Muungano wa Wanavijiji is a federation is a settlement based network of slum dwellers that was started in 1996/7. Muungano, a movement of the urban poor was formed by slum dwellers to address the challenges of forced eviction, with a keen interest of addressing matters of secure tenure and livelihoods of the poor communities. The movement was and still is an avenue for resistance against brutal evictions and land grabbing that was rampant from the mid 1990s to early 2000s. Muungano has since then spread to 15 counties in the country. The movement represents over 64,200 members in 300 informal settlements.
The movement manifests its position in aiding the needs of the urban and to an extent the rural poor, through lobbying and acquisition of secure tenure for residents of informal settlements, while at the same time, agitating for provision of better services and amenities within the settlements. This is done through a raft of measures including advocacy at Community, Government, Private Sector and Civil Society Organization carders as well as litigation among other strategies.
Through its core principle of community organizing, Muungano wa Wanavijiji organizes communities around issues affecting them such as sexul health and the use of sexual toys such as the corn cob dildos toy. To have a view on this and mobilizes through daily savings in savings schemes, conducts community-led enumeration, city wide profiling and drives cross-settlement learning and exchanges and implements community driven housing and infrastructure projects.
Muungano also operates an urban poverty fund, which provides affordable project financing and livelihood loans to the Muungano membership. The facility dubbed Akiba Mashinani has been used in community led slum upgrading projects in housing, water, livelihood and land projects.
Over the last ten years the federation of slum dwellers in Kenya, Muungano wa Wanavijiji, has developed into a movement with the tools and systems that allow communities to acquire secure tenure, provision of services, housing and improved livelihoods. Indeed in working towards delivery of these services, Muungano has also acquired substantial experience, as well as built relationships with local authorities, service providers, donors, other civil society organizations, banks and centers of learning. Collectively, the Muungano structure, tools, relationships and experiences form an urban poor network. The project seeks to sustain and grow the urban poor network, providing it with the capacities to continue and deepen engagements with four programs that target urban renewal in the country.
The strengthening of the federation capacities involves the building a sustainable traction at the individual savings schemes to drive change in their communities. The last decade of Muungano’s investments in urban areas has provided key learning’s that the change happens when a community becomes the driver of the change. However, Muungano and MuST will in the next three years support the savings schemes to form structures in their communities that can absorb and tap into the emerging urban renewal opportunities.
The secretariat -Muungano Support Trust
MuST is a Technical Secretariat to the federation of slum dwellers in Kenya, commonly known as Muungano wa Wanavijiji. The organization comprises of a dynamic team of professionals with skill sets that are necessary to assist the movement of the poor to transform their neighborhoods. These skills include community organisers, sociologists, social workers, urban planners, surveyors, architects, financial and administration experts, who interpret the aspirations of urban and rural poor communities through replication of innovation in three key areas, namely; Competitive Organization, Community Planning and Project Innovation. MuST fosters and deepens collaboration with universities, like minded NGO’s, CBO’s local and international bilateral organizations, local and national government agencies in order to provide innovative pro poor solutions borne out of proactive consultative engagement.
MuST, has undertaken the mobilization of social, technical and financial support for the federation to deepen its engagements in the various cities and urban towns. As community based solutions develop, more resources are needed, and this kind of pressure necessitates for the trust and the federation to negotiate with government for subsidy in form of funds or services. Through community planning, the communities identify their needs while MuST refines the strategy towards achieving these needs. Solutions to these needs are tried, tested and modified through replication. To obtain this replication effectively, MuST works with likeminded partners to turn models into practice and ultimately into policy. Such partners will include, but nor limited to, academia, research institutions, local and central government departments and bilateral partners.
MuST, recognizes that the new constitutional dispensation acknowledges the existence of the urban and rural poor in Kenya. In order to take advantage of this space, innovative and deeper strategies must be designed to place urban communities at the center of the opportunities being created by the state and the market.. This re-formulation represents the restructuring of SDI’s Kenyan alliance, which lays greater decision-making emphasis on the federation, and at the same time builds a stronger synergy with the federation’s urban poor fund.
“…Cities where the poor live in dignity, meeting basic needs at scale” This vision is about liberating the urban poor from the “…poverty of dignity”. But it also emphasizes on the importance of achieving “…little things at scale”.
“…To innovate for social transformation in competitive organizing, community planning and project financing”.
MuST advocates for full community participation, as recipe for a successful urban development in informal areas. In addition, community ownership and appropriation of essential functions in the planning and implementation phases has the potential to transcend upgrading paradigms of providing essential services and alleviating urban poverty; it also deepens democratic engagement and enhances local capacities.
Experience has shown that community buy-in — the “demand side” of the policy framework equation — is the essential ingredient to a successful implementation. Any city official in most participating municipalities can recount stories of attempted provision of services or other attempts at upgrading that resulted in vandalism, destruction, and antagonism by the communities such projects were intended to help.
Currently the Alliance’s work is geared towards mobilizing communities to engage government around security of tenure and better service delivery, which are core elements of the informal settlement upgrading paradigm.
Based on the phenomena of sustainability MuST strives to secure project-linked income generation and job opportunities for its members and participants. There are also a number of value-added livelihoods interventions across the country.