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Study offers insight on slum upgrading programme in Kenya

By Patrick Amunavi | January 16th 2019
Jomo Kenyatta University of Advanced Technology Researchers

A new study that provides ground-breaking insights into the concept of slum upgrading in Kenya has been published by a team of researchers in the School of Architecture and Building Sciences (SABS) at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT).

The study by the JKUAT research team led by the Principal Investigator, Dr. Susan Njeri Kibue and her colleagues – Josephine Wacera Muchogu, Janet Kemuma Ondieki, Carolyne Wanza Nthiwa and Brenda Maiba Bhoyyo, explores the process of slum upgrading programme, focusing on two types of delivery methodologies: the informal community-led process and the formal government-driven slum upgrading process.  

The research findings published in form of a book titled: Post-Occupancy Evaluation of Slum Upgrading Projects: A Case of Kambi Moto Huruma and Kibera Decanting Site in Nairobi, comes in the backdrop of the Government’s affordable housing initiative as one of the pillars underpinning the “Big Four” development agenda.

The 125 - page book structured in six chapters, investigates among other issues: user attitudes and satisfaction, building technology, physical structure, materials, construction methods, delivery methods and attendant costs as well as informal and formal institutional structures. The analysis of comparative case studies further provide useful data on the performance and transfer of new construction technologies used in the informal settlement upgrading.

According to the researchers who are practicing architects, the Huruma settlement involved a combination of physical and institutional components, including acquisition of secure land tenure for residents and subsequent provision of adequate housing and basic services for individual households, built and financed by the very households.

The study notes that central to the physical transformation “was development of an institutional framework within the community that would allow it to manage, sustain and deal with issues concerning the settlement on its own.”

During the book launch, Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Research, Production and Extension, Prof. Mary Abukutsa, who represented the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Victoria Wambui Ngumi, lauded the five women-researchers who had responded to a call by National Commission for Science and Technology and Innovation (NACOSTI) for demonstrating commitment to issues affecting slum dwellers.

She challenged the research team to generate a policy brief that could be shared with policy makers in the country so that the findings could be applied to inform ongoing government initiatives on slum upgrading.

Prof. Abukutsa appealed to JKUAT researchers to embrace collaborative, multidisciplinary research approach so that the research enterprise could be meaningful and impactful, in an effort geared towards debunking the “ivory tower” mentality by re-positioning the institution to play a leading role in the country’s development by “coming down to the people to make science accessible...”

UN-Habitat representative, Dr. Ndilmbaye Armand urged slum upgrading actors to always seek to understand why people are in the slum and why they are living under such deplorable conditions.

The Post-Occupancy Evaluation of Slum Upgrading Projects, according to Dr. Kibue, highlights the need to involve stakeholders. She notes that “many times we design something in the air without considering and understanding how the people use and feel about their place of residence.”

The research makes a strong case for policy makers and other key stakeholders in the slum upgrading programmes as a way of mitigating the impact associated with slum upgrade efforts due to their precarious nature, which also bears cost implications.

One of the key findings of the research is the level of satisfaction which was higher in the informally initiated projects compared to formally initiated ones.

The findings point to the strong need for the government to support the informal slum upgrade programmes such as emerging building technologies developed and used successfully, to upgrade other existing slums.

Present at the book launch included Kambi Moto representatives: Susan Wanjiru, Susan Naitore, Milka Njeri and Peter Ndung’u who called on the government to partner with them on slum upgrading initiatives.

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