News Release: Cities Alliance supports SDI affiliates to address Covid-19 crisis



SDI is excited to announce the below partnership with Cities Alliance, supporting  SDI-affiliated federations in their work to fight COVID-19. This programme gives SDI, a long-standing member of The Cities Alliance, the opportunity to work closely with CA on this critical project, aligning the missions of our two organisations to respond to this important and unprecedented cause.

The Cities Alliance programme builds on the ongoing work of SDI-affiliated federations who, through a Rapid Needs Assessment (RNA), received emergency funding from SDI. This funding has supported affiliates to respond quickly to the effects of the COVID-19 in their communities, closing gaps not adequately addressed by government responses.

Over the course of our many years as members of The Cities Alliance we have endeavoured to ensure that SDI’s contribution seeks always to bring the voices and agency of slum dwellers to the centre stage. We are confident that this partnership will continue this effort and will ensure that the dynamism and innovative spirit inherent in SDI’s federations creates meaningful, lasting, and widespread impact in the cities where we work and in the global urban development agenda.

UPDATE: Cities Alliance published this update to the below press release on 30 July 2020. 


Cape Town, Brussels, 27 July 2020 – Cities Alliance is launching a new programme to support the global efforts in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Sida, the purpose of the project is twofold: strengthen the resilience of communities in informal settlements and support the sustainability of civil society organizations, in cooperation with Slum Dwellers International – SDI; and reinforce the capacities of informal communities to respond to the current outbreak and better prepare for future crises.

The pandemic is having disastrous effects on families in informal settlements that are home to nearly a billion people. These communities have to contend with insecure property rights, low-quality housing, poor sanitation, and limited access to basic services, including health care. Common responses and general health regulations intended to limit the spread of COVID-related infections are a challenge for many slum dwellers. Humanitarian responses do not always reach them. Lockdowns and containment measures cause tremendous losses to livelihoods for families that already have limited or no access to social safety nets.

The new initiative is intended to support the needs of informal communities in 21 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Activities will be implemented primarily through existing community-based systems and networks.

“The current crisis has shown the vital need to scale up efforts of organised community networks to effectively tackle the pandemic, implement meaningful recovery plans and provide solutions in the long-run,” – William Cobbett, Director of Cities Alliance.

Against this background, and in line with its global partnership identity, Cities Alliance will award direct grants to local NGOs in support to federations of urban poor within the SDI network in Benin, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Brazil, India, and the Philippines. The grants will be managed by Cities Alliance, while SDI will provide technical support to its affiliates.

“Slum dwellers federations, community groups, street vendors, and waste pickers associations are the frontline actors in the COVID response. We must sustain the civil society fabric in the settlements to solve the crisis. This programme is a great opportunity to do so,” – Joseph Muturi, Chair of the SDI Management Committee.

The second component of the project combines the implementation of COVID-19 prevention and protection measures with initiatives to reduce the social and economic impacts of the epidemic. The activities will be carried out under the common United Nations framework for COVID-19 response, in collaboration with networks of Civil Based Organisations, including slum dwellers and informal workers’ groups in Bangladesh, Guatemala, Liberia, and Uganda.

The activities comprise the distribution of personal protective equipment and hygiene materials, the provision of water and sanitation facilities and the delivery of community awareness and outreach campaigns in slums, together with advocacy, learning and knowledge exchange at regional and global level, engaging Cities Alliance members.

The EUR 3 million initiative will be implemented over a period of 12 months.


UPDATE: Cities Alliance published this update to the below press release on 30 July 2020. 

Turning Evidence to Influence at Forums in Monrovia

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As of 2017, the Federation of Liberia Urban Poor Savers (FOLUPS) has organized 62 groups in 2 cities. In July 2016, as part of the Cities Alliance-supported Liberia Country Program (LCP), slum dwellers in Liberia began profiling, enumerating, and mapping their settlements. This year, the federation conducted the citywide slum profiling and mapping of Greater Monrovia Area and fully enumerated West Point, one of Monrovia’s settlements most at risk of coastal flooding and eviction. While organising communities to undertake this feat was historic, the federation had more organising work to do in order to influence planning.


