“Governments survive on the Urban Poor majority”

By Louise Cobbett, SDI secretariat

On the final day of discussions at the World Urban Forum, SDI hosted its second networking session entitled People’s Organization and the Struggle for the Inclusive City. The panel included federation representatives from the Philippines, Zambia, Mexico, Brazil and Zimbabwe, and they discussed in detail the challenges faced by the urban poor in their efforts to be active members within their own societies.

Sonia Fadrigo from the Philippines spoke about how the UPFI gives the communities the initial funds to be taken seriously at the negotiation table – “no one will talk to you if you look poor and you look like you are begging for money,” so the Urban Poor Fund International helps to open the door for the communities.

The communities have to save towards the UPFI and Sheela Magara from Zimbabwe highlighted the social benefit of saving. “You collect money, you collect people, you collect problems then you can build people and build houses,” she said.

Other overarching themes to come from the session concerned the importance of information gathering, communities coming to the negotiating table with external actors armed with information and seed money. The chances of the meeting being a fruitful one, are drastically increased. And the reality is that the communities already have the answers to their problems — they know exactly what needs to address and in what order. With their information in hand, they are able to channel the government’s resources to where it is most sorely needed.

As if to emphasize Sheela’s comments on building an individual through savings and financial capacity, the UPFI funds are managed by the communities. UPFI gives communities a sense of self sufficiency and it builds their confidence. Once you have an organized and confident community, they have a voice that cannot be ignored.

The National Movement of Recyclers in Brazil was included in the session, and though not allied to SDI, their experiences were similar. They held a forum of 1800 recyclers in 2001 at which a memorandum was signed, which was the  beginning of the Latin American network of recyclers. 2006, second forum in Columbia, which was an international event. They found that through sharing their experiences, they were able to learn from one another. So in short, community organization is the key, combined with dialogue and sharing of experiences among networks of organized communities.

Finally, the Ugandan Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Michael Werikhe spoke about the importance of the UPFI:

It is special because it is for the people at a global level, at a regional level, and a local level. And it is managed and done by the community themselves. As governments, we need to support the slum dwellers in the efforts for information. It shouldn’t be an exclusionary process. But with information, you know your strengths and weaknesses. Governments survive on the urban poor majority.


Mukuru and Huruma: A study in contrasts


pictured above: Mukuru residents examine the new eviction order from Kenya Railways Corporation.

By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI secretariat

As I have already discussed earlier this week, enumerations create enough anxiety due to near-unavoidable internal dynamics of communities. But in the case of the railway relocation program in Nairobi, we should be clear about the ultimate cause of such nervousness: the on-and-off eviction that the Kenya Railways Corporation has been pursuing for the better part of the past decade.

On Monday, residents of slums along the railway learned that the Kenya Railways Corporation had issued a new 30-day eviction notice to all people living within 100 meters of the railway line over the weekend. As we walked through Mukuru on Tuesday, Pamoja Trust staffers and community enumerators handed out the eviction notice to begin discussing what they could do about it. The enumeration was supposed to empower the community to negotiate with the Railways Corporation for a relocation that took their needs into account. A unilateral eviction threat totally defeats that end.

Pamoja sought to reassure residents in Mukuru, many of whom have already witnessed or experienced an eviction earlier this month due to the installation of an oil pipeline nearby the railway line. The all-too-familiar sights common to recently evicted areas of what were the former foundations and flattened ground of shack floors dot an empty space nearby the line in Mukuru. Residents were concerned about the time frame for eviction, but perhaps because there was already action on the ground in the form of mapping, numbering, and enumeration, led by community members themselves, they were not too perturbed.

In Kibera, it has been another story. After disputes between structure owners and tenants delayed the start of the process last week, the eviction notice threw a new wrench into the works this week. Mapping and numbering should have begun yesterday, but concerned residents postponed the activities because of the eviction notice. They needed reassurance that Pamoja was not conspiring with the Kenya Railways Corporation against them. To this end, Pamoja showed them a formal letter submitted to the Railways Corporation opposing the eviction notice. The railway line operator is claiming that the eviction notice did not apply to those affected by the ongoing relocation program, of which this enumeration is a part. But the notice does not make any such distinction.

Instead of helping to jump start the process in Kibera as planned, the South African exchange team visited some of the other sites in Nairobi where Muungano wa wanavijiji (the Kenyan slum dwellers federation) have developed for themselves. The multi-storey, high density dwellings in the slum of Kambimoto in Huruma provided a useful counterpoint to the Mukuru / Kibera experience and, in particular, this week’s eviction notice.

The upgrading project has 86 units that were financed by individual savings, group savings, and the Kenyan urban poor finance facility associated with Pamoja, Akiba Mashinani Trust (AMT). Muungano member Susan Wanjiru moved into her home in 2004. She told me that the federation in Kambimoto is planning to build another 100 houses, but faces a particular challenge in the rise of material costs since the first houses were built. “Now we are planning to be incremental,” she said.

