The Meriting Urban Farming Hub, situated in Grasmere, Johannesburg, is a testament to the transformative power of community-driven initiatives. This case study explores how this hub emerged, evolved, and continues to make a positive impact on its community through urban farming.
Inception and partnership
In July 2022, the Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC) partnered with the Industrial Development Corporation‘s Social Employment Fund to undertake two vital projects: “Urban Farming Hubs” and “Informal Settlements Profile Data.” This collaboration aims to equip communities across different South African provinces with the required skills and resources to execute the projects. The central objective was to establish 40 urban agriculture farm hubs in five municipalities, in the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, North West, and Free State provinces.
About the Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC)
The Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC) is a formally registered non-profit organisation (NPO) that supports the social, strategic and administrative practices of FEDUP and ISN. CORC’s support to FEDUP and ISN includes savings, data collection, peer-to-peer learning exchanges, community-based planning for projects and engaging with government, funders and other actors. CORC’s mission is to support poor communities that are willing and able to help themselves.
The Meriting Urban Farming Hub’s journey
Located in Grasmere, the Meriting Urban Farming Hub started its journey with immense dedication and a passion for urban farming. The hub embraced innovative water-saving and soil optimisation technologies, such as growbags that uses wicking to efficiently water crops. This commitment was driven by a collective desire to make the farming process effective and beneficial for the entire community.
One of the most significant outcomes of this initiative so far, is the hub’s ability to support disadvantaged households. By donating vegetables, strawberries, and peanuts, the Meriting Urban Farming Hub has contributed to the wellbeing of underprivileged families in the community. This act of generosity exemplifies the hub’s commitment to creating positive social change.
The role of the Social Employment Fund
With guidance and support from the Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (Fedup), the 40 workers at the Meriting Urban Farming Hub embarked on a path to financial empowerment. Each worker started saving a minimum of R20 per month. This diligent savings strategy enabled them to initiate a pig farming project. At present, the hub is home to four pigs, one of which recently gave birth to four piglets in October 2023, with two more expected to give birth soon.
Sustainability and expansion
The Meriting Urban Farming Hub remains committed to its mission of self-sufficiency and community support. The ongoing savings initiatives aim to facilitate the expansion of the hub’s farming activities. By ensuring sustainability, the hub aspires to continue thriving even after the SEF program concludes. This long-term vision includes plans to engage more unemployed youth and extend assistance to other informal settlements looking to embark on their urban farming journey.
Gratitude and community impact
The hub expresses its profound gratitude to the Social Employment Fund (SEF) for the life-changing opportunity that has not only touched the lives of participants but also benefitted the entire community. The hub’s ability to provide support to impoverished families, coupled with its goal of offering hope to young people who may have lost it due to challenging living conditions, exemplifies the far-reaching positive impact of the SEF programme. In the process, it contributes to reducing crime and suicide rates, instilling hope and dignity, and uplifting communities.
In addition to SEF, the hub acknowledges the pivotal role played by Fedup in introducing them to the concept and power of saving. With approximately R40,000 in their business account, the Meriting Urban Farming Hub is poised to explore new opportunities and business ideas that will sustain its operations and continue to make a meaningful impact on the community. This is a classic example of how a social employment programme can create a pathway out of poverty.
Following a prolonged period of seeking assistance and transformation, a recently established savings collective known as Fikile Bomama, situated in Kwamashu (Gobogobo), comprises approximately 100 participants, with 90% of its members originating from the nearby community and placing their faith in the efficacy of saving. At long last, the arduous wait has come to an end subsequent to numerous attempts to contact the department of agriculture through phone calls, letters, and emails. The department has pledged its support to the savings collective and, as a demonstration of this commitment, has provided the ensuing equipment:
- Bush knives
- Jojo Tanks
- Hoes and hose pipes.
Besides the tools, such as Jojo tanks, the department also provided the group with a variety of seeds, including lettuce, spinach, broccoli, and mealies. In September of 2023, when rain meets garden, a new hope emerges. This group of determined savers can’t be stopped. “Wathinta abafazi” knock knock… we’ll knock until the doors open.
