On November 27th-28th, ISULabaNtu held its (first round of) dissemination events, namely a multi stakeholder workshop at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and a community event in Havelock- an informal settlement in Durban North which the project team have been working with extensively in the last 4 years.
First day was attended by various stakeholders, including the eThekwini municipality (Human Settlements Unit), eThekwini Water and Sanitation, South African Slumdwellers International Alliance (SASDI) and Project Preparation Trust (PPT). Some presented current issues and approaches around informal settlement upgrading in the eThekwini municipality with a specific focus on incremental upgarding. ISULabaNtu team also presented the 5 phases of the project, the research findings and accomplishments to date, as well as plans going forward. A draft of the “Grassroots Approaches for Informal Settlement Upgrading. A Practical Guide for communities” was also launched, together with a video documentary entitled “Living in Havelock informal settlement”.
A common message in all the presentations was the need to accept informality and work with it, instead of trying to eradicate it. There was a call to go beyond participation only and to promote deep facilitation- i.e. self-reliance and self-upgrading of the communities and by the communities in need of settlement upgrading. Meaningful participation, therefore, should be the goal. Moreover, strategic partnerships were hailed as critical to achieve that goal, as have been new, innovative solutions in regards to data collection, technical design and capacity building. Questions around access to water and sanitation, access to energy and the sustainability of urban agriculture in the context of the broader challenges of infrastructure provision and improvement were also discussed.
During roundtable discussions, when participants broke into smaller groups, they were asked to think of any research gaps they could identify in light of what the project has achieved, to provide input into future planning for the project’s next steps, and to inform any pressing research questions that could be taken on by the project’s team and/or other stakeholders involved in ISULabaNtu and beyond. They also shared feedback on the practical guide prepared by the Havelock community researchers and the UKZN project’s team.
Solid waste management (SWM) was among the key themes seen as needing attention, including finding ways of more effective waste removal and more awareness raising and education on SWM and recycling. Opportunities for both recycling and upcycling were discussed by several roundtable groups and ideas were shared on how waste could be creatively used in the self-upgrading processes. Participants further stressed the importance of working with communities to build coping mechanisms for shocks such as flooding, fires, and other common hazards threatening many informal settlements.