Southern African Hub learns about GIS Mapping

24 November 2010

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.