The Kenyan planning phenomena has in the past taking a dip by shying away form slum upgrading, though several upgrading approaches have been employed, to deal with challenges facing informal settlements, none has so far adequately addressed inherent and eminent challenges within them. It is out of this realization that, MuST has partnered with SELAVIP in a project dubbed, “Giving slums a vision for improved space for access to basic services and livelihoods”, to address issues of shelter among poor communities residing in slums.
SELAVIP is a private foundation that supports housing projects for very poor families. Its objective focus is on “extreme social emergency”, that is, people who dwell in very precarious and unsafe conditions, on lands easily flooded, on steep and dangerous slopes. In order to find a place to dwell, they may be forced to occupy urban land, suffering with danger of being evicted.SELAVIP has opened a realistic alternatives to these poor urban families that do not “fit” into any existing housing programs, public or private. The foundation seeks to involve more groups and countries of the developing world in the task of seeking realistic alternatives to shelter the poor.
In the course of touching lives the foundation has set aside funds amounting to USD 60,000 to improve housing infrastructure of 40 families in Kiandutu and Nyamarutu settlements in Thika and Nakuru municipalities respectively. The project also consists of three other collaborating institutions which include; Muungano wa Wanavijiji, Akiba Mashinani Trust and the University of Nairobi’s Department of Urban Planning.
In finding solutions to settlement up scaling, the presence of Muungano wa Wanavijiji, Kenya Alliance in majority of these settlements has significantly contributed to the notable paradigm shift in approaches and strategies being ingrained to slum upgrading processes.
Muungano banks on the community participatory approach, which is underscore by the premise that the urban poor communities are not just beneficiaries of top-down upgrading projects, geared towards improving their; social, economic and environmental facets of life, but are the core agents of change, provided we build on the knowledge and capacities within them.
The pilot upgrading project in Nyamarutu and Kiandutu settlements has indeed made the case that, security of tenure is not an instantaneous product though, strategies’ being employed in the housing project and the process itself will definitely go a long way in entrenching a sense of secure land tenure to residents in target settlements.
A view of Kiandutu settlement, Thika
In line with this, the SELAVIP fund will largely support poor households in pilot areas to leverage tenure from the state and as well, address pertinent shortcomings inherent in these areas, besides basic housing.
A view of Nyamarutu Settlement, Nakuru
Objective of House improvement Projects
The fundamental objective of the twin projects (Kiandutu and Nyamarutu house improvement projects), is to enable poor communities in targeted areas undertake affordable upgrading of their housing and neighborhoods.
In order to comprehensively to foster objective, the following approaches and strategies have been core during the preliminary implementation phase of the project:
a) Community Mobilization
To strategically drive Kiandutu and Nyamarutu settlements towards upgrading, MuST’s community organization antics came into play, and with the aid of experienced Muungano wa Wanavijiji, the federation on mobilizing communities that lack the capacity to absorb and
A house in Nyamarutu, Nak sustain infrastructure projects, to do this communities were rallied around savings.
A dilapidated house in Kiandutu, Thika
Savings is at the heart of community mobilisation. Savings activities begin long before any physical development. By way of Savings, households in slum settlements learn to trust one another. This trust provides the basis for effective collective action. By setting up effective savings systems, the community generates valuable social capital through building networks of trust, accountability, and transparency. As the saying goes, “we do not collect money, we collect people”. There are a number of advantages to community-based savings: Firstly, savings draws people together on a regular basis. Secondly, savings build a local resource base and makes communities more resilient against the perils of poverty. Thirdly, this process creates an on-going learning environment.
The solidarity, capacity and trust built through savings and loans at settlement level are clearly the great replicators. They also create the basis for an attendant willingness to share and to spread risk. These may be regarded as the two critical ingredients necessary for the innovations needed to take pro-poor development to scale.
The initial step involved extensive lobbying to bring on board local community leaders and local authorities in Kiandutu and Nyamarutu. This was then followed by community forums, aligned towards the formation of saving schemes which serve as a crucial tool for engagement and consensus-building on prioritized upgrading projects in the aforementioned settlements.
These schemes have ensured high level of participation and mutual interaction among poor communities. Through investing scarce financial resources, members now have a material stake in their settlement and in its planning and decision-making processes. Notably, communities of the urban poor are now better placed to own, manage and control their own finances, and as well demonstrate this ability to the outside world.
To this end, Muungano wa Wanavijiji has been able to leverage a lot, 12 saving schemes in Thikas’ Kiandutu settlement, with a total of 507 members, of which 346 are women and 161 are men. Nakurus’ Nyamarutu settlement scheme has not been left behind, a total of 75 members of which 70 are women and 5 are men respectively.
b) Building Strategic Relationships
Muungano Support Trust continues to build and bank on the practical approach of creating and sustaining strategic relationships with various partners and institutions that cut across the sectors of; academia, state and non-state actors mainly government, local and foreign donor agencies, and service utility companies. These engagements have been cricitical to the scaling up of slum projects and their impact on respective communities.
