Slum Dwellers & Students Planning Partnership in Kitui, Kenya

Community members helping to locate spatial issues@Baraka MwauBy Baraka Mwau (Studio Facilitator) for CURI / SDI / AAPS


The Kenya partnership of Slum Dwellers International-Kenya Affiliate and Centre of Urban Research and Innovations (CURI)-University of Nairobi (UoN) commenced field activities for the Kitui Learning studio in the first quarter of this year. The studio is part of a broader collaborative programme implemented by Slum Dwellers International and the Association of African Planning Schools under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the two organizations, “in order to promote initiatives, plans and policies which encourage pro-poor and inclusive cities and towns in Africa.” Through this framework, the partners have previously implemented similar studios in Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and Namibia.

The ongoing collaborative studio programme is financed by Cities Alliance through the Catalytic Fund (CATF) of 2014, under the theme “Creating Momentum for Change through Innovative Information Generation and Engagement at the City Level in Africa”.  Besides Kenya, there are other three learning studios running under this fund in Namibia, Zambia, and Uganda. These learning studios are designed to build partnerships between informal settlement residents, local planning schools, and local government.

Drawing from past experiences, the Kenya partnership designs and executes these studios in a way that sets a foundation for future engagement in order to build on the positive outcomes that stakeholders find important to sustain over a longer period, beyond the planned studio period. This is interpreted as a strategy to manage community expectations that arise during the studio process. In doing so, more sustainable platforms of co-production and collaboration among various stakeholders are nurtured.

The Kenya partnership has been working together on similar projects, including a studio in Mathare Valley and undertaking a joint research project in Mukuru informal settlements in Nairobi. Previously, these projects focused on individual informal settlements, and as observed, they also targeted informal settlements located in Nairobi, Kenya’s largest city.

However, following access to the CATF, the Kenya partnership has up-scaled focus to the municipal-wide scale and introduced studio activities to intermediate cities, the first being Kitui. It should be noted that intermediate cities and small towns dominate the geographical distribution of urban centers (in terms of their numbers) in Kenya, and their increasing aggregate population is significant in reducing Nairobi’s primacy-the city accounted for 33 percent of Kenya’s urban population in 2014.  For example, Kitui is the administrative capital and the largest urban centre of Kitui County, with a population reported as 109,568 people.

Kalundu Street@Baraka Mwau

Kenya’s intermediate cities like Kitui face similar challenges, though at a different scale, as those experienced by the large cities. These include: inadequate or total absence of formal urban planning and design, inadequate infrastructure and housing, environmental degradation and urban sprawl, informal settlements, and weak urban economies. Nevertheless, these towns are anticipated to feature prominently in the structural transformation expected due to urbanization across the country, hence the renewed focus on intermediate cities and small towns.

From October to December 2015, the Kenya partnership engaged in preparatory activities for the implementation of the Kitui learning studio. This resulted in a joint work plan for engaging the informal settlement communities and the county government of Kitui. Besides the overarching objectives of training planning students and enhancing community participation in planning, the Kenya studio will also contribute towards generating basic data on informal settlements of Kitui (as a baseline survey); engage stakeholders in developing a concept for town-wide informal settlements strategy; and engage stakeholders in participatory planning sessions for select precincts in order to demonstrate various planning and design options for intervention. The studio will also focus on various aspects of the town’s informal economy and will build on ongoing planning and development interventions in the town.

On the 5th of February 2016, the partnership held a meeting with the Kitui County Ministry of Lands, Infrastructure & Urban Development, with the aim of introducing the studio to government and to seek buy-in from government. This meeting was a major milestone for the studio. Led by the Chief Officer in charge of lands, infrastructure and urban development, the Ministry welcomed the project and pledged support to the process, including assigning a planning officer as a studio focal point. The county government pointed-out the relevance of the studio in strengthening community participation and collaborative environment for government-community engagements for informal settlements improvement and overall, in enhancing equitable urban development.

