SDI case studies featured in the UCLG GOLD Report

SDI case studies from across the network have been featured in the latest United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) sixth edition of the GOLD Report

The report was jointly produced by UCLG and Knowledge in Action for Urban Equality (KNOW). The report aims to understand the state of urban and territorial inequalities worldwide and call for a step change in local and regional governments’ place in tackling the global challenge. 

Over the past year, SDI has worked across our network to add to knowledge bases in informal settlement upgrading, urban sanitation equality and resilience. Several case studies from our network feature in the report, which has now been published.

Read the full report here

SDI Case Studies 

Experiences in informal settlement upgrading: Zimbabwe & Namibia

Two cases of community-driven informal settlement upgrading were exemplified in Freedom Square, an informal settlement in Gobabis, Namibia and Dzivarasekwa Extension, and an informal settlement in Harare, Zimbabwe.

In Gobabis, the Community Land Information Program is utilised by the community to drive data collection with the methodology which was developed by the Namibian SDI alliance to obtain community-driven enumeration and mapping data. This they use to negotiate alternatives to proposed relocations by their municipality. The negotiations resulted in no families being relocated from their sites and a total of 1110 households obtained land, totalling 4173 inhabitants in total.

In Harare, the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation, Dialogue on Shelter for the Homeless Trust, the City of Harare and the Central Government are all working together to ensure the construction is ongoing to secure land for 480 families. These families are the primary beneficiaries of land for housing development to ensure secure tenure and the provision of adequate water and sanitation facilities among a range of other essential services.

READ MORE: Voicing the urban poor: New report highlights experiences from an energy justice programme

Developing pathways to urban sanitation equality – a case study of the simplified sewerage solution in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania 

The Centre for Community Initiatives (CCI) in Tanzania, funded by SDI and UCL, implemented simplified sewerage systems as a pilot in Mji Mpya – Vinguguti in Ilala Municipality in the city of Dar-es-Salaam. The sewerage systems are a sewerage network constructed using smaller diameter pipes laid at a shallow depth and a flatter gradient than conventional sewers. Currently, there are 170 toilets which have been connected to the simplified sewerage network which also feeds into waste ponds for processing. 

The project highlights the importance of community participation, the critical need for collaboration of actors, the great opportunity for the utility to scale up the innovations and the crucial role of the local government in the processes.

Find these and other case studies are featured in the latest UCLG GOLD VI Report. 

Read the full report here

Sanitation Partnerships: Zimbabwe Federation work with Chinhoyi Municipality to Co-produce New Sanitation Options

Chinhoyi Federation members

By His Worship the Mayor of Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation and Dialogue on Shelter

This month slum dwellers and government officials from Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi met in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe for the annual Sanitation and Hygiene Applied Research for Equity (SHARE) meeting.  The meeting focused on exploring options to deliver affordable sanitation services to the poorest urban citizens. It became clear that the sheer scale of sanitation need demands a “toolkit” of options that are collectively affordable, replicable and built using established partnerships with local authorities.

While communities can explore what is possible through collective action and precedent setting projects it is ultimately local government’s mandate to deliver services. The development and improvement of partnerships between urban poor communities and authorities are needed in order for policies to address urban poor conditions.  Urban poor communities in the SDI network seek to build incremental partnerships with local government to show the value of community participation in sanitation slum upgrading projects. This demonstrates the capacity of well-organised communities and challenges antiquated norms, standards and policies. Over time these partnerships have the potential for scaling up activities across cities.

During the meeting His Worship the Mayor of Chinhoyi, Test Michaels, reflected on the partnership with the local Federation noting how the engagement has been scaled up over time and opened a dialogue around alternative technologies and the collective rehabilitation and delivery of public toilets.

See full speech below.

