General Issues
Social Welfare
Planning & Development
Rift Valley
Scope of Influence
Communication of Insights & Outcomes
Public Hearings/Meetings


Participatory Urban Planning in Kitale, Kenya

February 2, 2019 Jaskiran Gakhal, Participedia Team
September 16, 2017 Janeowinoo
May 25, 2016 Janeowinoo
General Issues
Social Welfare
Planning & Development
Rift Valley
Scope of Influence
Communication of Insights & Outcomes
Public Hearings/Meetings

Using methodology based on the acknowledgement that various settlements have diverse needs, members of three Kenyan settlements were given the opportunity to envision the desired future of their community through neighbourhood urban planning.

Problems and Purpose

According to Michael Majale, the world’s urban population is rapidly increasing at a greater rate than the current accumulative population of the world. [1] Furthermore, the urban population development and progress in countries that are developing, is more than 90 per cent. Africa is the least urbanized region of the world, where urbanization is its most problematic and difficult challenge. [1] Local authorities in developing countries encounter considerable challenges when attempting to deliver services, planning, and managing urban development. The urbanization of poverty is the combination of the critical issues they encounter. [1] This case study examines the essential and important lessons learned in enforcing the project in Kitale and moreover, the impact the NGO interventions have had. [1]

Majale mentions that in order to improve the effectiveness of management and urban planning, the overall and general objective of the project is to highlight some of the imperfections and inadequacy of existing institutional and regulatory frameworks that have contributed to the development and progress of the slums. Moreover, the project's aim is to provide and utilize a partnership approach, test, develop and expand the planning urban space with local institutions. [1]

Mathew Okello et al. mention that in order to improve access to basic infrastructure and services for improved urban livelihoods, mobilizing and creating synergy with local development institutions, development agency workers and local residents can help to demonstrate how locally available resources and experiences may be harnessed. [2]

Background History and Context 

Kitale is the administrative and commercial capital of Trans-Nzoia District, located about 380km to the North-West of Nairobi. [1] In addition, Kitale serves as a frontier town for the dry and drought-prone in that region. Majale added that the municipality is historically well known for its hinterland that has high agricultural potential. [1]

Due to the frequent drought in Northern-Kenya, Paul Chege et al. point out that the declining economic opportunities and circumstances in the outlying farmlands as well as migration journey into the town has gone beyond Kitale’s Municipal Council's (KMC) capacity to deliver infrastructure and other services; they now struggle to efficiently and effectively plan the growth of the municipality. [3]

Furthermore, its predicted population is 163,209 and 65 per cent, as a consequence, do not have a way to access safe water, secure tenure, sanitation, decent shelter, employment opportunities and health services among other basic and essential needs. [3] He states that they are forced to live in informal settlements and slums, such as Kipsongo, Shimo-La-Tewa and Tuwan. [3]

Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities

The UK’s Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) funded the action research project and funding also comprised of small-scale demonstration projects. [2]

Practical Action-Eastern Africa carried out and managed project activities in alliance and partnership with the Municipal Council of Kitale (MCK), individual community members and other essential and crucial stakeholders. Practical Action-UK had the overall management responsibility. [2]

Participant Recruitment and Selection

The project was carried out in three informal settlements namely: Kipsongo, Shimo-La-Tewa and Tuwan. [2] The three settlements in the municipality, through citywide ward based baseline surveys, were chosen from the 10 civic wards. [2]

Baseline Information: The City Wide Scan Survey

Okello and his co-authors write that in order to capture, supply and support the socio-economic indicators, a baseline information survey about the municipality was initiated. [2] Primary data accumilation and analysis was involved at household and community levels to enable them to have a perspective on, and generate specific indicators throughout the municipality. [2]

In order to inform sector-based interventions within given wards, the information produced and created was both thematic and ward. [2] This is the lowest administrative unit within the council.[2] Moreover, the survey recognizes the municipal councils volume and capacity to carry out effective and efficient services to all the citizens and the community growth and development priorities and difficulties. [2]