The lack of basic services has been a challenge for informal settlement dwellers in South Africa. Many informal settlements lack basic services, some walk a distance to access basic services and those who do have access to the services struggle when they need their services to be maintained (fixing when they break or are stolen).
Through the Asivikelane campaign, social movements (ISN and FEDUP leaders who are community facilitators for different informal settlements) collect data by contacting community residents about the conditions of their services. As a result, the data is shared with relevant departments to ensure a strong relationship such as Solid Waste Management, Water and Sanitation, Maintenance Unit, Roads and Storm Water etc.
To address community issues, these departments engage directly with informal settlements on a regular basis. As a result of these working relationships, refuse removal intervals have been improved, toilets have been unblocked, damaged or non-functional facilities have been repaired, water taps have been repaired, storm water drainage is maintained, chemical toilets are drained regularly, and some communities now use the spaces they used for dumping for community gardening and recycling. For instance, the Department of Solid Waste provides cleaning materials for cleaning campaigns, refuse bags, and waste management education for residents and now communities are able to contact the department of solid waste directly to request for assistance when their waste containers are overflowing.
With the help of waste management, the Asivikelane Campaign have conducted several cleaning campaigns in the following settlements:
- Mathambo Informal Settlement;
- Havelock Informal Settlement;
- Parking ton Informal Settlement;
- Mallaca Informal Settlement;
- Johanna Road Informal Settlement;
- Boxwood Informal Settlement;
- Simplace and NCP etc.
As the world marks the third anniversary of the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to come together and make sense of what happened and what we can learn from the experience.
SDI and Know Your City TV’s Youth Summit is bringing together youth and elders from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Sierra Leone, Kenya and South Africa to create a federation song for the #DignifiedUrbanLife campaign, which is set to launch this Friday the 31st of March.
This campaign aims to be a powerful platform for change and progress, providing a unique opportunity for different generations to share knowledge, ideas and experiences.
SDI and Know Your City TV’s Youth Summit
The SDI and Know Your City TV‘s Youth Summit seeks to bring together youth and elders to create a federation song for the #DignifiedUrbanLife campaign. This campaign is a response to the immense challenges exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly for youth living in informal settlements. Through the summit, the aim is to mobilise groups of women and young people to create a federation song, utilising the age-old medium of song to transmit knowledge and values.
The federation song is a unique opportunity to bring together different generations to share knowledge, ideas and experiences. Through intergenerational dialogue, young people can learn from the wisdom and experience of the older generation, while the older generation can learn from the creativity and enthusiasm of youth. By combining the two perspectives, we aim to create a powerful platform for change and progress. The federation song is a unique opportunity for bringing together different generations to share knowledge, ideas and experiences. By coming together and collaborating, we can create a song that is both inspirational and motivating. It can be used to raise awareness of the challenges faced by people living in slums, while also providing a platform to inspire and empower them to come together and find sustainable solutions to the problems they face.
The #DignifiedUrbanLife campaign includes a step-by-step guide for community mobilisation and communications strategy. Our Zimbabwe, Zambia, Sierra Leone, Kenya and South Africa affiliates appointed youth groups with experience in music production to lead the campaign. The steps include intergenerational dialogue, choir recording, youth remix, international collaboration and coordination, distribution, and monitoring, evaluation and outreach.
International Collaboration and Coordination
A small team from each country join us in Cape Town at the SDI Secretariat, bringing audio stems and demo along with behind-the-scenes videos, archive video, images, and documentation for a one-week hack-a-thon. At the hack-a-Thon, they will develop a targeted audience campaign strategy, coordinated media products, a policy shift strategy and plan of action, and a monitoring and evaluation framework.
Once the song, media products, and policy strategy have been developed, the next step is to promote and distribute them. This includes launching social media campaigns, creating music videos or other visuals to accompany the song, and distributing materials to the target groups.
