06. Results

During the research trip to Nairobi, Kenya two major slum upgrade projects were looked at as case studies. The first one was a completed upgrade project in Mathare that ran between 1992 and 2008. The second one was in Kibera and is part of KENSUP, described earlier. For each of the two case studies, an overview of the project is presented, the level of community participation in the project identified and finally the role of technology in the project is discussed.

The results are based on a number of interviews done before and during the field trip, as well as results of correspondence with a number of NGOs that work in the Kibera and Mathare slums (see complete list of organizations surveyed and people interviewed in appendix A).

6.1        Case Study: Mathare 4A Housing Project 1992-2008

6.1.1        Overview of project

The Mathare 4A Housing Project started in 1992 as a joint effort between the government of Kenya and Germany, implemented by the Amani Housing Trust, which was set up by the Catholic Archdiocese of Nairobi (Kigochie, 2001). It was initiated by a German catholic priest from the local Saint Benedict Catholic church, which was appalled by the lack of infrastructure for his parishioners. He went to Germany and lobbied Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KFW), a German government-owned development bank based in Frankfurt to finance the project (B. Otieno, personal communication, 23 November 2011).

As a result of this involvement by the German government, the project became commonly known by the slum dwellers as the “German project” and the houses became known as the “German houses” (G. Dima, personal communication, December 1, 2011).

The land in question was owned by the government and was released to the Amani Housing Trust. The structures (shanties) on the land were owned by people who either settled there early or had acquired them from the early settlers. These structure owners had no formal land tenure.

One of the key principles behind the project was to ensure that tenants would not get displaced during infrastructure improvements, such as the building of roads, walking paths, toilets, etc. (Malombe, 1997). This was done by providing housing for those who were displaced and ensuring that their rent did not change. Furthermore the structure owners were compensated for their structures (B. Otieno, personal communication, November 23, 2011).

People living in the shanties were provided with rooms in cheap concrete houses based on the number of family members. Each room was 9m2 in size. The tenants paid rent to the project and part of it was utilized to reinvest back into the community in form of maintenance. The intention was that any surplus would be utilized to create more formal housing (B. Otieno, personal communication, November 23, 2011).

The first hurdle the project faced was with the owners of the structures that were to be demolished to make ways for roads, footpaths and toilets. The land on which their structures stood was owned by the government, and they did not have any deeds for the house. Many of the structure owners had been early residents of the area and were also living there, while renting out a few houses nearby (G. Nyagoa, personal communication, November 26, 2011). Since the land was not owned by the structure owners, only the value of the structures themselves was evaluated and the structure owners compensated accordingly. For many of the structure owners this meant a loss of income, and they had to look for new sources of livelihood. Afterwards many of the structure owners felt cheated by the government, as the amount they were given as compensation was similar to three months of rental income (G. Nyagoa, personal communication, November 26, 2011).

Figure 6‑1. Looking over deteriorated rooftops of the “German project” in Mathare 4A

Residents living in the areas that were to be cleared were to be relocated to an area nearby that had been a swamp. Temporary housing was to be built there until more permanent housing could be built using the surplus from the rental income. This newly cleared area became known as the Temporary Area or T-Area (B. Otieno, personal communication, November 23, 2011).

To determine which citizens would be relocated, a survey was done of each of the structures to be demolished to get data about each family. The current rent and information about their social condition was gathered to determine what level of rent (at or below the current rent) could be collected in the new housing (B. Otieno, personal communication, November 23, 2011).

During this process the citizens were told that if they lived in the new housing provided, for ten years, they would own the house themselves (a rent-to-own scheme). This was yet another incentive for people to participate in this project (G. Nyagoa, personal communication, November 26, 2011).

The project started very well, with the swampy area being dried up and made ready for construction. The citizens participated in the construction effort and the temporary housing was quickly built. This allowed for the citizens to move in and their old homes to be demolished, making ways for roads, footpaths, space for sewer lines, etc. Overall people were very happy with the project and so were the donors (B. Otieno, personal communication, November 23, 2011).

