by Hellen Nyamweru, ACTogether Uganda
The partnership between the Federation and local government in Arua municipality has emerged exemplary in the first phase of TSUPU. This is thanks largely to community engagements and actually standing for what the program is based on. TSUPU, meaning Transforming Settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda, has served its purpose to a great extent in Arua Municipality.
Arua municipality, located approximately 480 kilometers northwest of Kampala, and the largest city in the district, has demonstrated an impressive understanding as far as TSUPU is concerned. When you find communities informed of all the development programs under TSUPU and having participated in the actual implementation of the same, then you know there has been positive impact on local governance in Arua. For communities to be in possession of all the community upgrading fund projects’ documents for all the transactions involved means there has truly been a transformation and empowerment of settlements of the urban poor. You can actually touch it! And it is exciting to witness this happening.
In a recent monitoring exercise, communities in Arua and the municipality technocrats clearly showed how meaningful collaborative working relationships can be developed and sustained for the development of Arua. The manner in which issues have taken course in Arua leaves one full of admiration and awe and calling for such powerful collective effort to be replicated elsewhere in the country. Arua municipality and the community have managed to form a web of interconnected efforts that support one another.
Arua federation is now an active change agent in the municipality, having been awarded monies to take on different projects in the municipality after a successful proposal competition. Through this undertaking the communities have felt valued by the municipality; they are thriving and want to go the extra miles to make their municipality a city. It is now clear that collaboration of different efforts is a sine qua non to development; it cannot be achieved in isolation.
Generally, the TSUPU project in Arua has contributed greatly to bringing the municipal officials and the communities closer. In the past, communities felt left out in many of the development ventures in Arua, but from a couple of interviews with the different communities and municipal technocrats who gave their account of the TSUPU projects, this initiative has been one of a kind.
When the community upgrading funds were received in Arua municipality, the news was publicized to raise citizens’ awareness and participation in the utilization and accountability of the fund. Communities started coming up with different projects to undertake and forwarded them to the municipality for approval. The communities in Arua were truly recognized as partners in development and were involved in the selection and planning of the projects. They also participated actively in project implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
The Community Development Officer Mr.Geoffrey Edema, who was working closely with the secretary to the Municipal Development Forum, Mr. Martin Andama, together subjected the communities’ proposals to technical appraisal so as to clarify any issues, and later invited the same communities to go through the pros and cons of different proposals. After deciding which projects to implement communities received communication from the municipality in writing as to whether their projects’ had gone through the selection phase successfully or otherwise. Those projects whose proposals were successful then received funds for the project in their various accounts.
The different groups then sourced for contractors to carry out the different projects (with guidance from the municipality) so as to make the whole process as transparent as possible. Several contractors were considered, depending on prior experience and to ensure nobody takes advantage of unsuspecting communities.
After agreeing on the contractors to carry out the work, communities – with guidance from the municipality – took charge of the process of approving project commencement. A contractor would write directly to a community with a copy to the municipality requesting a particular sum of money to carry out specific tasks, but would not get the funds without inspection of the work already on the ground by the community in charge of the project with the municipal engineer and other technocrats. In this way, the contractor was kept in check and he could not afford to do sub-standard work.
In case of delays where the contractor felt he was falling behind schedule, he would write to the community with a copy to Arua municipality requesting for an extension of the time given. There was no time for verbal apologies or broken promises as has been common in the past; the process was strict and very transparent.
In the words of one Abbas Matata, a slum dweller in Arua and a leader in the federation in charge of negotiations and partnership, the TSUPU projects in the first phase gave communities the sense of being part and parcel of their own development. ‘When you hear us roaring, don’t just wonder, now you know, we felt so much in charge of these projects. we were like people working in those offices we once feared before and just putting down our signatures to approve the millions of funds in our accounts for the projects felt so good, we felt empowered’’ .
Of the six projects implemented in Arua under TSUPU, five are complete and are already serving the communities in the municipality. They have registered positive impacts and they have become the talk of the municipality. What is left is to have a Memorandum of Understanding put in place between the municipality and the communities, especially those that are directly linked to a community (such as the water projects) to ensure the projects are kept in the hands of communities for sustainability and replication of the same in other needy areas. By ‘sustainability’ the federation means to ensure that the project is maintained in good condition: for example that the water bills are paid in time to avoid disconnection and the collection area kept clean to ensure water is clean at all times. His Worship, the Mayor of Arua, Charles Asiki and the Deputy Mayor Kalsum Abdu have assured the federation of their support in this regard, as well as in other upcoming activities for the development of Arua city.
