Deepening Citywide Participation in Mombasa, Kenya

By Edwin Simiyu


Muungano’s 668 community savings groups are distributed across 11 town and cities in Kenya. In 2014 the federation undertook a citywide profiling of all slums in 6 of those cities.  One of the main goals of this exercise was expand the engagement the federation has with city authorities, from a slum case level to recognizing and planning for all settlements within cities.

In Kenya’s second city, Mombasa, the citywide engagement had a different entry point.  Early in 2014, the County Government of Mombasa announced intention to develop a Strategic Integrated Urban Develop Plan (SIUDP). The plan would draw in technical support from JICA and private sector consultants. However a precursor to the plan was that the county government was required to present a spatial analysis of the current situation of the city.

Recognizing the unique skill set of mapping human settlement and infrastructure within cities – the County Government requested the support of the federation’s support professionals to develop the city spatial analysis. Edwin Simiyu, a trained surveyor, with five years experience in slum mapping with the federation was seconded by the federation to the county government for a six months period.

A significant impact of Edwin’s secondment has been the recognition of slums as part of the city’s fabric. Previously absent from city zonal plans of land use, slums are now included as a zoning category known as High Density Low-Income areas. Edwin presents the experiences and outputs of his 2014 secondment with the city government below. 

Background Information

The Mombasa County is located in the South Eastern part of the Coastal region of Kenya. It covers an area of 229.9 Km2 excluding 65 Km2 of water mass which is 200 nautical miles inside the Indian Ocean.  It borders Kilifi County to the North, Kwale County to the South West and the Indian Ocean to the East. Administratively, the county is divided into six sub-counties, namely: Mvita, Nyali, Changamwe, Jomvu, Kisauni, and Likoni, and thirty county assembly wards. These are further sub-divided into twenty locations and thirty-five sub-locations.

Population distribution and settlement patterns in the county are influenced by proximity to vital social and physical infrastructure networks such as roads, housing, water, and electricity. Other factors that influence settlement patterns include accessibility to employment opportunities and security. The total population of the county in 2009 was 939,370 persons of which 486,924 are male and 452,446 female. It was projected to be 1,052,802 in 2012 and will rise to 1,273,049 persons by 2017.

In the county, 65.6 per cent of all houses are stone walled while those made of brick walls stand at 7.5 per cent.  Corrugated roofing accounts for 69 per cent of all roofing materials while tiles make up 9.7 per cent of all the houses in the county.  Most of the mud-walled houses are found in the slum areas where they are temporarily built.  In these areas land ownership is not guaranteed, as most of the residents live on land owned by absentee landlords.

Land ownership is a very important factor in the socio-economic development of the county. As of July 2013 only 30 per cent of the residents had title deeds to their land. The county experiences very high incidences of landlessnes, leading to a large number of squatters. Currently, the county has identified a number of issues which it believes affect the 99 informal settlements found within the county.  They include: indiscriminate solid waste disposal, poor road conditions, inadequate water supply, pollution (land, air, and water), inadequate housing units, poor waste water disposal, and inadequate sanitation facilities (e.g. public toilets, waste receptors, waste disposal sites).

Mombasa City Zoning Process

The Mombasa City Zoning process is intended to achieve a Zonal Plan - the spatial framework guiding development of land for the county. The Zonal Plan defines standards and regulations for development of various land uses in the identified zones for 15 years from the date of inception. In this way, it provides guidelines for development proposals, applications, and approval, and is a tool to control development across the county. Therefore, the process provides a framework of

plan implementation, organization and administration structure requirement, and resources needed to implement the plan. With the help of the Kenyan Federation, Muungano wa Wanavijiji, the County Government of Mombasa also intends to use this zoning process to come up with development proposals for the high density low income settlements as well as the effective participation of these key stakeholders in the Strategic Integrated Urban Development Plan.

The Planning Area covers the entire County of Mombasa and it divides Mombasa County into Four Main Zones namely:

1)    Mainland North Zone

2)    Mainland West Zone

3)    Mainland South Zone and

4)    Island Zone

The four zones are further subdivided into sub zones to enable administrative of development control and enforcement.

The expected outputs of the planning exercise include:

  • A situational analysis of the current socio-economic, physical, environmental and cultural characteristics of the Mombasa City;

  • A widely accepted vision for the town’s development;

  • A detailed structure plan depicting specific land use and zoning regulations (code);

  • Sector strategies including transportation, investment/economic, settlement/housing environmental management, disaster management and cultural heritage preservation plan;

  • An implementation matrix with associated realistic costs and responsibilities for implementation of agreed sector wise prioritized programs.

The team started with a situational analysis to establish the situation on the ground. Based on the existing land use maps as well as the data obtained from the rates office, the existing land use situation was captured and presented spatially (as illustrated in figures 2 and 3 below.) This was essential in order to compare with the actual situation on the ground once the reconnaissance surveys are carried out. One observation from the existing land use maps is that a number of areas were categorized as deferred land when in reality this does not exist. Most of these areas are in fact slum areas.

