The Sanitation Deficit Reflects a Deficit in Governance for the Poor

Sheela Patel, chair of SDI board, at World Water Week in Stokholm

**For the full article, please visit The Global Herald**

By Sheela Patel, Chair of SDI Board 

Water and sanitation represent the most clear and obvious amenities that link cities citizens, their local government and national state. SDI Board Chair Sheela Patel sent the message at the World Water Week 2011 that the existing deficit in sanitation is obvious and clearly one of the unachieved Millenium Development Goals set out by the United Nations nearly twelve years ago. Dr. Patel went on to say that this deficit reflects the real deficit in governance, since for the poorest in the city, inclusion and concern about them gets reflected in whether they get access to these amenities. Below is an excerpt from her article, which originally appeared in The Global Herald.

“A secure place to live, and access to basic amenities, followed very closely by the right to undertake livelihoods are the crucial safety networks for the urban poor. Yet these have remained outside the purview of the increasing informal habitation seen in cities, and this exclusion has impacts and implications for an average of 25%, but often up to 60%, of the city residents. Accountability must be sought in national and local policies that continue to ignore the urgent need to address the terrible conditions in which the poor live in informal settlements…

Change has to come now, so that deficits can be addressed and growth in urbanization in the next decade does not have to see such terrible inequities in cities in the future. And this cannot happen unless the poor and their organizations and settlements are seen as partners addressing this challenge. Events like World Water Week have to have community leadership to bring their voices to such debates and it was telling that I, as a professional, was their lone representative among over 2500 people who registered.”

To read the full article, visit The Global Herald here.


Conference Report: Exploring Strategies for Citywide Slum Upgrading

Kisenyi, Kampala

From 8 to 10 August 2011, ACTogether Uganda, Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI), and the Uganda Slum Dwellers Federation hosted a conference at Fairway Hotel, Kampala. To read the full conference report, click here.

The conference marked the beginning of SDI’s conference series on strategies for upgrading large informal settlements under siege in five cities across Africa, namely: Accra, Cape Town, Harare, Kampala and Nairobi. Through undertaking precedent-setting, people-driven pilot projects, this project aims to create centers of urban learning within the international slum dweller community. These focus cities will be catalysts for scalable strategies for city-wide upgrading that keep communities of the urban poor at their center.

The program is being matched by a significant financial contribution from SDI, which is envisaged to leverage partnerships with governments and additional commitment to urban upgrading at scale.

Uganda was chosen to host the first in the series of conferences to be held in each of the focus cities. The three-day event brought together over 100 delegates including members of slum dwellers federations from the participating cities, representatives from support NGOs and local government partners.

Early on, emphasis was placed upon the need for the conference series to be a forum for learning, sharing, and – most importantly – action. The organizers explained that from the conference, concrete actions and projects are expected. SDI urged Federations to initiate projects that have an impact upon policy and institutional arrangements in the selected cities.

SDI’s president, Mr. Jockin Arputham, was in attendance at the conference. He stressed the need for more action than talk and informed the delegates that specific work plans would be formulated during the course of the conference. These plans are to be reviewed at the next conference, providing a tool for peer-driven monitoring and evaluation to take place, in order to promote greater learning within the SDI network.

To read the full conference report, please click here. Also, please check the Settlements Under Siege section of the SDI blog for updates on the progress of each federation toward the stated objectives and projects, and for reports from future conferences in the series.



Visiting Kisenyi, A Settlement Under Siege

Kisenyi, Kampala

By Ariana K. MacPherson, SDI Secretariat

We pull into Kisenyi, Kampala’s largest informal settlement, in a packed bus, rattling down muddy dirt roads. A motorbike heads toward us and women and children line the streets, hanging washing after the rain, playing in puddles. We disembark in front of a tall green building, a sanitation project of the Uganda Shack Dwellers Federation. A group of men and women sit on the front stoop behind sewing machines. Zainabu, one of the local federation leaders, tells us that this is an income generation project providing tailoring services to the community. They work away as we head upstairs.

