Namibian Federation & Namibian Housing Action Group: Responses to COVID-19

WhatsApp Image 2020-04-29 at 15.12.41

On behalf of the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN) and Namibia Housing Action Group (NHAG) – SDI presents the work to fight COVID-19 across Namibia.

In the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic the Namibian Alliance (Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia and Namibia Housing Action Group (NHAG)) alongside the National Alliance for Informal Settlement Upgrading, have been able to pivot the partnership through facilitating open communication through various channels for communities to receive pertinent updates from local & central government. The Namibian Alliance is positioned as critical to the response plan from the Ministry of Health for community mobilisation and peer to peer learning enabling improved directed health messaging.

Edith Mbanga, Federation leader in Namibia speaks about the community-led responses taken. “As SDFN when COVID-19 came to our ears we look at it as a serious issue that needs to be addressed to make sure our communities understand. With support from NHAG we requested a training from the Ministry of Health & Social Services. Twenty members were trained to educate communities about COVID-19 symptoms and how they can protect themselves from the virus. We are working together with MoH & SS as Federation teams, with homeless people that were living near the river and under the bridges.”

Active cities include the Khomas region, Erongo region, and the Oshana region, with the following priority areas and needs identified: PPE, soaps, hand sanitizers, masks, gloves, buckets and the installation of tippy taps. Food parcels for the households where their source of income has been heavily affected are crucial during lockdown, and for the foreseeable future. Federation have also participated in training in proper hygiene protocols under COVID-19, developing pamphlets and fact sheets being distributed in various languages. The Federation also joined the Psycho-Social Support group led by Ministry of Health & SS to train and deploy volunteers to assist in relocation of street dwellers in Windhoek.

WhatsApp Image 2020-04-29 at 15.12.40

Edith Mbanga reflects on the economic threat to livelihoods of those in the informal economy as Namibia remains in lockdown until the 4th May 2020. “Because of lockdown, communities who are selling at the markets lost their income – that launched in Namibia this year by Namibian Alliance. We fought for the market to be open with locations for cleaning and sanitizing with authorities at the markets. A team of more than 20 members will educate the informal workers to make the markets clean every morning. They will work at the market 3 days per week. We can use this as an opportunity for us to talk to the people, and hear from them what their plans after lockdown because this is a temporary thing, there is a lot that we are doing.”

WhatsApp Image (2)

The Standard Bank of Namibia through the Buy-a-Brick initiative with the Namibian Alliance has donated water tanks and hand sanitizers to NHAG for distribution to communities living in informal settlements. The general public is encouraged to make donations into the Standard Buy-a-Brick account for further support in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 in the informal settlements.

Namibia Housing Action Group is a Namibian Service Organisation that aims to support and add value to the activities and processes of the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia in achieving their mission. It strives to facilitate change in the livelihoods of urban and rural poor through pioneering pro-poor development approaches. Community mobilisation, project management & delivery, lobbying & advocacy, financial resilience & asset building, and data & mapping are the core competencies of the Namibian Alliance that they have been developing for over twenty years.

Please keep following SDI as we highlight the initiatives of SDI affiliates across Africa, Asia & Latin America in the fight against COVID-19 to support the most vulnerable throughout this pandemic.

In Short, “Mapping is Important”

[caption id="attachment_11171" align="alignnone" width="600"] Mama Ronnie Hochobes explaining the importance of collecting enough points with the GPS to Mama Wenky Snyder from Okurangava.[/caption]


By the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia

“Mapping helps in starting the upgrading process for our communities, as partners in the development process” – Rebekka, Oshikoto Region, Namibia Shack Dwellers Federation

To date, the Namibia Shack Dwellers Federation has completed the only national level informal settlement profile within the SDI Network.

Ms Rosalinda Hendricks reflects: “It all started off with information collection amongst ourselves as federation members who are saving, we developed a questionnaire for profiling, collected information in 235 informal settlements, which was published 2009 with the support of the Ministry of Regional Local Government, Housing and Rural Development at that time. We further also carried out enumerations, interviewing each household in different informal settlements so we can use the data to inform the local authority on the affordability of residents in accessing services, and negotiating for buying land.”

