Newly-revealed Shina boundaries offer unprecedented hyperlocal data for decisionmakers

Posted by:
Amelia Hunt
Date posted:
Feb, 22 2018

*Written by Hawa Adinani and Amelia Hunt*


Recent population figures estimate Dar es Salaam’s population to be over 5 million, with an annual population growth of 5.7%. Despite the rapid growth of the city, almost 70% of the city is comprised of informal unplanned settlements  - a figure that is predicted to grow dramatically as the city expands.


Many of these informal settlements remain unmapped , with limited knowledge on the number of inhabitants of an areas, building usage, access to health facilities etc. This makes it hard for health workers, emergency responders and planners to make informed decisions about where to prioritize investments, advocacy and outreach. This rapid growth also means that, in Makangarawe Ward, one of the most heavily urbanized areas of Tanzania,  local leaders face a common challenge every day: How can they provide consistent management and support to their community of over 10,000 inhabitants?


Dar es Salaam is divided into five municipalities, 92 wards and approximately 450 subwards (a subward is also known as a “mtaa” in Swahili). Through community mapping in November 2017, the HOT team uncovered further divisions within a mtaa known as “shina” (which translates roughly to “branches” in English). These shina are the most hyperlocal decision making structures in urban Tanzania. Shinas are sometimes also referred to as a “ten-cell unit”, since originally these areas were meant to cover ten households. Now, due to population growth, a shina tends to contain between 30 and 200 households. Each shina is administered by a ‘mjumbe’, a community-appointed (plural ‘wajumbe’ in Swahili) .

Wajumbe are the main, trusted point of contact for local households over issues such as public services, resource allocation and community pain points. They’re chosen by their community to act as their representative to the government and to relay government decisions and initiatives back to the community (such as waste collection processes).


Wajumbe are also responsible for writing letters confirming inhabitants’ proof of residence, which is needed for community members to open bank accounts and gain travel documents. In some cases, health clinics ask patients to list their Mjumbe when registering. Without consistent records of Wajumbe and Shina administrative boundaries, these services can be difficult to access for many people.


In Makangarawe, mappers asked households to name their Mjumbe. Community members are trained by the HOT mapping team in open source data collection tools (OpenDataKit and OpenMapKit) and help with the data collection process. The survey data they collect concentrates on capturing the number of members of a household, as well as the age and gender of inhabitants and the Mjumbe leader responsible for that house. After making sure that community members are equipped with the data collection skills needed, field work commences.  A community member is provided with scratch cards (to buy internet packages) and a power bank, and are accompanied by Wajumbe leaders to establish trust with inhabitants and to cross-check areas of jurisdiction.



 Community member with a ‘mjumbe’ collecting household information. PHOTO CREDIT; HOT TEAM

Once this information was collected, the team could visualize each household, colored according to its mjumbe. The map below shows the clusters of Wajumbe identified by individual households. Each cluster therefore represents a shina — as identified by community members themselves:


Individual household data of mjumbe jurisdiction. 


From this information, the team manually drew borders around each cluster to produce a map of shina boundaries. This is the first time Dar es Salaam has been mapped to such a detailed level:


 Processed data with Shina boundaries in Makangarawe ward.   

The discovery of shina boundaries, and the subsequent mapping of them, will help improve public health services, emergency response and decision making for local authorities and community members. One Mtaa Assistance Leader, Issa Suleiman said, “I need shina maps because they may help future subward leaders who may come after me to know how many wajumbe that the subward has, where they are located, and the number of houses each shina has. This will help ward management and record keeping”.

Despite the reliance of subward leaders on receiving information from the community wajumbe operating in their districts, previously, there has been no accurate way of sharing this information or creating consistent management systems. Now, leaders like Issa can be reassured that administration of their districts can be successfully managed by their successors. Shina maps will also help:

  1. Inhabitants more precisely identify their origin or location to ask for assistance. For example, calling an ambulance to a ward would direct it to an area spanning over 1 square km with over 10,000 people. Giving directions to a Shina, however, which is at most several hundred metres wide, would help to quickly find an individual house. For public health management, especially of communicable diseases such as HIV and cholera, this hyperlocal precision is invaluable

  2. Development planning at a hyperlocal level. Ward leaders have a better understanding of the areas and exact number of houses that Wajumbe administer. This will help to properly and proportionately allocate resources or public services

The discovery of Shina boundaries has the potential to change the future of Dar es Salaam by improving local management and development of wards at a hyperlocal level. Through utilisation of OpenStreetMap, the data collected is now free and open to anyone with a smartphone or laptop, giving community members and leaders the autonomy to utilise the data to improve their own local development initiatives.


The detailed digitised maps of shina boundaries produced by the team will be shared digitally with ward leaders, as well as in printed form. As future disasters emerge and community pain points change, the community mapping process has ensured that local community members themselves are equipped with the skills to continue updating this information as conditions evolve in Tanzania’s rapidly growing urban areas.