Then during the 1997 parliamentary elections, politicians started interfering with the project. They told people that the donors should be assisting people and that people should not have to pay rent for housing that had already been built. This “election promise” was an easy way for the politician to get people to elect them, but it completely broke down the financing schema that was the basis behind continuing the project. The money required for maintenance and building of further housing started drying up as some people stopped paying (B. Otieno, personal communication, November 23, 2011).

This was further exacerbated in the 2002 parliamentary election when politicians convinced those who were still paying some rent to stop paying until the permanent housing was provided, instead of the temporary houses they currently lived in. In the end this detrimental political interference led the German donors to pull out of the project, and in 2008 it was permanently moved over to the Ministry of Land and Housing (B. Otieno, personal communication, November 23, 2011).

6.1.2        Community participation

From the start of the project the community was involved. There were six different areas that were being cleared and the residents elected representatives from each area. Where toilets were being built for each ten households, one representative was elected. This guaranteed even representation from both those who were being relocated to new houses as well as those who were receiving improved living conditions. Through these representatives, the community was involved in the decision making process and was able to communicate problems that arose (B. Otieno, personal communication, November 23, 2011).

Figure 6‑2. Housing in Mathare 4A, before, during and after construction
Source: (Ministry of Housing, 2011)

The project also became a source of livelihood for some of the people living in the area, since most of the construction was done utilizing citizens of the area, apart from experts like engineers and architects (see Figure 6-2). People interviewed as part of the citizen focus group felt that during this period they had been included in the decision making and that their voice had been taken into consideration.

This method of collaboration worked well until 2002, but then as previously mentioned the funding dried up, due to people no longer willing to pay any rent. At the same time the population had grown organically over the period of ten years and the need for additional housing became an issue.

Until this point, the project had been run almost entirely by the Amani Housing Trust without any significant involvement by the government. Without any source of funding and since the donor did not want to provide additional funding for housing, they had no option other than to involve the government. The German donor was, however, unwilling to funnel funding through the Kenyan government and insisted on channeling the funds for infrastructure improvements through the church. The government of Kenya, therefore, did not have any funds to get deeply involved in the project and only provided some support through governmental engineers who provided technical know-how to the project.

With the lack of improvements, the residents felt that nobody was coming to their aid. The Kenyan government did not assist them. The Amani Housing Trust was not assisting them, and the donor was not supporting them anymore. Violence erupted, with the residents beating the staff of the Amani Housing Trust and threats being made. The residents pointed towards the ten-year, rent-to-own scheme and insisted that they did not want the program to continue and that now they owned the housing (B. Otieno, personal communication, November 23, 2011).

The donors became very disappointed, especially since local politicians had used people and manipulated them into becoming violent over issues that could have been solved within the community. The church and the Amani Housing Trust worked hard over the following years to attempt to address this issue, holding multiple workshops and seminars. In the end it was attempted to create a cooperative society around the project and to transfer the deed to the land to that cooperative. People would continue to pay a nominal rent to the cooperative society and through that rent new rooms would be constructed. This solution, however, also failed in the end due to influence from politicians who utilized tribal mixing as an argument against the cooperative society (B. Otieno, personal communication, November 23, 2011).

In 2008, the German donor handed the project formally over to the government of Kenya. The government of Kenya put this project under the Ministry of Land and Housing – KENSUP and currently utilizes the Amani Housing Trust community building as a community training center. The government has made no further investments in the project. The residents pay no rent and no funds are available for any maintenance, resulting in the gradually deteriorating condition of the temporary houses as can be seen in Figure 6-1 (B. Otieno, personal communication, November 23, 2011).

Clearly the tenants of the “German project” were consulted in the beginning of the upgrading project, and if compared to the “ladder of citizen participation”, the fourth step would be the obvious one as the citizens got to express their opinion and be actively involved in the decision making. However, the landlords felt they were manipulated as they were not very involved in the decision making process. They had built the structures on government land and made their livelihood from the rent and felt it was taken away from them without much consultation.

