© 2024 Eddyburg


The theme is the city as a common good, the relevance of this expression in today’s divided cities, the challenges posed by informal settlements in Nairobi and the struggle to find viable alternatives. Spatial forms are relevant in determining the socio-ecological and political-economic conditions of a community. At the same time our struggles are inscribed in space, time and environment in multiple ways, as well as places are constructed and experiences as intricate network of social relations. A shift in perspective is needed for overcoming inequality, alienation and injustice in cities, and this demand a collective effort. The open debate in Toi market includes a presentation of the Toi Market Slum Upgrading Initiative and a contribution by Muungano wa Wanavijiji and KOPA.

Session I: Toi Market, in Kibera Drive

Introduction by Joseph Muturi and Joseph Kimani

Presentation of the Toi Market Slum

Upgrading Initiative

Presentation about "celebrating people's struggles".by Muungano wa Wanavijiji (Federation of saving schemes) and COPA (Community Organizing Practioners Association of Kenya.)

Open debate and interaction between all participants

Session II: World Social Forum – Kasarani

Introduction, by Ilaria Boniburini

The City as a common good in the European experience, by Edoardo Salzano

Informal settlement integration. The role of professionals by Erastus O.Abonyo

Urban design and housing in Nairobi and public space needs in informal settlements by Dr. Susan Kibue

Slum Upgrading and informal settlements in Nairobi

by Jane Weru

The training of the building professionals and its relevance in informal settlements by Gathogo Githatu



Erastus Abonyo: Architect, Partner of Tecta Consultants and lecturer at the University of Nairobi, School of Built Environment. Field of research: urban design and human settlement planning. Vice-chairman Architectural Association of Kenya and chairman Board of Education, Board of registration of Architects and Quantity Surveyors

Ilaria Boniburini: Architect, conservation specialist. Recently enrolled in a Ph.D program in urban planning at the University of Florence. Field of research: urban planning and segregation. Chairman of Zone Onlus.

Georgia Cardosi: Architect, self –employed practitioner. Involved with Toi market redevelopment project since 2004, she is the coordinator of the design team and project coordinator for Zone Onlus

Susan Kibue: Architect and senior lecturer at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, School of Architecture and Building Sciences. Chairperson of Dept. of Architecture. Recent research in traditional architecture in the context of social cultural economic and political atmosphere. Ph.D research in “Cultural Adaptations of Urban Dwellers in Nairobi”.

Joseph Kimani: Bachelor of Arts in Development Studies and a certified Community Organizer. Worked for human rights organizations in Kenya in community advocacy before joining Pamoja Trust, where is currently coordinating the Youth Program as a Senior Program Officer.

Gathogo Githatu: Architect, partner of ArchLink Consultants, and lecturer at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Department of Landscape Architecture.

Joseph Mukeku: Senior architect at the Tecta Consultants, in charge of Kambi Moto Slum Upgrading Project. Master in Architecture from the University of Nairobi, and Master in Environmental Design from Cambridge University. Community led projects’ expert for the Toi Market Redevelopment Project.

Joseph Muturi: Certified Social Worker and Community Mobilizer, Founder and current Treasurer of the Munungano wa Toi Market Saving Scheme – a member of the Slum Dwellers Federation of Kenya.

Joash Odemo, Architect Technician, Dip. Kenya Polytechnic. In practice since 2004, specialised in community based projects and mainstream practice. Currently working with Tekto Consult in Nairobi.

Margaret Okoth: Community Mobilizer, trader at Toi Market and member of the Toi Market Saving Scheme.

Hezekiah Rema: Certified Social Worker and Community Mobilizer, Founder and Chairperson of the Munungano wa Toi Market Saving Scheme – a member of the Slum Dwellers Federation of Kenya.

Edoardo Salzano: Urban and regional planner, consultant for Italian Local Governments, author of several books on urban planning. Founder and director of www.eddyburg.it, a website concerning urban planning, society and political issues. He was city counsellor in Rome and Venice, Major’s assistant for urban planning in Venice, professor and Dean of the Faculty of Town and Regional Planning at University IUAV of Venice.

