Zimbabwe federation builds alliances through community-based information

Harare GIS course

Pictured above: Kenneth Gwatura from the Epworth chapter of the Zimbabwe Youth Federation displays his certificate after the GIS course.

By George Masimba, Dialogue on Shelter

In line with the new emphasis on integrating mapping aspects into Federation surveys, the Zimbabwean alliance (uMfelandawonye and Dialogue on Shelter) organised a one-week course on GIS in collaboration with the Department of Surveying and Geo-informatics at the University of Zimbabwe. A total of eleven participants participated in the course. They were drawn from:

1. Dialogue on Shelter — 2 people

2. Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation — 4 people

3. Epworth Local Board — 2 people

4. Ministry of National Housing and Social Amenities – 2 people

5. Department of Surveying and Geo-informatics (University of Zimbabwe student) – 1 person

The participation of players from central and local government was consistent with the current trend of engaging as many stakeholders as possible. Moreover, the National Ministry and Epworth Local Board were involved in the recent enumeration exercise for Epworth’s Ward 7. The training used data gathered during the enumeration for the practical sessions aimed at introducing the participants to geographic information systems with a particular emphasis on the software that is used manipulate and manage spatial data.

In this respect, the course concentrated in helping the participants to familiarise with ArcGIS, software that is used to represent and analyse spatial data. The participants were taken through the steps of extracting spatial elements such as roads, plots and structures as well as checking out and rectifying errors using the software. The following areas were covered during the training: (1) Introduction to GIS, (2) Introduction to ArcCatalog, (3) Introduction to ArcMap, (4) Geographic Phenomena, (5) Vector Representation, (6) Data Entry and Editing, (7) Topology.

After this first GIS training, the plan is to revisit the Ward 7 spatial data so that some of the errors relating to the Epworth enumeration that were noted during the training can be rectified. This process should be done jointly with both the Ministry and Epworth Local Board. After this verification exercise, the next step should be to formally present the findings from Ward 7. It is envisaged that the socio-economic and spatial data from the enumeration will then eventually feed into the regularisation programme for Ward 7. This work can then be replicated in the other wards that are yet to be formalised.

Creating impact with community-collected information


Pictured above: Goretti Katana, national treasurer of the Uganda Slum Dwellers Federation, speaks in Mbale municipal hall to introduce the profiling exercise to city officials in February 2010.

By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI secretariat

In February, I joined members of slum dweller federations from Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, who were on an exchange to assist the Ugandan federation to profile the city of Mbale. Just in this past year, the federation, supported by NGO Actogether Uganda, has profiled the cities of Arua, Kabale, Jinja, and Mbarara, in addition to Mbale. I am now back in Uganda, as the federation and Actogether launches household enumerations in each of these cities.

A key challenge for communities that collect information about themselves through city-wide profiling, and household enumerations, is how to make the most impact with the information they have. This can mean getting the information endorsed as official by local authorities, which in turn ensures that it becomes the basis for urban planning decisions in a city. The information collection can also help facilitate closer relations between organized communities and their government so that they can work together to prioritize allocation of resources and improve informal settlements.

The information can also be used to create a public awareness about the planning challenges that exist, and to develop political will within government to approach communities as equal partners in development. Ugandans opened up the New Vision newspaper yesterday to learn how slum dwellers in every informal settlement in Mbale are drinking water contaminated by human waste. New Vision is the most widely-circulated newspaper in the country. A local leader named Richard Wandoba used the information collected through the recent city-wide profiling exercise to raise awareness about drinking water conditions in slums throughout the city. This kind of city-wide approach means that organized groups of the urban poor are now ready to meet with local authorities as equals to engage around planning issues, such as water provision.

You can find a JPEG file of the full article here.

“Crafting a suit that fits”


pictured above: A crowded market area in Mukuru, Nairobi.

Editor’s note: The following text is the foreword to a community-led profile, or inventory, of all informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya, published in 2009.