To know where you are and what your neighbourhood looks like is the start of knowing your city. Mapping is an integral part of the enumeration (slum profiling and household level surveys) of slum dwellers federations. Following community mobilization, data collection begins with a community mapping exercise. With nothing more than pens and markers and pieces of paper – usually spread on the floor or another available stable surface – the mapping and the conversation begins!

Community elders, women, and youth gather around, the discussions and debates are lively and filled with excitement. Boundaries are drawn, disputed and redrawn. Landmarks and services are marked out. Then the community drawn boundaries are layered over satellite imagery and the discussion continues. For many community members this is the first time they see their settlement drawn on a map.

But it doesn’t stop here. This map needs to be digitized for it to become useful. Accompanied by community members, their GPS devices and recording sheets, federation members trained as mappers then proceed to walk the boundaries, capture the points and seek out and map the services indicated by the community.

It is Geography Awareness Week and along with community mappers and geographers from all over the world, SDI federations are celebrating the maps they are producing and reflecting on the power of their maps.

Below are some reflections from Namibian federation members actively involved in mapping work on the importance of mapping in their mobilizing, organizing, and upgrading efforts:

Juliane from the Kunene Region:

“Mapping is important to know where the services in the settlement are located and also to know the size of the area. When we do mapping we create awareness on services and encourage the community to start taking action in their own development. Mapping helps us to know how many households are in the area and also the schools. The process gives us an opportunity to discuss solutions around the challenges that we face in the community so we can help ourselves to address our needs. Mapping also helps us inform the municipality on what is going on in the settlement, at most times the officials don’t know.”

Wendelina from Erongo Region:

“Mapping informs us on the size of the land and the conditions of it. Some people built their structures where they are not supposed to do it. If they know the boundaries, it helps gives us more support in our vision of what we want for our community.”

Candy from Zambezi Region:

“Mapping helps us see our community, how big or small it is.”

Ester from Oshikoto Region:

“Once we know how big the settlement is, it helps us plan better and know that the settlement is divided into two. Some locations are big.”



Tuerijandjera community collecting boundary points for the settlement.


Mapping Evululuko in Oshakati.



Freedom Square Enumerations Team, finalising structure mapping and enumerations for upgrading.

The Namibia Shack Dwellers Federation has begun the updating of their historic settlement profile date base on SDI’s global slum database on ONA platform. To date they have profiled 62 settlements, and mapping of 39 informal settlements has been completed. Capturing of the data has commenced on ONA and community members are actively training in data capturing as well. Thus far they have captured 41 of their settlement profiles and uploaded 14 maps.


Data Entry in Oshakati for Evululuko Informal Settlement.


Community collected and captured mapping data available in ONA platform.

Five regions (Omusati, Ohangwena, Karas , Oshana , Khomas) have been actively collecting data in their settlements this past year. This involves community meetings, discussion of development priorities, settlement history, and the mapping of boundaries and services.

The federation has made presentations to various local and regional authorities, encouraging ownership of the information, and supporting the development and strengthening of partnerships between the federation, communities, and local, regional, and national authorities.


Know Your Settlement/Know Your City: Slum Dwellers Federation of Namibia and the Community Land Information Programme (CLIP): Part I

By Royal Mabakeng and Braam Harris for SDFN and NHAG with Anni Beukes, SDI Secretariat

“As someone who lives in a shack, it is my responsibility to do this work and take it step by step. You don’t get all the training you need, you learn as you go.” Olga//Oases (SDFN and CLIP Facilitator from the Erongo Region, Namibia)

On the morning of 24 September 2014 there was much nervous excitement at the Habitat Resource Centre in Windhoek, Namibia. The small group of women who made their way up the sandy road came from almost all corners of this vast and sparsely populated country. We met them just before the descent to the conference venue and having been introduced to their sisters from Zimbabwe, Luciah and Mohlin, they broke out in spontaneous song and dance, filling the warming morning air with sound and dust. This is a scene endemic to any space where women of the international federation of Shack/Slum Dwellers International meet. Despite the language differences in the songs, the message is always the same and instantly and warmly understood: “we are together, we are one”. Even her Excellency, Maria del Carmen Diez Orejas, Spanish Ambassador to Namibia was enveloped in the dancing as she came by. After all, today there was much to celebrate. The Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN), together with Namibia Housing Action Group (NHAG) was presenting the outcomes and outputs of a 4 year long community-led data collection process. Since October 2010 this work has been supported by the Alliance for Solidarity and funded by the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and Development.

