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Kiandutu Settlement Joint Studio 2014

Kiandutu Community attend a studio session at the School of the Built Environment, University of Nairobi

On 23rd May 2014, members of Kiandutu community from Thika attended a whole day joint urban planning studio at the School of the Built Environment (ADD), University of Nairobi.  The members are the community planners collaborating with a team of planning students from Department of Urban and Regional Planning and a grassroots Non-Governmental Organization, Muungano Support Trust (MuST) in the upgrading of Kiandutu informal settlement. The studio which started in March this year is sponsored by Slum Dwellers International(SDI) and the Association of Africa Planning Schools(AAPS).

Urban informality still remains an urbanization phenomenon that is insufficiently addressed by urban policy and planning in the global South.  This partly stems from the observation that traditional and contemporary education and practice of the urban planning seem not to resonate with the realities of urbanisation in the region. Both SDI and AAPS have committed to transform urban planning education, and by extension its practice in Africa by equipping upcoming urban planners with the relevant skills to address the challenges facing the African city, notably-informal settlements. The theme of the Thika urban planning studio is titled ‘An integrated sanitation studio for Kiandutu Settlement, Thika.’

The focus of the studio is to address a critical problem faced in all informal settlements in Africa, the absence of adequate sanitation services. Through earlier surveys and enumerationdone by the University of Nairobi and MuST, the community of Kiandutu revealed that their priority problem is sanitation. The understanding of integrated sanitation evolved from community participation for a better appreciation of sanitation as a broader concept and function whose intervention calls for an interconnected understanding of settlement characteristics.  It is strongly believed that such an understanding will lead to more responsive and durable interventions. Specifically, it is hoped that the approach shall achieve the following: appropriate facilities designed and built well at the right locations; optimization of level of use and sustaining number of users; co-production – “doing it together”, construction and the collective responsibility in operation and maintenance;  community ownership and good will to make things work; improvement of overall sanitary situation  –  water, sanitation, and hygiene, hence a healthier and more productive community.


The studio is based on cluster concept. Three clusters were selected, 2 of these  - Biashara and Molo - are project-led, where SDI/MuST are piloting one sanitation project in each and are close to the proposed trunk sewer hence a possibility of future connection. The 3rd cluster – Mtatu B – is largely isolate


d from the proposed sewer line; the possibility of future connection to the trunk sewer is inconceivable due to distance and gradient limitations. The first few weeks saw the planning teams conceptualize the studio’s scope and objectives, and then followed by primary and secondary data collection, data analysis, to be concluded by planning and designing of integrated sanitation solutions for Kiandutu settlement.

To welcome the Kiandutu community to ADD was the Dean of the School of the Built Environment (SBE), Prof. T.J.C Anyamba, and Dr. Samuel Obiero, the chairman Department of Urban and Regional Planning (DURP). The introductions were made by Prof. Peter Ngau who warmly received the guests to the University of Nairobi.  Dean praised the university-community collaboration as a big a step and part of university policy. This was something the University valued and encouraged as part of the university engagements. It would not only benefit the community involved, but also expose students to the reality of the situation on the ground.

Prof. Peter Ngau expounded on the rationale for the studio and its importance to the university and the community, not forgetting the partners (Slum Dwellers International (SDI) and the Association of African Planning Schools (AAPS). Arch/Planner Charles Karisa, the studio coordinator and Mr. James Wanyoike, his assistant both organized the day’s presentations and discussion sessions. In the presentation the teams highlighted the objectives of the studio, the methodology used in the studio, the existing conditions in Kiandutu, emerging issues and the recommendations. This was also backed up by the community planning team validating the facts provided in the presentation as the reality of the situation in Kiandutu. Mr. Karisa highlighted the principles underlying the studio. They include sustainability, environmental design and management. The presentations marked a mid-stage in the studio. The next phase will be formulation, design and building of the proposed sanitation facility at the three cluster points.  The conclusion of the joint studio presentation was marked by kikuyu traditional community singing and dancing at the façade of the ADD building – a performance never before witnessed in the University.

Posted by James Wanyoike

CURI, 26th May 2014

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