Another interesting point about the level of involvement is that the government did not have the trust of the donors because the funding went through the church. By doing this the government of Kenya did not have much direct involvement during the upgrading project. In many ways the only government involvement was that their name was put on the project papers.

6.1.3        Use of technology

During the planning phase of the project, satellite imagery was utilized to help with the planning. Infrastructure planning for roads, housing, water and sanitation did utilize GIS technology available at the time (see Figure 6-3). Some of this was shared with the public in the project office, which is located next to the new housing area. This allowed the citizens to get a visual overview of the upgrade plans.

Figure 6‑3. Before and after satellite imagery of Mathare 4A
Source: (Ministry of Housing, 2011)

The entire Mathare 4A area was mapped, with boundaries. Each shelter was identified and numbered to enable detailed assessment of each household affected. A detailed survey was performed gathering information for each household. These were then utilized to decide both who should move, how many rooms they needed and how much rent they could afford.

During the latter stages of the project, a website was created to share information with the citizens. This website, however, was not maintained after the project was handed over to the government and is no longer available. It is very unlikely that any citizens of the slums actually used this website because internet access in the country at that time was limited to the upper-class and foreign expats living there.

The Mathare project also happened before the explosive growth of mobile-phone ownership. The focus group interviewed, however, all had mobile phones, and two out of the 11 had internet access through their phones, although only one of them was actively utilizing it.

6.1.4        Mathare – beyond the “German project”

The failure of the Mathare 4A project and the political issues associated with it has deterred other large-scale projects from starting in Mathare. When the Ministry of Land and Housing took over the Mathare 4A project, they started by painting the gates of the Amani Housing Trust offices with KENSUP, leading to rumors inside Mathare that the large-scale KENSUP, already underway in Kibera, was also coming to Mathare. This, however, quickly proved to be unsubstantiated (G. Dima, personal communication, December 1, 2011).

There are, however, many small-scale improvement projects going on in Mathare, mainly led by NGOs. These mostly focus on improving health, livelihood, education, water and sanitation and other basic services and do not focus on improved housing.

The NGOs surveyed and community leaders interviewed (see a complete list in appendix A) believe that Mathare will never be upgraded due to many illegal activities, such as renting of shanties and illegal alcohol industry, etc. Any improvement in housing must take into account the structure owners and work through them (G. Dima, personal communication, December 1, 2011). People are willing to participate in upgrading projects if offered the opportunity, as long as they feel it will not cost them anything and they know they will gain in the long run (J. Ochieng, personal communication, November 22, 2011).

One way of gaining a better understanding of the current conditions in Mathare has been the extension of the Map Kibera project into Mathare under the name Map Mathare. This project, done in collaboration with Plan International and UN-HABITAT has focused not only on mapping the roads and structures within Mathare, but also on mapping where there is access to water and toilets (see Figure 6-5). The results of this work are expected to be utilized by the NGO community to advocate for improvements and to assist in planning of future projects (Lundine, 2011).

Figure 6‑4. Map of Mathare, showing water taps, churches, toilets, etc.
Source: (Open StreetMap, 2011)

6.2        Case Study: Kibera – KENSUP 2005-2020

6.2.1        Overview of project

Kibera, being the largest slum in Kenya, compromising 12 villages that cover around 225 hectares of land and with a population of over 500,000 people, was one of the slums identified to be part of KENSUP.

The initial step of this program focused on clearing out houses in the informal settlement in Soweto East village and replacing them with more formal and permanent housing (see Figure 6-6). To achieve this, a decanting site was built near the Langata area that could house people temporarily while the more permanent houses were being built (Ministry of Housing, 2011). Those who were eligible to move to the decanting site received passes that identified them as the citizens who should get the new housing (D. Namale, personal communication, November 22, 2011).

The building of the decanting site was successful and 17 five-story blocks of flats with 600 three-room, self-contained units were ready by 2009. Around 1,300 residents from the first area to be cleared, commonly referred to as Zone A in Soweto East, moved in to those in September that year (IRIN, 2009).

