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

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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).

Talking urban in Lilongwe.


Today was an exciting day for Lilongwe’s urbanites with the first ever urban_net meeting taking place. The brainchild of myself (as Urban Governance Advisor for ActionAid Malawi), the Urban Research Institute (URI), and the Centre for Community Organisation and Development (CCODE), urban_net is a monthly informal forum for urban enthusiasts to come together, share experiences, and network.

We had a dozen or so participants at the first meeting, including representatives from UN-HABITAT, Land and Shelter Advocacy, Kusamala, and the Lilongwe Urban Poor People’s Network (LUPPEN), in addition to the organisers. The meeting featured three presentations; Dan Schlupp from Kusamala Institute of Agriculture & Ecology started off with a talk about GIS and participatory mapping, which generated lively discussion about the uses of both tools in urban settings. I followed on with a querying presentation regarding the exact local of so-called informal settlements in Lilongwe and how the areas they occupy are zoned in the 2030 Land Use Plan.


Last but not least Wonderful Hunga from URI talked about shit. Literally. His presentation discussed the growing sanitation crisis in Malawi’s cities, where residents are running out of space on which to build traditional pit latrines (which 90% of people rely on). The solution? Composting toilets.

Overall, it was great first meeting featuring very lively discussion that’s hopefully just a sign of things to come; urban_net aims to be a monthly event taking place on the first Thursday of every month. The next meeting is therefore on Aug. 7 – anyone and everyone is welcome to attend, and we welcome suggestions for presentations. Get in touch!