Habitat Observatory

    Community led development of model houses for the urban poor
  “Alone we can do so little and together we can do so much” – Henry Ford

Odisha Alliance, a partnership between Urban Development Resource Centre, Mahila Milan, Odisha/National Slum Dwellers’ Federation (O/NSDF) and Society of Promotion of Area Resources Centre (Sparc) exemplifies this statement. All these organisations came together to benefit the bottom 30 percent of the economic pyramid of city dwellers who live in informal settlements without access to basic amenities.

The alliance based in Odisha focusses on community-led development of model houses that are affordable and adapted to local needs. The houses are built using either incremental & credit based housing programmes or through government subsidised schemes. Sixty model houses have already been built and 400 additional houses are currently under construction. These models act as examples demonstrating that slum dwellers can be agents of their own development and can provide practical ground tested solutions that can be scaled up.

The Alliance also develops ‘practice to policy’ connect by demonstrating the effectiveness of bottom up approaches and negotiating with government officials to make urban policies that are inclusive of the poor. It works towards capacity building of the communities to help them to stop forced evictions. Women’s participation in decision making is greatly encouraged.

The approach used includes formation of savings & credit groups, community-led mapping & surveys, building model houses & community infrastructure etc. Engagement with policy makers takes place through multi stakeholder dialogues and knowledge-sharing activities.

The Alliance works on the basis that change occurs only when communities participate wholeheartedly and are central to the design and management of the projects. Therefore, the involvement of external skilled labourers is kept minimal. The community members are encouraged to carry out the work themselves.

Till date the alliance has mobilised about 10,000 members who have become partners in developing affordable and effective solutions to their problems thereby paving the way for scaling up government programmes and policies.

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    Developing Eco-system for Sustainable Habitat Development in Rural India
  Mahendra Kumar Prajapati, a farmer from Pipra village in Bundelkhand says “Earlier I was living in a kuchha (not permanent) house which had lots of problems. For example, every year we had to change the roof. In the rainy season, the rain water would enter the house. Now I have constructed a pucca house using eco-construction techniques and there is tremendous enhancement in my quality of life”.

Prajapati’s dream of living in a pucca house got fulfilled with the help of Development Alternatives’ FEM - Eco Housing project. This project has been funded by FEM Italia Onlus. For the last few years, Prajapati was trying to construct a pucca house but lack of money to invest in construction was a major hindrance. This problem was not of Prajapati alone but of a lot of people in this region.

Development Alternatives with its experience of working in rural housing realised that an effective credit mechanism is one of the most important components of a habitat delivery model and can help solve the problem of rural housing to a great extent. Also there is a need to address concerns of energy and resource efficiencies in construction, delivery mechanisms that support and enhance local skills and economies and development of durable and safe houses in response to local climatic conditions.

Prajapati’s house was constructed by accessing credit from the Madhya Bharat Grameen Bank and the ‘Build Together Pay Together ‘principle was followed. Groups were formed in the village and each group was made responsible to ‘build together and pay together’. This meant that they would have to take the onus of ensuring building progress of their other group members and also assume joint liability over the other group members’ loan repayments.

All the houses including Prajapati’s house have been built using eco friendly building technologies. Under this initiative, training on eco-building skills were imparted to a group of locally untrained labor and existing masons who then carried out the construction activities. This habitat delivery model thus helped generate local employment.

It also served to strengthen the building material production base in the region through the development of micro-enterprises. Three local community groups were trained and supported to set-up micro-enterprises in production and supply of eco-building materials and elements such as micro concrete roofing (MCR) tiles, precast wall panels, other precast habitat products etc.

Thus a whole ecosystem for delivering sustainable habitat solutions was created under this initiative fulfilling the dreams of Prajapati and many more residing in Bundelkhand. Successful initiatives like this should be replicated in other areas as well.

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