#DignifiedUrbanLife Youth Summit: Intergenerational Dialogue and Music Unite to Fight Inequality

As the world marks the third anniversary of the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to come together and make sense of what happened and what we can learn from the experience.

SDI and Know Your City TV’s Youth Summit is bringing together youth and elders from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Sierra Leone, Kenya and South Africa to create a federation song for the #DignifiedUrbanLife campaign, which is set to launch this Friday the 31st of March.

This campaign aims to be a powerful platform for change and progress, providing a unique opportunity for different generations to share knowledge, ideas and experiences.

SDI and Know Your City TV’s Youth Summit

The SDI and Know Your City TV‘s Youth Summit seeks to bring together youth and elders to create a federation song for the #DignifiedUrbanLife campaign. This campaign is a response to the immense challenges exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly for youth living in informal settlements. Through the summit, the aim is to mobilise groups of women and young people to create a federation song, utilising the age-old medium of song to transmit knowledge and values.

#DignifiedUrbanLife Campaign

The federation song is a unique opportunity to bring together different generations to share knowledge, ideas and experiences. Through intergenerational dialogue, young people can learn from the wisdom and experience of the older generation, while the older generation can learn from the creativity and enthusiasm of youth. By combining the two perspectives, we aim to create a powerful platform for change and progress. The federation song is a unique opportunity for bringing together different generations to share knowledge, ideas and experiences. By coming together and collaborating, we can create a song that is both inspirational and motivating. It can be used to raise awareness of the challenges faced by people living in slums, while also providing a platform to inspire and empower them to come together and find sustainable solutions to the problems they face.

Our Workplan

The #DignifiedUrbanLife campaign includes a step-by-step guide for community mobilisation and communications strategy. Our Zimbabwe, Zambia, Sierra Leone, Kenya and South Africa affiliates appointed youth groups with experience in music production to lead the campaign. The steps include intergenerational dialogue, choir recording, youth remix, international collaboration and coordination, distribution, and monitoring, evaluation and outreach.

International Collaboration and Coordination

A small team from each country join us in Cape Town at the SDI Secretariat, bringing audio stems and demo along with behind-the-scenes videos, archive video, images, and documentation for a one-week hack-a-thon. At the hack-a-Thon, they will develop a targeted audience campaign strategy, coordinated media products, a policy shift strategy and plan of action, and a monitoring and evaluation framework.


Once the song, media products, and policy strategy have been developed, the next step is to promote and distribute them. This includes launching social media campaigns, creating music videos or other visuals to accompany the song, and distributing materials to the target groups.

Monitoring, Evaluation and Outreach

The final step is to monitor and evaluate the success of the campaign. This wil include tracking the reach of the campaign, as well as measuring the impact it has had on the target groups. We aim to do this through surveys, interviews, or other methods.

The #DignifiedUrbanLife campaign is an inspiring example of the power of intergenerational dialogue and music production to fight inequality. It provides a platform for different generations to come together and share knowledge, ideas and experiences, while also creating a powerful platform for change and progress.

This Friday the 31st of March marks the launch of this exciting campaign, and it is sure to be an inspiring event.

Kenya Community Health Volunteers Reflect on Covid-19

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VIDEO: Community Health Worker Reflects on Covid-19 in Mukuru, Kenya

In this KYC-TV Kenya production , Alice Wanini, a community health volunteer (CHV) in Mukuru Kwa Reuben and member of Muungano wa Wanavijiji, describes the challenges her team faces as they attempt to educate and screen residents for Covid-19.

Alice describes how difficult it is to encourage preventative measures such as social distancing and frequent hand washing in overcrowded slums such as Mukuru, where 10 sqm shacks house families of ten or more and long lines at hand washing stations leave people frustrated. Adding to this is the rampant misinformation about the virus and a lack of adequate personal protection equipment (PPE) for the health workers.

Across the slums where SDI works, federations are working with communities to build hand washing stations, supply food packages, educate residents about how to stay safe, and collect slum data in order to partner with government to provide effective solutions.

Follow KYC-TV on Facebook for regular media coverage of SDI federations’ responses to Covid-19 on the ground, and SDI’s Facebook page for updates from the federations.


