Media Making an Impact: #ChangeOurPicture
Originally published on urbanet, SDI presents the work of youth slum dwellers across the SDI network linked to documenting issues linked to resilience, livelihoods and housing.
A photo competition called for urban residents in African countries to portray how they use media to change the narrative on their environment. Slum Dwellers International presents some beautiful results of the #ChangeOurPicture competition.
The CoHabitat Network in partnership with Slum Dwellers International (SDI) and The Bartlett Development Planning Unit announced a photo competition for urban citizens across Africa, aimed at documenting how they make media to make change.
Presented with a theme and using a cell phone camera, the competition portrays the innovative ways in which communities document their history as well as the histories of how homes and cities are built. Communication through media thus becomes instrumental to approaches to development and social change.
The power of grassroots movements is reflected in the structure of the competition: “Federations” from informal settlements organise around collective goals they identify. Having agreed on the need of a platform for creative storytellers to document their lives, the Federations, in partnership with the CoHabitat Network, initiated the competition.
Own Your Narratives
“Nothing for us, without us” is a slogan of the Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP) across the SDI network. This slogan serves as a reminder that grassroots must remain at the forefront of planning and that it is essential for residents to own the narratives that emerge from their communities.
Informal settlements are hubs of resilience and innovation. When media emerges as a key mode of communication, it highlights the dynamic lives of those living in informal settlements, constituting an opportunity to shift the conversation.
All across Africa, people are building their cities and are documenting the social production of habitat. Documentation –for example through photography – recognises these processes as meaningful, thus acknowledging these people’s actions as contributions to society.
Pictures Telling Stories
To make media to make change, it is essential to recognise the power media has across languages and cultures. As a photography competition relying on cell phones, #ChangeOurPicture is open to anyone, including those living in informal settlements, across Africa. Photos serve as a tool of storytelling; they capture informal spaces as spaces full of innovation and resilience.
Small teams across Africa submitted photographs with captions that were taken with cell phones. They focus on themes that speak to the varied landscapes and most pertinent issues of those living informally. These captions serve as snapshots of a larger story of their lives, challenges, and their perseverance within urban slum environments.
In order to encourage diversity of submissions, when the competition was first announced, there was no theme. The process of establishing themes emerged from a consultative process with youth media makers from across the SDI network. The below photographs are a sampling of the submissions – and of the immense talent of media makers across Africa, narrating the beauty and the pain of life within informal settlements.
Money & Livelihoods
Courage & Heroism
All submissions to the #ChangeOurPicture competition can be viewed here.
Slums Made Better Together: Impact and Continued Learning
With innovative media being published by grassroots communities, this competition seeks to continue learning and encourage this type of knowledge dissemination.
A selection committee working on civic urban media will engage those with the most creative photography, identifying the finalists that will move forward in the competition process. The grand prize to be won in this competition is the opportunity to participate in an exchange with other media makers from across the continent. The finalists will receive the training and the resources needed to develop their photo series into a documentary.
The work will continue to be shared with partners and stakeholders around the world, as a traveling exhibition that engages the world with pertinent issues such as climate, informal slum upgrading, livelihoods – and the shared, social production of communities.
Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia in National News
**Cross-posted from the SDFN Blog**
The Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia has been busy submitting regional reports to government on land allocation and housing across the country in order to inform negotiations with local authorities on resources for permanent housing solutions for Namibia’s poor.
“I have not seen an institution as serious as the federation. I am happy with what you have achieved… Do not give up engaging the government. If you fall down, stand up again. I assure you that there will come a time that they will hear what you say. Rome was not built in one day. Never give up,” said Khomas Regional Governor, Laura McLeod-Katjirua in her speech during the SDFN national meeting on the 13th of June 2015. The purpose of the meeting was to share 6 months regional progress reports and plans on savings, projects, repayments of loans and enumerations.
Settlement Planning and Design: Experiences from Mandaue City, Philippines
The below article has been cross-posted from the University College of London’s Bartlett Development Planning Unit (UCL DPU). It is part of a series of articles written over the past five months about the Philippines SDI Alliance. To read the entire series, visit the DPU blog.
