By Muungano wa Wanavijiji documentation Team
In 2011, the Kenyan SDI Alliance began scaling up its strategy to support community-led upgrading in anticipation of engaging the Kiambu county government to deliver on a new national and city slump improvement initiative and housing programmes. Subsequently in 2015, Muungano wa Wanavijiji, with the support of Slum Dwellers International (SDI) has successfully negotiated a partnership strategy, that would see all informal settlements in Kiambu County identified, profiled, mapped and documented for future slum upgrading and resettlement plans.
Kenya for example follows many previous government programmes and slum upgrading models such as the; Kenya Informal Settlements Improvement programme and the Kenya Slum Upgrading Programme that set out to address slum improvement and upgrading, but has particular importance in that, the support it offers city governments to achieve “slum-free” cities focuses far more than its predecessors on in situ upgrading and tenure security for those living in informal settlements.
Despite the priority given to participation and empowerment by development agencies, there have been few opportunities for the poor to develop their own alternatives. However, Muungano and other SDI affiliates are using community-led data collection, upgrading initiatives, and partnerships to advance change across informal settlements and even at the city-wide scale. The power of communities and their ability to gather data that can influence policy is immense: The urban poor have demonstrated that cities have to work with urban poor communities to collect data and maps of all informal settlements in the city, as the basis for inclusive partnerships between communities of the urban poor and local governments. This has proven to be a critical starting point for meaningful development interventions to address the issues facing our cities, particularly in the informal sector, including human settlements and economy, which constitutes the majority of our cities’ people.
Kiandutu community participation and engagement with the Kiambu county government is one classical example as to why partners and stakeholders need to build strong foundations in offering joint solutions for informal settlements.The Kenyan federation for example has utilized its space to deliver on local solutions such as improving sanitation standards, conserving the environment and house improvements for the poor at the grassroots. The partnership between Muungano wa Wanavijiji and the Kiambu County Government, who’s MOU will soon be formalised, is one key example of how local advocacy can change the slum landscape in Thika.
Securing changes in urban policy and practice through precedent-setting requires the development of alternatives that are supported by grassroots organizations. Once the need for pro-poor alternatives has been demonstrated by precedent, residents will tirelessly lobby their state institutions to ensure that the necessary reforms are introduced. As noted above, a key mechanism for influencing policies is the use of community-gathered settlement data in local advocacy (for upgrading, improved service provision, etc.). Precedent-setting is a strategy for influencing policy by building upon residents’ resilience and creativity to transform their settlements from the inside out.
With the continuous evolution of technology, Muungano wa Wanavijiji through the support of Slum dwellers International have continued to perfect its community data collection tools that if correctly used, continues to build upon the urban space, where slum dwellers would remain visible to any planning agenda held in trust by their city governments.
In the belief and spirit of the Know your City campaigns, currently running in 33 SDI country affiliates around the globe, data collection practices will soon evolve, where complex requirements for technology-laden data collection and analysis would put every single informal settlement- house hold and settlements on the map making every settlement visible.
This therefore is likely to positively influence local plans and urban policy frameworks at the local level. In response to the advancement in technology, the Alliance has been testing the use of digital tools for its own data collection and analysis in Kiandutu informal settlement. The Kiandutu’ Participatory Settlement Profile and Mapping Project has two central goals: to set a precedent for a community-based implementation of comprehensive data collection; and to empower the urban poor with new knowledge and tools to help them articulate their needs and demands using digital media.
There can be no social change that can truly benefit low-income communities if the poor have not participated in designing, managing and realising that process of change.
Quotes from the Kiandutu settlement profile and mapping
“As we embark on this journey, I would like to acknowledge the partnership that exists between the people of Kiandutu, Muungano, SDI and the Kiambu County government. It is also important for policy makers in each and every county, which are still in dilemma of, address the challenges of informal settlements to first focus on the people, organizations and processes rather than advocate on consultancies to address a people problem.”
–Gabriel Kibui, Chairman Muungano Kiandutu.
“My wish is to see this process generously deliver on my security of tenure, quality housing and improvement in the delivery of services such as water, sanitation and drainage infrastructure and services.”
–Florence Wanjiru, Resident Kiandutu
“The Kiambu County government is making considerable attempts to encourage communities and stakeholders to find long-term solutions to address issues of informal settlements, especially by regularizing and redeveloping such settlements as Kiandutu by subsidizing programmes to provide formal housing for the urban poor.”
– Lucy Kiarie, Kiambu County officer