Lack of access to basic services such as sanitation, as Micheal explains in the video above, places a compound burden on slum residents and their environment. Slum communities in Freetown (Sierra Leone) and Monrovia (Liberia) are located predominantly on the coastline. These communities and their cities, more generally, are at the forefront of issues of peace, human development, health and susceptibility to climate change. Having been the epicenters of some of the most terrible civil wars in memory, and more recently of the worst Ebola outbreak in history, these communities require a path forward to their own development that can stimulate hope and create tangible, cumulative outcomes over the next few years.
Beyond the burden of waterborne diseases, insecurity, affordability of access and lack of dignity, residents suffer the double burden of contamination to their immediate environment and blame for the contamination of their surrounding of environment by their local governments.
A typical sanitation unit 'hanging toilet' used by slum communities in Monrovia and Freetown.
Contaminated rain and flood water stagnates close to houses in S.K. Doe Community, Monrovia. The water provides ample breeding grounds for malarial mosquitos and waterborne diseases
Garbage mixed with human waste on the banks on the Montseraddo River, Monrovia.
Drainage systems in slum communities, as this one in Freetown, are often inadequate and clogged with garbage, becoming the breeding grounds for disease and threaten the health of the environment.
Both cities are beginning their road to recovery from violent conflicts and recent Ebola epidemics. Populations are very young, with about 40% under 15yrs.
We have initiated a process of community engagement, organization, mapping and data collection towards creating development plans for slum neighborhoods in Freetown and Monrovia, integrated with plans also for their cities. This approach is based on:
- Slum Dwellers International's Theory of Change outcome indicator #3 - Resilient, inclusive and integrated neighborhoods.
- SDG16 - 16.7 Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels
- SDG11 - 11.3 By 2030, enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management in all countries
- SDG 6 - 6.2 By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations
These processes are also based on the observations that organised urban poor communities through their community data processes can co-produce the transformation of the built environment from slums to resilient, inclusive and integrated urban neighborhoods.
The objective of this process is to create slum communities that are socially and economically integrated into the city and their neighborhoods and enjoy security of tenure with universal access to affordable and safe basic services and good quality housing. This is achieved through collective action and direct participation in urban planning through demonstration of incremental, precedent setting upgrading processes and projects using community data.
We now describe these processes in greater detail.
Process of data collection:
- savings: communities organize into savings groups who on a daily basis save small amounts of money. the collection of money from members on a daily basis strengthens social interaction and cohesion. Saving money together builds trust among members and the dignity of especially young women who can build strategies for survival for themselves and their children, and tends to afford some protection from potentially exploitative/abusive relationships. The resulting capital also helps shift power differentials in households and create a logic of entrepreneurship and longer time thinking. Savings groups also increase the possibility of accessing pro-poor credit that can support improving livelihood opportunities.
- mobilization of slum communities: The data collection process centers around bringing together a representative stakeholder constituency at settlement level, incorporating city officials and technical staff. A community meeting with elders, youth, women, men, market queens and other community business owners etc, is held at least 3 times during the data collection process:
- Community mobilization and mapping meeting - the boundaries are community services and amenities are mapped during a community mapping exercise and then followed by collecting the data in the field with GPS to verify the boundaries and available services.
- A broad community meeting (sometimes referred to as the Focus Group Discussion) where the Informal Settlement Profile Master form is administered. During this meeting the digitized community maps are also returned for verification by the community.
- Validation meeting - this meeting is held once all collected data has been digitized. Community members review a summary report of the main development priorities in their community, their maps and do a final check of the data.
A settlement/city forum is then held where communities share their data with other communities and city officials.
- peer-learning: all activities in the data collection process is learned and passed on in peer groups. Skills like mapping, surveys administration, and data collection with GPS and mobile apps is all learned within groups. This fosters the building of healthy group dynamics and respect for the knowledge and capabilities of ones peers.
SDI's data processes in the city-wide profiling of Monrovia and Freetown are building the capabilities of young women and men in these slum settlements in terms of knowledge, skills and confidence to engage in co-producing, with their city governments, neighborhoods that can evolve to obtain services and become formalized and on their way to normalization and development.
The processes by which SDI's achieves these objectives (data collection, organizing community members into savings groups, peer-to-peer learning exchanges) is a direct investment into the human and social capital of community members. Many of the aspects of mapping and planning also help ensure continuity and trust, within a process that is fraught with uncertainty and is susceptible to multiple interests.
Community members gain skills and knowledge in a range of literacies (including digital literacy), and training in mapping technologies (GIS) and their interpretation as maps and as analytical tools - this enhances their ability to access livelihood opportunities, confidence to talk and present their communities and their challenges to city officials. It makes them partners and implementers of their own development, rather than recipients and beneficiaries.
These skills and capabilities are especially valuable to young people and communities who through conflict and violence in their cities have been and continue to be deprived of opportunities to both improve their personal lives (education and health) and living conditions which make the pursuit of a dignified life impossible.
Settlement planning by communities puts them at the centre of the design process and negotiation around and for space and opportunities in their communities.
Community members design roads for their own neighborhood using the data they collected.
Community members share the information and data they collected through their data process with the rest of their community during settlement fora.
Discussion the technical implications of their design decisions with researchers and support staff.
Planning with the city: Community designed maps are laid over the existing bulk infrastructure of the city to identify opportunities are challenges.
In this project, we are seeking support for a design stage of slum neighborhood planning, that uses ongoing unprecedented efforts at mapping and neighborhood data collection. We will use developed digital tools that create maps of upgraded slums, and include necessary infrastructure such as accesses, services and drainage, and that are editable by communities as part of a human-centered design process to reimagine their communities and cities. This process generates large scale, precise digital maps that are also a platform for negotiations and planning with other crucial stakeholders, such as the city governments in Monrovia and Freetown, with whom we have a working relationship.
As a result of this project, we expect
1) To generate detailed maps of Monrovia and Freetown, shack by shack, and including the present location of problems (e.g.flooding, fires, unsafe areas) and existing services, incorporating the living knowledge of resident communities.
2) Improve digital tools for community planning of these neighborhoods, by using existing maps and creating plans (new maps) of these communities on a city-wide scale.
3) Test the effectiveness of the combined community organization+data collection + planning process at the city scale as a means to deliver rapid consensus, and a path forward towards peace, human development and environmental stewardship.