Participants of the 15th Hub Meet.

Participants of the 15th Hub Meet.

By Shadrack Mbaka and Joseph Muturi

As the world convened in New York for the 70th session of the United Nations general Assembly held in September 2015 for the ratification of the 17 Sustainable Goals (SDGs), for the first time ratified an urban-specific Sustainable Development Goal, which precisely focuses on cities and human settlements, Goal 11. However, what remains to be the big question is what would be its impacts?

Recently, between the 1st and 3rd October 2015, the SDI East African hub (Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania) met  in Jinja, Uganda to reflect the realities of many developing cities around the region – these realities include the struggles faced by its members to pursue dignified lives, through building sustainable slum-dweller federations. Slum dwellers within the East African hub; continue to be pervaded by characteristics of extreme poverty, forced evictions, and rapid population growth, and inadequate local and central government systems.

The 15th East African hub meeting was officially opened by Musisi Kibuguddu, chairman Local council 3 Walukuba-Masese division Jinja municipality. The chair urged the federations to develop an inter sectoral working approach between the federations to enable create learning and through self sustainable community   programmes.

Musisi Kibuguddu LC 3 Chairman

Musisi Kibuguddu LC 3 Chairman

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Citizen research: community-led mechanisms in addressing food safety in urban poor settlements


By Shadrack Mbaka

Food insecurity and safety challenges continue to be a silent but common problem in many urban and rural parts of Kenya; but the country’s rapidly growing urban population is increasingly trying to address these food related issues.

At present, the Kenyan government through the Ministry of Agriculture has embarked on a campaign that seeks to promote peri-urban agriculture to create a broader access to food supplies among the urban poor.
images (4)“Most cities and towns in Kenya are growing rapidly and so are their populations. However, it is important to note that only a small number of these people may have a consistent source of income, which makes the majority of them border on the edges of extreme poverty. And this is primarily because they cannot afford food,” said Grace Watetu, a food security analyst with Muungano wa Wanavijiji.

According to a recent study done by the International Institute for the Environment and Development (IIED), in partnership with University College London and Muungano wa Wanavijiji-Kenya Federation of the Urban Poor, urban poor, especially those living in informal settlements, are exposed to multiple vulnerabilities and risks connected to both the environment in which they live and the livelihoods which they pursue.

Most residents in slums such as Mathare, Kibera, Mukuru, Korogocho and Viwandani lack secure tenure and proper access to basic services such as water, sewer and drainage connections, and proper sanitation. Most importantly, they lack better and dignified housing. This condition makes the urban poor vulnerable to health hazards and prone to evictions and to destruction, or loss, of property.

The overcrowding and non-durable nature of most slum housing coupled with inadequate sanitation and water services results in a high probability of disease transmission. Limited health service provision is also affecting the health status of the population living in informal settlements.

Many urban poor rely on manual, casual, insecure and low paying jobs, some of which are also subject to seasonality.

As a result, many informal settlements’ residents resort to a variety of coping mechanisms: skipping and/or spreading consumption, eating fewer and smaller meals, and eating cheaper foods.

The IIED, UCL and Muungano wa Wanavijiji study focused on the informal settlements of Mathare and Viwandani (Nairobi) and it is estimated that slum dwellers spend between 50 and 60 percent of their monthly income on food.

Rukia Nyambura, a 27-year-old mother of one, lives in Korogocho, an informal settlement in Nairobi. Her average daily income is about Ksh. 300(about US$3.00).”Sometimes am split budgeting my income between food to feed my family, taking care of my baby’s health needs and of course rent. But it is often food needs that take the bigger chunk of my income,” says Rukia.
“These groups of people, as represented by Rukia, are greatly affected by food insecurity because they survive on little income or none at all,” said Alice Sverdlik, a researcher at University of California Berkeley.

Some of the major topics raised by the communities in the study revolved widely around key important areas such as: risks for the urban poor living in informal settlements—in particular in relation to food sources, environmental hazards and lack of infrastructure. The specific causes creating food safety issues in slum areas. And the possible solutions that can be taken into consideration.

Most urban areas and towns across the country, and in particular the communities living in informal settlements, heavily rely on food supplies from rural areas.

The project a dynamic approach seeks to explore available modern day technology to survey and recommend ways of improving food security and safety in the city by way of embracing, visualize communal problems and challenges in the city on digitized settlement maps to highlight these issues.

As a way of building capacity for citizen scientists, this would go a long way in supporting urban poor communities to have a clearer understanding of the effects and impacts of food safety on the health. This would trigger a process that could offer community-generated solutions that, as a result, could propose key policy guidelines to strengthen food security in the city.

