From Eviction to Housing

by James Tayler

By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI Secretariat 

Forced eviction is one of the most disempowering experiences that slum dwellers experience at the hands of their government. But when slum communities organize around their own resources and capacities they can turn such an extreme situation on its head. In Dar-es-salaam, a community evicted from the city’s valuable sea port land in the ward of Kurasini, is doing just that.

In 2007, the Tanzanian government decided to evict 30,000 people living close to the port, in order to begin a lucrative expansion of the port infrastructure. Tanzanian law requires that the government provide compensation to those affected by any relocation. But in the case of those living near the port, three quarters of the residents were tenants, and were therefore not eligible for the compensation being offered by the donors paying for the port expansion.

With the support of the Center for Community Initiatives (CCI) Tanzania, the community undertook an enumeration so that everyone could be counted, structure owners and tenants alike. This allowed for the community to advocate to government that tenants be provided with some kind of compensation. If not financial, then it could be the provision of alternative land.

According to Tim Ndezi, director of CCI Tanzania, the Millenium Development Goals referring to the need to improve the lives of urban slum dwellers were a particularly useful rhetorical tool in dealing with the government.

With space opened at the formal political level, the community began to take matters into its own hands. “We mobilized communities organized through savings to buy land,” says Ndezi. The community bought 30 acres at a price of approximately US$800 per acre.

Shack Dwellers International (SDI) helped facilitate an exchange for community members and John Chiligati, the minister of land, housing, and human settlements, to affiliate federations in India and Thailand. The trip built momentum for a people-centered process at the site where the community had purchased land, called Chamazi. After the exchange, Chiligati offered this ministry’s technical support for land surveying, layout planning, and housing design.

At that point, “we were interested to begin construction, but where was the funding,” Ndezi recalls. The community and CCI Tanzania initially approached UN-Habitat’s Slum Upgrading Facility (SUF), but the proposed funding model was not appropriate for the Federation.

The community created a Muungano housing cooperative and accessed US$100,000 from SDI’s Urban Poor Fund International (UPFI) to act as a guarantee to leverage further funds. Now the community has 28 houses at different levels of completion, with a planned 100 houses for this stage of the project. By late July or early August those relocated from Kurasini will begin living in their new houses in Chamazi.

Community members themselves are doing the construction, and the project management team has an equal number of men and women. Though some people have continued to build informal dwellings on the land, the community has used its own surveying and enumeration activities to manage the situation. The Municipality has learned from the surveying and planning techniques, and the Ministry has also helped with providing technical equipment for such activities.

The experience has changed the way government thinks about relocation and development in Tanzania, says Ndezi: “The minister was excited and said that the Federation is teaching government for the next time we think about relocation.”