Historical Context

Historical Background

Starting in 1949, the apartheid era intensified a long period of discrimination against blacks, Indians and coloured people. In 1994, with the election of the African National Congress (ANC) apartheid was finally lifted. This change drastically reformed South African government, as well as the varying demographics of South African settlements. New economic opportunities prompted a large migration of people from rural to urban informal settlements (Kenney 2011). This new democratic government was often unable to meet the demands of the thousands of people living in informal settlements, leaving many without basic water and sanitation services which led to higher incidences of illnesses such as diarrhoea and E. coli within settlements (Kenney 2011). Apart from the physical distress, such conditions can hinder the ability of residents to find jobs and advance their education. Since 1994 the national and local governments have struggled to achieve a viable solution to address these issues, especially in informal settlements which are prevalent within the Western Cape of South Africa (Muller 2008). In 1996, however, “a right to sufficient water” was introduced and added to the country’s new constitution, stating that all South African citizens would receive basic water free of charge (Muller 2008). Still, the process of upgrading informal settlements is a daunting and complicated task to handle. The nature of settlements is one of constant change, population densities are high, and settlements are constantly growing as people and squatters migrate from the Eastern Cape (Mels 2009).

Historical Background of Informal Settlements (xMB, .pdf)

Langrug in Perspective

Creating an innovative, sustainable solution to address water and sanitation needs is yet to be successful in many informal settlements, including Langrug. Located on the Western Cape, Langrug is one of South Africa’s many informal settlements formed as a result of the country’s rapid urbanization in recent years (Winter 2008). Langrug is home to approximately 1800 families squatting on government land in Franschhoek on the slope of a mountain. In the 1990’s this settlement was a haven for migrants from the Eastern Cape looking for job opportunities in wine factories in nearby Stellenbosch (Kenney 2011). Though residents of Langrug were squatting illegally, the Municipality of Stellenbosch provided basic sanitation needs including toilets and water taps. Due to vandalism, improper use and other factors, not all of these water and sanitation provisions are functioning properly. There is approximately 1 toilet for every 50 people in Langrug (Community Organisation Resource Centre 2012) and as of May 2011, approximately 10% of the 91 toilets were out of order (Informal Settlement Network 2011). In many cases, local governments will adopt a strategy of relocating informal settlement residents to combat these issues they face. In Stellenbosch 300 formal homes are created each year by the Municipality (Community Organisation Resource Centre 2012), but unfortunately this cannot meet the “the demands of the ever increasing urban poor” (Community Organisation Resource Centre 2012). Thus, the community has adopted a plan of upgrading settlements rather than relocating residents, through a process called reblocking. How exactly settlement upgrading, in terms of water and sanitation and the larger range of needs that comes with it, plays out is an on-going challenge.

Previous Efforts & Challenges

Other attempts have been made to address the need for water and sanitation provisions in informal settlements. This report analyses many of these efforts in the hopes of learning from the successes and failures to create a communal water and sanitation facility in Langrug. One of these efforts includes the MobiSan facility in Pook se Bos informal settlement in Cape Town. This facility successfully incorporates urine-divergent toilets into the design; a technologically sustainable option looked into throughout this report. One problem found with the MobiSan system was that the residents were not made aware of the purpose of a urine divergent system. Their scepticism about the design made it difficult for them to properly use and understand the facility, showing that involving the community in the facility design is vital to its success. Another facility this report looks into in the Bio-Centre, implemented in many informal settlements within Nairobi, Kenya. This design incorporated a multi-purpose facility with a meeting space, encouraging community initiative to maintain the facility. But a lack of clear communication, regarding objectives, between the many stakeholders in the project made it difficult to get the project off the ground.

Bridging the Gap

The MobiSan and Bio Centre projects not only show innovative technical designs, but introduce the dynamic challenges of community involvement and a multi-stakeholder approach. Past sanitation projects have failed largely due to a lack of community involvement throughout the entire project, from planning and designing phases, to implementation and operational maintenance. When the community has a hand in the process, a sense of ownership and pride is gained. However, this has proven difficult due to factors including distrust and ineffective communication between stakeholders and the community. While there is currently an innovative partnership developing in Langrug between the Municipality of Stellenbosch, NGOs, and the community, using this partnership to its full potential can prove to be a complex task. Therefore, this project goes much further than providing Langrug with more sanitation facilities; rather, it focuses on strengthening this partnership and developing a sustainable model for community-driven efforts.