In Uganda, Savings and Upgrading Go Hand-in-Hand

Video source: ICMAvideos 

The International City Managemement Association (ICMA) has partnered with Cities Alliance, the Government of Uganda and the Uganda SDI alliance on a project that seeks to transform informal settlements starting from mobilization of urban poor women around savings schemes, the backbone of SDI’s methodology. In the following interview, Sarah Nandudu, a national leader of the Uganda Slum Dwellers Federation, explains how the Transforming Settlements of the Urban Poor (TSUPU) project in Uganda supports efforts to improve water and sanitation by using these core methodologies. As noted on the ICMA website, “part of ICMA’s role in the project is to work with local governments to engage citizens of slums to improve public service delivery, especially water and sanitation.” 

For more information on the TSUPU project, click here


Knowing What They Have and Expressing What They Want

Housing design workshop

**Cross-posted from Homeless People’s Federation of the Philippines (HPFP) Blog** 
ILOILO CITY– Social preparatory activities such as the Social Mapping and Dream House Workshop are among the capacity building activities supported by the Philippine Alliance to foster and promote community-led processes among partner communities in the country as a whole. New Baldoza Homeowners’ Association (NBHOA), one of the new community associations qualified to avail of the community-managed housing project implemented by the Philippine Alliance through the Community-led Infrastructure Finance Facility Program actively participated in the back to back training workshop facilitated by housing participants from Kabalaka and San Isidro housing project. The activity which was held last November 20, 2011 in Barangay Baldoza, Lapaz, Iloilo City, was attended by twenty (23) out of the twenty seven (27) applicants.

Housing design workshop

Social mapping during the morning session was conducted to map-out the socio-economic profile of the association members who are entitled to avail of a maximum loanable amount of one hundred fifty thousand pesos (P150, 000.00) and will serve as supplementary basis in validating the information given by the participants during their application and reconsideration of the loan package on the part of HPFPI-PACSII in Iloilo. 

Dream house workshop on the other hand provides a venue for each participant to express their dream house through participative and illustrative schematic design making. Individual designs are then consolidated to integrate common spaces and essential design attributes by community architects and interns from the TAMPEI though three dimensional (3D) design models and prototypes. 

Despite budget limitation, particularly on the capital fund for the construction materials as well as the participants expressed preference on replicating the house designs in San Isidro Relocation Site in Jaro instead, the Alliance considers it imperative to conduct separate dream house workshop for New Baldoza as it would facilitate social acceptability and pave the way in building a sense of ownership among association members. As a response and in consideration of the people’s inherent adaptive capacity, the alliance encourages incremental development as a strategy to bridge the gap resulting from the aforementioned budget limitation.    

For the past years, since the beginning of its housing initiatives in 2007, the Philippine Alliance has been consistent on its stand that social preparatory activities such as social mapping and dream house workshop are fundamental components of a cohesive and responsive community development undertaking. Building capacities among housing participants is likewise a leap forward towards a holistic community-led process.


In the Spirit of Jubilee: Marking Kenya’s 50 Years of Independence

**Cross posted from Muungano Support Trust blog**

The Republic of Kenya, precisely the county of Nairobi, has for the past 48years had a crisis of inequality (unequal distribution of resources). Over time this has led to gross poverty levels in country. Overcrowding has become a norm in most urban settlements with 65 per cent of the total Nairobi populace living on less than 1 per cent of the land mass.

These conditions have resulted in constant threat of demolitions, violent evictions, fires, floods and insecurity of the slum settlements by powerful forces within Government and the private sector.

In breaking this generational cycle, Jubilee (Leviticus 25:8-13) is designed and choreographed to lift from the hearts, the terrible burden of lifelong poverty, bondage, doom and hopelessness whose ultimatum is death.

The British colonialists’ involvement in Kenya began in the 19th Century; this facilitated discriminatory self – allocation of large tracts of land to white settlers immediately after the 2ndWorld War.

This necessitated increased resistance by the Mau Mau to Colonial rule, Oppression and Exclusion in the 1950s led to eventual independence on 12th December 1963. Many Kenyans of Asian origin left for Britain in the wake of the Africanization Policy, however, the Colonial Land Distribution Systems remained in force, and thus the influx of Kenyans moving to Nairobi in search of jobs increased the number of squatters moving into Nairobi’s informal settlements.

