Inspiring urban poor Communities to be at the heart of urban regeneration ‘Moving from Enumerations to Slum upgrading’

By Grace Githiri and Shadrack Mbaka

Kiandutu Community receive a copy of their settlement profile report from the Muungano Federation Chairperson, Rashid Mutua

Friday 9th September 2016, Slum dwellers International, Kenyan alliance, Muungano wa Wanavijiji, County Government of Kiambu and a host of collaborating partners that included the University of Nairobi, Strathmore university, Katiba Institute and slum dwellers from Kiandutu informal settlement met; for a roundtable meeting to discuss a development strategy for the settlement.

Delegates at the Kiandutu Conference

The round-table dubbed ‘Moving from Enumerations to Slum upgrading’ provided a platform for urban development stakeholders to create and strengthen links across sectors, to share and learn from each other, as well as support urban poor communities in developing their own local processes.

In August 2015 the Kenyan affiliate began negotiations with the County government over the provision of a piece of land for a community-led sanitation demonstration projects to benefit the slum dwellers and local traders of Kiambu County.

This workshop focused not only on deepening the SDI rituals of community organizing, savings and enumerations, profiling and mapping that are crucial for federation development, but also key issues facing the settlement such as access to sanitation among other services.

Kiandutu is one of the informal settlements in Thika town, Kiambu which is situated on 100 acres piece of land with about 6,000 households in which the occupants have engaged in the process of land negotiations with the county government for an option to slum upgrading.

Partnerships based on community participation

The County Executive Committee member in charge for Water, Environment and Natural Resources and CEC in charge for Lands, Housing and physical planning, Hon. Esther Njuguna and Hon. Eunice Kumunga , paid a courtesy visit to the meeting where they expressed a recommitment to the project on behalf of the County Government of Kiambu.

Hon. Esther Njuguna CEC Water, Environment and Natural Resources

Hon. Esther Njuguna highlighted on the need for a participatory planning process by which a community undertakes to reach a given socio-economic goal by consciously diagnosing its problems and charting a course of action to resolve those problems. “In Kenya today, rigid conventional approaches to planning are being discarded and laws are being put in place to facilitate community participation in local governance. For example, in the constitution, Article 43 of the Constitution asserts the right to sanitation and housing, which allows for local communities to participate in local planning and governance. The county government schedule also recognizes the role of the county in providing services.”

Hon. Eunice Kumunga on the other hand, expressed her delight to be part of the movement and shared how it fits into the county’s “Agenda for Change” program that aims to alleviate poverty, in which affordable housing is a key output. Additionally to show the county governments support a meeting will be held to discuss the planning dynamics of the Kiandutu piece of land as well as an ongoing partnership with SDI.

A team of settlement leaders from the Kiandutu community attended the meeting to solidify the commitment from the Kiandutu community. At this time the Kiandutu community through their representative structures called on the county government to support pro-poor policies and practices by working with the federation as well as fulfill its promise and materialize its commitment by providing a piece of land for an affordable housing project.

Joel Bolnick SDI’s secretariat manager who graced the workshop reiterated that, “SDI has begun to compile information on all of its projects across the 34 member affiliates. The network has made significant investments in energy (solar), housing, water and sanitation. As urban poor communities, it is important for federations to develop instruments to unlock land values through organised communities in partnership with local governments through negotiated solutions. Partnership cultivated between the Kenyan federation and the Kiambu County government has shown practical actions that are focused in developing sanitation solutions and SDI is looking at options of financing the projects.”

Joel Bolnick, Manager SDI Secretariat

During this time delegates were able to talk to community members and gain a better understanding of the challenges they face. Following these engagements, discussions at the hub focused on how best to move from community enumerations and mapping to slum upgrading.

Mitigating Effects of Climate Change on the urban poor

Climate change and increasing energy demands are major global challenges at the top of the international agenda. It is also a main concern for the Kenyan governments and a priority area for partnership activities to mitigate the effects of climate change more so in the informal settlements.

Therefore, if not proactively addressed, climate change is anticipated to adversely affect the country’s sustainable development efforts including its ability to attain the Sustainable Development goals as well as the objectives set out in the Government’s Vision 2030 development plan.

In light of these circumstances, SDI is supporting a number of activities in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania aiming at understanding and responding to impacts of climate change.

Victor Orindi of the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) expressed that, “Climate Change is considered one of the most serious threats to sustainable development globally. Impacts of climate change are expected in many sectors such as environment, human health, food security, economic activities, natural resources and physical infrastructure.

Victor Orindi, an Expert with the National Drought Management Authority

The National Climate Change Response Strategy (2010) was the first national policy document to fully acknowledge the reality of climate change. The NCCRS has been guiding policy decisions since its launch in 2010.The Strategy provided evidence of climate impacts on different economic sectors and proposed adaptation and mitigation strategies. The National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP) takes forward the implementation of the NCCRS.”

Collaborative tools of execution

Whilst there is no doubt the grass root communities are gaining ground in influencing decisions at local level, a lot more needs to be done to ensure that their voice is sustained and the competencies of public officials are continuously enhance to come to terms with the new change.

Moving Forward

Conversations based on a policy brief drafted by Centre for Urban Research and Innovation and SDI Kenya are currently being held in Kiandutu, to enable the communities to think through how to strategically use land to promote a pro-poor urban development agenda. How this piece of land and housing demonstration project can be used not only to push the their agenda but to also be a precedent setting project that allows the federation and government to invest in similar upgrading projects across the city as well as in other cities.

Gabriel Kabue, the chairperson of the Muungano in Kiandutu reiterated, “Before, the Kiandutu community lacked access to basic services based on the assumption that it was an informal settlement. Now we have water, sewer, and access roads. All these things are good for the health and our well being. Education and self awareness enables the poor to improve."

Gabriel Kabue, Chairperson Muungano-Kiandutu
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