Jane Weru: Lawyer by profession, and expert on Urban Poverty Issues. Currently the Executive Director of Pamoja Trust, which is the supporter agency for the Kenyan Federation of Slum-Dwellers-Muungano wa Wanavijiji. A member of the Provincial Commissioner’s Informal Settlements Commettee. Member of the Slum Dwellers International (SDI) and the UN-Habitat Slum Upgrading Facility.

Zone Onlus is a non- profit association based in Italy. It supports through advocacy, reserach and technical support and long term and sustainable development that can guarantee to every individual health, education and accessibility to the necessary resources for a dignified life; to work in the respect of environment and territorial resources.

Ilaria Boniburini(Chairman) - ilariaboniburini@zoneassociation.org - tel: +39 3473196786

Toi saving scheme is a member of the Muungano wa Wanavijiji (Slum Dwellers Federation of Kenya. Formed to unite the people of Toi market and enable them speak with one voice, protect the residents from forced evictions by the government, help the residents manage their small business and micro-finance issues and help the members in achieving their goal of permanent residential areas

Joseph Muturi (Treasurer) -josephmtr@yahoo.com tel: +254 (0) 722249360

Pamoja Trust is a Kenyan non-profit organization formed in 1999 to mobilize and support movements of the urban poor. It provides technical advice to poor communities in legal, financial and project development matters, community mobilization, training, establishment and management of saving schemes and mobilization of national and international support for community activities. Jack Makau (Programms Coordinator) – jmmkauontheweb@yahoo.com - tel. +254 (0) 723912454

Mwamko wa Vijana is a Slum Youth Federation whose objective goal is to increase space, voice and visibility of the Youth and children in the informal settlements of Kenya, by ensuring their full participation in decision making processes and activities that affects and influence their human and developmental growth.Joseph Kimani (Youth program coordinator) -joskimani2004@yahoo.co.uk - tel. +254 726 741 685

Toi market initiative is a project for the redevelopment of Toi informal market in Kibera, Nairobi. It includes an integrated multi-functional structure with market facilities, urban infrastructure and services. The project is based on the priority of upgrading communal areas, and is undertaken through a community led slum upgrading project.

Partners: Toi Market saving scheme - Muungano wa Wanavijiji – Pamoja Trust

Joseph Mukeku – jomukeku@yahoo.co.uk - +254 (0) 722833505

Georgia Cardosi – geo.c@libero.it - +39 3295455796


The conference proceeding have been not issued yet. You can find some documents in this folder. However audio and video recording of the whole conference (both sessions) are available upon request, unfortunatly in poor quality. Please write to Zone onlus:
info@zoneassociation.org and specify the format required

Good afternoon and welcome.

As half of the world’s population are city dwellers and the rapid increase in urban population is expected to continue it is central for the international community, including researchers, practitioners and academics to explore ways for making urbanization work for all people.

An extimated 1 billion people, a sixth of the global population currently lives within illegal settlements or environmentally hazardous residence locations, without security of tenure and adequate basic services such as water, roads or sewage systems.

Those areas, sometime as big as cities, are not what we define city, they are not even consider part of it, and it is not simply a matter of physical deficiencies. Poverty, vulnerability and exclusion from the economic and social opportunities of the city and from adequate housing conditions, also generate exclusion from democratic processes and lack of access to citizenship rights.

That is why, in such divided cities, we decided to discuss about the opportunity to consider the city as a common good, about the challenges posed by informal settlements and the struggle to find viable alternatives.

The assumption is that spatial forms are extremely relevant in determining the socio-ecological and political-economic conditions of a community. In the one hand the places are experienced and constructed by the intricate network of social relations. In the other hand our actions and straggles are inscribed in a given space and time.

This morning we heard about the voice of the communities and about their struggles in living in such conditions. But we also discussed about their vision and plan for the future and how professionals can help them to materialise and fulfil their expectations not just for themselves but also for the city as whole, to which they belong.

This afternoon we will hear the voices of the experts on urban issues and their contribution about alternatives.

We will start with the meaning of words like city and common good, and the relationship between spatial forms and social life through European experience and the vital role played by public spaces in the every day life of those cities.

Then, it will be presented what is an informal settlement and how the spatial and social space is produced in the slums.