Putting Community Data to Use in Three Kenyan Cities

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UN Habitat’s Global Land Tools Network (GLTN) Urban Cluster Work Plan Project was conceptualised and developed by GLTN’s urban civil society partners at the Partners Meeting held at the Hague in November 2013.  The project was facilitated by the secretariat of GLTN, and coordinated by Shack / Slum Dwellers International, serving as the urban CSO cluster lead organisation.

The program was implemented by cluster partner organisations: Asian Coalition of Housing Rights, Habitat for Humanity International, Shack / Slum Dwellers International and Academic Cluster partner organisation, African Association of Planning Schools. Broadly the project aimed to activate and engage these GLTN partner organisations in activities that will improve security of tenure for poor urban communities in Latin America, Asia and Africa.

The project was focused on promoting capacity development, awareness raising and alliance building within the Urban civil society cluster and among other clusters to contribute to the GLTN vision of a pro-poor, gender-responsive land interventions, with particular emphasis on increasing grassroots women’s land tenure security at country level.

The Urban Cluster Work Plan laid emphasis on collaboration and partnership between both GLTN partners in the urban cluster and across clusters. The intended outcomes of this were: joint advocacy positions on land tenure security within the global processes of developing post-MDG goals  – the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as participation in Habitat III; and improved land tenure security for poor communities working with the GLTN partners.

The Asian  component was led by SDI’s India affiliate organisation, SPARC.  In Africa regional activities were implemented by two partners: the African Association of Planning Schools, which is part of the Academic Institutions Cluster of GLTN; and SDI’s Nigeria affiliate Justice and Empowerment Initiatives (JEI).

This post will focus on the the collaboration between the African Association of Planning Schools and the SDI affiliate in Kenya to undertake analysis of data, packaging and engagement with city authorities around the use of data in three Kenyan cities. The Centre for Urban Research and Innovation (based within the Nairobi University’s Department for Urban and Rural Planning) acted as the implementing agency.

As a partner of GLTN, SDI’s Kenyan affiliate has practiced community enumeration as a tool to improve tenure security over the last 15 years. The key thrust of this work was to demonstrate the ways in which community data can be used to promote increased tenure security.

This partnership allowed for the realisation of the continuum from data collection to planning. It deepened how STDM and community enumerations may be used as a tool in improving land tenure security.

The intervention consisted of three sub-activities:

  1. Policy brief on alternatives to forced eviction in Thika Town
  2. Situational Analysis of land tenure in Nakuru’s slums
  3. The application of community enumeration and profiling data in an actual planning process. This was undertaken in the zoning of the Mombasa city.

Policy Brief on Alternatives to Forced Eviction in Thika Town


The implementation of the urban work plan in Thika town produced a policy brief on alternatives to forced eviction.

The paper developed argues for land sharing as an alternative to eviction of informal settlement dwellers occupying public land. The paper was prepared through discussions among slum dwellers, the County Government of Kiambu, who is the land owner, and the land tenure researchers offering an advisory role.

Community enumeration and mapping data formed part of the basis of these discussions. This provided for a more informative discourse and analysis of various land access policy options and tenure systems that can be leveraged both by the county government and the informal settlement community.

The paper formed the basis for an on-going discussion between the community of Kianduttu settlement, Muungano wa Wanvijiji, and the County Government of Kiambu.

It legitimises community-collected data, allowing for its use in negotiations for alternatives to forced eviction, and progresses the community push for regularisation of land tenure. In order to achieve this, the paper establishes the constitutional basis for land tenure regularisation. It provides a series of alternatives provided under the land laws and makes policy recommendations.

Situational Analysis of Land Tenure in Nakuru’s Slums


The intervention in Nakuru was targeted at analysing community collected data along side other secondary data and creating a brief on the informal land situation in Nakuru. It also aimed at recognising efforts and initiatives by informal settlement dwellers to address land security challenges.

Qualitative data was gathered through social mapping and Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) with community members and other stakeholders in the settlement. The FGDs were conducted on 2nd December 2015. The purpose of the FGDs and other formal and informal interactions with community members and other stakeholders was to gather qualitative insights into various issues of the settlement, as well as validating information collected through household enumerations. These were conducted in a participatory manner using a checklist of open-ended questions. Consultants ensured that all members in each FGD had an equal chance to contribute to the discussion.