The Community Land Information Programme, or CLIP as it is commonly known, was initiated by the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN) and supported by the Namibia Housing Action Group (NHAG), in partnership with informal settlement communities, Local, Regional and National Authorities in Namibia. This programme aimed to facilitate a process whereby informal settlement communities and local authorities participate in the understanding of the circumstances and community needs in informal settlements to enable development planning and sustainable solutions for securing land and access to basic services. Since the early nineties SDFN-NHAG collected socio-economic data in various locations in Namibia. Gobabis Municipality in the east of the country and the City of Windhoek were the historic loci of activity where the federation and NHAG supported the development of databases and registration of households in informal shelters and settlements. These databases were premised on community-led and collected data. Nationally though, there remained a dearth of grounded and accurate information on informal settlements as recognised by the Secure Land Tenure Committee of the National Habitat Committee under the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development and the SDFN and NHAG by the middle of the previous decade. The lack of basic information needed by Local and Regional Authorities to identify the scope of land requirements and needs in urban areas remained a serious problem. At the National Housing Conference in 2006, the process and method of the SDFN and NHAG was adopted and nationalised resulting in the Community Land Information Programme (CLIP). This process started with the profiling of all the informal settlements in Namibia.

A total of 235 settlements in 110 urban and emerging urban areas were profiled. The results were published in March 2009 and it became the first complete national profile of informal settlements undertaken by a federation within SDI. The second phase, the full enumeration and mapping of households in these settlements started shortly after.  During this phase, the CLIP teams, again made up and led by community members from informal settlements set out to collect and analyse socio- economic data in 116 of the 235 informal settlements previously profiled. This would become the first full census of informal settlements in conducted in Namibia and based on a survey tool co-designed by the constituency to which it relates.


During these 4 years of the second phase of the CLIP process, more than 250 activities took place. From socio-economic data collection at the household level, mapping of settlements and structures, digitization and analysis of this data, to the feedback of findings and results, always through regional, national and international exchanges between CLIP Teams. Discussions and negotiations for upgrading options in four pilot towns, namely Gobabis, Grootfontein, Omaruru and Windhoek were also undertaken. For the first time community members from informal settlements sat together with local authorities to discuss upgrading options and improvements for their settlements based on the data they collected and the prioritised needs identifed through this process. In March 2014 the first Reblocking Community Studio took place in Freedom Square informal settlement, in the town of Gobabis. Community members and Local Authorities worked together on the design of a new layout for Freedom Square, with the support of the Polytechnic of Namibia, SDI and representatives of other Namibian towns.

In recognition that data collection is only part and the beginning of the process of negotiation and participation in prioritised development for both the community and their local city authorities, an official from the Omaruru town council likened CLIP to “klip” – which is a local word for stone or rock – only the first and yet foundation piece of building a house. Another likened it to the link between commutnites and their governments.

A great number of Namibians, half a million people, according to the CLIP data, are living in informal settlements as a consequence of the migration to urban areas in search of better living conditions. Community-led data collection complement the efforts of local and national government in generating the crucial data that is necessary to assess the true situation of informal settlements and provide a foundation for collaborative planning of urban areas. The results and processes of programmes like CLIP take governments and communities beyond awareness to understanding and action.




Academic Partnerships to Co-Produce Knowledge

SDI affiliates continued to work closely with academic institutions to co-produce knowledge through undertaking collective planning studios. SDI’s position is that these types of engagements expose students and academics to informal knowledge and conditions that call into question existing presumptions, planning frameworks, infrastructure standards and laws. Through this experience the capacity and knowledge of slum dwellers as capable actors in developing upgrading plans and precedents for their own communities is illustrated. Collective studios are the first step in training the next generation of planners who will one day become officials shaping the development and inclusivity of cities. If practical collaborative studios (between planners and the urban poor) become embedded in University curricula, inclusive planning practices can become the norm rather then the exception.