Monitoring, Evaluation and Outreach
The final step is to monitor and evaluate the success of the campaign. This wil include tracking the reach of the campaign, as well as measuring the impact it has had on the target groups. We aim to do this through surveys, interviews, or other methods.
The #DignifiedUrbanLife campaign is an inspiring example of the power of intergenerational dialogue and music production to fight inequality. It provides a platform for different generations to come together and share knowledge, ideas and experiences, while also creating a powerful platform for change and progress.
This Friday the 31st of March marks the launch of this exciting campaign, and it is sure to be an inspiring event.
Over the past two months, the South African SDI Alliance has taken action in various municipalities where they are active to implement effective preventative measures to slow the spread of Covid-19 in South Africa’s informal settlements. The SA SDI Alliance’s has worked in partnership with civil society actors, development partners, and local and regional government, to jointly develop and implement Covid-19 responses in the City of Cape Town, Swartland Municipality, Stellenbosch Municipality, eThekwini Municipality, and with the National Department of Human Settlements (NUSP). Every week, representatives of the South African SDI Alliance participate in discussions between various civil society organisations and the Department of Human Settlements to develop effective partnerships and strategies to combat Covid-19 in South Africa’s informal settlements.
As of early April 2020, the SA SDI Alliance had already engaged national and provincial government on the development and dissemination of a targeted information campaign that includes the development of materials specifically targeting the realities of informal settlement dwellers and providing practical advice around measures that can be taken to reduce risk of exposure (See example below which has been produced in all local languages). In addition, quick snap data collection has taken place in various informal settlements during the crisis to assess communities’ ability to access clean water, frequency of toilet cleaning and refuse removal.
Following the initial response phase, the SA SDI Alliance decided on seven strategic focus areas:
- Improve internal & external SASDI Alliance communication infrastructure;
- Safeguard physical and psychological well-being of social movement leadership;
- Identify basic service delivery challenges & monitor service delivery in informal settlements;
- Organize structures in informal settlements that can receive and distribute food parcels;
- Behaviour Change Communication Campaign;
- Lobby & advocacy at national, provincial and municipal government level and raising community voice;
- Monitoring, Reflection, Learning & Documentation.
One of the most critical areas identified by the SA SDI Alliance is food security, as many informal settlement residents are struggling to earn an income – and therefore buy food – during the country’s prolonged national lockdown. The Alliance has been working with other social development organisations to access and distribute food parcels to urban poor communities, and has begun to explore urban farming as an effective solution for informal settlement residents. In Cape Town’s Mfuleni settlement, residents have started gardens where they are able to grow fruits and vegetables for their families, and as a potential source of income.[caption id="attachment_13088" align="alignnone" width="660"] Residents wait for food parcels in Kwa Zulu Natal province[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_13089" align="alignnone" width="660"] Serving food to the communities[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_13090" align="alignnone" width="660"] Food parcels await distribution in North West Province[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_13092" align="alignnone" width="660"] Distributing food parcels in North West[/caption]
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="660"] Urban farming in Mfuleni, Cape Town[/caption]
In addition to the work being done to address food security, the SA Alliance has rolled out relief work to build hand washing stations, and make and distribute face masks, hand sanitiser and hand soap to their own federation members and the communities at large. In addition, they have made efforts to educate their members on how to make these at home in order to facilitate better use of these preventative measures.[caption id="attachment_13094" align="alignnone" width="660"] Making hand sanitiser in North West Province[/caption]
Most importantly, the SA Alliance is continuing to dialogue internally to ensure that the needs of communities on the ground are being heard and that these continue to be communicated to relevant government structures through feedback sessions between the Alliance and local, provincial, and national government structures. As Rose Molokoane, national coordinator of Fedup, said recently, “It is important for them to talk to us, we have raised concerns, we want them to come back to Federations to get what we requested.”
