Pro-Poor land and housing Ownership in Malawi

Pro-Poor land and housing Ownership in Malawi

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The urban poor in Malawi are being driven out of their homes and communities due to a gentrification process fueled by a growing middle class. Our aim is to capacitate poor communities to negotiate with their Local Authorities for pro-poor planning policies and building standards. With advocacy, awareness and financial support the poor can reverse this trend and safeguard their rights in the city

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The high rates of urbanization the country is going through is far outstripping the Local Authorities’ capacity to plan and prepare for its urban citizenry especially the poor. High density suburbs are the main areas where the poor can find affordable housing albeit in overcrowded accomodation with several families residing in one plot and sharing unsanitary facilities. Of late, the poor in these areas are under high risk of eviction as the middle and upper class are buying off such plots, demolishing poor people's homes and constructing high value single family homes for own use or rental puposes. The poor are silently being moved from their communities (these are areas close to sources of employment and valuable social networks). The poor to date have had no negotiating powers when found in such circumstances except to move, with lack of affordable capital the poor have not been able to purchase such plots. The poor have not been mobilised to be the active players in their community. Thus they shrug off these experiences as part of life. The by laws and high building standards have not been pro-poor thus making it difficult for multiple families to live legally together.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The uniqueness of the initiative is its inclusiveness. It aims to change the poor from being excluded and evicted to being part of the development in their communities. It will be in a 3 fold process: 1. poor, especially women, will be mobilised so that they are aware of their rights as urban citizens. Once a plot they are living in is being put on the market they should be the first to put up an offer and start planning for re-development. This ensures that the poor themselves who will purchase such a plot. 2. CCODE and the communities will lobby for the change in planning and building guidelines from the laws that restrict low income plots to only one family (when in reality over 10 families reside in such plots). With such a change in the by-laws, building and planning standards, it means multiple households can legally construct houses and own land within the city. With pro-poor designs, approved by the cities, such housing will become affordable to the majority. CCODE will also make capital accessible so that the poor can compete for the plots on the market once their landlords put the property for sale. 3. The high rentals, which the poor are paying for the unsanitary accommodation, are enough to cover the repayments for both the land and the house loans. CCODE and the community leaders will provide support for both the designs and the project supervision needed for such housing. Recent linkages with the University of Malawi (Faculty of Built Environment) will be utilised to ensure that costs are lower as students will be involved and for the communities to get simultaneous support. Relationships with the Local Authorities (LAs) will continue being strengthened through exchange visits to allow for mutual learning. The poor themselves will be in the forefront in sharing with other communities not only within their city but also other cities. The level of involvement of the poor in advocating for policy change by engaging their LAs, makes the project unique.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

With the communities involved in this process, impact will occur in terms of the role of local and national government in urban land management. Also, there is potential for a wider impact within Southern and Central Africa. The wider impact will occur due to the regular exchange visits that occur within the region between our organization and Slum Dwellers International (SDI)affiliates within the region. The exact number of beneficiaries will be only after community mobilization takes place.. Stories on gentrification:- Area 36: planned for the poor, grabbed by rich Area 36 in Lilongwe was a squatter settlement until the Lilongwe City Council upgraded it to a low income area. Roads were graded and the poor inhabitants were happy. But then, rich middle class people started coming with their offers. They started buying off the plots from the poor. The poor had no money to build and they could not get a loan from financial institutions. With time, exquisite houses started eclipsing poor people's plots. Slowly the poor were being driven away from their long established networks. As some of them say, " We could not build. The offers were deceptively attractive and now we live without a home." The proposed project aims to ensure that poor people have access to capital, which they can use to develop their plots. Worse still, the planning and building standards by the city assemblies are too high for the poor. This project will spur a paradigm shift, from planning and building procedures that are strictures to the poor, to those standards that are pro-poor so that they can afford. This will avoid the gentrification process that has driven the poor away from the city and the creation of more and more squatter settlements. The poor will claim their right to the city and maintain their social networks, which have a bearing on their livelihoods.
About You
Centre for Community Organisation and Development (CCODE)
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Section 1: About You
First Name


Last Name



http://Under Construction

Section 2: About Your Organization
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

Organization Name

Centre for Community Organisation and Development (CCODE)

Organization Phone


Organization Address

2nd Fl, Nasa Blg, Near Area 3 Mkt, Old Town Lilongwe

Organization Country


How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Your idea
Country your work focuses on


Do you have a patent for this idea?