Zainabu welcomes us, explaining that we are in Kisenyi III and that we will be doing a walking tour of the area, stopping to visit a few Federation members’ homes and income generation projects along the way. The group breaks into song – there is always song – the lyrics are about President Museveni, and the improvements he has brought to Kisenyi’s residents despite the injustice inflicted upon much of country’s people. During the early years of Museveni’s presidency, sewerage, electricity and water services were extended to certain segments of Kisenyi. However, the hardships of daily life remain harsh here. Living quarters are extremely close, and basic services like water and sanitation are sub-standard at best, presenting serious health and hygiene risks to the community. But in the face of poor drainage, flooding, insecure tenure and extremely high densities, the residents of Kisenyi have created a bustling, vibrant community in the heart of Kampala.

We head out into the community. At the base of the sanitation project is a cluster of homes owned by Federation members. Salomi Kakuliremu shows us her savings books, explaining that she purchased her home with a loan from the Ugandan Federation’s urban poor fund, and is paying it back using money she makes selling pineapple juice here in Kisenyi. Her two little girls peek around the curtain at the front of the house as she shows us her savings books, daily savings and loan repayments recorded meticulously with amounts and dates, a thousand Ugandan shillings per day and a secure roof overhead.

We stop next at a poultry project behind one of the houses. Federation members raise chickens in a small coop, selling them for income. Most of the homes here are made from bricks or wattle and daub, they are low with few windows, and the land they sit on belongs to someone else contributing to the daily threat of eviction.

We come to a main road, where Zainabu shows us her home. It is a large brick structure with a wide, clean gutter out front lined with stone so as to preclude flooding. As we move along the street is lined with children. They follow us through the community, shy and laughing behind me. All around us life is happening. A man sells roast meat and chapatti from a street cart, another shop advertises car parts and electronics.
Jennifer Bukiwa, Federation member in Kisenyi

One of the federation members introduces me to Frank Onyapidi. He is striking young man with dark ebony skin, a tan leather jacket and auburn dreadlocks falling down around his face. He sits with a handful of young men inside a shaded shack, sewing game skins into handbags, cell phone holders and shoes. Frank tells me that this is a local project to generate income for young men, to keep them off the streets and out of trouble. They smile, ask where we come from, and I give him my card, wishing him luck with their project, impressed by their handiwork.

Next we are introduced to another Federation member, Jennifer Bukiwa, selling roasted mealies over charcoal. Everyone is impressed with the innovation of the people here, with their initiative to find creative ways to make a living.

Rounding the corner, we make our way down one of the main arteries, a double-lane road that separates Kisenyi III from Kisenyi II. Bordering the road is an open swath of land, riddled with debris. It is the site of a recent eviction. Hundreds of families forced out of their homes and their shacks razed to the ground. The remnants of life, chained in by barbed wire. This is the daily threat – and harsh reality – of informal living. Centrally located settlements like Kisenyi sit on some of the city’s most valuable land, “The gold of Kampala, the real gold of Kampala,” says one Federation member. He is right. Land is scarce, and becoming scarcer as populations urbanize at a rapid pace. But where do the urban poor fit in? How do communities secure their livelihoods, their homes, in the face of power, money, greed and exclusion?

Federation members have begun discussions for land sharing agreements, attempting to broker deals with landowners in order to secure rights to stay on the land. For the urban poor, Kisenyi is their life, the lifeblood of the city, an economic, social and political engine churning away in the middle of Kampala. To others, however, the urban poor seem to be blocking access to gold, taking up space, a nuisance to be removed and relocated. The challenge put forth is how to reconcile these views, how to legitimize the space occupied by the urban poor and make clear their right to the city – how to claim ownership of  these settlements under siege.

In the coming months we will look at a number of centrally located informal settlements in cities across Africa. In Kampala, Harare, Cape Town, Accra, and Nairobi the urban poor face threats of eviction as they attempt to keep their homes on valuable urban land close to the city centers. SDI alliances of the urban poor in these cities have begun to work towards incremental slum upgrading, catalyzing settlement-wide upgrading with precedent setting pilot projects to improve the quality of basic services such as water, sanitation, drainage, road access, waste collection and housing. The hope is that such projects will give urban poor federations the necessary backing to build partnerships with government officials and leverage government resources in order to bring these projects to scale.

