By Shadrack Mbaka
Huruma is one of the 180 informal settlements within Nairobi. The settlement is about 7 kms on the North-East of Nairobi central business district. Huruma consists of six villages: Kambi Moto, Mahira, Redeemed, Ghetto, Gitathuru and Madoya.
We primarily take a sneak preview of the ongoing Ghetto land and housing project taking shape in Ghetto village. Initially Muungano wa Ghetto began as self help group known as “upendo wa muungano wa ghetto and later “New Muungano wa Ghetto” .The group is an affiliate of the wider federation, Muungano wa Wanavijiji.
They later on formed a co operative society, with the common bond being housing, where their aim was be poised towards strengthening their bargain with regards to security of tenure issue and also in the area of borrowing & investment. Currently they have over three hundred registered members, and other two hundred or so residents that they envisage to register soon. They have a gender composition of a 3:1 ratio, in the favor of women.
Samuel Mbuthia, a community member of Ghetto and one of the project leaders speaks to Muungano wa Wanavijiji media team on the Journey of the settlement, the housing project and its future aspirations.
How is your Ghetto Community Organised?
“Ghetto Land and Housing cooperative was once a self help group, “upendo wa Muungano wa ghetto” and later on “New Muungano wa Ghetto”. That was at the time where forced eviction in Kenya was at its’ peak. We later on Joined Muungano wa Wanavijiji, the Federation of Slum dwellers-Kenya, where we learnt a lot to do with our rights as slum dwellers.
Our strengths through community organization improved, and it is at this point that we formed savings groups which we later organized into networks and begun the culture of savings. I remember at that time community members would save as little as Ksh. 5, then, it may not have been sufficient but it created a bond between our members and extended communities.
It is then that savings gave us a purpose, and the purpose was to have access to secure tenure and better housing. We begun realizing this purpose, and with the support of Muungano wa Wanavijiji we did a settlement enumeration and mapping exercise, whose aim was to ascertain the number of households within Ghetto. This was then preceded by a house dreaming process, which again was actualized into drawings by our able architects provided by Akiba Mashinani Trust.”
What significant role has savings played in Ghetto?
“As savings groups, now under the framework of the Ghetto Land and Housing Cooperative, each beneficiary on our records raised 20 per cent of the total construction cost, so that we may able to access low interest loans from Akiba Mashinani Trust( a financing facility of Muungano wa Wanavijiji) to build our dream homes.
In the early 2000s, we had begun to pursue security of tenure and just as a mere group it was difficult for us to pursue this line of advocacy, owing to the legal obstacles that stood before us. We then did our research and found it worthy that we register as a cooperative, that would stand us a chance of advocating for tenure rights as residents of Ghetto.
Just recently, we underwent training as members, with the department of Cooperative development and we felt empowered to proceed with our advocacy initiatives. We developed our own by-laws that would guide us as a people. We then elected interim office holders to steer the agenda of the members.
On an economic perspective, the cooperative has empowered us in a good way, initially we had no borrowing powers as a group and now with the cooperative in place we have gotten loan offers from mainstream banks and micro-credit institutions owing to our huge savings. This has empowered us in terms of access to funds and investments.”
In your view what has been the benefits of these savings to the Ghetto Community?
“We have about 300 members who are in the housing project and another 200 who are residents of ghetto, most of them are small scale business people. Savings as a group has been beneficial to us.
Members subscribe to the proverb that says, where you money is your heart is there too. Savings has brought us on the same page on matters of development, and this has enhanced our borrowing capacity, just like in the ongoing construction project most of our members were able to raise the 20 per cent required to access the remaining loan balance for the individual house units.
Other than housing, we have various structures such as the Muungano development fund and welfare kitties to sustain our livelihood needs.”
Have the people of Huruma been able to secure tenure?
“To date we are yet to secure tenure, in the beginning we had an MOU with the then Nairobi City Council, which gave us the assurance that we can begin our upgrading initiative as they carry on with the process of regularization of the land that we squatted on.
The City Council of Nairobi has overtime appreciated efforts put in by all community members in the success of the project especially in Kambi Moto and indicated that their approach was one that showed determination and discipline to a level that the Council felt obligated to help out in the securing of tenure.
However, in February 2015, the Lands Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu, while on a tour of our projects indicated that all lands occupied by informal settlements more so those on public lands will be allocated titles. We are delighted that at least, the government has acknowledged the people of the ghettos.”
What would you say are some of the Challenges you have faced?
“One of the major challenges we have experienced was to try and sensitize communities, most of ghetto residents are affected by poverty apathy, which is based on the fear to come out of poverty since most of them do not believe that they could literally upgrade their lives.
This necessitated dialogue with our members, showcasing how affordable the housing loan facilities offered by AMT can be to them, and so far we have seen a change of heart and positivity in our members.
The second challenge was to convince our members to demolish their houses to pave way for construction. This was as a result that, initially we did not have road networks within the settlement and most members feared demolishing their houses since they could lose out in the planning process since basic infrastructure ought to be provided for in the plans.
With the support of our professionals we had to find a way of convincing our members that they would all fit within the architectural plan that we as project beneficiaries had approved.
Thirdly, savings towards the project is a challenge to our members; this is because some of them have very low incomes from the casual jobs and small businesses that they are engaged in. Majority of the members would save an average of Ksh. 50 per day.”
What is it that you would term as the Benefits of the project and being an affiliate of Muungano wa Wanavijiji?
“We believe that this project has a lot of benefits to the ghetto community in the context of standard of living. The settlement is also listed within the World Bank funded project, Kenya Informal Settlement Improvement Programme, where as a community it would have been very costly for our members to connect to the main sewer lines; hence this was an opportune moment for the project to come up. The project has also created employment opportunities since the unskilled labour is sourced locally.
All these initiatives boils down to access in information and the opportunity for Muungano members to learn from one another, through sharing of information via learning exchanges, interlinks between other savings groups networks in Nairobi and other counties, partnerships and collaborations and most importantly access to affordable loans for the urban poor.”