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Strathmore Participates in Research on Justice and Basic Services in Informal Settlements

Strathmore University Law School (SLS), School of Finance and Applied Economics (SFAE) and the Strathmore Research Office, partnered with International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Nairobi University, Katiba Institute and Muungano wa Wanavijiji group, with an effort of researching and finding solutions for Mukuru residents structure, sanitation, security and proper living issues.


The research project was spearheaded by city planners at the University of Nairobi, pro-poor financial strategists at Akiba Mashinani Trust (AMT), legal and finance professors at Strathmore University, and lawyers at the Katiba Institute. Supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) from 2013-2015, this consortium partnered closely with residents throughout a multi-stage research process. A detailed situation analysis helped to reveal key links between meagre services, insecure land tenure, and unjust governance institutions in Nairobi’s informal settlements. In addition to exploring alternative models of service delivery, the situation analysis examined the complex relations between settlement types and service provision in Mukuru. Using extensive surveys, focus groups, and spatial data, the team subsequently developed a set of proposals to benefit households in Mukuru. The final report explores the potential of applying public interest-oriented legal, planning, and financial tools to tackle governance challenges in Mukuru, while strengthening the legitimacy and accountability of public authorities in the process. Furthermore, researchers have offered an array of policy-relevant recommendations such as inclusive slum upgrading initiatives, pro-poor financial strategies, and supportive legal frameworks in Mukuru.


The recent innovative study found a staggering ‘Poverty Penalty’ in Mukuru, where residents can only access more expensive yet lower-quality services than in Nairobi’s formal estates. Such inequitable burdens are only compounded by slum-dwellers’ exclusion from formal finance, lack of access to justice, and chronic land tenure insecurity. Mukuru residents must also cope with entrenched poverty, gender inequality, and frequent threats to their dignity that stem from their paltry housing and services.  Population figures in Mukuru are highly contested and uncertain, similar to other slums, but residents are at elevated risk of forced evictions due to Mukuru’s prime location upon mainly private lands in the industrial area. In this rapidly-expanding informal settlement, households are usually crowded into tiny iron shacks with only minimal service provision. As one Mukuru resident noted, ‘I have never seen latrines or toilets where I live. The water that is brought to us is so dirty that it is green in colour. We just survive by the grace of God


Researchers have also uncovered extremely dire living conditions and the interrelated challenges of a poverty penalty, gendered burdens, insecure land tenure, and paltry services in Mukuru, as follows:


  • Minimal Water, Bathrooms, or Toilets: Surveys with over 800 households in Mukuru found that as few as 3.6% had access to adequate bathrooms, just 7% had adequate toilets, and only 29% had adequate water provision.


  • Dangerous Illicit Electricity: Although 78% of households had electricity, access is mainly through tenuous illegal connections that are controlled by cartels. These unreliable, hazardous services may only spawn other challenges for Mukuru residents, such as regular blackouts and elevated risks of electrocution.


  • Poverty Penalty: In a key finding, the researchers discovered that Mukuru residents can only access higher-cost, lower-quality services as compared to nearby formal estates. For instance, the average structure in Mukuru (a 10-by-10-foot rented room without amenities) is 10% to 26% more expensive per square-foot than neighbouring formal estates with all services provided. Similarly, Mukuru households must pay 45% to 142% more for their monthly electricity bills than residents enjoying formal KPLC provision. For water, the poverty penalty is especially crippling as slum-dwellers usually consume less water, at lower quality, but at higher costs than residents with formal provision. Mukuru residents typically pay tariffs per cubic-metre that are as much as

172% the rates of formal water customers.


  • Women and Girls’ Double Burden: Women and girls are disproportionately afflicted by poor service delivery, particularly when they risk rape or assault to use Mukuru’s inadequate toilets after dark. Alternatively, to avoid the threat of gender-based violence, women may resort to using plastic containers underneath their beds as emergency toilets yet this may only increase their ongoing humiliation and lack of dignity.


  • Uncertain and Contested Land Tenure: Many of the challenges in Mukuru’s service delivery are rooted in insecure land rights. Households usually live on lands held by private individuals, who often acquired their parcels in unclear legal circumstances. During recent years, lands have gained in value and Mukuru residents are therefore confronting greater eviction threats. As argued below, alternative policies and interventions will be critical to guarantee tenure security as well as to improve service delivery in Mukuru.


In the face of such multi-layered challenges, the interdisciplinary researchers have developed the following recommendations that can respond to the complex realities in Mukuru. Moreover, these legal, planning, and financial strategies can also inform integrated, long-term solutions benefiting residents of Kenyan informal settlements more generally.


To read more, click here.