“In communities we know the number of settlements, services and origins of the people. We know how they spend their money and how they would like to develop their areas. You cannot plan from the office but if you go to the ground and speak to people and learn from them it can help you plan better.” – Katana Goretti, Ugandan Federation

Reforming the manner in which planning students are educated is one step towards shifting planning paradigms in Africa. On this basis SDI entered into a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with Assosiation of African Planning Schools (AAPS) in 2010, promoting co-operation between country affiliates and local planning schools. The MoU recognizes that the most effective way to change the mindsets of student planners is to offer direct experiential exposure to, and interaction with the conditions and residents of slums. In this manner students will be exposed to the value of informal knowledge and community participation in planning for settlement upgrading. During this period SDI affiliates and AAPS have conducted six collaborative planning studios in which students, staff, and urban poor communities engage directly in data collection, analysis, and the development of upgrading plans. Studios have taken place in Uganda, Malawi (two), South Africa, Kenya, and Namibia. In many cases local government officials have been invited to witness studio outputs and participate.

In Kampala, Uganda a studio with Makerere University planning students led to detailed reports reflecting informal challenges and upgrading plans that were submitted to local governments. During the studio the Ugandan Federation referred to themselves as “community professors.” Two concurrent studios took place in Blantyre and Mzuzu, Malawi. In Nancholi, Blantyre Federation members worked closed with the University of Malawi-Polytechnic to identify upgrading priorities and develop plans for improved circulation and drainage. In Salisbury Lines, Mzuzu, poor drainage and groundwater pollution were key priorities around which collective planning took place. In South Africa, students spent six months developing upgrading plans in conjunction with residents of Langrug informal settlement in Stellenbosch. In Gobabis, Namibia, students from the Polytechnic of Namibia undertook a site analysis of the Freedom Square informal settlement. Loraine, a community member from Block 5 in Freedom Square noted:

“The site analysis brought to light to how I see my surroundings. I learned how to use a GPS as we were doing the mapping. I also got to see which areas are suitable to build my house on and which aren’t, in order to avoid flooding, during the rainy season.”

It is important that studios become part of annual university curriculums, entrenching new approaches to planning over a sustained period and encouraging the participation of city governments. In all the aforementioned countries commitments have been made to replicate the studio process. Across the SDI network affiliates are exploring these types of engagements. For example a further studio recently took place between the Zambian affiliate and the University of Zambia in Lusaka. The municipality is looking at the possibility of implementing some of the proposals that emerged and has pledged to quicken the process of declaring the targeted settlement a legal residential area, as it is currently an illegal settlement under the 1975 Town and Country Planning Act.

In February 2013 a further planning studio was organised between the South African communities of Mshini Wam, Shukushukuma, and Ruo Emoh and architecture and planning students from the University of Melbourne to investigate new solutions for informal settlement upgrading and housing development. In Shukushukuma, plot sized placeholders were cut to scale and laid out on an aerial photograph. The location of visible infrastructure was mapped, such as electricity poles, toilet blocks, and water taps. The Mshini Wam group looked at alternative typologies for densification and formalisation after re-blocking projects. A visual fly through model was created, building on the new layout of re-blocked settlement.

During the year a German Agency for International Co-operation (GIZ) sponsored initiative was also undertaken to investigate the conditions for successful projects and partnerships between local government and urban poor communities. The report produced drew on experiences in Harare (Zimbabwe), Pune (India) and Kampala (Uganda) – locations that were visited by the investigating team. The team consisted of David Satterthwaite from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), Celine D’Cruz, an SDI Coordinator and co-founder of SPARC, and Sonia Fadrigo, a Core Monitoring Team member.

In 2013 SDI affiliates continue to consolidate partnerships with academic institutions with the goal of cementing collaborative efforts (e.g. planning studios) within university curriculums. SDI’s strategic medium term goals recognise the value of producing citywide data about informal settlements. Data can be used both to engage government and to assist in implementing projects that move beyond single settlements and tackle poverty at scale. Urban planners, architects, surveyors, and managers can, and must, play a vital role in critically engaging with this data. By accepting the validity of such data (and assisting in its co-production) academia can add both political and practical value increasing impact and scale.

