April 23, 2014

Informal settlers in Windhoek participate in the planning for the upgrading of their settlements

Through the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN), informal settlers of Tweetheni and Ehangano in Okuryangava together with the Polytechnic of Namibia’s Architecture students and lecturers started a participatory planning workshop on the 8th of April 2014 for the preparations of working models for housing solutions for these two communities.

Windhoek experienced uncontrolled urban growth since independence. The situation is further aggravated by authorities not succeeding in delivering sufficient land for housing, to keep pace with the influx. Many new residents therefore had to find their own solutions by settling in informal settlements, legally or not, without security of tenure and access to water and sanitation, and Okuryangava is no exception to that.  The Tweetheni and Ehangano communities were relocated from single Quarters in 2000 due to upgrading purposes. Others came from Otjomuise, Ombili and Kilimanjaro and are leasing land from the City of Windhoek for about 14 years.   There are communal toilets provided by the City but are not used by the community because of unclean conditions.

The Okuryangava area is heavily populated, and inhabitants live in precarious conditions. Currently two households are leasing on one erf from the City in the two settlements with 224 erven.  In addition, the lessees have taken in their own tenants; all being accommodated on the 300m² size erven. What transpired during this workshop is that the community worked in blocks with students, gave inputs on the spatial arrangement, land use, housing needs and important features in the settlement to inform the housing models and its arrangement, aiming to keep enough flexibility for the owners and tenants for incremental development of the settlements.

Community members came in a large number to participate in the planning of their settlement. During this exercise, the community indicated to the architecture students how they want to live in future once development has taken place. While the majority of residents prioritized acquiring the land during the socio-economic survey (as part of the Community Land Information Programme which is being piloted in collaboration with the City in the two settlements), they still pointed out that they want enough space for everyone, good roads and water and sanitation. One of the community member also indicated that some people are living under the power line; “this is very dangerous and needs serious attention.” Residents also confirmed that they wish to find a solution to accommodate all residents and that nobody should be relocated from the settlement. Due to the importance of acquiring the land, two savings groups have applied for land; response from the City on the applications is still awaited.

Before this workshop, a meeting was held on the 11th of March with the said communities to learn from South African visitors, who have improved their housing situations in their informal settlements. “In South Africa we normally do not like to relocate people unless there are problems with land such as dolomite from the mines. We instead prefer re-blocking because if there is a problem we want the ambulances and police to have access.” Maureen Sikepu from Orange Farm, Johannesburg.

The next participatory planning workshop will follow in May to share potential housing typologies prepared by the students as part of their second year architectural studies.  These will serve as a starting point for upgrading of the informal shelters. This exercise was made possible by SDFN, a network of housing saving schemes working together to improve living conditions of low income communities living in informal settlements, those without accommodation and those living in rented rooms and Namibia Housing Action Group (NHAG) the supporting NGO, in collaboration with the Department of Architecture and Spatial Planning, with whom an agreement was signed in February 2012 to promote initiatives, plans and policies which encourage pro-poor and inclusive cities and towns in Namibia.

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