[video width="640" height="352" mp4="https://sdinetorg-1c78b.kxcdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/WhatsApp-Video-2020-05-21-at-14.43.50.mp4"][/video]
PRESS RELEASE: Ground Breaking Informal Settlement Ruling: Upgrading Policy is Binding and Must Be Obeyed[caption id="attachment_11380" align="alignnone" width="600"] Image from http://slovo-park.blogspot.co.za/[/caption]
The below press statement was released by Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) South Africa on 5 April 2016.
The Gauteng Local Division of the High Court today ordered the City of Johannesburg (the City) to apply to the Gauteng Province for a grant to upgrade the Slovo Park Informal Settlement. For 20 years, the 10 000 residents of Slovo Park had been promised that their informal settlement would be upgraded to formal housing. Planning schemes were developed, environmental impact assessments were completed and steps were taken to formally declare Slovo Park a township. However, nothing was actually done.
Dissatisfied with these broken promises, the Slovo Park community developed its own upgrading plan in terms of the government’s Upgrading of Informal Settlements Policy (UISP), contained in the National Housing Code, 2009. When the City refused to engage them on this plan, the community, represented by the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI), took the City to court to compel it to start the upgrading process.
In response, the City unveiled plans to evict the Slovo Park community and move it 11km further away from the centre of Johannesburg to a still-to-be constructed housing development at a place called “Unaville”.
In a judgment handed down today, Acting Justice Strauss found that the UISP is binding on the City, and that the City’s decision “to completely ignore” the policy in favour of its own plan to evict and relocate the Slovo Park residents was in breach of the section 26 (2) of the Constitution, the Housing Act 107 of 1997, “unreasonable” and “not inclusive”. The Judge also found that the decision was taken without any consultation, and “flies in the face of established constitutional jurisprudence regard the need [for] meaningful engagement in instances where the right to adequate housing is concerned.”
The Judge then effectively set aside the City’s plan to relocate the residents, and directed the City to make the appropriate application to the provincial Minister for Human Settlements for a grant to upgrade the Slovo Park Informal Settlement in situ.
Nomzamo Zondo, SERI’s Director of Litigation, said: “This is a truly ground-breaking judgment, which establishes that the UISP is binding on municipalities. The government must make sure that paper policies, such as the UISP, result in meaningful change on the ground. Until today, the City of Johannesburg thought itself completely at liberty to disobey this crucial, pro-poor national housing policy. The Court has sent a clear message that this is unreasonable and unlawful. We call upon the City of Johannesburg to accept the judgment and commence engagement with our clients on the content of a plan to upgrade Slovo Park”.
Advocates Stuart Wilson, Irene De Vos and Mkhululi Stubbs argued for the Slovo Park community in court.
Nomzamo Zondo, SERI director of litigation 071 301 9676/ 011 356 5868/ nomzamo@seri- sa.org
Dan Moalahi, Slovo Park Development Forum 072 676 8543/ email@example.com
By Joel Bolnick and Ted Baumann
Since well before 1994, the élite of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress has comprised two broad factions: True Believers and Entrepreneurs.
The True Believers — mainly educated technocrats — adhere to the Leninist doctrine that capitalism can be used to strengthen the state, which can then be used to engineer revolutionary change. The Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, just want to get rich and thereby eventually to displace South Africa’s white capitalists. This means that neither faction has an incentive to end white domination of capital — instead, the want to use it for their own ends.
The two factions are united by African nationalism, which holds that any advancement by black Africans is progress, even if it’s within the distorted capitalist framework inherited from apartheid. True Believers might want ultimately to get rid of capitalism, but in the meantime having black faces in the boardrooms and society pages serves their purposes. In any case, their race-based consciousness dictates that black capitalists will automatically be more progressive than whites, so black workers will win too.
True Believers and Entrepreneurs also share the assumption that the ANC’s historical legacy, as the party of liberation and Mandela, can survive long enough in the popular consciousness to allow their plans to unfold, even if not much changes in real life. Indeed, past election results have given the ANC nearly 2/3 of the vote every five years.