After the successful meeting with the county government, the studio team embarked on community mobilization to prepare for collaborative data generation. This culminated in the formation of community planning teams and a data collection exercise that ran for two weeks in March, covering the 5 town’s major informal settlements (Kalundu, Majengo, Kunda-Kindu, Mjini & Mosquito), ‘pockets’ of informal settlements, and major market areas, including informal street markets. The two-week exercise included the active involvement of planning students and academic staff of the University of Nairobi, an urban planner from SDI Kenya, community leaders, research assistants, the studio facilitator and, young planning professionals (as studio assistants) in consultation with county government’s focal point officer.

The field work entailed training of community members who later teamed up with students to form a joint field team to: administer household questionnaires and profile questionnaires in settlements and markets; perform settlement mapping, photography and sketching; conduct interviews with key informants and targeted focused group discussions. Prior to conducting the field work, students had reviewed some background information, including documentation of recent planning processes in the town.

Majengo Streets-Open spaces for Children@Baraka Mwau (2)

The benefits of this critical phase of the studio did not only accrue to students, but also to community members. Among other lessons, students were exposed to practical, diverse issues of the country’s urban context that are generally not taught in the classroom. For instance, they were able to get a more realistic picture of the housing conditions in Kitui – rather than the stereotypical shacks, Kitui’s informal settlements are characterized by sub-standard housing made of brick walls and an evident heterogeneous spatial-economic landscape defines what the town regards as informal settlements.

On the other hand, the community members also gained a lot from the learning process. For a number of community members who supported the data collection this was their first opportunity to interact with geographical information such as satellite images and maps, a process that evidently impacted on their perceptions of what urban planning means to informal settlements. Additionally, it was evident that the focused group discussions facilitated deeper engagement on various issues facing the communities and the town as a whole.

After the successful joint data collection exercise, the studio participants will move on to data analysis, compilation of lessons learnt, and preparing for engagement around the data findings with the communities and county government.

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.

From Processes to Outcomes: Community-Driven Solutions to Finance, Planning & Politics

Jockin Arputham & Mayor Sidego

SDI President, Mr. Jockin Arputham (Right), signs MoU with Mr. Conrad Sidego, Mayor of Stellenbosch Municipality, in Langrug settlement, South Africa. 

Our network of urban poor federations has, over almost two decades, pioneered community organization strategies that are able to influence formal authorities in an age of quickening city growth. SDI’s “ten cities” program over the past three years has made clear the terms of engagement for building cities that include the poor. The link between the “hard” outcomes of infrastructure accessibility and economic opportunity, and the “soft” processes of planning and decision-making for provision of such infrastructure is the chief driver of urban development today.

The urban poor federations and professional NGOs that comprise the SDI network now have a set of experiences that speak to the main challenges that persist in engaging the link of processes and outcomes. We understand these challenges through three major themes of finance, planning, and politics. 


We have learned that financing shelter for the poor is about much more than mobilizing the resources for increasing access to land, services and housing. Most important is developing the systems for delivering projects and scaling up projects that make this finance meaningful. The urban poor federations in the SDI network have used the basic unit of the savings group as the means of building financial capacity in order to impact project planning and political capacity internally. The lessons from these experiences implicate persistent trends towards highly rational top-down project financing for city development.

Our approach to evaluating calls for funds from individual affiliates has always emphasized the need for projects to leverage: (a) funds from external sources, in addition to SDI’s Urban Poor Fund International (UPFI), and (b) relationships with formal authorities that extend the voice of the urban poor in planning and decision-making. This report shows how thinking about the financial equation of urban development in this way changes the ways in which projects actually get delivered.

When SDI federations have tried out alternative development financing approaches with government authorities they trigger new relationships that can scale up project delivery at citywide scale. For example, in Pune, authorities were utilizing funds for informal settlement upgrading projects that often could not reach their promised delivery outcomes. Both grassroots leaders in Mahila Milan and bureaucratic officials acknowledge that it has not been the lack of allocated funds that made projects often fail to get off the ground. Instead, the primary impediments were the top-down mechanisms for using the funds that excluded community priorities and voices.

