthusiastic speech, addressing both the slum dwellers and government officials present at Franschoek Town Hall. She made it clear that SDI’s objective is to “connect the world from the bottom to the top, putting the people in front.” She stressed the importance of building partnerships in order to do this, comparing the relationships being built between slum communities and their local governments to the building of a marriage. Ms. Molokoane expressed that, although these relationships have their ups and downs, in the end we hope to be able to look at each other as equals. With this mindset, and the implementation of collaborative work between municipalities and slum dwellers, projects in these five cities will set a precedent of slum upgrading at scale, and will be able to serve as a model for other cities around the world. Ms. Molokoane ended her speech with the promise that, “When we go together as 5 Cities, we come together as a collective and leave as one!”
Following Ms. Molokoane’s address, the Mayor of Stellenbosch, Mr. Conrad Sidego, spoke about the municipality’s experience working with the community of Langrug, an informal settlement on the slopes of a mountain in the beautiful Franschoek valley. With a historical past, Stellenbosch has experienced many challenges and setbacks in terms of slum upgrading. Using the words of the Mayor, “We can’t change our past, but with time we can change the course of history…which is what we are trying to do today.”
Following these welcoming remarks, roughly 104 delegates joined the Langrug community for a site visit to the Langrug settlement. As “a settlement in transition” (borrowed term from a slum dweller from Johannesburg), Langrug, like many of the settlements in the other five cities present at the seminar, is currently working on a number of projects in collaboration with the Stellenbosch municipality around housing, water and sanitation, and general upgrading.
The delegation broke into four groups with community members as the group leaders. The groups spent an hour visiting four different sites: re-blocking, sanitation, relocation and a WASH facility (water, sanitation, hygiene). At each site, community members, government officials and support staff explained the details of the projects, and visiting delegates were given time to ask questions and experience the work taking place in Langrug..
At the reblocking site, the Langrug community presented maps and plans for the reblocking project taking place in F block, the largest section of the community. The presenters explained that the process of reblocking begins with community-led profiling and enumeration of the settlement. After this process, community members are trained in GIS mapping and planning, where they use these skills to create their own maps of their community. Together, the community plans how they will rebuild each section to best fit the wants and needs of the community members living there.
Based on the results of the profiles and enumerations, the main priorities of F block were identified as: security, building community through communal space, and drainage. Using this information, the community planned to reblock the section with the doors and windows facing inwards, towards a communal space which facilitates dialogue between community members, a safe area where their children can play and a space where the women can hang up the washing. The community designers explained that “the most important part of the planning was listening to what the people in F block wanted and making sure to plan blocks that people want to live in.” This plan has already been approved and now plans are being made to begin the re-blocking process.
Alfred Ratana, a local community leader, describes the relocation process.
Following the re-blocking site was the relocation site. Coming upon an open area, paved with ball courts and equipped with a jungle gym, the group faced four community toilets delicately painted with pictures to appeal to the children of the communty, a water tap, community built drain pipes and an open space before a perfectly lined set of houses which demonstrate the improvement that can be made to a settlement through relocation when it involves community-led initatives such as reblocking. Aditya Kumar, a member of CORC staff who actively supports the work in Langrug, and Alfred Ratana, a community leader from Langrug, explained the process of relocation that took place here. In November 2010, a neighboring farm owner obtained a court interdict against the Municipality for the settlement’s greywater runoff into their irrigation dam. The municipality was forced to start negotiating with the settlement, because 14 families were to be relocated in the reserve earmarked for an access road construction. Cape Town's Informal Settlement Network (ISN) was introduced to the settlement after the municipality engaged the network, opening a year-long relationship-building window. Ever since, a full scale in-situ upgrade project has been launched; providing better service with minimal disruption to residents’ lives.
In addition to the relocation, Mr. Ratana directed the delegates’ attention to toilets and a water tap, also constructed as part of the relocation project, and addressing some of the settlement’s sewerage issues. In addition, the community used rocks from the mountain to construct four drainage pipes, which catch the grey water and help with the overall sanitation of the community, providing a solution to the issue of grey water run-off.
Another impressive site was the WASH facility. With collaboration and funding from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in the USA, the Langrug community was able to construct their first multi-purpose WASH centre. According to Trevor Masiy, another community leader from Langrug, this WASH centre will house toilets and showers for men, women and children, a toilet that is handicap accessible, a salon for income generation, a reading centre for children and youth and sinks with seats where women will be able to do washing. Run and managed by the community, Mr. Masiy was clear that “this centre is not free, community members will have to pay to use showers and toilets…then the funds generated from the centre will be added to our UPF [urban poor fund] for other projects.”
Trevor Masiy describes the WASH facility.
At the fourth site, David Carolissen, Deputy Director for Stellenbosch Municipality, and Langrug community members presented an impressive sanitation facility, complete with roughly ten toilets and eight water taps. This sanitation unit was constructed following an enumeration which found that households in this part of the settlement had no access to sanitation. Mr. Carolissen then shared his perspective saying, “[in Langrug] we mobilise around community commonalities.” By bringing the community together around a problem that affects everyone, such as sanitation, they are more likely to work together to find a solution.
Although questions were posed throughout the site visit, it was not until the final discussion session after lunch that a panel from the Stellenbosch municipality and the Langrug community addressed comments and questions about the settlement. The visiting professionals seemed very skeptical of the sustainability and worth of the projects they witnessed at Langrug. Many questions from their side surrounded the funding mechanisms, the permanency of the shacks currently being built and the plans for permanent, formal housing in the long term. These concerns were addressed by Mr. Carolissen, who pointed out that planning for Langrug is based on the idea of a “rising platform of services.” In most informal settlements, this means starting with no services, moving then to communal services, to bulk service infrastructure, and ultimately to an formal house with on-site services for each household.
On the other hand, the community’s questions and interests were focused on the community initiatives and the future of the partnership between the community and Stellenbosch Municipality. Some of the question posed included:
- How long has it taken to get the partnership to the current level (between Stellenbosch municipality and Langrug)?
- How are the R2 million managed for Langrug?
- Which policy is being used when looking at levels for electrification? Much of the settlement was electrified, how was this achieved?
- What motivates the municipality to engage or work in these areas?
The day’s final discussion demonstrated the continuous tug of war between the formal and the informal, as some still struggle to see the value of community-run, incremental initiatives for fear that it will not fit into the expectation of a permanent, formal settlement. Hopefully the next two days will continue to demonstrate the value of these types of incremental improvements, for while an improved shack is still a shack, a working toilet, access to clean water, and space for your children to play, combined with a structure that can withstand the realities of fire and rain, are surely steps towards a more dignified life, particularly when achieved through a process of co-production, hand-in-hand with key stakeholders who were previously out of reach.
For more information on the upgrading work taking place in Langrug, click here.
SDI delegates take part in a reflection on the Land, Services and Citizenship Project hosted by Cities Alliance at Africities
By George Masimba, Dialogue on Shelter, Zimbabwe
The recent Afri-Cities conference was held in Dakar, Senegal and took place under the theme - ‘Building Africa from its territories: which challenges for local governments’. About 5 000 delegates from African cities and beyond converged in the coastal city of Dakar to deliberate issues confronting modern African cities. The concept of territory in the theme referred to, among other things, exploring the role of Africa’s institutions and resources as major components for catalyzing the growth of the continent. In particular, the focus was centered on the local government sphere as a critical institutional space for mediating development processes. This year, Slum Dwellers International (SDI) was able to send a delegation consisting of five countries (South Africa, Ghana, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe) accompanied by Mayors from cities where affiliates have established strong links. Through their presentations, the five country affiliates highlighted how they had escalated their engagement with their respective to the brokering of meaningful agreements and equal partnerships.
The session titled ‘Strategies for people’s participation and citizenship’ saw Ghana, Uganda and Zimbabwe sharing experiences from their countries on the topic. The Zimbabwean delegation presented the Harare Slum Upgrading Project that is being jointly implemented with the City of Harare as an example of how a partnership had evolved out of a precedent-setting slum improvement project. The presenters narrated how the relationship had evolved first through land allocations that supported community participation to more equal relationships grounded and firmed up with memorandums of agreements. In Harare, it was noted that the slum upgrading project had not only improved slum conditions but more significantly had provided a site to test alternative solutions to the challenges that slum dwellers face in slums. Construction of ecological sanitation units (ecosan toilets) under the project, for instance, was one such alternative that the partners were able to pilot in the Dzivarasekwa Extension settlement where previously families had to rely on pit-latrines.
Besides testing practical solutions, the Harare Slum Upgrading Project has also enabled the City of Harare and the alliance of Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation and Dialogue on Shelter to develop a slum upgrading strategy for the city, undertake a review of the building regulations and explore the establishment of a city-wide pro-poor slum upgrading finance facility. The upgrading strategy now acts as a protocol detailing a set of procedures for dealing with slums. Additionally, the city-wide slum upgrading fund initiative was an important step in innovating joint funding mechanisms that combine city and communities resources. These activities were reported as significant milestones in addressing the systemic causes underlying the emergence of slums in the city.