By Jessica Mamo, on 28 April 2015
The Philippine Alliance has been an active agent in Mandaue City since 2000. Their work is primarily focused on two large sites, involving a large number of communities, each one at a different stage of settlement upgrading. The team collaborate with Local Government Units (LGU) to address the housing gaps within the city by adopting a sustainable citywide approach which benefits both the low-income groups, as well as the city’s vision of development.
This post explains the approach that has been adopted for the upgrading of the 6.5 Relocation Site in Paknaan, one of the two prominent sites where the Alliance is active in Mandaue City.
The relocation site is situated in Barangay Paknaan, on the periphery of Mandaue City, and covers an area of 6.5 hectares. Originally a mangrove area, the site was chosen to accommodate 1,200 families, organised into 12 Homeowner Associations (HOA). These families are being relocated from along Mahiga Creek in central Mandaue City, as part of the River Rehabilitation Program, after the area was devastated by flooding in January 2011.
Although the site was still a mangrove area, families started living in Paknaan in October 2011. Today, 465 families who were allocated a plot of land have moved on site, some building permanent housing, whilst others simply rebuilding houses out of light recycled materials.
Informal developments on site (left); Construction of permanent housing development overseen by TAMPEI (right).
10 out of the 12 HOAs are part of the Homeless Peoples Federation (HPFPI) and collaborate with the Alliance, particularly with regards to organising communities to save, enabling them to finance the construction of their new homes, or pay monthly amortizations for loan repayments. TAMPEI, the technical support unit to the Alliance, have provided assistance in the planning, design and construction stages of the upgrading process.
The Role of Homeowner Associations
The strong role of the HOA is interesting to note. In order for a family to be eligible for an upgrading or relocation programme, they must first form part of a HOA which is registered by the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board. This requirement has driven communities to get organised and collaborate closely with one another, creating close-knit communities which take pride in the recognition they receive as a registered HOA.
This contrasts greatly with the situation in some other countries, for example the communities I encountered during fieldwork in Cambodia with the MSc Building and Urban Design in Development last year. The particular settlement we were working with in Battambang faced particular concerns regarding community mobilisation and organisation. As a students group, we were constantly challenging the concept of referring to the residents as a community since they did not actually work as a single unit, and found it difficult to support each other. Therefore, the requirement of forming part of a duly registered association acts as a form of mobilisation for residents to really act as a community.
The HOA is an important representation for community members, as a form of formal identification within the City.
Land Acquisition and Financial Support
One of the most important elements of slum upgrading is the acquisition of land, which allows families to have security of tenure, whether they are being relocated, or able to upgrade on site. Without the constant threat of eviction, families are able to invest in their homes by building permanent structures. To be able to do so, families need the financial support to buy the land, as well as to pay for the construction of the house and site development. This support either takes the form of the savings program run by the Federation, or loans.
An important stakeholder is the Social Housing Finance Corporation (SHFC). SHFC is mandated by the President of the Philippines, and aims to provide shelter solutions to organised, urban poor communities. It was created to lead in developing and administering social housing programmes, such as the Community Mortgage Program (CMP), which is currently being implemented in Paknaan. The CMP is a loan system, targeting residents of informal settlements, that aims to finance the lot purchase, site development and house construction, which will be repaid over 25 years.
By far the most encouraging approach that has been adopted in Mandaue City is the housing construction through personal savings. Some families, mobilised and organised by HPFPI, have been able to limit their loan from SHFC to the lot purchase, and finance the construction of their homes through their own personal savings.
The construction of their houses, which began in September 2014, was dependent on the capacity of the families to save a fixed amount per month to keep up with the rolling costs of construction since no capital was initially available for the project, other than the money they put aside.
In March 2015, 5 units were completed, with another 8 units still under construction. Out of the original 23, 10 families struggled to meet the monthly target, which means that the construction of their units has been delayed. However, these families have shown that persistence can challenge the notion of charity and free housing.
