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.

Transport Solutions in Mombasa: What do they mean for Likoni Settlement?


**Cross-posted from Living the City blog**

By Baraka Mwau and Dennis Mwaniki

January 2013, another painful month for the residents of Likoni, South Coast Mombasa.  Forget the infamous financial pinch that most Kenyans have to sail through in the month of January; think of the “untimely death” of the sole bread winner, a family member, parent, or even a friend!  Most of us imagine dying someday, but just like in my case, the thought most likely lasts only for a few seconds, and is mostly triggered by the death of someone close. Well, in as much as this is not the point for this posting, it was saddening to read about the Likoni ferry accident of January 26, 2013 in which at least 10 people died and many others were injured when a truck crushed people boarding the ferry (Likoni mourns 10 people). What a cruel way to die! Fact, this is not the first time an accident has been reported in the Likoni channel (and the Mtongwe ferry tragedy in which 272 people died is still fresh in some of our minds).

As we join the families in mourning their loved ones, we cannot ignore the underlying problem – the fragility of the ferry issue in our coast! Every single day, the 500 meter crossing is an uncertain trip for the over 200,000 people and 5,000 motorists using it. The risks here are not just from a ferry stalled in the middle of the channel, but also from being stumbled on, losing personal belongings from pick pockets, and as of recent, being run over by a truck! And the options for these people? Either travel by road for a distance of over 30kms and pay more or brave a few minutes of a free ride in the ferry. Yes, I would also choose the latter. A ‘cloud of hope’ however seems to hanging in the horizon – but to go by the Kenya government’s prophecy.  The ‘standard antidote’- a by-pass highway – has been prescribed as a way of dealing with the ferry shortcomings. In as much as we would love to jump into the options, choices and implications of this antidote to the ferry problem, it would be an injustice to interrogate what seems to be the planners’ palatable prescription without taking pride in the history of what is perhaps the cradle of urbanization in Eastern Africa.

Mombasa is perhaps the most famous Kenyan (if not East African) coastal city, and also one of the oldest cities in Sub-Saharan Africa, owing to its being  in existence for over thirty centuries, as per ancient Phoenician, Egyptian and Chinese knowledge repositories. Just like many other coastal cities across the world, the history of Mombasa displays the role of intercultural interaction and regional trade in development of both ancient and modern culture, architecture, governance structures, religion and way of life. Previously named Mvita (meaning a ‘place of war’), Mombasa has had its share of governance conflicts throughout history – ranging from inter-city rivalry to rotating governance systems resembling kingship. The city, just like many other East African Coastal cities (Malindi, Lamu, Watamu, Mombasa, Pemba, and Zanzibar) has experienced its fair share of Omani (Arab), Portuguese and British rulers – all with varied impacts in the language, city design/scape, structure and governance systems. The resultant urban form, land ownership structures, governance systems, culture and religion remain attractions to the coastal city to date; and some aspects of architecture (such as Fort Jesus, Gedi ruins etc) complement the lovely beaches and marine parks which flock with local and foreign tourists. Today, it is hard to dissociate the rich Swahili culture, religion and food from the city’s distinctive urban design and architecture.


Fort Jesus: Canons  strategically positioned to launch attack to likely threat  from the sea. The fort is one of the major attractions to Mombasa © Baraka, 2012

Over time however, the mix of governance and growth trends, coupled with the cosmopolitan nature of the city have resulted in a complex urbanization process, mostly benefitting a few and leaving the majority of the indigenous communities in poverty. Although the city’s population is still relatively low (estimated at slightly above 1 million), the numbers are on the increase and the regional economic significance of the city is obviously unrivalled. With the current national and global focus on urban centres as the locus of growth, Mombasa, supposedly Kenya’s second largest city, has been steadily growing (both spatially and density-wise), a trend that is expected to continue in the next few to many decades. The question is to which side this growth is biased.

Previously (and perhaps into the long future – God forbid!), the lack of proper urban development strategies for the city of Mombasa and “urbanization capitalism”, coupled with inequitable land governance systems have resulted in a city and region-wide squatter society. In this city, and its larger peri-urban area, most people are squatters, some even in their own ancestral land. If only to go by the latest land dispute, most of the Likoni area, where the majority of low and middle income residents live is private land, implying that everyone living therein is a squatter!

Although rarely talked about, urban informality in Mombasa greatly defines the crux of the city’s vibrancy. Well …… the truth is that contrary to modernist planning presuppositions, referring to Mombasa’s urban functioning as informal provokes a whole new debate on the definition of urban informality – yet it is indeed true! The difficulty in defining what is formal and what is informal is rooted in the fact that the urban character of Mombasa has been historically assembled by a rich Swahili culture, which dictated, and continues to dictate the city’s urban form and functioning.  Street markets are a good example of the Swahili emblem of appropriation of space for commercial practice that doubles as a public space (in most other cases these are informal activities). In the new settlement areas (such as Likoni and many other parts of the city, almost only excluding the old town), modern informal settlements are hugely evident.

Likoni is an informal settlement that lies adjacent to the shoreline, and is famously the “gateway” to the South Coast.  It is the largest informal settlement in Mombasa and has over the years exhibited characteristics of an ‘arrival city’, where migrants attempt to make a start to life in the city. Just like many other informal settlements in the country, the preference of Likoni can be explained by its closeness to work areas in the Island, low costs of housing and the usual advantages associated with economies of agglomeration. Ferry services link Likoni/South Coast and the Island, and even though the cost of “matatu” transport is relatively lower in Mombasa (compared to Nairobi), many people still walk from the ferry crossing to the Mombasa core city.  It is fundamental to accentuate that the Likoni ferry is perhaps the pivot that bridges income opportunities and households of the informal settlement of Likoni. As the city of Mombasa grows and expands to the South Coast, the traffic volumes at this channel are consistently overwhelming. Not surprisingly, Mombasa has now been engulfed in a Nairobi-like dilemma: traffic congestion, disorderliness, mass street vending, collapsing of solid waste management and even the once disciplined public transport operators (matatus) have become notorious for half-way trips.