Mayor of Harare officially launching a book at the Cities Alliance booth at the Africities Conference in Dakar, Senegal
In Ghana, the presenters from the alliance of Ghana Federation and People’s Dialogue related their interaction with local government indicating how this had birthed very strong partnerships. The Ghana experience centered on the Land, Services and Citizenship (LSC) program, a 3-year project targeting mobilization of savings groups, community infrastructure, profiling, mapping and organization of city-wide forums. Under the first phase of LSC 18 slum settlements have been mapped and profiled in two cities and a memorandum of understanding signed with Ashaiman Municipal Assembly. A Project Implementation Team (PIT) has been set to jointly oversee the implementation of project activities. Municipal Assembly staff provides technical assistance to anchor the profiling and mapping activities while local councilors support Federation groups around community mobilization efforts. It is through such projects that interactions with city governments have been changed from undertaking once-off projects were communities simply participate to carrying out partnership projects with enduring results that alter relations and increase the scope for going to scale.
The SDI delegation from Uganda was supported by the Mayor of Mbale, the Presidential Advisor on Poverty Alleviation and the Commissioner of Urban Development from the local government ministry. In Uganda, central government, local governments and urban poor communities have been brought together around the ‘Transforming Settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda (TSUPU) project. Like its Ghanaian counterpart, TSUPU is also supported by Cities Alliance and aims to: establish urban forums at various tiers of government, develop city development strategies, undertake mapping and enumeration of slums and set up community upgrading funds.
The Ugandan presentation centered on the TSUPU project, which is being undertaken in the cities of Mbale, Jinja, Arua, Mbarara and Kabale. In three of these cities, (Mbale, Jinja and Arua) MOUs have been signed with urban forums having been set up. These forums are community-wide development platforms that rally together all urban stakeholders. During the session, the Mayor of Mbale commended the Ugandan Alliance’s achievements and committed continued support to the Federation.
The next session in which SDI participated centred around the Know Your City Project (KYC), also supported by Cities Alliance. The panelists for this session were from the Zambian SDI Alliance, Lusaka City Council’s Director of Planning, the Mayor of Kitwe, the Mayor of Ndola, the Mayor of Harare and the representatives from Burkina Faso. The Zambian presentation commenced with the Lusaka City Council outlining the background and context of slums in Lusaka. It was indicated that the Improvement Areas Act is a piece of legislation that provides the necessary legal ingredients for upgrading, setting out the procedures for undertaking upgrading. Therefore, armed with such legislation, communities and local authorities joined hands in Zambia’s two major cities under the Know Your City Campaign to collect and document information that would feed into slum upgrading.
An MOU had been signed between Lusaka City Council, Zambia Homeless People’s Federation and People’s Process on Housing and Poverty in Zambia earlier in 2012, which has helped to define the roles and vision of the partnership. The Zambian Federation reported that with support from Lusaka City Council they had been able to conduct profiling, enumerations and mapping in slum areas such as George Compound. A National Housing Forum was convened to discuss the findings from these information gathering exercises and government declared three slums improvement areas. It is through joint execution of these project activities that these partnerships have engendered trust and confidence amongst the partners. Through this co-operation, urban communities from these slums have been given a chance to offer solutions to their challenges and design sustainable strategies together with local government.
These SDI sessions were capped with a presentation from Rose Molokoane during a political session on Africa’s Integration where she presented alongside the former presidents of Benin and Cape Verde. Rose stressed that SDI has shifted gears from participation to partnerships with local governments. She also emphasized that urban poor communities have a great deal of information which cities can use to transform slum settlements. Whilst African leaders have established the African Union, slum dwellers had also rallied together around their own African Union of the Urban Poor through the SDI network.
By the Zimbabwe Homeless People's Federation & Dialogue on Shelter
Unlike the previous global urban meetings, WUF6 will be remembered with a difference by the Zimbabweans. At this year’s World Urban Forum, the Mayor of Harare was awarded the UN Habitat Scroll of Honour - a prestigious global recognition given to an individual or organization for outstanding contribution to human settlements. The award is an acknowledgement of the role that Mayor Masunda has played in the local government sphere in general. In particular, the award recognizes the work done in partnership with the alliance of the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation and its technical partner Dialogue on Shelter under the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded Harare Slum Upgrading Project.
Today, the Harare Mayor invited the slum dwellers to his official residence in Harare to join him in celebrating this prestigious award. Mayor Masunda noted how the relationship with the alliance of the Federation and Dialogue has assisted the City of Harare to accomplish work that ordinarily would have been impossible without this partnership arrangement. The Federation’s power to organize and engage on critical developmental issues was one asset that the City had benefited from in dealing with the alliance. The Mayor explained how the partnership with the alliance, through the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), has managed to create opportunities for leveraging resources to support slum upgrading. The slum upgrading project in Dzivarasekwa Extension was pointed out as a unique pilot that has put Harare on the global human settlements map. In particular, new innovations around achieving densification, affordability and the testing of alternative infrastructure technologies under the project were cited as the key aspects of the project that have helped to build a strong case for Harare as a model.
Through slum upgrading, the Mayor of Harare and indeed the entire City of Harare was demonstrating that engaging the urban poor through meaningful partnerships remains a sustainable solution to informality instead of confronting slums using bulldozers. It is thus through championing these new shifts in urban development practice that work by Mayor Masunda has not only put Harare on the map but also Zimbabwe in general. It is a reflection of the fact that the slum agenda has now become the city agenda. For Harare, therefore the slum issue is no longer an imaginary problem that the city can insulate itself from but rather a challenge that should be acknowledged and addressed through constructive engagement with the urban poor.
SDI is happy to annouce our 2011/12 Annual Report, a reflection of where SDI has grown to over the past 25 years. This includes a discussion of SDI's practices for change, a report on the SDI Secretariat, the building of internal reporting and documentation systems, and SDI's international advocacy and increasing presence on the global stage. The report concludes with a discussion of SDI's approach to key urban issues affecting the lives of the urban poor across the developing south, including water and sanitation, climate change, natural disasters, incremental habitat, enumerations and mapping of slum settlements, and financing slum upgrading.
For the complete document, click here.
By Ariana K. MacPherson, SDI Secretariat
In early September a large delegation from SDI attended the World Urban Forum in Naples, Italy. The weeklong event was attended by virtually all major players in the urban development field and was host to a wide variety of sessions focusing on everything from water and sanitation to evictions to optimized public transit and green spaces.
SDI’s presence at WUF6, whose overall theme was “The Urban Future”, was marked by a sharp realization during the planning phase that the future WUF6 proposed seemed remarkably devoid of the issues facing the millions of urban poor across the developing world, not to mention their participation in the construction of said future.
In response, SDI leadership decided to host a series of panels at the SDI exhibition stand in addition to participation in official WUF6 events, launching the first annual World Urban Poor Forum (WUPF).
During the WUPF launch in which slum dwellers from across Africa and Asia raised their voices in song across the exhibition area, Jockin Arputham, a slum dweller from Mumbai, India and president of SDI, spoke of the importance of bringing the voice of the urban poor to global events like WUF, and the reason for organizing a WUPF alongside the official WUF: “This is the World Urban Forum of the Poor, not the rich. This is the forum for the people who have nothing!” and, “We have to believe that change will come from the poor.”
The three WUPF events focused on themes central to SDI’s core methodologies, and to the lives of slum dwellers across the global south: community-driven sanitation, the importance of partnerships with government, and participatory slum upgrading. Experiences from Uganda, South Africa and India were the focus, with slum dweller leaders and government officials speaking on their joint efforts towards people-driven processes in these three countries. The WUPF events were well attended by slum dwellers, government officials, donor partners, academics and civil society alike.
In addition to these WUPF events, SDI participated in a number of official networking events, and organized a session on another critical issue for the urban future: developing alternatives to evictions. The session, held on the first day of WUF6, was incredibly well attended, with standing room only and people packed into the back of the room and spilling out the doorways. Slum dweller leaders and government officials from Cape Town, South Africa, Harare, Zimbabwe and Iloilo City, Philippines shared their experiences working together to develop locally appropriate alternatives to evictions.
Sonia Fadrigo, a slum dweller leader from the Philippines, spoke about evictions she experienced before the Philippines Homeless People’s Federation developed their relationship with local government, “The demolition team came. I had two kids, ages 10 and 12, they were trembling because they were scared of the bulldozer.”
It was only through developing a relationship with the local government, a relationship that the Mayor of Iloilo City, Mr. Jed Patrick Mabilog, described as being characterized by the policy of “No evictions without decent, affordable housing,” that Sonia and her community were able to rest their fears of evictions. As Sonia said, this was achieved through going to government offices – through demanding alternatives.
Similarly, the Mayor of Harare, Mr. Muchadei Masunda, emphasized his commitment to working with the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation to prevent evictions in Harare. Davious Muvindi, leader of the Federation in Zimbabwe, confirmed this, beginning his commentary saying that the Federation and government in Zimbabwe had moved from “fights to engagement.”