Mapping was undertaken while doing the community survey with full participation of settlement leadership. The focus of the mapping process is to help in the depiction of settlement boundaries, cluster boundaries, roads, drainage systems, schools, and other community facilities. It focused on the spatial dimension of the people’s realities as expressed in their background information. Resource mapping in the settlement was also done to help in charting land use and command areas, resource access points, and more.

Quantitative data was gathered through household surveys, referred to as enumeration. This was conducted by a team of experienced field investigators under overall supervision of social development economist and other members of the core technical team of the consultants under the guidance of SDI Kenya. The objectives of the household enumeration were to: understand the demographic/socio-economic profile of the households in the settlement; know the status of and issues related to ownership and tenancy structures; assess resident’s access to infrastructure, social amenities, and services; and understand the environmental conditions, health and various social issues.

This involved various processes:

  1. Boundary demarcation and clustering of the settlement: With the support of the community leadership the research team identified the boundaries of the Nyamarutu settlement which was to be covered during the enumeration process. Further the area was divided into four clusters: cluster A, cluster B, cluster C and cluster D.
  2. House numbering: This involved giving a reference number to all the households in the settlement. These numbers are used as an identification value during collection of information. The reference number was designed based on the identified clusters, settlement and the number of households in the settlement (settlement / cluster/structure number).
  3. Sampling design: A full enumeration was carried out to capture each household’s socio economic information. Callback’s were done for households that were not present during the day. This was mainly done at night to ensure that all households were captured.

Using Community Data for Zoning of Mombasa City


In Mombasa the citywide engagement had a different entry point.  Early in 2015, the County Government of Mombasa announced their intention to develop a Strategic Integrated Urban Develop Plan (SIUDP). The plan would draw in technical support from JICA and private sector consultants. However, as a precursor to the plan the county government was required to present a spatial analysis of the current situation of the city. Recognising the Federation’s unique skill set of mapping human settlements and infrastructure within cities, the County Government requested their support to develop the city spatial analysis.

A significant impact of this federation support has been the recognition of Mombasa’s slums as part of the city’s fabric. Previously absent from the way the city zoned land use, the slums are now a zoning category known as High Density Low-Income areas.

Through discussion with County government, the planning department will adopt STDM (Social Tenure Domain Model) as the principal land information system that will anchor the zoning planning process.

Youth: The centrepiece of urban renewal

A recent Youth Engagement Forum in Machakos.

Cross posted from the Muungano blog

By Shadrack Mbaka and Eva Muchiri

Slum dwellers share a whole lot in common with citizens of war torn countries. There is civil strife, and the most basic infrastructure is non-existent, interrupted or destroyed. As a result, most slum dwellers are forced to adapt to the existing situation or improvise just to have access to food and shelter. Unlike people affected by war, who can look up to the future to rebuild their country, slum dwellers are often forgotten and left without any means to address issues like lack of access to services and infrastructure.

Many innovative urban planning ideas have been tested in Kenyan cities and towns. But these ideas fail to be implemented at scale. It is obvious that slum dweller communities are often ignored in the planning and implementation of slum-upgrading projects. In Muungano’s experience, better results come about when slum dweller communities are empowered to develop their own ideas and shape them into realistic and measurable plans. The key to these solutions rests with the young people of these informal settlements.









Over the last couple of months, young people from informal settlements in Nairobi, Thika and Machakos have had the opportunity to be trained in various skills such as data collection and management, mapping, advocacy, and documentation. These are skills necessary to build powerful sources of information used to engage local governments on service and infrastructure delivery in slums. Trainings revolved around youth and community media, includes research, advocacy, and development initiatives around youth and digital technology. Through these combined approaches, federation youth have begun creating outlets for the voices and experiences of youth, to cultivate revolutionary possibilities of youth activities in the digital space, while also addressing the genuine concerns that come with living in the slums.

Kevin Kinuthia, Engaging some of the young people from Mukuru Slums during the Muungano Youth Engagement Forum


In a recent campaign organized by the youth within Muungano wa Wanavijiji to mobilise youths in Nairobi, Machakos and Thika, we got an opportunity to speak to one of the federation youth members, Kevin Kinuthia, who hails from Mukuru Kwa Reuben settlement. Kevin gladly shared his perspectives with us.

