Is A Top-Down Slum Upgrade the Answer to Urban Housing Challenges: A Critique of Kibera Slum Upgrade Programme in Nairobi Kenya.
Strategic Spatial planning
Research Question: Is relocating slum inhabitants to better housing projects on the outskirts of the city solves the slum problem.?
In recent years, increased urbanization rates have led to the development and rapid increase in informal settlements(slums) in major cities in the African continent (Danso-Wiredu and Midheme, 2017). Kenya has not been left behind and has the biggest slum in East Africa called Kibera Slum, with over 700,000 residents. Over the years, the Kenyan government has tried unsuccessfully to find a sustainable solution to this challenge. Recently a new program called the Kenya Slum Upgrading Programme (KENSUP) has been used to solve the slum problem by relocating part of the slum residents to new housing projects on the outskirt of Nairobi city (Agayi and Sa,2020). However, research has shown that these people tend to abandon or rent the better houses they have been given by the government and return to the slum. This paper explores reasons why the top-bottom approach of this large-scale slum upgrading by relocating residents to new housing is not successful even with the allure of better life. By looking at different conceptual frameworks, the paper will attempt to give a plausible alternative of more localized self-help efforts from the grassroots.
Table of Contents
Most slum dwellers in developing cities have settled along roads and railway reserves due to inadequate affordable housing (Danso-Wiredu and Midheme, 2017). The railway line that passes at the edge of Kibera heavily encroaches, which presents a significant challenge to the Kenya Railway Corporation (KRC) to expand the national railway network. Initially, the KRC was not allowed to evict the residents as they received expansion funding from the World Bank. However, the Pamoja Trust, an NGO within informal settlements, helped the KRC establish and implement a Relocation Action Plan (RAP) to shift the affected people in Kibera to newly established houses several meters away (Amado et al., 2016)
Implementing a large relocation project in Kibera was challenging due to incidents of violence, including the post-election violence of 2007-2008. RAP was one of the few successful relocation projects in Kibera. About 1680 residential houses, 1740 business units, and an underpass were constructed to accommodate individuals from two Kibera Villages (Soweto East and Laini Saba). The project did not repair any damages caused by the post-election violence but was based on the principle of one person, one unit, thus alleviated tense relationships at the time. Structure owners also benefited from a single housing unit and were compensated based on the structures they owned. Most individuals who relocated to new structures indicated improved living standards (Agayi and Karakayac, 2020).
The New upgraded housing in the background
Kiberas population has increased drastically as more individuals seek residence at the slum due to its prime location. The most populated areas in Kibera harbor almost 63,000 people per square kilometer, limiting the residents’ privacy. The unplanned haphazard physical structure narrows down the earthen paths to about one to two meters or even narrower leaving fewer passages for vehicles. The unlit areas are associated with high crime rates, including robberies for individuals walking along the dark paths causing most individuals to stay at home beyond 9.00 pm. Kibera has poor housing structures that do not meet the minimum housing demands for Nairobi County. The slum is made of temporary housing structures that are elevated using mud and corrugated roofing. Iron sheets are also used as an alternative for mud walls, and only a few structures have concrete floors. The housing structures are arranged in rows with a single structure occupying at least three square meters, which hosts an average family of five individuals. Housing structures within Kibera are similar to the traditional houses in rural areas, which are single-sized rooms made of mud between wood frames and grass-thatched roofing (Fernandez and Calas,2011).
Kibera has an inadequate supply of clean water. Clean water should first be boiled before consumption can only be obtained from privately owned taps by self-help youth forums and community-based organizations (CBOs). Still, illegal taps supply water at a lower pressure and charge higher prices to generate profits. Water is expensive in Kibera and other slums across Nairobi County compared to middle- and high-income neighborhoods. Kibera lacks essential services such as sewage and garbage disposal channels. The residents share pit latrines which service between fifty to four hundred individuals daily. The slum few upgraded latrines by the Nairobi County government and through World Bank funding. Most sewage is channeled to the Nairobi River, which is considered to have high waste concentration than the usual raw sewage in the city. Walking paths along Kibera are filled with garbage while the air is filled with the intolerable smell of human waste, which shifts with the wind direction. A combination of human waste and non-biodegradable plastic material is used in the slum as most people use flying toilets at night. Flying toilets entails depositing waste in polythene bags at night and throwing it to the neighboring streams or Nairobi River the following morning(Fernandez and Calas,2011).