As part of this series, SDI will hold conferences in each of the focus cities, bringing together Federation members, their support NGOs and government delegations in a dialogue on citywide incremental slum upgrading strategies. The first conference – during which the site visit to Kisenyi took place – was held in Kampala, Uganda from 8 – 10 August 2011.The official conference report presents a comprehensive look at the conference proceedings, including country action plans for the coming months.

By engaging in such dialogues, the urban poor can take steps to secure the space they have carved out in the hearts of these cities. The underlying vision being the development of protocols for the upgrading of large informal settlements that are under siege. These include in situ upgrading, or suitable and negotiated relocation as opposed to state or market driven eviction or dislocation. Through this kind of incremental, upgrading, cities can begin the necessary task of bridging the informal and the formal, using people-driven, participatory processes to lay the foundations for inclusive, pro-poor cities. 


Click here for a deeper look into the fabric of life in Kisenyi in the new book, THIS.IS.KISENYI., published by ACTogether Uganda and the Uganda Shack Dwellers Federation.

To see more photos from the site visit to Kisenyi, visit SDI’s Flickr page

South African SDI Alliance Cements Partnership with Mayor of Cape Town

SA SDI Alliance meets with Cape Town Mayor


**Cross-posted from SA SDI Alliance Blog**

By Charlton Ziervogel, SDI Secretariat 

Community development is often a hard, slow process that requires patience and dedication.  The South African SDI Alliance takes the position that community members are actually the linchpin to the success of community development, and nothing less than full inclusion in their own development processes is sufficient.  But how do you tackle the problems the urban poor face if the very city they live in effectively excludes them and government departments operate in isolation, trying to address issues which require an integrated approach?  The solution lies in the concept of inclusion, and the Alliance has learnt that the City needs to be included in its efforts.  But the inclusion of the City does not rest on the shoulders’ of its Informal Settlement Unit alone and the Alliance knows that a more strategic approach is required by drawing in the help of all role-players.

It was in this spirit that the South African SDI Alliance introduced itself to the new Mayor of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille, at a meeting at the Civic Centre on 4 August 2011.  In doing so, the Alliance aimed to garner support from the City for an integrated approach in tackling informal settlement issues and to highlight that community members were a valuable resource along with all government departments.   Representatives from the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) and the Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC) described the history and nature of the partnership to the gathering, which included representatives from the City’s Human Settlements, Utilities and Urbanisation Departments as well as the Informal Settlement Unit’s manager.  Since 2009, the Alliance has been working with the Informal Settlement Unit within the City of Cape Town’s Housing Department, and together the partnership has identified 23 settlements where joint pilot projects for incremental upgrading would be executed.  The Mayor commended the fact that the Alliance was working towards solving one of the country’s biggest problems and affirmed that the City’s new administration was more than willing to work with them in this regard.

The Alliance representatives revealed that there were advantages in partnering with the City but expressed concern that not all departments were committed to the partnership.  The Director of Urbanisation echoed these sentiments and explained that steps were being taken to address this issue.  The Mayor affirmed this and envisaged practical engagement with the Alliance on a number of fronts and in particular highlighted that the ISN could make valuable input into the City’s five-year Integrated Development Plan, help the City resolve conflicts in areas that the ISN represents, as well as help establish an accurate database of informal settlements and backyard areas.  She felt that a Memorandum of Understanding needed to be signed to formalise the partnership.  The drafting of this document is currently underway and will be signed the next time the Alliance meets with the Mayor.  It is hoped that this will lead to an integrated departmental approach from the City to informal settlement development issues, and through the Alliance the voice of the urban poor would be included in this process.


SDI Coordinators Visit Uganda Alliance

**Cross-posted from ACTogether Blog** 

By ACTogether Uganda

On the 12th of July a delegation of Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI) coordinators arrived in Uganda. All three ladies are Federation members. Rose Molokoane, from South Africa, who is also the Vice President of SDI, was joined by Mphatso Njunga from Malawi, and Sheila Magara from Zimbabwe. The visitors came to see the latest progress in the Uganda Federation and share lessons from abroad.

Meeting with the World Bank

The three coordinators only had a short amount of time to spend in Uganda, so they proceeded straight from the airport to the World Bank offices to meet with Mr. Martin Onyach-Olaa, Senior Urban Specialist. Also in attendance, were members of the Uganda Slum Dwellers Federation and their support NGO, ACTogether.