As there is an ongoing debate on the question of what kind of measures and policy strategies would be necessary for responding to the challenge of slums, we will then continue the discussion about the alternatives of and to slum upgrading from different prospective starting from considering the slum as part of the city and not a separated problem. The crucial role played by planners and architects and the training of the professionals of tomorrow will also be addressed.

A conclusive talk will be about the response of urban movements and groups in Nairobi to the slum challenges and upgrading options, with specific reference to what we have heard this morning at the Toi Market.

However we look at the alternatives, a shift in perspective is needed both in the effort of coexisting in shared spaces and for overcoming inequality, alienation and injustice in cities.

And this demands a collective effort.


There’s a growing movement in Europe, which claims the city as a common good. Let’s start from the three single words forming the expression.


In the European experience the city is not simply a cluster of houses.

The city is a system in which the houses, the places allocated to the communal activities (schools, churches, public squares, parks, hospitals, markets etc.) and the places for the working activities are integrated and as a whole are serviced by a network of infrastructures which link the various parts and provide water, gas and electricity.

The city is the home of the society.

For a settlement to be considered a city, it needs to be the physical expression and the spatial organization of a society, which is a whole of families and individuals whom are bonded by common identities, mutual solidarity and shared rules.


The city is a good and not a commodity. The distinction between these two words is essential for surviving in the modern capitalistic society.

Good and commodity represent two different ways to see the same objects.

A good is something that has a value in itself. The value of a good is determined by the use that people make of it or could make of it. A good is something that helps to fulfill elementary needs, needs for knowledge and the need of love and pleasure. A good has an identity and each good is different from another. A good is something that I use without alienating or destroying it.

A commodity is something that has a value only when I can exchange it with money. A commodity does not have a value in itself, but only in term of what it can add to my material richness or to my power. A commodity is something that I can destroy for making something else that has a higher economic value. For example if I consider the natural landscape a commodity, I can destroy it for mining. All commodities are similar and interchangeable and can be measured only in term of money


Common does not mean public, but sometime it is useful that it become so.

Common means that it belongs to more people united by voluntary binds of identities and solidarity. It means that it satisfies a need that the single persons cannot satisfy without being together with others.

In the European experience each person belongs to more communities: the local community, the neighborhood, the village, where I was born, where I work, where I live, where the people that I am linked with are.

But each person also belongs to wider communities, which share the same history, language, use and traditions, food habits, songs, etc.

For example I, Ilaria, I live in Venice, I study in Florence, but I am also Italian and European. Each of these communities ties me with my life and history.

To belong to a community make me responsible for it and for what is going on there. I will fight in order that in my communities, the abuse of power, inequalities, injustices, racism, and discrimination are banned.

To belong to a community make me aware of my identity and the fact that I may differ from the others, but my diversity is a richness fore everyone, as well as the diversity of other people, cities, nations make me richest.

Ultimately we all belong to the same community, the plane heart, which we share.



The common spaces in the formation of the European city

In the tradition of the European cities, the public spaces have always being important. They are places where we can meet, trade, celebrate religious and civic events, perform common activities, use common services and amenities.

From the Greek city to the Roman one, from the medieval to the renaissance city, the role of the ‘piazza’, square, has been decisive. The square is where people met, and public buildings overlook: the market, the law court, the church, the town hall.

The public squares were the pivot of the arrangement of the city. There the members of became citizen, therefore member of a community. There they celebrate their rituals, exchanged information and feelings, there they looked for and offered jobs, there they enjoyed feasts or emanated judgments or gave warnings, alerts.

In the big cities instead of having just one square there was a network of squares, all connected in the urban layout of the city. Each of them was devoted to something specific and special: The square of the market, of the Duomo etc.

If the city was organized in suburbs, each of them had its own square, but those small squares were a sort of satellites of the main squares or of the network of the squares in the cities.

The squares and the streets that connected them composed the frame of the city. The houses and the workshops were the tissues of the city. A city without its own square was like a human body without the skeleton

The common spaces in today’s European city

Today things are changing. In the past century happened events that have deeply undermined the common and collective character of the city. It prevails an idea of human being, economy and society that take to the supremacy of the individual instead of community.

