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Community / Land projects / Unlocking the Poverty Penalty and Upscaling the Respect for Rights in Kenya's Informal Settlements

Unlocking the Poverty Penalty and Upscaling the Respect for Rights in Kenya's Informal Settlements


05/16 - 04/20


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Kenya's population is becoming increasingly urban. In Nairobi, over half the population lives in slums or informal settlements, which are plagued by cramped living conditions and poor access to basic services. Women face additional burdens, particularly in the area of personal security. In Nairobi's Mukuru settlement, the "poverty penalty" means that residents pay three to four times more for the available poor services than in wealthier neighbourhoods nearby. Behind the scenes is a complex informal and highly commercialized web of power and governance, where landlords and criminal organizations thrive, often through violence or extortion. In part, these conditions result from both gaps in existing laws and policies and from failures to apply them; however, Kenya's 2010 Constitution has provided some hope in confronting decades of exclusion and lack of access to justice by the poor. This project, implemented by local partner Muungano Wa Wanavijiji Akiba Mashinani Registered Trustees, will build on previous research efforts that have developed legal, financial and planning models that provide a first approach on how to unlock the poverty penalty. The solutions address both technical and governance obstacles to upgrading, improving service delivery and the security of land tenure that ensure basic rights and living conditions for Mukuru residents. Once living conditions are improved, residents can tap into their economic potential and escape the current cycle of exclusion and poverty. In Nairobi, new research and continued engagement with the county and with local residents will feed into the development of further tools to support upgrading programs and policies. Implementation of pilot projects, such as a special housing fund for the Mukuru settlement, will generate new legal, planning, and financial knowledge that can feed into scaling-up efforts across the county. In Kiambu County, research will focus on settlements in Thika, a fast-expanding peri-urban centre. Drawing on experiences from Mukuru, the research will support proactive efforts by the county to address informal settlement challenges, which are only now emerging, and not yet at a scale seen in large centres like Nairobi. The research in this case could then guide policies and practices in other peri-urban centres across the country.

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