Ongoing construction of 23 housing units, funded by beneficiary families (left); 41 housing units were completed in 2013, funded by the SDI 7 Cities Programme.
Housing and Service Provision
There are two approaches to the housing development, depending on the affordability of the family in question. If the family is able to cover the full expenses or monthly loan repayments, then the family may proceed to construct the full housing unit. If families are unable to take the full loan amount, they may instead opt to construct them incrementally – however, this second option has never actually been implemented.
Very often, residents aspire to apply for the complete rather than the incremental option, even though they probably cannot afford the loan repayments. This results in families being rejected from taking the larger loan, and therefore actually being unable to build any form of permanent housing.
As part of the TAMPEI team in Mandaue City, I have worked on the design of new housing units that cost less than the original low-cost row house design and are therefore a viable option for a greater number of families, without resorting to the incremental construction. So far, five alternative housing units have been developed, two of which are illustrated in the images below.
Service provision and site development in Paknaan is still lacking, particularly with regards to sanitation services. Through the initiative of one particularly active HOA called SMASH, two communal toilet blocks will be built soon. Through the collaboration between TAMPEI and SMASH, the design proposal and community management system were developed.
By far the biggest challenges that we have faced throughout the developments of the Paknaan relocation site have been due to the large number of stakeholders that are involved in the project… surely a common issue when approaching citywide upgrading!
Shortcomings and delays have been caused by both the communities, some of whom have been unable to keep up with their required savings, as well as the local government units, who have promised more than they can deliver with regards to the site development. However, it is only through close collaboration by actors across various levels that such large-scale projects can be implemented, and have a significant impact on the wellbeing of the city’s urban poor.
Jessica is an architect and has recently completed the MSc in Building and Urban Design in Development at the DPU. Currently, she is working in the Philippines, as part of the DPU-ACHR joint internship programme. Her interests lie primarily in community-led upgrading, particularly with regards to housing and service provision.
Mandela Speaks to South African Federation on Role of Communities in Building a Better Society for All
In 1995, shortly after being elected the first democratic president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela visited the Homeless People’s Federaiton of South Africa (now called Federation of the Urban Poor) in Oukasie, Gauteng. Oukasie is the home to one of South Africa’s oldest savings schemes, started by Rose Molokoane, one of the founding members of the South African Federation.
In his address to the Federation members of Oukasie, Mr. Mandela talks about the importance of government working together with the urban poor to meet South Africa’s housing challenge – a major challenge in 1995, and perhaps even a greater challenge today. He highlighted the important role of women in working to acquire safe, secure housing, stating the following notable point:
“You are showing that in building together we build each other, better communities and a better society for our children to grow up in.”
Today, the South African Federation of the Urban Poor has reached a critical mass consisting of some 1,500 autonomous savings and credit groups whose size range from a minimum of 15 to a maximum of 500 members. Since Mandela’s address in 1995, FEDUP has established itself as an international pioneer in the field of tenure security and people’s housing. Through its collective power, this network was able to lobby government for direct access to the housing subsidy programme (without the interference of developers or contractors), secure 10 million rand as a revolving loan facility, and heavily influence low-income housing policy under “the People’s Housing Process” (PHP). By securing these entitlements from the national government, the Federation was able to deliver 12,000 housing units (average size being 56sqm), incremental loans for a further 2,000 houses, infrastructure for 2,500 families, land tenure for 12,000 families, hundreds of small business loans, three parcels of commercial land, eleven community centres, and several crèches. This was all administered through its own housing finance facility, the uTshani Fund.
These days FEDUP and uTshani are still actively building houses and engaging government on the re-directing of housing subsidies to support people-centred, participatory and empowering development. Being strategically aligned to the Informal Settlement Network (ISN), FEDUP members are adding years of experience to the relatively new experience of informal settlement upgrading. The creative synergies at the intersections of a woman’s movements anchored in daily savings and livelihood strategies and a predominantly male-led and broad based social movement are redefining the social mobilisation “rituals”.