Figure 6‑5. Houses in the decanting site in Langata
Source: (BBC News, 2009)

Based on the original plan, it was expected it would take from two to five years to clear the informal areas of the slum, but legal action has stopped the progress of the project. Over 80 plaintiffs, a mix of residents and landlords took legal action, which currently is in the High Court against their shanties being demolished. Part of their claims is that the land does not belong to the government but to the Nubian community, which has lived on it for over a decade (BBC News, 2009).

The legal delays have led to the stalling of the project in Kibera, and while some of the citizens relocated have not been able to pay the 1,000 KSh monthly rent and have hence been evicted, others have moved back to the shanties and rent out their temporary housing to wealthier tenants willing to pay up to 3,000 KSh a month (Kiprotich, 2011).

There are also cases of residents living in the temporary housing who have sold their “upgrading passes” and moved back into rural areas or other slums (D. Namale, personal communication, November 22, 2011). Furthermore, new residents have moved into the area that was to be cleared and into the shanties where people who moved into temporary housing used to live. Many of them are unaware of the fact that these shanties are scheduled to be demolished (D. Namale, personal communication, November 22, 2011; W. Ombese, personal communication, November 25, 2011).

Based on (Ministry of Housing, 2011) the following, additional goals have also been achieved as part of KENSUP Kibera project:

  • Election of Settlement Executive Committees in Soweto village
  • Socio-economic mapping of the whole settlement has been completed.
  • Physical mapping, undertaken in collaboration with Ministry of Lands (Physical Planning Department), is underway.
  • A draft master plan for Kibera, based on the above data, is being finalized.
  • A road design approved and a tender awarded for the construction of 1.25km road beginning from Mbagathi Way
  • Four cooperatives formed with assistance from the Ministry of Cooperatives and registered in Soweto East. The groups were formed according to the zones in Soweto East.

6.2.2        Community participation

As part of the KENSUP strategy, the Kenyan government stated it was going to involve the beneficiary communities in the slum upgrading process. Their strategy document clearly describes how the involvement of the communities will ensure the ownership and success of the slum upgrading program. This role of the community is to be emphasized throughout the upgrading program from inception, preparation and implementation, to monitoring and evaluation, giving the slum dwellers an active and direct role in the process (Republic of Kenya, 2004).

The following actions are to be done to ensure an effective community participation process (Republic of Kenya, 2004):

  • Strengthening forms of community organization and relations between structure owners and tenants
  • Assisting communities to set up such organizations where they do not exist
  • Adequate community education, sensitization and engagement to mobilize communities around slum upgrading issues and activities
  • Enabling communities to take control and develop a stake in maintaining projects by allowing them to become decision makers and investors rather than subjects and (or) objects
  • Facilitating the formation of cooperative and community-resource-mobilization groups

To embrace the principle of stakeholder inclusivity at the community level, KENSUP established a Settlement Executive Committee (SEC), composed of a cross-section of representation groups (e.g., structure owners, tenants, gender, disabled, religion, etc.). The role of the SEC was to act as the interface between the project team and the citizens, making sure their voice was heard and to enable communication about the progress of the project to the rest of the community (Republic of Kenya, 2004).

Based on the research done, community participation in the Kibera upgrade started out well, but became less and less successful as the project continued. The SEC met initially twice a week, and information was flowing to the community (D. Namale, personal communication, November 22, 2011). During this phase people were consulted as they moved to the decanting site from the area of their slum that was to be upgraded.

The KENSUP strategy document was never made generally available in the slums (see Figure 6-7). People would have needed to find out where to get a copy of it if they knew it existed. Maps were created but just like the strategic document they were not distributed within the slums leading people to be generally unaware of how much upgrading was to be done, how many houses were to be built and what slum upgrading was really about (D. Namale, personal communication, November 22, 2011).

Figure 6‑6. Front page of KENSUP Implementation Strategy
Source: (Republic of Kenya, 2004)

The local KENSUP office within Kibera did not have copies of the plans or any maps available for the citizens (W. Ombese, personal communication, November 25, 2011). Those who wanted copies had to make appointments with the Ministry of Housing to receive further information (W. Ombese, personal communication, November 25, 2011). For many of the citizens, this would mean the loss of a day of work to go to downtown Nairobi to visit the Ministry.

