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KMP-UN Habitat: Rapid Planning Studio for Kenyan Counties (Embu, Machakos, Kiambu)

The conference, hosted in Naivasha, was a rapid studio on how to plan for counties within the country’s devolved system of governance. The studio targeted the counties of Embu, Machakos, Kiambu, Naivasha, Nyeri and Nakuru. Due to the large number of participating counties, the group was divide in two; Embu, Naivasha and Machakos being covered on the 2nd-3rd of September and the rest being on the 4th and 5th of September 2014 in Enashipai Hotel, Naivasha. The participating counties are are areas that are undergoing rapid urbanisation but at the same time have a large area of unbuilt up land that is used for agriculture and other activities. I f well planned, the urban and peri-urban area can transform the counties into to well developed and self-sustainable units.

The rapid studios aimed to provide a basic understanding of urban planning skills together with tools and support mechanisms on how to meet the sustainable urbanization challenges and to improve the capacity of planning of each town/county. The programme began with initially understanding the basic principles ad concepts in planning, the economy and finance, land and legislation. The facilitators drew examples and case studies from across the world helping the participants in visualising and seeing that the problems and their solutions in a more global context. The problems being faced in Kenya are also affecting not only the rest of Africa but also Asia, Europe, North America, South America etc.

The presenters sought to empower members of the county planning team in terms of knowledge and confidence that they have the capacity to plan for the counties even with minimal help from the national government. Yoel Siegel-UN Habitat, brought this out strongly as he analysed the dynamics of economics within investment and returns in a development. He emphasised on the fact that counties and municipalities can fund themselves and sustain themselves if they have a proper understanding on how to work their resource and when and how to pull in investors for value addition.

Out of the box solutions to problems and scenarios were encouraged. Presenters such as Gianluca Crispi-UN Habitatconceptualised new perspectives to land and legislation as borrowed from other countries. For instance in the case of compensation for land reacquisition, land owners may not have to be compensated monetarily, the compensation may  be termed as the value which the land will gain as a result from the incoming development that the land is being acquired for.

After the imparting of theoretical knowledge the program then transformed into more hands on activities involving all the participants. The planning activities were based on real life scenarios within the counties. Members were divided into groups based on the counties they were from. From there they were to apply the skills and tools that they were being taught by using the counties’ actual data. For instance population projections were done form the actual current population, situational analysis were done through sieve mapping with the use of current aerial images of the counties’ etc.

Even with the smooth sailing and enrichment gained, the conference still had its shortcomings. It did not touch on the participatory aspect of planning whereby policy makers have to involve the local residents and all other stakeholders from the very initial stage of the planning process and not just when it is time for implementation. The studio also leaned more towards the planning of unbuilt up areas and greatly neglecting the challenges of re-planning an already built up area. This is a major problem that most of the counties will face as they formulate their local development plans.

All in all the studio meet its objectives and was a success. More related activities by KMP and UN-Habitat are to follow.

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