Transforming Dandora through community-led neighbourhood regeneration



Dandora, November 2019 –Spatial inequality is growing in seventy-five percent of the world’s cities. This means that today, access to basic urban services, public spaces, affordable housing and livelihood opportunities are less equitably distributed within these cities than they were twenty years ago. Inequalities in the urban space frequently manifest in segregation and a concentration of poverty and multiple deprivations in certain pockets of the city. These sites of socio-economic and spatial exclusion have higher levels of poverty, unemployment, crime, delinquency and exposure to environmental hazards than other parts of the city. They host a significant proportion of the world’s urban population.

In the urban context, culture and innovation are inextricably linked and are continually refining each other. With its concentration of people, ideas, and resources, the city is a catalyst for innovation. Rapidly evolving urban settings provide opportunities for the intersection of culture and innovation and to address persistent and emerging urban challenges.

In the 1970s Dandora was a World Bank developed middle-class residential site and service scheme. Today, it is a planned low-income neighborhood with a population of 141,885 and the location of the largest dumpsite in Nairobi. Over the years, the rapidly growing population, neglected infrastructure and poor management have seen Dandora gradually declining into a crowded slum with the rise of informal settlements and streets overflowing with garbage. Rising crime rates further stigmatised the neighbourhood. The challenge was to reclaim public streets so that residents could feel safer and use public spaces that were available but not easily accessible.

In 2015 UN-Habitat partnered with the Nairobi City County Government, the Dandora Transformation League and Making Cities Together Coalition to upgrade a model street in Dandora as a way of showcasing the process of co-creating public spaces. The project brought together over 500 stakeholders who agreed on a common vision for the neighbourhood.

Initiatives undertaken collectively with residents of Dandora included cleaning up and landscaping open spaces, clearing storm drainages, painting building facades and organizing residents to manage their own security. Trees were planted, 800m of roadway paved, waste bins installed, and gateways constructed. The result was a model street project with potential to accelerate positive socio-spatial transformation of the area through replication. The partnership rebranded the neighbourhood as a cohesive, safe and green haven.

The neighbourhood was revitalised by the community’s decision to take charge of the quality of their open public spaces and is a model of regeneration for the city and has been the catalyst for city-wide neighbourhood competitions for similar place-making initiatives.

“Sometimes back, M-pesa and other businesses that make a fair amount of money would be closed by 7.00 pm due to fear of attacks. Today however, these and many other small businesses operate until 11 o’clock in the night.”

Charles Gachanga, a local champion and the CEO of Dandora Transformation league

Outcomes of the Dandora community-led neighbourhood regeneration initiative include improved safety and security, stronger social cohesion, better recreation facilities for children, and better livelihood opportunities. Environmental health in the neighbourhood has improved with better drainage and social capital has been generated with support for culture and the arts. The initiative has also resulted in improved governance and better relationships between the youth and local authorities, enhancing overall quality of life for all.