We Count: Settlement Profiling in Nairobi, Kenya

by James Tayler

Nairobi Settlement Profiling

**Cross-posted from the Muungano Support Trust blog**

By Shadrack Mbaka, Muungano Support Trust (Kenya)

According to the English dictionary, the word eviction is the removal of a tenant from possession of premises in which he or she resides or has a property interest done by a landlord either by reentry upon the premises or through a court action. Eviction may be in the form of a physical removal of a person from the premises or a disturbance of the tenant’s enjoyment of the premises by disrupting the services and amenities that contribute to the habitability of the premises, such as by cutting off all utilities services to a settlement.

On the other hand “exclusion” is the act or an instance of excluding or the state of being excluded from state of affairs.

This is literally the sad state of informal settlements across the Slum dwellers International (SDI) global network. On one hand, urban poor communities are legally or illegally in a forceful manner transferred from their areas of shelter and on the other hand locked out on platforms that seek to make decision in addressing issues of informal peoples’ settlements.

Planning for development has remained an important role of subsequent governments that come into power. Unfortunately, government departments entitled with this responsibility have remained myopic to the data needs of informal settlements. For instance the Kenyan 2009 census was conducted in frequencies too sparse to accurately track the rapid growth of slum areas or informal settlements. Edwin Simiyu, a spatial data specialist at Muungano Support Trust, and Emily Wangari, a community profiler from Mathare, are a bit skeptical on the functionality of national census in making slums inclusive.

“In this kind of covenant between the urban poor and their resilience to be part of the city, more often than not data analyzed and made public by the Kenya Bureau of Statistics takes a long time to be computed and presented. By the time it is consumed it’s already outdated and does not serve its purpose”, says Emily.

Nairobi Settlement Profiling

Joseph Mwendo of Muungano Training Dagorretti community on the New Settlement Profile Tool piloted by SDI this year.

Edwin points out that, “the national census data may be inadequate in the overall national planning owing to the fact that most of this data does not reflect the reality on the ground as far as informal settlements are concerned.”

Over and above, informal settlements have remained excluded in the citywide planning agenda. Lack of adequate data on slums has placed the urban poor between a rock and a hard place. In every dynamic slums have remained an eye-sore to most global governments to planning. The end result is that high costs are used to justify why cities fail to install water, sewerage and drainage facilities or plan land use for slum areas.

Slum Dwellers International has continued to support the Kenyan federation of slum dwellers to fill this data void by generating accurate data touching on informal settlements aimed at influencing urban planning, decision making and placing urban poor communities at the heart of building inclusive and sustainable communities. Over the last one and a half decades, Muungano has continued to conduct settlement profiling and community led enumerations, which have painted the dire state of informal settlements.

Citywide Settlement Profiles

Sustainable development requires continual and integrated consideration and analysis of social, environmental and economic issues, as well as their evaluation and prioritization against current and planned land uses in order for potential development conflicts among those three systems to be minimized. Planning of sustainable development alternatives and making decisions adjusted to sustainable development strategies and policies requires technologies with capabilities of presenting the actual situation of informal settlements.

The year 2013 saw SDI embark on the journey of developing a standardized tool for settlement profiles, questionnaires and data management systems with the aim of making the data faster to access and quicker to map while still lending itself to be easily updated and administered by local slum dwellers.  While standardization will mean a certain level of comparability across regions, local federations will still be able to add their own area and context specific questions to ensure that the profiling tool meets its core aim of providing urban poor communities with a tool that can measure and capture the nuances of their own communities’ development needs.

Nairobi Settlement Profiling

 Jockin Arputham, SDI President, takes a tour of Kiandutu Slums, Thika Kenya

In a recent visit of SDI President Jockin Arputhum to the Kenyan SDI affiliate, his take on settlement profiling is that, “Settlement profiles tells the global network, countries, counties and governments how much land the urban poor occupy, what level of services and infrastructure we are accorded and, most importantly, who are we going to engage to ensure our issues are addressed in tandem with the national or global planning agenda”.