Fig. 2: Existing land uses based on payment of rates. 

Fig. 3: Existing land uses based on inception report (2014)

Field Visits

After the situational analysis was conducted the next step was to conduct a reconnaissance survey, and subsequent transect surveys of the city and its environs. The transect surveys were meant to confirm the situational analysis, appreciate the city, identify data that might have been missed in the situational analysis, and acquire data for the zoning planning process.

Edwin designed a questionnaire using the Epicollect Plus application, which was used to capture the identified data sets in the field in order to guide the zoning process. During this reconnaissance phase, the GPS coordinates of the informal settlements were also acquired so as to assist in delineating the location of these settlements on the map so that they also form part of the planning process. A total of 16 informal settlements in Mombasa North were captured during the process.  The sample database for these settlements is shown in the table 4 below.

Table 4: Informal settlements in Mombasa North 

Based on the data collected, a fresh situational analysis was conducted to bring out the actual existing situation on the ground. Land is critical to the economic, social, and cultural development of the county. Because land is a scarce inelastic resource, there is a need to establish the right use in the interest of the community members being planned for. Land is therefore the main interest of a planning process, as all planning interventions must have a spatial dimension. A critical assessment of the land use structure of the area was necessary in order to facilitate the decision making of the various future proposals for land use in the County Government of Mombasa. An assessment of land use in this area assisted in identifying the potential for future development, planning activities, and creation of a land information system that will guide the development controls within the county. Through discussion with the team members, the planning department will adopt STDM (Social Tenure Domain Model) as the principal land information system that will anchor the zoning plan. Based on the analyses of the data collected, figure 4 shows the updated land use map for Mombasa North.

Fig. 4: Updated current land use analysis for the Mombasa North section. 

As is evidenced in figure 4, agricultural land occupies a 40 per cent of the total land of Mombasa North. However, most of this agricultural land has started being transformed to residential uses. About 15 percent of the land is occupied by informal settlements, which have been represented on the map as HDLI (High density low income settlements) and HDMI (High density medium income settlements). Some of the settlements have been identified for formalization of tenure; these include: Kilimanjaro, Mkomani, Shanzu Majaoni, Ziwa la Ng’ombe and Utange Giriama.

The rate of residential development in agricultural areas is moving very quickly. Large parcels of land located in the northern part of Mombasa North are being subdivided in order to make space for residential development. In addition, development along the major roads and along the ocean is moving very fast towards commercial. These developments are evidenced by the building of major chain supermarkets and luxurious hotels along the Mombasa Malindi road as well as Nyali part of Mombasa North. Therefore, the team came to a general agreement to designate Mombasa North section as a mainly residential and commercial area.

The urban form and character which the settlements in the area are taking is indicative of spontaneity and informality.  The growth of the urban areas was not planned and has not been provided with services essential for sustainable urbanization. Private developers are also undertaking unregulated development.  The zonal plan will play a great role in regulating matters to avoid the situation moving further into irregulality. As the city intends to move in this direction, the participation of the Kenyan Federation in the process ensures the following key principles are achieved: the need to build upon existing community assets and strengths; use of infrastructure planning as an entry-point to address other related issues; and ensuring meaningful participation & community ownership.

Fig. 5: Draft proposed zones for Mombasa North 


This report has summarized the work accomplished so far for zoning the City of Mombasa. The planning was phased out in four sections of Mombasa North, Mombasa West, Mombasa Island and Mombasa South. The draft for Mombasa North is expected to undergo review this month as the work for the remaining three sections is also undertaken. All the drafts should be ready before the end of January 2015 so that stakeholders consultative forums can be conducted during the month of February and the Zoning Plan can be concluded by March 2015. The work reflected here is the result of our successful collaborative planning efforts between the Kenyan Federation and the County Government of Mombasa, aimed at improving the lives and living conditions of slum dwellers in Mombasa County and all slum dwellers in Kenya. The partnership has already started looking into proposals for addressing the housing issues in informal settlements. The Federation is already in discussion to invite the Minister for Lands, Housing and Planning (Hon. Francis Thoya) together with other senior county officials to a learning exchange on housing. This is intended to finalize the discussions that have been started on the development of a housing model that will be used for addressing the housing challenges in informal settlements in Mombasa County.

Based on the information available, the Federation has also started building a database of all the tenure patterns in the informal settlements as this is key in guiding the planning proposals that can be projected for Mombasa County’s informal settlements. This tenure analysis involves boundary mapping of all the informal settlements, overlaying them with the survey maps for the County to understand which settlement lies on which parcels of land. This will then be tied with the ownership information to achieve this tenure analysis. In essence, the work has just started and since there is the will, then the way is definitely there.