On the 20th of January 2014, the Centre for Urban Research and Innovation team and members of Muungano Support Trust visited Kiandutu Informal settlement, Thika to launch a joint urban studio. The studio is part of a new collaboration between the Slum/Shack Dwellers Association (SDI) and Association of Africa Planning Schools (AAPS) implemented by African Planning Schools and SDI affiliate NGO and community groups aimed at exploring innovative ways for slum upgrading and addressing other challenges facing the African cities
The studio will utilize participatory methodologies for community planning, where young planners (students) and community members, actively engage in problem solving and urban visualization, for a better urban future. The presumption is that informal settlement dwellers are best placed to lead in framing solutions to their daily challenges in their process of negotiating the urban life and that urban planners can perhaps harvest this towards the formulation of inclusive urban policies, and in the upgrading of informal settlements.
Earlier, in the year 2012, the community of Kiandutu had been actively involved in carrying out an enumeration and mapping activity set out to profiling the settlement. This had formed the first phase of a joint studio. On the 20th of January the community got a chance to receive the published report on Kiandutu profile. This event was characterized by ululations and happy remarks from both the leaders and the community at large. Mr. Karisa, the CURI’s project co-leader and a University of Nairobi Senior lecturer handed over the reports to Mr. John Waweru and his leadership team before giving a highlight of what the report contained. He insisted that the report was an effort to put Kiandutu on a map, and that it would form part of the advocacy tools when approaching governance offices. He commended the strong participation of the community in a process that if properly navigated, would lead to fruitful returns.
Further on, he introduced the next phase of the project, which would require all partners to come together again and push the agenda to a planning phase. Its aim would be to produce an upgrading plan that seeks to reassure tenants of security of tenure while spatially and economically integrating the settlement to the urban development shaping Thika Town.
This has become a common vision by all the stakeholders due to Kiandutu’s proximity to Thika town. Thika town is located in Kiambu county and falls 40 kilometers North of Nairobi, making it a major satellite town to Nairobi. Furthermore, Kiandutu lies next to the Thika municipality’s industrial area and can be accessed off the Nairobi-Garissa National Highway (A2) making the settlement a prime land eyed for huge economic and residential developments. This is clearly evinced by the real estate, middle-upper class residential developments and shopping malls that are currently shaping the landscape of Thika town. With the completion of the Nairobi-Thika superhighway, the rate of development can only go higher, thus giving Kiandutu community little time to breathe. Kiandutu also covers an approximately 1.1 sq Kilometers [which is public land], of the total 93.5 sq Kilometers of Thika sub – county, making it an eyed jewel for the new county government.
Within the next two months, the partners will engage with the sole purpose of the community developing a pragmatic process and strategy for upgrading the settlement, while integrating the settlement within the spatial development of Thika and the local economy. This studio is expected to produce outputs that the community can own and use in their efforts to upgrade the settlement and secure tenure. At the same time, the studio is expected to expose urban planning students to urban informality and particularly present them with an opportunity to work jointly with the community of Kiandutu in real problem solving.
Prepared by James Wanyoike (21st January 2014)