Jack Makau of Slum Dwellers International holds a similar view, he says, “ Looking at the global world view, settlement data is becoming an important phenomenon and various technocrats from governments, multi-sectoral organizations and NGOs have come together to look at how best this global data can be compiled to make sense. So far we have been able to look at data touching on over 7,000 cities with informal settlements.”

Profiling of informal settlements draws primarily on repeated consultations and discussions with residents of the settlement by a survey and mapping team that includes federation leaders. This produces a rich set of data about the settlement, its inhabitants and the problems they face.  A settlement profile does not produce detailed data on each household but instead provides a detailed overview of the settlement, its inhabitants, brief history, land tenure, quality of housing, extent of provision of infrastructure and services, and the residents’ main problems and priorities.

Partnership Planning and Empowerment

Community planning has been an epitome of community inclusion in the planning and development of both social and physical development. Over the last two years, since the interment of the Kenyan Constitution and devolvement of resources to the grassroots, Muungano wa Wanavijiji has been in the forefront in engaging county governments in 15 counties on community planning, which drives the need of inclusion of the poor in shaping their settlements.

Hon. John Kihagi, Member of the National Assembly for Naivasha Constituency, agrees, “Settlement profiling provides slum dwellers, and we as leaders, an impeccable understanding of the real situation of our informal settlements. My interaction with Muungano informs me that this strategy is a starting point to help create visibility for informal settlements”.

Nairobi Settlement Profiling

Naivasha MP. John Kihagi compare notes with Jockin Arputham.

Such engagements with government departments and elected leaders have leveraged support and goodwill for communities. In Nakuru County, where Muungano wa Wanavijiji enjoys community support, Nyamarutu settlement hsa received support from the Constituency Development Fund to fast track land regularization of a 7 acre land benefitting 200 households, owing to the community’s enumeration data and strong lobbying and advocacy prowess. The federation is also working on a framework with members of the National Assembly for Naivasha and Nakuru on the need to conduct a joint settlement profile for two wards in Nakuru County.

For the last fifteen years, community-led enumeration has been one of the core rituals of the SDI network, as far as data gathering at household level is concerned. However, the settlement profile tool intends to generate very accurate socio-economic description of informal settlements. Muungano wa Wanavijiji hopes to link these surveys to citywide and county impacts.

Community driven processes are indeed exceptional planning tools to be utilized by urban poor communities and county governments to start including, analyzing and implementing the needs of the urban poor in the global planning agenda.

The continued exclusion of slums and informal settlements from the city’s planning processes, in particular the non-enforcement of existing sanitation standards, results in stark disparities in access to sanitation facilities between slums and informal settlement areas and other residential areas. Many women, for instance in Mathare Valley, have suffered rape and other forms of violence as a result of attempting to walk to a toilet or latrine some distance from their home. Sanitation facilities are inadequate and inaccessible.

Data gathering processes currently underway by Muungano wa Wanavijiji intend to empower communities to negotiate for better services from government. Rashid Mutua, Muungano wa Wanavijiji national chairman explains, “The aim of the federation is to look at every opportunity from community planning, settlement profiling, savings, partnership building and linkages to community urbanism solution models that is set to improve the quality of life for poor people by providing access to clean water, improved sanitation, and waste management services; and supporting secure land tenure and affordable housing”.

The federations’ core is;

  • To strengthen the capacity of local communities to engage with county governments and local authorities and other service providers for the sustainable provision of basic services.
  • To scale-up the delivery of basic infrastructure services for safe water, sanitation, better and affordable housing, waste removal and access to land tenure rights through collaborative efforts.
  • To support income-generation activities, and community-managed savings and credit schemes that enable households to secure funds for the improvement of physical facilities through the Muungano Development Fund.
  • Advocate for the adoption of  pro-poor policies and practices for slum upgrading and land tenure at local and national levels

Both government and civil society ought to engage in collaborative strategic planning for slum upgrading. Coordinating both government and civil society spending on upgrading is likely to limit duplication of roles and projects, increase accountability and most importantly form a platform for planning and evaluating impacts.