“Having been raised by a single mother in the slums has really taught me a whole bunch of things and critical lessons in life. My mother always took it upon herself and reminded me how hard I need to work to avoid living in the urban sprawl all my life. She would also often challenge me to strive to be selfless and conscious of the power I have to change the lives of others.

Urban renewal depends on reformation of institutions, especially the county governments mandated by the Kenyan constitution to provide services to the people, especially the poor. It is essential for governments to involve affected communities in upgrading or development projects. Once people living in informal settlements are provided with the opportunities and informed of the importance and benefits of formulating ideas to combat their challenges, they can create the change they want to see in their communities.

As a federation, the advocacy approach is to encourage members and the larger constituency of slum dwellers to promote a change in mindset by encouraging critical thinking, creativity and innovation. If disenfranchised people can transform their beliefs and attitudes, I believe they can be powerful agents of change for their communities,” concludes Kevin.

Empowering the youth is vital. Giving them the time to develop their own ideas and providing a platform for them to showcase those very ideas is not only beneficial to their communities, but can promote social innovation, offering local solutions to local problems.


Federation Youth Explore Urban Farming in Kenya’s Slums

 By Kevin Kinuthia

My mother, Jane Nyokabi, loves growing her own food. The problem was that we lived in Nairobi, the LandiMawe (Place of Hard Rocks), as many Nairobians call it, where growing food produce was almost impossible. Urban areas have become increasingly dense and land—a scarce resource in African cities. Many Kenyans moving to cities looking for employment had no other possibility than take residence in shanties and shacks.

The inability for the majority of people—especially youth—to claim land for growing food, the high unemployment levels and the low earnings, left residents in informal settlement food insecure. Despite the high number of food vendors and kiosks in the informal settlements it is impossible for the majority to maintain a healthy diet.

The questions that beg answers are then how can slum upgrading efforts like the Kenyan Informal Settlement Improvement Project or the Kenya Slum Upgrading Program, support economic development and job creation to guarantee a stable access to nutritious food for the urban poor? Or would it be better to upgrade water and sanitation within informal settlements?

Waiting for the answers to these questions, the youth, organized into groups ought to take matters into their own hands. Youth need to shelve the need of a white collar job and engage in urban farming, but due to the continuing increase in population density of these areas, vertical gardens are the most popular choice. So when walking in Mathare, Mukuru and Kibera you may easily spot big black sacks sprouting green leafy vegetables. These are the gardens, disposed in unoccupied land, that are providing vegetables to low-income communities.

But this idyllic dream of urban agriculture does not come without complications—mainly food safety. News bulletins reported that the soil and water quality in which vegetables are grown can be contaminated with heavy metals or with raw sewage bringing short and long term health risks to the population.These reports can scare off local buyers and dwarf the possibility of expanding the reach of these produce to markets outside the informal settlement.

As urban farming increases its importance in Nairobi’s slums, there is need to mitigate environmental hazards and eliminate contaminations to ensure the produce is fit for consumption, hence making this form of trade viable. If this were to become reality, and the vegetable quality was to become stable and controlled, numerous income opportunities could open up opportunities for urban poor communities. For example, urban farmers in slums would have the possibility to link up with organic food outlets outside the settlements to market their produce. Or perhaps the Nairobi County government would decide to continue engaging urban farmers and street food vendors to shape regulation on the use of the city’s public spaces and rooftops for urban agriculture.

After so many years, I find myself in my mother’s shoes. Fearing poverty and the lack of a steady source of income I fully understand the uphill task of providing food for our city.

Knowledge is Power: Collecting Data in Nairobi’s Slums

Capturing slum profiling data. Capturing slum profiling data.

**This post was originally published on the Muungano blog**

By Milkah Njeri, Muungano wa Wanavijiji (Huruma, Nairobi, Kenya)

Born in an informal settlement and brought up in yet another informal slum in Nairobi, in itself sounds catastrophic. Having been born in Korogocho did not castigate me to a life of poverty; I had a vision to lead a normal life. Raised in a family of four girls and four boys life was not that promising but I learned to live a simple life.