Methods and Tools Used

This initiative uses participatory urban planning whereby affected stakeholders and local residents take responsibility for shared decision-making, regarding the use of urban space. The idea is that residents will "provide local knowledge and information to compliment the technical know-how of experts and officials" so that they can each meet their needs. [1]

The project utilized Participatory Urban Appraisal (PUA) methods and tools that embraced and endorsed a Sustainable Livelihoods (SL) approach. [2] He points out that society based indicators in addition have aided poor women, men and children living in informal settlements prepare and assemble spatial and settlement related neighborhood plans and recognize their development priorities. [2]

What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation

Tools utilized during this project were thematic FDGs covering issues like health, security, social amenities, and more; a stakeholders’ inventory; and venn diagrams (to show the intersection of stakeholder’s interests and interactions). [2]

The core facilitating team, comprising of planners and other professionals, interpret and explain the community members' articulated views, converting them into strategies and projects for implementation. [3]

Stage 1: Community Mapping

The essential participants at stage 1 are the facilitating team and the community key informants/opinion leaders. [3] They create and produce a detailed listing of the community’s infrastructure services and facilities while making sure to recognize the stakeholders within that settlement. [3]

Stage 2: Data Verification and Validation: Community Feedback Sessions

Stage 2 then certifies and confirms the data thmat has been composed and accumulated previously in the studies and data collection exercises. [3] The principal purpose of this stage is to share all the data collected from the exercises and combine the information gathered. [3]

Finally, in an open forum, the maps and reports of gathered data are presented for the community to edit, authenticate and enrich. [3]

Stage 3: Visualizing the Future: Community Visioning

In an open forum, community visioning is initiated, such as with a representative community workshop meeting. Using SWOT or PEST analysis and vivid understanding of the ward, the selected participants design a desired settlement vision, which "represents the end state from a less desired to the desired future settlement status.” [3]

Stage 4: Action Planning: Developing Strategies, Programs and Projects

The aim of stage 4 is to accomplish and attain the agreed upon society vision by preparing the road map towards that. [3] Furthermore, the societies stakeholders and community representatives then transform the vision, into programs, activities and strategies. In order to discuss what needs to be done, small groups are created; they aim to successfully achieve the highlighted and featured goals with the resources available. [3]

Stage 5: Evaluation of Alternatives: Agreeing on Options

They elaborate and discuss the alternative strategies and arrive at a decision on the best option reached. This is done in a live discussion. [3]

Stage 6: Compilation of the Plan

The final plan is assembled and accumulated by a core facilitation group. It entails the core group to write up the plan, document the method, sort, collate and synthesize all views from the above stages and support and authorize the plan through society members and stakeholders. [3] At the ward level, feedback sessions are arranged. The plan is adopted and confirmed by civic leaders and the community. [3]

Stage 7: Resources Mobilization: Planning for Projects Implementation

In order to raise funds, the strategic ward action plans are utilized, from different funding agencies and organizations as shopping lists for project implementation. [3]. Chege et al. highlights that “SIPs identify specific projects, the target areas, estimate project budgets and the actors/financing mechanisms.” [3]

Stage 8: Project Implementation

Prioritized community projects are then implemented as planned, drawing its mandate from other stakeholders and from the local community. This is done under the stewardship of Projects Implementing Committee (PIC). [3] Relevant professionals and the community members undertake periodic audit, to ensure good governance practices for prudent financial utilization and quality assurance. [3]

In Kitale, the following strategies and approaches were utilized to implement the projects: community contracting; labor based contracts; and public-private sector joint contracting. 

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

Building in Partnerships

As a way to engage and involve the local institutions and address the key challenges, the project formation was based on partnership. [2] The powerful partnerships between Practical Action and the Municipal Council of Kitale (MCK) successfully changed the livelihoods of the urban poor in Kitale. [2]

Various and different actors in Kitale, through the partnership model utilized, gained access to each other’s resources and skills while being able to help advance the capacity creating of partner groups and make sure that stakeholder’s have an equal voice in the development and growth agenda. [2] Furthermore, “it [the model] would boost urban governance, better service delivery, decrease the demand gaps in the supply of goods and services, and finally improve and enhance the achievement of project goals.”[2] Moreover, the actors also envisioned that this methodology would allow evaluation of project activities and enable realistic monitoring.