Due to the high pollution rate, the high mortality rate is another problem in the Kibera Slum and all slums across Africa. According to Danso-Wiredu and Midheme (2017), children in informal settings within Africa are 40 to 50 times likely to succumb before five years than those in developed nations due to inadequate clean water, sewerage disposal, and healthcare facilities. HIV/AIDS is also highly prevalent in Kibera than the average infection in Kenya. HIV/AIDS infections have significantly contributed to the high mortality rate in Kibera as the people cannot afford Antiretroviral treatment. Many parents have succumbed to AIDS, leaving more than 50,000 children behind. The United States (US) Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 20% of the Kibera population is HIV positive. At the same time, the actual number may be higher since the residents hide their status. High death rates among AIDS patients attribute to the cultural stigma within the community.
Besides the challenges mentioned above, upgrading the Kibera Slum was motivated by the rapid population growth. The Kibera -Soweto Slum Upgrading Project (SSUP) was also motivated by the seventh Millennium Development Goal of the UN, whose aim was to improve the living standards of at least 100 million slum residents by 2020 (Fernandez and Calas, 2011). Through the slum upgrade project, the government of Kenya recognized the impoverished living conditions in the slums, failed housing policies, and the negative socioeconomic implications of the slums in Kenya. Therefore, an upgrade project provided the GoK a platform to commit to its citizens by improving their livelihoods by promoting, facilitating, and providing a secure tenure, housing facilities, income generation, infrastructure, and alleviating the impact of HIV/AIDS (Agayi and Sa,2020).
Kiberas past violence precipitated by insecure tenure demonstrated through evictions due to failure by tenants to pay rent created a more urgent need for a secure tenure in Kibera than other informal settings in Nairobi, which could only be achieved through an upgrade (Agayi and Sa, 2020). The Kibera Urban Environmental Sanitation Pilot Project (KUESP) acknowledged that providing a secure tenure is the primary motivation for any slum upgrade. Most housing organizations globally affirm that providing a secure tenure is the most critical step to improving the lives and protecting the rights of slum residents (Syagga, 2011).
Another motivation for slum upgrades is income generation. Past housing projects in Kenya were unaffordable for the slum dwellers. Therefore, recent developments have emphasized new and innovative approaches for residents to create higher incomes. This is achieved by not restraining the local economy, providing loans at reasonable interests to the slum residents, providing loans through micro-finance institutions to promote local enterprises in Kibera, and investing in human capital through business support services (Agayi and Sa,2020).
Oscar Lewis developed the Culture of Poverty theory in his book on Five Families: Mexican Case Studies in the Culture of Poverty in 1959. Lewis defined the Culture of Poverty as a sub-culture reflected through the adaptation and expression of low-income individuals in a capitalist society. The Culture of Poverty is contributed by low socioeconomic development and migration into the urban settings that cause an influx in the population, consequently resulting in unemployment, high dependence on the employed population, marginalization, and loss of hope. The population associated with a Culture of Poverty cannot address the issues through collective action to generate sustainable solutions (Michael, 2015). Lewis outlines that a Culture of Poverty contributes to the poor development of structures, as demonstrated in Kibera, passed across generations through socialization. The Culture of Poverty is characterized by overcrowding and deplorable temporary housing. This is demonstrated in Kibera, whereby the slum dwellers live in temporary housing structures made of mud walls, iron roofing, and other structures with iron roofing as walls. The theory identifies personal relationships as a critical social unit for children in a culture where they experience unstable and violent family lives which is evident in Kibera. The Kibera Community Development Agenda (KCODA) identified domestic violence and child abuse as critical challenges in Kibera.
