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View the documentThe Voi Tanzania / Bondeni upgrading project
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The Voi Tanzania / Bondeni upgrading project

Introduction

Since 1992 the GTZ Small Towns Development Project1, together with the Kenyan Ministry for Local Government (MLG) the Voi Municipal Council and the Tanzania/Bondeni Residents’ Committee (RC) are undergoing an ambitious settlement upgrading project in Voi in southern Kenya. The upgrading area involves an area of about 75 acres of land with over 700 plots, housing almost 3500 low-income inhabitants. The main objectives of the upgrading project are, (i) to regularize and legalize tenureship, without “buying out” the original beneficiaries and replacing them with wealthier applicants; (ii) to improve the settlement’s basic infrastructure (i.e. roads, water and drainage) and provide affordable shelter through self-help strategies with the assistance of local NGOs; (iii) to achieve maximum community involvement and mobilization during the whole upgrading process and to implement the upgrading measures with the residents, and not for them; and (iv) to guarantee cost recovery for the regularization process - including the surveying, title certificates and ground rent.

The Upgrading Concept

The STDP upgrading concept is based on two major principles. The first principle is the recognition and acceptance that the situation created in the informal settlements by the so-called “squatters” should be considered as a fact and not as a quasi-criminal status. This is an acknowledgement that these settlements have helped to solve housing problems for the structure owners and tenants. In addition, the communities in these informal settlements have also provided rudimentary infrastructure facilities, such as nursery schools, water connections, etc. at their own cost. This infrastructure is an asset not only to the community, but also for the respective local authorities. The second major principle is that the cost of upgrading must be met by the beneficiaries, if one aims for replicable concepts. This is in line with the Government policy of cost sharing, where costs are met by those who benefit from the facilities or services being provided. Other guiding principles used in designing the upgrading projects are:

i. The step by step improvement of unplanned settlements is preferable to a massive and generally not replicable investment programme.

ii. Interventions from outside should support the community and the local authority, but not replace them.

iii. Ways must be found to simplify the burdensome plot allocation procedures.

iv. The local authority and the community should try to prevent, as far as possible, a legalization process through which the original low-income population is “bought-out” and replaced by outside wealthier applicants as soon as the plots are in reach of market mechanisms.

v. The upgrading process should address the needs of both landlords and tenants.

These principles have been taken into consideration in the four legal documents, i.e. Head Lease, Trust Deed, Constitution and Rules of the Society and Subleases, prepared for the Voi upgrading project. Other major issues which had to be taken into consideration were the definition of target groups, number of beneficiaries in the project area, multiple ownership and plot sizes. Due to the limited number of plots available in the project area, first priority was given to the structure owners, however, other beneficiaries from the community were also considered. Since the project recognized the existing built situation in the project area, multiple ownership of structures, according to the verified socio-economic survey list, was accepted. Finally, the layout plan was prepared in collaboration with the target group. The plot sizes measuring about 9 x 15 metres were determined by the number of structure owners and the size of the land in the project area.

Cooperation between the Main Actors

The implementation of the project is guided by three committees. The Project Promotion Committee (PPC) is an inter-ministerial committee consisting of Ministries of Local Government, Lands and Settlement, and the Ministry of Planning and National Development. Other members include the Housing and Building Research Institute (HABRI), National Co-operative Housing Union (NACHU) and the local authority. At the district level, the project is guided by a Technical Task Force (TTF), chaired by the Town Clerk of Voi. Other members of the committee include the STDP project staff, the relevant district officers and collaborating NGOs. At the project level, the process is guided by the Residents’ Committee elected by the beneficiaries themselves. Other members of the committee include the area councillor, the area chief, and town council representatives.

Because the project does not fund all aspects of upgrading, it collaborates with other agencies in the implementation of the project. These agencies include HABRI, NACHU, and Plan International, among others. The co-ordinating role of the project was to identify relevant NG0s, who could assist with certain aspects of implementation and assist in the co-ordination of the inputs, without overwhelming the community of Tanzania/ Bondeni.