You can read Mandela’s full address below:
Members of the Homeless People’s Federation;
Citizens of Oukasie, Brits and neighbouring areas
The rains of the past week have brought joy to many in our country, not least in this fertile farming area.
But the drenching downpours have also highlighted one of the great challenges facing our country – the challenge of putting decent roofs over people’s heads.
In approaching this task we have learned a great deal from the people – from those who are the biggest providers of housing in the country, the homeless themselves. We have learned the value of partnership between ourselves and the people in their communities.
We recognise the efforts but into housing by the people themselves. We are proud of the way our people use their initiative, mobilise their meagre resources, sharpen their skills, and put in their labour, in order to provide shelter for their families.
Government has committed itself to supporting the people’s housing process. We will provide mechanisms and funds to support it in such a way that the standard of housing can improve – particularly for the poorest of our people.
What I have seen here today confirms that this is the right course. The Homeless People’s Federation, with its 20 000 members across the country and its savings and training schemes, is setting an example of Masakhane in action.
What is particularly encouraging is to see the women taking their lives into their own hands, taking charge, determined to improve the lives of the communities and of our country.
You are showing that in building together we build each other, better communities and a better society for our children to grow up in. You are showing that with the interfere in the legal process, but it is not disinterested in the case whose outcome, we believe, will have wide impact.
Government is busy formulating a police on the ownership of mineral resources. Consultation will ensure that the resulting policy accommodates the aspirations of all stakeholders while ensuring that the mining industry retains its central position within the engine room of economic reconstruction.
Amongst our strategic objectives is the goal of ensuring that mining rights are made available to small entrepreneurs and that ownership of the industry is opened up to previously excluded communities. This also was the vision of Kgosi Lebone Molotlegi. It will be the duty of his successor, the Bafokeng people, and indeed all the people of South Africa, to continue the struggle for economic empowerment on all fronts.
During this delicate period of mourning and transition we urge the members of this community to close ranks and not to allow differences op opinion to drive them apart. You are one people. The practice of prohibiting non-Bafokeng persons from being buried in the same graveyard, regardless of their sojourn within this community, is a blight on the esteem and respect in which our nation holds this community and on the dignity of Kgosi Molotlegi in particular. Nevertheless, this issue should be left to the community to sort out on its own in accordance with the new culture of our rainbow nation.
Kgosi Lebone departed at a time when we had just concluded our first democratic community elections. The establishment of democratic local authorities in rural areas needs to be handled with great sensitivity. We are confident that this community will assist the new leader to play his constructive role in the process. In all villages under Kgosi Lebone’s jurisdiction, the elections went smoothly, and we look forward to an equally smooth establishment of local councils.
This is in everyone’s interest. We need one another and we all have a role to play now and in the future. The improvement of our lives and the future stability of our localities depend on these councils. An amicable relationship between the Kgosi and the newly-elected councillors will give local democracy in the rural areas a strong foundation.
As we bid our final farewell to our beloved Kgosi Lebone, let us look back at his heroic record and reflect on the love he had for this community. Let us, for a moment, focus on his vision of a prosperous future and pledge that we shall never rest until that ideal is realised.
Issued by: Office of the President
Originally appeared on SAHistory.gov.za
Regional Learning from the West Africa Hub Meeting in Sierra Leone
By Mara Forbes, SDI Secretariat
Thousands of people living in informal settlements lack security of tenure placing them at high risk for forced evictions. In the past few months many SDI affiliates in West Africa have faced evictions – Badia East settlement in Lagos, Nigeria, Adjei Kojo settlement in TEMA municipality in Accra, Ghana, and Kroo Bay in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Most of the SDI affiliates in the West African region began in response to the need to organize communities to stave off eviction threats. In 2003, the SDI methodologies for fighting eviction through community-based data collection were introduced to community members in Old Fadama, the largest slum in Accra. The community was able to organize itself and conduct an enumeration that indicated that over 79,000 people lived in the slum, a number that had been grossly underestimated by government. The federation used enumeration findings to negotiate with government to find alternatives to eviction. The Federation has gained recognition and legitimacy as an organized network of poor communities that work with local government towards pro-poor development strategies. The response in Old Fadama can not only help other settlements in Accra and the rest of Ghana but can also serve as a learning experience to other newer affiliates in the region.
