The Formal Politics of Informal Projects: Part II

by James Tayler

Zambia Slum Upgrading

**For part I of this story, click here.**

By Fariria Shumba (Peoples Process on Housing and Poverty- Zambia) & Noah Schermbrucker, SDI Secretariat

In September of this year delegations from Zimbabwe, Malawi and Tanzania visited Zambia to discuss progress on the SHARE project.  This is the fourth time these countries have met to discuss progress, assess challenges and learn from each other collectively around sanitation. The value of the meeting was found in making it relevant to overcoming the challenges that the Kitwe federation faced, that are described in part 1 of this article.

Representatives from Nkana Water and Sewerage Company (NWSC) as well as the Kitwe City Council attended this meeting and the challenges outlined above were foregrounded. Nkana recognized that the scale of sanitation need outweighed their ability to deliver and that systems needed to be built to promote more sustainable systems of delivery. However they re-iterated the position that they could not move outside the ambits of the project and delivery was slow because of the stipulations required by the African Development Bank.

The meeting facilitated both structured and informal discussions between attending countries and within the Zambian federation. Wherever possible discussions were scheduled to focus on the issues that had stalled the project in Zambia. Through these engagements it was possible for the Zambian process to reflect on the scale and sustainability of their proposed partnership with Nkana. A member of the affiliate Zambian NGO noted, “ …it was like we were set on making the marriage with Nkana work at all costs…”. Could this partnership achieve lasting scale and would it alter the policies and resource flows through which sanitation was provided in the city of Kitwe?   In other words would it change the mode of sanitation delivery in Kitwe to more pro-poor?

Additionally the meeting brought Peoples Process on Poverty and Housing (Zambian affiliate) staff and federation together to discuss the issue. It became clear that their had been a lack of engagement and support between Kitwe and Lusaka on both the part PPHP and the federation. Local exchanges from Lusaka were identified as key to supporting the Kitwe federation process.

During the meeting the Kitwe federation leadership and affiliate worked together to chart a new path forwards for the project, an alternative model for sanitation delivery in Kitwe. While recognizing the need to continue pursuing the partnership with Nkana, other precedent options were identified. It was stated “ we should not put all our eggs in one basket.” These included the construction of shared eco-san facilities at the Federation housing site in Kawama (and the general Kawama neighborhood) that will not receive toilets through the Nkana programme, as well as the rehabilitation and management of dilapidated facilities in Chisokone market place. It is hoped that these precedents will demonstrate to the local authorities and Nkana the capacity of the federation to develop sanitation models that are affordable and sustainable. At the time of writing eco-san toilets are under construction in Kawama settlement (see photos below).

Zambia Slum Upgrading

Eco-san toilets currently under construction in Kawama, Kitwe

Zambia Slum Upgrading

The Kawama community is also building drainage channels


The status quo of sanitation in Zambia’s informal settlements remains appalling. As we move towards the end of the Millennium Development Goals, particularly Goal 7 that seeks to halve the number of people with inadequate access to safe drinking water and sanitation, it is imperative to interrogate both conventional and unconventional methods of provision and consider how universal coverage can be achieved.

The Zambian case provides crucial learning around “unconventional” community driven approaches, especially in the face of the continued failure of conventional, pro-government methods of sanitation provision.  Community systems have the potential to achieve scale and impact through the creation of sanitation revolving loan funds. In contrast, Nkana’s model will not be scalable beyond the 1000 selected beneficiaries as the sanitation options presented will not be affordable. The average income of residents in the selected area is approximately K200 ($37).

The contradictions between the SHARE and the NWSS project describes a “void” in the manner professionals formulate projects.  Both initiatives sought to improve sanitation for slum dwellers in the same informal settlements. If all stakeholders had collectively designed the project the deadlock, captured in the antithesis of community loan finance to unsustainable government grants, may have been mediated. Informed stakeholder input, including communities affected, is hence essential in the early development of sanitation projects.

Despite the obstacles faced in expediting the SHARE sanitation precedents there is a commitment amongst the federation to continue lobbying for transformative community sanitation projects across Zambian informal settlements.  Currently the federation seeks to publish a joint positional paper with the Kitwe City Council and Nkana Water and Sewerage challenging the reduction of the national budgetary allocation for housing and social amenities from 3.1 % to 1.5%.

For Part I of this story, click here