Papa Omondi, a resident of Mukuru Kwa Reuben has a similar perspective, “The journey for decent homes for the people in slums started more than two decades ago back when Muungano started transforming slum dwellers lives in Nairobi and other major towns with a thrust of bringing about a demonstrable improvement in the lives of vulnerable people and their families living in urban slums focusing on young people as catalysts for community development.” He added that the process has catalyzed into a huge opportunity of working with slum dwellers, informal settlers and the rural people as champion of their transformational development process.
Papa Omondi, Resident of Mukuru Kwa Reuben
Omondi stated that all these efforts are geared towards addressing the challenges of lands and housing as a critical sector in the development agenda albeit ignored by successive governments adding that people must not forget that lands and housing are fundamentally social, political and livelihood issues.
The Poverty Penalty dilemma
Poverty penalty – the additional cost paid for services by the poor relative to the more affluent neighbourhood – is an all familiar case in Mukuru and most informal settlements in both urban and rural areas.
According the Journal of Filed actions, , poor people in developed countries also suffer from the poverty penalty. Quite naturally, without any particular ill will on the part of the actors in the commercial sector, the market sometimes penalizes the poor by making them pay more than other households, per unit of consumption, for the same goods and services.
A more accurate understanding of poor population groups can be gained by analyzing their budgets, separating out the irreducible expenses they have to meet. These expenses correspond to items of “essential spending”: rent, loan repayments, and utility bills: gas, water, electricity, etc.
Drawing on a study by the IDRC funded action research on Access to basic services and justice in Nairobi Informal settlettlements with Mukuru as a case study, the poor pay more in 18.9 per cent on rent, 337.8 per cent on water and 128.6 percent in eon electricity. The water sector provides a good illustration of the phenomenon. For people living in slums, not being connected to the water distribution network means that they have to pay much more for water of dubious sanitary quality.
Making the Invisible Visible
There is an undeniable need to generate some order in Kenya’s informal settlements, where planning dysfunction threatens the livelihoods of the poor. Posturing on the part of rights groups, planners, and politicians are doing little to alleviate the fundamental challenges that perpetuate the acute poverty faced by the majority of Mukuru’s residents. Instead, Nairobi needs creative implementation strategies based on up-to-date data, authentic and informed citizen participation, and negotiation that accepts compromise will be needed from all sides.
The first component of the strategy, therefore, acknowledges that up-to-date data on the city and the tenure claims of its residents is required to understand actual on-the-ground realities. Muungano has conducted city-wide profiles and mapping of 158 informal settlements in the city and with the support of International Development Research Centre (IDRC) verified data in more than 40 settlements.
It has also piloted the Tujuane Tujengane (Let’s know and support one another) Model tool which borrows on the global leave no one behind campaign, where the model seeks to rally communities living in informal settlements to establish settlement based community planning forums as well as neighbourhood associations. The second component recognizes that this information, this data, should not simply inform the city preparing a development plan or the physical planning department. In matters of land, communities need to trust and understand the data available if it is to guide planning.
When communities drive the data gathering process, it sets in motion a discussion with authorities that is based on information the community owns. When they begin the negotiation process, they are able to do more than demand a right to stay: they begin a discussion on strategies for a way forward for upgrading based on concrete information.