In Uganda, Pro-Poor Information System Continues to Grow

by James Tayler

STDM pic for blog

PhotoStructure Owners (Yellow) and Tenants (Blue) in Mission Cell, Mbale

By Skye Dobson, SDI Secretariat 

The National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU) pushes ahead with its innovative mapping work in Mbale Municipality. The federation conducted a city-wide slum enumeration in 2011 as part of the Government of Uganda’s Transforming Settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda Program – which is supported by Cities Alliance. The enumeration was conducted just like any other SDI enumeration, but because of its role in this national-level government program – active in 5 Ugandan secondary cities – the federation hopes it will set a precedent for the way community collected data can inform the development of municipal development strategies and slum upgrading strategies country-wide.

Following enumeration, NSDFU seeks to link its enumeration data to spatial data to create maps than can be used to generate discussion between slum dwellers and local authorities on upgrading. NSDFU’s mapping efforts were given a boost recently with support from a joint partnership between UN-Habitat and SDI. Thanks to a new tool developed by the Global Land Tool Network (GLTN), the federation expects to improve and refine the outputs of community enumeration and mapping – particularly related to land use and tenure. The land tenure issue is inextricably linked to the upgrading issue and NDSFU is starting the difficult process of disentangling the web of claims and counter claims in the country’s slums that often pose an intractable barrier to development interventions.

The land information tool called Social Tenure Domain Model (STDM), was piloted in Mbale municipality by the federation over the last six months and was received well by NSDFU, the Mbale Municipal Council and the Ministry of Lands Housing and Urban Development. The pro-poor information system is based on free and open source software, is user-friendly, and is a welcome example of how sensible technological innovation can respond to and encourage social innovation by aiding the information gathering and negotiation steps in a community-driven strategy.  

Federation members, officers from the Ministry of Lands Housing and Urban Development, as well as municipal officials have been trained to use the software. The federation in Mbale, which was able to negotiate for office space within the Mbale Municipal Council offices, now has the software installed on its computer and is able to update the database without assistance from professionals.

At a recent reflection, the federation discussed methods for taking the process further. They decided that further sensitization is required to ensure there is no suspicion in the participating communities and they strategized ways to conduct such sensitization in conjunction with elders, local councilors and municipal officers. The federation discussed the need to be mindful of political events that may coincide with mapping activities as these have a tendency to complicate sensitization efforts. They designed guidelines for future training of questionnaire administrators and mappers and emphasized the importance of verification activities.

Critically, the federation discussed how they would use the information gathered and the maps completed. They reinforced the fact that the information is useless unless it informs negotiation and dialogue – both within the federation and with local authorities. The federation determined strategies for using the information to plan for increased service provision and potentially generate certificates of residence that will provide a first step toward incrementally improving the tenure security of Mbale slum residents.

The STDM pilot project in Mbale is supported by Cities Alliance and Government of Uganda through the Ministry of Land, Housing and Urban Development (MoLHUD) as well as the Federation of Surveyors (FIG) Foundation.