The ground on which the city was founded was considered, in many European cities until the XIX century, the patrimony of the community. With the triumph of the capitalistic bourgeoisie, the land has been privatised. The speculation over the urban land leaded and still leads to build more and more buildings to be sold as residences or offices instead of buildings for communal use. The spaces allocated for collective functions are less and less.

It has been devastating the expansion of the use of private cars and means of transport, especially in the areas with high population density. It would have been preferable to use public transport, because the cars have thrown out citizen from the squares and roads.

The need of the people for common spaces has been instrumentally utilized for increasing artificially the consumption of commodities. The producers of affluent merchandise, more o less useful, have built or contributed to build artificial common spaces: Mall, outlets or other forms of enclosed spaces. They are fake squares, fake markets, privately managed, attended by a multitude of people more then by citizen, which are considered first of all clients. A citizen is some one with the consciousness of his/her dignity, rights and duties) while a client is simply someone with money to spend.

Movements for claiming the public spaces

In the last years in many European cities the decay of the common spaces have been opposed by making wide pedestrian areas, restricting the vehicular traffic in the city, developing public transport, cycling tracks, and pedestrian routes.

Whereas this is not happened, the life has become very difficult especially for children, elderly and women.

In all Europe many movements, associations, committees claim more, in term of quantity and quality, common spaces, to make the cities more liveable. Even in the USA there are manifestations of this kind, a cultural and social tendency to oppose the excess of individualism. It is from an American association, International Making Cities Liveable Conferences, that are suggested, following a meditation on the European urban experience, 10 points for making public spaces.

I would like to highlight on few of them:

The open public spaces must be at the very Centre of neighbourhood. The public spaces don’t live only as a scenario, but typically as focus of a community.

The open public spaces must also be the Hinge between the neighbourhood and the city - between indoors and outdoors. The door from which you enter in the neighbourhood and the door from which you go out from the neighbourhood and you enter the city.

The open public spaces must be the sites where happened the events that can interest the community: the festivals, the market, the site were the major or the candidate for the elections encounters the citizens.

The ‘campi’ of Venezia described by an English architect

The urban and architectural design is definitely indispensable for obtaining good public spaces. But is not enough. The city and its spaces are made of stones, concrete and other materials, but also and above all by the relationships that are established among the people and the places.

I am lucky to live in a city where the public spaces have been preserved and are as they were centuries ago. The have retained the same shape, architecture and the relationship between the people and the places are also maintained.

I am talking about Venice and its ‘campi’, as they are called the squares. An English architect, Suzanne Crawford Lennard, described them as:

Open irregularly shaped paved space surrounded by buildings

Almost every campo contains a church, which still serves the community, and a well head which, though no longer a water source is still a gathering place.

The campi vary in size. They provide settings for a variety of social situations, some more suited to small-scale neighborly social scenes, others offering the opportunity for larger festivities and community events.

The absence of traffic ensures that all sounds on the campo are human sounds-conversation, laughter, footsteps, and children’s voices.

There are several entrances and exits, but streets do not connect directly across the campo, so the campo never appears to be merely a temporary widening of the street. Rather, it is very clearly the center and focus of community life.

Small businesses, services or workshops are located on the ground floor, ensuring a high frequency of interaction, and makes it possible for people with very different backgrounds and trades to observe each others' lives and to make friends with those dissimilar from themselves.

The campi of Venice and the festival of “l’unità” in 1973

Venice is a very ancient city but in the last century has been abandoned by its population. Only in the last decades it has re-borne.

An event, which has contributed to the re-discovery of Venice by its same citizens, Italians and Europeans, was the festival of the Unità in 1973, a national-wide, political kermess. The festival gathers thousands of people coming from all parts of Italy. Generally it takes place in the suburbs of the cities.

That year was decided to do it in Venice, in its campi. At least 15-20 campi were involved. In each one there were performances, entertainment, debated, open-air refreshment points and restaurants referred to traditions of a specific part of Italy.

The city for a week changed face. Everybody discovered the beauty of the spaces occupied by the people and their encounters.

