Struggles of the urban poor to improve their living conditions


The formation of the Changَmbe – Nkuhungu West Community – Based Organization (CBO) in Changَmbe squatter settlement originated after the Baseline survey done in 1992 by the Women Advancement Trust (WAT). The survey was sponsored by the United Nations Centre for human settlement – UNCHS – HABITAT. The theme of the study was on the Global shelter strategy – on enhancing Women’s Participation in Human Settlement at Community level.

There had previously been two major studies carried by International Organizations in Changَmbe Squatter Settlement. These Organizations namely the International Co-operative housing Developement Agency ICHDA in 1980 and the Macnamara Company of Australia in 1988 were all sponsored/financed by UNCHS. These organizations had recommended Changَmbe squatter area to be upgraded from the former Land use of afforestation to a neighbourhood. To date there had been no official announcement for Changَmbe area to be upgraded. Thus, Changَmbe is still growing very fast interms of squatters, hence it is now characterized by overcrowdness, no sewerage, proper roads and other urban basic services. WAT partnership with the residents of Changَmbe and the government agency responsible for the overall developement of Dodoma, the Capital Developement Authority (CDA) facilitated very much the formation of the CBO. Hence the good relationship between WAT, CDA and the formed CBO managed the proper take-off of the Changَmbe – Nkuhungu West project.

Members of the CBO are formed of very poor families who all are living in Changَmbe Squatter Settlement area. All are tenants in the privately built houses by squatters and speculators. The membership comprises of 50 members. The formation of this CBO`s has very much applied the gender perspective approach in the sense that the composition of the members is of 25 men and 25 women. The most pressing problem of these individual members is of acquaring on adequate owner – occupier shelter. There shelter need goes together with the poverty alleviation programmes.

It should be noted that this CBO is a newly formed which has been facilitated by WAT. The CBO members already have been allocated 50 plots from the Nkuhungu West neighbourhood which has been entirely planned to accommodate the low – income families due to the fact that the building developement conditions for this area have been lowered to suit the target group.

With the help of WAT and the government agency incharge of planning CDA the members of this CBO are organizing themselves ready to implement the Changَmbe – Nkuhungu West Project which among others include the housing savings programme, and the selection of the house type designs. In due course the members will have to start the actual construction of their owner – occupier houses by utilising very much the community participation concept to be supplemented by their meagre income from the income generating activities.

The conclusion and recommendations are reflected and discussed with an outline of future approaches and activities for strengthening the Chang’ombe Nkuhungu West CBO. In fulfilling these conditions different functions by NGOs and related institutions are mentioned and outlined for the betterment of the project beneficiaries. Strategies needed to meet adequate shelter need and environment support given to stimulate social and economic activities of the CBO’s members are outlined. Recommendations are made in this chapter according to issues presented in order to improve working relationship between the Govt. NGOS, and CBOS and to improve the capacities of NGOS and CBOS involved in human settlements, specifically for this particular case.


Adequate shelter development in general is indeed dynamic. Hence it must be a continuing search for better methods and strategies as well as a perennial quest for innovative, practical and economical designs and concepts. Thus, it calls for a determined effort and requires strong support from the various sectors and actors of the society. It is therefore quite evident that in meeting the demand of adequate shelter for the urban poor various actors must work together. Hence one factor which has motivated and increased the government willingness to work with NGOs has been the economic constraints in terms of funds and technical know how which can be obtained from NGOs, who normally have more expertise and some have more resources earmarked for community development activities.

Moreover, there is no perfect or ideal concept valid across time and place. If it is accepted that there are some inherent properties among the low-income families that have been generating innovative and adaptive ways of living, then there are options to choose from. Hence with the help of various actors in community development programmes together with local technologies, traditional layouts and production processes taken in combination would lead to a fruitfulo solution needed for the development of the urban poor families leading to spontaneous development whereby the role of the government will be of an enabler and non-governmental organizations be facilitators by supporting the community based organizations whose role is to fully participate in all levels of their development programmes.

Usually different organizations and institutions are involved in the development programmes of various community projects at any given time. Thus there must be consistency in approach to communities to avoid conflicts and overlapping of activities. Such arrangement should lead to good relationship between government, parastatals, non-governmental organizations and community based organizations together with private sector involved in various community development projects. Inspite of the good intention WAT has in the process of supporting CBOs meet their social-economic needs specifically the urban poor families, WAT does not have enough resources to enable it to do all what they intend to do. In this regard there is a great need for it to mobilize funds locally and to seek some assistance from international NGOs and other institutions according to the laid down procedures.

Housing for the urban low-income population is one of the basics needs which has proven to be difficult to satisfy. Thus given the size of the housing problem of the urban poor and the limited resources pf the government, the involvement of the urban poor themselves in tackling their adequate shelter problem becomes obvious and imperative. Subsequently, community participation in shelter and human settlements programmes is vital because among other things it can go a long way in reducing the following common problems:

  • Lack of proper identification of beneficiaries
  • Lack of information and communication between the implementing agencies and beneficiaries
  • Lack of acceptance by the community etc.

Moreover NGOs and other related organizations, one of their condition in supporting communities to improve their standard of living is the full involvement of the project benefiaciaries from the initial stage of the project to the final implementation stages.
Women involvement in human settlement programmes in one way need some savings for construction purposes and for improving their living conditions. Some women organize themselves in groups of informal savings agreements through which they contribute and give the money to each other on rotational bases known as “UPATU” in Kiswahili. This kind of arrangement could lead to the establishment of community based savings or credit societies which could later copy the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh`s system and procedures. This kind of making savings can be facilitated through NGOs support both local and international. Most women are poor and do not qualify for loans from commercial banks which demand collateral and big down payments. In Chang’ombe squatter settlements there are young people who are estimated to be over 4,500. These are supposed to be mobilized and form income generating youth groups which qualify to get soft loans from the youth special funds whose interest rate is only 15% as against 30% of commercial banks. The soft loans range from T.Shs.50,000/= to T.Shs.500,000/= with a repayment period of 3-6 months for short term, 6-12 months for medium term and 12-24 months for long term. The fund is a revolving one which means the youth economic groups are required to repay the loan as required to enable other groups to receive the loan. Youth who qualify for this loan must be unemployed or under employed, whose age range from 15 years to 35 years. A similar arrangement is also in place for women. The revolving fund for women is under the Ministry of Community Development, Women Affairs and Children.

Many NGOs help to strengthen community based organizations as their involvement in certain situations can enhance the social and environmental change of these communities. Also NGOs are in a better position to lobby for the CBOs and other related organizations. The stringent official building codes hinder the low-income families to have an adequate shelter in the formal planned urban areas. Hence the building standards need to be relaxed to suit the urban poor level of affordability. Moreover, to create a responsive housing environment that accommodates growth and diversified human activities, user participation and ability need to be incorporated. However, it is not self evident that users should get what they won`t, but should get what they can afford. What is important is that relevant authorities which are either the central or local governments and their agencies or NGOs must give the users relevant information, technical training and advice which will effect choices to enhance sensitivity and concern about their exact role in society.

In order to involve more women in the community development project, the gender aware strategy must be applied whereby women will be integrated in decision making and leadership positions at all levels. Fortunately, this concept of gender aware approach has been fully utilized in the formation of the Changَmbe Nkuhungu West CBO. WAT has adviced the community accordingly. This system would raise the women awareness and their understanding of the use of bureaucratic channels to achieve their aims concomitantly with men. Exclusion of women from the human settlements development process not only leaves women worse off, but it impoverishes the whole society at large.
As such the gender aware perspective approach would help the government, NGOs and the CBOs to identify ways and means to strengthen the role of women and to open the way to continue discussion on present and future activities hence enhancing women participation with vital areas of decentralization, democratization, participatory approaches to human settlements management and institutional strengthening.

Last but not least a clear understanding and definition of the roles and responsabilities of the different actors in the human settlements field is fundamental for the achievement of progress in enabling shelter strategies. There is need to create positive attitude toward cooperation which requires a recognition and acceptance of the need for new cooperation.


  1. The government should not see the NGOs phenomenon as a way to abdicate their responsabilities due to hard pressed for funds, instead the government should cooperate fully with NGOs and assume the role of an ENABLER. Thus, NGOs should play a stronger role as FACILITATORS in helping bureaucrats become responsive to people as well as help to strengthen community based organizations.
  2. Women Advancement Trust should co-ordinate all activities involved in the Chang’ombe – Nkuhungu West community based organizations and other NGOs. This could include arranging meetings to be attended by members from different agencies as well as the CBO in order to discuss their specific agendas and the process of implementation. This process enables each actor to know exactly what to do. In all such meetings the CBO representatives should always be invited.
  3. Community participation should be incorporated into the very design of urban human settlement programmes, hence a framework of partnership and dialogue at local, district and national levels should encourage participatory urban management which allows all social groups, especially the most disadvantaged to express themselves freely and to participate in decision making processes at all levels.
  4. WAT and or other NGOs, should mobiliza women, and youth to form economic groups or income generating activities so that the groups may benefit from the special fund put aside by the government and the possibility of forming community banks should be investigated.
  5. NGOs should learn lobbying techniques for lobbying central and local governments to make necessary changes in the laws and regulations necessary for improving living conditions of the urban poor thus more positive changes in policies in favour of the urban poor should be over emphasized.
  6. Men must be sentitized to fully adopt to gender policies which will enhance women to fully participate in areas of their community development projects specifically in human settlement programmes and financial institution`s lending procedures and conditions. All future established CBOs especially in human settlement programmes must utilize fully the gender aware perspective strategy for the benefit of women.
  7. The Chang’ombe – Nkuhungu West community based organization`s women members should be encouraged to join other women development organizations which work on empowering women through education, workshops, seminars pamphlets, etc.
  8. The government should legitimize equal access for all to land with security of tenure for women and men. WAT and other NGOs should disseminate information on the right of women to equal access to economic resources and inheritance as adopted in the Beijing platform for action.
  9. Different actors involved in human settlement development should recognize their different potential and limitations and look for ways of linking and working together, to form a concrete partnership and where necessary and the government should assist NGOs financially.