In a country where half of the population lives in urban areas, one would expect pockets of slums strewn across almost every neighbourhood with high population densities. The picture is not a far cry from reality, at least in the context of Korogocho. But even if the country has seen incredible growth over the years, there is hope things can turn around.

[caption id="attachment_1368" align="alignnone" width="259"] Picture Credit-www.panoramio.com[/caption]


Being a single mother, I joined Muungano in 2001 in Korogocho. By then I used to save five shillings daily. In 2003 I moved from Korogocho to Huruma and later joined ex-Grogon saving scheme and also as an assistant secretary for ex-Grogon land and housing co-operative society with no papers, not even attending a computer class I was a among ten youths in eastern region to undergo a data capturing training in using Microsoft Access and Excel. I later on learnt data verification , since then I have learnt more and used these skills to train my fellow slum dwellers, all this achievement needed passion and patience.

My first baby steps came earlier than I expected when I started working on the Kambi Moto slum upgrading project, seven years ago in Huruma, Nairobi. The challenges surrounding the community momentum to advocate for the re-allocation of land from the Nairobi City Council back in the day to demonstrate a community led slum upgrading concept, may have differed from other informal settlements such as Kibera, or Mathare, but seldom do we as humans of informal settlements get the feeling of hopelessness in the slum communities.

The urban poor in our great country need to be empowered, and solutions have to be designed by them. Community organization, a difficult yet key element to successful Kambi Moto slum upgrading, was successfully carried out, with communities taking mostly the lead. In places where there is collective sense of purpose and willingness to be supported, the likelihood of successful community upgrading is greater.

In April 2015, I attended workshop and learnt another way of capturing data – through the ONA platform. This is an SDI managed online tool, which enables communities’ to key in; process; analyse; verify and generate information about informal settlements. I have passion for profiling, what I love most about data is that it talks about people’s livelihoods in informal settlements, and the interesting part altogether is that and when people begin to speak back to the data, collective actions and needs is inevitable. This information helps we, slum dwellers in stopping evictions which happens regularly in most settlements, and while using this information communities are well able to advocate for provision of services in their slums. This has really improved my skills and made me who I am today.

Recently, I had an opportunity to visit Zimbabwe to attend a data profiling and ONA platform workshop in Bulawayo city in June. In this session I was able to take other federation members from different countries through keying in data using ONA, this is because of the capacity, skills and experience I have gained through Muungano wa Wanavijiji.

As an affiliate of Slum Dwellers International, we visited Ngozi mines, an informal settlement located within a dumpsite area in Bulawayo central. Together as a team we supported the Zimbabwean federation in a settlement profiling and mapping exercise with other federation members from different countries, before leaving Ngozi mines, we supported the communities living there to organise the community and formed a saving scheme and saved five dollars and fifteen rands.

To date, the group has twenty five members.

One aspect that I took home after the learning exchange to Bulawayo, in particular is that forging partnerships with our governments is key in addressing issues of informality and slum upgrading. Civil society and private sector groups are also becoming important players in the urban arena. Slum dweller movements, such as Muungano wa Wanavijiji effectively reach out to communities and are best assigned the roles of community organizing, facilitating dialogue, community organising-through empowerment of community savings schemes, community prioritized need identification, project identification, project management and maintenance of community facilities, which often creates a sense of collective ownership that further drives sustainability of community projects.

Additionally, I could not help but notice that the private sector, through the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), is increasingly interested in working with the county governments in developing low-cost housing in various counties. Muungano recently undertook city wide settlement profiling in six counties. Sets of information generated from the process have continued to empower communities to have knowledge of their informal settlements, which  through prudent discussions, slum dwellers have begun engaging their local governments on the provision of basic services and infrastructure developments. In a long time counties, have finally recognized the importance of engaging all the stakeholders in planning, execution and monitoring programs for the poor.

Governments have an important role to play in respect of addressing issues of slums, particularly by creating partnerships between national and local governments, civil society and even the communities themselves to work toward an expanded and sustained program for the urban poor.