                       Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 3.52.57 PM                                                                                                                   Chinhoyi emblem

Water and Sanitation Dialogue – Building citywide sanitation strategies from the bottom-up

3 – 5 June 2014, Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe

Ladies and Gentlemen

I would like to start by thanking and congratulating Shack/Slum Dwellers International, the alliance of Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation and Dialogue on Shelter and my council for organizing this conference. Thank you to the communities of Chinhoyi for your support and cooperation towards this noble cause. I would also like to thank all our friends in development from South Africa, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, Namibia, and the United Kingdom. Your presence makes a big difference to us and we hope you will have a nice and productive experience here in Chinhoyi.

This meeting is an attempt to create dialogue amongst stakeholders in development, especially around finding lasting solutions for sustainable service delivery in our urban areas across the country. As you may be aware, that Zimbabwe as a country has passed through a decade long period of recessive socio-economic and political landscape, which on its own has crippled the operations of all local authorities, Chinhoyi Municipality included. The same period has also seen the introduction and realisation of community led development approaches and the opening of development space for Community Based Organisations (CBOs).

I am also indebted to my previous councils for moving out of the comfort zone and thinking outside the box by allowing the piloting with alternative technologies. Much as it is appreciated that the urban bye-laws are there to govern the implementation of urban development, there has been a mismatch between factors such as the affordability level of residents, increasing populations and the policies. Chinhoyi municipality made a deliberate move to relax some of those inhibiting policies and enter into development agreements with community movements and cooperatives. One such example of such a partnership is the Brundish Housing Project, a project that is being implemented by Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation with Dialogue on Shelter’s technical support. The project is the first in Chinhoyi to use non-conventional infrastructure with council approval and I am happy to share with you that the decision has been so rewarding both in terms of experiences and lessons. We have hosted over five local authorities that have visited the Brundish project with a view to learn about how alternatives can both speed up housing delivery and also provides a sustainable solution to various obstacles that affect service delivery. The project employed alternative infrastructure technologies such as boreholes, for water supply and ecosan toilets for sanitation provision. We are also grateful for the support that has been rendered by SDI through their local affiliates, the Federation and Dialogue on Shelter, for facilitating this learning process and sharing of experiences

Chinhoyi mayor

The relationship between my council, the Federation and communities at large has grown both in breadth and depth of activities to which this gathering can be appended to that fact. The parties are now looking at sustainable ways of providing water and sanitation services to the poorest at an affordable cost. My council have been involved in discussions geared towards covering research gaps in the provision of sanitation using an approach which utilises the beneficiaries as key drivers. As policy makers, we appreciate the value of ecological sanitation systems and will continue to work closely with communities to ensure that issues of inclusivity and costs are adequately attended to. I have been informed that the council has pencilled a discussion on possible adopting of the ecosan toilet as part of policy. Embracing such practices at policy level will obviously to add value to investment and assure certainty in the development process.

As we are gathered here, let us all be reminded that the urban challenges that are bedevilling our cities have far much out grown our individual capacities and are continuing in becoming complex. The best option at the moment is to forge synergies and form partnerships, and work as a collective respecting each other’s capacities. It is only through a participatory process that we are be able to sustainably address gaps in service delivery and housing provision. We stand to achieve more through a collective process which recognises and respects communities as equal partners in development. As we deliberate on the issues, let us be informed by realities but think beyond our personal limitations and being cognisant that development is a process with a number of players.

In this partnership, we share an ambitious goal, which is to understand obstacles to sanitation development and attempt to offer approaches that can overcome them on a city wide scale. In our discussions, lets looks at the challenges experienced by current approaches to urban sanitation and objectively try to develop and test new ideas especially their potential their capacity for replication. We learnt some of the limitations of our sophisticated mechanised treatment plants and the shortage for water has further compounded the situation

We look forward to sharing our progress with you and learning from your experiences in your respective countries. The Chinhoyi partnership has shown that it is capable of playing a leading role and can initiative programs and projects to improve living conditions using a bottom up approach.

We have recently finalised our Water and Sanitation Situational Report which provides the baseline information collected through profiles and enumeration exercises. We look towards strengthening our working partnerships and make it more inclusive by having more stakeholders. Some summary profile reports are available for your perusal. Our strategic action plans are based assessing the built precedents and their scope to be taken city wide.

Finally, I would like to extend my special thanks to Municipality of Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation and Dialogue on Shelter staff who have worked very hard to prepare this event and make this meeting a productive and inspiring forum for us all. 

I wish you all fruitful deliberations.

Know Your City: Discussing Community-Collected Data at World Urban Forum 7

Know Your City

By Ariana MacPherson, SDI Secretariat 

There has been a lot of discussion at this week’s World Urban Forum about the use of data as a key tool in the development of inclusive, sustainable cities. Key to this discussion is how data can be used in the cities of Africa, Asia and Latin America, most of which still face major challenges around urban poverty and whose city development strategies, for the most part, continue to exclude the large majority of these cities’ populations – the urban poor. But yesterday at SDI’s networking event, a strategically different approach to data was presented and discussed. The Know Your City campaign – a global campaign for gathering citywide data on slums as the basis for inclusive partnerships between the urban poor and their local governments – was presented as a critical component of the push for urban data. When communities of the urban poor collect data about their own communities, in partnership with their local and national governments, they are armed with the necessary tools to become key players in the development of strategies of urban development that take into account the realities and needs of the city’s urban poor majority.

In our networking event, delegates from SDI-affiliated urban poor federations and support NGOs, the SDI Secretariat, and key international networks and agencies discussed the importance of this campaign in greater detail. Jack Makau of the SDI Secretariat spoke on the history of SDI’s data collection strategies. SDI-affiliated federations of the urban poor have been collecting information about themselves for decades. This data has led to upgrading projects in affiliates across Africa, Asia and Latin America, and has formed the basis of large-scale slum upgrading interventions in India, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya and more recently, Uganda. 

Know Your City

In the last year, however, the SDI network has begun to standardize and aggregate this data in a way that we have not been able to before. This means that urban poor communities have expanded their scope – from collecting data only about the settlements where they live, to collecting data on all the slum settlements in their cities. This includes demographic, spatial and economic information that allows for a picture of the whole city – data that can be used to drive communities’ negotiations with local government for slum upgrading and development at the citywide scale. The accuracy and ownership of the data is enhanced because it is collected and used by communities in discussions with city governments on upgrading plans and programs, meaning that the communities themselves have a greater stake in the need for accurate, up-to-date information.

Know Your City

These claims were supported by the experiences of SDI affiliates from Kenya and Zimbabwe. Catherine Sekai, national leader of the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation, related that the Federation, alongside their local authority, “profiled the entire city of Harare, settlement by settlement” to identify peoples’ needs on the ground. This led to the transfer of land by the city to the communities for the construction of upgraded houses in Dzivaresekwa Extension, one of Harare’s largest slums.

Know Your City

Another example of the power of community-collected data came from Irene Karanja, executive director of Muungano Support Trust, support NGO to the Kenyan urban poor federation Muungano wa Wanavijiji. Karanja shared some key findings from 300 community-driven profiles from slums in 20 cities and towns across Kenya. Two central issues emerged from these profiles: land and sanitation. Most of the land occupied by slums in Kenya is privatized, and currently under high threat of eviction from developers looking to take back the land as land values in Kenya’s cities continue to rise. Because of the status of land ownership, interventions around sanitation have been nearly impossible and continue to threaten health and security of slum residents, particularly women. 

Karanja concluded her presentation by calling to action the Kenyan government and global urban development stakeholders, stating that, “The dialogue [around urban development] has to change now as we move towards Habitat III – poor people need a chance to expose the data that we are talking about today. Communities have data that government does not have. Despite this, government does not want to accept this data. It is our hope that this data can be used in Kenya to form part of the national urban agenda.” 

Know Your City

Two of SDI’s key institutional partners in the Know Your City campaign also participated in the event – Jean Pierre Elong-Mbassi, Secretary General of United Cities & Local Governments Africa (UCLG-A) and Anaclaudia Rossbach, Regional Advisor to Latin America and the Caribbean from Cities Alliance. Elong-Mbassi reminded the group that at least 50% of Africa’s cities are made up of slums, and that “any mayor interested in managing a city in a comprehensive way cannot ignore slum dwellers.” Elong-Mbassi echoed the call to action of the Know Your City campaign, requesting that local governments “leave [behind] the moment where we use second-hand data to [understand] reality,” instead, he went on to say, “We want first-hand data from communities to be the mine of knowledge for the management of cities.” 

Know Your City

Lastly, Anaclaudia Rossbach of Cities Alliance, coming from her experience in municipal government and her background as an economist, went on to endorse the need for community-collected slum data as critical to the successful implementation of slum upgrading projects. Indeed, with SDI sitting as a member of the Cities Alliance Executive Committee, the Know Your City campaign is part of the Cities Alliance medium term agenda. Rossbach emphasized the key point that it is only feasible to collect accurate data if the local people take ownership of the process – a critical component of SDI’s data-collection strategies.


In Malawi, Documenting the Outcomes of a Social Process

Mapping exercise in Mtandire

By Noah Schermbrucker, SDI Secretariat 

SDI reporting procedures need to capture tangible city-changing outputs that flow from community centered processes. While describing the social process is important, mature affiliates need to demonstrate the impact made through engagements and partnerships. Indicators of these impacts include: community participation in citywide planning and decision-making, the accessing and leveraging of resources from outside sources, the impacting of resource flows and policy at the citywide, regional or national level, formal MoU’s with government, and scalable slum upgrading projects. Of course, the social processes at the core of SDI’s work are the foundations on which these changes are built.  They are part of a continuum whose outputs create conditions for more inclusive pro-poor cities.

Reporting within the SDI network is often weighted towards describing the social process. For emerging federations and affiliates, strengthening the core SDI rituals will encompass a large percentage of their work. But for mature affiliates, reporting should capture the concrete outputs of strong SDI rituals and processes. The below excerpt from a report by the Malawi SDI affiliate NGO demonstrates how linkages between social processes and concrete outcomes fit within a citywide and national strategy of inclusive change. A number of brief observations follow the report. 

The collection of enumeration data in Senti informal settlement, Lilongwe, has demonstrated the capacity of the community around data collection, capture and analysis. The settlement has been useful as a learning ground for communities from both Lilongwe and other districts all over the country with regular exchange visits taking place. The settlement is currently involved in improving its roads and footpaths as well as waste management using community-generated resources in the form of a Community Development Fund. The Senti Community Fund, the first of its kind in the country was based on the SDI (Federation) norm of savings but located at the community scale. This may pave the path for leveraging further resources from local and central Government. Each household is contributing MK100 (0.3 USD) to the fund per month that will be used by the community according to the needs identified in their development strategy.

Mapping exercise in Mtandire

This quarter also saw the settlements of Chinsapo and Mtandire finally negotiating with the Lilongwe City Council to implement community centered projects. These included the use of local women contractors for construction works and community monitors in fund and quality control. All the labour was also sourced from within the two settlements.  Construction included new water kiosks (and repair of dilapidated facilities), grading of roads and footpaths, construction of footpaths and storm water drains. Neighboring communities came to learn from the works undertaken. The Lilongwe communities learnt from their counterparts in Blantyre where a project funded by the African Development Bank (ADB) supports community contractors to implement water and sanitation infrastructure projects. 

Water point in Mtandire


In Blantyre, Nancholi-Cluster 1, presented their community development plans to the Blantyre City Council (BCC) through the Engineering Department. The department certified the infrastructure plans and promised to provide technical personnel and assistance. Learning exchanges were key to passing on modes of best practice. Furthermore, the establishment of a community development fund by the Senti community has led to many visiting communities around Lilongwe and Zomba considering the same option.

Informal settlements in the cities of Blantyre, Lilongwe and Zomba made significant strides in settlement planning. Collaboration with the planning school at the University of Malawi-Polytechnic was a significant step in this process. The university has committed to providing annual planning support and studios – with a new settlement selected this year. The project has opened up doors to new possibilities and avenues for constructive engagement with other stakeholders & directly impacts future planners. 

The Malawi Alliance also engaged in discussions with the Ministry of Land and Housing and the Department of Surveys for the provision of satellite images to aid the process of mapping and community planning- the more detailed images will greatly assist the planning outputs and capacities of communities. The members of The Parliamentary Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure were lobbied to support the establishment of small slum upgrading projects. The Parliamentary Committee supported this initiative and requested a private members bill to be drafted. 

The Tenure Dialogue Session held in Lilongwe provided a platform for the urban poor and other urban stakeholders to discuss tenure security for the poor. Key to the meeting was the Ministry of Land and Housing who announced the process of drafting the Malawi Urban Policy as well as sensitization of MPs on the proposed revised land bill. The Participatory Budgeting Process started by Blantyre City Council (BCC) created a forum where the prospects of the 2013-2014 budget were discussed. 

Collective budgeting allowed communities to realize that Constituency Development Fund (CDF) was being underutilized by their Members of Parliament (MPs). The communities have lined up priorities, but lack funds.  Communities started engagements with individual MPs to discuss ways of further utilizing these untapped funds in line with their development priorities. A National Steering Committee on Slum upgrading was initiated comprising of Government Officials, CCODE, and relevant stakeholder. This body is expected to assist with advocacy at the highest levels of Government. 

The information captured in the report speaks directly to a national strategy with internal learning and focused exchanges as key components in fostering replication (e.g. Initiating settlement funds, sanitation provision). The report illustrates how the federation has incrementally built political relationships and accessed resource flows within the city. The linkages between different cities and processes underscore a cogent national strategy for slum upgrading rather then a singular, and uncoordinated approach.

On closer examination, and in discussions with the Malawian federation, it is clear that the alliance wishes to create citywide systems into which newly leveraged resources and capital can flow. For example sanitation loans through the African Development Bank are channeled and managed through a community based system with residents applying along certain criteria and loan repayment monitored through appropriate checks and balances. It then becomes a matter of channeling political and economic support towards proven community based systems. This opens up massive potential for scale through attracting government funds and other external resources.

Community Savings for Urban Change: Building a Women’s Leadership for Slum Upgrading

Harare, Zimbabwe

Savings groups form the basis of collective action in urban poor communities. The establishment of community savings is a core ritual of the urban poor federation building process, and the central participation of women in community savings significantly improves the quality of the process and the probability of sustainable change. Community savings schemes help meet the needs of low-income urban dwellers and create the foundation for building urban poor federations that provide their savers with more influence and scope for action.

By being members of small daily savings groups, women with the lowest and least stable incomes are able to create a consolidated voice to help bring about the changes they seek in their city. They also realize their capacity to influence and change the nature of leadership from individual to collective, within and between communities, and thus effect even greater change. This is the essence of the federation-building model in SDI: it is by addressing the needs and aspirations of the city’s poorest women that the rest of the community begins to see meaning in coming together. 

Sheila Magare of the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation recounts the effects of community savings in her life and her community:

“…I started getting small loans as well from the group to improve my vending business and I repaid the loans. I then joined other members of the group and got a big loan and we started a collective business of buying and selling snacks from our vegetable markets. This was a huge success and we never looked back. The profits from the business we used to buy building materials for houses even though we were landless. We used our savings booklets as evidence of the capacity of the poor to save and to collectively build their own houses. Armed with our savings records we engaged the City of Harare to allocate us land to build houses. The officials were surprised by how much we had saved. We earned their respect. In turn they changed their conditions for registering on the Municipal waiting list for accommodation… Even though it took us 5 years the City eventually allocated us land to build houses.

Using the same method we started talking to national government ministers as well. Our message was simple – that we were slum dwellers but we were not hopeless. We wanted government to change the policies that make it difficult for the poor to live decently in towns. We wanted the government to give us money to add to our savings. That way more poor people can have decent homes and safe water to drink and proper toilets. Mayors and government ministers in Zimbabwe now know me by name because, with other federation leaders we never get tired of fighting for other poor families.” 

In addition to community savings, members of many savings groups also save towards a national fund. This is a fund that is used to leverage the savings of the urban poor to support larger investments in slum upgrading. As savings groups come together (or “federate”) at the settlement, city and national level, they begin to look beyond the needs of their savings group alone to the needs of the federation and the urban poor at large. In the same way, committees found at the level of the local savings group are replicated at network, regional, and national levels. This enables the generation of a self-governing national movement that is rooted in the hopes, aspirations, and challenges of its members.   

Both functions reinforce each other. The savings and loans systems at the group level prepare communities for much bigger loans and project management demands when upgrading is undertaken. Federation savings groups see savings as uniting the community and building collective capacity to address larger issues with a wider impact beyond a particular group. Traditional savings associations work to the benefit of the members of the group. Within the federations, however, savings groups serve as building blocks for community institutions that in turn enable them to address and invest resources in issues that affect the entire community or city, stretching beyond those of livelihoods alone. 

The development of the city-level federation is inextricably linked to the federating of the savings groups. The city-level federation grows out of the networking and institutional structures that arise from the coming together of savings groups in the same settlement or network, regional, and national level. In Uganda, this process started in Kampala and Jinja regions, and then spread to other areas through community learning exchanges.

Leaders groomed at the saving group level that demonstrate their capacity and dedication have the opportunity to rise to positions of leadership at higher levels, where they can provide mentoring to the citywide agenda that is firmly rooted in the ideals of the savings groups. In this way, the voices of the poor are taken from savings group level meetings to network-level meetings, and from there are able to inform the city agenda. Thus, the city federation is driven from the bottom, not the top. Network, regional and national level meetings are critical to maintaining this bottom-driven process. These, rather than projects, are what make the savings groups feel part of a larger process, a larger agenda, a movement. 

One example of this is in Jinja, Uganda, where there are 42 savings groups across the city. These savings groups come together as six networks, each network having eight program facilitators – 60% of whom are women. The program facilitators (for issue-based committees on evictions, health, loaning, auditing, etc.) come together to form the regional council. The regional council provides a space where representatives of the savings groups are able to come together to plan and strategize. Facilitators are chosen for the capacity and accountability they have demonstrated in their savings groups. Five representatives from the Regional Council – three of whom are women – sit on the National Executive Council – the space for national planning rooted in the struggles and ideals of the savings groups. 


Check out SDI’s 2012 / 2013 Annual Report to read more about how community savings impacts urban change through organized communities and strong women leadership. 

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.

Building Toilets with Our Eyes Closed

Ecosan toilet in Mtandire settlement

Ecosan toilet in Mtandire settlement, Malawi                                                          

In almost every major city in the south, Slum Boards, Housing Authorities and Municipalities are charged with building and maintaining toilet blocks in low-income neighbourhoods and slums. Engineers tender for contracts and handle issues of location, design, and construction; municipalities hire external staff (that has no investment in the upkeep) for cleaning and maintenance; and community members are entirely left out of all decision-making processes, and therefore have no sense of ownership. This leads to a situation were the quality of construction is frequently poor, the availability of water is limited, and access to drainage is inadequate. All these problems lead to the early destruction and deterioration of the few working toilets blocks in the city.

The consequences of this approach are obvious: in most cities, there are few operational toilet blocks and slumdwellers are forced to shit in the open. Women must wait until dark to defecate in order to protect their modesty (and often suffer from gastric disorders). Children will squat anywhere and everywhere leaving excrement throughout the settlement. Families, quite literally, are forced to live in shit, suffering from poor health conditions and the spread of disease. In order to alleviate potential public health crises and restore human dignity, SDI affiliates have pioneered a people-driven approach to water and sanitation, building toilets in a way that reifies community capacity

Federations in India, Cambodia, South Africa, Kenya and Uganda have brokered deals with local authorities to design, construct and maintain toilet blocks. Engineers and Municipal officials frequently visit the construction sites – those with insights into the actual needs of the communities are usually available for guidance and support, and those preoccupied with bureaucratic regulations tend to obstruct and control. Both approaches provide opportunities to learn, and in most instances, even the most resistant officials are won over by the Federation’s success.