The project is just one of many examples of one of the most important prerequisites for incremental building: security of tenure. The federation has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the city council for the land, but “no we are fighting to get the title deed,” Wanjiru said.

In Mukuru, trash is everywhere, most structures are made of wood beams and mud, sometimes with corrugated iron. The residents have lived under constant threat of eviction for almost a decade. In the Kambimoto upgrading project, the pathways are clean, lined with plants and flowers put out by the new homeowners. They do not have full security of tenure, but the MoU has been enough to spur the residents to continue to invest in their homes.


pictured above: The clean, plant-lined pathways of Muungano’s Kambimoto (Huruma) slum upgrading project.

IBSA and Enumerations: WUF Day 2

By Louise Cobbett, SDI secretariat

The second day opened with the same unforgiving humidity that Rio is famous for. Let there be no confusion – it is very, very hot here, but the majority of the SDI delegates are taking it in their stride. It is just this reporter who is the delicate flower and is finding it a struggle to survive…

There was a session on the IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa) development challenges, and there were some very interesting points to have come out of it. Firstly the panel, which was made up of various governmental individuals, highlighted that cities reproduce poverty, and that poverty is defined by location. Brazil has been attempting to produce better equity and therefore equality within it’s cities, but that public resources are stacked.

The panel had therefore indirectly supported SDI’s constant belief in the enumeration. If the resources are stacked against the poor, the only way they will be able to challenge the flow of resources, is if they are organized. After conducting an enumeration communities then know where the resources need to be channeled – sanitation, electricity or flood prevention

The Indian minister revealed that India is only 30% urban, and here is clearly an opportunity for SPARC, Mahila Milan and the National Federation of Slum Dwellers to build upon their success and work with governments to prepare for the eventual urbanization of India.

Edith Mbanga of the Namibian Shack Dwellers Federation gave a presentation to the Global Land Tools Network (GLTN) of the United Nations on the power of enumerations in the community process:

I felt it went very well, and even though I was sitting up there as SDI, we were able to give examples from other countries.  I was talking about enumerations, which is something that happens all over the SDI countries.

Contestations along the Nairobi railway lines


pictured above: Muli Munguti sells his wares in an area dominated by business stalls along the railway lines in Mukuru informal settlement in Nairobi.

By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI secretariat

The railway relocation project in Nairobi is proceeding with all the fits, starts, complications, and inevitable contestations that come with such a high stakes endeavor. I arrived with the exchange team from South Africa on Sunday night and for the past two days we have been learning about — and assisting with — the mapping and numbering of structures to be relocated in the slum of Mukuru. Along with Kibera, Mukuru is one of the slums that is affected by this program, which has been negotiated with the Kenya Railways Authority.

This morning, we were met by the whistle and bright lights of a train that goes through Mukuru on its way to Mombasa. Pamoja Trust, Mungano wa wanavijiji (the Kenyan slum dwellers federation), and other community members are using satellite images of structures to then number each one on the ground once they match it with the satellite picture. Sometimes, one structure as photographed from above is actually two separate stalls, as was the case for many of the self-owned businesses that lie within a couple meters of the railway track. So then a given structure could be numbered as follows: RMS / 465 A/B (Railway Mukuru Sinai — the name of one of the three sections of Mukuru — the structure number, and then A/B indicates that it is actually two separate businesses).

The numbering, and even the use of satellite mapping were key points of conflict today. Mobile traders, either those who walk along the railway line selling their wares, or those who have been in the same place — some for close to a decade — nearby, were afraid of not being counted. This fear arises from the perception that there will be compensation attached to being counted, when people are eventually relocated.

I spoke to Muli Munguti (pictured above), age 38, who has been selling his wares for the past six years by laying them across the railway line in the same spot. Whenever a train goes by he folds up his goods inside the track and lets the train roll over them. “You count that one, but you don’t count this one. It’s not good,” he said.

It is the kind of conflict that arises in any large scale enumeration. Every community has different components, all of which want to be heard. Especially in a case like the railway relocation in Nairobi, where there is a clear issue of compensation or relocation tied to being counted — the process is part of a relocation in partnership with Kenya Railways and funded by the World Bank — the enumeration is of particular relevance to every party within the community.

Today, the community enumerators managed to mediate most of these concerns. In a meeting at the end of the day, they spent much of the time reflecting on how to improve the way they handle these issues as they move from mapping and numbering to house-to-house individual surveys. It was hard to avoid the fact that the community was managing the information collection process in order to deal with such contestations.


pictured above: A community enumerator in Mukuru (right) talks to an owner of a business stall along the railway line about whether his structure should be counted as one or two stalls.