The visit to the World Bank was timely, as Mr. Martin Onyach-Olaa had spent the previous week visiting the Federation in Jinja and Mbale. He was tremendously impressed with the work of the slum dwellers. For a full account of his visit please consult our previous blog entitled “The World Bank Visits the Uganda Federation.”

Mr. Onyach-Olaa emphasized the centrality of slum dwellers to the urban development agenda. He made it clear that no strategy for urban development in Uganda can solely focus on the 40% of residents who live in formal settlements. Without the mobilization, organization, and participation of the 60%, urban development strategies are bound to fail. He lamented the fact that urban centers used to be the places where Uganda’s best infrastructure was found. Today, however, it is the opposite: “In an urban setting you will be met with potholes,” he said.

As the key body responsible for monitoring implementation of the preparatory phase of the Transforming Settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda (TSUPU) program, the World Bank was heartened to see how well the Federation has fulfilled its responsibility as part of the program. As the implementation phase of the project commences, the World Bank is encouraging the Ugandan Ministry of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development to prioritize the first tranche of TSUPU funding to the Community Upgrading Fund, as he is confident that the Federation is mobilized and waiting.

The visiting coordinators expressed their appreciation that Mr. Onyach-Olaa took the time to visit the Federation and see, first-hand, its work.  “Many in other countries don’t leave their offices and just talk about the community from the office,” said Sheila Magara. Rose spoke about SDI’s history of interaction with the Bank and how difficult it has been for them to understand the SDI-approach. The World Bank, she said, thought working with communities was too risky and insisted that it was their mandate to work with governments.

With time, however, seeing encouraged believing. The Bank first came to appreciate the Federation’s approach in India. The Indian Federation proved that community managed sanitation projects can be more efficient and better able to achieve city-wide scale impact than public or private sectors approaches. Rose made it clear that Mr. Onyach-Olaa’s visit was the first step in the seeing-is-believing process and indeed it was clear what an impact his visit had had. “Talking around a table is not so useful,” said Rose, “I can tell a nice story without anything behind me.”

The parties discussed the critical importance of the enumeration and mapping work the communities have been engaged in and its relevance to urban planning processes. Mr. Onyach-Olaa asked that the Federation present their findings to the Bank, which will encourage MoLHUD to utilize it to strengthen the urban situational analysis that was commissioned to prepare the national urban policy. The SDI coordinators agreed that this is an important next step.

The meeting concluded with all parties agreeing on the importance of continued partnership as their respective goals overlap considerably. Each party can bring unique capabilities and capacity to the urban development sector and, as such, should work in collaboration and ensure their work is complementary and builds the systems and institutions necessary for development to be sustainable.

Meeting at the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development

Following lunch, the SDI coordinators, Uganda Slum Dwellers Federation members, and ACTogether staff ventured to the Ministry of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development. Having just passed through election season, there are now a host of new Ministers to sensitize about the work of the Federation and the commitments made by their predecessors. The new ministers were given a newsletter highlighting the Federation’s latest activities and achievements.

A staunch ally of the Federation, the Commissioner for Urban Development Mr. Samuel Mbala, chaired the meeting. He welcomed the guests by detailing the strong partnership his office has forged with the Federation. He then introduced the new Minister of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development and the new Minister for Urban Development to the visitors.

 Introductions were followed by remarks from Pradip Kuria, the chairman of ACTogether’s board of directors.   Mr. Kuria thanked the Ministry for its partnership thus far, and urged the newly elected ministers to sustain the efforts of their predecessors. Following a summary of ACTogether’s work, Mr. Kuria asked Rose to make some follow up remarks.

Rose commented on the necessity of introducing the Federation and its work to the new ministers. “We wanted to introduce ourselves and our work so the partnership with your Ministry contributes seamlessly.” She then brought up the commitments made by the former Minister in order to put pressure on him to abide by the promises made before he left office. “We hope we will not disappoint each other,” Rose concluded.

