Improving Access to Justice and Basic Services in the Informal Settlements of Nairobi

More than half of the residents of Nairobi, Kenya, live in informal settlements, or slums, under difficult conditions. They have inadequate housing and little access to clean water, sanitation, health care, schools, and other essential public services. While this number is astonishing, even more striking is the fact that 92% of all informal settlement inhabitants are rent-paying tenants to absentee landlords. These landlords include civil servants, government officials, and businessmen, among others.

Cartels often control basic services in these informal settlements, charging extortionate rates for access to essential services. The well-being of 1.5 million Nairobi residents depends on land ownership and improved decision-making surrounding access to services in the city's informal settlements.

This research project will respond to these fundamental challenges. It will generate practical knowledge on how formal and informal land tenure, governance, and justice structures function in two of Nairobi's informal settlements: Mukuru Kwa Njenga and Mukura Kwa Reuben. The project will map these structures against service provision to informal settlement populations. In doing so, this project will provide an accurate portrait of land ownership and access to services. It will also assess the effectiveness of new legislation and institutions aimed at improving conditions for inhabitants under Kenya's new constitution.

The project will generate practical legal, financing, and planning tools for public entities, private enterprise, and civil society actors to enhance the well-being of informal settlement populations. Researchers will also assess how these tools and planning processes can be used to achieve positive change in the formal and informal institutions that have upheld the existence of informal settlements.

Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Friday, February 1, 2013

End Date

Thursday, October 1, 2015


24 months

IDRC Officer

Di Giovanni, Adrian

Total funding

CA$ 597,100


Kenya, North of Sahara, South of Sahara


Governance and Justice

Project Leader

Weru, Jane


Muungano Wa Wanavijiji Akiba Mashinani Registered Trustees

Institution Country


Institution Website