Slum Soccer- a tool for resilient Communities

slum soccer 3

Slum Soccer uses football – the beautiful game which is unique yet a perfect vehicle that transcends race, religion, language and gender to bring about a change in the lives of slum/street dwellers. Slum Soccer exists to foster sustainable development within otherwise marginalized populations of Nairobi and other cities. For the love of the game, it turns out as a tool that aims to provide long term solutions to combat homelessness and improve living standards within underprivileged areas.

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Coach Johnte giving tactical instructions to the Huruma Kambi Moto team.

Coach Johnte giving tactical instructions to the Huruma Kambi Moto team.

Its approaches are centered on building self-sufficient communities. The game of Football is our means to that end- connecting individuals, teaching life skills and working towards improving overall quality of life.

Monday, this week 26 kids from Kambi Moto, Huruma got the opportunity to play in the tournament held in Mathare.

All said and done, the biggest factor that enables us to use football as a tool to connect and bring about social development is quite stunningly simple. Football is fun! We believe we are able to bring about increased learning and engagement through utilising this.

Fat Fingers and Back of a Napkin Calculations

By Jack Makau

Kiambu Governor, H.E William Kabogo enumerates a family in Kiandutu during an event to launch the community enumeration process. The Kenya federation has moved from paper based surveys to the use of hi-tech devices.

Kiambu Governor, H.E William Kabogo enumerates a family in Kiandutu during an event to launch the community enumeration process. The Kenya federation has moved from paper based surveys to the use of hi-tech devices.

Kenyan slum dwellers undertake paperless survey of 10,000 families.

Over the last 15 years, Muungano wa Wanavijiji, the Kenya federation of slum dwellers has surveyed and mapped over 340,000 slum families living in 364 settlements. In its latest survey, conducted in Kiandutu slum – 40 kilometers north west of Nairobi, Muungano made a switch to use technology for collecting and processing data.

On the ground, in Kiandutu (which means, place of jiggers) 170 community members were selected to map each of the settlement’s 10,000 shacks and collect details of each family and each person living there. Instead of a paper questionnaire, the enumerators used Android 6.3 inch touch-screen tablets. According to Muungano’s chair person, Rashid Mutua, “we had a choice of smart phones or tablets, both within the same price range. We choose tablets because some of us have fat fingers.”

The tablets are installed with an Enketo web form that has all 37 questions contained in Muungano’s previous paper questionnaires. The tablets do not require an Internet connection to work. The enumerators collect data offline all day, and in the evening the data is transferred into a GIS enabled database.

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Muungano Signs MOU with Kiambu County Government to launch partnership


By Shadrack Mbaka

Jack Makau of SDI and Hon. Esther Njuguna of Kiambu County Government Exchange  signed copies of the MOU.

Jack Makau of SDI and Hon. Esther Njuguna of Kiambu County Government Exchange signed copies of the MOU.

Thika, Kiambu –Wednesday, August 12, 2015: With a focus on improving the standard of living  of the urban poor , the County government of Kiambu, Muungano wa Wanavijiji and Slum Dwellers International  is set to embark on an extensive settlement profiling, enumerations and mapping exercise in Kiandutu settlement, Thika Sub-county.

SDI and the Kiambu government have  signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) at a press conference held at the county’s office in Thika earlier yesterday afternoon.

The MOU will see the identification and community organisation of residents living in the county. The communities living in these informal settlements will be sensitized on the significance of Settlement profiles, enumerations and mapping, stating the deep correlations between community data and local government planning priorities, especially for communities living in informal settlements.

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Kiandutu Settlement Profiling and Mapping begins

By Muungano documentation Team

Mtatu B, one of the clusters in Kiandutu Informal settlement.

Mtatu B, one of the clusters in Kiandutu Informal settlement.

In 2011, the Kenyan SDI Alliance began scaling up its strategy to support community-led upgrading in anticipation of engaging the Kiambu county government to deliver on a new national and city slump improvement initiative and housing programmes. Subsequently in 2015, Muungano wa Wanavijiji, with the support of Slum Dwellers International (SDI) has successfully negotiated a partnership strategy, that would see all informal settlements in Kiambu County identified, profiled, mapped and documented for future slum upgrading and resettlement plans.

Kenya for example follows many previous government programmes and slum upgrading models such as the; Kenya Informal Settlements Improvement programme and the Kenya Slum Upgrading Programme that set out to address slum improvement and upgrading, but has particular importance in that, the support it offers city governments to achieve “slum-free” cities focuses far more than its predecessors on in situ upgrading and tenure security for those living in informal settlements.

