Community Participation sustainable rural shelter development in Machakos district, Kenya.
Gaitho, Vincent Gichuru
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Human settlement has since the 1976 Vancouver Habitat Conference been emphasized as an important ingredient of national development. It has come to be seen as a contributing factor to both economic growth and development in any economy that invests in it. Likewise, shelter has been seen as positively contributing towards improved quality of life. To achieve quality shelter, countries have to invest large proportion of their national budget, a situation lacking especially in the developing countries. This has led to mushrooming of slums and unplanned shelter in the urban areas. In the rural areas, shelter quality is inadequate; it is characterized by use of locally unimproved materials that are subjected to vermin attack, fire and other natural disasters. To solve shelter problems in bother urban and rural areas, a number of approaches have been used such as mortgage schemes and site and service programmes in the urban areas and loaning schemes as well as self help in the rural areas where the residents have sought concerted effort in improving their built environment. This study ahs been concerned with investigating the concerted effort approach in rural shelter development, herein referred to as community participation. Community participation was investigated with reference to the residents’ mutual involvement in seeking solutions to their shelter needs, as they contribute their own abilities and resources. The study also investigated the community involvement in shelter projects initiated or sponsored by NGOs and other development agencies. The analysis indicated that there exists a relationship between community participation and shelter development in the study area. Shelter was categorised into temporary, semi-permanent and permanent, defined by the materials used. Community participation was found to occur in the provision of building materials by fetching or collecting them from the field and delivering to the building sites, improving the raw local materials to more advanced and durable state as in the making of bricks and in financing the purchase of the materials from either within the locality or from outside their environment. The community also participates in the provision of construction labour either through financial contribution or manually participating in building of their houses. Looking at rural shelter holistically, it was found that the community also participates in provision of building materials for kitchens and granaries. However, the materials needed in the construction of these facilities are mostly locally available, hence community participation is largely through gathering. Water is an important component of shelter, but it is a problem in the area. In seeking solutions to water problem, the residents have enhanced the available water resources by protecting springs, constructing sub-surface dams and water storage facilities. To satisfy this need, the community participates in digging trenches for pipes, as was found in Matuu areas, building dams (locally referred to as 'Koo') as in Masii, clearing bushes and transporting materials. They also contribute finances towards purchasing the necessary materials and paying specialized labour. They also contribute materials such as construction stones. The residents also perceive security as an important part of their built form. It was indicated that various security problems are experienced in the area ranging from petty stealing to theft of farm produce and tools, attacks by wild game and cattle rustling. To solve the security problems, the residents apply different approaches. Community vigilance is among the approaches applied in combating criminal activities where the residents have set night patrol groups to enhance security. Finally, the community was found to be involved in projects initiated or sponsored by external agents, such as the Machakos Catholic Diocesan Development Committee and the World Neighbours. These NGOs have projects that are shelter related, especially in water programmes (see chapter five.) In these programmes the community is involved in contributing labour, materials, finances and leadership. The involvement of community had led to sustence of the programmes after the withdraw of the sponsores for they (beneficiaries) feel they too have a stake in them (project) other than the accruing benefits. To analyse the effectiveness of community participation in shelter development, housing quality as related to materials used was assessed. This was looked at from the durability of the materials. It was found that the aspect of community participation has significantly contributed to durable houses especially in the provision of wall building materials. However, the community's effectiveness in provision of durable roofing materials is low due to cost implication and the widespread use of less durable but cheaper materials especially grass for thatching. It was also found that there was least community participation in the provision of durable floor materials. This is attributed he widespread earthen floor in rural areas. Lastly, a chi-square test pf significance of community participation and shelter development indicates that there does exist a statistical relationship between community participation in building materials provision and shelter development. There is also a statistical relationship between community participation in construction of water sources and water development. In conclusion, it is argued that this study has found out the in solving shelter problems, the rural residents of Machakos district have utilized locally available human and natural resources, a finding that is consistent with the theoretical framework developed for this study.