So the Indian Alliance worked to build partnerships with government programs to demonstrate through practice how these institutions can be better designed to put more of the financial management and decision-making in a joint relationship with informal settlement community leadership. Now the Indian Alliance has been able to make federated groups of women-led savings groups in Mahila Milan an intermediary institutional mechanism for large-scale delivery of upgraded informal settlements, especially in terms of provision of housing and communal toilets. 

IMG_1024 IMG_1022


We have learned that planning is not just about policies and physical designs on paper. Most important are the specific institutional designs and relationships through which physical planning interventions occur.  By building accountable and strategic leadership at the citywide level, urban poor federations in the SDI network are creating an institutional mechanism through which development decision-making can change meaningfully. These experiences suggest that governments, especially at the city level, need to focus on supporting and engaging the mobilization of urban poor communities to represent themselves and network across the city. Once informal settlement communities have strong, accountable leadership and network across the city, they are able to put forth an articulate vision with authentic grassroots backing. Likewise, governments are enabled to orient development decision-making to incorporate better the priorities of urban poor communities, and to counter-balance much more dominant actors that drive urban growth.



One approach has been to scale up community planning activities, such as profiling, enumeration, and mapping, to regional and citywide scale. For example, in Kenya, communities have linked across the Mathare Valley in Nairobi to enumerate every household. Further, they have documented the exact availability of public services across this major informal region of the city. These activities have allowed Muungano wa Wanavijiji, the Kenyan federation, to bring together communities to link with University of Nairobi, and University of California — Berkeley, to develop a joint “zonal plan” for upgrading the entire Mathare Valley. Now, Muungano is beginning to sit with local authorities to see how the institutional environment can best be mobilized to achieve this plan.

Building institutional capacity to deliver on the promise of inclusive governance remains a major challenge as SDI gains a wider and richer set of experiences in working citywide. For example, in Kampala, Uganda, the National Slum Dweller Federation of Uganda has negotiated a joint Kampala Community Development Fund in which the Kampala City Council and the Federation sit together to manage funds specifically earmarked for informal settlement upgrading. The fund is growing in terms of available finance, and the governance of the fund proves to be the major growing pain, in order to respond to the acute demand for upgrading projects that the Federation is articulating.


We have learned that very significant impact for SDI urban poor federations occurs through policy changes. Projects and political relationships have to be geared towards enabling significant policy reform in order to make development processes more inclusive of the poor. Over the past year, urban poor federations in SDI have been able to achieve various key policy shifts. These changes have been possible because a mass mobilization of informal settlement residents has called for them and proven their viability through federation-led projects.

Indeed, the challenge here is to innovate through practice, and then to institutionalize the learning that occurs. In Cape Town, South Africa, the South African SDI Alliance now has multiple precedent-setting projects for “re-blocking” dense informal settlements. This approach to community-based design of shack alignments, has generated new community leadership structures, and enabled the city government to install basic services for residents. And this is in settlements where the government had initially planned to relocate large percentages of residents because the neighborhood was deemed too dense for upgrading. 

Sheffield Road, Cape Town

The South African Alliance has utilized a formal partnership with the City of Cape Town to make the case that these pilot approaches to in situ upgrading of informal settlements can be scaled up to the city level. And the city has responded. Now the city council has approved a new policy on “re-blocking” citywide. This emphasizes both the need to redevelop informal settlements in their current physical location and the extent to which influential participation of the community is a prerequisite for successful implementation of such a physical intervention. 

Mshini Wam Site Visit

Mshini Wam Site Visit

This article highlights the lessons of SDI’s work to trigger city development processes that are more inclusive of the poor. In our 2012 / 2013 Annual Report, we begin to uncover the process of learning that is taking place within the network for impacting the flows of finance, planning, and politics that drive urban development. The lessons learned are the basis of a poor people’s agenda for triggering the relationships between the poor and formal authorities that will produce more inclusive city growth. 



The Practicalities of a Social Movement | Kambi Moto, Kenya

Kambi Moto Housing Project

By Noah Schermbrucker, SDI Secretariat 

Many development narratives provide theoretical analysis and debate based on community orientated social movements. While such analysis is interesting as an academic and theoretical exercise it often overlooks the practicalities of day-to-day processes and the resultant infrastructure developments in favour of a more abstracted reading.

