ISULabaNtu – Informal settlement upgrading in Durban, South Africa
From 2016 to January 2020, E Co. supported ISULabaNtu – an informal settlement upgrading project in Durban, South Africa. The E Co. team was tasked with guiding the development of an integrated toolkit, designed to empower the local community and inform policy decisions, as well as devising a dissemination strategy for the project to reach the relevant stakeholders.
In 2018, UN DESA estimated that globally, over one billion people were living in informal settlements. Almost a quarter of that population resides in Sub-Saharan Africa. Residents of informal settlements face a number of challenges such as inadequate housing, a lack of basic services, legal issues and vulnerability to climate change.
The ISULabaNtu project
The ISULabaNtu project was established in response to these challenges. Aiming to facilitate community-led upgrading, ISULabaNtu focused on three communities in Durban, South Africa. The project team, comprised of academics from the UK (University of Westminster and University College London) and South African (University of KwaZulu-Natal) universities, civil society actors, officials from local government and community researchers, worked together to undertake data collection, community mapping and capacity building. The results of these activities fed into the development of an integrated toolkit designed to empower communities and generate knowledge to inform better policies. The project consisted of five project phases:
- Examining the barriers and drivers of in-situ participatory approaches for informal settlement upgrading
- Mapping urban transitions through community participation
- Integrated closed-loop environmental management systems
- Project management and skills enhancement in construction
- Developing and testing the collaborative and integrated toolkit
E Co’s involvement in the project was focused primarily on Phase 5. The team was tasked with guiding the development of the toolkit and devising a dissemination strategy to ensure that it could be validated by and reached relevant stakeholders.
E Co’s work: toolkit and the dissemination strategy
E Co. began by preparing a roadmap to outline the process for developing the toolkit. The roadmap contained a gap analysis of ISULabaNtu’s existing research. The roadmap encouraged the team to ask critical questions around the intended objectives and target audience of the toolkit. As part of this work, E Co. also undertook a landscape study of existing toolkits focused on community-led upgrading. The study highlighted the synergies between ISULabaNtu’s work and existing resources to prevent overlap and encourage cooperation.
Following the development of the toolkit content, E Co’s marketing team prepared a dissemination kit, consisting of a community booklet, project and policy briefs, and contributed to editing a documentary created and filmed by the people of Havelock settlement. The booklet was designed to serve as a practical guide for people living in informal settlements and are in the process of upgrading them. Researchers and community leaders from Havelock contributed to the contents of the booklet, covering topics such as: engaging with local leadership, community enumeration, participatory mapping, waste management, disaster risk prevention and management, self-building and urban farming. The policy briefs and documentary were produced as part of the dissemination material for stakeholders at the two main events.
The documentary created by the community and the team:
Dissemination and the future of the project
The project culminated in two events held in Durban and London. Both events were attended by stakeholders from the communities, universities, civil society and local government. E Co. attended the London event, which was held 31 January. The event featured sessions spanning a number of topics including challenges and opportunities for upgrading informal settlements in Durban, housing and water and sanitation. The event closed with a panel composed of academics, community researchers, municipal government officials and civil society organisations.
With the continued growth of informal settlements, projects like ISULabaNtu are essential to understanding the needs of the communities living there. E Co. is eager to see how the ISULabaNtu team chooses to move forward. Additional research undertaken to establish a strong impact chain could be one possible option. With this, the team could seek to design a climate finance project to improve the climate resilience of informal settlements in the Durban area. However the team chooses to proceed, E Co. is confident ISULabaNtu has provided a strong foundation for future work.