Federation built and managed toilets have had a profound impact on the health and environment of the slums, and more than is commonly recognized, have instilled a sense of pride and confidence in communities. In an interview, Savita Sonawane, a leader in Pune, India, summed it up by saying: “In the beginning, we did not know what a drawing or a plinth was. We did not understand what a foundation was or how to do plastering. But as we went along, we learnt more and more and now we can build toilets with our eyes closed.”

Slum Dwellers as Professors and Planners

Sheffield Road

By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI secretariat

Floods, Fires. Lurking danger while searching for a place to shit. And, above all, the spectre of police and bulldozers waiting outside your door ordering you to leave your home.

To the academics, planners, and policy-makers, such an existence is informal and illegal. To those living in urban slum settlements throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America, it is the stuff of daily life. Recent engagements between slum dweller networks linked to SDI and universities show how this gap between theory and reality is shrinking.

The challenge of developing institutions to adequately address the very immediate issues that slum dwellers face is often a challenge of having the right information at hand. Usually, professional and academic planners use limited — and usually aggregated — information upon which to base their decisions. They envision cities that extend the ways in which they already live their lives. 

But the poor also have visions for their cities. As one South African newspaper headlined a piece by South African Federation president Patrick Magebhula, they are “moving from slum survivors to urban planners.” The SDI network is now developing a range of experiences in which slum dweller communities collect detailed information about themselves in order to organize, plan and impact the ways in which they interact with the formal world.

In Kenya, the Federation, known as Muungano wa wanavijiji, is working with students from the University of Nairobi and University of California—Berkeley in the United States, to develop a zonal plan for the Mathare Valley in Nairobi. The Federation savings schemes in the community work with residents to survey every house, and then use this information to map the settlement jointly using GIS technology. This technology integrates the socio-economic data collected into a visual picture of the way in which the social dimensions of the community exist spatially.

We have often discussed the enumeration, mapping, and profiling activities of SDI federations in this newsletter. Now, federations are using links with planning programs in local universities to build broader understanding of community-led planning activities. In doing so, they are creating new platforms to build political backing for the cities that they envision. These are cities that finally appreciate the contributions of informal organization, and include these contributions in future planning.

The Informal Settlement Network in South Africa is working with two adjacent large informal settlements in Cape Town called Barcelona and Europe. The communities undertook their own processes of enumeration and mapping. Now, they are working with students at the University of Cape Town to translate this information into a vision for the future. The settlements are on top of a landfill site, which is polluting one of the main freshwater reserves in the city. It is clear that this will increasingly come on the radar for city planners, as water resources become scarcer. So the community is getting ahead of the city by developing its own plan.

Here, the role of universities to help translate to the formal world the information that communities collect is vital. The communities use the tools of the academics to articulate their existing social realities and economic contribution to the city as a whole. For instance, economic analysis emerging from the community’s enumeration estimates the community’s economic activity as generating about USD 6 million as yearly expenditure.

A similar case is in a large informal settlement called Langrug in the relatively small municipality of Stellenbosch near Cape Town in South Africa. Residents have enumerated the settlement and, led by two young women without high school education, mapped the information. The community leadership now use this information to negotiate with the municipality for toilets, installation of sewers and water pipes, and to find the space to relocate those members of the community who live in a flood plain next to a small river that runs through the settlement.

Last week, residents of Barcelona and Langrug gave a unique lecture about this work to students in the University of Cape Town’s M.Phil program in Community Development and Planning. Audio of the lecture by Vuyani Mnyango from Barcelona and Kholeka Xuza and Olwethu Mvandaba from Langrug can be found here, as well as an accompanying slideshow here. 