Kenyan citizens were left with the “left- over”, they were forced to occupy fragile land zones, steep slopes, river valleys, railway reserves and the available riparian.

Fast forward to the year between 1964-2011, overwhelming evidence suggests that land allocation procedures are routinely by-passed to benefit a small group of powerful individuals, who were and are cabinet ministers in government, senior civil servants, politicians and well-connected businessmen.

Slums in Nairobi can be categorised into two; squatter settlements and those that arise out of illegal sub-divisions of either government or private land.  In the country, 60-80 percent of the urban population lives in slums that are characterized by lack of access to water and sanitation, insecure tenure, lack of adequate housing, poor environmental conditions, and high crime rates (UN Habitat, 2008)”.

Rapid growth of informal slum settlements in the city of Nairobi has been mainly due to increasing income inequalities and urban poverty, increasing rates of rural urban migration, inefficient land delivery systems, high costs of urban living and poor investment in low income housing, among other factors.

We have witnessed heavy investments in Nairobi’s vibrant housing market by banks, Real estate developers and other multinational companies, not only excludes the urban poor in acquiring housing units, with less than 2 per cent of funds in financing their housing needs. It also seeks to snatch from them the spaces they occupy, with most stakeholders eyeing the Mukuru Belt, which sits on 2,000 acres of Prime Private Land and has a populace of over 500,000. Evictions are daily orchestrated threats, as developers seek to put up housing structures on this prime land.

The major slums in Nairobi are Kibera, Mathare, Korogocho and Mukuru which comprise of many villages within them, with other over 160 smaller slums which are spread in different areas of the City.

In addition to this divisive politics along tribal lines and bribing slum dwellers just in time for the elections, all in aim of getting votes(vote banking),this then tends answer the old age question , why the poor remain poor and vulnerable and the rich become richer. The gap becomes wide every single day.

 ‘Jubilee’ literally signifies “True Liberty – Uhuru wa Kweli”. According to Leviticus 25:8-13, it is to take place in the 50th year after 7 cycles of 7 years each.  The golden Jubilee is an announcement of Freedom, Restitution of Land and Property, preclusion of inequalities created by the extremes of riches and poverty in Kenya.

This campaign hopes to turn millions of squatters into secure, confident and dignified home owners. It gives Kenya a Holy Window of Opportunity, a kairos moment, “a passing instant when an opening appears which must be driven with force, if success is to be achieved.”

As Kenya prepares to mark her 49th anniversary as an Independent State, The Kenyan Jubilee goal is to ensure that by this timeline, security of tenure and comprehensive slum upgrading commitments are guaranteed for all slum dwellers across the country.

Quotes of the Jubilee Ambassadors

Mzee Mwangi Mbaru, 92 years, a squatter for the last 5 decades

“I last owned a piece of land in Runda in 1952, it was during the same year that the Colonialists declared a state of Emergency and within a blink of an eye, I had lost my piece of land and my home. Ever since, I have remained a squatter in my own country. Am 92 years, I still do not have a place to call home for I am staying with My eldest son, Peter Waweru on less than an eighth acre piece of land . I understand that the Government should provide low cost housing for its people, but since independence this has not materialized ….this is a really painful ordeal that the homeless people like I have to deal with.

I hope in the spirit of the Kenyan Jubilee, (as Kenya waits to celebrate its 50th Anniversary in 2013 as an independent state), let forgiveness, cancellation of bad debt owed to the rich by the poor and most importantly the release of land to the poor in society be a priority on the Governments’ agenda.”

Peter Waweru, 68 years Mzee Mbaru’s eldest Son, also a squatter in Kahawa West

“My father brought up my siblings and I in the slums. Slum life is all that I have ever known. It is unfortunate scenarios that after independence freedom fighters like my dad were neglected. Am really sorry for myself that I too had to bring up my children in such circumstances, but am still hopeful that things will become better as the Jubilee campaign gears itself to address issues of past injustices that the poor and weak in society have had to undergo for the last 50 years. Let’s ask ourselves this important question,

Where did we go wrong as a nation?”

