Building the Siphumelele WaSH facility / Innovation Centre in Langrug, Stellenbosch

By Aditya Kumar and Yolande Hendler (on behalf of CORC)

Zwelitsha is a section of Langrug informal settlement, located on the rocky ground of a mountain slope that overlooks the lush valleys and nearby town of Franschoek in Stellenbosch Municipality. Zwelitsha’s residents make up 604 people who reside in 318 structures. Langrug as a whole is home to 4700 people who live in 2118 structures. While Langrug’s other sections have access to water and sanitation facilities – including the Langrug Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) facility – Zwelitsha’s steep incline and rocky terrain have made it extremely difficult to build water and sanitation points. To this end, Zwelitsha currently has only one tap and no toilets.

Zwelitsha community members developing plans for the Siphumelele WaSH facility

Zwelitsha community members developing plans for the Siphumelele WaSH facility

Yet this situation is about to change, as community members began work on the foundations of the Siphumelele WaSH Facility and Innovation Centre last week in partnership with the Informal Settlement Network (ISN), Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC), Touching the Earth Lightly (TEL), Sculpt the Future Foundation, Stellenbosch Municipality, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and Enviro Loo (a waterless sanitation provider).

Site of Siphumelele WaSH facility in Zwelitsha section of Langrug informal settlement

Site of Siphumelele WaSH facility in Zwelitsha section of Langrug informal settlement

Building on Experience: Learning from the Langrug WaSH facility

Based on the monitoring, evaluation and learning around the existing WaSH facility (read more here) in Langrug, Zwelitsha’s residents initiated a discussion about the possibility of a second WaSH facility. They approached ISN and CORC, WPI and Stellenbosch Municipality, all of whom had partnered with the community in building the existing WaSH facility in 2011.

Learning from the existing WaSH facility in Langrug

Learning from the existing WaSH facility in Langrug

The discussion related to the outcomes of a sample survey that was conducted over 12 days in July and August 2013. This survey looked at the benefits of data collection, the various uses of the existing WaSH facility (economic and small enterprise, health and food security, educational, organisational meeting point) and its upkeep and maintenance.

More specifically the outcomes of the survey of the Langrug WaSH facility included:

  • The collection of inception data for Siphumelele WaSH facility
  • Current data collection for usage at both WaSH facilities from July 2014
  • Increased use of the Langrug facility by crèches in Langrug. (An estimated 40 children served per day at the facility around issues related to basic hygiene)
  • A fully functioning post-office hosted in the Langrug WaSH facility, based on previously collected enumeration (socio-demographic) data
  • Support for HIV / AIDS awareness in Langrug WaSH facility
  • Potential for small businesses selling health and hygiene products in Langrug facility
  • Increased food security through the greening of the existing facility in partnership with Touching the Earth Lightly
  • Langrug WaSH facility as a space for youth education, workshops and meetings
  • Dramatic increase in usage of Langrug facility due to consistent cleanliness and ancillary functions within the facility
  • Comparatively low maintenance and upkeep of Langrug facility
  • Success in preventing vandalism
  • Significantly, the community expressed a higher degree of ownership in relation to the Langrug WaSH facility as it was community designed, built and maintained

The challenges that emerged around the facility enhanced the monitoring, evaluation and learning around the delivery and maintenance of services, and assisted in conceptualising the Siphumelele WaSH facility.

Some of these challenges and learning points related to:

  • The low usage of communal showers
  • The slow inception of the hair salon

Building the Concept: Co-Designing the Siphumelele WaSH facility

Given the cost of maintenance and operations, the community and partners involved explored the idea of a livelihood-linked wash facility where a portion of the facility would generate revenue (through a kiosk, crèche, health and educational programme) to reduce the burden on municipal funds for maintenance. Given the community’s experience of struggling for a space of safety and dignity, the Zwelitsha design and construction team named the wash facility “Siphumelele” – “We have achieved it”.

From March to April 2014 the community, together with TEL, began co-designing the facility. The designs include toilets for men and women, a wash area and a kiosk on the ground floor. The second floor will contain a crèche and soup kitchen that will be managed by the community. After conducting a survey with Zwelitsha’s families about amenities to be included in the facility, community leaders chose to exclude showers due to their infrequent use in the Langrug WaSH facility. The community also chose to make use of Enviro Loo toilets after they visited Enviro Loo in November 2013 and received detailed explanations on how the toilets are maintained and operated. The Enviro Loo is a waterless toilet system that provides a safe, non-polluting, cost-effective solution to sanitation.

Co-designing with Touching the Earth Lightly

Co-designing with Touching the Earth Lightly

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Co-designing the WaSH facility

Model of Siphumelele WaSH facility

Model of Siphumelele WaSH facility

Building the Team: Community-led Implementation

Apart from the partners already mentioned, the community has put together different teams to lead the implementation process. These include a leadership committee, a savings group and an Informal Settlement Upgrading Team (ISUT). This team is led by 8 women and includes a Community Liaison Officer, a storekeeper and a project manager who spearhead the construction process. After an exchange to a savings scheme linked to the Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), the community set up their own savings group in July 2014 so as to manage finances to maintain and operate Siphumelele WaSH facility.

Building a voice of the urban poor in Langrug

The foundations for both WaSH facilities were laid when Stellenbosch Municipality signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the community and ISN / CORC in 2011. Since this date Langrug’s community leaders have been developing a formal relationship with the Municipality and are making a strong case for how urban poor communities successfully organise themselves to lead their own upgrading processes, and how co-design and co-planning is a step towards a more tangible ‘inclusive city’.

(Photographs: Stephen Lamb, TEL)

Phase 1 of construction

Phase 1 of construction

The construction team

The construction team

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