Lastly, the South African SDI Alliance was joined by Ernest Sonnenberg from the local government of Cape Town to speak about their experiences in developing alternatives to evictions. This presentation was particularly poignant as Alina Mofokeng and Rose Molokoane, two slum dweller leaders from Gauteng province, spoke about the recent evictions in Johannesburg’s Marlboro Industrial Area. Since early August, over 300 families have been forcibly evicted, often in the middle of the night, from vacant factory buildings, which were then razed to the ground. Alina and Rose were able to utilize this space on the global stage to highlight their local struggles in the hopes that their government officials, seated in the audience, would feel responsible to rise to the occasion.
Whether or not these global events impact local processes is an important question, for if they don’t – if they serve only as a platform for more empty promises – then what is their use? In the past, SDI has used spaces such as WUF to lay the foundation for successful and productive relationships with donor partners and governments. This year, meetings took place between numerous slum dweller federations and their government officials (i.e. Uganda, Zambia, Malawi, Namibia). Depending on what happens in the coming months, affiliates will be able to determine whether these meetings will bear meaningful fruit on the ground.
One of the key themes that emerged throughout the week was the lack of representation of the urban poor in the majority of WUF events. Indeed, SDI President Jockin Arputham was the only urban poor representative to participate in any of the official WUF Dialogue Events, where he challenged his fellow panelists saying that “Since 1975 when this discussion began…What have we all done since then to make what we discuss actualized in practice? We keep coming to these events, and we ask each other these questions, and then we go away only to ask the same questions again.”
Jockin’s frustration with too much talk and not enough walk was felt by a number of people involved in fighting urban poverty. As David Satterthwaite wrote in his recent reflection on WUF6: “Why weren’t representatives of urban poor organizations, federations and network on the committees organizing this and previous World Urban Forums? Why are the powerful global institutions so reluctant to engage the urban poor directly?” Until these questions are answered through concrete actions towards the contrary (i.e. involving the urban poor directly), it seems these events will continue to do little to make louder the voice of the urban poor, without the unfortunate reality of developing a separate event for that voice. The reality is that, in our pursuit of “inclusive cities” – a phrase heard time and again both at WUF and in urban development circles – we should not be furthering the divide between the urban poor, the informal, and the formal urban development world. Instead, the issues, agenda, and voice of the urban poor should be prioritized at these events, as it is the voice of those whose urban future stands on the most uncertain ground.
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 Jack Makau, SDI Secretariat
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
Back in March 2011 members of the Zimbabwe Homeless People's Federation, support NGO Dialogue on Shelter and government officials from the City of Harare participated in an exchange visit to Windhoek, Namibia where they met with members of the Shackdwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN), Namibia Housing Action Group (NHAG) and city and state officials. The visit was organized in order to provide support for the activities of Harare's five-year slum upgrading program, which include slum settlement profiles, and enumerations and pilot projects in Mbare settlement.
The Zimbabwe group was able to take away some key lessons from this exchange, including:
1) Methods for institutionalizing incremental development in a policy framework.
2) A government-sponsored finance facility that works with networks of urban poor communities (eg. SDFN)
3) Policy impacts through joint exchanges of slum dwellers and government (see also George Masimba's report about the impacts that local exchanges have had on the Zimbabwean constitutional deliberations, available here.)
4) Methods for including and relying upon community-generated information in government planning and research activities.
For a comprehensive report of this exchange, click here.
PMC members during a meeting with the Sustainable Division section from City of Windhoek
By Skye Dobson, SDI secretariat
On July 4th, 2011 an international delegation set off to Kabale in Uganda’s South-West. The group consisted of slum dwellers, support-NGO staff, and a government official from Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Uganda. The Zimbabwean team consisted of Sharon and Samukelisiwe from the Federation, and Takutzwa from their support-NGO. The Malawian team consisted of Loveliness and Fainess from the Federation, Patrick from the support-NGO, and Costly Chanza, Director of Physical Planning from Blantyre. From Uganda, Federation member, Kakinda, was joined by ACTogether representatives.
The journey to Kabale from Kampala was a long one. Poor roads took their toll on the group’s van, but spirits remained high as conversation about the work of each Federation flowed. The groups had much to share and much to learn from one another. The Zimbabweans, experienced in mapping, were able to share some information about their work in Harare, while the Malawians had much to share on housing and sanitation projects. The Ugandans had much to share about their experiences as part of TSUPU and the massive citywide enumerations recently completed. As the group drove through the Ugandan countryside they discussed the similarities and differences between their countries and Uganda. Inspirational singing followed these discussions. The Zimbabwean and Malawian women, despite their different languages, were able to sing their Federation songs in perfect harmony.
Despite the long journey, the group rose early the following morning to meet their fellow Federation members from Kabale. The group then visited Local Council Members to inform them of the mapping exercise and sensitize them about the Federation and the purpose of mapping. They then ventured to the Municipal Council to meet the Town Clerk for the same purpose. Both meetings went well and the community was encouraged by the receptiveness of the local authorities.
These meetings were followed by training with the Kabale mapping team. The Federation’s regional leaders mobilized a group of mappers, many of whom had taken part in the recent enumeration exercise. Since first learning to map on an exchange to Jinja, Federation member from Kampala, Robert Kakinda, has proven to be a strong mapper. He has led mapping teams across Uganda and become an adept teacher and committed and organized mapping leader. In the yard in front of the Kabale federation’s regional office, Kakinda showed the local team the symbols used by the Federation to represent features such as electric poles, water-points, and garbage skips.
Once convinced the group had internalized these symbols he proceeded to show them the satellite maps of Kabale’s cells (neighborhoods). The group was asked to identify certain features on the map to show they understood how to read it. Because each and every structure needs to be identified, interns from local universities digitized the satellite maps to show only the structures. In order for the new map to be big enough for the community to record structure-level features, the satellite map is broken up into a series of “zoomed in” maps. It is on these maps that the community can record the numbers allocated during enumerations on each structure. In so doing, the rich household data that was collected during the recent enumerations (community-run censuses) can be linked to spatial maps using GIS technology. The smaller maps are segments of the entire cell (neighborhood). To ensure the community understands this they assemble the smaller “zoomed in” maps like a jigsaw in strips as can be seen below.
The smaller maps then become recognizable again. Each day of the mapping process, the teams are allocated their own “strips” which traverse the settlement to ensure every square foot is mapped. Each team was led by one experienced mapper and was comprised of a team of local Federation members that will become the leaders once the visitors depart. The exchange participants from Zimbabwe and Malawi were split amongst the groups to learn and to teach. As the groups set out the Learning-by-Doing process began. Concepts that were somewhat abstract in the initial training workshop became concrete as the Kabale team – some of whom are pictured below – navigated the complexities of mapping informal settlements.
The local contingent is absolutely critical to the success of the mapping process from the very beginning. Not only will they carry on the exercise once the visitors leave, but they are able to explain the exercise to their fellow Kabale residents and respectfully request permission to enter compounds and homes to collect information. Entering the private spaces of families is invasive and fears of eviction are never far from the minds of those in informal settlements. Having Federation members that speak the local language – which is different in Kabale than it is even in Kampala – and who are known in the community is central to the viability of the exercise.
The complexity of mapping is hard to comprehend unless you take part in the exercise. Satellite images are not always current and things change very rapidly in informal settlements. The teams must remain vigilant and take nothing for granted when analyzing the digitized structure maps they’re given. They must alter the outlines of structures when they do not fit what appears on the map and they must never assume what is seen from the front of a structure will be seen from the back. For example, in Kabale it is common to see a gated compound, which appears to contain a single house. One might assume that a single household occupies this structure and record the enumeration code that appears on the front door and leave. It is more often the case, however, that when you proceed to walk to the back of the house you see an additional 16 doors, meaning a total of 17 households actually occupy the plot upon which it was thought one household resided.
For the next week the experienced mappers will stay with the community to ensure they are confident with the process and then it will be up the Kabale residents and their regional leaders to manage the exercise going forward. They are confident they can carry on the exercise effectively and efficiently and anticipate it greatly strengthening their negotiating capacity when they visit the municipal and local councils. They will also be looked upon as the new teachers when neighboring Mbarara commences mapping later this month.
SDI federations have long understood the strategic importance of brokering partnerships with local government. This stems from the understanding that in order to scale up federation practices, experiences, and learning, the formal government has to be engaged actively.
At the end of April, SDI’s Zimbabwean affiliate federation — Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation — and support organization — Dialogue on Shelter — were invited to the executive meeting of United Cities and Local Government in Africa (UCLGA) in Dakar, Senegal. There, the Zimbabwean team discussed community-based processes for organization and collection of information.
The Zimbabwean federation has been working in the city of Harare under a new partnership with the city authorities, to jointly collect information and upgrade informal settlements. This is an incredible breakthrough towards a decidedly pro-poor approach in a city where informal dwellers have previously experienced some of the largest mass forced evictions worldwide in the past decade.
The engagement in Dakar has resulted in a new partnership between UCLGA and SDI, which includes a Memorandum of Understanding. Both networks have agreed to support city-wide profiling of informal settlements by communities. The goal will be to mobilize community organizations, and to orient local government towards a partnership-based approach to deal with the growth of informal settlements.
