By Yolande Hendler (on behalf of CORC)
If designing and planning with communities are key aspects of people-led projects then people-led implementation and -construction are too. The SA Alliance – through the Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) – has pioneered this people-led approach since 1994. By lobbying government, FEDUP strongly influenced low-income housing policy that came to be known as “the People’s Housing Process” (PHP), a special housing subsidy that allowed for much greater involvement of communities in the construction of their houses. Since then, FEDUP members have successfully implemented the construction of their houses through Community Construction Management Teams (CCMTs).
Although CCMTs have for the most part been linked to housing projects in the Alliance, setting them up is just as relevant to the Alliance’s more recent involvement in informal settlement upgrading. During this week’s three day CCMT workshop, experienced CCMT members introduced Cape Town community leaders to the CCMT model of community-led construction and explored how it could function in informal settlement upgrading.
Over three days Hasane Khoza (Abi) and Maureen Skepu from Gauteng shared their experiences in community construction with about 30 leaders from 6 settlements in Cape Town. With a background in construction management, Abi has helped to train and set up CCMTs and monitor housing projects. Maureen has a rich experience in CCMTs – she became a member of FEDUP in the early 2000s, accepted a volunteer position with a local CCMT five years later, and in 2011, moved into her own CCMT constructed house in Orange Farm, Gauteng. Read more about Maureen’s story here.
During the exchange, Abi and Maureen provided some background on the formation and strcuture of CCMTs, roles and responsibilities of each CCMT member and how to introduce the model of CCMTs to informal settlement upgrading.
The group also spent an afternoon in Flamingo informal settlement, which is currently upgrading and re-blocking. The visit offered an ideal opportunity for Flamingo’s steering committee to explain the way in which they have organised themselves so far and to explore the potential for them to form a CCMT to further streamline and ease the overall management of re-blocking. For the other communities present the site visit offered a first hand impression of what to consider for managing an upgrading project.
Terence Johnson, who has been involved in Flamingo from the outset on behalf of the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) explained,
“There are so many challenges and things you need to consider during upgrading. Some people don’t want to be moved, the rain causes flooding and leakages…. but we need to see these things not as a problem but as a challenge. And we can overcome challenges, especially if we work in a group like a CCMT. ”
How CCMTs work
On the first day Maureen explained,
“The idea behind CCMTs is that communities oversee and implement projects themselves. In this way the community can make sure that the job is done properly. Because of this you need dedicated and thorough people on the team. The benefit of CCMTs compared to general steering committees are that each member has clear roles and responsibilities”
(Maureen Skepu, FEDUP housing project coordinator, Gauteng)
Within FEDUP, the CCMT process includes all the stages of house building: from drawing plans (which are formalised by qualified architects and engineers) to the construction process, which is contracted out to community members. The construction team consists of five members who each have a specific task: the technical officer requests specific items and provides quality control, the bookkeeper sources the best and cheapest materials, the storekeeper controls the inflow and outflow of stock, the loan and savings officer looks after the community’s finances, and the project manager oversees the whole process. And, unlike in the private and public building sector, most of the construction team’s members are women.
“The idea is to capacitate a community to move from being just employed in a project to driving the project themselves. Project management is a skill that can be learnt. Everyone can be taught and everything we know we have learnt. Managing a project leads to empowering a community.”
(Abi / Hasane Khoza, CCMT Construction Manager)
Community Questions, Discussions and Insights
The workshop was a space of many questions and lively discussions. These were about how to break down the budget at community level so each person knows exact quantities and costs of materials to expect, at what stage in a project process a CCMT could be formed, or that women’s strength, resilience and thoroughness are good qualities for CCMT members. The communities present also liked the idea that CCMTs share the overall responsibility of an upgrading project – a shift from one person to a team of people.
In reflecting on the three days that passed, the community members expressed their value for exploring how the CCMT process can work in informal settings and upgrading projects. The suggested next steps are to establish guiding templates for establishing CCMTs as well as monitoring and documenting project processes on the ground, so that these can be shared with others as well.
“What we can learn from the CCMT workshop is that we need to continue learning, especially from the mistakes we make. Let’s not only make a habit of learning but actually do something with what we learn”
(Lindiwe Ralarala, Masilunge community leader)