Below are the projects in detail:
LOCATION: PANGISHA WARD
GROUP AWARDED: ALIODERUKU MIXED GROUP
The project involved the fencing of a public primary school, Bibia Primary School, which serves as an educational facility for the children of Pangisha ward and the neighbouring parish Mvara. Before the fencing, the school was in such a state that every person would trespass onto the school premises and the children would not concentrate because of this kind of interruption. The school property was also vandalized; for instance, school doors and windows would go missing from time to time. The school sanitation facilities were always in a mess because they were used by the general public. The school land would get encroached from time to time and there were disputes over this. The school’s performance was low and absenteeism was high because children could come and go as they pleased. Parents and guardians could not monitor them and some would join dangerous groups due to peer pressure in the pretext of attending school.
Alioderuku Mixed savings group, a group in Oluod cell made up of 30 members (22 women and 8 men) wrote the proposal to have the school fenced because of the aforementioned issues. Most of the members in this group are widows and have children and grandchildren in the school and they wanted to correct the state of affairs.
Since the fencing of the school, many positive impacts have been registered: children are now kept in school and they can be monitored by their parents and teachers. The school’s performance has also gone up and it is now taking in more pupils than before. The school’s property is now protected and there are no more disputes over the school’s land. What exists now in the area is peace and a good learning environment to study so as to make responsible persons of Uganda’s future leaders. The project shows that the federation recognizes education as a key element to development. The project has meant greater exposure for federation practices in Arua and people are very aware of the works of the federation, with many having joined after seeing such tangible evidence coming right into their community. They have been introduced to the federation rituals of saving and are doing just that to ensure they are change agents in Arua municipality.
The group continues to save and have a total of UGX 3,500,000 in daily savings and have loaned UGX 3,000,000. They have an excellent loaning system with a strict loan officer – an elderly lady called Alupo, also nicknamed ‘catechist ‘because of her strict nature and emphasis on adherence of loan repayment. Their urban poor basket has UGX 355,000. They have several projects such as poultry farming, confectionery, and tailoring and they are also traders of honey from the Congo-Uganda and Sudan-Uganda border. According to the chairperson of the group, Chandiru Esther, the members are thinking of writing a skills development proposal to try and see if they could benefit from the 2nd phase of TSUPU by getting some funds to assist in skill development so as to continue uplifting themselves.
PROJECT: CONSTRUCTION OF CULVERT BRIDGE ON AFRA STREAM
LOCATION: KENYA WARD
GROUP AWARDED: AFRA B SAVING GROUP
This project involved the construction of a foot bridge connecting several areas in the municipality; Pajulu-Prison, Adiko cells and Bazaar and Mutu cells. The project came in place due to bad experiences the community had as a result of flooding. Arua generally has hot and dry climate but it has some rainy seasons when the region experiences heavy rains that sometimes cause floods and affect many households. The culvert bridge was constructed to guard against such an occurrence because it will divert the water to appropriate channels. In the past, such floods would mean no business between the neighbouring counties during the rains, it would also cause death of young children and animals who would be carried away by the waters of Afra. The bridge therefore would serve as a remedy for this.
The bridge is now in place and has addressed these needs. The residents are no longer afraid of the wet rainy season; they know things will be different this time around. It has also reduced the distance between the neighbouring cells. Nowadays, residents do not have to trek long distances or go through another cell to access the neighbouring one. It is now simple. School children are also enjoying the facility; in the past they would cover long distances to and from school, leaving little time to study. Business is now booming, keeping in mind that Arua people are very enterprising and hardworking with a big number of immigrants from Congo and Sudan. It is clear that this town is growing at a very fast pace.
Afra B savings group, the group responsible for bringing the project into the locality, have all the documents concerning the project and actively participated in its implementation. At one time there was a delay in completing as the project specified and the contractor had to formally write to the group requesting a grace period. This shows the strictness observed in this project and the communities now feel very valued in the whole process. Mzee Khamisi Marjan had this to say, ‘I could not believe the contractor writing to us apologizing for not completing in time but committing himself to finishing over a specified period, this was unheard of, we have never heard of this! we felt respected for that,. I am an old man and I tell you I have witnessed it projects left incomplete by contractors who knew nobody would do anything to them. But in our case, it was different, we knew we mattered’
PROJECT: WATER PROJECT
LOCATION: AWINDIRI WARD
GROUP AWARDED: NSAMBIA SOUTH UNITED COMMUNITY GROUP
This project involved the provision of water in the locality of Nsambia in order to ease access to this precious commodity for the many households in this area. Before the project establishment, the community would crowd around the only available water point or consume water from unknown sources after purchasing it from people who circulate water on bicycles, which in many cases would lead to diseases.