It should not be forgotten that the recent violent anti-government protests by black and white students on South Africa’s university campuses come hard on the heels of massive shifts in South Africa’s political landscape. In addition to a populist breakaway party in parliament (the Economic Freedom Front), the ANC’s labour wing, COSATU, has suffered significant defections. NUMSA, its largest affiliate, has officially withdrawn from the so-called “tripartite alliance” of the ANC, COSATU, and the SA Communist Party (home to many True Believers). That’s a big deal.
These two processes — one middle-class and the other amongst workers — are closely related, and illuminate the fundamental weakness of South Africa’s ruling party and its project.[caption id="attachment_11091" align="alignnone" width="660"] Via Imraan Christian[/caption]
The student’s protest shows that the ANC’s historical legacy cannot protect it from widespread anger and resentment amongst the “born frees,” those South Africans who have grown up post-apartheid. Whereas their parents generally cling to the idea that all will eventually be well if the ANC stays in power, the youth sees the party as the corrupt vehicle for personal enrichment, technocratic domination, and the de facto protector of white capital that it has long been. That makes sense: Whilst their parents collect government welfare and pension cheques and are allowed to join the queue for free houses, the youth face 50% joblessness and a dismal future.
Notably, even “ethnic” ties, such as residual Zulu affinity for President Jacob Zuma, count for little amongst these young adults. They see no progress — quite the opposite, as the economy slows to a crawl and prices skyrocket. And they no longer buy the story that it’s all white people’s fault.
What about slum dwellers? For one thing, South African informal settlement dwellers number less than 15% of the country’s urban population — much less than other countries in Africa. Two social movements define the organized sector of the urban poor. Both have had periods of significant scale and impact, but are relatively quiescent at the moment. One of these is the Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), whose practice has been defined by a pragmatism that has sought to combine confrontation and challenge with brinkmanship and negotiation. The other is Abahlali Basemjondolo, who have taken a more direct, confrontational path in a fight against inequality and injustice. Neither organization currently commands the kind of scale of support that could make a meaningful contribution to political change in the country. But this could shift in an instant.
Most activism in the informal sector has taken place spontaneously through localized service delivery protests — actions that have presaged, in many ways, the current student protests. Here too, disgruntled and alienated youth have been at the forefront. But shack dwellers, more than any other sector of South African society, are in the thrall of politicians and officials who have consistently controlled their lives through a relentless mix of patronage and institutional violence. These realities and apartheid demographics make it difficult for shack dwellers to unite and to replicate the scale that the students have achieved in recent days. Nevertheless, if and when the current wave of resistance jumps these barriers (most likely in middle-sized towns like Grahamstown or Stellenbosch) the foundations painstakingly built by both FEDUP and Abahlali may serve a much broader movement very well.
For their part, those shack dwellers who are also formal workers have learnt everything they need to know about the supposed progressivism of black African capital from the Marikana Massacre, where cops sent by a black cabinet minister murdered dozens of miners protesting poor pay by a company with prominent ANC-connected members on its board. It was the worst single instance of state violence since 1994, and it was for the benefit of black bosses who were supposed to be more progressive by virtue of their skin colour. In fact, they have behaved no differently from white bosses, because they thought they could hide behind the shield of the ANC’s legacy.
The upshot is that the ANC stands exposed. It is increasingly reliant on itself — on the mutual back-scratching and self-dealing that occurs between factions who rely on access to the state and to the continued existence of white capital to distribute riches. It cannot rely on the working class, the youth, or the millions of unemployed and uneducated people in essentially unchanged townships, with no jobs, educations or futures.
Of course the ANC completely controls the government apparatus and much of the mainstream press, so opposition will require much effort. But important forces within South Africa smell blood in the air, as do the foreign investors who have withdrawn millions from the country over the last six months, sending the Rand into a nosedive.
The ANC has recently spent a lot of time and effort cosying up to China, holding it up as a model of development. But China has no meaningful democracy and the Chinese Communist Party is struggling to contain the rising discontent produced by its own missteps. Both the missteps and the discontent are bound to escalate in coming years, and while the South African technocrats aspire to learn from the Chinese counterparts, the most meaningful exchange of knowledge and tactics may be in counter-revolution — not in development.
