SA SDI Alliance 2013 in Review

By 13th Dec 2013 Aug 14th, 2020 CORC, FEDUP, ISN, News, uTshani Fund

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Its that time of the year when we, the SA SDI Alliance, reflect on our achievements and work in progress. 2013 was a year of growth, maturation, and sharing knowledge and experiences. On the housing front, FEDUP was awarded with the Gauteng Provincial Goven Mbeki awards (runner up in North West), when the re-blocking of Mtshini Wam earned ISN and the community a Gold Impumelelo social innovation award.

The City of Cape Town’s adoption of the re-blocking policy has surpassed recognition and honor of the alliances work to realizing one of its main goals, which is creating precedent setting projects that have the ability to change policy and influence resource flows. Although the importance of upgrading of informal settlements has been recognised in the National Development Plan and actioned by the National Upgrading Support Programme (Department of Human Settlements), more needs to be done to promote community participation.

Creating partnerships with Government is one of the alliance’s aims of increasing the reach and impact of participatory development, and in this year we have spread our wings through sharing of knowledge and experiences by partnering with a number of stakeholders. These include the Santa Fe Institute, Habitat for Humanity, Touching the Earth Lightly and local and international universities (Worcester Polytechnic Institute, University of Cape Town and the University of Melbourne).

This year also marked a much closer working relationship between FEDUP and ISN, resulting in the signing of a joint charter. Such a review happens once in four years, and this year at the national forum the ISN/FEDUP charter was launched to strengthen and clarify the roles of each network. In 2014 we are looking forward to showcasing four of the Alliances projects that have been acknowledged by the World Design Capital 2014 committee and we will continue working with different stakeholders to make the voices of the poor heard.

We look back on the year past, and in anticipation, look forward to the coming year.

1: Policy transformation at the local government level

On the 5th of November 2013, Thandeka Gqada, Mayoral Committee Member for Human Settlements, City of Cape Town announced the adoption of the reblocking policy by The City of Cape Town. This policy has been influenced by the Mtshini Wam reblocking project, which is one of 22 pilot projects scheduled for re-blocking in the 2014.

Mtshini Wam before and after

Blocking-out” and “re-blocking” are interchangeable terms the South African SDI Alliance uses to refer to the reconfiguration and repositioning of shacks in very dense informal settlements in accordance to a community-drafted spatial framework. The aim is to better utilize the spaces in informal settlements to allow for better service provision. Moreover, re-blocking is done in “clusters” identified by the community, and after implementation, “courtyard” are created to ensure a safer environment for woman and children via neighborhood watches (all shacks face the courtyard), productive places (such as washing lines, food gardens), and generally provides space for local government to install better services. Read more on the City of Cape Town Adopts Reblocking policy.

2: Innovative projects nationally recognised

Dududza Project Wins Govan Mbeki award

On the 11th of April, FEDUP was nominated in the Gauteng Provincial Govan Mbeki awards. The award ceremony aims to showcase and demonstrate the partnerships with the department at both tiers and promotes best practices in meeting the delivery mandate of the Presidency’s Outcome 8, which is aligned with the vision of building sustainable human settlements and meeting the Millennium Development Goals. The Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP) has been transforming the housing policy from the bottom up for the past two decades. Premised on the notions of social and political change through community savings. The Federation has built more than 12,000 houses since 1994, and continues to set a precedent in women’s led leadership and collaboration with government. The MEC of Human Settlements at the Provincial tier nominated projects in four specified categories 1) which displays exceptional quality 2) promotes best practice 3) collaboration of stakeholders 4) improving the quality of life for the beneficiary-partners. Read more: Duduza Wins Gauteng Govan Mbeki Award for ePHP and Mafikeng in the North West with the runner up prize

Mtshini Wam Reblocking Project Wins Impumelelo Award

Mtshni Wam was one of the 33 finalists that have been selected out of the 80 shortlisted projects. The finalist are from all over South Africa in a wide range of sectors such as Health, HIV/AIDS, ECD, Education, Skills Training, Environment, Agriculture, Infrastructure, Social Welfare, Community Development, Food Security, Job Creation, and Animal Welfare.  This project showcases community led planning and design, the use of innovative material and layout design to decrease the level of disasters such as fires, flooding and food security, and the collaboration of stakeholders.  Read more  on Mtshini Wam Reblocking Project wins a Gold Impumelelo award.


