HELP International

    Contribute funds or materials to HELP's projects.   HELP is always looking for volunteers- check out our latest opportunities!   Visit HELP's discussion boards and share ideas. 

Please click on the thumbnails below to view a larger picture.



 Model 20 home compound being erected in a slum (Majengo -      Kitui Vilage) in Nairobi, Kenya.




        Slum houses in Nairobi, Kenya




         Construction of classrooms for the slum school in Nairobi



Slum Conversion

A Home, Environment, & Livelihood Program

(A Pilot Project for Kitui Village Slum, Pumwani, Nairobi, Kenya)






1. Summary (Including Project Goal and Global Objectives)


The title of the project correctly implies that the intention of this project was to create a Model for the complete Conversion of the Slum. The project’s aim was to create a new community development model for housing, credit facilities, neighborhood governance and community services for the slums of Nairobi.


This meant Creating a Community Development Approach to Urban Planning which addressed the need for:


q       Quality Low Cost Housing  Including Secure Access to Bathing and Toilet Facilities


q       Security Against Person Assault and Home Invasion


q       The Right to Communal Services Including Schools, Health Clinics and Play Grounds


q       Livelihood: Facilitation of Business Licenses, Micro Business Loans & Business Kiosks


q       Setting Up A Ten Year Community Development Fund Focusing on Environmental Renewal and Waste Management.


q       A Model for Neighborhood Governance of all the Above through Home Associations.

The project was necessarily complex, involving the successful lobbying for, drafting and passage of new city bylaws, the awarding of scarce and valuable urban lands, fighting for the rights of  tenants to own businesses, to form home associations and the right to purchase property. The project fought for community rights for school land in the face of incredible odds.  The project successfully fought for security against assault for the communities’ women and against sexual abuse of female children in school. Not least among project achievements, the project has 90% completed the construction of a model 22 secure house compound…the first in Nairobi to be approved under the country’s new Housing Code 95.


The project, spanning 2.5 years, provided the envisaged multi-sector ‘life line’ to a settlement suffering the quality of life of a squalid refugee camp.  The project was initiated at a time of incredible tumult in slum politics.  At the time this project began, the only other active housing project in Nairobi slums had ended in riots setting tenants against their NGO and donors in Matheri A-4.  Over the next two years several deaths resulted in the Kibera Slum riots in the Tenant vs Landlord rows.  In as late as June of 2003, another thirteen deaths resulted from Slum Lord and Tenant clashes in Matheri North.


The politics were no less mean in Kitui Village, Pumwani.  The project worked diligently, diplomatically yet with an unwavering assertiveness that could not be dissuaded by any form of threat.  A book could be written about the countless maneuvers and counter maneuvers by the a consortium of development partners on one hand..and a handful of monopoly business interests on the other hand.


The project saw tenant women organize in home associations…saw the wives of slum lords chose supporting women over slum lord monopolies…saw slum lords threatened by river flooding support the project’s environmental flood control measures. 


This report is a story about success in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds in a sector that has defied success in any measure for over two decades. 


2 Sensitizing Readers to  Kitui Village Slum  Conditions


The report author finds it useful to attempt to retreat from the complexity of the programming environment to share a naïve or simple view of the slum scene that present things in a way that, someone not intimate with slum life in this particular community can appreciate.


2.1 Kitui Village, Pumwani Slum is a Combination of



Age old rituals of Women doing each other’s hair.





Anyone not part of the power elite, attempting to start a business that competes with slum lord interests, will be abused and/or beaten, inventories destroyed, and evicted.


Police who cannot get the weekly bribe fee from the Illicit brew dealers demand a woman to rape in compensation.


2.2 Fear and Uncertainty

Everyone lives in constant fear of the future.


Slum lords fear that their illegal structures will be taken away and therefore react with suspicion and aggression toward anything or anyone who might change the balance of power.

Tenants live under the constant threat of eviction should they take any public stance against the oppressiveness of the slumlords who control all housing, all toilets, all flour mills, and all water resources.


Tenants in the Lower Settlement live under the threat of floods, with up to 45% of the lower settlement abandoning their homes during the main rains.