The theory has contributed to developing policies such as the Anti-poverty legislation in the United States (US) to provide temporary solutions to the needy. Likewise, the theory will provide a basis to implement several approaches to facilitate social change through slum upgrading in Kibera. Further education and government institutions have adopted measures to improve housing in Kibera. The Culture of Poverty theory portrays slums as settings for violence and prostitution which can be corrected through public housing projects. The theory blames the people for their problems and considers slum as a social issue. The theory demonstrates the wrong beliefs held about poor communities. It demonstrates that rural-urban migration is the root of maladaptation, unemployment, and inadequate housing; thus fails to consider slums as part of the urban community and associates it with violence, prostitution, poverty, and social disruption. The most appropriate solution to these issues is relocating the slum dwellers to decent housing (Michael, 2015).
The Kenya Slum Upgrading Program (KENSUP), the primary focus of this paper, is a critical policy framework for slum upgrading. The KENSUP is a recent collaborative effort by the GoK and the UN-Habitat to address the issues faced by residents in the informal settings across Kenya, starting with Nairobi. KENSUP project was first initiated in Soweto Village in Kibera, with a population of about 60,000 people. The Kibera-Soweto Slum Upgrading Project (SSUP) is the major and the most recent KENSUP venture. The KENSUP/SSUP program was motivated by the UN Millennium development goal, which was to improve the livelihood of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020. By initiating the program, the GoK recognized the poor living conditions in the Kenyan Slums and the negative socioeconomic implications of informal settlements (GoK, 2006). The KENSUP created a platform for the GoK to commit to the citizens with the help of the UN habitat and demonstrate their dedication to improving the lives of slum dwellers (Anderson and Mwelu,2013).
The SSUP aims to provide a secure tenure, improve housing, income generation, social and physical infrastructure, and address the HIV/AIDs issue. The security of tenure is its primary objective. According to Muraguri (2011), most housing organizations in the world recognize that providing a secure tenure is a critical step to improving the living conditions and protecting the fundamental human rights of the slum dwellers. Past violent conflicts associated with insecure tenure in Kibera created a more urgent need for the slum upgrade than in other informal settings. Another objective of the KENSUP was income generation. According to Muraguri (2011), past housing initiatives in Kenya were unaffordable to the targeted population. Therefore, recent developments such as the KENSUP emphasized establishing new and innovative approaches to residents to create higher income. The SSUP aims to achieve this by ensuring the project does not refrain the local economy, providing loans at reasonable interest to promote local enterprises in Soweto Kibera and human development by supporting local businesses. KENSUP improves physical infrastructure, including roads, water, sanitation, drainage system, and security through approaches such as street lighting. The targeted social structures by KENUSP include schools, hospitals, social facilities, and playgrounds (Anderson and Mwelu,2013).
Although the successful implementation of slum upgrade programs calls for relocation of some persons from the slums to facilitate redevelopment, this has to be done with extensive involvement of all stakeholders. A relocation strategy was developed to facilitate the implementation of KENSUP in Kibera. The existing relocation plan requires the identified population to move to a decanting site in Langata or any other areas to allow space for the redevelopment of the slum.
First relocated individuals are identified by the local leaders in the Settlement Executive Committee (SEC) under the ministry of housing. However, the selection of persons is associated with malpractices such as corruption and favoritism by the local leaders. The second step involves a consultative meeting with the relevant stakeholders to gain consensus and coordination. However, a consensus is usually derailed by diverse interests between the stakeholders. The third step involves sensitizing the identified persons about the process to build trusting relationships and acceptability of the process by the community (Kusienya,2010). The fourth step involves providing the identified persons an eviction notice. The notice is provided at a reasonable time to allow the affected individuals to plan adequately to vacate. The fifth step involves allocating the affected population temporary rooms at the decanting site before the actual relocation. The structure owners are also expected to bring down their structures after vacating. The sixth step involves issuing residents a letter of offer and a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). These documents possess the household’s head name, the identification card (ID) number, room number in the decanting site, the rent payments to be made, tenancy agreement, and conditions for relocation. The seventh step involves providing transport facilities to relocating families to the decanting site. However, research depicts that the Ministry of Housing avails fewer than the anticipated trucks during relocation, causing them to find other means to carry their household goods. The eighth step involves the removal of structures by the structure owners. The last step is estate management, where all persons must adhere to the state management rules(Kusienya, 2010).
The institutional structure reveals overlapping roles between different organs, including the SPIU and the SEC, where both act as a link between the community and the PIU. Conflicting roles present a challenge to the relocation process. Some organs have inadequate resources to perform their roles successfully.