Both new ministers promised they would not let the Federation down. The Minister for Lands, Housing, and Urban Development said that his Ministry will strongly support such initiatives. “As a Government we don’t have the capacity to deliver all that is required alone,” but, he remarked, working in collaboration with each other the two parties can achieve much. The Minister’s request was that ACTogether submit its work plan to the Ministry so that an active partnership can be negotiated. He congratulated the Federation on its savings methodology as, he contends, it is “essential to sustainable development… Those who are not ready to save cannot push themselves forward,” he said. Critically, he promised that the previous Minister’s commitment to provide land to the Federation would be taken care of – as would the shilling-for-shilling contribution to Suubi promise. The Federation will need to continue to apply pressure to ensure these are more than just empty pledges.

Rose challenged the Ministry to honor its commitment as SDI is prepared to contribute more to Uganda’s urban poor funds if there are concrete pledges from the government to invest in the Federation.

Pradip encouraged the Minister to visit the Federation’s local projects and programs and to participate in international exchanges to see the impressive achievements that have been possible in international Federations that have forged strong partnerships with their governments.


Journey to Jinja

On their second and final day in Uganda the coordinators traveled to Jinja to – among other things – visit the region’s latest project – a sanitation unit and community resource center in Rubaga market. The Federation was able to negotiate for a small piece of land in the market from the Jinja Municipal Council. This was an impressive feat given the fact they have already been allocated land from the council for the Kawama housing project.

The land upon which the project will be built had been occupied by a dilapidated toilet block that no longer functioned, leaving the local population with few sanitary options. Indeed, when the SDI coordinators asked to be taken to the nearest toilet they had to take a rather long walk to a nearby guesthouse. These toilets were only available to visitors because Federation members from Northern Uganda were staying there.

The Federation came together with the management of the Rubaga market and decided to work towards a solution for the lack of sanitation (for a detailed article about Jinja’s sanitation concerns please refer to the article entitled “Water and Sanitation Concerns in Jinja’s Slums”). Thanks to repayments coming in from the Kawama housing project, the Federation is able to access most of the required capital to complete the project. They will use the same technologies being employed in Kawama and will use a design similar to a unit the Federation constructed in Kisenyi, Kampala.

The design consists of a ground floor for toilets and showers and an upper floor for a community center. The community center will be used for Federation meetings and income generating activities. Because the Federation will manage the sanitation unit, there is far less chance that he toilets will fall into disrepair. This is because the Federation community has itself decided that the toilets and necessary and have organized a project management committee that will manage maintenance of the facilities. The toilets in Kisenyi are impeccably clean and in excellent condition years after the project was launched by the Federation.

A second reason for the Jinja trip was the SDI coordinators’ desire to attend the regional Federation leaders’ meeting. At this meeting leaders from each of the Federation’s 8 regions came to Jinja to present their monthly reports. The meeting was an excellent opportunity for the visitors to learn of the latest achievements and challenges facing the Federation. The meeting was also attended by Mpummude’s Assistant Town Clerk, who has been most supportive of the Federation’s agenda.

Rose encouraged the leaders to place greater emphasis on the role of collectors and treasurers as they are the backbone of the Federation. She argued that it is impossible to have a strong Federation without strong, committed, and skilled collectors and treasurers. She also urged the groups not to imitate the projects of other regions, but to think carefully about the projects they think would be most beneficial to their communities.

Kawama Housing Project

The last stop on the Jinja trip was the Kawama Housing Project in Mpumudde. Upon arrival the SDI coordinators were greeted with songs and dances from the local women. They were also greeted by 6 brand new, community-constructed houses. The houses represent the first tranche of the project and the coordinators were also able to see the preparations being made for the second tranche of 30 units (for the latest updates on the Kawama Housing Project please visit the page devoted to it on this website).

The coordinators heard from the 6 beneficiaries of the first houses and the 30 beneficiaries selected for the new block.  The 30 were selected owing to their status as the poorest members of the community. Though this represents a significant challenge in terms of financial viability, it is consistent with the Federation’s mission to uplift the poorest members of the community. These beneficiaries – mostly women – have already begun planning for their repayments with assistance from the community and ACTogether.

The coordinators were shown around the site, introduced to the beneficiaries, informed of the project management processes, and shown how building materials are made by federation members. 