To read more about SDI’s partnerships with academic institutions, check out our Annual Report. 


Reflections on the Southern African HUB Meeting: Lusaka, Zambia

Southern African HUB: Lusaka, Zambia

By Noah Schermbrucker, SDI Secretariat 

HUB meetings are gatherings that bring affiliates together to collectively set the agenda for the region. They are used as a mechanism to share collective learning, devise targeted support strategies (e.g. exchanges) for individual countries and concretize planning, on a regional scale, for the next period. The Southern African HUB recently took place in Lusaka, Zambia. Delegations from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Botswana and Malawi attended the 3-day meeting. A team from Uganda, who had recently hosted the East African HUB, participated in order to promote continuity. Ghana was also invited as the West African HUB has been indefinitely postponed due to the Ebola outbreak. 

Below find my reflections on the meeting. I hope that they provide some insights not only into SDI processes at a regional level but also the “nuts and bolts” of which this process is comprised. This is hence not an exhaustive description of the meeting but aims to give the reader a “practical flavor” of SDI’s work as it plays out in the interactions between slum dwellers, support professionals and government.

Day 1: Engagement with Ministry of Local Government, field visit to Garden Park community under threat of eviction (only some delegates) and meeting at Lusaka City Council (LCC).

The Zambians were clear that the first day’s agenda was about taking their process forward, especially in terms of achieving tangible outputs from government. South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Malawi and Ghana all stressed the actual outputs of their relationship with government to both the Ministry of Local Government and LCC. As was noted, “ An M.o.U with government is just a piece of paper unless it has actual tangible outputs attached”. 

Making the first day about taking the Zambian process really orientated us within local challenges and used the HUB as an instrument to open space with government for the Zambians (which they are now following up on). The Southern African HUB has previously been very “talk” orientated and not substantively relevant to the local process so this shift was refreshing to see. A trick that we missed out on was not inviting government officials from the countries attending as the Zambians felt that this would have deepened the impact in these engagements with government. As a federation member noted “governments like to talk to other governments”. 

Through the site visit to Garden Park, evictions were placed on the table as a key issue with the HUB committing (on the final day) that each federation will draft guidelines on evictions sharing their experiences and strategies used (this emerged out of a separate federation only session) 

Women from Garden Park, Lusaka, Zambia

Women from Garden Park meet to discuss eviction threat

Day 2: New Secretariat systems (L,M&E, New Secretariat structures) 

Day 2 was spent at the Zambian federation’s resource center in George compound with significant participation from the Zambian federation. Mara (from the SDI Secretariat) and Muturi (from the Core Team) did a fantastic job in taking everyone through some of the new systems developed by The Secretariat including the L, M &E worksheet and call for support. There was a vibrant discussion about these new systems and some very important suggestions made as to how they could be refined (e.g. definitions of certain terms such as “secure tenure” need to be clarified). These issues were noted and will be shared with the secretariat team.

A very critical issue was raised around the learning center and its role within the HUB, a number of people felt that the HUB itself was serving as the learning center. We need to think carefully about how the learning center fits into the HUB-especially in the case of Southern Africa were conditions and experiences in Cape Town are quite different to the rest of the countries. People felt strongly that different countries had different strengths (e.g. Namibia and Zimbabwe around collection of their savings number & indicators).

 Day 3: HUB Business

The day was focused on collecting country reports that were compiled previously by each country. These will be used to aggregate a set of Southern African HUB figures that can be taken to the Board & Council (B&C) meeting. Each country handed in their reports but then spoke about the “burning issues” and what support was needed. This led to suggestions for further exchanges that have been noted. The HUB also discussed progress made on exchanges decided at the B&C. In general this approach was well received as countries did not use up time providing long lists of figures but rather focused on the key issues that they wished to raise. The exact role and nature of the CORE team was also explained at length. 

Throughout the meeting the participation of members from Kenya, Uganda and Ghana was extremely helpful. Their insights were valuable and contributed to the discussions with government. The continuity between the East African HUB and this HUB was definitely beneficial and something that we could take forward.

An issue that emerged from some was how we can include more “voices” in the HUB and encourage everyone to participate and speak more fully. It seemed that when we broke into country teams it allowed for more even discussion and participation as opposed to just a few people speaking in the bigger forum.

