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Systematization of Huruma in-situ housing upgrading project

On the 22nd of October, 2013, a unique event took place at the NCCK [National Council of Churches of Kenya] Huruma Dispensary, Nairobi. In attendance was the Huruma community, The University of Nairobi, The City Council of Nairobi, Katiba Institute and the host Pamoja Trust [PT]. The objective of the meeting was to reflect on the well-known community led slum upgrading initiative of Huruma in order to profile it. This is what PT termed as systematization.

Description: has been slightly over 13 years since the project started. Over that time 240 housing units were completed successfully in Kambi-moto, Mahira, Ghetto and Gitathuru (4 of the 6 Huruma settlements). This achievement has made the project a unique caseof successful in-situ slum upgrading, at a time when there has been considerable talk about failure or stalling of many slum upgrading initiatives both nationally and internationally. Kenya has had a poor record of slum upgrading. In the 1990s the National Housing Corporation (NHC) put up the Kibera High Rise Project and the Pumwani-Majengo slum redevelopment. Studies have shown that in both cases, the projects did not benefit the intended population but instead were allocated and/or traded to the middle class (Syagga, et al. 2001; Huchzermeyer, 2006). Similarly, the recent Kibera upgrading project in Soweto (KENSUP) was faced with the community disowning it and making claims that it was un-affordable.

Huruma is part of the 180 informal settlements within Nairobi.It is located 6.8kms on the North-East of Nairobi city and lies on the left side of Juja road. It consists of six villages: Kambi Moto, Mahira, Redeemed, Ghetto, Gitathuru and Madoya. These six villages occupy a total area of 10.2 acres. At the start, five villages were involved, but now only four have had significant and consistent results.

Description: spite of the success and reputation about Huruma’s successful   transformative efforts, there has not proper documentation of the on project. Of course pamphlets have been prepared on some of the sites, such as Kambi-Moto, but none on the process undertaken by the initiators – the community and Pamoja Trust. It was for this reason that Pamoja Trust, the community mobiliser and facilitator found it necessary to bring all the stakeholders together for this activity.

Trying to document events that have long happened was quite challenging, as indicated by Salma – a PT official, and it needed thorough analytical steps to do so. The method utilized by PT consisted of 4 phases; the first phase was directed to educating everyone on what systematization was about – the organization of project elements in a rational manner. The second phase called upon all involved stakeholders to list down the activities they were involved in. The eventual output would be a schematic project timeline of events. It was later jotted down on flip charts and pinned up on the wall for everyone to view.

The third phase entailed all partners grouping themselves for a reflective session on various questions such as: How did we do it? What challenges did we face? How did we solve them? What happened to the unsolved? If we were to do it again, would we do it differently? Can we do it again?

The final phase aimed at collecting and consolidating the day’s outcomes. This required all partners to present their group outputs for everyone’s contribution to be incorporated. Proper recording was also done by the rapporteur. Outcomes ranged from various events recorded earlier, to cases of exploitation by cartels within the community on saving scheme formations. Such cases had led to serious wrangles and a major stalling of sections of the upgrading project. Most times, Pamoja Trust had to come in as an arbitrator. PT further outlined the tools they used to do so, such as negotiating for the community, sensitizing community members, approaching community leaders, the City Council, providing technical support and even providing a platform for saving scheme formations.    

The City Council of Nairobi appreciated the efforts put in by all community members in the success of the project and indicated that their approach was one that showed determination and discipline to a level that the Council felt obligated to help out in the securing of tenure. This was marked by the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding by all partners.

Despite all the challenges faced, there had been some best moments shared, such as the MOU day party, the inauguration of the first project, the first successful housing model showcasing and other happier times that came after.

All in all the day was a success to all those who participated. Pamoja Trust promised to work in hand with the University of Nairobi, Department of Urban and Regional Planning to properly document and publish the project reports.


Prepared by James Wanyoike









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