Reflecting on the Enumeration Process in Cape Town

Burundi, Mfuleni, Cape Town

By Skye Dobson and Charlton Ziervogel, SDI Secretariat

22 July 2011  |  The South African enumeration process has been underway since 1995. Enumerations are essentially community-run censuses, managed and conducted by slum dweller federations throughout the SDI-network.  Enumeration is one of SDI’s key rituals for mobilizing communities and generating the crucial inputs for collective action required to improve the quality of life in informal settlements. The household information collected – on tenure, income, employment, and services – is vital to combating the invisibility of those living in slums and constitutes a powerful negotiating tool when communities approach their local and municipal governments.

To reap the full benefits of enumeration community ownership of the process is absolutely essential. This truth was discussed at length at an enumeration reflection meeting held in Cape Town on July 23rd, 2011. The meeting was chaired by Mr. Jack Makau, from the Kenyan Alliance, who has been instrumental in facilitating the enumeration process in many of SDI’s member Federations.  Enumeration leaders from various settlements were in attendance, these included representatives from Barcelona, Bosbou, Burundi, Europe, Joe Slovo, Macasar, the Manenberg Backyarders, and Shukushukuma.

Mr. Makau opened the meeting by telling the assembled enumeration leaders that he was humbled to be chairing such a meeting, especially given the fact he learnt much of what he knows about enumeration in South Africa while participating in the process in Gauteng. . He also thanked the South African Federation for the inspiration it continues to provide throughout the international network. South Africa has long been associated with inspiring social movements and the Federation is continuing that honorable tradition of collective action to combat injustice.

The purpose of the meeting, Mr. Makau explained, was to reflect upon the enumeration process thus far. Ever the consummate community organizer, Mr. Makau was not there to provide answers, but to guide the community to find their own by asking insightful questions and probing the community to suggest strategies for combating the issues they themselves identified.  He opened the discussion by reflecting on the enumeration exercise conducted in Burundi settlement two days earlier. To do so he simply asked, “Why do we do enumerations?”

Things started slowly – as such meetings often do. Those used to speaking started the discussion and highlighted their successes to date. Many of the achievements were stated in generic “development-speak” to begin with, but with a little probing from Mr. Makau, quieter members spoke up, the stories became more personal, and a fuller picture emerged.

The Federation members highlighted the contribution the enumeration process has made to mobilization efforts and the increased attention their groups have garnered. This was particularly true of the women from the Manenberg backyarders who noted the very many discussions they had whilst conducting the survey. Aside from merely asking the recipients to respond to the questionnaire, they answered many questions themselves – about what the Federation is, what it does, and why enumerations are conducted.  The group identified the purpose of enumerations as being a tool to give a voice to communities and strengthen their case when it comes time to negotiate with municipalities and other urban development authorities.

The members also identified the deepening of their own understanding of the settlements in which they live. The Manenberg group were shocked and deeply saddened by the horrid conditions “backyarders” live in, and the exploitation they suffer at the hands of their landlords. The group has since taken their enumeration data about the number of backyarders in their settlement to the municipal council demanding that there be budget line committing the council to support these most vulnerable residents.

Others were also able to prioritize certain vulnerable groups for action based on enumeration data. In one settlement it became clear that disabled persons had no access to toilet facilities and the community has approached their council to rectify the matter. Another group found an elderly woman sleeping under a plastic sail and sought donor support to provide her with adequate shelter. Still others cited the ratio of toilets and water-points to residents to be of primary concern.

Melanie Manuels, from the Manenberg backyarders, explained their approach to the enumeration. Before commencing, the group mobilized an effort to map out local stakeholders in their area to whom community members with particular issues could be referred. Despite severely constrained financial capacity, the group knew it could direct vulnerable residents to certain service providers free of charge. This approach received much praise from those assembled in the reflection meeting and will likely be incorporated into the efforts of other groups.

The power of community-driven enumerations was highlighted in an account from Mzwanele, a community leader from Joe Slovo.  He explained to the group how their particular enumeration proved that there were less people than originally thought within the settlement.  This meant that upgrading could be done in situ without having to relocate people to the periphery.