2.3 Secret Societies

Tenant Women operate in secret Women Self Help Groups and other secret societies, working together in clandestine under threat of eviction if their economic or political organizing efforts are discovered by slumlords. The Village Chairman is a slumlord. His own spouse belongs to one such secret self-help group, yet he finds it a political liability to allow other slum lords to know of her income generating activities with tenant women.    


2.4 Disparity In Economic Rights for Men Vs Women

A particular Slum Lord owning 70 houses yet his very daughter is one of the very poor tenants. She lost her inheritance and birth family assistance rights once she married.


2.5 Hostility Toward Projects Supporting the Poor

A community where the slumlords have chased away 100% of all development projects over the past 15 years including Child Sponsorship, fearing that even an additional $20 per month to a poor tenant family could make that tenant family a new Business Competitor. In a community where a typical one 60 to 80 square foot mud rental structure (house) can be built for equivalent CAN $140, a mere $20 per month child sponsorship program could elevate a tenant to become a ‘structure builder’ and potentially a new slumlord.


A Community of Slumlords that said NO to toilets and rain barrels for poor family homes because they rent toilet use and sell water to these same families. Yet 50% of the families have no access to the locked toilets nor money to pay to use them at equivalent CAN ten cents per use. At night even those women who can pay cannot use them for fear of nighttime assault in leaving their homes.


2.6 Suppression of Voting and Other Community Rights of Tenants

Slumlords at a recent meeting stated emphatically that Tenants (many resident for more than a decade) are NOT community members.  That is, the only people with rights in the community should be slumlords, according to their own edict.  The scene is reminiscent of  Cowboy Western Movies depicting the early days of America where entire towns and their businesses were owned and controlled by three or four families. 


2.7 High Sanitation Risks

Due to the flying-toilet syndrome ie:  toileting in plastic bags due to lack of access to real toilets, it’s a ‘watch where you step’ policy when walking about the settlement.  A HELP employed Doctor and Nurse Team’s Assessment Clinics noted a ‘High Prevalence of upper respiratory tract infections caused by the breathing of fecal contaminated air’.


Each slum has its own set of socio-economical and political conditions.  The conditions in Kitui Village, Pumwani Slum are very different in character than those found in other slums even within Nairobi.  Some of the conditions that most other slums have in common with Kitui Village however,  includes: low income, extreme levels of unemployment,  poor housing, crowding, and environmental health hazards associated with lack of waste management.    



3 Project Focuses


3.1 Project’s Focus on Greatest Need Areas


This was the place of greatest deprivation and poverty, where women and children are being exposed to the greatest risks in Kenya. Risks posed by insecurity, unemployment, and lack of social and education services has led to socially unstable and economically unviable family units leading to child abandonment, widespread youth prostitution, aids and drug use. 


3.2 Project’s Focus on Working in Areas That Have Major Unsolved Problems


HELP wanted to work in places and sectors where solutions were not yet forthcoming. Virtually 100% of Slum Housing Projects started by Government or NGOs in the past decade have been abandoned. The one remaining project that was showing promising results when HELP began this project in year 2000, was the Matheri A-4 project being carried out by the Catholic Church with major support from the German Government. That project ended in bloody riots and continues under at least temporary abandonment until today.  HELP project designers believed that barriers to providing new housing for the poor were removable when there were willing donors, willing host government, and willing beneficiaries.


4. Summary of Project Achievements Closely Related to Housing


4.1 Land Tenure


The first land tenure awarded in the entire community of Kitui Village, Pumwani for Housing, Places of Business, School, and Health Clinic.


4.2 Special Planning Area Status


NCC designated the Project Area as a Special Planning Area incorporating the HELP/NCC elaborated project proposal as the Master Plan of Operations for the area. The plan included not only zoning and approval for Housing, Places of business, Schools and Clinics, but also the Re-establishment of a River Wayleave for Environmental Restoration Activities (especially aggressive river margin forestation to regenerate the riparian zone).  Importantly, the model allowed for ‘alternative’ waste management systems. This inclusion created the means by which the CIDA Funded Partner Project: Zero Waste Community Management was launched.


