Southern Africa Hub Coincides with Land Meeting


The Southern Africa hub meeting, which took place in Harare, Zimbabwe last week, coincided with a national land meeting providing huge opportunities to enrich the discussions with regional inputs from the other affiliates. The land meeting by the Zimbabweans was the culmination of two regional meetings held in Harare and Bulawayo to reflect on the experiences of the various chapters of the Federation in terms of progress or lack thereof on land access. The regional meetings enabled the regions to develop critical insights which would then help to frame national consensus on land issues.

Prior to the field visit to Dzivarasekwa Extension where the land team was stationed, the hub meeting first tackled the remaining issues on its agenda. The latter included presentations by affiliates on risk assessment, deepening of partnerships and growing of youth participation. Affiliates narrated the range of efforts and initiatives that had been started in each country to strengthen relationships with government. Most of the countries showed how strides had been made towards institutionalising engagements with government. In most cases this was being realised through the signing of Memoranda of Understanding that not only target formalising relations but also provide a clear framework for meaningful co-operation around concrete pilot activities.

In Malawi, an MOU with Zomba Municipality has led to a regularisation project in one of the informal settlements. In the case of Namibia, an MOU set the stage for strategic sharing of enumeration data with the National Statistical Agency. Interestingly, progress was also being registered by the emerging affiliates in terms of developing strategic links with government. The hub meeting was informed by the Swaziland affiliate that an MOU with the Manzini government was in the pipeline, while the one for Botswana was also coming up. The emerging affiliates stressed the need for support from the hub to guide these engagement processes.

The session on risk assessment exercises conducted by the seven affiliates making up the Southern Hub proved to be very informative. The presentations highlighted how the different affiliates had seriously considered both internal and external challenges that could potentially threaten the Federation processes and projects. Typical internal challenges shared by most affiliates included misuse of savings and low repayments. Strengthening accountability systems around finances was cited as one way for dealing with such problems, amongst a range of other strategies. The conversation on growing youth participation saw affiliates reflecting on the various activities which the youths were spearheading. The South Africans reported how the youth membership had grown to 1,884 with the interventions focusing on savings and addressing social vices affecting the youths such as alcohol and drug abuse. In the Zimbabwean case, capacity-building programmes targeting artisans also systematically included youths, thereby broadening the existing skills sets.


After the workshop deliberations the hub meeting participants then headed for Dzivarasekwa Extension to join the last session of the land meeting. The participants from the land meeting presented the key issues that had come out of the discussions. The report showed the challenges that were being experienced in relation to accessing land and largely these bottlenecks were attributed to land prices and availability. For instance, the lowest price for unserviced plots in most councils was pegged at USD 4.00/square metre while serviced (water & sewer) plots were being sold at USD 24/square metre. This slow pace of land delivery had therefore significantly impacted on the membership resulting in uMfelandawonye membership declining from the traditional 53 000 to the current 8 872. In light of these challenges, the Zimbabwean alliance has identified four focus areas that will be instrumental in resolving land access challenges. The focus areas were noted as follows: finance, development approach, partnerships and roles and responsibilities. Hub delegates reinforced the importance of savings as part of the solution to the finance-related challenges. In-situ slum upgrading was also considered as a key option for upscaling land delivery processes and a classic example was Epworth.

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.

Three Times Land



By Jack Makau, Kenyan Alliance & SDI Secretariat

Patrick got up to go to the toilet. He turned to me and said, “uMfuwethu, now it is time for the NGOs to do some work. Take what we have spoken about and what we have decided to do and turn it into a programme of action for uMefelandawonye.”

 –  Joel Bolnick  in honour of Patrick Magebhula Hunsley

The ‘rule of three’ is a principle that suggests that things that come in threes are inherently more complete or satisfying. Like Julius Casear’s phrase, Veni, Vedi, Vici, or Lionel Richie crooning “you’re once, twice, three times a lady and I, I, I, love you. And also Patrick Magebhula, where he says about the land situation in South Africa, “They took this beautiful, radiant, blooming hope of the people and they began to define it for us. Because dreams are messy, inaccurate things. And they turned our dreams into their plans and their programmes. Now our hope has disappeared. It has shriveled and died, while they mock us by showing us their disciplined white papers and green papers and structure plans and land restitution policies and they say ‘Your hopes are not dead. Look, here they are. We have taken them and made them ordered, disciplined, programmed.’

I had three opportunities to reflect on land recently.

In the first instance, Muungano issued an internal report on the citywide slum profiling exercise for Nairobi, carried out last November.  The report says that 2.1 million (63%) of the city’s 3.4 million people live in slums. To arrive at this figure the slum profiling team put a chalk mark on all the 429,363 slum shack doors that they encountered in the 156 slums they profiled.

This figure though is not new or contested, nor does it elicit outrage – not anymore unfortunately. By tracing the boundary of every settlement the survey also established that slums occupy 2,699 acres (2%) of the Nairobi’s 169,020 acres. This is down from the 5% of land occupied by slums in 1995 – a fact that was so unacceptable then, that it formed the ideological basis for the formation of Muungano.

