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Exploring possibilities for community-led urban land development in Dar es Salaam

RafaellaSimas Lima19 May 2015

For the past two-weeks students of the MSc Urban Development Planning have been working in three sites across Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, as part of their field trip project supporting community-based initiatives for informal settlement upgrading.

Working with the Center for Community Initiatives (CCI), a local NGO, and members of the Tanzanian Federation of the Urban Poor, students have been trying to understand the realities of urban life in these three areas while developing ideas to guide more socio-environmentally just trajectories of urban development at the city-wide scale.

Incomplete houses on the Chamazi site Image: Rafaella Lima

Incomplete houses on the Chamazi site
Image: Rafaella Lima

The three sites in which the groups are based—Karakata, Chamazi, and Mabwepande—have much in common: they are all growing peri-urban areas, they are all mostly “informal” or “unplanned”, most residents are low-income, and they face similar interlinking challenges such as infrastructure, access to basic services, sanitation, and solid waste disposal. But they also represent different patterns of land acquisition and development within the Tanzanian context.

Learning about the Gulper machine, a mechanism that the Federation has been using for the emptying of pit latrines in Karakata.

Learning about the Gulper machine, a mechanism that the Federation has been using for the emptying of pit latrines in Karakata.

Karakata is the longest-established settlement of the three, and developed as residents from elsewhere in the city moved further out in search of more affordable land and rent prices. Considering Karakata’s close proximity to Julius Nyerere International Airport, as well as its diverse array of livelihood activities, the value of the land is currently rising at a rapid rate.

Residents face big issues such as sanitation and access to medical services, and the rapid erosion of the river in the area presents a grave environmental threat. Students assigned to this site have been working on ideas such as community-led environmental risk assessments and a more sustainable model for the Federation’s waste-disposal system.

Mapping the route between Chamazi housing site and the town centre.

Mapping the route between Chamazi housing site and the town centre.

In Chamazi, Federation members formed a housing cooperative to collectively purchase a plot of land to build homes for those who were evicted by the government from Kurasini Ward in 2008, due to the expansion of the port area.

However, since the project began in 2009, many houses have not been completed and a high percentage of families have yet to move to the site. One hypothesis for this has been that Chamazi’s distance from the city center (sometimes 3-4 hours with traffic) means much fewer livelihood and employment opportunities.

But the Chamazi site is not as isolated as it once was; in only the past few years the area around Chamazi town has grown rapidly, bringing new businesses, markets and services. UDP students have been exploring the seeming disconnect between the housing site and the town, along with the financing of the housing project to understand how it can remain affordable and viable.

A student-led focus group trying to understand the dominant challenges in Mabwepande.

A student-led focus group trying to understand the dominant challenges in Mabwepande.

Mabwepande is another peri-urban site for relocated people, however in this case the government allocated land for victims of flooding in the more central Suna zone.

At the moment the area feels rural and many residents use the non built-up space for agricultural purposes, but we have yet to see how increased development of the area and new pressures on land will affect them.

As the Federation has only just begun working in this site, Mabwepande had yet to be mapped in a way that was accessible to its residents. Along with conducting interviews and focus groups to begin to build a larger picture of the Mabwepande community, students created maps with the help of community members to be shared on the site.

Students present some of their findings and ideas to community members in Karakata.

Students present some of their findings and ideas to community members in Karakata.

These three sites are illuminating important citywide processes, such as the uncertain institutional relationships that govern the urban poor’s access to land (for example, there is no clear resettlement policy that might guide the relocation of people like in Chamazi and Mabwepande).

Students are understanding the notion of “scale” in practice, as they come to grips with the scale of informality and poverty across Dar es Salaam. This has been underpinned by the rainy season, in which intense flooding across the city has brought the hardships faced by Dar’s poorer residents into clear focus.

Observing a Federation and CCI-led focus group used in settlement profiling in Vingunguti settlement.

Observing a Federation and CCI-led focus group used in settlement profiling in Vingunguti settlement.

Finally, there is the challenge of gathering reliable data in a city that is growing so rapidly, in a context where certain forms of knowledge are not recognized. The field trip focuses on the way knowledge is built at the local level as students learn from the Federation model of settlement profiling, enumeration, and mapping.