Since then inhabitants and tourists live and experience the campi. They are the open space of each single home, the place where friends meet, where you know new people. They are the places where the hart of the city beats.

The centre of Rome occupied by the inhabitants of the suburbs

An episode very meaningful regarding the importance of the public spaces in the re-establishment of the relationship between society and city, happened in Rome, the capital of Italy.

It was in 1976. At that time Rome had about 2 million people, a beautiful and famous historical center with ever expanding suburbs, poorer and more deteriorated as you went from the center towards the periphery. The center was occupied by the well-off and tourists, the suburbs by the poorer. The baraccopoli, the italian word for slums, of the city were places where the criminality grew, where the youth roamed without having an alternative to the games of power.

In those years Italy was still subject to the terrorism.

An intelligent major, Giulio Carlo Argan, and a young town councilor, Renato Nicolini changed radically the social climate of the city, modifying the relationship between people and the space.

The cultural activities were taken out from the small theaters and museums. Large mass manifestations like film marathons of popular films, street theatre, music and dancing, were organized in central places of the city.

Young people in the evenings abandoned their slums and hurried to the city center, in its squares, in its archaeological places. The families took their dinners in the spaces where the most popular films and shows were screened.

The citizens re-conquered, or perhaps conquered for the first time, the most beautiful places of their city, ones from which they were so far excluded.


The two episodes that I mentioned indicate some ways for re-building the common role of the public spaces through interventions that oppose the individualistic tendency prevailing in desegregate societies. In Europe we can work on the heritage of our ancient cities and their places. In other part of the worlds you can work with other values. Binds among families, group of families, villages, communities and their languages, dialects, and traditions still testify the vitality of common values in many societies.

In many African cultures, the concept of private property did not exist. The land was a common good, which could not be subtracted from the community. This is a common value. The privatization of the urban land in Europe has been one of the causes of the degradation of the city.

To start from the common interest of local communities, enriching their life with common spaces which function well is a good commencement. That’s why the Toi market initiative seems particular interesting and I hope that the community develops their ideas and visions under their own responsibility.

But to do a step does not mean to make all the way that the step had announced.

The aim should be, as the experience of Rome as shown, to take over the entire city. Each community, village, neighborhood is part of a vaster organism: the city.

Like in many other part of the world, from Asia to Europe, from Africa to America, the city is divided in parts, which do not communicate; moreover often they are in conflict. It is an inhuman situation, which is experienced, although in a very different way, both in the ghetto of the poor and in the enclaves of the rich.

Staring from the public spaces the city can become an environment favorable to the life of human beings, if we will be able to return to the city its original role of home of the society. Its form and function will be, overall, at the service of those needs, which the individual is not able to satisfy on his own, but can be satisfied effectively only together with the others.

The city as a whole and in its parts have to be seen, felt and organized as “common goods”.

Goods and not commodities. Therefore object services, which have a value in themselves because they cannot be exchanged with others or with money. Common and not private, material and immaterial elements, which can be enjoyed, used by single members of the society, but they belong to the community as a whole.

The paper was translated and presented at the conference by Ilaria Boniburini, that has contributed to its editing. Here you go to the italian text

Note. There is a lot of discussion on upgrading. It is my observation thatintegration is more critical than upgrading. It denotes inclusion without being paternalistic. It is in this process that professionals can recast their role. By integrating informal settlements in their practice. The professionals find a new market and source of knowledge and challenge.

Define informal settlements.

Define traditional roles for professionals in the built environment.

Explore experiences in Kenya.

Outstanding challenges in informal settlements integration.

Role of professionals.

- Defining the new professional

- Methodology.

- Implementation strategies

- Evaluation of integration

Conclusions. Recasting the professional.

REF. Majale / ilishe paper / Hans .


Shelter is one of the basic needs of any society. The high urban migration rates to towns and cities in developing countries has often resulted in very crowded unplanned developments referred to as informal settlements. These are typically characterized by lack of infrastructure and other basic amenities. The relevant government and quasi government agencies charged with responsibility of housing provision are unable to cope with the high demand resulting in the relegation of the task to the users. Consequently, proliferation of poor housing and slums within the towns and cities in Kenya is currently a serious problem especially for the low-income earners.