A study by Kusienya (2010) revealed several challenges associated with the implementation of the KENSUP project and relocation of people from Soweto, including;
Lack of a domestic relocation Policy, the relocation policy was based on international law, which dictates that relocation should be justified, alternatives to relocation should be examined. The identified people for relation should be given timely notice and an opportunity to air out their concerns. However, inadequate domestic legislation caused the relocation program to be conducted based on the opinions of the local leaders. The undefined relocation plan undermined the implementation of the strategy(Kusienya, 2010).
Diverse interests and opinions of stakeholders, majority of the stakeholders have personal interests that derail the slum upgrading program. Landlords incite the residents against the project and seek court injunctions to stop the project. These acts have derailed the slum implementation program. KENSUP indicates that some donors withhold support due to diverse opinions about what slum upgrading should entail. The KENSUP secretariat has to deal with challenges about the diverse positions of the stakeholders who have conflicting interests(Kusienya, 2010).
Negative perception about confinement in the decanting site -Most people feel that their movement is restricted in the decanting site, which is fenced compared to their initial homes, which have no physical boundary(Kusienya, 2010).
Cultural changes and social disruption -Most relocated individuals indicate they are forced to adapt to a new life different from their old life. Their social ties with their neighbors, with whom they supported each other financially and socially, are broken. They complain they are not allowed to choose their preferred neighbors. Interestingly, some express they used to borrow salt from their old neighbors, but they would instead take food without salt in the decanting site. Most individuals express their lives were disrupted, and now they have to live in a new environment. Most individuals find the decanting sites such as flush toilets, sinks, and showers strange thus misuse them. Cultural and social adjustments result in psychological stress among the residents who prefer returning to the Soweto Village (Mitra et al., 2017)
Economic disruption -Most people are unable to conduct their businesses in new relocation sites. This results in low income and limits their ability to cater for necessities and other responsibilities. They also incur additional transport costs since most of them previously walked to their workplaces but now due to increased distance they use public transport. Additional relocation costs include higher rent, cost of goods, and the high cost of living in the decanting site (Kusienya, 2010).
Several successes are associated with the Kibera Slum Upgrading project, including developing institutional structures in the Soweto East Village such as the SEC, AICC, and PIU. The program facilitated physical mapping and evaluation of the socioeconomic status of Soweto East by the GoK. The program facilitated the drafting of a master plan for Kibera, and the construction of 600 units in the Langata decanting site was established (Syrjanen, 2008). The additional achievements of the project were;
Social sustainability provides a policy lens through which displacement and resettlement issues can be mitigated through urban planning. This involves recognizing the resettled community as part of the urban community and developing policies in their favor. Social sustainability in Kibera can be achieved through; Social and cultural policies, which involve understanding social structures that impact and address policies that affect the people. Social and cultural policies are influenced by social capital, which determines the characteristics of social structures, including trust, networks, and social norms that can improve the effectiveness of the society (Cronin and Guthrie, 2011).
Secondly, social sustainability can be enhanced through social infrastructure and public services; these are pubic institutions that promote welfare, engagement, and social connection. The two policies can promote investments and access to social amenities among the Kibera residents. The third approach to social sustainability is urban land and housing; this refers to policies that dictate land and housing patterns and determine the degree of inclusivity in the city. Urban Land and housing can influence the policies that address social exhaustion and promote environmental sustainability in Kibera. Urban transport and accessibility are another approaches to social sustainability which affect accessibility and inclusion in the city as it influences spatial institutions. Lastly, social sustainability can be enhanced through employment, promoting the local economy, and inclusive social space. The policy can be applied by providing tax incentives, subsidies, and training to support the business community in the Kibera Slums (Cronin and Guthrie, 2011).