Based on lessons learned from their peers in Uganda, Kenya, and Ghana, the Liberians decided to organize settlement forums to interrogate the data with the community and extract priorities for slum upgrading and the City Development Strategy. In June, the federation convened its first forums. In West Point, Clara Town, Peace Island, and Duport Cow Field Community, the federation convened spaces for residents and officials to return and verify the information gathered and to generate consensus on the interventions required to transform their settlements into safer, healthier neighborhoods. SDI federation leaders from Uganda and Kenya supported the establishment of these settlement forums, which will continue to be used for community planning and identification of projects to be funded by the Community Upgrading Fund set to launch next year. Collaboration is a key hallmark of the Cities Alliance Country Programs and SDI is proud to play a lead role in community organizing across the programs in Africa.


These efforts positioned the federation as a key player in the first Monrovia City Forum held at the Monrovia City Council in February 2017. The slum dwellers stood out for their in-depth knowledge of informal settlements across the city and their readiness to partner in development of the National Urban Policy, the Monrovia City Development Strategy, and frameworks under development including the Slum Upgrading Strategy and Affordable Housing Framework. FOLUPS presented on their efforts to build a culture of savings and active citizenship in Greater Monrovia. The Liberia federation aims to improve tenure security, services, and housing for the urban poor.

The Liberia slum dweller federation efforts contribute to improved city resilience through building effective mechanisms for community partnership with government, collaborative hazard monitoring and risk assessment, and proactive multi-stakeholder collaboration to develop inclusive urban policy frameworks.

This post is part of a series of case studies from our 2017 Annual Report titled ‘The Road to Resilience.’ Emerging from the field of ecology,  ‘resilience’  describes the capacity of a system to maintain or recover from disruption or disturbance. Cities are also complex systems and a resilience framework addresses the inter- connectedness of formal and informal city futures. Moreover, it enables a nuanced reflection on the nature of shocks and chronic stressors – recognising that the latter are particularly acute in slum dweller communities and that this critically undermines the entire city’s economic, social, political, and environmental resilience.As with personal resilience, city resilience demands awareness, acknowledgment of reality, and a capacity to move beyond reactivity to responses that are proactive, thoughtful, and beneficial to the whole. The most enlightened individuals and cities will be those that understand their responsibility to the most vulnerable and to the planet. Our 2017 Annual Report showcases some of SDI’s achievements over the past year on the road to resilience. Click here for the full report. 

Know Your City: Slum Dwellers Count

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Earlier this month, SDI launched a landmark publication: “Know Your City: Slum Dwellers Count,” showcasing the extraordinary contribution of the Know Your City (KYC) campaign to understanding and taking action to reduce urban poverty and exclusion. Over the next weeks, we will post a chapter from the book to our blog weekly and related material on our social media platforms every day. Enjoy! 

Download the full publication here:

By Rose Molokoane, Vice President of SDI and National Coordinator of the South African Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP)

When I told people at the launch of our Know Your City campaign at Habitat III that SDI would profile 100 cities before World Urban Forum 9 (WUF), people thought I was making empty promises like everyone else. I told people that SDI was done with all the talking. Yes, it was good to talk and get the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in place, but now the talking should end and the work should begin.

Sometimes when I’m in the community, I gossip about the Member States arguing about commas and which words to put in their documents. While they argue, we’re in the informal settlements counting toilets, negotiating with mayors, and building our own houses. I tell the community that we were the ones who put words into the New Urban Agenda about participation and community knowledge, and that now we have to show everyone how it’s done in practice.

If you want to know what it means to Know Your City, I want you to talk to one of the SDI federation members. You’ll find them in more than 30 countries. They’re easy to spot. Usually they’re singing and making a lot of noise. I want them to tell you about measuring shacks that are so close together you need to climb up on roofs to see what’s what; about mapping settlement boundaries and trying not to fall in drainage channels lined with garbage; about going house to house and hearing stories that make you want to cry; and about being chased by dogs and even by people with weapons as you administer enumerations. SDI members will tell you why they go to all that trouble and why they’re always screaming, “Information Is Power!”

After you ask them, then you can read this report. Some of you don’t believe things until they’re in a report with some big words and big numbers. That’s why we did this. We have too many stories, but if we made the report too big it would cost too much money, and we need that money to keep doing our work.

As communities, we know we can’t do everything alone. But we want the global community to understand just how much we’re doing to try to improve our settlements and cities and fulfill the goals we set together. While we’re trying so hard, some governments are still bulldozing our communities and setting them on fire because they want our land. This is one of the things that makes me so angry and disappointed.