The initial projects in this partnership will take place in two cities, which are yet to be decided. Activities of the project will primarily revolve around information collection such as joint enumeration and mapping. This will serve as the foundation for participatory platform for planning and slum upgrading rooted in the information collected.
This project is to be supported by the Cities Alliance. Both SDI and UCLG — the international body of which UCLGA is a part — are members of the Cities Alliance partnership.
By Mitali Ayyangar
In January, 2011, the Indian Alliance of SPARC, NSDF and Mahila Milan hosted a four day workshop with SDI affiliate members from across Africa and South-East Asia to consolidate members’ enumeration processes and experiences. The workshop was intended to create a space for, firstly, collective reflection on the importance of this fundamental SDI activity and, secondly, to develop strategies to strengthen the SDI Secretariat’s ability to assist member federations expand and deepen their enumeration processes.
About Enumerations: Functionally, enumerations and surveys are tools by which the community collects information about its resources, land ownership, history, services that are provided and the community’s priorities. The various forms in which enumerations are exercised are detailed here. This information forms an important basis for addressing deprivations in slum areas, long-term strategic planning and for negotiating with authorities for land, tenure and infrastructure.
However, enumerating activities do much more than that. They are used not only as a tool to collect information about their communities, but also as a means of connecting and reaching out to people, and through this process, give individuals a collective sense of identity. They provide communities and their aggregated federations with a sense of who they are, what their collective needs are and information and data to produce insights about their situation. People learn to explore processes of contestation with the state about information the state has generated about the poor, which is often not comprehensive and can generally not be disaggregated to produce projects and investment possibilities or to benchmark what needs to be improved upon.
Workshop and its Objectives: In SDI’s collective experience, enumeration processes have been invaluable. Enumerations need to be expanded and carried forward at a large scale – and it was with this overarching objective in mind that the workshop was organised. Within this, a sub-objective was to focus on how support professionals and NGOs can improve their roles in assisting their federation-partners design and execute surveys, manage data and prepare reports.
The Workshop was therefore designed to create a space to:
- Discuss each participating country’s enumeration process, with the goal of clarifying and strengthening the various activities involved, identifying challenges and planning strategies to overcome these challenges
- Identify opportunities for the SDI Secretariat to support country-exchanges for federations to learn about various enumeration processes strategies
- Increase capability of federations and supporting NGOs in terms of data management and analysis
- Exchange thoughts and ideas about the potential for standardization of basic data used by cities and countries
- Discuss the possible future uses of GIS for mapping settlements and possible future production of biometric ID cards
Participants at the workshop included representatives from the SDI Secretariat and NGOs and federations from Ghana, Malawi, Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Philippines and India.
Structure of the Workshop: The Workshop was spread over 4 days. Introductions and outlining individual participants’ expectations of the Workshop dominated the first half of the first day, while the second was dedicated to “setting the stage” – i.e. identifying the current status of federation work, common challenges and an overview of SDI’s near-future objectives. The second day included presentations from each country representative about their enumeration “journey” – each followed by a Q&A session which probed deeper into the role and value of enumerations in addressing needs of federations in that country. On the third day, the Indian Alliance organised a field visit to Pune, where local Mahila Milan presented, on site, their journey from savings and credit activities to enumerations to negotiations with governments to improved housing and sanitation. On the final day, participants evaluated whether their expectations had been met at the Workshop, developed action plans to expand their enumeration activities and identified key peer-to-peer exchanges that would, with the support of the SDI Secretariat, facilitate their goals.
Main themes discussed: Several important issues emerged over the course of the workshop, particularly during the individual country presentations. A brief on each participating country – their enumeration history, processes, key achievements, challenges and top priorities – is included in the full report. Some of the prominent and common issues that emerged were:
- The ‘age’ of NGOs and federations, in terms of experience and capacity for enumerations, in creating processes that lead to effective engagement at the individual/community level and enable a strong federation to take root.
- The importance of building the legitimacy of enumeration processes and data gathered to, firstly, facilitate engagement with outside partners and stakeholders and, secondly, to transform relationships so that federations are valued as partners in national development processes
- Balancing the fundamental commitment of the process to be accountable to its constituents with the demands of governments (and others) to “make data look” a certain way – in an effort to produce information in ways that suit the needs of both, the communities and others
- Understanding the subtleties of the process – including survey design
- Understanding the data – in terms of its findings, its role in bringing communities together and in promoting ownership of the process (translating the data back to the community)
*** A full report with country briefs and other key insights can be downloaded here***
pictured above: In Kariba, members of the Zimbabwe Homeless People's Federation talk about one of their infrastructure projects with representative of the national government's Parliamentary portfolio committee on housing.
Many members of the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation were among the victims of Zimbabwe’s infamous Operation Murambatsvina in 2005. Then, over 700,000 were displaced nationwide by a government program of evicting primarily informal urban dwellers.
Since then, the Federation has rebuilt its membership by mobilizing new savings schemes, and reconstituting old ones. There are currently over 42,000 members actively saving in 53 cities or towns. Further, the Federation has provided 14,450 families with tenure, and built over 2,000 houses.
But it is not just the numbers that speak volumes. In 2010, the Federation, along with support NGO Dialogue on Shelter, began to engage with the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Works and National Housing. This is the committee exploring how housing and shelter issues are to be incorporated into a new constitution for Zimbabwe.
A new report from the Portfolio Committee demonstrates how the patient work of the Federation to translate its struggles to real action on the ground is influencing how shelter issues are understood in the formal political space. In the report, the Committee emphasizes its desire to understand “short-term and immediate solutions to the escalating housing crisis in our nation.” As part of this mission, the Committee visited projects of the Federation in Epworth, which is adjacent to Harare, and Kariba.
A key lesson that the Committee drew from its visits to both areas concerns the importance of an incremental approach to development. There are two primary reasons for this: (1) Incremental development is more affordable. (2) Incremental development is actionable at much larger scale.
The Committee’s report describes the process as follows:
The Federation uses the model of incremental development whereby priority is given to the most important facilities and then gradually followed by the least basic ones. Incremental development is done on either infrastructure or housing development. Water and sewer are put first while roads come at a later stage on infrastructure development. At the beginning those basic services are used communally, and then families graduate into individualized connection when they can afford them. In housing development, poor communities start both with a single or two-roomed unit with a temporary toilet and a stand-pipe and upgrade their structures until the whole house is complete.
Town councils in Zimbabwe have some of the highest standards for housing in Africa. In Epworth, the Parliamentary Committee discovered what poor people have understood for quite some time. A meager 1% of all the houses in Epworth meet the council’s housing standards, and 65% of residents live in informal dwellings. In one ward within the council, everyone lives informally and without serviced stands.
Given this realization, the committee submitted that “there are over 300,000 people who are informally settled [in Zimbabwe] and as such, Government intervention is necessary and unavoidable if the town is to develop and meet the standards required by the Urban Councils Act.”
This is a significant realization in order for any government to begin addressing the scale of urban growth and attendant informality. The resources and regulatory framework provided by government are key determinants of the kinds of interventions that are and will be possible. As such, the Committee made three recommendations for principles to underpin a Constitutional right to housing:
(1) Ensuring 0% eviction rate in the country to ensure that the poor are protected in societies.
(2) Ensuring that the Community Based Organizations pay about 20% of the total cost of the land.
(3) Instituting policies to ensure that the vulnerable groups are accommodated, because as of now, the policies are inhibitive and do not guarantee housing to the poor.
The Committee’s overall observations of the work of the Federation also noted the centrality of women to sustainable urban development:
It was interesting to note that the whole process mirrored the community through effective participation and the community owned and identified with the development. Communities were the agents and actors of development rather than mere beneficiaries. Thus, they developed a strong sense of ownership of both their successes and failures. Community involvement significantly reduced the cost of housing development projects and made them affordable through contributions in the form of ‘sweat equity.’
A striking aspect that was witness by the Committee was the Federation’s strategy that put women in the forefront in all the activities that addressed homelessness and poverty. They led the process of problem identification and development of solutions to both household and community issues. Women worked side-by-side with lead builders as they assisted in the construction of houses. The reason put forward was that women bear most of the challenges of and are hit hardest by poverty. The other reason was that, women were given the space to balance this previously marginalized group. Thus, if women’s lives are changed, the whole community changes.
In conclusion, the Committee recommends four areas of policy changes to help enact the proposed “right to housing” in Zimbabwe’s new constitution:
(1) Poor communities can only afford infrastructure services on an incremental basis. The committee’s recommendation is that Government adopt alternative models such as ecological sanitation to allow the poor to develop houses and accelerate housing delivery.
(2) Government to subsidize the provision of on-site and off-site infrastructure. … Incremental development ought to be accepted by the Government and viewed as a normal way of development for organized low income groups. In view of the fact that the provision of housing is the responsibility of Government, it is the Committee’s feeling that Government work in partnership with Community Based groups on housing issues even in the planning process. … Subsidies may not necessarily be money alone but the cost of development can also be cut, for instance, through approval fee exemptions on bulk standard plans or offering of engineering services to CBOs’ developmental work.