CBOs play a significant role in the Kibera community. They provide civil stability in deplorable and unplanned informal settlements. Kibera has over 500 CBOs across all the villages. The Kibera Community Development Agenda (KCODA), Ushirika wa Usafi Laini Saba. Mukuru Ushirika wa Usafi na Maendeleo, the Kibera Water Users, and Hygiene Group are just a few of these CBOs (Meredith and MacDonald, 2017).CBOs were created by Kibera residents whose aim was to address some of the challenges encountered by the slum dwellers. For instance, the KCODA identified insecure tenure, unaffordable and insecure housing, abuse of fundamental human rights, drug and substance abuse, HIV/AIDS infections, unemployment, inadequate clean water, inadequate access to information, poor governance, poor drainage, ethnic conflicts, child abuse, and poor infrastructure.
The KCODA organizes groups to pick up garbage in the slums.KCODA also advocates for community participation in formulating policies and dispensing structures at all societal levels. It also serves as a link between the UN-HABITAT, the GOK, and the local community. The Kibera Water Users and Hygiene Group aims to address the worsening sewage situation. Open ditches often fill with plastic materials and garbage, which worsens the sewage situation. The CBOs mobilize the residents for a clean-up project to eradicate such situations.CBOs continue to play a critical role in the slums; thus, the KENSUP should tap into their potential when implementing projects (Cronin and Guthrie,2011).
The comprehensive literature review reveals that slum upgrading is not always a panacea to improve the lives of slum dwellers. However, most Kibera residents acknowledge the initiative will transform their livelihoods and the face of Kibera globally. The benefits of slum upgrading include improved security through street lighting and more police posts, increased access to social amenities, improved living standards, clean water and sanitation, and income generation. The slum upgrading program aims to address drug and substance abuse, unemployment, domestic violence, teenage pregnancies, and social inequalities.
A slum upgrade is a complex and interconnected urban settlement and carrying out the task requires a balance between the spatial quality on one hand and conservation of the environment on the other hand. The Kibera upgrade programme is no different, and although there is partial success in transforming an informal settlement to a more formal district. The analysis above indicates that undertaking the shift has not been easy both for the government as well as for the beneficiaries. The project is majorly driven by the state and supported by international organizations.
However, from the realization of the weaknesses and failures of the project, it is a fact that the state driven redevelopment of the slums has overlooked the socio-psychological, and economic aspects of the people intended and this requires to be tackled. Social fragmentation that comes along as a result of resident relocation is accompanied by both psychological disorders and economic disenfranchisement (Rosa-Flores and Calas 2011). Therefore, the state and all the stakeholders involved has to consider the social and economic facets of the residents targeted for resettlement. Cronin & Guthrie (2011), advocates for capacity building in envision the success of a slum upgrade and redevelopment, by bringing inclusivity of all the issues that are affecting the residents in an open manner without fear of intimidation from powerful actors like the state. In addition, a maintenance framework is necessary for the sustainability of such a project by preventing the new modern housing does not deteriorate fast. In cases of shared social ties, public engagement can be conducted and plans to move or relocate close family members, friends are moved together and given housing in proximity with each other as they may need Danso-Wiredu & Midheme (2017), notes that maintaning social ties and networks even after resettlement is important in ensuring the success of the housing project.
Finally, I look at the Kibera slum upgrade as an involuntary redevelopment due to the following reasons. First, the residents were never consulted on the location for their decanting sites, the government through the ministry of housing came up the site on the bases of land availability (Kusienya, 2010).Secondly, there have been delays in resettling the residents and this has been engulfed up by gentrification, because the programme has taken over 15 years and there is little progress with more that KSH 1 billion being used albeit a small population having been relocated (Anderson & Mwelu, 2013). It is worth noting that relocation allows room for upgrading the slums, but without involving all the stakeholders on board, transformation of Kibera slums will remain a Will-O-the-Wisp!
Slum upgrading has significantly transformed the image of Kibera slums. The initiative transforms the informal settlement in terms of physical and social infrastructure, sanitation, water services, and accessibility. However, the initiative is limited by communication breakdown among the stakeholders, resistance by the local community, and court injunctions due to security of tenure. During slum upgrading, the residents are relocated to decanting sites. Relocation of Kibera residents is undermined by several factors, including poor perceptions, social and economic disruption, inadequate domestic policies to govern the relocation process, invested interests by the stakeholders, and malpractices. Cultural change is also another problem associated with relocation. These factors contribute to the social, emotional, and psychological issues among relocated sites who prefer their older lives.
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