After the initial phase, the citizens felt that their voices were not being listened to. The government asked them for input, but then came back with plans that did not include any of the input given. This resulted in the citizens forming their own community group that monitored the project and openly discussed what was going on (W. Ombese, personal communication, November 25, 2011).

None of the surveyed NGOs had been approached to participate or play any role in the slum upgrading process (see a complete list of NGOs surveyed in Appendix A). Lack of belief in the government projects also leads many of them not to approach the government to get involved (J. Lundine, personal communication, November 22, 2011).

As the legal complications arose, communication with the community stopped and the community became less and less involved in the process. Today many of the citizens expect years to pass before any further progress is made (D. Namale, personal communication, November 22, 2011).

If compared against Arnstein’s ladder of citizen participation, a type of therapy has taken place where the citizens have been engaged in different activities and made to think they are involved in the upgrading process. Information only goes one way if there is any, although the official papers seem never to have been distributed and citizens seem not to have had a real say in what was being done in the community.

As a result of this therapy type of community involvement, many of the residents have lost faith in the government’s intention to actually listen to their needs (W. Ombese, personal communication, November 25, 2011). This is likely to further hinder the success of future upgrade projects.

6.2.3        Use of technology

Based on the field and literature research, there has been little direct use of technology in the KENSUP Kibera project. The KENSUP strategy document discusses physical mapping of the Kibera slum, but those maps are not easily accessible outside of the project team. The maps created are used to help plan the project. The informal settlements in the Kibera Valley were divided into zones that were to be upgraded sequentially.

There has been no attempt to utilize mobile technologies as part of the KENSUP Kibera project, but it has to be kept in mind that the project itself started before the explosive growth of mobile ownership in the slums.

KENSUP does not have its own website, but rather has a sub-page on the Ministry of Housing website. That website, however, offers very limited documentation and information. Many of the project documents, such as the KENSUP strategy document and subsequent updates, are available on the UN-HABITAT website.

The lack of accessibility to key project documents and maps on government websites makes it very difficult for citizens, especially those with low internet literacy, to find electronic versions of the documents, even those that are available online.

6.2.4        Beyond KENSUP

There are thousands of NGOs working inside Kibera and most of them are in one way or another working on improving the living conditions of people in Kibera. It is often said that since Kibera is the largest slum, and since KENSUP is focusing on it, every NGO wants to work there, often ignoring other slums, where conditions may be worse than in Kibera.

Forced evictions still occur regularly within Kibera and a complex political and legal environment often makes it difficult for citizens to know their rights. Recent changes in the constitution of Kenya have improved the rights of tenants but often these get ignored (W. Ombese, personal communication, November 25, 2011).

Right now there is a plan being made to move another 10,000 people to other locations due to a highway that will run through Kibera Valley. People seem little informed, only knowing that a road is coming but not when or exactly where (D. Namale & J. Ochieng, personal communication, November 22, 2011).

A local NGO called Map Kibera has been mobilizing youth from the Kibera slum to produce digital maps of the Kibera Valley (see Figure 6-8). After training the youth for a few months, they are able to map their own community with more detail as compared to organizations being sent in to map. The original idea behind Map Kibera was to provide the citizens with a tool to better understand their own environment that could also be utilized to lobby the government for improvements (J. Lundine, personal communication, November 22, 2011).

The Map Kibera project has been widely heralded as a successful way of mapping informal communities and has been replicated to three other slums in Kenya. Although the initial intention of utilizing it as a tool for the citizens has not been as successful as planned, they have been collaborating with a number of other NGOs that see the maps as a planning and awareness building tool for their projects. In order to make the maps more accessible to the slum dwellers, Map Kibera is going to work with local artists and get them to paint the maps on walls in a few locations around Kibera (J. Lundine, personal communication, November 22, 2011).

Figure 6‑7. Map of Kibera, showing clinics, churches, water taps, etc.
Source: (Open StreetMap, 2011)


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