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Candian housing reps share experiences in Kenya and Tanzania

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 “Before going to Kenya and Tanzania I knew of the disparities between housing in Canada and Africa, but, I did not really understand what it means to live in a shack without running water or sanitation until I met people in the Kibera slums in Nairobi. The amazing thing is their determination to get themselves out of terribly squalid conditions. It made me fully appreciate both the challenges faced by Rooftops Canada and its African partners, and what they do to help marginalized communities build decent housing,” says Darren Kitchen of the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada.
Darren was one of four participants in the November 2008 study visit to meet Rooftops Canada’s overseas partners in Kenya and Tanzania. The others were Shayne Ramsay of the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association, Keith Ward of the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association and Louis-Philippe Duperre of the Fédération des coopératives d΄habitation intermunicipale du Montréal métropolitain (FECHIMM) who represented CQCH.
In Kenya, the team learned how the National Cooperative Housing Union (NACHU) helps people form housing co-ops as the first step to better shelter. The members save to buy land and use small loans from NACHU to install basic water supply and gradually improve their houses. Louis-Philippe was pleased to see housing co-ops in the Rift Valley reconstructing their communities after being badly affected by the early 2008 post election violence. “Poor marginalized people in Kenya have pride - they are not looking for charity. NACHU’s small loans help them meet their own needs. We are very pleased that loans from FECHIMM are helping NACHU co-op members improve their quality of life.”
In Tanzania, WAT Human Settlement Trust proudly showed off a piece of land acquired for resettlement with Rooftops Canada’s support. 80 families will soon occupy the site using small loans from the WAT Savings and Credit Society (SACCOS) to pay their share of the costs for surveys and water supply. This will be part of a new three-year housing micro-finance pilot program being carried out by WAT, the WAT SACOOS and Rooftops Canada. According to Keith, “Canadian social and co-op housing groups should help Rooftops Canada create an Africa Housing Fund that will increase our overseas partners ability to provide small loans to move people transform slums and into sustainable communities. Housing micro-finance is a powerful tool for change.”
Meetings with senior government officials in both countries reinforced our local partners’ efforts to influence housing policies and practices. Shayne Ramsey pointed out that “as in Canada, it is critical for both government and housing groups working on the ground to develop win-win partnerships. We were very impressed with the positive relationship among WAT, the Habitat Forum of Tanzania and the National Department of Housing which is shaping a new housing policy in Tanzania. We look forward to finding ways to support their efforts and those of NACHU with the new coalition government in Kenya.”
Shayne added “The 2008 Study Visit was an amazing way to learn about the world beyond our borders. We still face many housing challenges in Canada, but even in tough economic times, we also have a responsibility to help our overseas housing colleagues.”