From the 10-14 of February this year, SDI delegates from West Africa – Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Togo, Nigeria, and Burkina Faso met in Freetown to for their regional hub meeting. The hub meetings provide a platform for regional affiliates to create and strengthen links across the region, to share and learn from each other, as well as support newer affiliate countries in developing their own local processes. West Africa, the youngest of the SDI regions, is still developing how to best strategically use this space to strengthen and support the region. This meeting focused not only on deepening the SDI rituals that are crucial for federation development, but also key issues facing the region such as forced evictions. Delegates of the meeting were able to see first hand the challenges Sierra Leone is facing. Not far from where the meeting was convened is Kroo Bay, a settlement that has faced multiple evictions over the years and was the site of a recent eviction.
Kroo Bay is one of Freetown’s waterfront slums. Slums such as Kroo Bay are situated on land in which the occupants have engaged in the process of land reclamation by slowly adding soil and sand to build up and create new land on the coast. Although this is done with the slum dwellers own resources and time, government frequently claims ownership of this land. According to Freetown City Council (FCC), Kroo Bay is prime land and Government has the mandate to take back the land at any given time. A section of Kroo Bay settlement is built along the boundary of the most prestigious schools in Freetown, The Prince of Wales Secondary School for Boys. This is a school in which many previous officials or those with influence have attended. On Saturday, 25th January 2014 the Alumni Association of Prince of Wales used its influence to hire police, military and other individuals to vandalize and demolish the houses in this area. The action was undertaken on the assumption that this strip of land belongs to the school. However residents assert their claim to this land through the land reclamation process and that their presence has protected the school from flooding and rising sea levels.
As part of the hub meeting delegates participated in a field visit to Kroo Bay. During this time delegates were able to talk to community members and gain a better understanding of the challenges they face. Following these engagements, discussions at the hub focused on how best to move from a reactive response to evictions to proactive strategies that engage local government.
Sierra Leone, as host of the regional meeting, was able to use this platform as a means to strategically capitalize on its engagement with government. In December 2011 the Sierra Leone affiliate began negotiations with local government over the provision of a piece of land for a community-led housing demonstration project to benefit the slum dwellers of Kroo Bay. A series of engagement sessions were held and site visits were conducted. Given the high demand for land within the city centre, government through the Ministry of Lands could not identify a piece of land within the city center and ended up allocating a piece of land (2.5 acres) in Grafton community for the project. After multiple attempts to engage with local government over this piece of land the process had stalled. By hosting the hub meeting the Sierra Leone Federation of Urban and Rural Poor (FEDURP) and its support NGO, Centre of Dialogue on Human Settlement and Poverty Alleviation (CODOHSAPA) were able to demonstrate to local government the power and strength of a network of organized slum dwellers, not only just in Sierra Leone, but also across West Africa.
The Deputy Minister of Lands, Country Planning, and Environment, Hon. Ahmed Kanu, paid a courtesy visit to the hub meeting where he expressed a recommitment to the project on behalf of government and the Ministry of Lands. He expressed his delight to be part of the movement and shared how it fits into the country’s “Agenda for Change” program that aims to alleviate poverty, in which affordable housing is a key output. Additionally to show his support a meeting was held the following day to discuss the piece of land as well as an ongoing partnership with FEDURP and CODOHSAPA. A smaller team from the hub attended the meeting with the Deputy Minister and two surveyors to solidify the commitment from the Ministry. At this time the affiliate presented the Ministry with a communiqué calling on the Municipality to support pro-poor policies and practices by working with the federation as well as fulfill its promise and materialize its commitment by providing a piece of land for an affordable housing project. Media personnel were also present and captured the engagement, which ran on the evening news as well as in the local papers.
This momentum has opened doors to the Ministry and they now need to deepen and strengthen the relationship through continual engagement, not only around the piece of land but to strategically include the Ministry as a partner in other projects. Having an ally in the Ministry can allow the federation to scale its activities and projects from a settlement level to a citywide level.
