A brief introduction to partnership-based upgrading

By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI secretariat

There is not and will never be a one-size-fits-all approach to upgrading informal settlements. Every settlement has its own technical issues such as land ownership, land quality, and shack organization. Every settlement also has its own social issues such as history, communal organization, and labor. SDI has found, through practice, that there are a series of steps by which government and communities, working together, can engage the uniqueness of each settlement, and find ways to upgrade settlements that are sustainable and scalable.

Upgrading through partnership with communities can seem difficult. But the alternative is worse. Officials in almost every municipality in the country can tell at least one story of an upgrade that was refused because there was not enough buy-in to the project on the part of the community. The challenge is to identify and encourage the proliferation of community organizations and networks that can facilitate the following protocols for producing partnership-based informal settlement upgrades. Through partnership, municipal officials can strengthen their cities and towns to be forward thinking, people-centered, and productive places to work, play, and live.

Defining upgrading: Informal settlement upgrading is not simply “site and service,” or the provision of full services minus a top-structure. Upgrading is any intervention that improves the physical properties of a settlement that enhances the lives of its inhabitants. This can either start with or should lead to security of tenure. Therefore, upgrading can many anything from drainage installation, to communal toilets, to the blocking out of shacks, to lighting, to community facilities such as halls or schools or gymnasia, to incremental housing improvements (either individually or in any configuration), etc.

Enumeration: Communities and human settlements can only be upgraded by building on the local knowledge and capacities that exist within a given settlement. Through the practice of enumeration, communities count themselves, develop a detailed socio-economic profile of the settlement, and begin setting developmental priorities. Communities use the enumeration to confirm the identified need for upgrading and to create space for dialogue around planning for the future of the settlement.

Partnership with municipal government is built through the sanctioning of the enumeration by the municipality, including an agreement to incorporate the information gathered into the municipal planning process. Sometimes, local officials may question the validity of statistics gathered by communities. SDI has experienced many cases where communities and officials work together to verify information, so that everyone is satisfied as to their legitimacy. At the end of the day, communities must own the process by which information is collected. This also builds capacity for participatory planning rooted in the information gathered from an enumeration.

Savings: When communities have a stake in the development they are able to sustain it. Experience has proven that when communities contribute actual financial resources to upgrading their settlements, they become active participants in the process. SDI’s experience is that a contribution amounting to approximately 10% of the cost of the upgrading builds ownership and trust within the communities to implement and manage the financial and social aspects of any project.

City-wide networks of communities: Social problems are sure to arise in an informal settlement upgrading project. Upgrading means change, and any process of change is bound to kick up dust. It is important for municipalities to work with networks of poor communities that can serve as interlocutors. These community-based actors can help support a community as it goes through the inevitable challenges of an upgrading process. They can help support the establishment of savings schemes, and the practice of community-led enumerations, as well as help develop practical capacity to work with technical professionals. Network leaders can also support the municipality to engage a community on a sustainable basis. Finally, these networks can facilitate the exchange of learning from one upgrade to many other settlements, so that the capacity for the implementation of future projects is greater.

18 families move into houses in San Isidro, Philippines

CLIFF occupants













Cross-posted from the Homeless Visayas blog of the Filipino SDI alliance

Following the turn-over ceremony in CLIFF- San Isidro, Jaro in August this year, 18 of the 43 community members already moved in while others are still doing house improvements prior to actual transfer. This first batch of housing participants classified as Category C partly comprised the 172 member-families of the Riverview Homeowners Association, Inc. (RVHOA). It obtained its legal personality from the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) just this year.

Members prioritized improving the basic parts of a house at their own expense including labor and materials. Some members utilized recycled the materials they got from their old house while the others really set aside a portion of their income for house improvements. Incremental developments done so far include installation of windows (19 units), doors (17), stairs (20), ceiling (3), beautification of comfort room (15), floor tiling (4), setback improvement (13), perimeter wall fencing, set-up of individual water system (9) and internal wall partition (1). Improvement costs shelled out from members’ own pocket ranges from Php140,000 to Php1,000 or Php22,000 average.