The Land Tenure Model

The centrepiece of the upgrading process is an innovative land tenure system, called “Community Land Trust”. The CLT in its essence purports to create permanently affordable housing for low income people, by removing land from the speculative market via the trust, and controlling the sale price of improvements through a resale formula. The CLT model will remove the opportunity for beneficiaries to obtain windfall profits by selling their newly allocated land, but still provide significant security of tenure for shelter investment, and assure recovery of this investment upon sale. It opens up access to land, housing and economic opportunity for low-income residents, while giving the local community long-term control over the use and future allocation of land and other crucial economic resources.


squatter housing

It is hoped that this new land model - which in fact is similar to old African (rural) land tenure systems - will overcome the shortcomings of past upgrading programmes in Kenya. They had been planned from above and failed to fully involve the beneficiary community; they were too costly in design and led to an eventual “gentrification” of selling-out of initial power beneficiaries. The significance of the CLT model is that it is much more than a land tenure option - if fully taken advantage of, it can become a mechanism for broader community development and mobilization. To this effect the community of Tanzania/Bondeni has been registered as the “Tanzania-Bondeni Settlement Society” under the Kenyan Society Act, and the appointed Trustees have recently been registered as Registered Trustees under the Trustee Act.

Shelter Improvement: the Limits of Appropriate Building Technologies

When designing the upgrading concept it was agreed that housing should generally not be of prime concern for the project. This was based on the fact that previous upgrading experiences showed that linking settlement upgrading efforts to housing standards and shelter delivery by external agents were one of the major reasons for non-affordability for low-income beneficiaries in the past. Also, it was believed that the improved security of tenure was a big enough incentive for people in Tanzania/Bondeni to invest and improve their houses. The individual residents of the settlement are therefore responsible for improving their own houses - much as they have done in the past and it was agreed that no time limits should be set for the inhabitants to improve their dwelling after legilization.

However, one input the project made towards improving the shelter conditions was the involvement of the Nairobi University’s “Housing and Building Research Institute (HABRI)”, which collaborates with various actors in Kenya to promote appropriate low-cost building technologies. HABRI provided training to 20 - 30 youths from Tanzania/Bondeni in the production of stabilized soil blocks (SSB) and fibre concrete rooftiles (FCR). A demonstration house was completed by the group in April 1994, which now houses the Resident Committee’s offices (see photo). Since then, quite a number of new houses have been constructed in the CLT area - but only very few have resorted to buying appropriate building materials from the youth group, which now counts 10 members. This can be attributed to a number of reasons:

- More than half of the residents earn a monthly salary of less than K.Sh. 2000.- (US$ 45,-). A square metre of SSB walling costs approximately K.Sh. 190, (US$ 4,-), construction costs not included, whereas non-stabilized soil blocks cost half and sun-dried blocks a fourth of the above mentioned prices;

- the youth group, while technically instructed to produce quality products were not trained in the vital areas of marketing, business management and accounting/costing, to ensure economic viability;

- although the residents prefered the pilot house, constructed by the youth group, to their own dwellings, they perceived the building materials to be too costly and not affordable for their own dwellings;

- high cement prices and reduced prices for corrugated iron sheets led to a drop of production orders for the youth group since mid 1994.


3-room low income house type, built with compressed earth blocks and MCR

Although one may argue that the SSB and FCR products are more robust and need less maintenance than the lower cost options, for the low-income residents of Tanzania/Bodeni, it is first and foremost the price tag that counts. The importance of a proper market and consumer survey and profitability study must be emphasized as a vital precondition for entering the highly competitive building materials market - even in the seemingly protected environment of a large scale settlement upgrading project, like in Voi. The STDP, together with the Residents Committee and the youth group are now providing ex-post business training, hoping to make the youth group a financially and economically viable enterprise.

Chris Luthi and David Mshila
c/o Small Towns Development Project
P.0. Box 41607, Nairobi / Kenya