SDI Makes a Splash at World Urban Forum

By Louise Cobbett, SDI Secretariat 

Slum Dwellers International is, by far, the largest delegation at the fifth World Urban Forum, which is being held in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. All delegates wore bright green t-shirts with the slogan “Making Cities Inclusive” to the opening ceremony on the 25th. The 67 strong green contingency proved to be an incredible visual statement of the Slum Dweller presence, and if nothing else, broke the monotony of beige suits. SDI is going to challenge the discourse put forth by the beige suit majority – and highlight and demand, that direct community involvement is the key to appropriate and sustainable development. Decisions made without the consultation of the communities will always result in sub-par outcomes.

SDI held a discussion on the protocols of large informal settlement upgrading, where the settlements of Dharavi in India, Joe Slovo in South Africa, Old Fadama in Ghana, Kibera in Kenya and Osasco in Brazil were used as case studies. What followed was an active and dynamic discussion of the challenges facing informal settlements in their fight for security of tenure and basic services.

SDI will continue to highlight the centrality of communities to successful upgrading and development process.

Check the blog for further reports on WUF 5.


Action on the ground: Day 1 at the WUF

By Louise Cobbett and Jack Makau, SDI secretariat

The first day of the World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, began with SDI making a grand – and visual – entrance. The 67 delegates broke the traditional monotony of the gray suit brigade. It was a fitting visual representation of SDI’s way of saying that it’s what happens in the communities, and not the meetings, which counts.

The forum’s opening ceremony featured a very well choreographed dance production. But the message that the toned dancers were trying to get across, was somewhat lost on the 3, 500 strong crowd. Perhaps it is the best analogy of the fear that SDI has about the conference.

It gave deeper meaning to Jockin’s advice the previous day, which was to make full use of the opportunities to get governments to make firm commitments on land and services.

For example, on the first day the Tanzania, Ghanaian and Zimbabwean federations organized meetings with their respective governments.

Highlights of the first day were SDI’s networking event, called “Protocols for large informal settlement upgrading.” It was probably the only session that started and ended with a song. The session featured 5 case studies and of struggles for secure tenure and fights against eviction. There was Mzwanele Zulu from Joe Slovo in Cape Town; Jack Makau from SDI spoke about Kibera in Nairobi; Philip Kumah spoke about the process of upgrading Old Fadama in Accra; Claudius Pereira of URBEL (Urbanisation Company of Bele Horizonte) and Marcos Landa, the coordinator of the Brazilian movement talked about Osasco, which is a settlement in Sao Paulo and finally Jockin, the president of SDI and the National Slum Dweller’s Federation of India gave his views on the experiences of Dharavi in India.

Jack Makau’s impression of the event was it was a session about things that people have done, rather than a session about hypothetical situations and new thinking. And there are very few sessions like that. The examples of concrete achievement largely consist of answers coming out of communities, which is exactly what SDI is here to showcase and build upon.

Counting Kibera: the challenge of engagement

By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI secretariat

The Kenyan federation, Mungano wa wanavijiji, kicked off an enumeration of the railway line slum of Kibera in Nairobi this week. The survey process there is an example of how politically complicated collecting information can get, as well as just how valuable the data actually is.

My colleague Jack Makau has a great in-depth piece on the history of enumerations in Kibera. This is the second large-scale enumeration undertaken by the federation there in the past six years. It is all tied to planned evictions along the line that have never been carried out, as the Kenyan government’s move to privatize the railway line has proceeded in very slow fits and starts. The twists of this process, which was originally envisioned to have finished years ago, shine a light on the combustible combination of resources, government processes, the role of multinational institutions (in this case, the World Bank), and a community’s attempt to organize itself around its own resources and capacities.

Slums in Nairobi face acute tension between structure owners and tenants. An enumeration can highlight such divisions, especially when it is so closely tied to an eviction. Everyone wants to be counted so they can get their hands on the resources associated with the relocation. An exchange team from the South African Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) was supposed to leave a week ago to support the enumeration process, but postponed the trip when conflict between structure owners and tenants delayed the start of the survey. I will be joining the team when it leaves for Nairobi on Sunday, and will be keeping this blog updated with how the process plays out over the next week or so.

The Kibera case complicates what is often seen as a simple binary between evicting and not evicting when some kind of business project threatens people’s homes. In this case, the relocation is allowing slum dwellers to assert themselves in their relationship with government and multinational organizations. It was a big accomplishment for the federation to get the government to agree to let the community count itself, and to have that information be the basis for their relocation.

When the World Bank — a major funding partner of the railway rehabilitation and relocation of the nearby slum dwellers — accepts a methodology like community-led enumeration to serve as the basis for its programs, it is an important first step towards putting organized communities of the urban poor at the center of their own development. At the end of the day, resources — money — are the name of the game. And it is an important development that resources for relocation are directly tied to the results of information that comes out of a community’s own organizational capacity and practice. Land and money will be allocated to those who are counted.