(3) The government can also avail alternative financial options for housing for the poor, and this will alternatively improve the pace at which construction projects are developed. This window can take the form of a Housing Development Bank controlled and owned by Community Based Organizations. This housing finance ought to be channeled directly to the Community Based Organizations.
By George Masimba, Dialogue on Shelter
The Zimbabwean Alliance hosted the second National Forum whose theme was ‘strengthening our process through savings’. The Forum which was held in the Midlands Province in Gweru was attended by Federation members from the seven regions namely Harare, Matebeleland South Matebeleland North, Masvingo, Mashonaland West, Manicaland and Midlands.
SDI affiliates from South Africa, Namibia, Malawi and Zambia graced the occasion and assisted greatly with the discussions. The Forum’s main agenda involved presentation of regional reports, reflection on the Federation rituals and drafting of regional work-plans.
The various regions reported how they had expanded the Federation coverage through opening savings schemes in new areas. In areas around Harare, new initiatives like Shamva, Bindura, Guruve and Marondera had now been mobilised whilst Matebeleland South now encorporated areas that include Plumtree, Kezi, Gwambe, Esigodini and Tsholotsho. The countrywide mobilisation of new areas had seen uMfelandawonye chapters grow from 32 areas in 2008 to the current 54 areas. The different regions also reported on the establishment of networks in their areas – a strategy that had seen participation of more members and strengthening of groups through breaking regions into smaller clusters. Networks were also reported to be facilitating the decentralisation of regional budgets.
A majority of savings schemes outlined how they had started the creative usage of savings through the mobilisation of money for buying groceries, pre-purchasing building materials and availing loans for business projects. Some of the products from the business ventures were also on display at the Forum. Harare region, for instance, showcased products from a project that was producing building materials and herbal medicines. The various regions also highlighted that the move to ensure the immediate usage of savings had been necessitated by the lack of trust in the banking sector.
The regional reports were then followed by specific presentations on the Federation rituals and components. Under the health component, it was reported that a pilot mobile clinic had been set up and been functional for close to three months. The clinic was currently stationed at the Crowborough Federation resource centre catering for the wider community as well.
The presentation on land noted that negotiations with both central and local government institutions had since yielded a total of around 5354 stands across the country. Infrastructure was however reported to be the biggest challenge hence there was a now a well-coordinated campaign for alternatives like boreholes and ecological sanitation units. Whilst on one hand lobbying was going on with officials to have buy-in, the Federation’s capacity to build the eco-san toilets was being developed through training sessions and exchange visits. Seven artisans training sessions have so far been conducted in the country’s six regions.
Enumerations as a powerful tool for negotiations had been expanded and sharpened to include mapping. The national enumeration team reported how they had started building and strengthening their teams in preparation for a number of surveys as well as the Harare Slum Upgrading Programme. Lastly, the Forum participants then grouped according to the regions in order to prepare regional work plans on the basis of the different areas’ priorities.
Southern African hub meeting
Consistent with current practice with other SDI hubs, the Southern Hub of Africa met in Zimbabwe around the latter’s National Forum. The five SDI affiliates in attendance appraised each other through country reports.
The Malawians provided feedback pertaining to their National Forum held in 2010 and thanked the other affiliates for their support. The Malawians also reported on a series of exchanges around water and sanitation that had taken place with Zimbabwe. The activities in Malawi had also started to have impact on policy as shown by the Malawian government’s Growth and Development Strategy which was modelled around the Federation concept.
The Zambians indicated that they were currently busy with a number of housing projects as well as building resource centres hence they had plans to strengthen their capacity through artisans training programmes. In addition, the Zambians had scheduled two Forums on Housing and Health in the first half of the year which drew a lot of interest from other affiliates.
In Swaziland, the need for Federation strengthening emerged as the main priority although it was mentioned that interaction with central and local government had significantly improved. A national forum held in December inn Swaziland had helped to boost the savings schemes.
In Harare, the Federation was implementing Slum Upgrading Project in partnership with the City of Harare and already an exchange had taken place with the Malawians around this project. The Zimbabweans noted that there were plans to scale up current health programmes.
In Namibia, a countrywide 5-year programme (Community Land Information Programme CLIP) documenting informal settlements, was reported to be underway. The Namibians also informed the meeting about the pending programmes aimed at supporting the emerging process in Angola.
The South Africans invited other affiliates to their National Forum earmarked for March 2011. In particular, FEDUP requested support on health issues from other affiliates during the Forum.
After the country reports the meeting then went on to discuss the UPFI call for proposals whose sum total for the entire hub was US$100000.00 with a repayment period of 3 years. The affiliates discussed the terms for accessing UPFI funds and the following country-level issues were noted as the basis for allocation;
- Fully-fledged status
- Existing city-wide processes
- Existing revolving community-based loan fund
- Existing country-wide network of federations
- Existing partnerships with government.
On the project level, the following specific considerations were observed as critical for the disbursement of funds;
- Impact – the extent to which a project will yield results and benefit members
- Policy – the extent to which a project will influence central and local government policy
- Leverage – the extent to which a project has scope to attract additional resources
- Innovation – the extent to which the resources will go towards new alternative
- Sustainability – the extent to which the resources will go beyond the project period
In the end, the affiliates agreed on the following allocations for the UPFI call;
|Country||Loan Amount||Project Description|
|South Africa||US$40000.00||Housing project in North West Province|
|Zambia||US$20000.00||Completion of Federation resource centre in Lusaka|
|Malawi||US$20000.00||Construction of Chinsapo Community Hall|
|Zimbabwe||US$20000.00||Scaling up of the health initiative in Harare|
*Namibia did not have a proposal during the time of meeting
The following exchange programmes for the hub were planned for the year 2011.
|Visiting Countries||Destination Country|
|Malawi and South Africa
|Malawi and Zambia
|South Africa and Zambia
|South Africa and Namibia||Swaziland|
|Zimbabwe and Malawi||South Africa|
|Swaziland and Zambia||Zimbabwe|
Pictured above: Harare Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda begins work in Mbare at a ceremony with the Zimbabwe Homeless People's Federation (uMfeladawonye).
The partnership between the Zimbabwe Homeless People's Federation and the City of Harare was formalized today at a groundbreaking ceremony in the high density neighborhood of Mbare.
Mbare was formerly known as Harare, until the neighborhood's name was adopted by the entire city. It is made up of 28 dilapidated and overcrowded housing estates, and a multitude of backyard shacks. It is the starting point of an ambitious project that partners local government and slum dwellers with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Pictured above: Kenneth Gwatura from the Epworth chapter of the Zimbabwe Youth Federation displays his certificate after the GIS course.
By George Masimba, Dialogue on Shelter
In line with the new emphasis on integrating mapping aspects into Federation surveys, the Zimbabwean alliance (uMfelandawonye and Dialogue on Shelter) organised a one-week course on GIS in collaboration with the Department of Surveying and Geo-informatics at the University of Zimbabwe. A total of eleven participants participated in the course. They were drawn from:
1. Dialogue on Shelter — 2 people
2. Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation — 4 people
3. Epworth Local Board — 2 people
4. Ministry of National Housing and Social Amenities – 2 people
5. Department of Surveying and Geo-informatics (University of Zimbabwe student) – 1 person
The participation of players from central and local government was consistent with the current trend of engaging as many stakeholders as possible. Moreover, the National Ministry and Epworth Local Board were involved in the recent enumeration exercise for Epworth’s Ward 7. The training used data gathered during the enumeration for the practical sessions aimed at introducing the participants to geographic information systems with a particular emphasis on the software that is used manipulate and manage spatial data.
In this respect, the course concentrated in helping the participants to familiarise with ArcGIS, software that is used to represent and analyse spatial data. The participants were taken through the steps of extracting spatial elements such as roads, plots and structures as well as checking out and rectifying errors using the software. The following areas were covered during the training: (1) Introduction to GIS, (2) Introduction to ArcCatalog, (3) Introduction to ArcMap, (4) Geographic Phenomena, (5) Vector Representation, (6) Data Entry and Editing, (7) Topology.
After this first GIS training, the plan is to revisit the Ward 7 spatial data so that some of the errors relating to the Epworth enumeration that were noted during the training can be rectified. This process should be done jointly with both the Ministry and Epworth Local Board. After this verification exercise, the next step should be to formally present the findings from Ward 7. It is envisaged that the socio-economic and spatial data from the enumeration will then eventually feed into the regularisation programme for Ward 7. This work can then be replicated in the other wards that are yet to be formalised.
pictured above: Harare mayor opens an "eco-san" toilet block built by the Zimbabwe Homeless People's Federation.
By George Masimba, Dialogue on Shelter
The Zimbabwean Alliance for the first time in its history exhibited at the Zimbabwe Agricultural Show. The exhibition has provided a platform for the alliance to reach out and publicise the philosophy behind the uMfelandawonye (Federation) process. In the same vein, the show has also presented a glorious opportunity for the various Federation business projects to establish and penetrate uncharted markets. But most importantly, this inaugural exhibition was used to showcase the eco-san toilet popularly known as ‘sky-loo’ — a technology imported from Malawi. The SDI family graced the show and was represented by Malawi and Zambia from the southern Africa hub.