4.3 New Housing Model


The first twenty home compound in Kenya of appropriate technology housing has been built in compliance with the recommendations of  three important groups who mandated this project:


4.4 The Slum Resident Council was formed under HELP initiative with slum residents participating from across Nairobi.  The council, representing eight major slums,  studied what went wrong in the failure of all ten major housing projects for slums over the past decade and a half.  The council’s recommendations included the following components that became part and parcel of the project:


4.5 Houses Adjoining One Another to Form a Secure Perimeter Wall around a common area to create complete home security for living, sleeping and toileting.


4.6 Multi-Sector Investment


The project provides not only housing on mortgages alone but also micro credit and a place to carry on business to create income to pay the mortgages.


4.7 Long Term Partnerships Established


HELP followed the recommendations of the Slum Resident Council, by forming long term relationships with CBOs and Government Partners to oversee simultaneous multi sector investments as a means of creating several simultaneous lifelines to the desperate community.


4.8 First Application of the New Housing Code 95


Nairobi City Council, who, in partnership with University of Nairobi and  Shelter Forum and other agencies who had worked tirelessly to create the first Kenya housing code (which became law in 1999),  saw the housing portion of the  HELP led Slum Conversion Project as a first opportunity to test the new Housing Code 95.  The city wanted the HELP led project to create a visible model that could be pointed to as the minimum standards expected of all houses in the informal settlement. 




5. Where Do We Go From Here


All Legal Frameworks, Land Acquisition and Partnerships in Place for Phase II


Phase I Planned for the Legal Frameworks and Major Partnerships to be put in Place in addition to the construction of the first Model Twenty Home Compound operating under Home Association Governance.


Phase II Planned for an additional Three Home Compounds; Phase III for an additional Five Home Compounds.  Phase II and III are miniscule in responsibility compared to Phase I in that most of the work of Phase I will NOT have to be replicated including:


q       Architectural Designs: Complete


q       Land Tenure: Complete


q       Land Acquisition: Complete


q       Partnership Development: Complete at City, National and Community Levels




It is important to note that 90% of the time in Phase one was spent on Non Construction Activities.  Only the last four months of the 28 month project period was utilized on actual house construction. None of the work done in the first 24 months of Phase I will have to be replicated in Phase II or III.


The rare achievement of almost 8 acres of prime land allocation for this project is unprecedented. HELP intends to fully capitalize on this opportunity. Expedient development is very important to secure the tenure awarded these properties. The legal timeline is 24 months to develop a property on land which has been allocated for these purposes.



 Contact HELP International for more information




Project: Slum Conversion Housing Project


Location: Nairobi Handicraft Society Land at Majengo, Nairobi - Kenya


Re: Phase One: Twenty Two Home Compound of Stabilized Soil Blocks


Financing: 50% Nairobi Handicraft Society; 50% HELP International/CIDA


Requirements from NCC: 

      i.        Water Service


     ii.        Multiple Compound Plan (6 planned)


   iii.        Zoning Approval to Change to Housing Development Area


   iv.        Agreement on Zero Waste Separator Toilets (Discharge to Urine Fertilizer Mobile Tank and Solids to Dehydration Processing Containment. (no requirement for toilet waste sewers)


 vi.  Agreement for Household Water Waste to  Soak Pits (if required)


Project Components Include:


a)      Twenty Two Attached House Compound (Phase One)


b)      Security via enclosed compound of attached housing.


c)      Ten Year Mortgages of Ksh 1,500 per month/house  on Ksh 91,000/home Mortgage  (12% interest per annum) (incl. all communal toilets, bathing rooms and zero waste containers)


d)      Zero Waste Management System: Separator Toilets,

     Separate Bins for Food Wastes, Paper, Plastics, Glass, Metals, Cloth 


e)      Low Interest Loans of 1,500 per homeowner in year one and increasing to Ksh 50,000 in year ten for home improvement, business loans or emergency health care. Total Ksh 300,000 (equivalent CAN $6000) over ten years.


f)        Twenty Two Home Association Compound Maintenance Fund: Ksh 1,500/month for ten years.


g)      Home Association Community Development Fund for New Projects Only

     at Ksh 1,500 per month for eight years.

 © HELP International 2014