“It is easier to call for a meeting now because they’re already here in the site unlike before it was really difficult to get a quorum. When we beautify our houses, we also think about beautifying the whole community” says Richie Jacusalem, member of Category C.

Southern African Hub learns about GIS Mapping

By George Masimba, People’s Dialogue on Shelter, Zimbabwe

Enumerations have been evolving within SDI and largely this has been made possible through peer-based learning in the form of exchanges visits between affiliates. One way through which the enumerations have been improved has been through the use of mapping. Mapping of informal settlements, for instance, has helped in negotiations for basic services in general and upgrading in particular. In a bid to sharpen the capacities of affiliates around mapping activities, SDI arranged a GIS training programme for the African hubs. The first training was conducted in the East African hub which was then followed by the Southern Africa hub training. The latter drew SDI participants from Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe and was facilitated by the Kenyans who have a very long and rich history of mapping-based enumerations.

GIS-based mapping involves the representation and subsequent analysis of spatial data through the usage of computer software. In the Zimbabwe context, this methodology was first applied during the enumeration of Epworth then later at the training that was conducted by the University of Zimbabwe. Apart from the SDI delegates, the training also attracted strategic partners of the Zimbabwean alliance in the form of Epworth Local Board, City of Harare, Ministry of National Housing, the Department of Physical Planning from the Ministry of Local Government and City of Lilongwe .  In order to make the training more relevant the participants had the chance to highlight their expectations before the commencement of the training. This strategy ensured that the facilitators would draft a programme that addressed specific interests of the participants. In addition, in order to accommodate the wider cross-section of the Federation members who formed the majority of the participants, practical sessions dominated the programme.

Below are some of the expectations that were identified by the participants:

– To use GIS as a tool for engagement  — SDI

– To use GIS as a data management tool — Ministry, Zimbabwe

– To be able to use GIS in in-situ upgrading programmes — Swaziland 

– To enhance planning processes like production of layout plans — Epworth (Harare) Local Board

– To enable communities to prioritise needs — Jack Makau, SDI secretariat

– To develop the capacity to link socio-economic data with mapping — Namibia, SDI

– To learn how formalisation has taken place in other cities through GIS — Epworth Federation

– To learn how GIS can be used as a tool for community participation — Malawi Federation

– Presenting the GIS information on the global communication platforms like the website — Louise Cobbett, SDI secretariat

– To learn how to monitor and track the impact of interventions through GIS-based mapping — City of Harare

– How we can use GIS outputs in communication with our government — South Africa Federation

Mid-way through the training, for example, the participants were taken to Epworth where they were to physically collect spatial data relating to structures and plots as well as recording the details on the mapping form. During the field visit the participants were also able to hear the Epworth story, right from the time when savings schemes were established up to the point of enumeration. Federation members explained how the whole mapping process had added a lot of value to their work. In particular, it was noted how the mapping exercise had managed to get the majority on board including the grannies with its visual impact, something which the percentages and averages could not do on their own.

After going through the paces of collecting the spatial information from the field, the participants were then introduced to editing which simply involves digitizing the spatial information on plots, structures, roads and other basic amenities. During this process, the participants were in smaller groups led by those members who had prior knowledge of GIS software. Besides just using the Epworth database as the reference material, the facilitators also used cases studies from Kenya indicating how some of the daunting challenges of upgrading in informal settlements had been resolved. It was at this point when the training shifted emphasis from the maps to how these maps can be linked with the official land cadastre. It was noted that whilst maps were very important they were not an end in themselves but instead a means towards an end! Therefore, the process of negotiating demands through the enumerations outputs, such as, maps and statistics was equally important as the data collection exercise itself. Thus, it was emphasised that the information that was generated from enumerations was a very powerful tool that communities could use not only to change their settlements but also to even-out unequal relations.