The ‘sky-loo’ technology came into being following an exchange visit to Malawi where the concept has been adopted and is being used on a very wide scale. After the trip to familiarise with the technology, which involved both Dialogue on Shelter and the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation, a lot of excitement was generated within the alliance. Soon, negotiations started with Chinhoyi Municipality to allow eco-san units to be built so that families could move onto an allocated piece of land. The municipality agreed and more than 10 eco-san units have been built and over 50 families have so far moved onto their plots. Once the families occupied their plots, they began constructing their own houses. In this regard, the eco-san technology has opened a lot of opportunities for the urban poor.
It is with the possibility to scale up this approach in mind that the alliance resolved to showcase the technology at the Zimbabwe Agricultural Show. An eco-san demonstration unit was therefore constructed at the Federation stand, and as a way of heightening the stakes and potential for buy-in the His Worship the Mayor of Harare was invited to officially open it. Among other stakeholders, the official opening ceremony was attended by Ministry of Housing officials, Harare City Council, UNHabitat, NGOs (ZINAHCO and ZERO) and the University of Zimbabwe. In his speech, the Mayor acknowledged the need to support such innovations around alternative sanitation strategies and expressed that the City was committed to embrace such ideas. The Malawian Federation also presented its solidarity speech which described how this model had helped a number of households to access affordable services and also to contain cholera outbreaks.
On the other hand, besides the eco-san technology, the exhibition has also created opportunities for the income generating projects from across the country’s 43 chapters of the Federation. Following the business skills training sessions that were earlier facilitated by Dialogue on Shelter and the subsequent loans that were disbursed to the various groups by the Gungano Fund, it was only appropriate that all these initiatives be complemented by a strong marketing drive. The exhibition therefore provided a perfect platform to do just that. As a result, Federation exhibitors displayed goods ranging from batik products to herbal medicines and building materials, all produced by uMfelandawonye members in various projects.
Pictured above: SDI President Jockin Arputham speaks while Ugandan Housing Minister Michael Werikhe, and Mats Odell, Swedish Minister for Finance, Local Government and Housing, look on.
By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI secretariat
The Board of Governors for SDI’s Urban Poor Fund International (UPFI) held its second and last meeting of the year last week in Stockholm, Sweden. Such gatherings are a unique chance to mobilize political support for a people-centered agenda for urban development. High-ranking government officials from countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America, joined slum community leaders to discuss how to support initiatives of locally-rooted community organizations in cities throughout the Global South.
The UPFI provides seed funding to local urban poor funds of national federations affiliated to SDI. The idea is that the money provided by UPFI catalyzes local initiatives that can leverage further resources, have an impact on urban policy, demonstrate possibilities for reaching further scale, and increase sustainable financial practices of the poor through savings.
“I see it as a tool that supports the SDI affiliates in upscaling their development,” says Rose Molokoane, member of a savings scheme of the Federation of the Urban Poor in Oukasie, South Africa, and deputy president of SDI. “For us to have one basket of funds draws the funders to come closer together to create space for the poor and strengthens our self-reliance.”
The Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation (ZHPF) is an instructive example of the ways in which the poor control their developmental future through the UPFI. The ZHPF has used the funding to build “eco-san” toilets in cities such as Bulawayo and Chinhoyi. These toilets are pioneering a cheaper, environmentally-friendly alternative to basic sanitation provision in slums where the high cost of traditional basic services has impeded any kind of incremental development.
The Malawian Federation, also affiliated to SDI, served as a horizontal resource for the development of the ecosan model. In March of this year, a Malawian team comprised of three builders, one federation member and a Water and Sanitation Programme Manager, went to Zimbabwe to teach the ZHPF about the ecosan toilets and construct model toilets in those areas. The projects have enabled the ZHPF to change policy at the local level by involving city officials, and have also had an impact up to the national level. The ZHPF is the leading community voice of the poor for housing in negotiations for a new Zimbabwean constitution. The incremental upgrading strategies employed by the Federation, especially with regards to sanitation, are affecting local university planning curricula as well.
The Stockholm meeting of the UPFI board, hosted by the Swedish government, was coupled with a seminar on “reshaping financial markets to make them more relevant to the poorest of the poor.” This seminar featured a mix of slum dweller activists, academics, NGO professionals, and finance experts, presenting on policy and practice in urban settings in Asia, Africa, and South America. Over 75 people from the Swedish business world attended the seminar, and the hope is that private institutions can begin working to develop financial instruments for poor individuals and communities. Access to finance is one of the biggest challenges impeding many people's ability to get out of poverty, especially in urban environment.
Jockin Arputham is the founder of the National Slum Dwellers Federation in India and president of SDI: “To empower the poor you need to organize the people and make them taste the fruit of organizing. Your power is strengthened by your negotiating power. You don’t go empty-handed to negotiate with government. The UPFI helps people to win the kind of power you need to negotiate with government: statistics, finance, everything. Now no government cannot ignore SDI. There’s no way anyone can ignore this process. They have to engage communities,” he says.
The Swedish government has posted a video from a press conference at the UPFI board meeting, as well as documents used in presentations at the following day's seminar.
By George Masimba, Dialogue on Shelter
Below are new photos from Epworth outside Harare, Zimbabwe. The federation there has been undertaking an enumeration and mapping exercise in order to pursue incremental upgrading of the informal settlement. A larger article on the enumeration project can be found here.
pictured above: One of the first houses being enumerated by Federation enumerators in Epworth Ward 7.
pictured above: Mapping pictures in Epworth ward 7.
pictured above: Shack and plot boundaries mapping underway in Epworth's Ward 7.
By George Masimba, People's Dialogue on Shelter, Zimbabwe
The alliance of the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation and Dialogue on Shelter in collaboration with the Epworth Local Board, Epworth community members, Ward 7 Development Committee, Ministry of National Housing and Social Amenities and Practical Action is currently undertaking an enumeration exercise in Epworth. The enumeration has also drawn 6 students from University of Zimbabwe’s departments of Rural and Urban Planning, Sociology and Surveying and Geo-Informatics who are supporting around data collection, collation and mapping issues. The enumeration exercise follows the profiling exercise that was conducted in May 2009. Whilst the profiling exercise assessed Epworth’s developmental issues from a broad settlement perspective, the enumeration now seeks to gather detailed information at the household level. The intention of the whole exercise is to create information that can be used by various stakeholders as a developmental tool.
The first phase of the enumeration process commenced with Ward 7 where data collection has since been completed. A total of 6252 households were interviewed during the enumeration exercise which was also graced by SDI (Slum Dwellers International) partners from Uganda, Kenya, South Africa and Namibian who have conducted similar processes in their own countries. A total of 120 enumerators participated in the data collection exercise and these were drawn from the Federation, Dialogue on Shelter, Ministry of National Housing and Social Amenities, Epworth community members, Ward 7 development committee and SDI countries.
Epworth Ward 7 Background
Epworth’s Ward 7 falls under ‘magada’ which is a name for areas that were informally occupied by the residents. Since the ward is predominantly informal, there are no basic services such as reticulated water and sewer network. More significantly, the residents do not have security of tenure. It is against this backdrop that the Epworth chapter of the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation chose to target this settlement. That is, the enumeration is therefore hoped to kick-start and facilitate upgrading and redevelopment activities in the ward through granting of secure tenure and provision of basic services. The enumeration will thus enable the residents to define and direct this upgrading process through the information that has been collected from every household.
Currently, ward 7 residents under the auspices of the local development committee have managed to produce a strategic plan for their area as well as a commissioning a surveyor to do a topographical survey. This work needs to be linked with the mapping exercise that is part of the wider enumeration process. Thus, in addition to the socio-economic data, the enumeration will also involve generating satellite images depicting the current spatial elements in terms of existing plot boundaries and structures (houses). The rationale behind this is to ensure that the layout plan for the area will be informed to the extent possible by the existing realities on the ground. At the most successful, this approach will minimise displacements.
Socio-economic data – the key issues
The socio-economic data was collected from each household in ward 7 since the envisaged upgrading will be inclusive of all the current residents. In particular, the survey tool probed household information and the views of the residents regarding upgrading. For instance, the residents were asked to prioritise services requirements as well as stands they were likely to afford bearing in mind that most of the existing plots were very big. Furthermore, the possibilities of giving up some of their land was also raised during the community meetings and survey in order to accommodate services such as roads.
Mapping data – the key issues
The mapping exercise which should be started once the satellite images have been secured will be interested in identifying current plot boundaries and structures. However, apart from just identifying these elements, the mapping exercise will also help to show sizes of existing plots and the number of households on the plot. This information will help to explore the possibilities of accommodating a number of households on a plot depending on its size. At the end, each questionnaire will be able to be linked to each structure on the map and this will greatly inform the planning process. All this will be made possible through digitizing the images using GIS (geographic information systems) tools.
