Upscaling the Social Tenure Domain Model (STDM) to promote Integrated and Sustainable Urban Land Use

Project Profile

Secure Tenure in African Cities - Home 


Project selected under the Innovation Programme Call for Proposals 2019:

Secure Tenure in African Cities: Micro Funds for Community Innovation


Upscaling STDM


  Project Overview

What is the problem?

Kenya’s cities have grown rapidly, but without the necessary investments in infrastructure and services. In Nairobi and Mombasa, urban areas have transformed into informal settlements characterized by unequal access to resources, unsustainable land use, inefficient administration, and land tenure insecurity. Insecurity is often the greatest challenge for settlement dwellers, who live under constant threat of eviction and demolitions.


Where does it occur?
Informal settlements Mashimoni and Mathare 4B, Nairobi County, and Kwa Bulo, Mombasa County


Who does it affect? 
People in informal communities, especially women, youth, and other disadvantaged groups.


What are the causes?
Conventional planning systems and tools do not address the complexity of informal tenure in urban spaces, making it almost impossible to recognize and record all forms of land rights, much less guide and foster inclusive urban governance. Settlement leaders and officials lack knowledge on innovative tools to advocate for tenure security, such as STDM.


Pamoja Trust uses the Social Tenure Domain Model (STDM) to help give informal communities the chance to move towards tenure regularization and better access to economic and social services. The approach has three levels of engagement: Macro – focuses on extending conversations on responsive land policies among community members and government Meso – leverages the experiences of Mombasa County with STDM to upscale its implementation to Nairobi County Micro – uses STDM as a dynamic tool in support of gender-mainstreaming and for responding to youth. Key expected results include representatives from three communities in Nairobi and Mombasa counties trained and supported to advocate for tenure regularization of their informal settlements; county government officials engaged on upscaling and institutionalizing the STDM process; and opportunities created for communities and their governments to deliberate and negotiate on the attainment of land tenure security.


Project Update (as of December 2019)


Achievements so far

Held four round-table meetings for Nairobi and Mombasa County officials, civil society organizations, academia and settlement leaders, which yielded opportunities for implementing STDM in other target areas and for upscaling STDM within the housing sector in Mombasa County. Currently leading in the preparation of the Mombasa Housing Bill, which will implement STDM in the allocation of housing units. Trained leaders from Mathare 4B settlement in leadership, governance, and engagement on land tenure issues, and trained fifty leaders from Mathare 4B and Kwa Bulo settlements in STDM. Formed youth teams to advocate for STDM within their settlements, interact with their databases, and coordinate with leadership on STDM matters. Facilitated Pamoja Trust women’s movement for participants from Mombasa and Nairobi counties to identify women’s issues related to land. Engaged with existing settlement leadership structures previously at odds, facilitating collaborative work towards tenure regulation and security. Participated in Kenya Institute of Planners Conference on tenure security and innovative tools and methodologies for inclusionary planning.


Lessons learned

There are opportunities for Pamoja Trust to engage with county governments through this project. The Nairobi County Government, in particular, readily welcomed the STDM approach not only in securing land rights for residents but also property rights. It is important to have more than one option for government engagement, however, due to the dynamic nature of governmental organizations. Empowering and supporting community leadership with STDM and governance skills can go a long way toward attaining security of tenure. In such community level engagements, however, it is also very important to recognize and appreciate characteristics such as literacy levels, gender, and the balance of youth and other groups. Constant communication with Cities Alliance through webinars, check-in calls, Skype, and email has made implementation easier and more efficient. Skill enhancement for Pamoja Trust project staff from the communication and gender-mainstreaming learning sessions has been particularly useful.


Moving forward

Pamoja Trust expects smooth and efficient implementation at all levels through Continuous monthly advocacy meetings with the communities Quarterly meetings between SEC and county and national governments Learning exchange sessions between Nairobi and Mombasa National conference on models for securing land tenure for the urban poor Development and publication of a policy paper The project will include efforts toward gender mainstreaming, guided by the Gender Action Plan and developed with support from Cities Alliance.



About the grant recipient

Pamoja Trust is a Nairobi-based non-profit organisation that seeks to promote access to land, shelter and basic services for the urban poor. It has extensive experience with organising communities and helping them take up an active role in advocating for their rights.



Resources from this project


Photo by: Pamoja Trust
Photo by: Pamoja Trust

Helping Informal Communities Realize Tenure Security: The Social Tenure Domain Model

Blog by Irene Kinoti, Pamoja Trust


Photo by: Pamoja Trust
Photo by: Pamoja Trust

Project Update (December 2019)



Photo by: Pamoja Trust

Final Report