It can be hard to see the full impact of these kinds of activities in the short term. What looks like collusion today can appear to be a major contestation tomorrow. What looks like incremental change today could spark a revolution in five years time.

The process of engagement with government and other key actors like the World Bank is a messy one. But when slum dwellers can get hold of this process and use it to direct resources towards the organized poor, new, people-centered kinds of development can begin to take place. Getting these kinds of institutions to rely on one of the most valuable resources poor people have — information — is an important first step to changing the overall relationship that they have with the poor.

Perhaps even more importantly, it is a step towards changing the relationships that the poor have with each other. As Jack writes about the first enumeration of Kibera in 2004,

What previously were amorphous collections of shacks and stalls transformed into a community. The residents and traders were joined by what they perceived as a common threat. Community organizations formed months ago to fight off eviction found new purpose. Both traders and residents formulated and started to articulate issues that affected them generally. The enumeration would serve to capacitate and federate these groups.

Stops and Starts in Kibera

By Jack Makau, SDI Secretariat  


This paper describes the typical Slum Dwellers International enumeration. SDI works specifically in slum and shack settlements, which are very dense, unplanned and where you have several layers of formal and informal land ownership claims.  In most cases the slums are situated in hostile policy environments – in cities that do not have ways in which people in slums can acquire land rights. Indeed in instances where, if  any other claim is made on lands occupied by slums, it invariably takes precedence over the claims of the slum dwellers. This leads to forceful evictions or lengthy contestations. 

In the case of Nairobi, there are 183 slums, that accommodate approximately 40 percent of the city’s population. 63 percent of these settlements are located on lands that have been privatised while the slum was in existence. Another 24 percent of the slums are located on contested public lands. These include road, railway, and riparian reserves. The remaining 13 percent sit on uncontested public lands. These include Kibera, touted as possibly the largest slum in Africa.

Yet, the slum dwellers on uncontested lands still do not have tenure rights. And the main reason for this is that ownership patterns here slums are extremely complex – almost to a point where regularizing land tenure seems intractable.  It is likely that a single shack will be occupied by a tenant who may have lived there for 10 or more years; it will have a structure owner who may not live in the slum, and who is part of an owners association that has an ethnic leaning; and for a fee draws authority from the local authority presiding over the area.  The commercial and political interests surrounding the ownership patterns are daunting. So that the authorities mandated to resolve a land issue in these slums are faced with huge difficulties.

Within this context the enumeration is in the first place, an initiative of the slum community. It assumes that there is no government mechanism that can deliver secure tenure equitably. The enumeration therefore seeks two things: first to untangle and rationalise the complex ownership claims within the slum. Second, it seeks establish a relationship with government authorities where a mechanism that is specific to each case is developed. The SDI enumeration is hence a community led process, as opposed to a participatory process that implies that there is already a mechanism for regularization that a community gets invited to.  

The Context

 On February 1st 2004, the Kenya Railways Corporation issued 30 day notices to people living on its 60 meter railway reserve to vacate or be evicted.  As if in concert, other ministries also issued notices for people sitting on their utility reserves to move away or be forcefully removed.  These included the ministries charged with the provision of power, the development of roads and environmental protection of riparian reserves.   

It quickly dawned on civil society, the church and the affected residents themselves that the notices would greatly affect the poor.  Paralyzing fear of losing livelihoods and shelter gripped settlements across the city.  In the month that followed civil society organisations put together a huge campaign to have the notices revoked.  The actions included a rapid inventory of affected slums, mobilization of slum communities; media and street demonstrations, the lodging of a legal case against the state; and drawing international attention to the government’s plans.

On its part the state did not issue statements halting the planned evictions, instead it quietly retreated. At the end of the notice period, slum dwellers stayed home waiting for the bulldozers. None came. In subsequent discussions with technocrats it was gleaned that the withdrawal was not because government now recognised the rights of the slum dwellers on the lands they were occupying. Only that the timing of the evictions was inopportune.

In the case of the railways, the urgency to clear encroachment on its reserve was driven by a move to concession the public facility to a private operator. The concession was a window to evade total collapse of the foundering Kenya Railways Corporation. Two hot spots with high levels of encroachment were identified as the slums of Mukuru and Kibera in Nairobi. The slums stretched over 11 kilometers of track.   It was estimated that 20,000 people lived and worked on the railway reserve.

Every day traders spread out their wares on or very near the line, creating a bustling market place for thousands of pedestrians who use the track as a thoroughfare to and from their work places.  Thus creating a symbiotic relationship that enables the traders to earn a living and the pedestrians to conveniently procure goods and services.  People manage by stepping away from the trains as they pass, sometimes only inches apart and immediately reoccupying the track. As a result of the crowding, trains within these hotspots, operate at crawling speeds.