In South Africa, our government is trying to understand. Our national government is trying to support Know Your City. Our local governments, through the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG-Africa), are also trying. The problem is that government normally promises to bring resources, and then they don’t. If the slum dwellers can bring their resources, why can’t governments? Governments have already committed to these goals. If we really have a partnership, then each side needs to bring something to the table.

Know Your City is about understanding our problems together and then working, practically, to fix them. It’s not a “project,” this thing we call Know Your City. We have been doing it for decades, and we’re going to keep doing it until our cities change. SDG 11 calls for inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable cities. Look at our information, our knowledge, and our efforts, and think about how it will support all of us to implement these commitments.

Click here to read the full publication.

CoLab for Change: Case Studies for Collaborative Urban Transformation

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CoLab for Change: Case Studies for Collaborative Urban Transformation is a project of the Cities Alliance Joint Work Programme for Habitat III. 

Transforming fast growing cities of the global south into globally attractive hubs of the world economy cannot be achieved without including the urban poor as leaders in housing and urban development processes.

Roughly 1 billion people worldwide live in slums, with little to no access to safe housing, water, sanitation, electricity, or any of the other physical and social services that many of us take for granted. For these people urban development is about survival. It is about creating cities in which they can live safely and with dignity. Yet it is precisely these populations who remain least represented in urban decision-making processes.

The Cities Alliance Joint Work Programme on Habitat III highlights the value, experience and role of partnerships between national governments, local authorities and organized civil society in achieving sustainable development and poverty reduction in cities and believes that development partnerships:

  • Are key catalysts for a sustainable future
  • Help realise good urban governance
  • Strengthen economic development
  • Build inclusive cities

For more information, read the JWP’s Technical Background Paper.

The CoLab for Change case studies highlight the need for local government to implement the successful tools developed by community organizations and civil society that generate inclusive urban policies and development.

The work highlighted in these case studies shall inspire governments and civil society to develop effective strategies to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 11 to “make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” and SDG 17 to “revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.”

This project was made possible through financial support from Cities Alliance and GIZ.

These films were made by youth in slums as part of SDI’s Know Your City TV project, equipping youth with video documentation resources to tell stories of the lived experiences of the urban poor, and make media that contributes to the transformation of slums and cities.

Click here to visit the project page and watch the 6 case study videos.

SDI at Habitat III: Highlights from Quito

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45+ SDI delegates

14 affiliates from Africa, Asia, and Latin America

80+ speaking engagements

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Some highlights from SDI’s eventful week at Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador:
Click here for the full report. 

  • Rose Molokoane, a national community leader from South Africa, SDI Coordinator and founding member of the SDI Network, was elected Chairperson of the World Urban Campaign.
  • Adorned with SDI’s new branding, SDI’s booth at the HIII Exhibition center was a lively space for discussion, and 360° slum experience. It served as a central point for discussions between federation leaders, partners, and key urban decision stakeholders.
  • SDI chaired a breakout session at the Women’s Assembly, producing a set of concrete commitments and requests from Member States towards effective implementation of the New Urban Agenda.
  • The SDI Board of Governors (BOG) met during the week in Quito, chaired by Minister of Human Settlements for South Africa, Lindiwe Sisulu. The meeting highlighted some of SDI’s achievements over the past year and teased out strategies for enhancing BOG support to SDI efforts to implement the NUA and SDGs.
  • In plenary meetings of the General Assembly of Partners (GAP), SDI urged members to support local stakeholder implementation and monitoring of the NUA – particularly urban poor communities in partnership with local authorities.
  • SDI launched the second phase of its expanded Know Your City campaign in partnership with Cities Alliance and UCLG-Africa. This coincided with the launch of SDI’s new KYC website, showcasing slum dweller surveys, stories, and films. This was followed by a Know Your City networking event where a detailed panel discussion took place on the KYC Campaign, including moving testimonies from slum dwellers from Ghana, Liberia, and Zambia about their work to profile and map all the settlements in their cities.
  • SDI, Cities Alliance, and GIZ screened the Ghana case study from CoLab for Change – a project of the Cities Alliance Joint Work Program for Habitat III. Two federation members and one government official featured in the film made presentations explaining the collaborative partnerships that have enabled their success and the process of training youth to document their stories as part of Know Your City TV.
  • Since 2007, SDI and Y-Care International (YCI) have worked together to support the growth of urban poor federations in Liberia, Togo, and Sierra Leone. On Monday 17th October, SDI and YCI launched a new MOU to scale up and deepen the collaboration region-wide.
  • Unlike many events that have gone before, grassroots leaders were given the opportunity to speak at plenary sessions in Quito. This achievement was made possible through SDI’s work over the past 20 years and its active participation in the GAP and WUC. Rose Molokoane used this platform to push forward the commitments of the grassroots constituency and call upon member states to uphold their commitments to partner with organized communities in implementation of the NUA and SDGs. She urged members that “the time for talking is over. It’s time toimplement!”
  • The SDI team was presented with many requests to expand the network into Latin America. With a strong team from Bolivia and Brazil taking the lead, SDI will follow up on all the many requests from Latin American countries.
  • Just prior to Habitat III, the Governor of Lagos, Akinwunmi Ambode ordered an immediate eviction notice to all Lagos waterfront communities. Each and every federation member in Quito took copies of the Federation’s withdrawal demands to their events and raised the issue whenever the opportunity arose. High level meetings were arranged with various government officials from inside and outside Nigeria to build pressure on the Governor to withdraw his eviction notice, but also to highlight viable examples of alternatives to eviction within the SDI network and the desire of the network to support Nigeria to undertake inclusive upgrading inline with NUA commitments. Sani Mohammed, a federation member from Lagos, worked tirelessly to secure meetings with relevant authorities and donor partners. He was able to get an audience with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the ED of UN Habitat, ensuring the message reached the highest platforms.
  • Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and SDI launched a new film, ‘No One Left Behind’ in which slum dwellers call into question the effectiveness of militaristic responses to urban violence.

