Muungano wa Wanavijiji encourages and supports urban poor communities to get organized around Savings and Loans schemes. Members can save for building a house, securing tenure, implementing a development project in to improve their living environment, or for their own individual purposes.
The entire savings process is designed to maximize contact that people have with each other. When people interact with each other on a daily basis – whether it be over savings or loans or an impending demolition – their sense of being a community intensifies. Economic and social networks are formed around their shared identity as members of the urban poor class.
According to Muungano approach, the loan proposal, proposal vetting, loan sanctioning and daily savings collections are the community savings groups’ entire responsibility. It also allows the community to look upon the money as their own and grow in confidence as they learn how to manage their own funds and operate their own savings and loans system. These are usually organized in a decentralized manner to maximize people’s participation.
Muungano with support from its support organization MuST and Slum Dwellers International help slum dwellers design housing and infrastructural facilities in ways that best respond to their needs and financial capacities.
House model exhibitions are large, open-air events attended by housing professionals and members from the government. Slum dweller communities gather and show real-size house models which they have designed and constructed for themselves. Such exhibitions allow the poor to discuss and debate-housing designs best suited to their needs.
It also allows them to enter into dialogue with professionals about construction materials, construction costs and urban services. Slum dwellers have always been the architects and engineers of their settlements. In many cities, local governments are now beginning to see that the urban poor can play a significant role in creating housing stock for low-income communities.
Enumerations and Profiling
Muungano promotes information as a powerful tool and asset for the urban poor. With knowledge and information concerning their settlement and living environment, the slum dwellers develop a strong tool for negotiation with the local authorities. The methods used by Muungano wa Wanavijiji to gather information on slums are all based on slum dweller community participation. They are the ones to conduct enumeration and mapping of their settlements, to count the services available in and around the slum, to define the status of land tenure, tenancy ratios and government structures. Communities receive support from Muungano support Trust, other slum dweller communities in the Kenyan Federation, and fellow SDI affiliates.
1. Structure counting
When a settlement gets visited by a Federation for the first time, a large number of Federation members hold meetings with the residents, and talk about themselves, their work and what they have come for. In most cases, the communities know of or have heard of the Federation’s work, and credibility is usually established. To trigger the process of participation, the Federation leader, together with community residents, take paint and begin to number the doors of houses. It is always necessary for the local community to be directly engaged and active in the process since they are best positioned to establish criteria for the numbering of the houses in their neighbourhood
Much of the community and slum profile is completed while the mapping exercise is underway. Toilets, water taps, facilities, services, amenities, are all identified. Note is also taken as to how households get goods and services, where they shop, what transportation systems they use and so on.
This exercise not only creates knowledge but also creates a direct link between the external Federation investigators and the active members of the community. This forms a part of the on-going process of community mobilization, self awareness and empowerment.
The third step is to match house numbers with the map and to redo the chalk numbers on each dwelling in more permanent paint. Communities are normally informed that government and city officials will be checking on this process, and ensuring accuracy is essential to establish good faith and the credibility of the communities.
4. Cadastral survey
At this point the Federation surveyors take over and mark and measure the sites.. The enumeration process forces the contradictions around internal power relations and resource allocation to the fore. These internal dynamics are normally dependent on power relations in the broader society and are a reflection of the contradictions created and sustained by the state and the market. It is for this reason that people from formal institutions, especially government and private real estate and construction companies (but also NGOs) feel uncomfortable about this process.
The most significant vehicle for community learning is through the direct exchange of information, experience and skills between the urban poor communities themselves. As part of the learning and training process for community-led slum upgrading, Muungano wa Wanavijiji organizes exchange visits and events between the different savings groups at city scale, national scale, and at international scale in partnership with other Slum Dwellers Federations from overseas countries affiliated to the Slum Dwellers International network. These exchanges also help to spread knowledge about how urban poor groups can take up initiatives to improve their living environment themselves. It is also an important mean to strengthen the federation process that joins together the different savings groups, and to support a continuous learning cycle among its member groups.
Advocacy and Security of Tenure
The Muungano advocacy teams in each county works to facilitate and support grassroots-led advocacy efforts aimed at building a strong, self-reliant Federation of Urban Poor capable of negotiating effectively at all levels of government.
Poverty is a multi-faceted phenomenon: it not only involves a lack of income, but also an unstable asset base, inadequate shelter, public infrastructure, and basic services. The project aims to help slum dwellers improve their housing quality, stall forced evictions of the urban poor, secure tenure, and improve access to basic infrastructure and services.
Income Generation Activities
The Kenyan SDI affiliate supports and encourages group initiatives aimed at improving community living conditions. Community groups are managing to support and sustain small businesses, such as selling cloths, poultry keeping, goat rearing, bricklaying, mushroom growing, plastic recycling, and soap making. These initiatives increase group savings and provide employment to group members.
Exchange visits provide a tremendous opportunity for communities to share lessons and ideas on how to improve their income generating activities and stimulate innovative income generating activities in different communities.
Muungano Development Fund-MDF
As the Kenyan Federation continues to grow in size and confidence, the need for finances to support community group initiatives becomes more eminent. Muungano, SDI, and the Akiba Mashinani Trust have worked together to start a Kenyan Urban Poor Fund – called the Muungano Development Fund.
The main of objectives of the Fund is to;
- Reach out to the urban poor with high quality financial, enterprise and investment services on a sustainable basis.
- Mobilize and invest resources for the benefit of members.
- Undertake any other activity as deemed necessary by the members for the benefit of the community.
The Fund, which is managed by representatives of the savings groups, was formulated in accordance with the experience of other SDI urban poor funds, but tailored to fit the Kenyan context. Federation members commit a non-refundable amount of money that helps build the fund. “We are setting up the fund in all six regions where Muungano is located and towns where the government facility is targeted in order to build slum dweller capacities to draw down resources for their development.
When organized member communities contribute to such a fund, it is hoped that they can attract additional funds from outside sources like governments, donors and the private sector.