Urban planning

Can the poor stay put in Lilongwe?

This post features edited excerpts from my recent report Survey of Urban Poor Settlements in Lilongwe, produced by ActionAid Malawi and the Lilongwe Urban Poor People’s Network.

Chatata settlement in Lilongwe has been earmarked for eviction due to planned expansion of the Kanengo industrial area

Chatata settlement in Lilongwe has been earmarked for eviction due to planned expansion of the Kanengo industrial area

Forced eviction of the urban poor is common across the world. Urban growth leads to land in cities becoming increasingly scarce and desirable, while the powers that be are in many countries keen to lease or sell it (legally or illegally) to the highest bidder. That’s seldom the urban poor, who instead get squeezed out of the city. As the below data shows, evictions are not yet a major concern in Lilongwe, but the combination of insecure tenure and strong urban growth means that unless action is taken now, they could very well loom in the not too distant future.

In our survey of 33 poor settlements, respondents were asked whether ‘none’, ‘some’, or ‘most’ residents in the settlement have tenure security documentation in the form of either land title deeds or land registration. The majority (53%) of settlements indicated that none of the residents have tenure security documentation, while a quarter indicated that most residents have either land titles or land registration.

Whether or not residents have tenure security documentation is strongly correlated with who is perceived to own the land. Data analysis shows that residents in settlements where land is owned by the City Council are 19.6 times more likely to have tenure security documentation than residents in settlements where land is held customarily (CI of 4.1 to 183.8 and p of 0.003). Similarly, residents in settlements where Chiefs do not allocate or sell land are 7.5 times more likely to have tenure security documentation than residents in settlements where Chiefs allocate or sell land (CI of 2.0 to 33.41 and p of 0.007).

Based on a transect walk around each settlement combined with verification using satellite imagery, it was determined whether a settlement was planned or not. Twenty-seven percent of settlements were determined to be planned, while 9% are partly planned. The majority (64%) of the settlements surveyed are unplanned.

planned

Residents of unplanned settlements are less likely to have tenure security documentation. Data analysis shows that residents in partially planned settlements compared to unplanned ones are on average 14.8 times more likely to have tenure security documentation (CI of 1.9 to 177.3, p of 0.021); the likelihood rises to 25.9 when comparing fully planned settlements to unplanned ones (CI of 5.7 to 156.5, p of < 0.001).

As shown in the below chart, the majority (52%) of settlements report no fear of eviction or actual eviction threats, regardless of the availability of documentation.

eviction threat

Of those under threat of eviction or perceived to be under threat, only two settlements, Chatata and Federation, rated their eviction threat level as ‘high’. 38% of the settlements rated their threat level as ‘moderate’, while 50% rated it as ‘low’. The below pie chart indicates the perceived level of eviction threat:

level of eviction threat

The majority (69%) of settlements with some level of eviction threat stated that the source of the threat was a rumour. Residents in many settlements recall evictions in the 1970s (some even refused to relocate at the time) and are concerned they may be moved given the current rate of growth of the city. Five settlements have more substantive reasons to fear eviction: Mgona and Area 50 Proper cited railway development as the cause for eviction threats; Chatata cited industrial expansion and previous eviction notices from local authorities; Kaondo cited verbal threats by the authorities; while Federation shared foreclosure notices issued by a local NGO.

Homeowners in Federation settlement have received foreclosure notices alleging failure to repay home loans

Homeowners in Federation settlement have received foreclosure notices alleging failure to repay home loans

On age and land management in Lilongwe’s poor settlements.

This post features edited excerpts from my recent report Survey of Urban Poor Settlements in Lilongwe, produced by ActionAid Malawi and the Lilongwe Urban Poor People’s Network.

Home in Chifumbe, one of the older settlements in Lilongwe

Home in Chifumbe, one of the older settlements in Lilongwe

Since when have you lived here? is not always an easy question. At least, that’s what we found when trying to get a sense of when the 33 poor settlements we surveyed were first established.

A number of reasons make it challenging to collect data on the age of the settlements. Some of the settlements have been in existence for a long period time, meaning current residents are uncertain of the exact date of settlement. Other settlements have experienced regular turnover of residents, diminishing communal memory.

In the below chart, settlements have been grouped in three main categories, which give a rough reflection on the ages of the settlements surveyed. Of note is that the majority (52%) of settlements were established in the post-1950 era, many as a result of evictions in the 1970s as Lilongwe became the capital of Malawi. A third (11) of the settlements surveyed are over a century old.

age of settlements

Data analysis shows that the age of a settlement increases the likelihood that land in the settlement is managed in a customary fashion (as opposed to by the City Council): having settled before 1900 compared to settling after 1951 increases the likelihood of a settlement having customary land management approximately 13.5 times. This suggests that the age of a settlement could be seen as a proxy for the strength of traditional authority, making older settlements more resistant to land ownership claims by the City Council.

On the topic of land management, respondents were asked who the land the settlement is located on belongs to. Responses were largely divided between land belonging to the City Council (55%) and land being held customarily (42%). Only one settlement (Mgona) indicated differently, stating that the land the settlement is located on is railway land.

