On January 6, 2016 18 students from Refresh Bolivia – an initiative of Harvard University – arrived in Bolivia. The main objective of the students is to facilitate access to safe water as a key strategy for promoting better health. Because this objective aligns closely to the members of the Bolivian Federation, the partnership was born and has been active for three years. Each year the partnership has strengthened and the impacts for the community grown.
This year the partnership produced seven new bathrooms and three were upgraded in 4 de Marzo, an informal settlement of District 8 in Cochabamba. There are two federation saving groups in the area, but the projects were supported by the entire “Cities Weaving” Federation as well as the support NGO Red de Acción Comunitaria.
Following the engagements with a graduate engineer who had accompanied the group, it was proposed that a pilot project be developed to test composting toilets. These toilets, it was revealed, require far less water than conventional toilets. The community was pleased with the innovation which will help them to reduce costs and achieve greater coverage in the coming year.
Beyond construction, the students and the federation held eight health forums, bringing together all the savings groups of Cochabamba to learn about first aid, maternal health, good hygiene and water management.
The Bolivian Federation is taking vital steps toward developing the capacity to play a central role in urban development in the country. It is learning to organise and forge partnerships, to develop affordable in situ upgrading solutions, and to bring these efforts to the attention of government in order to shift its perception of the role of civil society.
SDI affiliates continued to work closely with academic institutions to co-produce knowledge through undertaking collective planning studios. SDI’s position is that these types of engagements expose students and academics to informal knowledge and conditions that call into question existing presumptions, planning frameworks, infrastructure standards and laws. Through this experience the capacity and knowledge of slum dwellers as capable actors in developing upgrading plans and precedents for their own communities is illustrated. Collective studios are the first step in training the next generation of planners who will one day become officials shaping the development and inclusivity of cities. If practical collaborative studios (between planners and the urban poor) become embedded in University curricula, inclusive planning practices can become the norm rather then the exception.
“In communities we know the number of settlements, services and origins of the people. We know how they spend their money and how they would like to develop their areas. You cannot plan from the office but if you go to the ground and speak to people and learn from them it can help you plan better.” – Katana Goretti, Ugandan Federation
Reforming the manner in which planning students are educated is one step towards shifting planning paradigms in Africa. On this basis SDI entered into a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with Assosiation of African Planning Schools (AAPS) in 2010, promoting co-operation between country affiliates and local planning schools. The MoU recognizes that the most effective way to change the mindsets of student planners is to offer direct experiential exposure to, and interaction with the conditions and residents of slums. In this manner students will be exposed to the value of informal knowledge and community participation in planning for settlement upgrading. During this period SDI affiliates and AAPS have conducted six collaborative planning studios in which students, staff, and urban poor communities engage directly in data collection, analysis, and the development of upgrading plans. Studios have taken place in Uganda, Malawi (two), South Africa, Kenya, and Namibia. In many cases local government officials have been invited to witness studio outputs and participate.
In Kampala, Uganda a studio with Makerere University planning students led to detailed reports reflecting informal challenges and upgrading plans that were submitted to local governments. During the studio the Ugandan Federation referred to themselves as “community professors.” Two concurrent studios took place in Blantyre and Mzuzu, Malawi. In Nancholi, Blantyre Federation members worked closed with the University of Malawi-Polytechnic to identify upgrading priorities and develop plans for improved circulation and drainage. In Salisbury Lines, Mzuzu, poor drainage and groundwater pollution were key priorities around which collective planning took place. In South Africa, students spent six months developing upgrading plans in conjunction with residents of Langrug informal settlement in Stellenbosch. In Gobabis, Namibia, students from the Polytechnic of Namibia undertook a site analysis of the Freedom Square informal settlement. Loraine, a community member from Block 5 in Freedom Square noted:
“The site analysis brought to light to how I see my surroundings. I learned how to use a GPS as we were doing the mapping. I also got to see which areas are suitable to build my house on and which aren’t, in order to avoid flooding, during the rainy season.”