“Community monitoring of the NUA at the local level will be essential for transparent assessment of progress and ownership of the NUA” – Rose Molokoane

“As soon as possible I have to practice email”: SDI’s Bolivia & Brazil Affiliates Visit Chile

In the last week of April 2016, representatives of the slum dweller federations of Bolivia and Brazil traveled to Santiago to attend the 10th Anniversary of the “I love my neighborhood” program of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development of Chile. The anniversary was also attended by representatives from Peru and Uruguay. Thanks to the support of Cities Alliance, the federation members were able to attend the international dialogue, strategic partner meetings, community fairs and visit municipal events that were attended by the President of Chile, Michelle Bachelett.

The two women members, Elivania da Silva from Brazil and Lucia Choque from  Bolivia were able to share their experience in community organizing and  saving. In the process these women enhance their confidence speaking about the issues that matter to the urban poor and feel pride in their capacity to inspiree and teach others. This is leadership training learning-by-doing style.

According to the organizers “[Elivania and Lucia] had an intense but very [relevant] agenda and presentations in the International Dialogue”. Inclusive cities and gender equity were high on the agenda and the contribution of the SDI representatives was shared with country neighbors and their representatives. 

Brazilian federation member, Elivania, reflected the event “…was good. There was a presentation of each Project and then there was an exhibition of neighborhoods with urbanization potos. We were able to visit in the Valparaiso neighborhood. They told the story of how the community started there and then we went to meet the architecture faculty”.

Bolivian federation member, Lucia, reflected, “I was surprised by the interest on savings because they did not know the experience of SDI and only now I realize the need to assess our progress but also get involved in all the problems of our settlements. Several authorities want to learn more about our organization and as soon as possible I have to practice email to keep in touch with the participants”.

As SDI explores options for expanding in Latin America, strong women leaders like Elivania and Lucia will be on the frontline.

After a radio interview


[caption id="attachment_11426" align="alignnone" width="600"]LEADERS WITH CHILEAN MINISTRY OF HOUSING STAFF Community leaders from Bolivia and Brazil meet staff of the Chilean Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.[/caption]


Cities Alliance Voices Support for SDI Nobel Peace Prize Nomination

SDI is pleased to share the below letter of support from Billy Cobbett, Director of Cities Alliance, for SDI’s nomination for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. Included is a link to the press release issued by Shelter Norway reporting the nomination. 

Dear Consultative Group Members and CA Partners,

I am really delighted to write to you today and to draw your attention to the nomination of Cities Alliance member Jockin Arputham  and  Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI) for the Nobel Peace Prize 2014 ( SDI is currently a member of the Executive Committee of the Cities Alliance.