3:  Collaboration and Partnerships

SDI- Santa Fe Institute Partnership

SDI has collaboratively partnered with the Santa Fe Institute in testing new techniques in profiling informal settlements with the quest of improving data capture processes. The importance of this collaboration is to develop theoretical insights about cities that can inform quantitative analyses of their long-term sustainability in terms of the interplay between innovation and resource appropriation. At the grassroots level, the data helps communities understand their settlements better and use it as an engagement tool with government. Read more on the profiling of UT Section, Khayelitsha, Cape Town

Habitat for Humanity South Africa

The partnership between CORC/ISN and Habitat for Humanity South Africa centrally recognises that if a vision of change is not community centred, it will most likely yield less impact. Moreover, development, which is conceptualised and implemented by an external agency, will most likely not be able to scale up and reach a citywide impact. For this reason, the Alliance signed a partnership agreement with Habitat for Humanity South Africa around two key around: 1) collaboration around a to-be-determined schedule of projects, and 2) setting up a city-fund. Read more about this collaboration on: Alliance Signs MOU with Habitat for Humanity.

DSCN4071Touching the Earth Lightly

The partnership with Stephen Lamb and Andrew Lord of Touching the Earth Lightly resulted in a first pilot of the Green Shack, which drew a lot of attention at Design Indaba 2o13. This showcase of innovative and cost effective solutions for shack upgrading addressing the problems of fire, flooding and food security was well received.

The aim of growing food vertically is to use the limited spaces that communities have to decrease poverty and hunger in informal settlements. Due to the shift of poverty from rural areas to urban areas, food gardening is an alternative to providing food security in informal settlements, with the high unemployment rate in informal settlements it is difficult for households to provide nutritious meals for their families because food security in urban areas is tied to purchasing power.

The initiative to start a food gardening projects in communities in realizing food provision at a cheaper price in order to decrease household spending on food, increasing food security for poor households and creating livelihood opportunities. The broader idea is to have most of the community members growing gardens either for consumption at a household level or selling to the community to increase the household’s income. Touching the Earth lightly provides innovative ways of growing food in limited spaces such as the creation of vertical gardens, using crates and tyres.

4. SA SDI collaboration with Universities

University of Cape Town (Europe Community Studio)

Tanja Winkler, senior lecturer in Urban and Regional Planning, University of Cape Town, joined CORC staff and the Europe informal settlement leadership on a planning session at Europe, an informal settlement located in Gugulethu, just of the N2 national highway in Cape Town.  The purpose of the planning meeting was to align the 2014 UCT Urban Planning practical learnership with that of the Europe community leaderships’s agendas in a “planning studio”. This studio will form part of the Master Students in Urban and Regional Planning curriculum, and have direct interactions with the community.  The aim of the studio is to expose the students to alternative planning approaches when considering one of the most pressing challenges of our post-apartheid cities: urban informality in its various expressions. Moreover, the nature of the studio also means that technical support is given to the community’s plans for upgrading the settlements, and hence a two-way beneficial relationship is established from where new tools of engagement with the state can be created.  Read more on Community Studio|2014 UCT-Europe Studio’The Planning Session’ . 


Worcester Polytechnic Institute, USA (Langrug WASH facility)

The construction of the WASH facility is a precedent setting partnership outlining that the provision of water and sanitation services in communities should be executed in a manner that does not simply add-up to the statistics of facilities, or a mere provision of basic utility services as a basic constitutional right. The government is currently the primary entity responsible for sanitation facilities provision in South Africa. However, too often, its top-down and subsidized approach has not been successful in meeting the imperatives of socio-economic sustainability. The facilities are typically undignified and mostly located in the peripherals where residents often find inconvenient to access and more so the facilities are poorly maintained. In addition, residents regularly vandalize them. The dilemma of how, where and which type of service level to provide in informal settlements is far off a challenge too great for the government to solve alone. In that regard, multi stakeholder approaches, with urban poor communities at the core, are needed. This is to enhance dignity-associated with the use of a communal toilet, contribute towards place making in communities, and create job opportunities in asset management, as well as impact policy and practice towards meaningful participatory urban development.

