People’s Process on Housing
Zambia Homeless and Poor People’s Federation
Who we are and What we do
A partnership has emerged between the Zambia Homeless People’s Federation (Mfelandawonye, Mufirapamwe), a network of poor, urban and homeless communities in Zambia and People’s Process on Housing and Poverty in Zambia a non-profit making organisation. The objective is to work with poor, homeless and urban communities assisting them to find solutions to their housing problems.
Urban poverty is on the increase however very little has been done to alleviate urban poverty. Government’s development priorities have been to address rural poverty and landlessness. Conventional housing delivery systems within the urban areas have failed the urban poor. Their needs have not been addressed. Solutions that have been aimed at the urban poor have, due to lack of financial resources, land and an enabling environment meant that the poor are further marginalised. It is in light of this scenario that a new approach to addressing urban poverty is being explored.
Our work is rooted on the following principles, which then guide the methodology, strategies, and activities we undertake.
- The poor have to be at the centre of strategies and processes that address poverty. Only the poor themselves can truly understand their situation in the context of developing strategies to address poverty. Only they can understand their needs and priorities, the resources that they can offer the social and political constraints that need to be overcome and the strategies that might overcome them, and the opportunities that each specific context offers. Moreover only the poor themselves know what they are prepared to do in order to address their needs. Such action is a starting point for reflection and the further development of strategies and activities.
- What works for the poorest will work for others. At the core of the approach is the belief that what works (in terms of poverty reduction) for the poorest and most disadvantaged will work for others in need, but the reverse is not true. It is not possible, therefore, to develop solutions for richer groups and then try to translate them into practice. One of the particular objectives has been to work with women (traditionally under-represented in many community organisations in Zambia) and therefore to work on issues that are meaningful to women. This has been one of several reasons that have led to a focus on housing, a priority for women because of their gendered role within culture and society and an area which men are prepared to leave to women.
- The resources of the poor themselves are a critical component of any strategy for poverty reduction. The poor have to be able to engage with stronger political and economic forces from a position of strength. Only the effective use of their own resources will enable the poor themselves (and their organisations) to maintain sufficient independence and autonomy to engage with government and other formal bodies. Whilst the objective of activities is to secure the redistribution of resources and the recognition of rights, there is the understanding that claim making alone is likely to be ineffective.
Learning rooted at the community. The methodology seeks to root learning at the community. It does this through a range of tools and techniques and in particular community-to-community exchange. The emphasis within the programme is on experiential learning. Communities learn how to work towards meeting their different needs through:
- Developing savings schemes which develops financial skills, experience with transparency and accountability, and how to use individual resources to meet collective needs
- Mapping their settlements to learn more about the infrastructure, services, housing etc that they need, what is provided, and how they as individuals and groups relate to the physical layout
- Socio-economic censuses to develop information about who does what in the settlement, what are needs and what are income generation capacities
- Housing design, through small scale to life size housing models
- Affordability, through exercises designed both to encourage individual members to assess their own affordability and that of others, and how to lower costs within the construction process
- House building: through the process of house building with the support of technicians and those experienced in building.
Community to community exchanges. At the centre of the methodology of experiential learning are community-to-community exchanges. At they’re most successful; community exchanges offer benefits to both the receiving and visiting groups. The visiting members generally find it easy to understand the stories and experiences of the recipient community. They also find it easy to ask the questions that they are concerned about, and to understand the answers. Moreover, they are encouraged and motivated by what they see, recognising that "if they can do it, we too can do it".
Such exchanges are important for the impact that they have on the perspective of community leaders. They help to broaden their understanding beyond the immediate needs of the settlement and thereby encourage the establishment and further development of "The exchange process builds upon the logic of "doing in knowing". Exchanges lead to good sharing of experience and therefore a new set of people learning new skills. In the exchange process, communities and their leadership all over the country have the potential of learning, sharing teachings. In other organisations, such knowledge is often restricted to educated professionals because it is wrongly assumed that the qualities of good teaching are linked to formal education."
Housing Savings Schemes.
People save small amounts on a daily basis. Membership to the saving schemes is
Voluntary. The only qualifying criteria being that one must be poor and resident within
the squatter settlement. Each group elects three treasurers who are responsible for
collecting and receiving savings. Each member has their own saving book in which their
daily savings are recorded. The treasurers in turn have records of each member and
their saving. It is hoped that within time the savings accumulated by each individual as
well as their saving culture will determine their creditworthiness when they require a
loan to either start a small business or house construction.
In the most immediate the purpose of the savings schemes is:
- Mobilising poor people - as one saves daily and small amounts even the poorest of the poor can afford to save
- Increasing participation and interaction among members. Members have an interest in their organisation and saving together encourages regular interaction and enables bonds to be created. The saving scheme then becomes a reliable support system to its members
The central participation of women in the saving scheme as generally women are more
interested than men in saving for credit and housing. As a result, the schemes make material difference to the lives of those most often excluded socially and politically, the poor, the homeless and women.
Managing the saving scheme enables the groups to develop the capacity to manage and control finance and to demonstrate this ability to the outside world. When this principle is combined with the emphasis on people's own resources and the need for such groups to work directly on peoples' own priorities; savings schemes for housing have emerged as the principle organising structure.
To date over two hundred saving schemes with a membership of 35 000 families have been established in 17 local authority areas ranging from rural growth points to municipal authorities.
Members of the saving schemes are mobilised through savings into housing savings schemes, practising self-reliance through developing and managing their own organisations with their own resources. While men are not excluded from the saving scheme a majority of the membership of the savings groups are women.
Savings mobilise poor people. Savings ensure high levels of participation and mutual interaction in an organisation. Through investing their scarce finance, the members have a material stake in their organisation and in its planning and decision-making. Savings encourage regular interaction and enables strong bonds to be created. This results in the Schemes becoming reliable support systems for their members.
Professionals’ role is to respond. In this context, the primary role of professionals and politicians’ to respond to the needs of the community. They should seek to identify the strategies and approaches that communities wish to experiment with and develop, and support these strategies and approaches through professional expertise.
With such a strong emphasis on community driven experimentation, a major role for the professionals becomes that of legitimisation, or explaining to other professional groups (including state agencies) the value in the specific strategies and approaches that the community wishes to adopt and that of politicians become the creation of an enabling environment in which all this is possible.
The Federation says: ‘Mphamvu ndindarama na
Nzeru’ ‘Amandla yimali nolwazi’
For more information contact:
People’s Process on Housing and Poverty in Zambia
Villa Elizabetha Washama Road Plot 106/2
P.O Box 36202