Conversations are currently being held in Sierra Leone to think through how to strategically use this piece of land to promote a pro-poor urban development agenda. How this piece of land and housing demonstration project can be used not only to push the their agenda but to also be a precedent setting project that allows the federation and government to invest in similar upgrading projects across the city as well as in other cities.
Through platforms like the hub, communities are able to share challenges and lessons learned to develop strategies that are responsive to their own local context. More established affiliates such as Ghana and their experience of engaging government around alternatives to evictions can be a tool to others who are still developing their own strategies. Crucial to this meeting was understanding how communities must evolve from short term reactive responses (providing relief after eviction) to a long term proactive strategies to engage and negotiate with government prior to evictions and develop pro-poor inclusive alternatives.
Housing stock for the poor and its constant change of usage in Mumbai, India
The government of Maharashtra took a very bold decision about 6 years ago to build small tenements which would be given to the poor for rent. The rental housing scheme would be taken up by private sector and they would get very good TDR return for tenements they would give back to the government. The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) would then hand these tenements over to organizations to manage according to a governance framework to be developed along side with the construction. 500,000 units were to be constructed. The initial tenements got constructed, but MMRDA uder new leadership did not want to manage the rental housing and preferred these to be sold. Now they get used for other purposes and the initial purpose is drowned.
Whenever the state government of Maharashtra has taken up new and interesting possibilities to address the challenges of increasing crisis for housing of the poor, it gets drowned by an amazing paradoxical impact of poor supervision of governance architecture needed to ensure it reached the people it was meant for. A constant state of crisis for which any empty space gets used up, and a construction industry which explores any possibility to take up construction in the name of the poor but never seeks to address solutions for the bottom 40% in the city.
The 500,000 houses were never built. But the ones that were build remain empty as MMRDA did not develop the management strategy and framework for supervision. When the buildings collapsed these were the only tenements that were available and are to be used for transits accommodation. Anyone who knows about transit accommodation knows several generations grow in these homes until the time when they forget where their grandparents were moved out from and build their lives around these localities.
How Affordable is “Affordable Housing” ?
**Cross-posted from the MuST blog**
By Shadrack Mbaka, Muungano Support Trust (MuST), Kenya
Muungano wa Wanavijiji has been mobilizing and positioning saving schemes groups within its umbrella on the concept of collective group savings to spur up housing development and upgrading. In efforts geared to empower the structural development framework of the federation in addressing the needs of the poor, savings are often restricted to their own small extra income which may be contributed in a small spread ways.
In Kenya today housing finance institutions such as the Housing Finance, Jamii Bora and other major housing credit organizations have the mandate to support low-income groups and give them low interest loans to build or improve their homes. Unfortunately, most of these institutions have conditions of institutional guarantee for the loans that are not easy to fulfill by slum dwellers in Kenya. While, on the other hand, mainstream commercial financial institutions give loans to recognized and salaried individuals, which in most cases need to be accompanied by tax returns and land documents as collateral for loans.
In the Kenyan development and upgrading scope this has remained a major challenge. Unlike upgrading, redevelopment is capital intensive. The Kenyan housing and development policies are major proponents of slum redevelopment, with the aim of attracting private finance, a good example being the Kenya Informal Settlement Improvement Programme (KISIP) and the Kenya Slum upgrading Programme (KENSUP). The Kenya Slum Upgrading Programme (KENSUP) is the result of a meeting in November 2000 between the then President of Kenya and the Executive Director of UN-HABITAT at which the Executive Director offered to spearhead a slum upgrading programme for Kenya starting with Nairobi’s largest slum, Kibera. The programme was jointly funded by the UN-HABITAT, The World Bank, Cities Alliance and the Government of Kenya. The Grant agreement was signed in July 2002.
The objective of the programme is to improve the overall livelihoods of people living and working in slums through targeted interventions to address shelter, infrastructure services, land tenure and employment issues, as well as the impact of HIV/AIDS in slum settlements.
