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CURI Newsletter

Conference Proceedings: Approaches to Informal Settlement Upgrading

By the middle of this century all regions of the world will be predominantly urban. East Africa though presently among the least urbanized (24%) is experiencing very rapid rate of urbanization (around 4.0% per annum). Studies have shown that urbanization has many advantages to a developing country. However, the urban expansion experienced in East Africa is to large extent characterized by the growth of unplanned settlements accompanied by high levels of poverty and unemployment. The urban population in East Africa is highly varied. It varies from a low of less than 10% in Rwanda to 40 % in Kenya. What is notable is the generally high percent of the urban population living in informal settlements, around 65 per cent. Furthermore the rate of growth of urban slums in the region is among the highest in the world at around 5 percent.
The UN-HABITAT estimates that a total of 227 million people had moved from slum conditions between the years 2000-2010. Within the same period, the proportion of the urban population living in slums in the developing world declined from 39 per cent (2000) to an estimated 32 per cent (2010). Eastern Africa is among the regions lagging behind in curbing the growth of slums and improving the living conditions of slum dwellers while Asia leads the pack in best practice.
In recent years, Governments in East Africa together with development partners have adopted policies and initiated several programs to counter the expansion of existing slums, prevent growth of new ones as well as improve the lives of those living in informal settlements. However, despite the many initiatives little progress seems to have been made leaving the question
“Where are we going wrong or what are we not doing”? A closer look at the successful countries shows that their Governments and Municipalities have taken responsibility for slum reduction squarely on their shoulders, backing international commitments with bold policy reforms, and thwarting future slum growth with inclusive planning and economic strategies. Effective slum
upgrading also require institutional capacity building, monitoring and scaling up of successful local projects. A number of progressive policies are emerging in the region. For example, Kenya has a new constitution, a new land policy and is in the process of revising the housing policy. However, the general lack of political commitment and lack of coordination of slum upgrading projects have stood as some of the major impediments to slum upgrading in the region. It’s against this background that the University of Nairobi in collaboration with partners within Kenya (Muungano Support Trust (MuST), Akiba Mashinani Trust (AMT) and the Muungano wa Wanavijiji) and outside (UC Berkeley, SDI, and sister Universities in the East Africa region) sought to convene a regional conference to explore approaches and share lessons on sustainable up scaling of informal settlements upgrading in East Africa. The conference drew participants from Universities, Government and Municipal institutions, Civil Society and Local Communities (Muungano wa Wanavijiji).

This publication presents proceeding of the conference. Rather than present well-structured papers the proceedings reflect deliberations as it took place on the floor. It presents brief presentations from key speakers, representing respective countries and conference themes followed by question and answer. We hope the exchange and lessons shared here will be of
relevance to both researchers, policy makers and practitioners in the sector.

Mathare Zonal Plan a Collaborative Plan for Informal Settlement Upgrading

This report describes an ongoing project aimed at improving the lives and living conditions of slum dwellers in Nairobi through a partnership between Muungano Support Trust, Slum Dwellers International (SDI), the University of Nairobi, and the University of California, Berkeley. The project started in 2008, produced a report for slum upgrading for select villages in the Mathare Valley in 2009, and this report presents findings and recommendations for upgrading infrastructure across the entire Mathare Valley informal settlement. The Mathare Valley - one of the largest informal settlements in Nairobi and East Africa - lacks basic services, including water, sanitation and electricity for a majority of its residents. Infrastructure improvements rank as the top priority of Mathare residents and our report aims to help ensure improved services are delivered to all villages in a timely and efficient manner. Despite recent national slum-focused planning policies, no comprehensive development plans currently exist that integrate physical and social planning for Nairobi’s large slums, including Mathare. This report is also timely, since Kenya’s new Constitution decentralizes governance and will require new processes and plan making by local authorities that include slum dwellers, community-based organizations and universities.

This report aims to act as a first draft of a community-led, comprehensive development plan for Mathare. This report recommends specific strategies, including:

  1.  Investing in comprehensive valley-wide trunk and household-level connections for water and sanitary infrastructure;
  2. Improving roads, pathways and drainage at the same time as pipe infrastructure;
  3. Ensuring each household can connect to electricity and the valley has adequate lighting for streets and public areas at night;
  4. Organizing a Mathare civil society network that includes the many community-based and non-governmental organizations working in the settlement to improve cooperation, political accountability and ensure infrastructure investments are implemented by and for community members, and;
  5. Ongoing, participatory monitoring of the physical, social, economic and public health impacts of infrastructure upgrading.

Kiandutu Settlement Profile, Thika Kenya

Informal settlement profiling is a development-oriented strategy that seeks to establish more rapid, innovative, and broad based understanding to the challenging situation underlying informality. Profiling is crucial for obtaining more comprehensive settlement information and to thereby enable effective decision-making on which developmental responses are appropriated for different settlements. As outputs for benchmarking, the profiling of settlements sets the stage for their inclusion in municipal/urban development plans and investment that will enable the availing of services and infrastructure to acceptable standards.

The challenge posed by informal settlements is one that calls for synergy and back-stopping of the diverse strategies in seeking solutions. Given the scale of informal settlements, their complexity and the limited human and financial resources available, profiling seeks to facilitate practical and achievable pathways to sustainable upgrading. Thus, it is of utmost importance that this approach is widely shared and appreciated by all those interested in settlement upgrading as an area of intervention.

Annual Report 2013

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