Sanitation Partnerships: Zimbabwe Federation work with Chinhoyi Municipality to Co-produce New Sanitation Options

Chinhoyi Federation members

By His Worship the Mayor of Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation and Dialogue on Shelter

This month slum dwellers and government officials from Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi met in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe for the annual Sanitation and Hygiene Applied Research for Equity (SHARE) meeting.  The meeting focused on exploring options to deliver affordable sanitation services to the poorest urban citizens. It became clear that the sheer scale of sanitation need demands a “toolkit” of options that are collectively affordable, replicable and built using established partnerships with local authorities.

While communities can explore what is possible through collective action and precedent setting projects it is ultimately local government’s mandate to deliver services. The development and improvement of partnerships between urban poor communities and authorities are needed in order for policies to address urban poor conditions.  Urban poor communities in the SDI network seek to build incremental partnerships with local government to show the value of community participation in sanitation slum upgrading projects. This demonstrates the capacity of well-organised communities and challenges antiquated norms, standards and policies. Over time these partnerships have the potential for scaling up activities across cities.

During the meeting His Worship the Mayor of Chinhoyi, Test Michaels, reflected on the partnership with the local Federation noting how the engagement has been scaled up over time and opened a dialogue around alternative technologies and the collective rehabilitation and delivery of public toilets.

See full speech below.

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Water and Sanitation Dialogue – Building citywide sanitation strategies from the bottom-up

3 – 5 June 2014, Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe

Ladies and Gentlemen

I would like to start by thanking and congratulating Shack/Slum Dwellers International, the alliance of Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation and Dialogue on Shelter and my council for organizing this conference. Thank you to the communities of Chinhoyi for your support and cooperation towards this noble cause. I would also like to thank all our friends in development from South Africa, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, Namibia, and the United Kingdom. Your presence makes a big difference to us and we hope you will have a nice and productive experience here in Chinhoyi.

This meeting is an attempt to create dialogue amongst stakeholders in development, especially around finding lasting solutions for sustainable service delivery in our urban areas across the country. As you may be aware, that Zimbabwe as a country has passed through a decade long period of recessive socio-economic and political landscape, which on its own has crippled the operations of all local authorities, Chinhoyi Municipality included. The same period has also seen the introduction and realisation of community led development approaches and the opening of development space for Community Based Organisations (CBOs).

I am also indebted to my previous councils for moving out of the comfort zone and thinking outside the box by allowing the piloting with alternative technologies. Much as it is appreciated that the urban bye-laws are there to govern the implementation of urban development, there has been a mismatch between factors such as the affordability level of residents, increasing populations and the policies. Chinhoyi municipality made a deliberate move to relax some of those inhibiting policies and enter into development agreements with community movements and cooperatives. One such example of such a partnership is the Brundish Housing Project, a project that is being implemented by Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation with Dialogue on Shelter’s technical support. The project is the first in Chinhoyi to use non-conventional infrastructure with council approval and I am happy to share with you that the decision has been so rewarding both in terms of experiences and lessons. We have hosted over five local authorities that have visited the Brundish project with a view to learn about how alternatives can both speed up housing delivery and also provides a sustainable solution to various obstacles that affect service delivery. The project employed alternative infrastructure technologies such as boreholes, for water supply and ecosan toilets for sanitation provision. We are also grateful for the support that has been rendered by SDI through their local affiliates, the Federation and Dialogue on Shelter, for facilitating this learning process and sharing of experiences

Chinhoyi mayor

The relationship between my council, the Federation and communities at large has grown both in breadth and depth of activities to which this gathering can be appended to that fact. The parties are now looking at sustainable ways of providing water and sanitation services to the poorest at an affordable cost. My council have been involved in discussions geared towards covering research gaps in the provision of sanitation using an approach which utilises the beneficiaries as key drivers. As policy makers, we appreciate the value of ecological sanitation systems and will continue to work closely with communities to ensure that issues of inclusivity and costs are adequately attended to. I have been informed that the council has pencilled a discussion on possible adopting of the ecosan toilet as part of policy. Embracing such practices at policy level will obviously to add value to investment and assure certainty in the development process.