This is not the first time that slum dweller leaders from SDI Federations have become professors to the professionals and academics. Last year, members of the Zimbabwean Federation traveled to the University of Manchester in the UK to teach economics students. And earlier this month, community leaders from Cape Town and Durban in South Africa, traveled to Perth, Australia, to present to the annual World Planning Schools Congress. Listen to an interview on Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Futuretense” radio show with the South African Federation’s Melanie Manuel here. In order to further such engagements, SDI signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Association of African Planning School in November 2010.

University students have learned from the communities how informal settlement dwellers live and work, as well as how they organize themselves. The students have then contributed the tools of planners to articulate this information in a way that serves as a platform for the communities to engage with city officials on future planning for the area. For example, in June, after talking with residents from Barcelona and Europe around the plans they developed with the University of Cape Town students, Cape Town municipal officials were pleasantly surprised. “To get to this level of understanding, it can take us years of working through expensive consultants,” said Natasha Murray, Head of Planning for Informal Settlements at the City of Cape Town.

The linchpins of this work are the information collection of activities of Federations and slum dweller communities. These communities collect information at the household level, leveraging a wealth of data that can be entirely disaggregated. They then plot the information onto maps, and work with highly detailed socio-economic and spatial data to develop future plans. Universities help translate this data using formal tools that create a framework for communities to engage as leading partners to plan with city governments.

This is a striking new role for urban poor communities in city development. Such communities are becoming the professors and planners. They are working to use this information to build stronger internal structures and more effective city-wide networks. They are also challenging their newfound partners. Are the planners, academics, and policy makers ready to listen to these doers? And how can they change their practice to a) provide the necessary platforms for communities to tell their long-suppressed stories, and b) to articulate their compelling visions for the future?


SDI Council affirms program of in situ upgrading, community planning, learning


By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI secretariat

SDI renewed its commitment to a program of community-driven slum upgrading, planning, and learning, at the meeting of its slum dweller governing Council. The gathering of over 40 leaders of urban poor organizations from 13 countries in Africa and Asia, took place on 2 to 4 March in Nairobi, Kenya.

The Council is the governing body of SDI, and is made up entirely of community-based leaders in affiliated “mature” federations. During the meeting, the Council agreed that the SDI network should support a sustained process of action-based learning around in situ slum upgrading.

In many countries in the Global South, much of housing development that is designed for the poor, provides shelter at the periphery of cities, and often uproots communities. Further, these developments tend not to put a dent in the scale of informal housing that accommodates the poor in cities.

SDI’s Urban Poor Fund International (UPFI) provides finance for projects that affiliate poor people’s federations undertake to build a practical set of experiences for community-driven urban development. As a program of SDI, the Council agreed that UPFI must focus on projects that prioritize in situ solutions, including incremental provision of services and shelter improvements.

UPFI funds will also be used to support the emergence of “centers of learning” in seven cities throughout the SDI network. This means that federations will use funds to create a set of projects at sufficient scale to show how people’s organizations can work with their governments to begin addressing the monumental challenges of urban growth, and prevalence of slums.

Methods of community-driven development planning are an integral part of the upgrading projects that SDI-affiliated communities pursue. The Council therefore approved a program of exchanges around large-scale enumeration, self-survey, and mapping activities that are taking place in six cities in Uganda, Lilongwe (Malawi), and in the Philippines.

The Council also approved the induction of its 14th member, the Uganda Slum Dwellers Federation, which is active in 6 cities in the country (Arua, Jinja, Kabale, Kampale, Mbale, and Mbarara). Further, the Sierra Leone Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor will be invited with observer status at the next Council meeting.

The two-day Council meeting included a meeting of the Board to approve the Council resolutions, and was followed by a one day meeting of all the federations to discuss community-driven methodologies for monitoring and evaluation of their work. It was agreed that, in order to reach meaningful scale, federations have to continuously be self-critical of their methods for capturing learning, monitoring work, and then evaluating results.