Profiling and Mapping for Alternative Slum Upgrading Solutions in Kiandutu, Kenya

[caption id="attachment_1378" align="alignnone" width="480"] Mtatu B, one of the clusters in Kiandutu Informal settlement.[/caption]

**This post was originally featured on the Muungano blog** 

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.

[caption id="attachment_1380" align="alignleft" width="570"] Community participation in the structure numbering training session.[/caption]




[caption id="attachment_1381" align="alignleft" width="570"] Structure Coding[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_1382" align="alignleft" width="570"] One of the federation members Eva Muchiri numbers a household.[/caption]





[caption id="attachment_1383" align="alignnone" width="570"] Henry Otunge ‘veteran’ takes one of the teams through the basics of cognitive mapping of their settlement.[/caption]


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.

[caption id="attachment_1379" align="alignleft" width="570"] A recent joint technical meeting between Kiandutu community representatives, Muungano wa Wanavijiji, SDI and Kiambu County Government Officials.[/caption]












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

The Kenya SDI Alliance Ramps Up Activities


India, Kenya and South Africa are arguably the most frequently referenced Federations in the SDI network – both internally and externally. This is the result of a combination of factors, including the geopolitical space occupied by these three countries. Equally important is the scale of the 3 Federations in terms of the number of settlements, number of members and the experience and capacity of the leadership at settlement, city and national level. Kenya is especially important, since unlike South Africa and India, the slum dwellers in Kenya work in an environment in which urban development policy is still fluid and where opportunities for grassroots impact seem relatively positive for now.

All SDI affiliates share a number of common features – such as the central participation of women, the mobilisation through savings, the use of community based information management as advocacy tools, and so on. This sometimes leads to the misconception that all Federations are replicas of one another. Nothing could be further from the truth.

This week we focus on SDI’s Kenya alliance as it proceeds with pre-project planning for a number of highly relevant upgrading projects in Nairobi, Thika and Kisumu. This concentration of the spotlight on our Kenya partners simultaneously provides interesting information about these important activities and demonstrates how SDI affiliates are both similar and different. Savings schemes and networks in Kenya share a great deal with those in other countries but are by no means identical. Context has moulded and shaped them, creating modifications of a theoretical prototype into significant differentiations. The Kenya alliance is especially important in this respect because it has celebrated diversity without discarding the central purposes of its various organisational forms. Its structure bends and reshapes itself in order to respond creatively to external realities, but its purpose remains the same.

Fat Fingers and Back of a Napkin Calculations

Kiambu Governor captures family image

Kenyan slum dwellers undertake paperless survey of 10,000 families using hi-tech digital devices. 

By Jack Makau, SDI Kenya

Over the last 15 years, Muungano wa Wanavijiji, the Kenya federation of slum dwellers has surveyed and mapped over 340,000 slum families living in 364 settlements. In its latest survey, conducted in Kiandutu slum – 40 kilometres north west of Nairobi, Muungano made a switch to use technology for collecting and processing data.

On the ground, in Kiandutu (which means, place of jiggers) 170 community members were selected to map each of the settlement’s 10,000 shacks and collect details of each family and each person living there. Instead of a paper questionnaire, the enumerators used Android 6.3 inch touch-screen tablets. According to Muungano’s chair person, Rashid Mutua, “we had a choice of smart phones or tablets , both within the same price range. We chose tablets because some of us have fat fingers.”

The tablets are installed with an Enketo web form that has all 37 questions contained in Muungano’s previous paper questionnaires. The tablets do not require an Internet connection to work. The enumerators collect data offline all day, and in the evening the data is transferred into a GIS enabled database.

Muungano’s fears, that the use of hi-tech gadgetry would exclude the participation of its mainly community women membership, were heightened when the Kiandutu community brought forward the names of 27 elderly persons to be included in the survey team.  At the end of what is usually one day of enumerator training, Kilion Nyambuga, trainer and GIS expert employed by Muungano, reported that additional days of training would be required. By lunchtime on the second day of training, the enumerators were deployed to the settlement to start data collection. Kilion reported that somehow the whole team had made the switch and were comfortable using the tablets.

Muungano National leader, Joseph Muturi, says the decision to move to a technology solution was because, “we do not have the time to collect data for one month, then spend another month putting it into computers, and another month analysing it and developing reports – all the momentum for a community action that we have generated in a settlement is lost in the time it takes to process data”.

