‘Visibility’ for the ‘Invisible’ in Urban Integrated Plans
by Super User

Traditional planning regimes have presented slums and informal settlements areas as ‘blocks’ with no specific identity despite the masses that reside in these areas, essentially rendering these settlements ‘invisible’ in the conventional urban plans. This may not be the case anymore, courtesy of the Adaptive Settlement Planning Model (ASPM) developed through a partnership between the Civil Society Urban Development Platform (CSUDP) and Pamoja Trust.

At a meeting convened between CSUDP, Pamoja Trust and officials from the Directorate of Physical Planning in the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning on 18 January 2017, the ASPM results from a test case of 6 informal settlements1 in Kenya was shared to demonstrate the benefit of this planning model. ASPM essentially elevates the position of the urban poor resident in the informal settlements on the planning negotiation platform, enabling informed decisions by the planning authorities at the County level. Such decisions are likely to trigger renewed attention on the plight of the residents of these informal settlements and attract commensurate support to achieve better livelihoods and improved living conditions in these settlements.

Communities in the 6 informal settlements where the ASPM was piloted are beaming with confidence propelled by the newfound power to command their planning aspirations. ASPM is based on a unique tool for social enumeration developed by UNHABITAT – the Social Tenure Domain Model (STDM). This tool has enabled the community to assemble and manage all the relevant data necessary for planning their settlements and establishing visibility for the planning authorities.

Ms. Anne Mugo an official from the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning (MoL&PP) hailed the Adaptive Settlements Planning Model (ASPM) in that it empowers the disadvantaged urban communities to be able to negotiate with local authorities for provision of infrastructure and services. She noted that community engagement in data collection is a basic planning stage yet very important as it enables the community think about their priorities, their own resources and capacities as well as attain a collective identity. ‘Indeed planning should be initiated by the people themselves so that they can own the process”, she said.  

The parties in attendance were in agreement on the need to integrate informal settlements with the larger urban area where they exist since they are part of it, interact with it and are indeed asset and as such cannot be left as blocks. According to Ms. Mugo security of tenure does not mean owning the land that one occupies and thus having a title deed as is the common notion but rather being able to access and use land. The change of the thinking that one needs to own land to use it will be the first step towards the realization of legal land rights for the informal settlement dwellers.

As to whether the ASPM can provide a tool for conventional planning by Government, ‘YES it is and it can be used”, Said Victor from MoL&PP. The model will be used to inform the formulation of planning guidelines and standards to be carried in the Physical Planning Hand Book currently under review to align with the Physical Planning Bill, 2015. 


1Kenya Meat Commission Settlement, Nakuru; Manyatta-B Settlement, Kisumu, Hill School Settlement, Uasin Gichu; Mbuyuni/Chelanga, Mombasa; ADC Garissa County; Kosovo, Nairobi

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