 In addition maintenance of the line is a major challenge – The thousands of feet that daily pound the track undermined its stability; there were pit latrines adjacent to the tracks that dramatically offloaded their waste to the line. This is coupled with littering and damping of garbage. The effects of this are that the maintenance crews constantly fall sick and are unmotivated. The railway noted that “while there had been no deaths or injuries in the last few years danger was imminent in every passage of a train”.  If concessioning was a lifeline then encroachment was the Railway’s bane. 

The Stage

It was apparent to Kenyan SDI affiliate, Pamoja Trust, and the slum communities that averting the evictions was not the end of the story.  There was need to re-engage with government in order to explore solutions that would not only realise its concessioning goal but also ensure that the slum dweller’s homes and livelihoods were considered. Engagement with the Railway and the Ministry of Transport, after the period of anti-government activism was not going to be easy. Visits to the Railways offices were merely tolerated. The rich tradition of railway men and women, the proud engineers now in management was injured. Meetings were hastily concluded with the retort, “we cannot have this discussion because we await a decision from the cabinet.”

With the assistance of the Indian affiliates of SDI, SPARC and the National Federation of Slum Dwellers, a visit was organised for a team of managers from the Railways. In the city of Mumbai, the Indian Railways had faced encroachment problems at a much larger scale, where every day several people, on average, were hit by trains. Where mothers tied the feet of their children to themselves at night to stop them from rolling on to the tracks in their sleep.

Working with the residents of slums lining the expansive railway network and the SDI affliates, the problem was resolved. To Mumbai, the Kenya Railways team was led by the General Manager – Administration, who was hosted by his Indian counterpart.

On the team’s return, Kenya Railways send a letter that, in part, read, “We would like to take this opportunity to thank you and your organisation for facilitating the visit by several officers from the Kenya Railways to Mumbai, India.  This visit has been an eye opener, demonstrating vividly that there are other alternatives to the “usual” solution employed where squatter settlements are involved. We at the Kenya Railways shall endeavour to follow your noble and worthy example, seeking a more social and people friendly solution to the problem of encroachments on railway land. The first steps to this end have been made with the enthusiastic response received from our management…”

These efforts coincided with an agreement between the Ministry of Transport and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to finance the concession of railway operations. Another agreement with the World Bank was signed to support the “involuntary relocation” of people sitting on the reserves. This meant that the Ministry of Transport would procure the services of a resettlement advisor to draw up a Relocation Action Plan (RAP).

The visit to Mumbai together with the agreements that government entered, made up the ingredients of a unique process that provided a solution for the slum dwellers sitting on 30 meters on either side of the rail line, for a distance of 11. 4 kilometers.  In the slums of Mukuru and Kibera.

The critical learning for Kenya Railways in Mumbai was that official space was provided to the slum dwellers to contribute to resettlement solutions. And they made splendid of this opportunity. This was achieved through an enumeration process. It was also apparent how the enumeration determined the subsequent negotiation, consensus and crafting of a suitable solution.

Another major gain from Mumbai was the positioning attained for Pamoja Trust that organised the visit to the Indian Railways. In a sense the buy-in on enumeration was accompanied by an equal acceptance of the role of communities and NGO’s in government processes. In particular, Pamoja was placed at an advantage in the process of procuring a resettlement advisor to prepare the RAP. As noted before, the RAP in Kenya was vital because it provided a government framework in which an enumeration process would be given legitimacy.   

It was however not a given, that a community enumeration, slum dwellers counting other slum dwellers,  was an acceptable form of identifying what the World Bank’s resettlement procedures manual called “Project affected Persons” (PAPs).  The RAP had to be prepared according to that manual. The negotiation to okay an enumeration was partly aided by global exposure of the World Bank staffers flown in from Washington, and partly because Kenya Railway’s badly needed to get something going – anything. The concession process had stalled and would remain so until the encroachments were sorted out. 

The Process

Nine months had gone by since the eviction notices were issued. It was not forgotten to the people in Mukuru and Kibera. A series of meetings between the residents of these slums and officers of the railways were held. The meetings were part of the strategy to build confidence in the relocation process, and as expected community anxieties run high. The meetings were all moderated by Pamoja and the Kenya slum dwellers federation, Muungano wa Wanavijiji, who had at this time been selected as the resettlement adviser. On occasion officers from the Ministries of Transport, Housing, Lands and Finance attended community meetings. The resettlement would touch on them all.  

Preparations for the enumeration included an awareness campaign, community exchange visits to resettlement projects around the world, negotiation on the process and selection and training of community enumeration teams. The activities had spectacular spin off effects in the slums. What previously were amorphous collections of shacks and stalls transformed into a community. The residents and traders were joined by what they perceived as a common threat. Community organisations formed months ago to fight off the eviction found new purpose. Both traders and residents formulated and started to articulate issues that affected them generally. The enumeration would serve to capacitate and federate these groups.