The step to venture into the digital unknown and invest in tablets was reached in Muungano’s planning meeting for the Kianduttu survey. A simple back of the napkin calculation showed a 23 percent saving on survey materials and equipment. Ordinarily the 37 questions in the survey fit on 3 sheets of paper that cost 30 US cents each to print. Another 30 cents is paid for data entry. Each survey requires boxes of pencils, rubbers and sharpeners. The Kiandutu survey would have also required an additional 9 cameras and 12 GPS receivers. The tablets take away all these costs.

The switch is however not just a horizontal one from paper into computers, says Kilion. The community enumeration process is made far more accurate. “We are now able to ensure that all mandatory questions like the house number and the resident’s name are answered”. It was a major problem in paper surveys when enumerators returned questionnaires with key information missing. “We had the painstaking task of going back to find families whose house number was left out and we also spend weeks linking pictures stored in separate camera’s with households in the database”. He adds, “Right now we can even check the exact location where a survey was done – if a house is in one end of the settlement we can ask why the survey was done at the other end of the settlement”.

Yet, the use of tech devices does not take away any or all the intensity of doing a 100 per cent household survey in a slum.  Like in all enumerations where a team stays on after the days data collection and goes through the returned surveys, someone will need to stay on to charge the tablets, download all the data and check that the data collected is good.  There are bigger considerations though.

On one hand, not only does the purpose of the survey need to be explained to every household, but also the capture of information into a gadget needs to be explained. On the other hand, somebody who operates an informal water or electricity distribution business in the slum is just as likely, or even more likely, to resist a survey using a tablet as they would one using paper.

The gadgets themselves present a challenge in a context like Kiandutu where you have large numbers of unemployed youth who are presented with a smart device with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all other pleasures. Things that are beyond their immediate ability to purchase. Whether Muungano can persuade without necessarily policing the community and especially the youth, that they stand to benefit more by not keeping the devices for themselves, remains a test of the federation’s effectiveness in organising.

Kiambu Governor Enumerates using tablet

Kiambu Governor, H.E William Kabogo enumerates a family in Kiandutu during an event to launch the community enumeration process.

Those Who Tell the Stories Rule the World


Youth documenter Sophia Khamis. Photo by Shaddy Mbaka, SDI Kenya

In a recent trip to SDI’s Kenya affiliate I was fortunate enough to meet a group of young federation members making their entry into the world of blogging. The youth came from the slums in which Muungano wa Wanavijiji organizes. Below are the highlights of their first blogs about a topic of interest to them from their settlements. I would hazard a guess that they might just be the most interesting blogs you’ve read all week. Click on the titles to read the full blog and please send comments and questions to the youth if you connect with their stories.

If those who tell the stories indeed rule the world then I can only hope these storytellers continue to make their voices heard.

In a moving piece called “The Floating Slum”, Eva Muchiri from Mathare Bondeni vividly captures the devastating effects of recent flooding

“Some of the resident who live near the river were left homeless after their houses were swept away by the raging water, carrying with it goats and cows of a big business man called Wachira in the slum who supplies the residents with the milk. Drunkards became sober and tried their very best to reach their homes as soon as the rain subsided. A couple of residents found themselves floating on water as if they were in a Jacuzzi while a sleep, they had to be rescued by some youths and taken to nearby clinics for check up.”

In “Potato Wars” Asha Ali from Machakos narrated the chaotic – and potentially very dangerous – scene she witnessed at marketplace in her settlement.

“… to my shock, it wasn’t the sellers who were throwing their money away; it was the county inspectorate ‘officers’ who were actually destroying food, sustenance for mankind. All this for what: just because the said potatoes were not meant to be sold in 90kg quantity, in whatever measurements that they were meted in, by small number of retailers. The market was exclusively meant for wholesale only. This was from a by-law, enacted by the hoodlums who like to be referred to as ‘Honorable’, otherwise known as MCAs, in order to generate ‘more revenue’, by denying retailers access to the larger portion of the town market. 

… Unnecessary humiliation and injury to man is not the way to handle internal disputes and grievances. We are not back in the Stone Age when all was needed to quell a mob was a whack to the head and the unlawful detention of a few… The population of today is craftier, more tenacious, and to a logic-defying extreme, more violent, if need be.” 