In return, students offer input and experiences from their diverse home countries to try and support community-led processes of co-production of housing, land development, and knowledge.

Windsor Workshop at the DPU

Iwona MBisaga10 December 2012

Post written in collaboration with Josephine Wilka. Students of the MSc Development Administration and Planning

On the 30th October 2012 at 11am, there was a lot of commotion at the Cumberland Lodge: almost 180 DPU postgraduate students and staff were gathering in the back garden of this beautiful Windsor mansion to have their photo taken. It captured one of the many memorable moments of this year’s Windsor Workshop which was concerned with the subsequent topic: “Dar es Salaam – Negotiating a unified strategy for land use and affordable settlement upgrading”. Some of the students then headed towards the buses to return to London. For them it marked the end of two days full of intense group work, heated discussions, film-screenings from the ground, tricky negotiating and decision-making, certainly the most demanding tasks of the whole exercise. For the other half of the students the challenges of creating a solution to this Tanzanian reality with their stakeholder groups were still ahead. After all, this simulation project was attended by Tim Ndeze, who participates in the actual negotiations on site as a member of CCI (Centre for Community Initiatives)- a civil society organisation. He not only presented an invaluable in-depth local knowledge of the situation, but also, together with Ruth McLeod and Gynna F. Millan Franco, contributed to the excellent movie footage from Dar es Salaam, which had been collected in the weeks ahead. Their team effort allowed DPU students to immerse themselves into the perspective of one of the many actor groups they chose to represent, ranging from international financial institutions to slum dwellers, in order to envision the environment and to connect to the local people through the recordings. Despite the assignment itself being very serious in nature, there was also time to enjoy the historic surroundings, giving the foreign students the opportunity to get a glimpse of the British culture, and to socialise with other participants and coaches over a delicious meal or a drink at the cosy bar. For those that preferred to be more active, there was the chance to show off their table tennis skills, to hit the dance floor for some twists and spins and to explore the vast Windsor Park, ideal for a quick afternoon walk.

Following this period that resulted in defining the strategy, forming of alliances and the establishment of concrete points of action at the Cumberland Lodge, a final meeting of all “stakeholders” was being held at the Royal National Hotel in London, providing the last opportunity to maximise support for the respective actor group’s vision. The students representing slum dwellers, for example, did not let this chance pass by and took the liberty to stage some last minute demonstrations to remind everyone that the voices of the most marginalised should not be forgotten and that it is them who should be at the heart of the solution. With the objective being clear, interests and efforts had to be harmonised – a task which emerged as the most difficult struggle in achieving a comprehensive, far-reaching action plan by all parties involved.

Reflection upon the workshop and its effects shows how profoundly it had challenged many DPU students to engage with the multiple layers of causes and impacts in urban affairs. What’s more, the specific understanding of a region has been highly valued by various Windsor Workshop participants, whose opinion is resonated in the following statement by a DAP student who contemplated about her experience a few weeks after returning from the lodge: “I thought Windsor [Workshop] was fantastic! What I liked most about it is that I now know so much about Tanzania and its development-related problems, I knew very little before.” The benefits of attending far exceeded simply learning about Tanzania: everyone had the opportunity to assume a specific role as a member of one of the various actor groups, and by doing that each one could actively contribute to finding solutions to the many issues Dar es Salaam is facing right now. Moreover, all the activities, carefully planned by the DPU staff, were notably aimed at encouraging students to enhance their ability to work in teams, to think outside the box, to be creative, and to improve their presentation skills. Whether one was a  local government official dealing with  a lack of funds, staff and coordination or a member of a Chinese estate giant trying to develop the land for the people, yet securing commercial interests: working together was crucial to achieve common goals.

What especially made the whole project worthwhile was the fact that the proposals and solutions that have been developed, will be considered by the team of practitioners on the ground in Dar es Salaam, who have sent Tim Ndeze to London to attend to this task. In this sense, DPU students had the unique opportunity of making a real contribution  to the  positive change in some of the Tanzanian communities facing resettlement.

For more images visit the DPU flickr account


Pictures in this post by ©Remi Kaupp