By Alice Sverdlik and Shadrack Mbaka
On 5th February, Muungano and its financial wing Akiba Mashinani Trust (AMT) hosted a well-attended event to publicise findings from a recent report on Mukuru, one of Nairobi’s largest informal settlements. Over 160 guests attended the launch meeting at the Boma Hotel, Nairobi, including Muungano members, civil society groups, government officials, and development partners. The research in Mukuru was jointlyconducted by AMT, city planners at the University of Nairobi, legal and finance professors at Strathmore University, and lawyers at the Katiba Institute. This consortium partnered closely with residents throughout a multi-stage research process, which was supported by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) from 2013-2015.
Guests at the launch were treated to performances by Mukuru youth and Muungano members, in addition to detailed presentations about the report’s findings.The researchers also argued for holistic interventions such as inclusive slum upgrading initiatives, pro-poor financial strategies, and supportive legal frameworks in Mukuru.In response, the MCA from Mukuru kwa Njenga, Alexander Mulatya and the Director of Housing for Nairobi County government Marion Rono offered their comments on the findings. Another major speaker was Dr Yash Pal Ghai, former chair of the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission, who noted the report’s significance and said it helped to reinvigorate his hope for Kenya’s future as envisioned in the constitution.
Speaking on behalf of Muungano wa Wanavijiji, Rashid Mutua the National Chairperson of Muungano wa Wanavijiji said the federation is keen in participating in technical working groups to address challenges facing slum dwellers. He said the report would add value in the federation quest in building working solutions to address tenure, housing and improved livelihood for the poor.
Doris Moseti, an emerging leader from Mukuru gave an account of the federations 15,000 women who are leading a sanitation campaign, which has to this end engaged key players such as the Ministry of Health and the Nairobi County Government on the need of provision of basic sanitation services in informal settlements.
In a related campaign, Muungano women have gathered 15,000 signatures protesting slums ‘sanitation and urging action by the Ministry of Health, Governor Kidero, or other officials. Such advocacy strategies will carry forward the action research project in Mukuru, helping to ensure equitable access to services, land, and justice for residents of Kenyan informal settlements.
Simon Carter, IDRC Regional Director for Sub-Saharan Africa in his speech said that it was an honour of IDRC to be able to support a research of such magnitude. The launch of the project, Improving access to justice and services in informal settlement comes at an opportune time, when IDRC 5 year strategic plan focuses on building knowledge, innovation and solution in Nairobi’s informal settlements and other developing countries. He also stated that IDRC values leadership in terms of how researches can build capacity of local leaders to find solutions for their deepest problems.
Mukuru is located on contested private lands in the industrial area, and the study discovered key links between the area’s insecure land tenure, meagre services, and unjust governance institutions. Researchers documented the extremely dire living conditions in Mukuru, where residents faceseveralinterlinked challenges such asa poverty penalty and gendered burdens:
- Minimal Water, Bathrooms, or Toilets: Surveys with over 800 households in Mukuru found that as few as 3.6% had access to adequate bathrooms, just 7% had adequate toilets, and only 29% had adequate water provision.
- Dangerous Illicit Electricity: Although 78% of households had electricity, access is mainly through unreliable illegal connections that are controlled by cartels. These hazardous services may only spawn other challenges for Mukuru residents, such as regular blackouts and higher risks of electrocution.
- Poverty Penalty: In a key finding, the researchers discovered that Mukuru residents can only access higher-cost, lower-quality services as compared to nearby formal estates. For instance, the average structure in Mukuru (a 10-by-10-foot rented room without amenities) is 10% to 26% more expensive per square-foot than nearby formal estates with all services provided. Similarly, Mukuru households must pay 45% to 142% more for their monthly electricity bills than residents enjoying formal KPLC provision. For water, the poverty penalty is especially dire as slum-dwellers usually consume less water, at lower quality, but at higher costs than residents with formal provision. Mukuru residents typically pay tariffs per cubic-metre that are as much as 172% the rates of formal water customers.
- Women and Girls’ Double Burden: Women and girls are especially affected by poor service delivery, particularly when they risk rape or assault to use Mukuru’s inadequate toilets after dark. These gendered burdens in sanitation are receiving greater attention, thanks in part to advocacy by Muungano women and AMT. http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/oct/29/nairobi-slum-dwellers-sanitation-land-rights. But women and girls in Mukuru still face inadequate, costly, and insecure toilets that place them at risk of violence, missed school days, or other harmful consequences.
- Insecure Land Tenure: Many of these challenges in Mukuru’s service delivery are rooted in insecure land rights. In 2012, Muunganoand Katiba Institute petitioned the High Court seeking to revoke the titles issued in Mukuru kwaNjenga and Mukuru kwa Reuben. If the Court agrees to revoke the titles, Mukuru residents would urge the National Land Commission to pass the land to them (likely as communal tenure), so thataffordable housing and services could then be developed.
In her closing remarks Jane Weru of Akiba Mashinani reiterated that Mukuru is a living testimony that the dreams of many are going to change informal settlements. “What am going to ask each of us is to be there and to walk with the people as they change the world; as women of Mukuru would say, Hatuta susu kwa Kasuku-We won’t accept to go for short call in plastic containers.”