Despite the priority given to participation and empowerment by development agencies, there have been few opportunities for the poor to develop their own alternatives. However, Muungano and other SDI affiliates are using community-led data collection, upgrading initiatives, and partnerships to advance change across informal settlements and even at the city-wide scale. The power of communities and their ability to gather data that can influence policy is immense: The urban poor have demonstrated that cities have to work with urban poor communities to collect data and maps of all informal settlements in the city, as the basis for inclusive partnerships between communities of the urban poor and local governments. This has proven to be a critical starting point for meaningful development interventions to address the issues facing our cities, particularly in the informal sector, including human settlements and economy, which constitutes the majority of our cities’ people.

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By Eva Mourine, Mathare


Photo credit: Sam Sturgis

Photo credit: Sam Sturgis

The high rate of unemployment and lack of basic services in low-income neighborhoods such as Mathare has continued to influence to a larger extent alternative modes of social and economic organization amongst youth living in Nairobi’s slums. Most informal settlements in Nairobi sets a context where nothing is actually formal, there are no official roads, no basic infrastructure, no official security means, the ever ‘‘hustling’’ youth have carved out alternative niche to navigate extreme environments.

Alcoholism and drug abuse among the youth in Mathare continues to be a big disease that is causing pain and agony in many households in Mathare, this has greatly hampered development. In the heart of Mathare valley, one would be awakened by the stench of alcohol which often sends a message of despair to many.

The smoke; billowing from the chimneys smells of burnt grass of Jamaican hem. Every crack of dawn is welcomed by the bizarre of drunk walking zombies that fight themselves through the faint light as if avoiding the sun that could smoke them alive if it light bright, many homes have gained shame which in too much intensity has proven a great crack of weak point for the future leaders who swallowed by the fate of alcoholism and drug addiction.

Alcoholic drinks are gaining popularity in informal settlements; however, what is of major concern is the additives that these drinks are laced with. Many of the local popular drinks in Nairobi slums include; changaa and busaa. “Some of these drinks  could either make you go blind since they are laced with deadly chemicals such as chloroform and ethanol,” this was description given to by one of the community health workers”.

All I can be sure of is that; the ghetto never lacks the class of living easy and dying fast. The youths have been trapped in the cycle of the ‘urge’ which spikes the nerves like a racing inferno which it desires can never be calmed by coffee or tea.

This is the routine caused by the outcome of addictiveness and love for anxiety in this valley of shanties. So often while traversing Mathare, I would ask myself questions, Is it the outrageous lusty appetite to feel high or just an imaginary stairs to cloud nine?

Although adolescence provides a challenging developmental period for young people throughout Mathare and the world, the difficulties faced by young people in developing countries are often exacerbated by poverty, limited access to education, and unstable social contexts.

Drug addiction, not only has it stormed many by an expected surprise, rather has it left every household with a calm demon to nurse. Many youths, in my settlement, Mathare have been enslaved by alcohol and drug abuse, leaving the affected parents; if lucky, nursing hopes with prayers of breaking the capture of their sons and daughters. Alcohol abuse has become inevitable for much as cheap liquor is at disposal for all young, middle and the aged residents.

In recent turn events, President Uhuru Kenyatta in reaction to the silent slogan, “we are a drinking nation” issued a directive on the destruction of all second generation alcohol. This directive has so far seen the banishing of illegal drinking dens in Mathare. This directive may be considered a knee jack reaction; however, it has created the much needed debate on building a sober citizenry that is focused in building better communities.

Alcohol abuse has had a devastating effect in Mathare. Alcohol has been abused to the extent that the consumers, whom most are the youth as well as their families, have suffered a great deal from its adverse effects. Many youths under the influence engage in hazardous behaviors’, notably crime to sustain these habits, unsafe sex, fights which they would otherwise not engage in.

Milkah Njeri, a resident of Huruma in Mathare constituency, believes that the directive by the president to declare war on illegal brews is just but the beginning, “The war against killer brews is necessary to protect the youth to enable them be part nation building,” she said.

The Mathare community has sustained efforts to help support alcohol and drug addicts by encouraging them to go to the rehabilitation centers and “mend” their lives. The community has also enhanced “the ka sober” campaign (Stay sober) to sensitize and educate communities on effects of drug and alcohol addiction. Muungano network in Mathare in efforts to ensure the youth to beat alcoholism and drug abuse, the federation has continued to engage the youth in cleanups and organising them in savings schemes which has greatly assisted them to start their own businesses and ventures. For all said and done, the slums are still fading in the languishing state of the current emergence of alcoholism addiction and other vital drug abuse.

Silence is golden but either way… languishing is paramount…


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