Railway tracks going through Mgona settlement in Lilongwe

Railway tracks going through Mgona settlement in Lilongwe

It should be highlighted that the responses are based on perception of land ownership; land in some of the settlements who indicated that land is held in a customary fashion may formally belong to the City Council. As such, it is useful to consider how land in the settlements is actually managed, specifically, whether or not Chiefs play a role in allocating land.

Just over half (52%) of the settlements indicated that local Chiefs either allocate or sell land in the settlement. Of the settlements in which Chiefs play a role in land management, ten (59%) fall into the Rural category, six (35%) into the Transitional-2 category and only one falls into the Transitional-1 category. The one Rural settlement that did not indicate that Chiefs sell or allocate land was Kasengere, where respondents stated that no land remained for sale or allocation by Chiefs.

Chiefs, by contrast, do not play a direct land management role in any of the Urban settlements and 80% of Transitional-1 settlements. Chiefs do also not play a land management role in 45% of Transitional-2 settlements.

Nevertheless, Chiefs retain authority in all settlement categories: 90% of settlements indicated that Chiefs ‘always’ witness land transactions. The reason Chiefs do not witness land transactions in three settlements (Chifumbe, M’bwetu, Federation) is because land is not sold in these.

Locating the poor in Lilongwe.

This post features edited excerpts from my recent report Survey of Urban Poor Settlements in Lilongwe, produced by ActionAid Malawi and the Lilongwe Urban Poor People’s Network.

Makatani settlement, categorised as Transitional-2

Makatani settlement, categorised as Transitional-2

In country where most people give directions based on landmarks, it can be difficult for an outsider to get a sense of what’s where. When it comes to poor settlements in Lilongwe, most people know they exist near so-and-so, but even people working in the settlements are not always clear which administrative area a particular settlement is located in. This of course says a lot about the relevance of (imposed) administrative boundaries for locals, as well as differences in how space is viewed and experienced by locals and outsiders (such as myself). In any case, part of what we wanted to do through our recent research project was to geo-locate the settlements we surveyed, and use that data in our analysis. Here’s what we found:

Poor settlements exist across Lilongwe City. However, as the below map shows, while most of the areas of Lilongwe are home to only one or two poor settlements, some areas stand out as containing more. Areas 25 and 49 are both home to five of the settlements surveyed, while Areas 50 and 55 contain three each. This is of note given that all four Areas, containing a total of 16 settlements (48% of total), are located in the northern part of Lilongwe and border each other.

The congregation of poor settlements in the northern part of the city is reflected in the distribution of settlements across Traditional Authorities (T/A) in Lilongwe. The clear majority (64%) of settlements surveyed is located in T/A Chitukula, which spans Areas 10, 25, 39, 41, 44, 49, 50, 51, and 55. 24% of settlements are located in T/A Tsabango, while only 2% of settlements are located in T/A Malili and T/A Njewa respectively.

There are however notable differences in living standards across the settlements surveyed. While all can be described as ‘poor’, there are variations in access to basic public services as well as land management practices between the settlements. To give an overall sense of the type of settlements surveyed, each settlement was scored on ten characteristics, and categorised as either Urban, Transitional-1, Transitional-2, or Rural. The categories were defined as follows:

Urban – Settlements are planned and residents pay City Rates. Land is managed by the LCC and Chiefs do not allocate land. House types are mixed or permanent, and the majority has access the LWB water, ESCOM electricity, access by tarmac road, and LCC waste collection.

Transitional-1 – Land is managed by the LCC and residents pay City Rates. All settlements are either fully or partly planned. All have access to LWB water and ESCOM electricity (one does not have electricity access).

Transitional-2
– Settlements are unplanned and residents do not pay City Rates. House types are mixed, and some residents have access to tenure security documents. All have access to LWB water and ESCOM electricity.

Rural – Unplanned settlements where Chiefs play a role in land allocation and residents do not have secure tenure nor do they pay City Rates. Very limited access to public services.

The below pie chart shows the frequency of the resulting groups:

settlement typology

The chart indicates that two-thirds of the settlements fall into the Rural or the Transitional-2 category. As the map below shows, Transitional-2 settlements are located throughout the city. Settlements categorized as Rural on the other hand are located in the northern parts of the city; seven are located in adjacent Areas 25, 49, 50, and 55, while three are located in nearby each other in Areas 39, 41, and 44. Only one, Sese, is located in the southern part of the city.

Interestingly, ten of the eleven settlements categorized as Rural are located in T/A Chitukula, implying that there is not only a significant amount of poor settlements in the area, but also that those poor settlements are some of the worst off among those surveyed. Indeed, 71% of settlements in T/A Chitukula fall into categories Rural and Transitional-2, indicating a concentration of poverty in the area.

Only five settlements fall into the Transitional-1 category. Three of these are located close to each other in rapidly gentrifying Area 49. Similarly, only six settlements are classified as Urban. Apart from Mchesi, these were all established after Lilongwe became the capital of Malawi, i.e. post-1970. They are all also located in the vicinity of trading centres, which may account for their better than average access to public services as well as the prevalent formal land management structures.