SDI has been associated with the Cities Alliance since it was launched in 1999, increasingly influencing our common agenda.  Cities Alliance members were delighted when SDI decided to join the partnership and became a formal member in 2008.  Working through its’ affiliates, SDI has subsequently become a  key implementing partner – for example in our Country programmes – and globally, as a powerful advocacy partner. In the latter role,  SDI has played a critical and positive role in re-shaping the global debate around slums and slum-dwellers, demonstrating that they are not only an essential part of the solution, but also the originators of  practical and  innovative solutions. SDI forces governments – Mayors, Ministers, and Presidents  – as well as multi-lateral and bi-lateral organizations to recognize slum dwellers as citizens, neighbours – and future Mayors.  It is also worth recording that the majority of SDI members are women, a powerful fact also represented in its local, national and global leadership profiles.

SDI has certainly had a huge influence inside the Cities Alliance and, I am sure, within each of your organisations. The very fact of this nomination is an extremely powerful recognition for SDI’s impact, and very good news for all CA members and partners working for more inclusive, equitable  and productive cities. We welcome the fact that SDI was nominated by the Swedish Minister for Public Administration and Housing Stefan Attefall, and also welcome the important political support from Norway and South Africa, all active CA members.

In particular, the Cities Alliance welcomes the recognition of the tireless work of SDI President Jockin Arputham, previous recipient of the prestigious Magsaysay Award,  and an inspiration to all  who have benefited not only from his intelligence and leadership, but equally from his  infectious enthusiasm and optimism.

On behalf of the Cities Alliance and its members, we extend our warmest congratulations to Jockin and all SDI members. You have done us all a service in providing such an effective voice for slum-dwellers all over the world. I also call on all CA members to consider how they can add their weight to this important and very welcome nomination.




Reflecting on Partnerships in Uganda


**Cross-posted from the ACTogether blog**

by Hellen Nyamweru, ACTogether Uganda

Do the communities and the government engage with each other on matters of development? How is this relationship? What is the need of this relationship? What impedes this relationship? How has the relationship evolved between communities and local authorities in Uganda? How can we ensure that these relationships are sustainable even in the future to come? These questions, among others, were the purpose of the recent German Agency for International Corporation (GIZ) and SDI mission to Uganda in late January 2013.The team consisted of David Satterthwaite from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), Celine D’Cruz, an SDI coordinator and co-founder of SPARC, and Sonia Fadrigo, the SDI regional coordinator for Asia.

Celine & David Visit Uganda

Jinja was one of three cities to be visited as part of the GIZ project. The two other cities selected include Harare, Zimbabwe and Pune, India. The team’s main focus was on joint projects between local government and the urban poor and the conditions that allow such projects to succeed.

The communities and the Jinja Municipality were very receptive during this mission. The officials at the municipality availed themselves and were very cooperative  while interacting with the team.

The Jinja municipality officials – the Town Clerk, Deputy Town clerk as well as other technocrats – showed a lot of interest while giving their account of how their relationship with local Jinja urban poor communities has evolved over time. According to the Town Clerk of Jinja, the relationship between the municipality and the slum dwellers’ communities in Jinja can be termed as ‘protective’ in such a way that even if some individual wants to overstep then the rest will keep an eye on him or her. Jinja municipality has become a learning site for most municipalities who want to explore the successes in Jinja. Mbarara, Lira and Rukunjiri municipalities have visited the municipality on learning missions to learn about how to drive development in their municipalities.

The physical planner of Jinja municipality described the relationships as a cordial one that dates back to 1995 when research exercises initiated programs such as the Danida project in Walukuba division. Several settlements have been set aside for planning: Soweto, Kikaramoja, Kibuga Mbata.The structural plans to enable this are being developed. A detailed plan has been prepared for Soweto where the municipality will work on roads. A consultative meeting was planned for Soweto that afternoon.

In Kibuga Mbata, consultative meetings are underway on how to best plan for the settlement. People have to be sensitized that planning standards are not an obstacle but that they facilitate good development for beauty, orderly development and it is important to economic,environmental,health benefits’.

The team was keen to learn how community expectations are reconciled with the Municipality’s mandatory requirements such as building codes and construction designs, which are usually set to be followed by law. Such issues are bound to arise, especially due to affordability of houses while dealing with the poor. To this, the physical planner shared that such cases are addressed by holding community discussions around an issue. A case in point was Kawama construction site whose building plans had to be realigned so as to fit an agreed design reached at after several meetings between the council, ACTogether and the communities. The technocrat’s offices are always open and the parties are ready to interact with communities over issues.

