Results of the Project

In closing the project in Mtshini Wam, our team found that we had accomplished more than we had anticipated during our preparatory phase.  Making a difference in the community meant empowering the leadership with new tactics and resources to help their settlement, as well as developments that gave residents the outlets to realize their own potential in their newly reblocked homes.

Our project results in summary are the following:


Reblocking Process Improvement: Finishing A Pilot Effort

Mtshini Wam's community workers made a difference not only for themselves, but for each other.

Perhaps one of the greatest assets in Mtshini Wam was the passionate and organized leadership, ready to make a difference for their fellow residents.  Having 45 of the community members employed by the City of Cape Town, we were able to utilize their desire to finish the reblocking project prior to the conclusion of their Public Works contract in making some positive changes.  With increased understanding on a partnership-wide level on the importance of streamlined scheduling, communication, and planning, the speed and quality of the reblocking process was increased significantly.  Additionally, our group worked to create a comprehensive guidebook with the input of the community leadership, the City of Cape Town’s Department of Human Settlements, and Community Organization Resource Center.  This resource was created with the intention of fostering a compromise in the formal and informal approaches to reblocking with such tools as planning forms, division of labor agreements, and explanations of common issues with potential solutions we encountered.

For a more detailed explanation of some of the guidebook’s excerpts, see the “Sustaining The Effort: Guidebooks and Training” section.


Vertical Gardening: The Start of Food Security

Vertical Gardening enhances the community and is a source of pride for shack owners.

Gardening was the most constant of our community initiatives, as it remained a top priority of the community members from our first conversation to our last day in Mtshini Wam. It offered a way to both beautify the community, but also provide essentially free food. We liaised with a local designer and agriculture expert, Stephen Lamb of Touching the Earth Lightly, to secure the donation of 18 crated plants for the settlement.  To provide another experimental form of vertical gardening that addressed the issue of shack fires, an innovative polycarbonate-enclosed structure (see left) was created upon the settlement’s spaza shop.  This installation culminated in a major publicized event, which highlighted several other community initiatives as well.  We provided the Gardening Team with tools through our co-researcher budget, a “Worm Farm How-To” manual, a Gardening Team “Plant Care” schedule, tool tracking documents, and other inexpensive ideas for vertical gardening. Finally we discussed future planning of produce sales in Mtshini Wam and neighboring communities as an entrepreneurial enterprise.



Litre of Light: A Sustainable Shack Lighting Solution

With just a 2-litre soda bottle filled with water and a pinch of bleach, natural daylight fills the shacks.

The community voiced the need for windows and lighting solutions. We observed that many people must open their doors during the day to light their shacks, allowing sand blown by the wind into their home, and learned that candles have caused major fires within the community. Most residents are unable to install windows due to high cost or fear of having their shacks broken into. To address these issues, we investigated Litre of Light, an innovative, electricity free lighting source that provides affordable and safe lighting to low-income shacks.  The Litre of Light solar bulb is created from a soda bottle filled with water and installed in the roof, employing the property of refraction to disperse sunlight into the shacks.  They provide an inexpensive way to bring light into dark spaces without installing windows, while eliminating the security risk and need for daytime candles.  In our experience with the Litre of Light effort, they cost only R34 to install and were some of the first Litre of Light bulbs to be installed in South Africa. We supplied the community with a tool kit of essential supplies necessary to install the solar bulbs, and a step-by-step instructional manual. The bulbs also provide an opportunity for the Carpentry Team to install the lights and make a small profit.


Community Carpentry: Creating A Business Plan

By providing the community with tools and hands-on training, entrepreneurial opportunity was created.

A group of residents wanted to turn their skills and interest in carpentry into an entrepreneurial opportunity after their contracts with the EPWP end, and so in the same spirit as the Gardening Team, a Carpentry Team was created. The team showed us multiple examples of their work including a chair and desk, explaining that they would like to build new doors for Mtshini Wam and also for other reblocking communities. After many discussions involving budgeting and general fiscal planning, it was agreed that WPI would also fund tools for this group through our co-researcher budget. These tools would not only be used for carpentry, but also for the reblocking effort, gardening and Litre of Light as both gardening and carpentry would afford entrepreneurial opportunities in the future. We designed and built shelves with the Carpentry Team that were specially designed to hold crated plants in a vertical fashion, while still allowing access to sunlight. To aid in the long-term success of the Carpentry Team, we provided instructional pamphlets, tool tracking documents, and hands-on training sessions.

Worker Certificates: An Asset For Future Employment

Empowering the community meant a great to us

Certificates were the final community initiative our team pursued. Community members had indicated that certificates of participation in the reblocking of Mtshini Wam would hold great value to the community workers. Certificates could supplement future job applications and provide recognition of the hard work and learning accomplished by each individual. We created certificates and arranged for the City of Cape Town, ISN, CORC and WPI to all give signatures of key personnel. This certificate could potentially serve as a model for certificates of reblocking in other upgrade sites, perpetuating the self-improvement mentality resultant from the reblocking process. On our last day in Mtshini Wam we held a ceremony to hand deliver the certificates to each individual. The pride and excitement community members felt was evident in their celebration, which involved singing and dancing.