Striving for better housing in Kenya

CNC report from Nairobi, October 20, 2012

Wednesday marked the 20th International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.It is estimated that 30 to 80 percent of the populations in many Asian, Latin American and African countries live in informal settlements, like shacks, slums or Shanty towns.

The Kenya government, together with various NGOs, is striving for better housing for people in need.

The Slum Dwellers International, or SDI, is an association formed by 8 national federations from different countries in 1996 to help each other improve the living conditions of slum residents.

To mark world poverty day, Sheila Patel, the chair of the board of Slum Dwellers International, told CNC in an exclusive interview that many cities in developing countries aren't able to accommodate more poor people within the city.

Patel said this may cause divisions, leading to what would be called formal city and informal city as urbanization continues to grow rapidly.

SOUNDBITE: (ENGLISH) SHEILA PATEL, Slum Dwellers International "We have begun a movement in which we are trying to tell our national governments, we are trying to tell international organizations that urbanization is not going to be reversed and now two years ago it was very clear that the world was urban and in the next 5 to 10 years more than 50% in most of our countries are going to live in cities."

SDI called for full involvement of the slum dwellers to change the way cities are being formed. This can be done through organized communities becoming part of the national and city strategy to address poverty.

Although SDI is in 33 countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa, their main focus is on Africa as it is urbanizing at the fastest rate. Using Nairobi as an example, over 60 percent of the population in the city is living in slums. Patel called for more investments in the informal settlement to alleviate poverty.

SOUNDBITE: (ENGLISH)SHEILA PATEL, Slum Dwellers International "When you live in cities and you do not have a safe place to stay and you do not have access to water sanitation, electricity then you cannot get out of poverty. Because its like you keeping your investments in a leaky bucket. So we are saying that governments have to support investments in these areas."

In a bid to make a difference in the slum and improve the living conditions, SDI together with the Nairobi City Council, educated residents of seven slums in East of Nairobi on how to make cheaper and better houses in the same small areas.

CNC correspondent Ruth Baru visited the Kambi Moto slum, where successful projects are leading to better housing.

STANDBY: (ENGLISH) RUTH BARU, CNC Correspondent "According to Slum Dwellers International Organization 62 percent of the slums in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital occupies only 2 percent of the total land of the city. This has caused many people to live in very small and squeezed shacks such as this one on my right. However here at Kambi Moto the community came together in the same space to build a house such as this one in a bid to improve their living conditions."

As one walks through what would be called the "streets" of Kambi Moto, the cleanliness and no litter draws attention, as this area is in the middle of a slum.

The houses built on a 14 by 14 square feet area are slightly larger than the previous metal and tin shacks. These houses are made of stones, sand and cement.

They are not only self-contained with a toilet and bathroom, but also have the most important utilities of electricity and water, which are not common in slums.

Michael Njuguna, one of the residents and leaders of Kambi Moto told CNC that it is not an easy project. This project together with the help of various NGOs has taken around 7 or 8 years.

SOUNDBITE:(ENGLISH)MICHAEL NJUGUNA, Slum community leader "One of the challenges is for the members to understand the process and to won the project because this is a community led project and to understand its going to benefit their families and kids. So people took a long time to understand."

The residents were also required to volunteer services to cut costs that would be used to hire people for the work of building.

More and more people volunteered to help. 39-year-old Zipporah Njoki, a mother of four, has been working with her husband in turns to complete their house.

Zipporah told CNC that she cannot compare her new house with her previous one, which was on the same spot.

SOUNDBITE: ZIPPORAH NJOKI, Slum resident "The previous house was so small it was 10 by 10 feet, I raised my children there. It was a single room serving as the bathroom, the kitchen very unhygienic. But since I moved into this one, I am so happy. I have my own room, the children have their own and the kitchen and bathroom are separate."

The method of building houses has the living room and kitchenette at the bottom floor and the bathroom, toilet and bedrooms on the upper floor, creating more space.

Michael told CNC this was a very successful way and will suggest other slum dwellers to adopt this method in the future.

Michael and his group have also visited neighboring countries to share the technology.

SOUNDBITE: MICHAEL NJUGUNA, Slum community leader "We have supported Uganda federation through Act Together Organization and in the year 2004 we constructed a sanitation block in Kisenyi 1 using the same technology of laddies and beams which we borrowed from India. Then in the year 2006 we supported Tanzania in the same same technology."

By 2015, they hope the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe water and basic sanitation will be cut in half. This is also the Millennium Development Goal.