This paper highlights the need to provide open spaces giving the historical basis of the courtyards in traditional set-ups. Traditional architecture for most communities also reveals the need for separate spaces for male and females and also the need for privacy. The government policy is cited as a necessary guide to aid in the development of a clear way forward towards the improvement of the situation. Finally, in keeping with the conference theme the Common Good and the need for justice and basic human rights is presented. The aims of any society is to achieve the common good which should contribute to the well being and dignity of each person in the society.


Nairobi is host to more than two hundred slum areas with the majority of people about two (million) more than half, 60% living in these slums in about 5% of the area. 40% of the population lives on about 95% of the area demarcated for residential use. The space in the slums is very densely populated and lacks the basic shelter and infrastructure conditions for living a full and healthy life. The slums are also characterised by people living in extreme poverty.

The largest slums are mainly towards the Eastern side of Nairobi and the rest on peripheral areas of high-income residential areas towards the North and West of the city. The pattern of development of Nairobi has its roots in the colonial history of the city and the division of zones for Europeans, Asians and Africans, which seem to persist until today. The European and Asian districts have now included the affluent Africans yet maintaining the same system and of zoning and low-density. The disparity in living conditions between the high and low-income is appalling and the gap only seems to widen with time.

There are many problems associated with the slum areas however this presentation will focus on the following four key areas, which broadly include:

- The Statement of the problem and the extent of the poor conditions,

- Requirement for open areas giving the basis of traditional configurations, the requirements for privacy needs,

- Government policy and way forward to improve the situation,

- The Common Good and the need for justice to achieve a better life for the dignity of the person

The Statement of the Problem of Informal Settlements

The high urban migration rates to towns and cities in developing countries has often resulted in very crowded unplanned developments referred to as informal settlements. These are typically characterized by lack of infrastructure and other basic amenities. The relevant government and quasi-government agencies charged with responsibility of housing provision are unable to cope with the high demand resulting in the relegation of the task to the users. Consequently, proliferation of poor housing and slums within the towns and cities in Kenya is currently a serious problem especially for the low-income earners. The solution to the housing problem is left to the people themselves using their own means.

However, in the midst of all the poverty and insecurity it is amazing to note the high potential of the slum dwellers to organize themselves to provide for their own shelter. Toepfer (UN-Habitat, 1999, v) indicates that ‘their physical and social reality also reflects the capacity …to mobilize resources, devise survival strategies and build social organizations even in the presence of enormous constraints”. This capacity of the residents makes upgrading policies implementable, as community involvement is important. The residents contribute towards the improvement of their shelters through community participation during the design and the management after the project is completed. The extent of the slums “..in terms of human suffering and its devastating impact on the life of people living in cities, are immeasurable.”(ibid,6)

Many other social vices emanate from the poor living conditions because of tight spaces and congested living that is inhumane. Due also to poor basic facilities the residents are prone to disease outbreaks and epidemics. There is a definite socio-economic cost to the country due to the negative consequences in the slum areas. The socio-political situation and advantages for the policy makers could be one of the factors that contribute to the apparent laissez-faire attitude.

Basic Space Requirements, Needs for Open Areas Giving the Traditional Configurations

In the traditional set-up the built-form is a reflection of the social structures of the group, the family organisation, and social networks. The built environment also depicts the values of the people their preferences, status, power, and roles. There are positive traditional values and constants in architecture. Every activity within the home setting has a particular place and meaning whether it is a public or private activity, whether it is clean or dirty and has to be at a different end of the house or homestead, all these happen due to the cultural requirements and dictates of a particular society.

There was clear and cohesive nature of the homestead configuration in traditional space, with a definite focus and interaction centre in the courtyard. The courtyard underscores the important need for open space for interaction of the residents. This is used for both working and for recreation for the different people in the homestead. The family and social networks are reflected through the forms used and arrangements of the dwellings. A key aspect that runs through these and many other African settlements is the use of the courtyard as a basic organizing principal around which all the various activities are arranged. It becomes a key unifying focus of the family and a hub for the various social day-to-day activities. The arrangement of the homestead is understood by all the members in terms of the hierarchy between them and the respect and values that are associated with it. Although the courtyard is a communal space the individual members are still able to have their own private areas.