In rather contentious fashion a second pillar in the strengthening the community claim was achieved. The proposition by Pamoja that the more than 200 community enumerators would work on voluntary basis set ablaze a major fight. It was not comprehensible that the opportunity to play a key part of World Bank and government process would not attract any remuneration for the community teams. For two weeks arguments raged back and forth. At one point, lunches prepared by the local Catholic parish, for the enumerators was spilled and the dinning hall trashed. The enraged enumerators said they preferred cash payments to actual lunches.

Pamoja’s argument that the data coming out of the enumeration was the only asset the community brought to the negotiating table, found sympathy with only a tiny minority of the community. If the World Bank or the government paid for it, they would have total control of the resettlement negotiation. Those that understood were almost entirely members of Muungano who had the benefit of having participated in enumerations in other settlements. Full disclosure by Pamoja on the RAP contract at first seemed to worsen the situation when the community found that some professionals like the architects and engineers would be paid as much as 500 US dollars a day.

Then one morning, it all fell into place. In one of what had become a protracted series of daily negotiations one community team member observed that, “If government is paying a consultant 500 US dollars why would that consultant want to consider anything we have to say”. On a similar line another and then another member supported the thought. A compromise was arrived at where the community enumeration and negotiation teams would get 3 dollars as a daily lunch allowance. On the other hand the Pamoja agreed to ensure that all data collected would be entered into computers by a community team and would be released to the professionals through a community presentation. By lunch hour of the same day, a one room mud shack with streaks of sunlight coming through the tin roof, had been identified as the enumeration headquarters.

The responsibility bestowed on the community was enormous as it was prone to distortion by the numerous interests in the community. The enumeration would cover 100% of the people on the railway reserve and every name that found itself in the register would be entitled to resettlement. However accuracy was critical, not only for a slum wary Railways, but also to preserve the integrity of a process that would set a definite precedent in how the resettlement to land in the country is addressed.

To ensure accuracy a technical team, led by a railways engineer, went before the community enumeration team. This team painted a number on every structure then marked its exact location on a map. The location was the meeting point between distance from the railway line and distance from the start of the rail line 530 and thirty kilometres away. The typical structure number would read like this “537-72/26” Which would mean 537 kilometers and 72 meters from the start of the railway and 26 meters from the center line of the track.

The technical team was followed by the community enumeration team who administered questionnaires, took pictures of every affected person. The community team was beefed up with Pamoja field staff, university students, and officers of the various participating ministries.

Every enumerated  structure was issued with a railways certificate.  The certificate represented to the community, not the intended proof of being enumerated, but an acknowledgement of a right of occupation. Five years later the certificates bear the weight of a land title deed. It is typical to walk into a shack on the reserve and find the certificate in a glass front picture frame and hang on the wall.

What Happened

The relocation action plan altered the reserve that the Railways was claiming from 60 meters to 10.4 meters. This meant that much fewer people would require resettlement. The plan also identified public lands adjacent to the settlements where the residential households would be resettled. The traders on the line would move to markets to be built within the reserve. The plan also detailed a footpath to separate the settlement from the reduced reserve. The plan submitted by Pamoja was accepted by the Railways and formed the basis of an 11 million dollar loan to the Kenyan government from the World Bank.

Nothing Happened

The resettlement plan also permitted the concessioning process to proceed and be concluded. The government then entered a lengthy process of engaging a contract to undertake the resettlement works. A year after, a suitable contractor had not yet been identified. 2007 being an election year, and Kibera being politically volatile the discussion changed. The Ministry of Transport applied to the World Bank to change the usage of funds. The proposed use was to relocate the railway line instead of the slums sitting on the reserve. By the time the general election came the application had been declined.

The presidential results of the 2007 general elections were disputed between the current president Mwai Kibaki and the Member of Parliament for Kibera, Raila Odinga, (who subsequently became the Prime Minister in a power sharing deal). The dispute led to wide scale ethnic violence around the country. Kibera bore the brunt of the violence with a huge death toil as well as displacement of residents.  As part of the violence, the residents of Kibera uprooted 2 kilometers of the railway line. And right then Kibera had found a way to hurt government effectively. Every time the track was pulled out, the primary channel for fuel going to Uganda was cut off, leading to fuel shortages and straining diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Subsequently, significant stretches of the rail have been uprooted three times. Once because of an over-blown dispute between Kenya and Uganda on the ownership of a 1 acre island on Lake Victoria that sits between the two countries.  Another time because the power utility had pulled out illegal connections in Kibera and the last time because the allowances of enumerators in the national census were delayed. As a result, in 2009 the Railways re-established links with Pamoja Trust to assist in the implement the resettlement plan as a matter of urgency. This time it was considered a matter of National Security.

Pamoja however observed the following:

— The 5.2 meter right of way on both sides of the line was heavily encroached. This is in contrast to the relatively lower encroachment levels recorded during the preparation of the RAP in 2005. We noted an increase in traders on the line. We also observed the occurrence of double storey structures within the 30 meter railway reserve; consolidation of structures characterized by improved flooring, and walling.

