New Study Shines Spotlight on Slum Upgrading Programme

The researchers behind the slum upgrade study

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 which comes in the backdrop of government’s affordable housing initiative as one of the pillars underpinning the “Big Four” development agenda, 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 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,  have published their findings 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.

The 125-page book structured in six chapters investigates 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 the comparative case studies further provide useful data on the performance and transfer of new construction technologies used in the informal settlement upgrading.

JKUAT researchers and the Kambi Moto team

According to the researchers, who are registered and 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, to be 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.”

Officiating during the book launch, Wednesday, December 20, 2018, Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Research, Production and Extension, Prof. Mary Abukutsa, paid glowing tribute to the five women-researchers who responded to a call by National Commission for Science and Technology and Innovation (NACOSTI) for demonstrating commitment to matters affecting slum dwellers, culminating in the publication of the seminal book.

Cake cutting to mark the book launch by Prof. Abukutsa (centre), assisted by Dr. Kibue and Ms. Susan of Kambi Moto (right).

Prof. Abukutsa underscored the need for researchers to work as a team: “If you want to walk fast, walk alone, if you want to go far, go with others.” While highlighting the available research funding platforms ranging from the in-house research/ innovation fund to externally administered National Research Fund, Prof Abukutsa challenged Dr. Kibue and her colleagues to generate a policy brief that could be shared with the policy makers so that the research findings could be applied to inform ongoing government initiatives on slum upgrading.

She appealed to JKUAT researchers to embrace collaborative, multidisciplinary research approach so that the research enterprise could be meaningful and impactful, and asked them to help in debunking the “ivory tower” mentality by re-positioning universities to play their cardinal role in the country’s development by “coming down to the people and make science accessible…”

The Dean, School of Architecture and Building Sciences, Prof. Stephen Diang’a drew a link between his previous research work and the nuances in the current findings by recollecting his research on: “Regularization of informal settlements as a means of sustainable housing deliver – A case of Mathare,” which focused on informal settlements and congratulated the researchers for continuing to shine a spotlight on the important topic of informal settlements. Post occupancy evaluation, if utilized well, should inform future design research work to benefit the community, he observed.

Guests join the researchers and the Kambi Moto team in celebrating the research milestone.

The UN-Habitat representative, Dr. Ndilmbaye Armand conveyed a message to slum upgrading actors to always seek to understand why people are in the slum and why they are living under such deplorable conditions, while Dr. Nathan Quincy, an Associate Professor at Penn State University Community Design Centre (USA), acknowledged the book launch as a milestone achievement, and invited graduate students to Sustainable Housing Initiative – where decisions around housing meet the needs of sustainability.

The Chairperson, Department of Architecture, Arch. Hashim Nadi, appreciated the work done by the researchers from the Department with Kambi Moto stakeholders, and characterized the day’s book launch as a welcome challenge to other dons to publish more books and publications.

The Post-Occupancy Evaluation of Slum Upgrading Projects, according to Dr. Kibue, highlights the need to involve stakeholders, noting “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 is a significant work 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.

Peter Ndungu of Kambi Moto addressing the guests during the book launch at JKUAT.

One of the key findings of the research is the level of satisfaction, which was higher in the informally initiated projects compared to the formally initiated ones. These findings therefore, 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: Director, Research, Dr. Patrick Mbindyo, Dr. Arch. James Kimathi, NACOSTI representative, Dr. Cyrus Kamau, Kambi Moto representatives; Susan Wanjiru, Susan Naitore, Milka Njeri and Peter Ndung’u, who called on Government and other actors to partner with them on slum upgrading initiatives.

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