Gitema Mwangi, 47 years, Mzee Mwangi’s Last born son, also a squatter

“The Government is the custodian of the Constitution and is supposed to protect its citizens from any form of abuse of their rights. Parliament should also play its fundamental role of keeping the Government in check, I really take offense when the same Government would just bulldoze into the slums and demolish homes belonging to the poor, in the slums without caring where they would move to. Evictions are not a long-term solution to eradicate slums. Recently residents of Kiang’ombe and Massai villages were forcefully evicted by Kenya Airports Authority living thousands of families out in the cold…what did some families do? They picked up their pieces walked across Mombasa road into Mukuru and are now putting up new structures! Hasn’t the government made this situation even more complicated? Let the authorities’ dialogue with the urban poor and offer them alternative areas for them to relocate if the lands in question are public/private. “


Terresia Njeri, 23 years, Peter Waweru’s daughter and Mzee Mwangi’s grand daughter

Kenya will go down the annals of history as one of the countries in with no proper policy framework that would guide in the provision of low cost housing for its citizens. It is heart wrenching to accept the fact that my grandfather has been a squatter all his life having brought my dad, uncles and aunties in the slums. The next unfortunate episode of my life is being brought up in the slums too. It’s time the Government take action to provide land and housing to its people, this is indeed a time bomb if necessary action is not taken to remedy the situation.


Francis Chege, 22 years , Mzee Mwangi’s grandson

We are living in a digitized world where technology has taken centre stage. It is unfortunate that the Kenyan youth have no access to this kind of basic infrastructure. The Government needs to empower its youthful constituency so that they are able to emerge from the cycles and shackles of poverty. Past injustices especially when it comes to issues of land. I support the Kenyan Jubilee campaign for it is the voice of the voiceless.”

Partnerships for change: New approaches to financing informal settlement upgrading

Crossposted from CORC Blog

By Walter Fieuw, CORC, and Vernon Bowers, Stellenbosch Municipality

20111112 Langrug UPF

The creation of a new Urban Poor Fund was the highlight of the event: The community contributed R12,000 in savings

The enduring nature and extent of homelessness and landlessness in post-apartheid South Africa has compelled new approaches to housing the urban poor. Informal settlement upgrading – an incremental approach to securing tenure and improving basic service delivery – has gained recognition at local and national levels. The central participation of shack dwellers in the planning and implementation of settlement upgrading is integral to the creation of sustainable human settlements and inclusive cities. The anticipation for ‘deepening democracy’ through governance reform and extensive participation is arguably precursory to the prospects of ameliorating the depressing living conditions of slum dwellers. There has possibly never been a greater need for establishing effective partnerships between civil society and the state capable to navigate the turmoil currents of the urban crisis.

international delegation, sign sbos </p> <p>New political actors have emerged that are influencing the national upgrading agenda. Among these are the Informal Settlement Network (ISN), a bottom-up agglomeration of local-level and national-level organisations of urban poor in Cape Town, Ekurhuleni, eThekwini (Durban), Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth), and Stellenbosch. ISN, together with the Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) – a woman-led federation of slum dwellers practicing savings, enumerations and partnerships with the state – and support NGOs Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC), iKayalami, and uTshani Fund, promote pro-poor and inclusive cities through people-centred development. These organisations are linked to Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI), a global network of similar organisations of the urban poor in 33 countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America. SDI builds partnerships with government that put shack dwellers at the centre of upgrading their built environment. As the South African SDI Alliance saying goes: “Nothing for us without us”.</p> <p>The Alliance promotes the establishment of citywide “Urban Poor Funds” which are community-driven development funding facilities that support community-initiated projects. Urban Poor Funds are financed by contributions from the local municipality combined with the savings of the poor, and are often strengthened by international donor funding. These funds are co-managed between organised communities and the municipality, and tend to by-pass the red tape and costly bureaucracy of state delivery mechanisms. These precedent-setting funds build on the collective capacity of local savings groups and link local upgrading efforts to wider policy change. This form of development-finance has particularly gained currency in South East Asian countries where institutional innovation, transparency and accountability resulted in empowered communities and significant poverty alleviation. In South Africa, the Community Upgrading Finance Facility (CUFF), located in uTshani Fund, has provided seed capital for more than 50 pilot upgrading projects. Communities are expected to contribute ten percent to the total project cost, a significant contribution considering the depth of poverty in many settlements.</p> <p>Stellenbosch Municipality has been a trend-setter in pledging support and partnership toward such ends. The sheer scale of the housing need – a backlog of 19,701 housing subsidy applications paired with roughly 9,000 backyarder households and 9,000 informal settlement households – compared to the meagre 300 housing subsidy allocations per year, illustrates the extent of the urban crisis Stellenbosch Municipality is facing. The partnership-in-the-making has evolved over two years and key city officials, such as Mr. David Carolissen (manager of the informal settlements department) and Mr. Johru Robyn (town planner in the housing department), were exposed to upgrading projects in Uganda through the SDI learning exchange programme. “We were investigating alternative solutions to the problems being faced by shack dwellers and approached SDI about two years ago in the hope that we could not only investigate potential partnerships but also note key lessons learned in managing informal settlements. The involvement of community members is crucial in achieving any form of success and partnering with SDI cements this involvement,