The three informal sites were utilized as pilot areas for developing, testing and disseminating partnership approaches. This encouraged and aided stakeholder partnership and participation in crafting appropriate intervention strategies and in evaluating and determining real user needs. [2]

The detailed participatory needs evaluations that are conducted in each of the three informal settlements informed the creation and growth of neighborhood plans that joined gender needs and help advance access to infrastructure and opportunities for micro and small enterprise (MSE) development. [2]

Analysis and Lessons Learned

The project encountered a number of difficulties and issues, especially in its early stages following the dissolution of the Council by presidential decree in September 2001. [3] However, a number of important lessons can be learnt from implementing this project. 

Importance of Political Will

For participatory urban planning, political will is required to proactively implement and create the institutional framework. [1] To overcome resistance to the devolution of power to local governments and society, Majale highlights that political assurance and support at all levels of government is important and vital. [1] If political will is mobilized, correcting of institutional and regulatory frameworks for urban preparation and growth will be attainable. [1] This project displayed and showed this.

Participatory planning remains an elusive concept to many local authorities and leaders.

Participatory planning is normally misunderstood by local authorities to mean failure and a lack of success on their part to deliver services or interference in established and well-known institutional structures and decision-making processes by ‘outsiders’. [1]

It is essential that awareness is raised among civic leaders and local authority staff in participatory urban planning and partnership work. [1]

There is a need for improved institutional and regulatory frameworks for participatory urban planning.

Current institutional and regulatory frameworks do not sufficiently identify the promising offering of civil societies, especially communities in the slum, and the worth their partnership can bring to preparation and growth methods.[1] Furthermore, there is a need for institutional and regulatory correction to facilitate and support participation and partnership plans at all levels. [1]

The relation through local effort and formal government at all levels is important.

The connection between local and central government and community level governance structures is essential; challenges of legitimacy, representation and long-term viability need to be resolved. [1] Widespread community partnership is a step toward both mobilizing and supporting funding and growth. [1]

Communities will remain interested only in the expectation of tangible results.

Resource allocation is a huge part of planning. Participatory planning methods frequently raise communities’ expectations, and should consequently result in tangible outcomes. If not, it can lead to disappointment. [3] Moreover, there should be an investment plan that highlights the resource requirements, the expected contribution of each actor and completion targets. [3]

Poverty remains a major challenge to participatory urban planning and development.

In order to make sure that development and growth interventions are suitable and within their means and power to act and manage them, participatory urban planning needs an understanding of community priorities and needs and in addition the resources they have. [3]

See Also

Participatory Urban Planning 

Collaborative Planning  

Scenario Workshops 


[1] Majale, M. (2009). Developing Participatory Planning Practices in Kitale, Kenya. [pdf]. Available at [Accessed on 07/04/2016].

[2] Okello, M. Oenga, I. Chege, P. (2004). Participatory Urban Planning Toolkit Based on the Kitale Experience. A guide to Community-Based Action Planning for Effective Infrastructure and Services Delivery. [pdf]. Available at [Accessed on 04/04/2016].

[3] Chege, P. Majale, M. (2005). Participatory Urban Planning in Kitale, Kenya. [pdf]. Available at [Accessed on 10/04/2016].

External Links

Practical Action YouTube: [Accessed on 05/05/2016].

Available at: [Accessed on 04/04/2016]

Available at: [Accessed on 09/04/2016]

Available at: [Accessed on 02/04/2016]

Participation in Kitale 

Practical Action Newsletter: Strengthening participatory urban planning in East Africa 

Practical Action - Peoples' Plans Into Practice (PPP): Kisumu and Kitale 


Lead Image: Participatory Urban Planning Kitale/Practical Action

Secondary Image: Kipsongo improved water access

Tertiary Image: Shimo la Tewa new bridge