It is important that studios become part of annual university curriculums, entrenching new approaches to planning over a sustained period and encouraging the participation of city governments. In all the aforementioned countries commitments have been made to replicate the studio process. Across the SDI network affiliates are exploring these types of engagements. For example a further studio recently took place between the Zambian affiliate and the University of Zambia in Lusaka. The municipality is looking at the possibility of implementing some of the proposals that emerged and has pledged to quicken the process of declaring the targeted settlement a legal residential area, as it is currently an illegal settlement under the 1975 Town and Country Planning Act.
In February 2013 a further planning studio was organised between the South African communities of Mshini Wam, Shukushukuma, and Ruo Emoh and architecture and planning students from the University of Melbourne to investigate new solutions for informal settlement upgrading and housing development. In Shukushukuma, plot sized placeholders were cut to scale and laid out on an aerial photograph. The location of visible infrastructure was mapped, such as electricity poles, toilet blocks, and water taps. The Mshini Wam group looked at alternative typologies for densification and formalisation after re-blocking projects. A visual fly through model was created, building on the new layout of re-blocked settlement.
During the year a German Agency for International Co-operation (GIZ) sponsored initiative was also undertaken to investigate the conditions for successful projects and partnerships between local government and urban poor communities. The report produced drew on experiences in Harare (Zimbabwe), Pune (India) and Kampala (Uganda) – locations that were visited by the investigating team. The team consisted of David Satterthwaite from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), Celine D’Cruz, an SDI Coordinator and co-founder of SPARC, and Sonia Fadrigo, a Core Monitoring Team member.
In 2013 SDI affiliates continue to consolidate partnerships with academic institutions with the goal of cementing collaborative efforts (e.g. planning studios) within university curriculums. SDI’s strategic medium term goals recognise the value of producing citywide data about informal settlements. Data can be used both to engage government and to assist in implementing projects that move beyond single settlements and tackle poverty at scale. Urban planners, architects, surveyors, and managers can, and must, play a vital role in critically engaging with this data. By accepting the validity of such data (and assisting in its co-production) academia can add both political and practical value increasing impact and scale.
To read more about SDI’s partnerships with academic institutions, check out our Annual Report.
Kiandutu Community attend a studio session at the School of the Built Environment, University of Nairobi
*Cross-posted from Centre for Urban Innovations*
By James Wanyoike, CURI
On 23 May 2014, members of Kiandutu community from Thika attended a whole day joint urban planning studio at the School of the Built Environment (ADD), University of Nairobi. The participants were community planners collaborating with a team of planning students from Department of Urban and Regional Planning and a grassroots non-governmental organization, Muungano Support Trust (MuST) in the upgrading of Kiandutu informal settlement. The studio, which started in March this year is sponsored by Slum Dwellers International (SDI) and the Association of Africa Planning Schools (AAPS).
Urban informality still remains an urbanization phenomenon that is insufficiently addressed by urban policy and planning in the Global South. This stems partly from the observation that traditional and contemporary education and urban planning practice do not resonate with the realities of urbanisation in the region. Both SDI and AAPS have committed to transform urban planning education, and by extension its practice in Africa, by equipping upcoming urban planners with the relevant skills to address the challenges facing the African city, notably – informal settlements. The theme of the Thika urban planning studio is titled ‘An integrated sanitation studio for Kiandutu Settlement, Thika.’
The focus of the studio is to address a critical problem faced in all informal settlements in Africa: the absence of adequate sanitation services. Through earlier surveys and enumeration done by the University of Nairobi and MuST, the community of Kiandutu revealed that their priority problem is sanitation. The understanding of integrated sanitation evolved from community participation for a better appreciation of sanitation as a broader concept and function whose intervention calls for an interconnected understanding of settlement characteristics. It is strongly believed that such an understanding will lead to more responsive and durable interventions. Specifically, it is hoped that the approach shall achieve the following: appropriate facilities designed and built well at the right locations: optimization of level of use and sustaining number of users; co-production – “doing it together” – in design and construction; collective responsibility in operation and maintenance; community ownership and good will to make things work; improvement of overall sanitary situation – water, sanitation, and hygiene – and a healthier and more productive community.