A HUB report is currently being drafted by Zambia and will be shared shortly. 

Carrying Water Home in Chazanga, Lusaka

“Carrying” water home in Chazanga, Lusaka

Learning Differently: Community Planning Studio with AAPS in Namibia

AAPS Studio in Namibia

**Cross posted from Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia blog**

Following the first studio the community was anxious to embark on the second studio.  These studios have increased in importance considering the introduction of the Mass Housing initiative of the Government of Namibia; NHAG-SDFN proposed the participatory planning process of communities to be a cornerstone for informal settlement upgrading.  The second studio took place from 7 to 10 March 2014, involving the same group of town planning students from the Polytechnic of Namibia that participated in the first studio during September 2013, now doing layout planning as third year town planning students.  The learning during this studio was not limited to academic participants but included officials from the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, the Opuwo Mayor and Property Officer representing team members from the UN-Habitat Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme, a Community Development official from the City of Windhoek, and officials from the Gobabis Municipality.  Federation members from South Africa and all regions of Namibia, as well as a staff member from CORC with previous studio experiences in the network also participated in the weekend’s activities.

During the opening session of the second studio in the settlement, the students presented the proposed layout plans in the form of posters based on the findings of the site analysis.  The CEO of the Gobabis Municipality welcomed the participants, stressing the importance of settlement residents and the Municipality to start doing their homework to prepare the settlement for Mass Housing Programme that will benefit the settlement in the coming months.

’’The site analysis helped the community to look at improving the settlement.  We have to change the living standards in Freedom Square.  We wanted water, toilets and electricity and land.  During the feedback discussions with the municipality, it was indicated that water lines can be extended in the settlement.  Waste management was also an important issue that was identified by the residents.  Since the last studio, we have more people migrating into Freedom Square and settling with family members, but not a lot of new shacks are being built.” Rufus Mbathera, community participant as part of the Freedom Square overview of the previous studio during the opening session. 

The community experienced flooding the Friday night and requested a visit to the affected areas.  A walk through the settlement therefore preceded the planning session by inspecting the recently flooding area, which was indicated on the map using GPS.  The town planning lecturer explained the drainage pattern on the settlement map, which the community needed to consider when looking at the drainage pathways and proposed road layout for the settlement.

AAPS Studio in Namibia

Thus for the design, participants had to take the current roads and water catchment areas into consideration.  During the site analysis of the first studio, community members discussed how the water runs southwards from Block 9, which is on higher ground, down to Block 1 and 2.  One of the barriers to the natural flow of rain water in the settlement was the weir stockpiled by the municipality to prevent cars from taking a shortcut through the area.  This restrained the natural flow of the water, causing the water to collect at the lower parts in Block 1.  This was identified as a huge problem as the area is occupied by households which are normally flooded during the rainy session.  During the previous studio the community members also talked about the seasonal migration that takes place within the settlement when houses relocate to avoid flooding and as it was very heavy rainy season the damage caused by the rain was evident and some households already relocated their structures.

AAPS Studio in Namibia

Maureen, a federation member from South African emphasised the importance for a proper layout: ‘’ambulances and police can get easier access into and out of the settlement if there are problems , this is important for safety and security of the residents” she said.

Sanitation options were explained by the Gobabis Community Development Officer, when sharing the Local Authority’s experience with alternative sanitation in Kanaan, the informal settlement bordering on the north-eastern side of Freedom Square.  Due to high water tables in the area and the absence of proper management the dry sanitation installed in this area was not found to be feasible.

The need for major access routes, social spaces and stormwater management and the needs of the elderly were discussed within the various smaller block groupings formed during the site analysis (first studio).  The initial exercise considered the entire settlement to establish a broader development framework.  Some groups were eager to verify of the structures in the blocks, whereby the need was emphasised to start focus on how the individual block design will fit into the larger settlement.  Community members indicated major access routes and roads, meeting areas, hazards and major flooding areas in the settlement.  Each group presented their outcomes on the bigger settlement map.