What may trump them both, unfortunately, is that the ANC may need to adopt more features of the Chinese model sooner than it thinks, beginning with an even more severely diluted democracy. It will probably have to, since like Mugabe to the north in Zimbabwe, this will create the conditions that will enable it to refuse to be voted out of office.
**Cross posted from the SA SDI Alliance blog**
Authored by CORC
“People said Flamingo Crescent [Upgrading] will never happen. But today is here and this is the proof that it has happened – one cannot do it alone we need to work as a collective!”
– Melanie Manuel, Informal Settlement Network (ISN) Co-ordinator
Last week’s upgrading launch at Flamingo Crescent informal settlement celebrated the completion of re-blocking, installation of water, sanitation and electricity services for each of Flamingo’s 104 households, the unveiling of Flamingo’s first formal street names and opening of the settlement’s own crèche, Little Paradise. Moreover it marked a milestone in an ongoing upgrading process, showcasing what is possible when communities, intermediaries, governments and stakeholders form partnerships.
Delegates from community organisations and networks, the Mayor of the City of Cape Town, delegates from various government departments, ward and sub-council politicians, NGOs and support organisations gathered in the Lansdowne Civic Centre from 11:00 on Monday 10 February.
The re-blocking project is lauded as a successful demonstration of community-led, participatory planning, collaborative implementation and improvement of informal settlements. The uniqueness of the project was that despite the settlement’s density no one was displaced and grossly inconvenienced during the implementation of upgrading 104 structures.
Flamingo Crescent before and after re-blocking and upgrading.
First engagements around Flamingo Crescent
First engagements began in 2012 after the City of Cape Town signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the SA SDI Alliance around joint community-led upgrading of 22 informal settlements, of which Flamingo Crescent is the third, having built on the experiences of Mtshini Wamand Kuku Town. It differs from the previous two in the severity of its socio-economic challenges – high levels of crime, unemployment, violence and poverty. Given these circumstances the Alliance’s Informal Settlement Network (ISN) facilitated implementation and engagement between the City and the community.
Melanie Manuel (Flamingo Crescent ISN facilitator) shared,
“When we started the partnership with the City of Cape Town in 2011 in Vygieskraal it was a day of celebration and no one knew the hardships that would lie ahead. As time went on we realised we fundamentally believe in community participation, a bottom up approach because we know communities understand their settlements best.”
Read more background here.
The Launch: Messages on Upgrading and Inclusion in Services
At the launch, the first speaker, Councillor Anthea Green shared,
“Since 2012 I have said that we need to upgrade Flamingo Crescent, despite resistance from the rate payers and residents’ groups. We were committed to work with the community, and now this is a transformed settlement”.
Informal settlements not only face substandard basic services like water, sanitation and electricity but are also cut off from functions of city administration such as receiving a residential address. The re-blocking project allowed the City and the Post Office to give Flamingo Crescent street names and addresses, after the community made this requirement upfront in their development plan.
Gerald Blankenberg, regional director of the Post Office, said that the Post Office Act and other regulations require the post office to expand addresses to underserviced communities.
“Informal communities are often times socially and economically disconnected from basic administrative functions, and therefore a residential address will give the Post Office an opportunity to serve the community with dignity”, he said.
In the keynote address, Mayor Patricia de Lille emphasised the significant role of Flamingo community’s steering committee, the Alliance’s ISN and Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC) in the success of the project. She, however, expressed concern about the slow pace of project implementation, emphasizing the need to boost municipal and community capacity to ensure the roll out of more projects in the City’s 200 informal settlements.
“The aim of re-blocking is the improvement of informal settlements while people wait for a housing opportunity”, she observed.
In closing of the ceremony, the Mayor handed over certificates of tenure to community members, ensuring formal recognition of residence and tenure security.
City of Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille with Flamingo Crescent community leader, Maria Matthews.
