20 April 2017

East Africa: Low Cost Housing Has Changed the Village Concept in Rwanda

Photo: Jean d'Amour Mbonyinshuti/The New Times
A view of houses constructed for former islanders in Bugesera District (file photo).
analysis

The names of places such as Kibuli, Kitintale, Kansanga, Kamwokya, Kawempe and Katanga are famous in Kampala because of the low cost houses in these areas built to accommodate majority of the middle income earners in the city and some parts of these areas are fast developing into slums.

The United Nations (UN) defines a slum as an urban settlement comprising temporary houses which cannot accommodate more than three people in a room, lacks access to safe water and sanitation at affordable prices and there is no security of tenure to prevent the tenants from forced evictions.

According to Emmanuel Mukubwa Byaruhanga, a human settlements consultant who carried out a physical and social planning of a low cost housing scheme commonly known as Midugudugu in Rwanda, it is difficult for local governments to provide social services like education, water and sanitation, hospitals and shopping centres to scattered populations because it becomes too expensive for them to reach such communities.

Challenges

"The biggest hindrance to establishment of organised settlements in Uganda is access to land because people are too attached to their land since the constitution says land belongs to people" he says.

He suggests that there is need for a national housing authority to be created so that government can buy land from individuals and through housing cooperatives, construct settlement schemes where social services such as schools, hospitals, shopping centres and security are concentrated like in Bunagana district in Rwanda where such a scheme has succeeded.

"This is what the National Housing and Construction Corporation was supposed to be doing. Rather than having houses everywhere, we can ensure that urban houses are properly planned so that social and physical services can be provided," he says.

How it's done

According to Peter Umimana, the Integrated Development Program coordinator of Bunagana District in Rwanda, the government decided to identify the most vulnerable people who were landless and bought land where it constructed the low cost houses and took closer common services to them.

"In these settlements now we have schools, health centres, water, electricity and environmental protection programmes like promotion of use of biogas in homes, collecting water from houses," he explains adding that through the approach, economic activities like cooperatives for bananas, livestock cooperatives, bird rearing cooperatives, green houses for growing fruits and vegetables have been developed.

Chris Ford Munanuka, another beneficiary just like Felistino, says with the many children he has fathered, the project has taught him that much as you can have a big family, the land size does not increase and what he has also learnt is that the project has brought in a lot of neighborhood watch where the community is able to tell what is happening to the neighbour.

"I no longer have to worry about firewood and water. We have electricity, I sleep in a permanent house, security is guaranteed and this is a very good idea because it shows a government which is committed to improving the welfare of its citizens," he says.

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