Mathare Zonal Plan

Mathare Valley Informal Settlement

Mathare Zonal Plan | Nairobi, Kenya: Collaborative Plan for Informal Settlement Upgrading

Jason Corburn, Associate Professor of City and Regional Planning


Jason Corburn


University of Nairobi; Slum Dwellers International (SDI); Muungano Support Trust

Project Description

In the Mathare informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya, UC Berkeley, the University of Nairobi, the federation of slum savings groups called Muungano wa Wanavijiji and Muungano Support Trust (MUST), have worked for the past five years surveying and mapping residents and their living conditions. Importantly, these are not surveys to only document the unjust living condition, but more importantly help build local power by organizing residents and providing them with one important tool to negotiate for improvements with government. What the community surveying work also reveals is that local people are experts that must be trusted to drive policy and investments, not merely act as researchers or respondents. Our collaborative informal settlement upgrade plan for the entire Mathare valley in Nairobi, which emerged in-part out of local knowledge from slum surveys, is one example of the type of outputs slum dwellers are capable of producing from this work. No longer capable of ignoring the urban poor, international organizations, donors, governments, academics and NGOs should take note: slum surveys build power for lasting change.

In previous years, this partnership resulted in the fruition of many projects. In 2009, the project helped, plan and design for piped, 24-7, water access for each household in the village Kosovo. The Nairobi Water and Sewer Company eventually installed new water pipes and community members, through Muungano, are managing and maintaining the service by supporting residents to obtain meters and assist them in paying water bills. In 2011, this project was invited to join The Habitat Partner University Initiative, which aims to promote the cooperation between UN-HABITAT, whose approach on sustainable urbanization with university curricula aims to bridge the gap between theory and practice, and institutions of higher education and to facilitate exchange and cooperation between and among universities in developing and developed countries.