Flying to Kaula Lumpar, where I would have a second encounter with land, I had opportunity to reflect on the profile report. Approximately twice the number of people, occupying half the land they had 20 years ago. Three things are happening: The poor are losing ground in the city, and not gradually. The report shows that 263,893 families occupying 1777 acres currently have an eviction threat.

Second, the slums are becoming denser  – in some slums two storied shacks outnumber the traditional one level tin-sheet hovel; and third, another layer of disfranchised claimants to the city is being created – the profiling shows that the incidence of dual household subletting arrangements in a single shack, is no longer an oddity.  

How to fit 160 slum households or 700 people in every available acre? (A density only achieved in the tenements of New York’s lower East Side tenements two centuries ago).  And is that the right question to be asking? Or is there another way. Is the upgrading of existing slums enough? Or do the figures point to the need for a change in mission so access to more land for the poor in our cities becomes a key goal?

The International Federation of Surveyors, FIG, held its 25th annual congress in Kaula Lumpar, Malaysia late in June. With almost global coverage, the national chapters of surveyor associations and the chief executives or surveyor generals of land authorities in each member state were in attendance.   

To understand the congress, consider that land surveying, like carpentry and plumbing, is one of the world’s oldest professions. It has been around since ancient man and played a major part in all-major civilizations. And unlike the “lesser trades”, surveying has been a key tool of empire building. The concept of tax as we know it today is rooted in the ability to measure and register land. Therefore the nexus of power and land, and by extension land surveying is a very strong one.

A consistent message in the conference was that only 20% o 30% of the inhabited land in the Africa is surveyed, and it will take 600 years to survey the remainder, if the basis for land registration remains conventional survey.

And hence a debate running through many sessions and conversations at congress was the acceptability of general land boundaries as a way to speed up the processes of surveying and registering land. Conventional surveying is about setting fixed boundaries, where the error margin expected on a land boundary is less than10 centimeters. The accuracy is far less when establishing general boundaries.

However conventional surveying is limited in several ways: Cost – a huge cost for governments and near impossibly expensive for people in areas where governments have not invested in the administrative processes that underlay a land survey, such as land demarcation, adjudication and registration. Capacity  – the average age across the world at which someone becomes a registered surveyor is 57 years.  Which means that in many south hemisphere countries there will be one surveyor for every half a million people.

Without the presence of a small, but influential number of surveyors making the case for greater reliance on general boundaries it may have been an act of desecration to walk into this conservative conclave, while recycling jeans worn to map slums in Freetown (where I was before going to Kaula Lumpar), and suggest that there is another way to map land that involves slum dwellers doing the surveying themselves.  

Joe Slovo Measuring

My reflections on the congress, is that planners and city managers are more likely to appreciate data from profiling and enumerations. Surveyors or cartographers do not. Amongst them there may be a bit of a feeling that the profession may be damaged by reduced standards applied by para-professionals. More likely, the surveyor’s will feel that the general boundaries produced do not meet the accuracy threshold required to be part of a national land information system. And probably more important, your country’s surveyor general has made or is looking to make large investments in technology in order to meet demands for more surveyed and registered land.

The point being that the relationship between a federation and the land authority cannot afford to be taken for granted. The fact of having produced the boundaries of slums or even mapped households will not be as readily acceptable to land officers as it may to many other authorities. Therefore, it is critical to understand and use current arguments about land when engaging land authorities. A particularly articulate argument is made by the University of Twente:

The orthodoxy of the surveyor general’s function could not have been in better display than the week after the FIG Congress. The African Regional Centre of Mapping of Recourses for Development, RCMRD, held a 10-day learning event in Nairobi for sixteen of its member states. The event was titled, “Innovative Concepts, Tools, and Practices in Land Administration.  I was invited to present on Participatory Enumerations to the body of largely land ministry officials.

It may be not obvious, and was not obvious for me until this event, that the land sector has three large sectors competing alongside the need to regularize land occupied by slums. A rural clientele that are formalizing and sub-dividing land to share out between the kids; an urban market driven by developers making a killing on middle class apartments; and the need for governments to find land for expansion of infrastructure based on available donor aid, where China has upped the game in Africa.

Using citywide profiling undertaken by federations in the last one year to produce land analysis at the city scale may provide opportunities to for a deep meaningful conversation beyond three immediate priorities of the surveyor general. Yet, I must admit that my reflection of the last workshop, and what I believe Patrick may have taught us, is that we will be measured not by changes in policy, structure plans or project blue prints, but by the testimony of slum dwellers who have acquired secure tenure.

I would have proposed that an indicator of the number of families whose tenure converts, annually, from informal to formal is named the Patrick H. Magebhula Measure. I fear though that this would both inspire but also create a project-like accountability pressure. Somehow Patrick inspired, but because he did not ask after, allowed you to account to yourself on the success or failure of your interventions thereafter. Perhaps a better indicator then, to name in Patrick’s memory, within SDI and hopefully across the urban spectrum, is the amount of land gained for slum dwellers beyond what they already occupy – 




Regional Learning from the West Africa Hub Meeting in Sierra Leone

Kroo Bay, Freetown, 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. 

Eviction Site, Kroo Bay Eviction Site, Kroo Bay

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.

Awareness Times Hub Article

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.