The meeting then turned its attention to some of the challenges encountered thus far. Of principal concern was the difficulty maintaining community enthusiasm for the effort. Some leaders cited teams of 50 dwindling to teams of 15 by the end of an enumeration, while others expressed dissatisfaction that many enumerators see their contribution as a job, rather than a collective effort to improve the lives and livelihoods of people within their community.  The group agreed that real community involvement meant everyone should understand why enumerations were conducted.  More importantly the discussions revealed that enumerations should be a tool for inspiring community members to learn about and take action on issues facing their settlement.

Mr. Makau was able to comfort the group by informing them that it is a problem encountered by many Federations. Instead of providing them with a solution, he told them stories of other enumeration processes throughout the world and how other Federations attempted to resolve the issue. He then gave the assembled members a chance to mull over these strategies.

The group concluded that their issues came down to effective mobilization. They decided that it is their job to make sure Federation members see them as role models who are part of the Federation because of a deep desire to seek the greater good for their communities. In so doing, they concluded, the Federation would be encouraged to feel that same passion. They resolved to return to their own communities and reinforce the key SDI rituals and spirit that had drawn them in, and ensure the enumeration exercise is viewed as ritual like any other – conducted to strengthen collective efficacy and capacity in the community. There was agreement that the enumeration exercise should be perceived as a process – rather than a discrete activity. 

In addition, the Federation members decided it would be wise to ensure members of the community being enumerated take an active role in enumeration of their settlement. In so doing, it is hoped the value of enumeration will be internalized more wholly and the Federation can minimize the occurrence of members perceiving the exercise as a sort of employment.

The group resolved to share the conclusions from the meeting with their respective settlements and discuss them in greater depth in order to determine specific strategies for more effective mobilization. A powerful suggestion came from an elder in the group who suggested inspiration be taken from the leaders’ own motivation for doing what they do and for getting involved in the Federation in the first place. The group agreed and decided that the way SDI rituals are introduced when first contact is made in a community is very important. False expectations and misinformation in this regard were identified as part of the reason why community enthusiasm may dwindle over the course of an enumeration

Mr. Makau thanked the members for their contribution to a productive reflection meeting. Such meetings are crucial to the collective learning SDI seeks to promote and help to ensure the Federation remains nimble and effective in its work – collectively conscious of strengths, weaknesses, and strategies for success that reflect its core values.

Slum Upgrading Project Exchange to Namibia

Zimbabwe Federation visit to Windhoek

Back in March 2011 members of the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation, support NGO Dialogue on Shelter and government officials from the City of Harare participated in an exchange visit to Windhoek, Namibia where they met with members of the Shackdwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN), Namibia Housing Action Group (NHAG) and city and state officials. The visit was organized in order to provide support for the activities of Harare’s five-year slum upgrading program, which include slum settlement profiles, and enumerations and pilot projects in Mbare settlement. 

The Zimbabwe group was able to take away some key lessons from this exchange, including: 

1) Methods for institutionalizing incremental development in a policy framework.

2) A government-sponsored finance facility that works with networks of urban poor communities (eg. SDFN)

3) Policy impacts through joint exchanges of slum dwellers and government (see also George Masimba’s report about the impacts that local exchanges have had on the Zimbabwean constitutional deliberations, available here.)

4) Methods for including and relying upon community-generated information in government planning and research activities.

For a comprehensive report of this exchange, click here

Zimbabwe Federation visit to Windhoek

PMC members during a meeting with the Sustainable Division section from City of Windhoek


Slum Dwellers as Professors and Planners

Sheffield Road

By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI secretariat

Floods, Fires. Lurking danger while searching for a place to shit. And, above all, the spectre of police and bulldozers waiting outside your door ordering you to leave your home.

To the academics, planners, and policy-makers, such an existence is informal and illegal. To those living in urban slum settlements throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America, it is the stuff of daily life. Recent engagements between slum dweller networks linked to SDI and universities show how this gap between theory and reality is shrinking.

The challenge of developing institutions to adequately address the very immediate issues that slum dwellers face is often a challenge of having the right information at hand. Usually, professional and academic planners use limited — and usually aggregated — information upon which to base their decisions. They envision cities that extend the ways in which they already live their lives. 