— We observed that the level of investment in businesses has risen. This was not only in the physical forms but also in the size of businesses, amounts of stock, as well as improved infrastructure such as electricity. Notably this is an investment by  the power utility which is a State corporation and the residents.

— At the same time we noted major deterioration of the railway line. The line sits almost entirely on earth and shows no signs of maintenance over a period of time. The state of the line, we noted, poses an even greater challenge to operation of trains and safety, than was apparent in 2005.

— We also noted that all lands designated for the relocation have since been privatized and significant constructions undertaken on them.

It was then decided between the Government and the World Bank that a revision of the resettlement plan is required. And that Pamoja be requested undertake the revision. The contract to undertake the revision was signed in February 2010.


Slum mapping: threat or opportunity?


pictured above: Bhubaneswar staff learn to identify and map settlements using Google Maps.

By Alyssa Battistoni, SPARC

Residents of India’s slums have long faced the threat of eviction from or destruction of their homes, the majority of which are built on public property. So when India’s housing minister, Kumari Selja, recently announced a plan to use satellite technology to map slums across the country, she stirred anxiety among settlement residents who worry that the maps will be used to target slums for demolition.

These worries are valid: maps could certainly provide the government with a tool to use in removing residents from desirable land.  Yet India’s Society for Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC) believes that this announcement reiterates how important it is that communities produce and map settlement information on their own so that they are able to contest or clarify the maps and information produced by the government and prevent unilateral evictions or demolitions.

Mobilizing communities to get involved in the mapping process helps ensure that governments don’t simply use maps for their own purposes. In the same way that community-based enumerations act as a check on government-produced surveys, community-based mapping provides a visualization of community space that acts as an alternative to that offered by government mapping initiatives. Furthermore, the process of creating maps helps people develop a familiarity with maps and area-based representations of their communities, allowing them to evaluate externally produced maps more confidently and negotiate more knowledgeably.

In recognition of these benefits, and of the challenges posed by the government’s growing interest in mapping informal settlements, the Indian Alliance is starting to explore a process for GIS mapping led by communities. Experimental mapping projects are currently ongoing in three cities: Bhubaneswar, Pune, and Bangalore.

In Bhubaneswar, in the eastern state of Orissa, SPARC is currently beginning a project to train communities to map 337 settlements using Google Maps. The city of Bhubaneswar is in the early stages of implementing a major JNNURM housing scheme, and the municipality is undertaking its own mapping and survey processes in the course of the planning process. The community mapping exercises conducted by the Alliance will be integrated with the government’s plane table surveys to create a deeper, more complex portrait of the city and its informal settlements. Once this process has been completed in Bhubaneswar, community members will participate in exchanges with people from other cities in Orissa to introduce the concept and process of community mapping.

Similar community mapping projects are also taking place in Bangalore, where biometric survey data collected by communities is being linked to Google maps produced by communities, and Pune, where Mahila Milan groups are creating maps of every settlement in the city. Eventually, groups from Bangalore, Pune, and Bhubaneswar will meet to compare processes and determine which strategies work best for creating participatory, information-rich maps. In time, SPARC hopes to expand the community mapping project to other non-metropolitan cities that can use the data produced to help prioritize urban development projects and better understand the development needs of slum communities.


pictured above: Staff and community members have mapped the boundaries of Nuapalli Sabar Sahi, a settlement in Bhubaneswar, Orissa.

SDI Bulletin: Beyond a legal framework for “meaningful engagement” in South Africa


pictured above: FEDUP’s Alfred Gabuza (far right) speaks at a meeting of the Informal Settlement Network in Roodeplaat, South Africa, on 20 February 2010.

By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI secretariat

Adapted from remarks given at a roundtable discussion on “meaningful engagement” hosted by the University of Western Cape Community Law Centre and the Socio-Economic Rights Institute, on 4 March 2010.

“Meaningful engagement” is a term that has gained currency in South Africa over the last few years primarily through a series of Constitutional Court (the highest court in the country) cases regarding evictions of poor, informal dwellers. These decisions have compelled state actors to “meaningfully engage” in various ways with those they want to evict before pursuing the actual forced removal.

I want to make three related arguments about the limits of a legal framework for engagements between the state and poor citizens. The first is that “meaningful engagement” is a political process, and it is often a messy one at that. What is needed, then, is for governments to prepare to respond appropriately to the capacities of organized communities to engage. My second argument is that because it is such a political process, the inherently technocratic orientation of the law means that it has only a limited role to play in structuring these kind of engagements. Finally, I want to add to a discussion about how poor communities are preparing themselves for sustained, “meaningful engagements” with government.