The various SDI affiliates then presented on their experiences around enumerations and mapping in their countries. The South Africans outlined their stories from Joe Slovo and Barcelona in Cape Town where the processes of settlement re-blocking and clustering are being adopted as a strategy towards upgrading slums. The South Africans also indicated that they had also developed linkages with tertiary institutions, for instance, University of Cape Town. The Zambians also shared that they had conducted about three enumerations in Livingstone, Ndola and Kitwe and profiling in Lusaka. In Ndola the enumeration had been supported by the Zimbabweans whilst the Kitwe enumeration was anchored by the Kenyans. Through this support, the enumerations had been improved, for example, by incorporating structure numbering. In addition, the Zambians also reported that their relations with respective local authorities had been enhanced. In Malawi, the report noted that the first big enumeration exercise was conducted in Mbayani in Blantyre and this was supported by the Zimbabweans and Kenyans. Currently, most of the profiling programmes in Malawi were focused on green-fields that are allocated to the Federation like the Machinjiri housing project with 511 families.  The Malawians stated that they were also using the profiling activities to assess and improve loan repayments within the members. The Namibians reported about CLIP programme (Community Land Information Profiling) which had been conducted covering all the informal settlements in the country. It was explained how CLIP had enhanced the relations with government as well as providing the platform for dealing with informal settlements in areas like Rundu and Katima. The Kenyans shared with the other participants how GIS-based mapping had opened so many opportunities for upgrading in the slums of Nairobi. More importantly, they also noted that there was deliberate government policy that supported upgrading hence slums that were earmarked for regularisation became ‘Special Planning Areas’ that would not be subjected to the same rigorous planning rules that applied green-field developments.

Later, the central and local government representatives attending the training then presented their experiences and more significantly how they had seen the entire programme. Zimbabwean officials from central government indicated that issues of slum-upgrading were provided for under the Regional Town Planning and Country Act of 1996 hence there was scope to apply the experiences from the training in the informal settlements. The Ministry officials acknowledged that GIS technology was yet to be introduced in government hence there was need for further collaboration around learning. Nonetheless, the officials were quick to point out that progress made so far presented huge opportunities for more collaboration. Epworth Local Board noted that the GIS training had enhanced their capacities especially following a similar programme held at the University of Zimbabwe and facilitated by Dialogue on Shelter. According to the Epworth Local Board official, the magnitude of informality (70%) in Epworth also made GIS and mapping in general a very important prerequisite for upgrading. For the few areas that were formal, ELB argued that GIS would really assist in mapping existing utilities. On the other hand, City of Harare indicated that the training would really help to prepare the City for the Slum-upgrading project under the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which will involve profiling, enumerations and mapping activities.


Slum dwellers take the lead in building partnerships

By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI secretariat

“If we think we can build houses for the poor without the poor, we will never make it,” said Jerry Ekandjo, Namibian Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing, and Rural Development. They were words that were echoed by government officials from East and Southern Africa throughout last week’s “Building Cities Through Partnership” conference in Windhoek, Namibia.

After two days of sustained dialogue with 12 SDI slum dweller federations, politicians and officials from Malawi, Naminia, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, were all singing from same hymn book as Ekandjo.

The conference was a unique opportunity for slum dwellers, government officials, and donors to sit at the table and discuss the priorities of the poor. The meeting was chaired and orchestrated entirely by slum dweller leaders from SDI federations.

“Partnership” and “participation” are words that often get stripped of substance when referring to the role and work of the poor. But after presentations by federations from countries in East Africa, Asia, South America, and Southern Africa, the extent of results achieved on the ground by SDI people’s federations was staggering: tens of thousands of houses and tenure secured. Hundreds of thousands of lives changed.

The scale of such achievements has been built through organization around a developmental agenda and people’s empowerment, said SDI president Jockin Arputham. Partnership with the government is a key part of building a voice for the poor. “We are not begging from donors and government,” he said. “We are saying ‘come join hands with us.’”

Such proclamations were followed by action. John Bande, Malawian.Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, signed a landmark memorandum of understanding with SDI for funding slum upgrading projects in his country. This commits the national government and Malawian homeless people’s federation to work together to develop over 2,000 housing units nationwide by the end of 2012. Funds will also be committed from both sides.

The message from slum dwellers, donors, and government officials was clear, said Melanie Walker, senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”