By Irene Karanja, Muungano Support Team (MUST) and Jack Makau, SDI secretariat

As we were writing this inventory, residents of Mukuru Sinai came to Pamoja Trust for help in fighting off an eviction threat. Sinai is part of a belt of slums collectively called Mukuru that run along the length of Nairobi’s industrial area. Sinai is built on both sides of the petroleum pipeline. A dangerous place to live. The state owned corporation, Kenya Pipeline Company had issued an eviction notice to the residents. The corporation had plans to expand the line. Sinai’s residents have no legal title to the land and so the company did not feel compelled provide compensation or alternative relocation options. The residents said they would go with a relocation plan. 

This story is not unique for Kenyan slum dwellers. Theirs is a-wrong-way-round world. Conventionally, security of tenure is the quiet enjoyment of personal space bestowed on citizens by their Government. It is different for slum residents. Since no one will bestow any space to them, they have little choice but to squat on any parcel that is unutilized. And by virtue of numbers, because they outnumber those legally bestowed citizens, their claim carries truth – not all the truth but certainly some truth.

So the Mukuru story epitomizes a battle of truths for urban space. Losing the battle for the slums would mean the residents of Sinai, and a hundred other slums, become entirely destitute. It is not a battle they can afford to lose. Yet, to yield to their existence would be to accept a breakdown of social order and the rule of law. Then, only a negotiated position that appreciates the values, believes and needs of the state, and those of its dislocated poor, is a workable way forward.

In Kenya today, there is a process of negotiation between the slums and the state. Rather unfortunately this process is characterized by aggression. The state declares its commitment to solving the slum problem and sets up a program within a Ministry to coordinate slum upgrading. The state then finds that the slums are very inconveniently located. There are slums on riparian, road, power, railway and other utility reserves and on private poverty. It follows that whenever any organ of the state, except the slum upgrading program, is confronted with a slum, that organ seeks to evict the people. And on the slum dweller’s end, every eviction is resisted. If and when resistance fails the next step is inevitably the invasion of some other contestable land.

Our purpose in putting together this Inventory is to change the nature of the negotiation. To provide an appreciation of the scale and depth of the slum problem. To provide a starting point for positive action. To impress, hopefully that evicting slums is in the long run futile. To encourage the development of a plan to ‘sort out’ the slums. We realize that policies, as opposed to a plan, assume that slums are part of the human condition. They are not. They are quantifiable and the challenge surmountable.

In order to do this, we found it necessary to collect and present the story of each slum in the city. After many years of working with slums, we know that no slum is exactly the same as any other. The ratio of structure owners (the informal equivalent of landlords) to tenants may vary anywhere from 1 structure owner to 100 tenants or adversely 100 to 1 tenant. The physical locations and layouts; demographics; histories and economies, fit only the broadest of ranges.

This was important because we are persuaded that no upgrading model or plan, by the fact of its existence, will change the urban landscape. For there to be a change, there must be an intervention in each and every slum. An intervention that appreciates each slum’s unique set of circumstances and therefore negotiates and crafts a suit that fits. It was important to present information in this manner because, today in Kenya, the process of negotiation will be shaped by the amount of information that replaces perception as its basis.

Everything else we threw into the Inventory – maps, pictures and case studies are there to give form and life to what may otherwise be a faceless, colourless monologue of discontentment. In describing the slums we did not derive variables from professional, academic or technical strains. That pallet does not have all the colours you need to paint the informal reality. Yet even the Inventory is not the complete picture. The full motion picture is only available for those inspired to wander down twisted, slippery, narrow aisles, jump over open sewers, take in the smells of one-year old garbage, taste stewed chicken beaks or roasted fish gills, and share in the fear of being bulldozed in the middle of the night.

Maghebula to Advise SA Minister

By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI Secretariat

A slum dweller community leader has become a close advisor to Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale. Patrick Magebhula, a long-time community organizer and activist from Durban, is the only community-based actor on new five person panel to advise the Minister on human settlements policy and practice.

The panel was inaugurated on Tuesday, 31 August, at a meeting in Johannesburg.