But the poor also have visions for their cities. As one South African newspaper headlined a piece by South African Federation president Patrick Magebhula, they are “moving from slum survivors to urban planners.” The SDI network is now developing a range of experiences in which slum dweller communities collect detailed information about themselves in order to organize, plan and impact the ways in which they interact with the formal world.

In Kenya, the Federation, known as Muungano wa wanavijiji, is working with students from the University of Nairobi and University of California—Berkeley in the United States, to develop a zonal plan for the Mathare Valley in Nairobi. The Federation savings schemes in the community work with residents to survey every house, and then use this information to map the settlement jointly using GIS technology. This technology integrates the socio-economic data collected into a visual picture of the way in which the social dimensions of the community exist spatially.

We have often discussed the enumeration, mapping, and profiling activities of SDI federations in this newsletter. Now, federations are using links with planning programs in local universities to build broader understanding of community-led planning activities. In doing so, they are creating new platforms to build political backing for the cities that they envision. These are cities that finally appreciate the contributions of informal organization, and include these contributions in future planning.

The Informal Settlement Network in South Africa is working with two adjacent large informal settlements in Cape Town called Barcelona and Europe. The communities undertook their own processes of enumeration and mapping. Now, they are working with students at the University of Cape Town to translate this information into a vision for the future. The settlements are on top of a landfill site, which is polluting one of the main freshwater reserves in the city. It is clear that this will increasingly come on the radar for city planners, as water resources become scarcer. So the community is getting ahead of the city by developing its own plan.

Here, the role of universities to help translate to the formal world the information that communities collect is vital. The communities use the tools of the academics to articulate their existing social realities and economic contribution to the city as a whole. For instance, economic analysis emerging from the community’s enumeration estimates the community’s economic activity as generating about USD 6 million as yearly expenditure.

A similar case is in a large informal settlement called Langrug in the relatively small municipality of Stellenbosch near Cape Town in South Africa. Residents have enumerated the settlement and, led by two young women without high school education, mapped the information. The community leadership now use this information to negotiate with the municipality for toilets, installation of sewers and water pipes, and to find the space to relocate those members of the community who live in a flood plain next to a small river that runs through the settlement.

Last week, residents of Barcelona and Langrug gave a unique lecture about this work to students in the University of Cape Town’s M.Phil program in Community Development and Planning. Audio of the lecture by Vuyani Mnyango from Barcelona and Kholeka Xuza and Olwethu Mvandaba from Langrug can be found here, as well as an accompanying slideshow here. 

This is not the first time that slum dweller leaders from SDI Federations have become professors to the professionals and academics. Last year, members of the Zimbabwean Federation traveled to the University of Manchester in the UK to teach economics students. And earlier this month, community leaders from Cape Town and Durban in South Africa, traveled to Perth, Australia, to present to the annual World Planning Schools Congress. Listen to an interview on Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Futuretense” radio show with the South African Federation’s Melanie Manuel here. In order to further such engagements, SDI signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Association of African Planning School in November 2010.

University students have learned from the communities how informal settlement dwellers live and work, as well as how they organize themselves. The students have then contributed the tools of planners to articulate this information in a way that serves as a platform for the communities to engage with city officials on future planning for the area. For example, in June, after talking with residents from Barcelona and Europe around the plans they developed with the University of Cape Town students, Cape Town municipal officials were pleasantly surprised. “To get to this level of understanding, it can take us years of working through expensive consultants,” said Natasha Murray, Head of Planning for Informal Settlements at the City of Cape Town.

The linchpins of this work are the information collection of activities of Federations and slum dweller communities. These communities collect information at the household level, leveraging a wealth of data that can be entirely disaggregated. They then plot the information onto maps, and work with highly detailed socio-economic and spatial data to develop future plans. Universities help translate this data using formal tools that create a framework for communities to engage as leading partners to plan with city governments.

This is a striking new role for urban poor communities in city development. Such communities are becoming the professors and planners. They are working to use this information to build stronger internal structures and more effective city-wide networks. They are also challenging their newfound partners. Are the planners, academics, and policy makers ready to listen to these doers? And how can they change their practice to a) provide the necessary platforms for communities to tell their long-suppressed stories, and b) to articulate their compelling visions for the future?