The Impact of Upgrading : Before and After
Before re-blocking, the community of 405 residents had access to only 14 chemical toilets (of which 7 were serviced) and 2 water taps. There was no electricity so that contained fires in tin drums dotted the settlement’s dusty pathways. The community was especially concerned about the safety of its children playing in the busy street.
Re-blocking restructured space in the settlement, opening courtyard areas and clearly designated access roads, enabling the City of Cape Town to install individual water, sanitation and electricity services per household. What sets Flamingo apart from previous projects are its paved pathways, with official road names as well as the construction of a crèche.
The community contributed 20% to the cost of its structures through community-based daily savings. During the implementation phase, 20 jobs were created through the Expanded Public Works Programme.
Flamingo Crescent before and after.
Into the Future: Community voices on Partnership and City Fund
“Since 2010 we have been thinking about improvements in our settlement. This is when we got in touch with ISN, who introduced us to CORC, and we then made a partnership with the City [of Cape Town] We explained what we wanted from the city – our own taps, toilets and electricity. But we needed to come together and draft our own plans”.
(Maria Matthews, Flamingo Community Leader)
Through the SA SDI Alliance the community additionally partnered with several organisations. iKhayalami supported the community, ISN/FEDUP and CORC around training community members and top structure construction. The community established the re-blocked layout and community-based maps in partnership with students from Cape Peninsula University of Technology and support staff from CORC. With the support of Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI, USA) the community drew up plans for the crèche. Habitat for Humanity South Africa contributed to construction by supplying the roof sheets and windows. The Centre for Early Childhood Development (CECD) donated funds to build the crèche. CECD will also support around the training and registration of the crèche.
From Melanie’s speech it was clear,
“This project is successful because of the methodologies we use. We allow communities to do their own designs. The community also made a [financial] contribution [in a settlement] where 95% of community members were unemployed. How do we change the mind-sets of people who are still waiting for adequate housing? Let’s change the way we are living now while we are waiting for housing to come.”
(Melanie Manuel, ISN Facilitator)
Important as settlement improvement is in itself, the methodology is just as significant. Moreover, Flamingo Crescent serves as a precedent for informal settlement upgrading on a larger scale. The day ended with the community leading the Mayor through their settlement, unveiling Flamingo’s new street names and officially opening the Little Paradise crèche together. It is Melanie Manuel’s closing words that speak of the future:
“We need to look at a holistic plan for the metro. Let’s look at how we can reach basic services much quicker and how we can scale up. The Alliance projects do not only focus on reblocking but on basic services in every form. The Alliance has designed a City Fund with which communities can directly access money for upgrading in Cape Town. In Flamingo the Aliance’s Community Upgrading Finance Facility (CUFF) helped us match the 20% that each community member contributed to their structure. This kind of facility on a city-level will go a long way – we challenge the City to continue partnering with us and match our contributions in the City Fund!”
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.
Accessible and inclusive cities demand systems and policies that provide the poor with equal access to the social, economic, and service benefits of the formal city. Relocation to the periphery (or even worse eviction) severs social bonds, increases urban sprawl, and aggravates spatial inequalities. In situ upgrading of informal settlements presents an opportunity to build denser, more climate friendly and equitable cities. Citywide data collection processes through profiles and enumerations form the baseline to plan for in situ upgrading.
SDI therefore understands in situ upgrading as a key part of integrating the excluded and informal poor populations into the city as a whole, providing meaningful access to the social and economic benefits of living in a city. An array of interventions have been developed by SDI’s affiliates to prepare communities for in situ upgrading projects and subsequently implement infrastructure and housing upgrades.