Following the data collection exercise, collation of information has since started. A dual approach is being used in the data capturing whereby one team is keying in the information manually while the other team is entering the data electronically on a computer database. This strategy has multiple benefits. It has not only provided greater scope for wider participation for the community members but also allows for cross-checking the results.
By Louise Cobbett, SDI secretariat
On the final day of discussions at the World Urban Forum, SDI hosted its second networking session entitled People's Organization and the Struggle for the Inclusive City. The panel included federation representatives from the Philippines, Zambia, Mexico, Brazil and Zimbabwe, and they discussed in detail the challenges faced by the urban poor in their efforts to be active members within their own societies.
Sonia Fadrigo from the Philippines spoke about how the UPFI gives the communities the initial funds to be taken seriously at the negotiation table - "no one will talk to you if you look poor and you look like you are begging for money," so the Urban Poor Fund International helps to open the door for the communities.
The communities have to save towards the UPFI and Sheela Magara from Zimbabwe highlighted the social benefit of saving. "You collect money, you collect people, you collect problems then you can build people and build houses," she said.
Other overarching themes to come from the session concerned the importance of information gathering, communities coming to the negotiating table with external actors armed with information and seed money. The chances of the meeting being a fruitful one, are drastically increased. And the reality is that the communities already have the answers to their problems — they know exactly what needs to address and in what order. With their information in hand, they are able to channel the government's resources to where it is most sorely needed.
As if to emphasize Sheela's comments on building an individual through savings and financial capacity, the UPFI funds are managed by the communities. UPFI gives communities a sense of self sufficiency and it builds their confidence. Once you have an organized and confident community, they have a voice that cannot be ignored.
The National Movement of Recyclers in Brazil was included in the session, and though not allied to SDI, their experiences were similar. They held a forum of 1800 recyclers in 2001 at which a memorandum was signed, which was the beginning of the Latin American network of recyclers. 2006, second forum in Columbia, which was an international event. They found that through sharing their experiences, they were able to learn from one another. So in short, community organization is the key, combined with dialogue and sharing of experiences among networks of organized communities.
Finally, the Ugandan Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Michael Werikhe spoke about the importance of the UPFI:
It is special because it is for the people at a global level, at a regional level, and a local level. And it is managed and done by the community themselves. As governments, we need to support the slum dwellers in the efforts for information. It shouldn't be an exclusionary process. But with information, you know your strengths and weaknesses. Governments survive on the urban poor majority.
By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI secretariat
One of the key challenges of urban poverty is to find people-driven solutions to housing finance. An innovation of many federations in the SDI network has been to develop what are known as “urban poor funds.” All federations in the alliance practice daily savings as a means for community organization. These savings can often be used for various kinds of micro-credit as well, though their primary purpose is, as a general rule, to bind communities together, get them to unite around their own problems and their own resources.
But any member of a saving scheme can withdraw their savings at any time. There is nothing keep that person in a saving scheme except their own ties to their community and their specific scheme. The money always remains theirs. Federations that have been around for some time — what is known in the SDI lingo as a “mature” federation — soon realize that in order to develop at any kind of scale, they need to search for ways to come up with a committed, revolving finance facility: the urban poor fund.
Though an urban poor fund operates in different ways in different countries, the basic idea is the same. Each federation member commits a non-refundable amount of money that will initiate the fund. In South Africa, just to give one example, this commitment has a value of approximately US$100. The idea is that these funds that come from organized communities of the urban poor will attract more from outside sources like governments, donors and the private sector. Then, the fund can begin giving out loans to federation members to build houses, start businesses, buy land, and install services. If the loans are repaid then the fund “revolves,” meaning that the money can be loaned out again to someone else. For an excellent summary and analysis of the different kinds of urban poor funds that exist within the SDI alliance, a paper by Diana Mitlin, our colleague at the International Institute for Environment and Development, is a worthwhile guide: “Urban Poor Funds: development by the people for the people” (pdf).
It is a powerful tool for development that really puts organized communities of the urban poor at the center of their own development. So what happens when the fund essentially vanishes — nearly overnight? Sounds devastating. But this is exactly what the Zimbabwean Homeless People’s Federation experienced when their fund, called the Gungano Fund, fell prey to the cruelties of hyperinflation that wrecked the Zimbabwean economy in 2008.
Federation members were determined to keep it going. Still anxious to continue repaying outstanding loans, members developed a system they called dombo-to-dombo (stone-for-stone), where instead of repaying in money, they repaid in material supplies for which they calculated an approximate worth.
With the introduction of the US dollar and South African rand as replacement currencies for the Zimbabwean dollar, the federation is now looking to restore the Gungano fund. I had the privilege of being part of a two-day reflection meeting that the Zimbabwean federation held in Harare at the end of January to discuss how to take the fund forward. My colleague Louise Cobbett and I have a full report of this meeting up at the main SDI website which goes through all of the issues raised and resolved around the fund and how it ties into the greater work of the federation.
It takes the kind of unity forged through savings, information gathering, and — in the case of the Zimbabwean federation — the common traumas of economic hardship, disease, and state-directed violence, to address such a difficult, innovative facility like the urban poor fund with the creativity and seriousness I saw at this meeting. With “urban poor funds,” “community development funds,” and similar terms becoming buzz words in the so-called “urban development sector,” the urban poor themselves are providing some of the most creative, effective examples of how these can actually operate.
By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI secretariat
The Zimbabwean Homeless People's Federation, along with support NGO Dialogue on Shelter, met last month with Kariba council officials. This was not unusual in and of itself.
But often the documentation of such engagements falls to the federation and support NGO. So it was a welcome turn of events that the Kariba council itself submitted a report on last month's meeting. The report lays out some of the possibilities and challenges facing many local councils working with the ZHPF. The same could, in fact, also be said for similar kinds of partnerships of slum dweller federations and local governments in other countries.
The full report, signed by Kariba's director of housing, is as follows:
Homeless People’s Federation landed in Kariba in April 2001 when they were allocated stand number 2561 Batonga to construct a model house. This allocation was actually a test case meant to gauge the effectiveness of the Federation and its capacity to deliver houses. In 2002 the model house was completed. The Federation managed to construct the required model house within the stipulated time. This proved a point to the Municipality and built confidence in the corporate body.
In March 2004 they were offered 136 stands. These were unserviced but surveyed. The Federation paid for the Engineering designs specifically for the area they were allocated. The Federation members provided labour for the servicing of these stands and they were getting technical assistance from the Dialogue on Shelter and Housing People of Zimbabwe. They successfully completed the servicing of the allocated stands and now they are putting up super structures.
The Municipality further allocated them an additional 12 stands in the same area to cater for extra membership and these successfully serviced and they are now putting the structures.
Then in October 2007 we offered them 52 stands in Batonga 2 and they are currently servicing the stands. In August 2006 they came to council with a request to construct temporary structures whilst developing their permanent houses. Council acceded to this request on the condition that as soon as the developer has completed or partially completed the main house, the temporary structure is demolished. We urge the leadership of the federation to observe this condition.
As council we are very glad that we have found reliable partners in Housing development. The Homeless People’s federation, Dialogue on Shelter and Housing people of Zimbabwe have proved beyond reasonable doubt that they are a reliable vehicle for providing housing/shelter to the poor, not only in Zimbabwe but beyond borders and all local authorities are proud of their work. The hopeless in terms of acquiring shelter have been converted to the hopeful actually reinforcing the concept that “A nation should be a beacon of hope”. The poor widows, orphans ,vulnerable and fully complemented families have been empowered through the provision of their own shelter. As Council we are proud of that.
The Homeless People’s Federation is also into herbal medicines, a venture which actually assist the vulnerable and less privileged members of society in that they cut on medical care. On top of that some of their herbs have proved to be more than modern medicines we get from the shelves of our pharmacies.
- Five stands in Batonga are affected by the ZESA power lines and the Council and the Homeless People’s Federation are working together and to rectify this as US6,000.00 is needed by ZESA to divert the power line.
- The terrain, the area the Federation is servicing has got an unfriendly terrain. It is rugged and rocky. Council does not have adequate equipment to assist the members. Currently our backhoe, back actor is down, it need to be repaired.
- Council does not have dozer to assist in the opening of roads. What we have is a grader.
By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI secretariat
Beyond the tragic earthquake in Haiti, we are taking note of a couple of other items of news affecting our partners in various parts of the world:
Earlier this month, traders in the large open market in Kumasi, Ghana faced difficulties when a section of the trading zone burned down in a fire. No official cause has been determined for the fire. It is the second such event in the past year, and authorities have expressed a desire to redevelop the site.
Last week, Zimbabwean National Minister of Housing, Fidelis Mhashu expressed anger and shock at the news that the Victoria Falls city council had authorized the destruction of a hundred houses in an informal settlement in the resort town.
Victoria Falls mayor Nkosilathi Jiyane was unrepentant for the destructive evictions. “As you are aware that Victoria Falls is a resort town, cleanliness is supposed to be maintained so that when foreigners come they are not discouraged by some funny houses. Besides we want to build a good image of our country,” he said.
An article in The Zimbabwean reported that Mhashu invoked 2005's Operation Murabatsvina (translation: "clean out the trash") nation-wide eviction campaign that affected 2.4 million people, according to a UN estimate.