Community Mobilisation: Communities especially women will be mobilised so as to start looking into the issues to deal with the right to land and housing.Trainings and Exchange visits will be undertaken amongst community members on negotiations and purchase for land by the poor themselves.
Experienced community leaders will support in the land registrations with the Local Authorities.
Capital in form of housing loans will be provided for purchase of plots once the negotiations are completed.
Architects and planners (from CCODE and students)will work with the beneficiaries on the probable designs and then submit for approvals.
Once approved, beneficiaries will be supported as they choose the loans based on the designs that suit their status so that repayments are around the rentals.
As current laws, don't recogniise this plight by the poor, CCODE will engage the government both Local and Central on the need for reviews in the Country's Planning Guidelines and Building standards as this will shape the Local Authorities' by-laws. The success of this innovation hinges on the plans being approved and communities thinking through building upwards from the usual ground floor desi


Improved housing conditions for the poor;
Reduction of the rate of displacement of the poor by the rich as the poor also own land;
Increased community participation and awareness
Change in standards and by-laws that impact on the poor
With access to capital and awareness land remain in the hands of the poor
Gentrification is driven by the poor
Government (local and central)will start looking into the challenges faced by the poor.
Social networks for the poor are maintained

1. Concrete policy changes highlighted above that will result in:
• Increase in supply of residential land across all spectrums of the various income groups.
• Changes in planning standards such as reduction in plot sizes.
• Recognition of various forms of ownership where low income households are concerned.

2. Community action:
• Increased awareness of their rights in relation to land and housing.
• Reduction in vulnerabilities, economic, social and cultural because households will not be forced to move.
The overall expected outcome is that gentrification will reduce and stop all together.

How many people will your project serve annually?


What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

Less than $50

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?


If so, how?

The project centres around advocating and lobbying for policy change and community action. It seeks for a paradigm shift in the planning and housing standards so that they are affordable to the urban poor. The current planning procesdures in Malawi have no focus on the poor and they are slowly becoming victims. As this project will demonstrate that the poor conditions in low income neighbourhoods can be changed with the poor being part of the process. Building standards and what is considered the norm will have to change and this change can come about after communities have demonstrated and showcased the possibilities. The issues to deal with the legal number of households in a low income neighbourhood and also permissible building materials will be considered. The project gives a voice to the poor by creating awareness on their rights and how they can become part of the development process in their areas through meaningful debate and negotiations with their local authorities. It seeks to exploit the synergy of the poor and demonstrate how positive gentrification can occur with the poor themselves as drivers of change and development. It exploits structures that the poor have built on the ground in an effort to coordinate their efforts to walk out of poverty right in their cities. The project will give the poor a podium and ground to demonstrate what can be done with mutual cooperation with their local authorities given resources.

What stage is your project in?

Operating for less than a year

Does your organization have a board of directors or an advisory board?


Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how partnerships could be critical to the success of your innovation.

CCODE will continue to partner domestically with the institutions that are critical to the issue of inclusion for the poor. The Local Authorities who are the custodians of the issue at hand will be engaged so as to provide the support needed for implementation of this project (approval of plans and changes in the by-laws and standards). The Central Government (Department of Physical Planning, Housing, Local Government amongst others) will be engaged as the policy holders critical for the changes in policies. The partnerships with the university will be strengthened so as to increase capacity at the local level as the students will be critical in ensuring professional support is available when needed. The community members themselves will be the drivin force for the success of this project and continuous strengthening of the community networks will be an on-going exercise and linkages with other successful communities will always be prioritised.

