Exploring possibilities for community-led urban land development in Dar es Salaam

Originally posted on the Bartlett Development Planning Unit blog.

For the first two weeks of May, students of the MSc Urban Development Planning worked in three sites across Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, as part of their field trip project supporting community-based initiatives for informal settlement upgrading.

Working with the Center for Community Initiatives (CCI), a local NGO, and members of the Tanzanian Federation of the Urban Poor, students have been trying to understand the realities of urban life in these three areas while developing ideas to guide more socio-environmentally just trajectories of urban development at the city-wide scale.

Incomplete houses on the Chamazi site
Incomplete houses on the Chamazi site

The three sites in which the groups are based—Karakata, Chamazi, and Mabwepande—have much in common: they are all growing peri-urban areas, they are all mostly “informal” or “unplanned”, most residents are low-income, and they face similar interlinking challenges such as infrastructure, access to basic services, sanitation, and solid waste disposal. But they also represent different patterns of land acquisition and development within the Tanzanian context.

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Learning about the Gulper machine, a mechanism that the Federation has been using for the emptying of pit latrines in Karakata

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Dar es Salaam: the “informal” city

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I recently had the immense privilege of visiting East Africa for the first time. It was a trip to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, for two weeks as part of my MSc program to work with local community groups in a collaborative research process.

1-blog - darWith a population of about 5 million, Dar es Salaam is the largest city and commercial center of Tanzania. As a port city it holds special historical significance in the development of East Africa, not least because it was used by colonizers to extract resources from the continent. Under German and then British control before becoming independent, remnants from each era are visible throughout the city. There is also a large Indian influence, and many Indian families have lived in Dar es Salaam for over a century. One of my favorite moments was squishing into the back of a tiny precarious bajaji (tuk-tuk taxi) with three other people on a sunny day, and speeding down the road while the driver blasted music in Hindi.

Continue reading “Dar es Salaam: the “informal” city”

Violence is required to achieve the new urban world on the wreckage of the old. Haussmann tore through the old Parisian impoverished quarters, using powers of expropriation for supposedly public benefit, and did so in the name of civic improvement, environmental restoration, and urban renovation. He deliberately engineered the removal of much of the working class and other unruly elements, along with insalubrious industries, from Paris’ city center, where they constituted a threat to public order, public health and, of course, political power. He created an urban form where it was believed (incorrectly, as it turned out, in 1871) sufficient levels of surveillance and military control were possible so as to ensure that revolutionary movements could easily be controlled by military power.

David Harvey, Rebel Cities, 2012.