Real “meaningful engagement” must be sustained engagement, not one-off encounters of the sort mandated by courts or those that constantly require the intervention of lawyers. S’bu Zikode of slum dwellers movement Abahlali baseMjondolo was part of the workshop on “meaningful engagement” hosted by the Wits Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) on 27 July 2009. There, he argued that “meaningful engagement” is part of a greater struggle by ordinary poor people to reclaim their humanity in their relations with the state. According to the report from this workshop put out by CALS, Mr. Zikode suggested that sustained dialogue, negotiation and learning with government officials were key to developing the kinds of relationships necessary for people-centered development.

“Meaningful engagement” is not something that should happen only when the law commits the state to pursue to specific interventions along these lines in order to implement its own policies. From the side of civil society, a “rights-based” approach is only a small part of a much larger effort to empower communities of the urban poor to organize around their own resources and capacities, accumulate local knowledge, set priorities, and engage other stakeholders — often the state — in order to broker deals. These are the basic propositions of Slum Dwellers International affiliate federations in over thirty different countries. In South Africa, our allies are the Federation of the Urban Poor, known by its acronym as FEDUP, and the Informal Settlement Network, a nation-wide network of settlement-level and national-level slum dweller organizations, including Abahlali and FEDUP.

In large part, we tend to only talk about “meaningful engagement” between poor communities and state institutions when conflicts between citizens and the state are reaching their breaking point. Evictions are sometimes a useful starting point to begin such engagements, but for such an engagement to be “meaningful” it cannot end with the resolution of the eviction case in and of itself. Though there have been important victories against evictions, state institutions and private actors continue to seek many more evictions than the number being won in the courts. More widely speaking, more people live without access to water, sanitation, or energy. This country is bound by a constitution widely lauded for its guarantee of rights to basic services. But too many people persist without these services. A legal framework alone is inadequate to address structural inequality and poverty.

Abahlali was responsible for a Constitutional Court victory against the proposed KwaZulu-Natal slums act, which, had it not been struck down, would have paved an even easier path for the state to pursue evictions of informal dwellers than it currently has. This was an important, but, in a sense, limited win. Simply put, evictions are still occurring.

The law can sometimes tell the state not to evict. It can even force the state to consult with the poor. But it just can’t construct a process that is, by nature, an organic, political one. In some eviction court cases, like Olivia Road v. City of Johannesburg, the city is ordered to “meaningfully engage.” In the Olivia Road case, part of the application of the term meant that the city was to conduct a survey of residents of the Olivia Road building, a responsibility it ultimately tendered to an outside professional consultancy. This was anything but “meaningful engagement” with the unique and pre-existing knowledge resources of poor communities.

Organized communities of the urban poor have implements of their own that effect positive outcomes in ways that build “meaningful,” sustainable engagement with the state and other actors who bring eviction orders. When communities organize around their own resources and capacities, chief among these is information. It is on this point that the intention of court-ordered engagement between the state and ordinary poor citizens can get lost.

In other cases of action in the face of eviction threats, communities have organized around their own knowledge capacity to first face down the threat, and then to create the space for dialogue with government that ultimately leads to development in situ or a truly negotiated relocation. The case of the Joe Slovo community here in Cape Town is a great example. Though the legal battle last year eventually staved off imminent eviction, the possibility for sustained, “meaningful” engagement with the state has only come about through these kinds of organizing measures. Just last month, the community finished up a process of issuing itself informal household ID cards. This was the latest step in an enumeration process, in which the community surveyed every household on a wide range of social indicators. This process of information gathering has assisted significantly in organizing the community to be strong advocates for its own priorities as it negotiates with the Cape Town metropolitan municipal government on how to upgrade the settlement in situ. Even despite many of the obstacles that remain, victories in court appear almost pyrrhic when compared to the developmental achievements of an organized community armed with its own information and priorities prepared to engage with the state. This is an experience we have seen throughout our SDI network.

“Meaningful engagement,” if we take it to be a term that can help describe a greater sense of civic purpose in the ways in which citizens interact with the state, points to a bottom-up approach that is not limited to the Constitution or any other legal framework. Secondly, while a court can enforce specific obligations and rights, a democracy is the sum of much more than just these compulsions. Finally, the state can meaningfully engage by pursuing policies and interactions that facilitate the kinds of community organization that reinforce and grow the capacities of ordinary poor citizens. Organized communities of the urban poor can use their tools of association to work with the state towards their own development. It is this kind of bottom-up governance that most effectively empowers citizens to engage with the state to help fulfill the social rights agenda that South Africa’s legal framework demands. The law can, on occasion, protect the most vulnerable to defend their rights. But the law alone cannot ensure the growth of the necessary capacities to allow the most vulnerable to take hold of their destinies as proper democratic citizens. “Meaningful engagement” that comes about through the hard work of the organized poor themselves — work and organization facilitated by a truly developmental state — will begin to deliver the kinds of social outcomes and restructuring of social relations that documents like the Constitution can only imply.