We would like to learn more about how your initiative is financially supported. Please explain your business plan/revenue model

CCODE is a local NGO that works with communities and todate all our work has been supported through support mainly from international NGOs that have been supporting our core programmatic work and also capitalising the capital fund. CCODE administers a capital fund that is managed by the community members and todate has been able to reach over 1,500 families. The support to ensure that this is feasible is made through the programmatic support. As the fund itself is a means to an end, there is need for community ownership and drive for the people to change their lives thus the two-tier system. This has allowed for learning and the technological development that CCODE has been championing with charging it to the community through the loans and also ensured that once a product has been finalised the communities only pay for the cost of the product.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

At CCODE we worked with the communities to negotiate for land (greenfield development) with the City of Lilongwe and 193 low cost houses were constructed for community members who had been renting in the high density surbubs and informal settlements. This was also made possible in the City of Blantyre where 465 low cost houses were constructed and in Mzuzu were 89 houses were constructed. Once poeple had moved into the homes we realised that not only did their former shacks get new tenants but in some cases they started dissapearing with new landlords who were well to do coming to take over. In other instances some of the beneficiaries to the green field did not want to move into their new homes that were usually located further away from town and thus faraway from jobs and social networks. The first realisation (of new tenants) made us realise that we needed an upgrading solution for these settlements as Green fields would not scale a people driven land and housing aceess process. The fact that the land that is accessible but still makes sence for the poor (close to the areas of work, social netwroks etc) is becoming scarcer and the City land is finite, a solution was needed on where the people are living. Coupled with the fact that the poor are being evicted from these communities by the better off, a localised solution was needed. We noted that the people are already living in these communities and plots albeit in poor housing conditions and that the improvements would not mean the people being carted off to new settlements but upgrading their homes so that they are still within the communities but living in better homes. The issue of Gentrification provided a solution as it would be possible to support the poor access the land once one landlord decides to sell for one reason or the other. As the poor are the first to know when a plot is up for sale it means that the poor would be the ones getting the land in most instances and thus could then construct better homes. The fact that the poor are already surviving on these stands as multipe families means that it is possible for the homes to be improved and the same number of households accomodated better. The other issue considered was that once a landlord decised to sell, its the poor who get to know first that their plot is up for sale and yet they do not have any option.

The realisation that the planning laws and standards was not geared towards making access to land for the poor a reality tehre was need to combine the process from both the community mobilisation end to that of negotiating with the Local Authorities and the central government.

Tell us about the social innovator—the person—behind this idea.

Siku Nkhoma, an urban planner by profession has since 2003 worked with people (especially women) from poor urban settlements across Malawi and has worked towards firstly understanding the issues from the poor person's point of view. This had meant spending time in community meeting and traveling with community leaders, which meant staying in the communities themselves. This not only provided the basis for working with the poor but commiting into a vocation of finding solutions that have been ground breaking in Malawi and sometimes being cross planted in other countries. From walking and waking with the urban poor communities in 2003, a national movement of the urban poor has been formed and is actively working towards finding lasting solutions to their shelter problems.

Siku is a Zimbabwean married to a Malawian, who moved to Malawi in 2002 and begun working with communities in 2003 as mentioned above. As a foreign woman, the language barrier was never felt as the more time spend with the communities provided the basis for learning and also understanding the issues. To date CCODE is one of the most successfuly local NGOs in Malawi that has not only put the issues of the urban poor on the map but also provided the requisite solutions as well. This has also not been done by the innovatr in the forefront but through allowing the people themselves to own and manage the process and accross the country the people are spearheading their own issues.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Email from Changemakers

If through another source, please provide the information.

Approximately 50 words left (400 characters).

Which (if any) of the following strategies apply to your organization or company (check as many as apply)

Formalizing and documenting property rights (i.e. titling, leasing or certification), Developing/applying technology for surveying, mapping and documenting property rights, Other.

Please explain how your work furthers one or many of the above strategies (if you selected “other”, please explain your strategy)

CCODE is a support NGO to a network of grassroots community savings groups called the Malawi Homeless People’s Federation (Federation) with a membership of 15,000, 90% of whom are women. The Federation’s activities started in April 2003. CCODE provides technical support, advocacy, technical training and capacity building to the Federation.