Magebhula is a founder and president of the Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), the largest community-based organization in South Africa, which organizes communities around women-led daily savings, and community information gathering. FEDUP has had a relationship with the national department of housing (now “human settlements”), since the tragically brief tenure of Joe Slovo as minister in 1994. That relationship has resulted in over 15,000 houses built by poor communities themselves.

As an advisor to the Minister, Magebhula said that he hopes to begin a dialogue on aligning national policy to maximize the capacities and energy of organized communities of the poor: “It’s important for the poor to build a relationship at that level with the minister. It should go a long way in opening up the space for working with poor people. It has the potential to put people’s struggles and people’s processes at the center of the agenda.”

FEDUP is part of the Informal Settlement Network (ISN), an agglomeration of settlement-level and national-level organizations of the urban poor in all major municipalities in South Africa, for which Magebhula serves as the chair. ISN is the first major initiative since the end of Apartheid to bring together residents’ committees, community development groups, as well as national organizations to work to upgrade settlements, build partnerships with all levels of government, and construct a people-centered agenda for solving the crises of human settlements and poverty.

Prior to helping found FEDUP in 1992, Magebhula was the founder of the United Democratic Front branch in his community of Piesang River in Durban in 1985. In addition to his positions in FEDUP and ISN, he serves as a member of the board for Shack Dwellers International, an alliance of slum dweller organizations in 33 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.


Harare mayor opens Zimbabwe federation toilet block


pictured above: Harare mayor opens an “eco-san” toilet block built by the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation.

By George Masimba, Dialogue on Shelter

The Zimbabwean Alliance for the first time in its history exhibited at the Zimbabwe Agricultural Show. The exhibition has provided a platform for the alliance to reach out and publicise the philosophy behind the uMfelandawonye (Federation) process. In the same vein, the show has also presented a glorious opportunity for the various Federation business projects to establish and penetrate uncharted markets. But most importantly, this inaugural exhibition was used to showcase the eco-san toilet popularly known as ‘sky-loo’ — a technology imported from Malawi. The SDI family graced the show and was represented by Malawi and Zambia from the southern Africa hub.

The ‘sky-loo’ technology came into being following an exchange visit to Malawi where the concept has been adopted and is being used on a very wide scale. After the trip to familiarise with the technology, which involved both Dialogue on Shelter and the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation, a lot of excitement was generated within the alliance. Soon, negotiations started with Chinhoyi Municipality to allow eco-san units to be built so that families could move onto an allocated piece of land. The municipality agreed and more than 10 eco-san units have been built and over 50 families have so far moved onto their plots. Once the families occupied their plots, they began constructing their own houses. In this regard, the eco-san technology has opened a lot of opportunities for the urban poor.

It is with the possibility to scale up this approach in mind that the alliance resolved to showcase the technology at the Zimbabwe Agricultural Show. An eco-san demonstration unit was therefore constructed at the Federation stand, and as a way of heightening the stakes and potential for buy-in the His Worship the Mayor of Harare was invited to officially open it. Among other stakeholders, the official opening ceremony was attended by Ministry of Housing officials, Harare City Council, UNHabitat, NGOs (ZINAHCO and ZERO) and the University of Zimbabwe. In his speech, the Mayor acknowledged the need to support such innovations around alternative sanitation strategies and expressed that the City was committed to embrace such ideas. The Malawian Federation also presented its solidarity speech which described how this model had helped a number of households to access affordable services and also to contain cholera outbreaks.

On the other hand, besides the eco-san technology, the exhibition has also created opportunities for the income generating projects from across the country’s 43 chapters of the Federation. Following the business skills training sessions that were earlier facilitated by Dialogue on Shelter and the subsequent loans that were disbursed to the various groups by the Gungano Fund, it was only appropriate that all these initiatives be complemented by a strong marketing drive. The exhibition therefore provided a perfect platform to do just that. As a result, Federation exhibitors displayed goods ranging from batik products to herbal medicines and building materials, all produced by uMfelandawonye members in various projects.