‘’We should put ourselves in the shoes of the elderly, they should point out the routes they use to go to town, clinic or to the shops, so that when the roads come, they maintain the current movement routes in the settlement.’’ Student participant

Urban agriculture was raised by Block 8 and 9 on the northern edge of settlement and Block 1 and 2 in the south western corner, when considering the planning for the establishment of community gardens, in response to the natural flow of water in the settlement.  In Block 9 this will act as a catchment area for water flowing from the high part of the settlement located on the foot of the hill, and in Block 1 & 2 the garden will be located on the lower side of the settlement prone to flooding.  The produce from the garden will be used to feed the elderly and the orphans in the settlement.

The location of shebeens in the settlement caused heated debates covering aspects of registration, ongoing noise through all hours of the day and night, while acknowledging it as a source of income and hence the need for suitable locations.

Reblocking and layouts continued on Sunday in the teams comprising community members, town planning students and professional staff according to the demarcated blocks in the settlement.  Due to threatening weather conditions it was decided to move the “community office under the tree” to the Epako community hall after lunch.  All was amazed that even more community members turned up to complete the designs for their blocks.  Each group presented its layout in preparation for presentation at the official closing session on the Monday morning. 

AAPS Studio in Namibia

The second studio was closed on Monday in the presence of various dignitaries, including the Ambassador to Spain, Regional and Local Authority Councillors, while the keynote address of the Deputy Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development was delivered by the Acting Director of Housing, Habitat and Technical Services Coordination.  The community presented their layouts and designs to the guests. 

‘’You, as members of the community, are key in the successes of the programme, without you it would not be possible.  You are the ones that guide the process with the support of the implementing agencies.’’ Spanish Ambassador, Her Excellency Diaz Orejas

‘’It is important that we came together to do the planning as the community, but it is also important to share what we have learnt with the rest of the community, those not present at the meeting.’’ Charlie, Freedom Square community member

Future sustainability through income generation and recycling: Community shares experiences with South Africans

Sunday morning started off with a frenzy of discussions and demonstration of income generating projects, with the focus on bead making using paper and urban agriculture and planting of herbs.  Maureen informed participants of the many herbs that can be used for healing – mint in tea, cinnamon and lavender to help with sleep.  ‘’All this different types of herbs can be planted in a small space in your yard’’.

To learn more about SDI’s studios with AAPS you can attend our event at the World Urban Forum in Medellin, Colombia, “Planning Differenlty: Community Based Slum Upgrading Studios” on Wednesday 9 April from 2:00-4:00pm in the Yellow Pavilon, Room 12

Building Partnerships Between the Urban Poor & the City


**Cross-posted from the SA SDI Alliance Blog**

By Walter Fieuw, CORC

“This is a dream come true in bringing City Councils and communities around a table to talk about possibilities of city-wide informal settlement upgrading,” said Jerry Adlard, the facilitator of the 9th November learning event organised by South African, Namibian and Malawian poor people’s movements aligned to Shack/Slum Dwellers International. Paired with these words, was the call for honest reflection on the objective, structure, achievements, lessons learnt and challenges of unfolding partnerships in the cities of Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Ethekwini, Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg, Windhoek and Lilongwe. The learning event was preceded by two days of site visits to re-blocking, sanitation and relocation projects in the City of Cape Town and Stellenbosch Municipality.

How do various actors implicated in urban development build partnerships to ensure pro-poor and inclusive cities? Contemporary African cities are juxtaposed with multiple layers of social, political, economic and environmental realities, which in many ways are aggravated by its colonial past. On the one hand, cities are the spaces of aspiration, innovation and drivers of social change, and on the other, social polarisation, poverty, conflict and environmental degradation narrate the conditions of large portions of city dwellers. In an age that is characterised by urbanisation, said to transform the cities of Africa, Asia and Latin America, there is arguably never been a time where effective partnerships are more needed.

In many cases, slum dwellers are taking the lead in building partnerships with local authorities with the view to significantly influence the way slum upgrading is conceptualised and operationalised. The full participation of slum dwellers in upgrading programmes is central to meeting the outcomes of sustainable human settlements, tending towards social (and political) change. For instance, slum dwellers of the Homeless People’s Federation of Malawi influenced the Lilongwe City Council’s bureaucracy through its large scale enumeration project which involved churches, tribal chieftaincies and other community based organisations (Lilongwe slums span municipal boundaries and averages in sizes of 50,000 residents). This inclusive project resulted in a shift on the part of the City Council from treating urban development as homogeneous to rural development. The establishment of the Informal Settlement Unit, a department which reports directly to the Mayor, was the result of effective lobbying on the part of the urban poor. This partnership illustrates the limitations of technocrats and the possibilities of communities initiating their own developmental priorities.

