Building an organised community through the Shamrock wash trough project in KZN

Kwanda Lande (on behalf of CORC)

Shamrock informal settlement at a Glance

Shamrock informal settlement is located along a portion of Amrisar Road and Gladiola Road in Belfort Estate suburb, northeast of Pietermaritzburg in Kwa-Zulu Natal. This informal settlement is located on municipal owned land and it contains single storey, stand-alone mud and timber shacks. The area is located along the flood line as a result this makes the settlement prone to flooding. The slope analysis for the settlement shows that the settlement is predominantly characterised by moderate to very steep slopes.

Shamrock informal settlement residents have lived in this settlement for more than 20 years without any adequate basic services. The community of 140 people was using one water tap and the nearby river as sources of water. The settlement location on steep slopes makes it difficult for residents to collect water. The settlement also lacks basic services like paved roads and walkways, which makes it even more difficult to collect water because roads that become muddy especially when it is raining. The distance to collect water that residents are expected to travel is also too long and difficult for old people.

Differrent methods that were used before the wash trough, to wash clothes and collecting water.

Different methods that were used before the wash trough, for wash clothes and collecting water.

The area’s close proximity to various primary and secondary schools and a college is one of the reasons people were attracted to Shamrock. In addition, a special needs school is located within a 30 minute walking radius. The residents of Shamrock were also attracted to the area because of job opportunities. This community is made of 52 structures, and a population of 140 people that migrated from rural areas of Kwa-Zulu Natal.

The Shamrock wash trough Project

In 2013, FEDUP and ISN went to Shamrock and mobilised the community through starting a saving scheme. Prior the implementation of the Shamrock wash trough project in 2016, the community was mobilised through profiling and enumeration. This exercise was important, amongst other things to mobilise community member that were not part of the local saving scheme, and for the community to collective identify issues and solutions. The community identified an ablution and drainage system as one of their priorities and made a decision that they want a wash trough facility after some assistance from CORC technical team on different options to address their priorities and challenges.

The project implementation process of the wash trough commenced in 2016, and the project was completed in January 2018. However, the actual implementation of the wash trough took four days to be completed, in a period of two weekends (13-14 and 20-21 January 2018). One of the challenges that were experienced include that some community members did not participate in the implementation of the project. The reason is that these people felt that the project was only for people who are part of the local saving scheme. The community also had to change initial location of the wash trough, which was at the centre of the settlement. It was changed so that an elderly woman in a wheel chair would be able to access it too. The project was then moved closer to her shack, which is approximately 50m from the initial point.

The total cost of the project was R6426.00. The community contributed 20% to the overall cost of this project from their savings scheme. As a result, not all the community members contributed to the project because not all members of the community were involved in savings. Msunduzi Local Municipality’s water and sanitation, and area based management departments contributed with the additional 80% of the overall cost and with some technical expertise, this include environmental studies.

The wash trough is helping the community, it is now very easy for people to wash their clothes. The community has six water taps in the wash trough, which they can use. People are now interested in the project, even those who did not indicate any interest when we started this project. Everyone is now using the facility and people are demonstrating some excitement now that they do not have to wait long lines or go to the river for water. Those who were rejecting the project, now that they see the benefits that it has brought, they are apologising, they are promising to be part of future projects and they also want to be part of the local saving scheme. Ndodeni Dengo (ISN regional coordinator)

The success of mobilising the community of Shamrock informal settlement through the wash trough project also extends to neighbouring informal settlements. As part of the project, the community members and leaders from neighbouring informal settlements such as Crest place and Mayfair sent two community members to assist and observe. As a result, Crest Place has requested a similar project for their settlement. This community has also started contributing towards their project, which is planned to start soon.

Different construction phases of the Shamrock wash trough

Different construction phases of the Shamrock wash trough. 

Going forward

The SA SDI Alliance has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Msunduzi Local Municipality. However, there are challenges in terms of making this MoU work for both parties involved. As a result, FEDUP and ISN, want to use this project to showcase the ability of organised communities to the Municipality and other informal settlements.

The community of Shamrock has made their desire to improve this project known. They want to use the MoU signed with Msunduzi Local Municipality to add shelter, refuse removal, a table for children and other services. This will allow the community to use the wash trough facility even when it is raining, and that they could have a place for their children to do their schoolwork while their mothers are using the wash trough. The community also wish to do community gardening and install a grey water collection facility. Currently the municipality is being engaged by the community to request electricity.

Through this informal settlement-upgrading project, therefore, residents sharpened their ability to organise (through daily savings). This in turn contributed to building the community’s ability to engage other actors to continue incrementally upgrading their settlement. In this way poor communities want to demonstrate that they can use their projects to shift government policies and practices to the benefit of their communities.

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