There is clear separation in the socialisation and cultural instruction of the boys and the girls and enables them to accord high levels of respect to the elders. The homestead doubles as a school of social virtues necessary for the smooth co-existence between the members of the family. We find that the separate units for the mature boys gives them a lead in nurturing their independence at an early stage and allows them to become responsible individuals. For example having joined the ‘junior council of elders’ Kenyatta (1979) for the Kikuyu young men this helps them to get more formation before they get married.

Girls were looked after by the mother until they got married and a new home was only initiated on marriage. There was high respect for the marriage institution and house construction for a new home was a ceremonial process again with the collaboration of all the members of the family only when a new homestead was formed. This mutual interdependence is definitely lost with the more individualistic approach to life in the contemporary society. The home is a training ground, a school for both cultural and social values, which require adequate space.

Traditional space allows for good quality of space that facilititates for dignified living environments.

Basic Privacy needs that require to be addressed

The secondary level in the Hierarchy of Needs according to Cooper (1975) and Maslow (1954) includes the sense of ‘belongingness and love needs’ of an individual. Everyone requires this sense of belongingness and love needs. These are best addressed in the family setting. The fulfilment of this need ensures that each individual in the family feels part of it and can also experience the shared interaction with the other members. People even as they interact at the public level also need their own individual ‘space’. Individual privacy levels are also necessary for the overall well-being of the person. These are realities that are not possible within the slum areas.

When social networks at a public level and the need for mutual caring and protection are lacking crime and vandalism may occur. At a private level individuals also need time and space on their own for self-reflection and intimate conversations when these are frustrated withdrawal depression or illness does occur. It is important that the home provides for the two scenarios: interaction and retraction as required by the individual. If these are lacking in the home front the individuals will look for it elsewhere and perhaps in the wrong place, which can be serious for the young. This need indicates that ample space is required to provide good liveable home environments.

Privacy required includes both visual and acoustic, which are necessary. Basic and separate functional spaces are required, that is, for the basic human functions sleeping, washing, socialising, cooking and ablution. There are major privacy violations in for example one-roomed houses where the divisions are flimsy or non-existent as seen in many slum dwellings. Specific spaces are required for family living and for seperation of the male and females as well as the parents.

Government Policy and Way Forward to Improve the Situation

The urban Municipal Councils have the duty to provide the basic infrastructure as well as the legal backing to secure the land. More often than not the land is occupied illegally by slum dwellers and it is usually government land or municipal authority land or railway reserves (as is the case in Kibera) or lipellian wayleave (as is the case in Mathare). These people need some tenure for their land to be well re-located or the slums upgraded.

Proper policies need to be put in place to ensure that slums are eradicated without the inhuman clearance and evictions that have happened in Nairobi. Cognizance needs to be made that slums do constitute a percentage of the housing stock and a percentage of the populace of Nairobi, hence plans need to be made to improve the conditions without wholly relegating the problem to the users as community groups and to non-governmental organizations. NGOs seem to be the key players in most slum upgrading programmes and not the government or quasi-government institutions.

The UN Agenda 21 encompasses the broad based integrated approach to the provision of shelter and supporting infrastructure facilities. It is clear from many of the projects that do not involve the community adequately that the real problems are not addressed. Self-help construction in isolation does not assist in creating that sense of belonging and ownership, it is far from just an issue of provision of cheap self-help labour.

Infrastructure planning and development needs to be well designed and organized by professionals who need to give the appropriate densification. Architects and Planners also need to re-think clearly of the best possible way to deliver shelter and services to the low-income and also to ensure that the actual owners benefit. Several projects including Umoja and Dandora are clear examples of development for the poor that does not end up with them. Previous efforts by government agencies to provide for the shelter was ineffective as the original owners have sold out to middle and high-income owners and developers who have made major changes to the original estate. A lot of thought also needs to be made on a well-structured management system so that any proposed projects have. There are very few of the original allotees actually leaving in their houses. The mechanisms for the control of development very often seem to be unsuccessful.