Traffic Congestion has increasingly become a part of  Mombasa © Dennis M, 2012

But there is some ‘relief’. The national government has earmarked two major transport infrastructure projects at the coastal region: the great Lamu port and the Dongo Kundu by-pass highway.

Lamu port is the single largest infrastructure project in Africa at the moment and the Dongo Kundu highway rivals the recently concluded Thika Super Highway in tax payer spending. In fact, it is more expensive than the Thika highway despite its only being 17.5km against Thika highway’s 45km. Reason? Engineering technicalities!  This engineering complicated highway is estimated to cost the tax payer a whooping Kshs. 29 billion; money which is loaned to them by the Japanese government. The Thika highway cost the Kenyan tax payers Kshs. 28 billion and its accrued benefits to the masses (the urban poor) are still debatable. The bicycle lanes are completely underutilized, while efforts to educate the public on its usage seem to have been neglected (this is certainly a topic for another day!). For now, we rest the comparison at that and focus on the Likoni Channel; its challenges and the proposed cure: the Dongo Kundu bypass.

The safety risks at the Likoni crossing are written all over the faces of commuters every single time they use the largely ‘fateful’ ferries. I would comfortably say that visitors to the coast, one of whose main attractions was to cross between the Island and the mainland using the ferry no longer fancy this trip. Being part of this growing constituency of skeptics, I recently watched from a distance as the commuters boarded MV Nyayo. Apparently, I refused to obey my adventurous spirit on this free round trip – not after all the frequent accidents and technical mishaps that have become an almost daily occurrence here, even after the acquiry of new vessels by the Kenya Ferry Services (and yes, I am a lousy swimmer as well!). According to the government of Kenya, the long-term solution is the construction of the Dongo Kundu bypass, which would in theory decongest the Likoni channel, and create a safer link between the Island and the Mainland to the South. The by-pass is in line with the expansion of the Mombasa Port and undoubtedly, the relocation of freight handling and container depots at Miritini is long overdue.


Dongo Kundu by-pass

With all due respect for the government commitment, we have to ask: how will the masses in Likoni and its adjacent mainland benefit from the Dongo Kundu bypass; will the bypass cater for the walking masses; and will the limit on the traffic flow render pedestrians safe as they board the ferries? Currently, only 5,000 vehicles use this channel daily yet there is no planning strategy to respond effectively to the modal split, integrate current transportation modes at the terminus and most importantly, exploit the informal economic nodes the two docking points have created.  The matatu terminus on both sides of the crossing, and the Mama Ngina Drive on the Island side are both economic nucleus that have created hundreds of jobs for Likoni residents. How will they be affected by the bypass?

Developing a by-pass will most likely not cure the boarding accidents at the channel, since there will still be vehicles using the ferries. What is the by-pass is likely to do, other than limiting vehicular traffic volume in the ferries? In addition, other than tourists and a small number of further south coast residents who own cars, the majority of commuters are the Likoni area residents who will continually need to use the ferry service. Technical options are available, but even after the 1994 Mtongwe disaster and the recurrent mishaps in Likoni, the government is yet to consider alternative engineering options to the ferry.  The concern is that the real problem is being avoided in the name of a by-pass, which will keep tourists less worried, yet the thousands of South Coast residents will continue to face danger every moment they make the half kilometre crossing.

To date, thousands of households in Likoni live in squalor conditions and there are no indications of any concrete programme to upgrade the settlement. Is the government and the Municipal Council of Mombasa getting its priorities right? We are not in the least doubtful that the realities of Dongo Kundu by-pass will relieve Mombasa Island of its escalating traffic suffocation and relief motorists the erratic ferry failures at Likoni. The question we ask is how much change it will bring to the rapidly suburbanizing city, if no proper accompanying growth frameworks are put in place. Are we likely to see similar land price explosion and linear growth as has been the case with Thika Road, and what are the likely implications to the already dire land problem in the coastal city? For now, while the Dongo Kundu by-pass has received its share of objection from the locals-mostly attributed to interference with the kayas, there seems to be little objection based on its prioritization as an infrastructure project in Mombasa. This is certainly a good thing, to which related socio-spatial and economic aspects can be added.

Similar to the Thika highway, this by-pass is linked to the realization of Vision 2030. In this case, the fantasy is to promote Mombasa as the African Dubai, with the South Coast becoming a leading tourist destination. For us, it is tempting to opinionate that the urban planning and infrastructure developments in Mombasa are responding to international interests, rather than local needs and aspirations. Isn’t this a way of promoting the classical “trickle down” approach to development, which has traditionally crippled the growth of Mombasa in the first place? For how long will the urban poor in Mombasa take to benefitting from the trickle down effects of these projects? and is this what our second largest city really needs? You be the judge.

We do not by any means undermine or detest infrastructure investments in the country. We are merely of the opinion that if the government channels similar efforts and resources (even if just commitment in policy formulation & implementation, promoting private sector partnerships & giving incentives etc) to informal settlements upgrading and the promotion of Small and Micro Enterprises (SMEs), the majority of Kenyans, and particularly the urbanites, will live more decently as opposed to having hundreds of kilometres of tar which are designed for the few upper-class populace and tourists. And there is definitely a need to understand underlying issues in all projects, objectively rather than politically.