Planning Mukuru: reporting back from July’s quarterly gathering of the Special Planning Area consortiums

Isaacnezer Kang'ethe, one of SDI Kenya’s urban planners, reports back from the recent quarterly meeting of the 8 multidisciplinary consortiums working with resident communities to come up with an ‘integrated development plan’ for Mukuru, one of Nairobi’s biggest slums.

Planning Mukuru. Image: SDI Kenya.

Planning Mukuru. Image: SDI Kenya.


The Mukuru Special Planning Area (SPA) inter-consortiums meeting, on 25-27 July 2018 in Mombasa, was spearheaded by Nairobi City County’s Department of Housing. It brought together stakeholders from the 8 consortiums working to come up with an ‘integrated development plan’ for the Mukuru slum area. The aim of this plan is to find a city scale, planning response to exclusion that will transform Mukuru – where over 100,000 slum homes, businesses, and institutions are located – into a healthy, functional city neighbourhood, and in this way improve the lives of the women, men, girls, and boys who work and live there.

About the SPA

The Mukuru SPA is an opportunity to develop, refine, and demonstrate how urban poverty and informality can be addressed at a city scale. It is also an opportunity to develop the ways in which communities can co-produce solutions with a multiplicity of urban actors.

The 2017 special planning declaration in Mukuru was the result of years of action-based research and interactions between the Nairobi county government and several organizations working with the Mukuru community – including Muungano wa Wanavijiji (the Kenyan federation of slum dwellers), SDI Kenya (Muunagano’s technical support NGO), the Akiba Mashinani Trust, Katiba Institute, Strathmore University, the University of California Berkeley, and the University of Nairobi, with support from IDRC.

Following the SPA declaration, these organizations have worked with the county to establish 8 thematic consortiums assigned the role of contributing to the inclusive development plan. Each develops a range of solutions that encompasses the community vision and financing, legal, and spatial dimensions.

Robust community participation at every stage is central to the SPA planning process, helping to ensure that the vast reserves of community knowledge inform the planning process, and that the proposed solutions meet the needs of Mukuru's residents. Over the next year or so, this blog will cover the SPA process in some detail, reflecting on how the consortium members are working with community members to create knowledge to influence policy.

A consortium meeting with the community in Viwandani, Mukuru, discussing land issues, 16th August 2018. Photo: Muungano KYC TV.

A consortium meeting with the community in Viwandani, Mukuru, discussing land issues, 16th August 2018. Photo: Muungano KYC TV.

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Introducing the planning consortiums

The 8 consortiums are looking for solutions to Mukuru’s complex challenges in the areas of: (1) Legal & Institutional Frameworks; (2) Finance; (3) Housing, Commerce and Infrastructure; (4) Water, Sanitation and Energy; (5) Health; (6) Education; (7) Environment; and (8) Communication, Community Mobilization and Coordination.

Each consortium consists of community representatives, technical experts, local stakeholders, and a Nairobi City County government official. A lead organization is tasked with managing workplans, outputs, community meetings, and drafting reports.

The 8th consortium, Coordination, Community Organization and Communication, is a little different: it supports and trains roughly 250 community mobilizers, who, having been identified by local leadership, are tasked with facilitating the process of establishing representative neighbourhood associations in all Mukuru’s 30 discrete neighbourhoods.

The neighbourhood associations will meet with each of the thematic consortiums several times to discuss community planning priorities and potential solutions.

The 8 Mukuru SPA planning consortiums.

The 8 Mukuru SPA planning consortiums.


Reporting back from the July workshop

With most of the consortiums having completed their respective sector briefing reports – a sort of situational/gap analysis – the workshop presented an opportunity to share findings and emerging issues.

The Health Services consortium highlighted the health challenges experienced in by Mukuru’s residents, including the slums’ existing health facilities, and the nature of the services these facilities offer.

Kheleon Nyambuga, planner at SDI Kenya, presents at the July workshop. Photo: SDI Kenya

Kheleon Nyambuga, planner at SDI Kenya, presents at the July workshop. Photo: SDI Kenya

The Education consortium provided information about the number and levels of education facilities within the SPA boundaries, which incorporate the informal settlements of Mukuru Kwa Njenga, Mukuru Kwa Reuben and Viwandani (and referred generally as Mukuru). They noted a clear disparity between the quantity of education facilities vis-à-vis their quality.

The Environment and Natural Resources consortium have conducted a number of studies and tests on air quality, checking on nitrogen and particulate matter quantities in the air. The consortium are yet to finalize on the air quality assessment, for which they will also address the sulphur content of Mukuru’s air. They will then go on to conduct studies of water and soil quality.

The Water, Sanitation and Energy consortium highlighted the existing situation with regard to waste generation, disposal and management, and power and water connections in the SPA region.

The Finance consortium presented studies they have done on successful housing finance models in other counties, analysing the implications of these financial models if they were to be applied to Mukuru.

A section of Mukuru slum area. Photo: AMT.

A section of Mukuru slum area. Photo: AMT.

The Housing, Commerce and Infrastructure consortium have done research into Mukuru’s existing housing typologies, and have also analysed the settlements’ form and morphology, and the spatial distribution of roads, transport facilities, and infrastructural amenities, as well as the spatial distribution of commercial nodes. Especially interesting was their analysis of the Mukuru SPA in relation to the Nairobi Master Plan’s long terms and mid-term proposals – detailing how these proposals could influence the planning and future growth of Mukuru.

The Legal & Institutional Framework consortium shed some light on the history of land ownership in Mukuru. Most of the lease holders have not met the conditions outlined in their lease agreements, and the Legal & Institutional Framework consortium is therefore seeking ways in which the land can be reverted back to the state, collaborating with Kenya’s National Lands Commission.

To conclude the workshop, the consortiums branched into working sessions to develop their respective plans of action until December 2018, which will guide the undertaking and completion of sector plans. The next stage of the SPA process is community consultation, and so the consortiums proceeded to work together to develop and adopt a consultation strategy.

Lastly, a highlight of the workshop was the news from the Nairobi City County government that the Mukuru SPA has been factored into the County’s integrated development plan for 2018-2022, and allocated a budget of 5 million Kenyan shillings (around US$ 50,000).