Slum upgrading has remained a challenging redevelopment agenda, since the urban poor living in poorly serviced settlements have been cut out of the conventional development finance sources hence forcing them to rely on donors and private sources. The high cost of financial credit and the high interest rates are locking many Kenyans from affording housing.
With lack of government subsidy, credit to the urban poor remains a pipe dream to many home seekers and widens the gap for civil society actors, such as Akiba Mashinani Trust, SELAVIP, and SDI (among other stakeholders) in reaching out to millions living in urban poor settlements.
NGOs such as Muungano Support Trust (MuST) and Akiba Mashinani Trust (AMT) have been involved in organising and mobilising people living in informal settlements and forming savings groups. This has been a key embodiment in ensuring that the urban poor get access to affordable credit to attain secure tenure and proper housing. Such initiatives have attracted international funding from agencies such as Shack / Slum Dwellers International (SDI), donor and development agencies and community focused trusts that offer low interest loans.
In developing economies like Kenya housing is an expensive project venture. Communities who never imagine getting affordable credit services have only one option – the slum. Major metropolises, from Nairobi, Nakuru and Mombasa to Kampala, Jinja, Mbale, Dodoma and Dar-esalam are bombarded with high costs of living. These cities need a special focus from central governments to address the levels of abject poverty. In Kenya, Muungano wa Wanavijiji has begun “resettling” their members in habitable dwellings through greenfield and housing improvement projects. Slum dwellers are able bodied citizens with the power of ensuring transformative settlements by rehabilitating the housing units in the same place.
The greenfield concept involves communities pooling their resources to purchase pieces of land to put up better housing units. This concept aims to address the complex problem of space inadequacy. In most dense urban poor settlements, packed houses occupy almost the entire plot, leaving little room for upgrade. Most slums in Nairobi and its environs are an outcome of a slow, incremental, internally driven bottom-up process that mixes residential, commercial and industrial units.
Cost Effective In-situ Slum Upgrading Approach
A people-centered action approach ensures continuation of their current diversity, retains the existing community networks as well as economic activities intact. A bottom-up process is demand driven and so, incremental. The involvement of slum dwellers in the development process ensures that they identify the outcome and this emotional attachment can lead to better maintenance of the new housing. Consequently, upgrading becomes cheaper and easier to implement. Independent development upgrading can be an uphill task, so groups of dwellers often get together to collectively upgrade their own houses.
Muungano wa Wanavijiji and Muungano Support Trust, through the SELAVIP, has implemented housing improvement projects in Nyamarutu, Kiandutu and Mibuyu Saba settlements in Nakuru, Thika and Kilifi municipalities. These projects are purely based on the in-situ concept. These projects are in partnership with the respective county governments and have served as precedent setting projects in these localities. Muungano’s key objective is to drive the in-situ approach in people’s settlements. This ensures the use of simple and affordable building technologies based on the community attested building plans, designs and codes. The federation, Muungano Support Trust and collaborators such as the municipal planning departments are researching new building technologies which seek to drive down the cost of building and benefit most community members. Ministry of Lands and Housing is currently opening its doors to new housing and building innovations to drive down the costs of housing.
Federation control of housing construction allows a variety of cost-reducing measures to be introduced, such as a smaller houses, cheaper materials, fixtures and finishes, and staged construction. However owner-building offers the greatest cost reduction potential. This potential may be reduced by the owner-builder’s materials and labour prices, any income foregone, and an extended building time. The cost implications of purchasing a speculative house, a project house and owner-building are calculated, showing that owner-building has real advantages by reducing the loan amount, the repayment level, and the total interest paid.
Demographics continue to soar higher every day and, as a result of rapid urbanisation, housing and infrastructure demands pose a major challenge. There is urgent need to propagate and popularize cost effective options in large scale housing initiatives and introduce appropriate interventions to close the gap between availability of these technology options and applications to the same.
However, the housing needs of low income groups continue to face difficulties with the rapid increase in construction costs due to rise in input costs for steel, cement, labour and other building materials.