The South African SDI Alliance and Stellenbosch Municipality signed an important Memorandum of Understanding

20111112 Langrug UPF launch

At a spirited event on 12th November in the informal settlement of Langrug on the outskirts of Franschhoek, the Executive Mayor, H.E. Mr. Conrad Sidego, said: “The benefits of this partnership are far-reaching and should be viewed as a paradigm shift in municipal governance.” This historical event was centred on the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the South African Alliance aligned to SDI and the Stellenbosch Municipality. The establishment of an Urban Poor Fund servicing informal settlements in the borders of the Stellenbosch Municipality concretised this pledge of partnership and renewal to “municipal governance”. Delegates from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Swedish International Development Agency, the Governments of Norway and Uganda, and representatives from poor people’s federations in India, Namibia and Malawi were present. The Urban Poor Fund was financed by contributions by the Alliance and the municipality to the value of R3.5 million. Perhaps most significantly, R12,000 of hard-earned savings by the poor of the Stellenbosch region were also pledged.

In the first financial year, in addition to the capital and operational expenditure of community-initiated projects, the Fund will aim to “build an urban poor platform through a network of informal settlements and informal backyarders” by surveying, mapping and profiling settlements with the view of up-scaling upgrading across the municipality. Provisions are also made to invest in the social institutions of the poor in order to manage the partnership projects (e.g. setting up mini offices in five strategic clusters). Tiers of government and other interested parties to participate, especially role players in urban development, will also be engaged with the view of researching and designing “financial facility that incentivises community participation in informal settlement upgrading”.

Jockin Arputham, the president of SDI and of the National Slum Dwellers Federation of India, addressed the residents of informal settlements across the municipality: “If everyone depends on the waiting list, it might be 25 – 40 years. And then you won’t even get water or a toilet. I think that the Municipality of Stellenbosch has taken a lead, and they have come forward with a very, very big blessing that where ever you live, that is your land of ownership. If you have your land, you can improve your housing and living condition, which is designed by you. It is our pleasure to set up the urban development community fund where people will have access to the money and the work has to be done by you, the way you want it. Your frustration list is the waiting list.”

The Mayor added: “Today is about changing mindsets in providing housing … Just days ago we contemplated that we now have seven billion people on the planet and the challenges going with that … For us as the local government, we also need to understand and face the reality of what we need to do. If we continue with our old thinking, there is no way that we are going to change this.”


International delegates from SDI were present to support the new partnership with Stellenbosch Municipality

Strengthening Civil Society Voices on Urban Poverty

The Indian SDI Alliance, SPARC-NSDF-Mahila Milan, alongside long-standing partner PRIA initiated events in various states in India to seek deeper community participation on government poverty linked programs in cities. Participants explored ways that state and city authorities and NGOs can facilitate effective partnerships with communities, making space for them to be centrally involved in upgrading, infrastructure and design projects.

This small video attempts to share glimpses of initial workshops help in Patna, Bihar, and Ranchi in Chhattisgarh, India. These initial workshops will be followed up more in depth engagements, so stay tuned to the blog for updates.