How exactly do communities manage infrastructure projects?  How do they secure land and finance, procure affordable building materials, organize construction, secure assistance from the state, plan for long-term sustainability and negotiate the daily challenges of project management. Make no mistake; communities are more than capable of building their own infrastructure, especially if this process is “nested” within a mobilized and organised social movement.

Over the coming weeks I will provide examples of SDI federation members describing the trials and achievements of managing their own infrastructure projects. These snippets are intended to provide insight into the practicalities of the process illustrating examples and experiences that resonate across the SDI network. We begin with the case of Kambi-Moto in Kenya, described by federation member Joseph Muturi.

I will just share some experiences from Kenya. We have several projects but the biggest project which we have is Kambi-Moto (Camp of Fire) community of about 270 families. After many years of negotiating we got a piece of a land from the city council and an MoU showing that the land is a special planning area. They gave us free land and we came up with unique designs and they have not been done anywhere in Kenya before. We got some money from our savings and from some donors (UPFI). We do not get any money from the government. We do not enjoy the kind of support from the government you get in Uganda – so we have to negotiate everything ourselves. Our NGO subsidized and gave us the technical people – then everyone had to dream and draw the kind of house they wanted (women, men, children). The architects and professionals take these drawings and take into account affordability, if possible… 

Kambi Moto Housing Project

We came up with the design – ground +1. We go up to save space and we share walls. As a federation our responsibility was to figure out how we are going to manage the site. We have a community Procurement Manual – how do we go about the business of procuring materials so what we did was to look at what we need for the next few weeks. They sit down and work it out – we send community people and we get quotations from different suppliers of materials, then we sit down and look at who is offering the best deal and will deliver on time. The procurement team and the construction team ensure the quality of the materials (quantity and standards). Sometimes people were bringing their friends and delivering less material…. We try to make things transparent and easy to manage.

For us we do not withdraw all the money. The executive draws money and gives it to the construction team and they pass this on to the procurement team.  We need to sit down with the professionals who tell us for the next few weeks what we need and what we have to do. They can guide us and give us good advice. 

The project management committee is at the regional level [in Uganda] – in Kenya it is at the local level. It comprises the beneficiaries of the houses – the only external people are the engineers, architects and other external people. They sit down and discuss things and the way forward every few weeks – the project team is at the site and its people who are locally available. The other advantage of having a local team on site is that we do not have outsiders to blame for our mess – we only have each other to blame. The construction team does weekly revue meetings – how far has the project progressed and how long it will take. The construction teams have a list of all the beneficiaries – they have to work themselves or pay someone to work for them.  This process is taking a long time so now we are getting some subsidy contractors from within the community.

The more you expand and grow the more the challenges will grow-we will learn as we go along. This is just a basic framework of how we procure. Executive-finances, Construction-building and the Procurement team that is completely separate and buys the materials. We have community procurement manual – basic steps to go through and how we should go through the business of procuring.

Densification of Harare’s Dzivarasekwa Extension

DZ Extension Report

Dzivareasekwa Extension (DZ Ext.), located 18km west of Harare, Zimbabwe, was established by the government in 1993. Originally, over 2,000 families resided here. Today, DZ Ext. is home to 450 families living in semi-permanent structures built from materials including brick and mortar, wood, polythene and sheet metal. Communal toilets service sanitation needs, and water is provided from 3 boreholes located throughout the settlement. DZ Ext. is located on state-owned land allocated to the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation in 2007 by the Ministry of Local Government Rural and Urban Development. 

In January 2012, an architecht from SDI, Greg Bachmayer, worked with the Zimbabwe Federation and support NGO Dialogue on Shelter (DOS) on a slum upgrading project in DZ Ext. This was an opportunity to develop new affordable housing models that could sustainably increase the density and the status-quo. The attached report provides insight into the techincal and social processes involved in such a project, as well as a vision of the road that lies ahead for the project’s completion. 

Click here to read the report.