In Harare, Zimbabwe the Zimbabwean Homeless People’s Federation (ZHPF) and their support NGO, Dialogue on Shelter, have supported the incremental upgrading of Dzivarasekwa (DZ) extension in partnership with the City of Harare. To date almost 500 families have built incremental housing and accessed water and sanitation services. Surrounding informal communities have become interested in taking up these upgrading interventions and the Zimbabwean Alliance has plans to significantly scale up sanitation provision in DZ extension. Other city governments and communities (e.g. in Chinhoyi, Bulawayo, Kariba, and Kadoma) have been exposed to the projects and steps are being taken to replicate upgrading interventions. The partnership and pilots in Harare have influenced government (locally and nationally) to accept dry sanitation options (ecosan) and adopt incremental upgrading practices in the new National Housing Policy.
In Kampala the Ugandan Alliance has focused on pilot sanitation and market upgrading projects. In terms of sanitation the Federation has piloted a number of different toilet prototypes in Kinawataka, Kisenyi, and Kalimali and other municipalities outside of Kampala. The pilot projects have enabled the Federation to: a) engage local government substantively on the issue of sanitation discussing policy, regulations, and management strategies; b) change perceptions on what “public toilets” are from dirty, smelly, single-purpose units to units than can serve multiple functions – such as community halls, income generating spaces etc. and c) test different technologies – from solar lighting, to rainwater harvesting, to low-cost building materials in an effort to find the most efficient combinations for sanitation facilities. The Federation is now seen as a critical actor in the sanitation sector and has increased its networking with other actors in the field for enhanced learning. As a result of these pilots, the Federation was able to leverage significant resources from Comic Relief to continue its sanitation work over the next five years.
The vast majority of Kampala’s slum dwellers work in the informal sector – many in the city’s informal markets. As the city plans to upgrade these markets from cramped, muddy, and poorly ventilated and serviced to something more formal (and taxable) there is a danger the existing vendors will be pushed out due to affordability concerns.
The Federation is working on a pilot market upgrade in Kinawataka, Nakawa which will combine low-cost stalls and more formal “lock ups” to cater to the different needs of city dwellers. Many market upgrading projects in the city have been stalled for years due to the wrangles of market vendors, local politicians, and landlords. The Federation is working with the Kampala Capital City Authority and the Ministry of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development to try to demonstrate an alternative community-driven approach that may minimize these roadblocks to successful market upgrading.
In Cape Town, the South African Alliance has piloted three in situ upgrading projects. Over the last year Mshini Wam has been re-blocked, opening up space for safer and more dignified communities, as well as for infrastructure. Through the growing partnership with the City of Cape Town, water and sewerage pipes have been installed for the 250 households (497 people) in the settlement. Road surfacing is under discussion and during the next financial year electrification is planned. Nokwezi Klaas, a community leader from Mshini Wam, describes how re-blocking has changed the settlement: “Prior to re-blocking, the settlement was very dense. There were no passageways and when there were fires it was virtually impossible to get into the settlement. All the toilets were on the outskirts and there were only three water taps for over 200 households in the settlement.”
In Kukutown, a far smaller settlement, re-blocking has taken place and one-on-one services (water, sanitation, and electricity) have been installed. In Flamingo Crescent the re-blocking process is currently underway. In Stellenbosch a community managed WASH facility has been constructed in the Langrug informal settlement. Mshini Wam, Kukutown, and Flamingo Crescent have been used to show the possibilities for in situ upgrading in Cape Town and to catalyse other interventions at a city scale.
Their impact has been significant with the City of Cape Town drafting a re-blocking policy which could potentially be rolled out to other settlements across the city and aligned with municipal development plans, frameworks, and budget lines. During this period several consultation meetings have been held with the City to expedite and refine this process, addressing challenges and delays that have emerged.
In situ upgrading projects based on solid community data present a viable alternative to relocation and eviction. The variety of pilots and interventions trialed throughout the network highlight alternative visions for the city that include the poor, rather then relegate them to the periphery. The methods deployed represent a “tool-kit” which is contingent on local contexts especially the nature of relationships with local governments. What will become increasingly vital in the next year is how SDI federations are now in a position to scale up informal settlement upgrading interventions that form part of a coherent, affordable, and scalable citywide plan.
Check out SDI’s 2013 – 2014 Annual Report for more on in situ upgrading.