As we are gathered here, let us all be reminded that the urban challenges that are bedevilling our cities have far much out grown our individual capacities and are continuing in becoming complex. The best option at the moment is to forge synergies and form partnerships, and work as a collective respecting each other’s capacities. It is only through a participatory process that we are be able to sustainably address gaps in service delivery and housing provision. We stand to achieve more through a collective process which recognises and respects communities as equal partners in development. As we deliberate on the issues, let us be informed by realities but think beyond our personal limitations and being cognisant that development is a process with a number of players.

In this partnership, we share an ambitious goal, which is to understand obstacles to sanitation development and attempt to offer approaches that can overcome them on a city wide scale. In our discussions, lets looks at the challenges experienced by current approaches to urban sanitation and objectively try to develop and test new ideas especially their potential their capacity for replication. We learnt some of the limitations of our sophisticated mechanised treatment plants and the shortage for water has further compounded the situation

We look forward to sharing our progress with you and learning from your experiences in your respective countries. The Chinhoyi partnership has shown that it is capable of playing a leading role and can initiative programs and projects to improve living conditions using a bottom up approach.

We have recently finalised our Water and Sanitation Situational Report which provides the baseline information collected through profiles and enumeration exercises. We look towards strengthening our working partnerships and make it more inclusive by having more stakeholders. Some summary profile reports are available for your perusal. Our strategic action plans are based assessing the built precedents and their scope to be taken city wide.

Finally, I would like to extend my special thanks to Municipality of Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation and Dialogue on Shelter staff who have worked very hard to prepare this event and make this meeting a productive and inspiring forum for us all. 

I wish you all fruitful deliberations.

Harare mayor opens Zimbabwe federation toilet block


pictured above: Harare mayor opens an “eco-san” toilet block built by the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation.

By George Masimba, Dialogue on Shelter

The Zimbabwean Alliance for the first time in its history exhibited at the Zimbabwe Agricultural Show. The exhibition has provided a platform for the alliance to reach out and publicise the philosophy behind the uMfelandawonye (Federation) process. In the same vein, the show has also presented a glorious opportunity for the various Federation business projects to establish and penetrate uncharted markets. But most importantly, this inaugural exhibition was used to showcase the eco-san toilet popularly known as ‘sky-loo’ — a technology imported from Malawi. The SDI family graced the show and was represented by Malawi and Zambia from the southern Africa hub.

The ‘sky-loo’ technology came into being following an exchange visit to Malawi where the concept has been adopted and is being used on a very wide scale. After the trip to familiarise with the technology, which involved both Dialogue on Shelter and the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation, a lot of excitement was generated within the alliance. Soon, negotiations started with Chinhoyi Municipality to allow eco-san units to be built so that families could move onto an allocated piece of land. The municipality agreed and more than 10 eco-san units have been built and over 50 families have so far moved onto their plots. Once the families occupied their plots, they began constructing their own houses. In this regard, the eco-san technology has opened a lot of opportunities for the urban poor.

It is with the possibility to scale up this approach in mind that the alliance resolved to showcase the technology at the Zimbabwe Agricultural Show. An eco-san demonstration unit was therefore constructed at the Federation stand, and as a way of heightening the stakes and potential for buy-in the His Worship the Mayor of Harare was invited to officially open it. Among other stakeholders, the official opening ceremony was attended by Ministry of Housing officials, Harare City Council, UNHabitat, NGOs (ZINAHCO and ZERO) and the University of Zimbabwe. In his speech, the Mayor acknowledged the need to support such innovations around alternative sanitation strategies and expressed that the City was committed to embrace such ideas. The Malawian Federation also presented its solidarity speech which described how this model had helped a number of households to access affordable services and also to contain cholera outbreaks.

On the other hand, besides the eco-san technology, the exhibition has also created opportunities for the income generating projects from across the country’s 43 chapters of the Federation. Following the business skills training sessions that were earlier facilitated by Dialogue on Shelter and the subsequent loans that were disbursed to the various groups by the Gungano Fund, it was only appropriate that all these initiatives be complemented by a strong marketing drive. The exhibition therefore provided a perfect platform to do just that. As a result, Federation exhibitors displayed goods ranging from batik products to herbal medicines and building materials, all produced by uMfelandawonye members in various projects.