Through this approach, Muungano and the Trust have built strategic relationships with the Ministry of housing, municipal councils and water companies in Thika and Nakuru municipalities. So far, the aforementioned institutions are working closely with communities in targeted areas in readiness for the house improvement project.
The reporting period also saw Muungano work closely with; University of Nairobi- Urban and Regional Planning Department, the Planning School at the University of Berkeley- California and the University of Cape Town, to develop a joint-planning studio in Kiandutu slum. This partnership has proved significant to informal settlements upgrading processes and has sparked immense interest from various academic institutions.
c) Data collection
The mapping and enumeration of informal settlements by the community itself has successfully made the case that, housing needs of slum populace and squatter populations need to be taken into account. Muungano Support Trust worked closely with communities in target areas, to assess their socio-economic indicators and existing facilities, through mapping and enumerations. As a result, information generated from the exercise has significantly built political capital for the urban poor communities and informed strategic partnerships between them and other urban development stakeholders.
The collecting and processing of data by the community has also generated self-knowledge and empowered them to understand their collective space and subsequent role in the planning of their respective settlements.
To come up with a comprehensive list of beneficiaries, a thorough vetting exercise spearheaded by local community leaders from both Kiandutu and Nyamarutu settlements was carried out. From either of the two settlements, twenty beneficiaries were identified based on the; settlement poverty indice, individual resident length of stay in the project area, accumulated deposit (both daily and monthly savings), savings practices, and more importantly their susceptibility (poorest of the poor families whose houses are at the brink of collapse).
- Communities in Kiandutu and Nyamarutu settlements have been empowered and mobilized around the formation of daily savings. Therefore, a close linkage has been forged between savings and slum upgrading, savings and city development and savings and national development.
- Significant relations with the local government and utility companies have been developed thus reflecting the state’s commitment to explore community participation in providing tenure and basic services to the poor.
- The activity of collecting and processing data (enumerations and Mapping) by the community has significantly build on their capacities, generated self-knowledge and empowered them to create space for dialogue around planning of their settlements.
- 40 households in pilot areas can now envision themselves owning a decent home.
The 40 families involved in the house upgrading programme emanate from both Kiandutu and Nyamarutu settlements. These settlements are highly deficient in terms of basic infrastructure services and poor housing conditions. Notably, majority of the beneficiaries are women who have attained over 50years of age.
Preliminary activities geared towards anchoring the house improvement project has recorded significant progress, a factor attributed to the relentless participation of beneficiaries at different phases of the project, mainly;
- Mobilization of community representatives and members to prioritize their settlements for reblocking.
- Creation of linkages and partnership with the Municipal Councils, utility companies (NAWASCO-Nakuru Water and Sewerage Company and THIWASCO-Thika water and Sanitation Company) and the Ministry of Housing.
- Enumerations and mapping to identify the number of families and also to develop detailed settlement maps.
- Development of designs for housing and infrastructure. To this end, both pilot areas are at the house dreaming stage, which entail dreaming through drawing and typologies. Notably, the process has moved a notch higher in Nyamarutu settlement where house designs have been generated and approved by the community. The next the phase is the presentation of these designs to the council for approval. As in the case of Kiandutu, beneficiaries are at the dreaming stage which has seen them actively engage in a drawing exercise and discussions on how they would like their new dwellings (“dream house”) to look like.
- The role played by enumerations and mapping in the community is significant and cannot be under estimated. During the process of training, various participants dropped from the project, a fact attributed to the value of compensation accrued to the community work. This however did not stop the exercise, and the community participants who understood the approach, mobilized more participants to form appropriate teams.
- Consensus building on a house model that is representative in pilot areas was rather slow during the earlier stages of house dreaming. This saw the technical teams from the alliance come in and mediate in the process.
- Lack of political will around the project, expressed by some of the settlement leaders.
- Communities in pilot areas are now better positioned to surmount their development inefficiencies.
- The possibility of an affordable housing programme can now be envisioned by community members
- A positive interest as regards to settlement upgrading has been generated by both municipal authorities and utility service providers.
So far, the project has not recorded any negative impacts.
The daily savings component among the urban poor, provide the necessary support and incentives for communities in pilot areas to organize, thus with no doubt, incentives accrued greatly bodes the project sustainability. Also, savings has mobilized the collective capacity of the urban poor communities and trust required to sustain and manage such projects.
So far, communities’ involved in the project seek to reduce costs by mobilizing community labor and local skills/knowledge in sourcing building materials, as a prerequisite for project maintenance.
Partnerships build between communities of the urban poor and key urban development stakeholders like; Municipal Councils, academic institutions and utility companies will definitely serve to ensure that the project is scaled up and that it adequately addresses the systemic dysfunction that has for too long excluded the urban poor from decent and affordable housing.