The studio is based on a cluster concept. Three clusters were selected, two of these – Biashara and Molo – are project-led, where SDI/MuST are piloting one sanitation project in each and are close to the proposed trunk sewer, creating the possibility of future connection. The third cluster – Mtatu B – is isolated from the proposed sewer line, making the possibility of future connection to the trunk sewer inconceivable due to distance and gradient limitations. The first few weeks saw the planning teams conceptualizing the studio’s scope and objectives. This was followed by primary and secondary data collection and data analysis, to be concluded by planning and designing of integrated sanitation solutions for Kiandutu settlement.
To welcome the Kiandutu community to ADD was the Dean of the School of the Built Environment (SBE), Prof. T.J.C Anyamba, and Dr. Samuel Obiero, the chairman of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning (DURP). The introductions were made by Prof. Peter Ngau, who warmly received the guests to the University of Nairobi. Dean praised the university-community collaboration as a big a step and part of university policy. This was something the University valued and encouraged as part of the university engagements. It would not only benefit the community involved, but also expose students to the reality of the situation on the ground.
Prof. Peter Ngau expounded on the rationale for the studio and its importance to the university and the community, not forgetting the partners Slum Dwellers International (SDI) and the Association of African Planning Schools (AAPS). Arch/Planner Charles Karisa, the studio coordinator and Mr. James Wanyoike, his assistant both organized the day’s presentations and discussion sessions. In the presentation the teams highlighted the objectives of the studio, the methodology used in the studio, the existing conditions in Kiandutu, emerging issues and the recommendations. This was also backed up by the community planning team validating the facts provided in the presentation as the reality of the situation in Kiandutu. Mr. Karisa highlighted the principles underlying the studio. They include sustainability, environmental design and management. The presentations marked a mid-stage in the studio. The next phase will be formulation, design and building of the proposed sanitation facility at the three cluster points. The conclusion of the joint studio presentation was marked by kikuyu – traditional community singing and dancing at the façade of the ADD building – a performance never before witnessed in the University.
CURI, 26th May 2014
**Cross-posted from the South African SDI Alliance Blog**
An exhibition will soon open at the Goethe-Institut in Johannesburg, which will showcase the recent, successful partnership between the residents of Ruimsig, a small informal settlement on the north-western periphery of Johannesburg, the SA SDI Alliance and the University of Johannesburg, Department of Architecture. Ruimsig serves as the site for a pioneering studio for architecture students which aims to highlight the necessity and challenges that come within-situ upgrading in the informal context. Partnerships with the community, several NGOs, as well as the National Upgrade Support Programme (NUSP), have been put in place to ensure that the work produced by the students is closely informed by inhabitants’ immediate and long-term needs. Students, teachers and residents have worked together intensely, in a temporary studio in the settlement, to produce a map towards the sensitive ‘reblocking’ (or site-specific formalisation) of Ruimsig. Apart from the primary re-blocking exercise, various site-specific strategies, for short and long-term upgrading and sustainable growth of the settlement, were also work-shopped and tested, together with the community.
On the 1st of September, the project outcomes were exhibited to community leaders and residents of Ruimsig, as well as to representatives from the SA SDI Alliance, NUSP, project partners and officials from the City of Johannesburg.
As a pilot project its significance is potentially catalytic as its realisation will exemplify government’s goal of upgrading 400 000 informal households by 2014. In this context, students collaborated with ‘Community Architects’ from Ruimsig over a period of seven weeks. The collaboration with Ruimsig residents led to the development and illustration of strategies for the sensitive community-driven upgrading and formalisation of the existing settlement. This exercise builds on the inherent spatial qualities of a settlement which has, over a period of more or less 25 years, grown and evolved into a vibrant, dynamic and self-designed place.
The exhibition at Goethe on Main, opening on Thursday, September 21, will make a summary of the project – and its layered and complex process – available to a broader public. The collected work on exhibition until the 2ndOctober 2011 will portray, primarily through film, the challenging dynamics inherent in the teaching of this course, and the necessary shift required by architects, educators and officials to acknowledge and engage with the informal city and its networks.
For detailed documentation of the Ruimsig project and process, please visit http://informalstudioruimsig.tumblr.com/