Slum housing project a world first

Women in a Dzivarasekwa slum are determined to prove that marginalised groups can create coordinated communities if included in governance by the powers that be.

The project has been adopted by the local authority as a pilot – with plans for rehabilitation of over 60 slum settlements in the capital.
The project has been adopted by the local authority as a pilot – with plans for rehabilitation of over 60 slum settlements in the capital.

What was a squatter camp four years ago has been transformed into an ideal suburb. Residents are trained in livelihood skills, and live as an environmentally-friendly community – thanks to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s urban poor in municipal governance project.

Five African cities – Luanda, Cairo, Lilongwe, Monrovia and Harare – were given $1m annually to upgrade slums, with governments donating the land for stands. About 480 families illegally settled in Dzivarasekwa Extension benefited.

Harare City Council pledged to assist with technical expertise in a project that has been since adopted by the local authority as pilot project that plans to see over 60 slum settlements in the capital follow suit.

Dialogue on Shelter for the Homeless in Zimbabwe has been the link between the slum dwellers and city fathers in the implementation of the programme.

Team work

Like termites, members of the community assist each other in construction of their houses as they have been trained in planning, designing, engineering and construction.

“We are designing our house plans, constructing roads, storm-water drainage system, plumbing, building and other works under the close eye of city’s technocrats. “Having lived in squatter camps for too long, women bear the brand of homelessness and suffer the most and this is why we are determined to succeed in this project,” said Lucia Madhedha, 42, a married mother of three who trained as an enumerator in the programme.

Boreholes have been drilled to augment water supplies and re-greening of the area with fruit trees and other varieties to fight hunger and climatic change have been done. They have constructed over 200 ecological sanitation toilets (Ecosan toilets). This is a pit toilet built above ground level with a slab preventing the effluent cascading into the ground – thus avoiding contamination of underground water.


It has two separate pits for human waste with urine going in its own tank. Ash is used for flushing each time the toilet is used to create bio-fertiliser after six month of disuse. Studies by the University of Zimbabwe have proven the toilet system to be environmentally safe. “We use the bio-fertiliser and urea produced from the urine, which we dilute with water, as top dressing in our gardens,” explained Sekai Chiremba, communications coordinator with the Zimbabwe Homeless Peoples Federation.

A new community hall and a borehole, both solar-powered, have been built, and houses have been constructed and occupied.

“A main trunk sewer (280-300 metres long) is complete, piped water has been installed to stand boundaries and 103 houses connected. Internal sewer reticulation is in progress. The multi-purpose sub-office has been built with finishing touches underway,” said HCC housing manager, Bridget Mandizha.

“Of all the African cities chosen for this project, only Harare is still running. This has prompted several council resolutions such as the adoption of the Harare Slum Upgrading Strategy model. In addition a revolving fund of $200,000 has been set up for housing development and improved international relations among departments have been achieved,” she said.

Revolving fund

“Directly involving communities in all processes lead to ownership of programmes and utilities and this reduces vandalism to public property. The project has been a de-learning platform for technocrats from their theoretical backgrounds of top to bottom approach to provision of services to the participatory approach which involves communities and prepares council departments to handle rural-urban influx,” Mandizha a.dded

Globally it is estimated that by 2050 half of people currently living in rural areas will migrate to urban areas.

The director of Dialogue on Shelter for the Homeless in Zimbabwe Trust, Beth Chitekwe-Biti, told The Zimbabwean that her organisation’s role has been to provide expertise in community development, administration, documentation, mobilisation and manual labour.

Community solutions

“Communities have solutions to their problems and involving the poor and residents in bottom-up planning and budgeting processes reduces conflict between the governed and governors. It also increases accountability, corporate governance and trust among partners,” said Biti.

She said the poor must be given priority to work on suitable land to reduce building costs and closer to their sources of livelihood.

“Government provided land for free and this makes a huge impact on the final costs of the housing units to the beneficiaries, who contribute their own monies from as little as ten cents to $1 a day to build their own houses and contribute to development,” she said.

Former Harare Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda, whose council spearheaded the Dzivarasekwa Extension project, was awarded the prestigious UN Habitat Scroll of Honour at the Sixth World Urban Forum for his commitment and involvement in urban governance and upgrading of the living conditions of marginalised communities.

Post published in: News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *