WINDHOEK - According to the latest updated statistics, there are 308 informal settlements in Namibia with a staggering 228 000 shacks accommodating about 995 000 people in urban areas.
This was revealed by Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia’s national facilitator Edith Mbanga, who says this means close to 40 percent of the Namibia population are now living in shacks in urban areas, predominantly in Windhoek.
Mbanga made the revelations this week during the second national land conference while delivering a presentation on ‘Land for the Urban Poor’.
She said in 2008, the federation counted 235 informal settlements with 135,000 shacks accommodating about 500,000 people through informal settlement profiling in Namibia.
She said urban land delivery failed to meet the needs of people, whether they moved into towns or were born there.
Therefore, she noted, households are not able to construct houses, causing high rentals and informal settlement formation.
She mentioned that top-down, costly and lengthy land development processes limit the scaling up of delivering land to the poor as a major challenge facing the nation.
Mbanga says this results in expansions that are very costly to government and local authorities (N$50,000 to N$80,000 per fully serviced erf) and not affordable to the poor.
Equally, she highlighted lengthy waiting lists of housing applications, which meant many applicants wait for decades to get their applications approved, if at all.
Moreover, she said the possibility of the bulk infrastructure investments reaching more people is limited by plot sizes and engineering standards.
The lengthy development processes do not encourage the use of resources, such as people’s saving and their labour contribution.
Monthly income of households in informal settlements are below N$3,000 and average N$1,500.
She said such income can only afford between N$375 and N$750 per month for both land, shelter and services.
Such a process, Mbanga stated, lacks the potential for the communities to participate in planning and upgrading and become involved in the development.
It also limits opportunities for incremental development options reaching more people with security of tenure and basic services, she said.
“Accept higher densities and find design and land rights solution fitting the densities. We need to reach a solution that will reach the majority of the population. We need subsidies for bulk infrastructure and enable finance for communities to install water and sanitation services themselves,” Mbanga proposed.
The Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia is made up of 805 saving groups living in shacks in informal settlements and backyards and rented rooms, who have organised ourselves.
About 25 000 members, majority women earning less than N$4,000, are affiliated.
Mbanga said the members are working together to improve living conditions for their families with the potential to impact more than 100,000 people directly.
Some of the achievements she shared include daily savings which started with as little as a dollar a day and has resulted in a total saving of N$29 million to date.
“By producing our own hollow blocks, doing our own excavation and managing our own construction as groups we produced 4,900 houses, currently costing less than N$40,000 per house,” she said.
In 1995, she said, they established their own Poor People Fund and channelled N$123 million, of which N$49 million has been contributed by Ministry of Urban and Rural Development.
They also secured land for 8,500 households through negotiations with local authorities countrywide.