Celine & David Visit Uganda

Issues on the sustainability of this relationship were also explored in view of changing government and structural adjustments which might bring new persons on board who might not be as supportive to communities and their projects as their predecessors. To this query, the town clerk shared his experience in Jinja. He is new in Jinja and has been at the station now for four months but he has been working with the communities like he has known them for 10 years and beyond. The relationship is strong and almost natural because the communities are also eager to collaborate and bring development to Jinja. It leaves one with no choice but to blend in and move with the times. He says he was briefed by his predecessor upon taking office four months ago and this is what happens to any new technocrat joining the municipality. This has ensured continued collaboration with communities. A Memorandum of Understanding is also to be signed to seal this deal amidst other joint working group exercises already underway in Jinja between the municipality and the communities of slum dwellers.

The question of local revenues contributing to developing Jinja municipality was also broached and, according to the technocrats at the Jinja municipality, local revenues mobilized in Jinja are necessary but not sufficient to develop and supply adequate services for the fast-growing population. Jinja local goverment, originally founded as colonial administrative institutions, has not been restructured to cope with the fast-growing population. The municipality is financially weak and relies on financial transfers and assistance from the central government. Moreover, tax administrations are often inefficient and not able to properly  account for revenues collected. For instance, 25% of the local revenue collected goes to the Local Council leaders and, once distributed, leaves no finances to develop the many zones and parishes in Jinja municipality.

Cities Alliance TSUPU Projects

In a meeting with the Commissioner of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, the relationship between the Government and communities was further expounded. There has been a change in the way communities relate to the Government and vice versa, especially under the TSUPU project. The Government carried out a few projects before  trying to address the issue of slums in Uganda, for instance in Namugongo settlement in Kampala. The Government acquired land but did not conduct comprehensive engagements with the slum dweller communities. The communities were not regarded as partners but as beneficiaries, and in fact regarded themselves as beneficiaries; they felt that the Government was doing them a favour and hence let the Government take control of everything such that even when the construction was over, the now-planned area started suffering from lack of public accountability and collective responsibility for sustainable development. Soon after the market values of the area went up, because the area was now planned. The people were bought off (silent eviction);  they sold their houses and moved to a nearby wetland, hence creating another slum, (Kanyogoga/Soweto in Kampala). That project was not sustainable because it did not involve the partners (slum dwellers) who the settlement was being planned for.

The Government has learnt a great deal from then on and has tried to take in lessons from partners such as the SDI who recognize that slum dwellers are part of the urban economy. Urbanization in Uganda, unlike in other developed nations, is driven by poverty. The high rural-urban migration is a major contributor, with people coming to town to make a little more income than they make in the rural areas. Upon arriving in the cities, people then decide to make their stay permanent, leaving the unprepared cities which have to absorb these migrants. This tells us that the slum issue is not about to end and hence the time to act is NOW.

The people in Uganda have the power to solve many issues if only they are organized; one of the good practices of SDI is organizing slum communities into a unified group championing a cause. In Uganda, elective politics is practiced and this gives communities an upper hand in deciding on leadership, for example they can choose pro-poor leaders and engage in profitable partnerships to change their lives.

Celine & David Visit Uganda

Experiences of TSUPU in Uganda

The program of TSUPU by the Cities Alliance and World Bank has been a successful one and one that has clearly shown a shift in the way the Government relates to local communities. It is a collaboration between the central government, local governments and the communities working together in a complimentary nature. The program has three major components: the urban forums, the Community Upgrading funds and now the Municipal Development funds.

Urban Forums have been a forum in which the slum dwellers, the middle class, the academia, municipal officials and generally the public have been engaging in discussions to develop their municipalities. These forums have now scaled down to settlement level where we have the communities engaging with their leaders, such as local council leaders, over issues aimed at bringing development in their settlements. In the past there was a little tension, whereby the middle class felt the slum dwellers should not be part of the discussions, but over time people were made to realize the need of engaging each and everyone in the discussions

How do the Community Upgrading funds operate?

All the Ministries are required to have accounts with the Central Bank. A Memorandum of Understanding is signed between the Ministry and the municipality. The ministry then transfers the funds to the municipalities’ accounts in US dollars. The Community Upgrading Fund is regarded as a public fund, managed as the law requires. It calls for procurement of services from a contractor by competitive basis.