Mary Munyiva, a youth member from Kahawa-Soweto, conveys the settlement’s struggles with alcoholism and drug-abuse in a piece called “A Small Heaven or Hell?” 

“Sometimes life seems to be hopeless when someone lives in a slum. But on the other hand “A VILLAGE OF HAPPINESS “is part of a settlement in Kahawa Soweto. Most of the people here are ever drunkard, drug addicts, and commercial sex workers among others. Marital status contract is just for the next few seconds … It has deteriorated health factors in the fact that most people are infected with HIV/TB yet they transmit it day and night. Their physical appearance looks as if they are age mates of the first president of Kenya and the most challenging factor is death almost every month.”

Sophia Khamis, a young mother from Machakos, tells her inspiring personal story in a blog called “A Call to Young Mothers.” 

“Being a young mother from slums having left college early and having no experience in anything it was quite a challenge to start something up! I was in this saving scheme in Mjini Machakos having being forced by my mum to join, I not seeing any significance in it … I took a loan from my group and started small business selling beauty products something I love doing, and today my business is my testimony.  So to all young mothers out there life isn’t going to change by knocking your heels together change starts from us don’t give up there is hope out there no body said its going to be easy but believe me when I say there is something for everyone you got to work for it.”

“Crime in Mathare”, written by Kate Wanjiru, tells the story of her slum, the second largest in Kenya. Plagued by crime, Kate explores the impact on youth.

“Mathare is home to some of the toughest criminal gangs in Nairobi whereby many youths steal and engage in crime to make a living … Many youths have lost their lives, in one year fifty youths were killed, but it was so painful to see the police shooting because they would find the youths holding illegal assembly   eg ‘base’ and ask them to kneel down and start shooting in front of their parents and the community, this was a torture because before they killed them they would beat them up. The youths of Mathare transformed after the introduction of jobs by the government for the youths ‘kazi kwa vijana’ and through educational seminars. In my hood, Bondeni there are many youths that have transformed. I got a chance to interview Kim who told me, ‘‘I was one of worst criminals. I used to recruit young youths and taught them how to use guns and stealing from people especially hijacking cars but thanks God because I have now changed.’’ Kim is now working with nongovernmental organizations like Muungano wa Bondeni  to  help other youths change. Kim is working in one of the Muungano developed toilets projects and saves like other members.”

Milka Njeri, from Huruma, writes about the challenges faced by women in her settlement.  InGiving Hope to Hopeless” she tells the moving story of H-town, a group of young girls, mothers and teenage mums.

“I spoke to Nancy Njoki, a mentor and a founder member of H-town group, “As we grew up gender based violence has been a way of life among young women, but we as h-town we would like to change this belief and help reduce cases of rape and violence women.” In a recent event, one of their members was arrested, taken to court and jailed. She is currently serving a jail term at the Langata women prison for accidentally murdering her boyfriend whom it is alleged wanted to rape her.”

Peris Saleh of Mukuru has shared two pieces. In Just a Call” he describes how he became involved with Muungano, ending the piece with a call to action to other youth to get involved in their communities. In the second piece, “Eviction Mirror!” he gives a gripping account of the Mukuru residents’ fight against evictions.

“We are not going anywhere! We are not going anywhere!  This is our land! This is where we were born and grew up! There is no place we are going!”


“My fellow people…”

“ YESSS!!!”

“My fellow youths…”


“Tell those who are asleep to wake up all the children, to make as much noise as they can! We don’t recognise those people! Who are they?

“Please don’t demolish our houses!”


“Don’t destroy! Have mercy on us.”

“You must go! Chirongo must go! Let’s join hands as a community to prevent this Caterpillar from destroying our houses.” (All mothers to stand in front of the Caterpillar together with their children).

“Youths…” EEEE!!!!! (screams)

“Youths…” AAAAA!!!!!! (screams)

“Let’s go and lie down in front of the caterpillar to let it first pass on us before it reaches to our houses.” (We arrange ourselves and the caterpillar went away; it didn’t dare to step on anyone.)


To read the Kenya youth documenters stories in full, click here.