In Windhoek, the partnership between the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN), City of Windhoek and the Polytech is challenging the limitations to transformation implicated in the inherited colonial land use management norms. Space for policy innovation is opening where the contribution and full participation of informal settlements are at the plinth.

Partnerships unfolding in South Africa through the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) and Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) were also discussed at length. Some of the overarching achievements to date have included pilot projects in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and the mining belt in Ekurhuleni whereby communities successfully re-blocked (e.g. Ruimsig (CoJ) and Sheffield Road (CoCT)), installed drainage (Masilunghe (CoCT)), and resettled (Langrug (Stellenbosch) and Lwazi Park (CoCT)). Innovation through upgrading is challenging the enduring (mis)conceptions associated to the subsidised housing paradigm which only looked after the interests of the nucleus family. The SA Alliance’s aspirations for establishing city-wide Urban Poor Funds – funding facilities that support the initiatives of poor communities – have also partially realised when communities successfully leveraged funds from the Stellenbosch Municipality in financing the relocation project and associated service provision.

The institutionalisation of partnerships for city-wide upgrading initiatives is underway. Reports were heard from city officials and community leaders of respective cities. As communities penetrate the seemingly perceived ‘iron towers’ of city bureaucracy and build effective partnerships that influence budgetary allocation and prioritisation, the emphases are shifting from ‘control’ to ‘participation’.

Delegates argued that if the partnership cannot affect political will, for instance to transform the ward councillor structure (in the SA case), then there is no real power to promote the upgrading agenda. One of the Namibian delegates remarked:

“There is a problem to talk about the poor’s ‘self-reliance’ when the issue actually lies with the state’s orientation. Political space is opened to engage around delivery priorities and this is a two-way process; both the state needs to be held accountable, and citizens, demanding basic human rights, need to be proud and organised. One of the main reasons why the partnerships fail to deliver is that the departments don’t understand the difference between upgrading and housing delivery”.

National Facilitator of the Namibian Federation Awarded UN-Habitat Scroll of Honour

SDFN Centre in Hakana, Windhoek

SDI, the Namibia Housing Action Group and the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia are pleased to share the news that Edith Mbanga, a member of the People Square Saving group and the National Facilitator of the Federation was awarded the 2011 UN-Habitat Scroll of Honour, the most prestigious award given by the United Nations in recognition of work carried out in the field of human settlements development. The aim of the award is to honour individuals and institutions instrumental in improving the living conditions in urban centres around the world  The World Habitat Awards recognize innovative, sustainable and replicable human settlement projects through out the world. As stated by UN-Habitat:

Ms. Edith Mbanga is personally awarded for her outstanding efforts to improve land access and housing for the poor. Her work has been of special benefit to women living in poverty. Over many years, since the early 1990s she has helped set up various savings and support groups, which she helped into a national network under the Federation. Through her dedication, it is today the largest member-driven organization in the country. Thanks to her drive and energy, today there are over 600 savings groups in Namibia with an estimated 20 thousand members, 65 per cent of whom are women. The Federation has helped more than 4,000 poor households secure land, more than 2,000 build new homes.

SInce 1998, the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN) has been using SDI methodology to mobilize residents of informal settlements, empowering women to work with local and state government to secure access to affordable, secure shelter and basic services. Thirteen years later, SDFN has over six hundred savings groups spread across the country and daily savings of over US$1.4 million. One of their many accomplishments is the completion of the Community Land Information Program (CLIP), in which all informal settlements nationwide were profiled by the SDFN members living there. The self-knowledge gained through the profiling process empowers the community, highlighting their strengths and needs, and putting valuable data in the hands of the shack dweller community. 

For a full list of award recipients, click here.

To learn more about the SDI Alliance in Namibia, click here for the affiliate page, and here for blog posts.