The current CUF procurement guideline is rigid because it excludes slum dwellers who do not have companies themselves to compete with those who have been in business for agesThis can be corrected by either revising the CUF guidelines and including a clause which calls for communities’ / slum dwellers’ certification of payment to a contractor only after the work is well done. This is in view of the shoddy work some of the CUF projects portray. (One example is the Masese toilet which is only 3 feet deep! This is very disturbing especially because this is a community facility. Logic suggests that even a household toilet is much deeper than this! Yet it’s a community project, even a household toilet is much deeper.)

The second option would be to register a slum dwellers construction company that would be able to compete favorably with the other companies once a bid is out. The federation has a history of excellent community facilities and they would surely give competition to other firms when that time comes.

Community Finance

How can local authorities support the local communities in accessing financial services?

From a visit to BAMU (Bring Amber Coat Members to Unite), a savings group in Amber Coat market, there is a lot of financial discipline among members of the saving group. The loaning system is up to task with members being fined if the rules set out by the group are not adhered to. This group has borrowed large sums of monies from a financial institution – Pearl Micro Finance – which has a very high interest rate (36% per annum) and collateral of 60% of the total loan required which is very expensive for the communities. The community hopes to continue engaging the municipality to find out how the issue of collateral security can be addressed so that they can access funds. This is however a long shot because most, in fact all financial institutions in Uganda, are privately owned and are very profit oriented.

BAMU savings group is also seeking a loan from SUUBI (the Ugandan Alliance’s national urban poor fund) for the second time. They have a good history with repayments of large-sum loans and it is hoped that BAMU will act as a successful pilot for the SUUBI to be scaled up to other community groups in due course.

Local communities in many municipalities are able to access Community Driven Development funds (CDD), but these are usually small sums of monies not exceeding UGX 5,000,000 (approximately USD $1,899).This kind of money is welcome but it cannot support big projects that have a big impact to communities such as construction of toilets, water stand points, opening of roads, among others. The remedy here would be to widen the threshold for the CDD funds so that communities are able to access them, since they are further limited in getting these funds when it comes to the Community Upgrading funds as of present.

USMID: How does the USMID program feed into the TSUPU project?

Uganda Support to Municipal Infrastructural development (USMID)  is an extension of TSUPU in which 9 more municipalities will be supported by the World Bank and Cities Alliance with the aim of  responding to the municipal local governments’ challenges in the context of the Government of Uganda’s broader Local Government Development Program. This will be done by addressing the need for the institutional and financial strengthening of selected municipal Local Governments’ and financing limited infrastructure investments needs by introducing an enhanced urban window to the government Local Government Development Program.

Uganda’s 5 Cities Program (TSUPU) has been a training ground, and the experiences are invaluable for USMID though the lessons are still being learnt. For instance, there will be need to collaboration with the Ministry of Local Government especially on the issue of transfers of municipal town clerks over the USMID program period. Such transfers have, in the past under TSUPU, caused major delays and program reception problems. There also still needs a mentality change at the municipal council level; the municipality should stop viewing TSUPU as a Ministry’ program but as a program for their own municipalities and designed to benefit their own municipalities.

The mission was very beneficial to all the parties involved as it is always good to get an outsider’s view of how the Federation is working and how the relationship between the government and the local communities is evolving. Lessons from other SDI affiliate countries were shared and ideas exchanged on how we can all continue to build from best practices to develop Uganda.


In Uganda, Pro-Poor Information System Continues to Grow

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. 

In Uganda, Savings and Upgrading Go Hand-in-Hand

Video source: ICMAvideos 

The International City Managemement Association (ICMA) has partnered with Cities Alliance, the Government of Uganda and the Uganda SDI alliance on a project that seeks to transform informal settlements starting from mobilization of urban poor women around savings schemes, the backbone of SDI’s methodology. In the following interview, Sarah Nandudu, a national leader of the Uganda Slum Dwellers Federation, explains how the Transforming Settlements of the Urban Poor (TSUPU) project in Uganda supports efforts to improve water and sanitation by using these core methodologies. As noted on the ICMA website, “part of ICMA’s role in the project is to work with local governments to engage citizens of slums to improve public service delivery, especially water and sanitation.” 

For more information on the TSUPU project, click here