Projects executed in Africa in the past few years have helped WSUP better understand the connection between water and sanitation issues and other challenges faced by residents of low-income urban areas.
Our report “Integrated Slum Upgrading”, first released in May 2021, indicates a clear path towards successful outcomes: solutions to the most urgent problems in those communities demand an integrated approach.
WSUP has worked in four projects in Mozambique, Kenya, Madagascar and Ghana, four countries with different priorities and backgrounds, to find that infrastructure and services problems are not perceived as disconnected needs.
The findings in the report, produced by WSUP and Arquitectura sin Fronteras (also known as ASF-España), suggest that people living in low-income urban areas do not think about specific problems separately. They also show that addressing difficult challenges in an integrated manner makes it easier to overcome them – the solution to one issue tends to open the path for solving another, a conclusion to be detailed in the session about integrated urban development at World Water Week.
Land rights and sanitation
In 2017, WSUP joined a project in Mozambique originally created as cooperation between the African nation and Spanish professionals: The Habitat Project, focused on one low-income community known as Chamanculo C.
In this effort, the municipal authorities of Maputo, the Mozambican capital, and Barcelona worked alongside Spain’s Arquitectos Sin Fronteras (Architectures Without Borders, or ASF-E) and the Ordem dos Advogados de Moçambique (Mozambican Lawyers Association), plus partners who joined at a later stage. The purpose: “the regularisation of land rights and associated agreement on plot boundaries and road access”.
The project intended to address the legal issues that prevented residents from having guarantees over the place where they live, something that affected their access to many types of basic services, including water and sanitation. With the involvement of WSUP, those two crucial services were integrated in the project.
Having worked with poor communities in Maputo since 2009, WSUP brought to Chamanculo C the model of high quality shared sanitation, which included the construction of Communal Sanitation Blocks, as well as Shared Latrines.
According to the “Integrated Slum Upgrading” report, implementing the sanitation improvements in Chamanculo C in connection with ASF-E’s work on land rights “offered multiple advantages”.
First, with plot boundaries and access addressed by the legal processes, it was “substantially easier to find appropriate locations for compound and communal facilities”. Second, the work with The Habitat Project allowed WSUP and its partners to “ensure that facilities are constructed in locations which will allow vehicle access for septic tank emptying”.
As a third clear benefit, our participation made possible that, as part of the negotiations around land legalisation, toilet facilities were offered to residents taking into consideration the results of land demarcation or the creation of necessary accesses to roads.
Transport links and solid waste management
In Kenya and Madagascar, WSUP has been involved in projects that connect installation of sanitation systems with broader provision of basic services, particularly transport links and solid waste management.
The community of Mukuru, in Nairobi, has had the status of Special Planning Area (SPA) since 2017, which led to the adoption of an Integrated Development Plan, after consultation with over 100,000 households. The plan, with initial political support from the government, meant that the building of new roads and sewers could be planned and implemented in a coordinated manner.
As part of the effort, we have been working with Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company to pilot simpler and low-cost sewers, which use plastic pipes that can bend and be placed at a shallower depth.
In Antananarivo, WSUP has been active since 2009, with CARE and the Municipal Hygiene Office (BMH), to support local community groups called RF2s. The work is focused on management, water, sanitation and hygiene, but that required an initial specific effort: solid waste collection.
“A key initial focus was to clean a drainage canal that runs through 8 low-income fokontanys [as villages are called in Madagascar] in central Tana”, our report explains. “There are currently 66 operational RF2s, with canal cleaning and intermediary solid waste collection services continuing on a daily basis, using revenues from WUA-operated water kiosks and other sources to fund day labourers.”
Basic services study
Additional knowledge was acquired when we presented to 3,000 households of Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, and other 3,000 in Accra, its Ghanaian counterpart, questions about 17 local basic services, from education to healthcare, crime prevention and water and sanitation. Despite the latter being WSUP’s focus, our team wanted to get residents’ perspectives within a much broader context, in which the many types of basic services could be assessed together and prioritised accordingly.
Having had the opportunity to consider different basic services presented together, residents of Accra placed flood control as their main priority, with 50% putting it amongst their top 5. In Nairobi, sanitation was included by 49% of the respondents, making it top of the list.
They were both followed closely, however, by garbage removal (48% put it on the top 5) and housing quality (also 48%) in Accra, while street paving (47%) and water supply (46%) made the top 3 in Nairobi. Those taking part in the study looked at their urban issues in a broader sense and provided answers that showed a varied picture of the services that ought to be prioritised.
WSUP’s experiences in Mozambique, Kenya, Madagascar and Ghana show that residents see different basic needs and services as part of the same reality. Considering the complexity of urban challenges and usual limitations in the available resources, an integrated approach seems to provide both agility and efficiency in finding solutions.
As our report concludes: “If we step outside of water and sanitation silos and project mindsets, we can perhaps consider that this is where we should be heading: towards an urban development model which conceives slum improvement as a multi-faceted project, within which water and sanitation improvements are an important element, but only part of a wider endeavour”.
Top image: A resident waits outside a washblock in Nairobi, Kenya. Credit: WSUP