[Mhashu] said the era of Murambatsvina lapsed in 2005 and no one has the authority to continue destroying residents’ houses because of their appearance.
“The policy is clear, if there are any houses that are below required standards, the responsible authorities should first build proper ones and then allocate them to the needy residents before destroying their shelter,” he said.
Mhashu also noted the folly of using the issue of sending a message to foreigners in justifying the evictions in Victoria Falls.
“You will remember that there was a housing convention held in Victoria Falls. So when the town council starts destroying houses, a negative message is going to be sent to foreigners who will start thinking that Zimbabwe is not a safe place to visit,” said Mhashu.
By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI secretariat
The Zimbabwean Homeless People's Federation put on a real show at October's National Housing Convention in Victoria Falls with an eye-catching double-storey housing model, and song and dance inside the conference room. But big news was happening behind the scenes.
During last month's SDI Council meeting, I caught up with Patience Mudimu, a project coordinator at Dialogue on Shelter, an NGO supporting the activities of the ZHPF. She told me that the Federation and Dialogue held a number of meetings with local government authorities during the convention. "For possibly the first time, we were getting directors to queue up to have appointments with us," she said.
There have been follow-up engagements with authorities from five different cities — Harare, Masvingo, Chiredzi, Mutare, and Bindura. The plans under discussion in all of these places reveal a lot of the challenges and possibilities of local administration and urban housing in Zimbabwe.
In Harare, Dialogue on Shelter is talking with Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda about a partnership between the ZHPF and local government to renovate hostels in four settlements. Though town planners are often responsible for much of the implementation process of policy, mayoral will is key, Mudimu told me, to give political clout to a project like this.
In Masvingo, the Federation is facilitating exchanges of local ministers between different cities. As part of the exchange program that they agreed to at the housing convention in October, Mayor Femias Chakabuda wants to bring Federation members in Masvingo to visit the Federation-built settlement in Victoria Falls. According to Mudimu, Chakabuda was particularly impressed by his visit to the settlement.
The Chiredzi local authorities invited Dialogue on Shelter and the Federation to give a presentation to the full town council. They gave this presentation in early November about the difficulties that homeless people have in obtaining land.
The authorities in Mutare had given land to the Federation to build boreholes, a project being funded by SDI's Urban Poor Fund International (UPFI). As part of the negotiations at the housing convention, the Mutare authorities gave a verbal go-ahead, but there is still no written agreement on the issue.
Finally, Bindura authorities have offered space to the Federation to build a community resource center.
As Mudimu noted to me, while it can be tough to achieve much publicly at these big housing conventions, the public show can serve as a good backdrop for successful negotiations and partnerships behind-the-scenes.
***Editor's Note (4 Jan 2010): For an update on behind-scenes-negotiations with local government officials at this convention, check out the SDI blog.***
Dennis Ndlovu smiled as he stood on a step ladder, nailing pink cloth into a wooden beam. He was putting the finishing touches on a model two-story house that the Zimbabwean Homeless People’s Federation built at last week’s National Housing Convention in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. “Through this kind of model, we can accommodate more families,” Ndlovu said, arguing that the model can be used to lobby government authorities to show that the homeless people of Zimbabwe, organized as the ZHPF, can provide their own solutions to the housing shortages that affect their lives daily.
The model was just outside the Elephant Hills Hotel. There, politicans, developers, international aid agencies, and other delegates were debating low-income housing policies and strategies in Zimbabwe. But Ndlovu and his fellow federation members were using the conference to showcase the solutions that poor people in Zimbabwe can and already have developed by themselves.
He said that the federation got the plan for the two-story shared houses during an exchange with the National Slum Dwellers Federation in India. Both federations are part of the Shack / Slum Dwellers International alliance. Patience Mudimu, a project coordinator with the Dialogue on Shelter, an NGO that supports the work of the ZHPF, emphasized the importance of such exchanges. “We have learned a lot from [NSDF] and we still have a lot to learn,” she said.
In September, SDI hosted Fidelis Mhashu, Zimbabwean Minister of Housing and Social Amenities, on an exchange visit to India, where the minister was exposed to the concept of community-led construction of multi-storey residential buildings. The model at the October housing convention in Zimbabwe was borne out of Mashu's request for a similar model suitable for Zimbabwe. The ZHPF intends to use this model as a negotiating tool in their negotiations for land with local authorities.
On Tuesday, 27 October 2009, just as federation members put the finishing touches on the model house, SDI president Jockin Arputham and fellow SDI coordinator Rose Molokoane brought Mhashu, and a number of Zimbabwean city and town mayors to view the house.
Federation members greeted the politicians with songs sung in Shona and Ndebele, emphasizing the work that federation members have already achieved in just over ten years of existence. One song translated to “people who were once lodging [in temporary structures], are now in houses.” Another: “houses are being built, houses are being built, my dear wife, houses are being built.” Federation members mimicked cleaning the windows and floors of their new houses as they sang.
Just minutes away from the hotel where conference delegates stayed, many federation members were not just impersonating the everyday actions of home ownership. They were — and are — living them. Through the communal savings schemes central to the rituals of the Zimbabwean federation, as well as all such SDI-affiliated federations in over 30 countries, the ZHPF in Victoria Falls have built over 340 homes. In addition, the federation itself has serviced the site where these homes lie with sewerage, water, and roads. Members are currently working to provide the settlement with electricity.
Tapfumaneyi Muronzi, age 45, lives in the area, but does not yet have his own home. Still, he said, seeing the progress the federation has made there relying on its own savings and wherewithal, he can’t help but be inspired. Though he had not previously been a member of the federation, “I think I’m going to be part of a [federation saving] scheme now,” he said.
As part of the national housing conference, Mhashu led a delegation of mayors to visit the federation, informally known as Umfelandawonye (“we die together”), and the settlement they have built in Victoria Falls. Ndlovu spoke to the politicians. “Through our spirited efforts we have serviced this land. You can see that there is no missionary here,” he said. He pointed to the throngs of village residents and other federation members from across Zimbabwe. “This is the missionary.”
Femias Chakabuda, mayor of Masvingo and president of the Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe, laid a brick on fresh mortar in an unfinished house the federation has been building for a local orphan. Housing, he said, “is everyone’s responsibility, with government as the facilitator.”
Mhashu, who also laid a brick, said he was “humbled” by such a “symbol of self-reliance in this country … “I won’t sleep until I find a solution to the problems in this country as far as housing is concerned,” he said. “Because of the zeal that I see is in [the ZHPF], I am going to make sure that the land is made available to you.”
The successes the federation showcased at the convention are all the more notable for the trying circumstances during which they were achieved.
The hyperinflation that destroyed the value of the Zimbabwean dollar was of particular concern for a federation built on communal savings. “All our savings schemes had no money,” said William Hwata, a federation member from the resort town of Kariba. To respond to these particularly dire circumstances, individual savings scheme leaders took on larger roles, collecting information about all kinds of social issues. “They collect not just savings, but any challenge that is affecting a community,” Hwata said.
Because money was next to worthless, the federation could not save. “It was better to keep food stuffs than to keep money. That’s what we were doing in a tough situation,” Hwata said.
The Gungano Fund, a bridging finance fund and technical support organization for the ZHPF, was basically eroded by hyperinflation. If a loan had originally been for Zim$20, but was subsequently devalued to Zim$0.02, said Hwata, “We would ask what can we get for two cents. Then if we find out that it can get one nail, then now you owe Gungano one nail.”
With the introduction of the US dollar and South African rand as currency in Zimbabwe, the federation has moved back to monetarization. The federation has negotiated with the Gungano fund to set up rates of exchange to convert back from material loans and savings to currency. “Federation members — they are educated like they’ve got degrees,” Hwata said.
Back at the model house, the politicians peppered federation members with questions: Where are the separate doors for each family that lives in the structure? Where are the toilets? How did you develop this idea?
As federation members patiently showed the politicians around the house, responding to their concerns, a consensus seemed to emerge among the politicians. “It’s quite a good idea,” said Nkosilathi Jiyane, mayor of Victoria Falls.
Muchadeyi Msaunda, the mayor of Harare, went even further, proposing that this kind of house should be built in every city in Zimbabwe.
On Thursday, as the conference neared its end, federation members packed the hotel conference room ahead of a joint speech by Jockin and Rose. As the two leaders of SDI were called to the stage, Rose led the federation in rousing renditions of federation songs, leaving the rest of the audience with stunned looks on their faces. After Jockin and Rose explained the work of SDI and pleaded for land and support from government officials in Zimbabwe, many in the audience raised their hands to ask questions.
Responding to one question about the financial and technical capabilities of the community-based federation model, Rose was unequivocal: “Today we are eating, tomorrow we are not eating. So it is a messy process. Today we’ll be right and tomorrow we will be wrong. But we will learn from our mistakes. Can you please accommodate our messy way of operating?”
After a week of showcasing the achievements of the federation’s “messy” processes, many were now agreeing that this “way of operating” may just be the way forward to respond to the historic conditions of urban poverty in the 21st century.
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