According to the households interviewed, this project has saved them from paying exploitative costs for water charged during the dry season. In the past they would pay UGX 700 per jerry can; but now they only pay UGX 100 for the water. It has also reduced congestion and quarrels at water points. These are now issues of the past, and people are very organized now. From various views of many men in the area, the project has had an impact right at the family level; misunderstandings between husbands and wives over suspicion of unfaithfulness when the women are out fetching water for long hours are no longer there. Some women also reported that cases of rape and harassment have gone down because they do not walk in the dark anymore. In the past such misfortunes were common, though they would go unreported because women feared reporting to the police due to reprisals. Women are now more productive, having more time to utilize for other activities, rather than spending much of it seeking water. Many of the community members interviewed also shared that the water point has greatly contributed to reduced cases of waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid. The epidemics are a thing of the past in Arua municipality. To the federation at large ,the project has been able to mobilize many into the federation and they have joined saving groups.
PROJECT: BOREHOLE WATER PROJECT
LOCATION: ZAMBIA CELL, MVARA
GROUP AWARDED: NYALUMVA WOMEN GROUP
This project was awarded to a group in Zambia cell made up of women, most of who are wives to teachers in Mvara senior secondary school. They implemented the project in conjunction with Arua municipality and they possess all the necessary documents for the project. The project was to serve several zones in Mvara which lack water. According to residents, they have suffered from the lack of water for as long as they can remember. Since completion of the project, the borehole is now operational and is serving more than 250 households in Mvara. Its management is organized in such way that each zone is represented in deciding matters concerning the borehole, including the charge per month, the collection, and security and maintenance of the borehole.
There are five zones in the area i.e. Coast zone, Ndrifa zone, Orube zone, Anyafio West and Anyafio East zones. Each zone has two representatives on the borehole management committee. The representatives meet regularly to discuss matters pertaining to the borehole & water delivery and propose suggestions for the monthly charge to be paid by consumers. This creates a unified meeting after mobilizing residents of the various zones they represent and then the proposed charges are discussed to arrive at a consensus. Other matters of security and fencing of the borehole also take the same course. The federation is well represented in the committees and is doing a good job of mobilizing other members into the federation and into the culture of saving.
PROJECT: CONSTRUCTION OF CULVERT BRIDGE AT OLI A and OLI B
GROUP AWARDED: ARICEN WOMEN A1, A2, B1, B2, C1C2, D1 savings group
This project is soon coming to completion and all operations are moving well to ensure that it is finished within the period of grace granted. It suffered several setbacks from the weather conditions to community dynamics and land disputes but all has been resolved to ensure that the community gets the long-awaited foot bridge to connect Oli A and Oli B to Dadama County. Through consultative meetings between the municipality and the communities, many matters were resolved with a few communities compensated over land. The bridge is set to complete in the month of March and is very welcome in the area. It will shorten the distance covered to access different cells, widen the economic window and diversify economic activities in the area, ultimately putting a stop to the problems caused by floods in the area during the rainy season.
The Aricen women savings group is made of many women, with a few men having joined the group after seeing the successes it was registering. The group has all the documents pertaining to the project and has been very instrumental in resolving disputes around the project, some emanating from the very contentious item – land. They also helped iron out the expectations and misconceptions of TSUPU as a project in the area.
Aricen is a powerful, large federation group (as the name suggests) from A to D covering various cells in Oli. They have a very good loaning system and have been able to undertake several livelihood projects such as goat rearing, basket making, mat weaving, tailoring and bead works, which generate some good income for them. The ability to partner with the municipality on this project has been a very big achievement to them.
PROJECT: REFUSE COLLECTION
LOCATION: BAZAAR NETWORK OLD BUS PARK ARUA
This project was implemented by communities, most of them local council leaders in Arua, but not specifically members of the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda. The implementers have however employed many slum dwellers who collect the refuse in the various localities of Arua town to keep the town clean. They have also provided garbage skips in different locations of the town to act as collection points. The project is doing well and although there is a need to scale up to keep Arua clean, the project has been able to contribute positively to the reduction of refuse around the central business district. There are already scenic benefits and the air is not heavy or filthy anymore. With time, and probably with the guidance of the municipality, the group will find ways of scaling up. Solid waste management is proving to be a vibrant area to invest in; it could bring back so much and provide employment to many people if well organized.
Looking at how the first phase of TSUPU has taken course in Arua, one is left admiring the collaboration between the municipality and the federation and hoping that things will continue getting better and better as we get into the second phase. Community capacity has been built, their negotiations, management and procurement skills sharpened; they have been empowered and are change agents in the municipality. TSUPU has received a lot of credit among the Arua residents as a program that promotes good, governance and management, for the prudent utilization of the funds to benefit the Ugandan citizenry, especially the poor and marginalized, as well as foster equitable national development.