This innovative design, implementation and management of the WASH facility in Langrug is a ‘precedent’ setting for a multi-stakeholder co-production of infrastructure services, which triggered meaningful community engagement and consequently creating a sense of entitlement and redefining government-community relations. Read More on  The Langrug Wash Facility A new Common Space for the Community.

University of Melbourne (Planning studios in Mtshini Wam, Shuku Shukuma and Ruo Emoh)

In February a planning studio was organised between the communities of Mtshini Wam, Shuku Shukuma and Ruo Emoh and architecture and planning students from the University of Melbourne to investigate new solutions for informal settlement upgrading and housing development. In Shuku Shukuma, 80sqm plot size placeholders were cut to scale and laid out on an aerial photograph. The location of visible infrastrcuture was mapped, such as electricity poles, toilet blocks and water taps. The Mtshini Wam group looked at alternative typologies for densification and formalisation after re-blocking projects. A visual fly through model was created, building on the new layout of re-blocked settlement.

We also hosted Tim Budge, a PhD student at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia. The PhD is focused on the topic of “The Legacy of Paulo Freire and Saul Alinsky for communities seeking change in sub-Saharan Africa”. As part of his studies, he is doing field research in Zambia and South Africa. The research is deliberatively focused on case studies, narratives of change and an appreciation of local context and of the way local people learn and act in their own worlds. In August he gave three communities (Siyahlala, Busasa and Langrug) cameras and diaries where they can record community stories /activities that relate to change.

5: Projects

CORC and Alliance partners was proud to present the publication Masikhase: The Community Upgrading Finance Facility. This publication articulates the spaces created by communities and local government to make decisions and work together towards the incremental improvement of informal settlements.  These new participatory spaces often create conditions for informal settlement upgrading to be more effective and sustainable. The Community Upgrading Finance Facility (CUFF) aims to enhance the agencies and practices of the organized poor by providing a platform and institutional support for communities to engage government more effectively around collaborative upgrading and livelihood projects. Please download the booklet here: CUFF Booklet.

6: World Capital Design Projects

World Design Capital Yellow Logo

The prestigious accolade of World Design Capital is awarded by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design every two years. It recognises that “the future success of each city is therefore largely reliant on those who plan, design and manage the shared spaces and functions of their city”.

The Alliance of community organisations and social networks Informal Settlement Network (ISN) andFederation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP) and support organisations CORC, uTshani Fund and iKhayalami saw this as an opportunity to display, on a global stage, how communities go about designing, inhabiting and reproducing spaces that increase accessibility and productivity of poor people in the city. The WCD committee selected four of the Alliances projects namely Mtshini wam reblocking project, Langrug informal settlement upgrading project, Solid Waste management and Community led spatial design and reconfiguration of informal settlements both pre and post disaster. Read More on: Four Alliance Projects Recognised by World Design Capital 2014 Committee.

7: SA SDI Alliance national forum

This year national forum started from the 11th-14th November 2013, more than 200 members of the ISN and FEDUP regional facilitators from all the provinces of South Africa were present. They discussed and shared experiences on income generation programs, savings, enumeration, profiling, informal settlement upgrading, land ownership and partnerships.   The forum is an event where the alliance reports on its past achievements and challenges while the supporting NGO CORC (Community Organization Resource Center) uses this platform to understand the challenges faced by all regions on the ground.  The event also included the launch of the ISN/FEDUP charter. Read More on SA SDI National Forum and Charter Launch. 


2013 was a year marked by local and national recognition of the power and possibilities of collaboratively partnering with communities organisations. By building local community capacity, communities have built a bridge to local government officials. Partnerships are pending with the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality after the profiling and mapping of Midrand informal settlement and also in Moeggesukkel informal settlement. The power of exchanges were visible, considering the role of Gauteng ISN played in strenthening the emerging Eastern Cape ISN . In Midrand municipality, the community of Sicelo showcased alternative options when they demonstrated the effectiveness of community based enumeration. There are also a pending partnership in this local government.

These loose threads will be pursued next year, while implementation in the mature partnerships with City of Cape Town and Stellenbosch Municipality will be stepped up. We want to thank our partners, especially international donors Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Comic Relief, Ford Foundation, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and Misereor for funding these operations. Early next year our 2013/14 annual report will be ready, expounding on these experiences.

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