A house in Sector 7, a settlement categorised as Urban

A house in Sector 7, a settlement categorised as Urban

My latest for urb.im: Policy and planning for urban inclusion

land policy art

My latest for urb.im discusses how the Malawian government’s inability to address the poor living conditions of the majority of Lilongwe’s residents has left a void increasingly filled by civil society actors. Official city development strategies, however, help legitimise their work. Read more here and join the discussion.

urban_net #5: urban planning and managing access to water

nov meet

The fifth urban_net meeting took place at the ActionAid Malawi office this morning, featuring two presentations. First up was Asayire Kapira from WES Network, speaking about Water Users Associations (WUAs) in Lilongwe. WUAs are cooperative societies where communities establish a legal business entity and register it with the government to operate all water facilities – usually water kiosks – in a designated area. Through its Tilitonse Project, WES Network works with a number of WUAs mainly in Lilongwe’s peri-urban areas, seeking to improve accountability of the WUA model through participatory tools and approaches. While the project has met successes, including establishment of a WUA network and de-politicisation of existing associations, there have also been some challenges. A key challenge has been lack of responsiveness and even resistance by duty bearers, namely the Lilongwe Water Board, to be accountable to their customers. You can download Kapira’s presentation here.

The second presenter was John Chome of UN-Habitat in Malawi, though speaking in his private capacity. Chome delivered a thought-provoking historical presentation on urban planning in Malawi, and the failures of both past and current planning policy to address the challenges of urbanisation (and take advantage of the opportunities). He concluded that urbanisation in Malawi now occurs “outside of planning” and challenged the participants to deliberate on whether current planning in Malawi is addressing the real issues facing the country, and if the appropriate models to address these issues are being used. This lead to a lively discussion on the anti-urban bias at the government level, the need for Lilongwe City Council to take on a leadership role when it comes to city development, and how Lilongwe as a city needs to densify and grow upward, not continue to spread and sprawl. You can access Chome’s presentation here.

The next urban_net meeting will take place on Dec. 4. Join us!

urban_net #4: Land reform, community mobilisation, and waste management.

WP_20141002_001 (2)

The fourth urban_net meeting took place today at the ActionAid office in Lilongwe, featuring three presentations. First up was Harun Aubi Juma, a Masters student at Chancellor College, presenting a political economy analysis of (lack of) land reform in Malawi. Juma outlined how land reform was initially initiated at the start of multi-party democracy in 1994, but that since has stalled and while the Land Bill was passed last year, it is still to be enacted. “Land reform in Malawi is caught in competing objectives between the state and private sector on one hand and local communities on the other,” he argued, noting how the poor are the losers in this scenario and how the scarcity of land in rural areas pushes people to migrate to urban areas, resulting in the profileration of unplanned settlements.

The second presentation, by CCODE intern Eleonore Dupre, featured research findings on community mobilisation and participation in community projects in Kauma, a large poor settlement in Lilongwe. Key findings included that poverty and the need to make a living can trump participation in community development projects, and that when individuals participate, the motivation for doing so often centres on the individual benefit gained from the project, such as a daily allowance, as opposed to the common benefit. Dupre also found that there was a general lack of awareness of many development projects, as well as that newcomers to the settlement often felt excluded. Nevertheless, respondents indicated an overall sense of well-being.

The final presentation, by ActionAid and LUPPEN Advisor Nora Lindstrom, looked at waste management in poor areas of Lilongwe. Lindstrom showed how the city’s poor settlements are significantly under-served by municipal waste collection services, leading to harmful practices such as burning and dumping waste. She noted that part of the reason for this lies in that the City Council does not have adequate resources to manage waste in the city, which in turn has led to the proliferation of (illegal) private waste management services who collect waste for a fee from the city’s wealthier residents and subsequently appear to dump it in poor communities. Composting, if done properly, was highlighted as an effective waste management strategy given that over 70% of waste in Lilongwe is estimated to be organic.

The next urban_net meeting will take place on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2014 – join us!

urban_net: Revenue mobilisation, private sector, and SDGs

The third urban_net meeting was hosted by ActionAid Malawi.

The third urban_net meeting was hosted by ActionAid Malawi.

The third urban_net meeting took place in Lilongwe on Sep. 4. This month’s meeting featured a presentation by the Revenue Development Foundation, about their local government revenue mobilisation programme in Mzuzu. A interesting initiative, the programme has enumerated all properties in the city – whether in formal or informal areas – and is gearing up to get all of the city’s residents (as well as businesses) to pay property taxes in return for better public services.

The second presentation was by Nicholson Kumwenda of Sustainable Urban Land and Shelter Development Consultants (SULSDEC), a private company promoting easy access to affordable land and housing in safe, secure, and decent urban communities.

Finally discussion turned to the post-2015 development agenda, and the possible impact of the proposed urban Sustainable Development Goal on Malawi’s new development priorities, to be reflected in the third Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (starting 2017).