Community-led Upgrading for Self-Reliance in South Africa: Integrated Construction and Environmental Management Systems in Informal Settlements

Duration: 02/16 - 02/19

Across Africa, informal settlements struggle with poor housing, limited services and environmental hazards. But despite an increasing emphasis on participatory upgrading, communities are often constrained by lack of resources or technical knowledge to lead these processes, particularly when urban policies are designed and implemented without a clear understanding of local conditions.

Community-led Upgrading for Self-Reliance in South Africa: Integrated Construction and Environmental Management Systems in Informal Settlements seeks to support communities by strengthening their capacity to guide urban development themselves. With a focus on Durban Metropolitan Area, South Africa, the project will undertake data collection, capacity building and community mapping, in collaboration with residents, to feed into the creation of an integrated toolkit. Once the project team consolidates findings from Durban and the wider KwaZulu-Natal province, a comparison with other South African or wider African cities will be carried out. This will facilitate discussions on how the toolkit could be implemented in other regions globally.

These activities will not only build capacity of residents on community-led approaches to construction management and service provision, but also promote the creation of partnerships with other stakeholders such as local businesses, policy makers and academics. Furthermore, the knowledge generated through the research will have a wider relevance for cities in South Africa and other countries with similar challenges.

Project website

The international team is led by Dr Maria Christina Georgiadou from the Department of Property and Construction at the University of Westminster, together with Dr Isis Nunez Ferrera and Ben Fagan Watson from the University’s Policy Studies Institute and Dr Priti Parikh from University College London’s Department of Civil Environmental and Geomatic Engineering. In South Africa, the team is made up of academics from the School of Built Environment and Development Studies and the Pollution Research Group at the University of KwaZulu-Natal led by Dr Claudia Loggia, Prof Chris Buckley and Dr Alfred Odindo.

Collaborators from uTshani Fund, a local South African NGO, are also joining the team from the outset and advisory services will be provided by EcoLtd, an independent consultancy focusing on international development and project formulation, and the University of Ibadan in Nigeria.

• Extended data analysis, participatory mapping and capacity building in selected communities.
• Development of an integrated collaborative toolkit to guide construction and environmental management.
• Dissemination of findings to a broader audience through events, publications and online platforms.

Supporting bottom-up community upgrading in South Africa’s informal settlements

The ESRC-funded ISULabaNtu project, one year in