Slum upgrading as an alternative provides for the possibility to improve the living conditions and also creates an opportunity to weave into such settlements the necessary infrastructure and utilities to give a better quality of life for the residents. It can also be the right time to design or enhance the spatial quality of the open areas used for social and public interaction. The need for public/open spaces in urban environments is highlighted these can be incorporated through design in slum upgrading projects and in proposed housing developments. Ample space is also important so that different members of a household are able to have their space.

Achieving the Common Good and the Need for Justice to Achieve a Better Life for the Dignity of the Human Person

The aim of any society is to achieve the common good that should contribute to the well being of each person in the society. Those that govern have an obligation to contribute to that mission of the common good through appropriate legislation or incentives that enable people to do this. Laws should be just as well as reflect the Natural Law.

Material goods are important in order for people to access education, cultural goods and peace. People’s freedom needs to be respected, they have a right to own property and to work and in this way contribute towards the Common Good themselves. Through work they should also be able to and have a right to create wealth to provide for their needs and to improve their state in life. They also need to have a good and decent environment in which to live a dignified life. This is where urban design and housing play a key role in enhancing peoples’ quality of life. Housing and shelter is one of the basic needs of any society. It is also one of the main agendas of the UN-HABITAT through their campaigns on “Shelter for All”.

The right to own property entails some form of security of tenure and access to land. Security of tenure also minimizes the possibility of vulnerability, fear of evictions especially for minority groups of people and enables them to invest.

When there are very apparent disparities.

In summary,

- Poor housing and slums constitute a myriad of other problems for the society including, moral, social, physical and economic decadence

- Security of tenure important in encouraging self-development of the slum dwellers

- Open spaces are important for social interaction and individuals also require private areas

- Role of the government and municipal authorities needs to be amplified especially in the provision of basic infrastructure and access to land

- The Common Good needs to be attained for the dignity of every individual in society. The disparity that currently exists in living conditions is an indication that unjust policies are in place.


Robbins E (2003): Immigration, Gentrification and the Neighbourhood in Oslo School of Architecture Yearbook 2003

UNCHS (Habitat) (1999): Informal settlement upgrading: the demand for capacity building in six pilot cities. UNCHS (Habitat) Nairobi

Kenyatta (1979): Facing Mount Kenya. Kenway Publications Nairobi

Particolarmente drammatica la situazione in Africa. Oggi ha una popolazione urbana di 350 milioni, più degli USA e del Canada messi insieme, e la situazione degli slum è particolarmente drammatica: per l’estensione, per la miseria priva di prospettive cui si accompagna, per la disgregazione sociale di cui è espressione, per il peso che costituisce per ogni ipotesi di progresso civile.

Il 7° World Social Forum è dedicato quest’anno al tema: ”Le lotte dei popoli, le alternative dei popoli”. Si svolgerà nei prossimi giorni a Nairobi, Kenya. Una città di oltre 3 milioni di abitanti (secondo le stime ufficiali), dove ai ben delimitati quartieri coloniali e neocoloniali (ville, palazzine e grattacieli, densità territoriali tra 15 e 25 ab/Ha) si affiancano alcuni dei maggiori slums (tuguri e capanne, densità di 250 ab/Ha).

Si discuterà tra l’altro di programmi di “slums upgrading” (miglioramento). Questi programmi, quando non si riducono alle ruspe che aprono la strada ai grattacieli ed espellono gli abitanti in aree più lontane, tendono a radicare gli abitanti al luogo con la costruzione di casette e la loro assegnazione in proprietà. Nella tradizione deella cultura africana il concetto di proprietà privata del suolo non esiste. Esiste invece una fortissima carenza di infrastrutture (acqua, fognature, elettricità) e di servizi per la vita associata: scuole, mercati, sale di culti e di riunione. Al Forum verrà proposto da una piccola associazione italiana (ZONE onlus) un progetto, radicato nelle comunità del popoloso slum di Kibera (800mila ab.), che vuole partire dalla ristrutturazione di uno spazio comune per avviare un processo di riqualificazione fisica e sociale. La questione verrà discussa, al Forum e a Kibera, in un convegno dal titolo: “La città come bene comune. Quale futuro per il miglioramento degli slums”. Ne parleremo, in Carta e in eddyburg.it.

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