Know Your City: Reflections from the Kampala Learning Centre

Kampala, Uganda

By Skye Dobson, ACTogether Uganda 

Last year as part of an external review of SDI, the staff of ACTogether Uganda and members of the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU) were asked to consider a continuum from 1 to 10, on which being a “model builder or catalyst” was at one end and being an “operator for citywide upgrading” was at the other. The point was not that one was better or for us to move from one (model builder) to the other (implementer), but to understand the ultimate aim of our work so we can find the most strategic ways to get there. The discussion that followed was revealing. It was clear there were mixed feelings in the community and even the NGO staff when it came to situating our present work and future goals on this continuum.  

After challenging themselves to resist proprietary claims to projects, approaches, and information, the local team concluded that in order to achieve scale the primary goal is to set precedents and catalyze more inclusive urban development. To do this, the Uganda federation and support NGO, will need to capitalize on their comparative advantage as a mass movement of slum dwellers and partner and push others toward pro-poor development – not seek to implement all the projects itself. 

Personally, I was satisfied by the conclusion of the team as I had been nervous for some time that as we move to a city-wide slum upgrading agenda – increasingly defined and measured by projects – we risk losing focus on the community organizing that has distinguished SDI from so many other urban development actors. This year I feel assured this is the right approach in the Uganda context. Some recent developments have given concrete indications that the so-called “soft” investments of SDI are beginning to have a “hard” impact on city planning in Uganda, while staying true to the priorities, principles, and strengths of the slum dweller federation. 

At the end of last year ACTogether and the NSDFU began profiling and mapping slums in Kampala.  We identified 62 slum settlements and conducted profiling in each and every one in order to gather data on land tenure, services, housing, and livelihoods etc. The verification process will be complete in March 2014 and the final report will be produced in April.  This is the first time city-wide slum profiling has been conducted in Kampala and the opportunity for ACTogether and the federation to engage in the formulation and implementation of city plans is significant. 

As part of an effort by the city to improve sanitation access for the urban poor, the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) and National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) recruited Fichtner Water and Transportation GMbH consultants to conduct a feasibility study on 20 urban poor parishes in Kampala. Thanks to lobbying and advocacy in 2013, ACTogether and the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda were invited to sit on the steering committee for the project – the only NGO/community representatives to do so. The international consultants were concerned by the lack of current information on slums. Official population data is 12 years old, gathered during the 2002 census, and it became clear to them that this had resulted in a serious underestimation of the present scale of slum coverage and a failure to understand the population shifts that have taken place as a result of eviction or displacement.

When ACTogether and the NSDFU presented their information from the city-wide profiling, the consultants immediately recognized its value. It was the first time the information gathered by Ugandan slum dwellers had been appreciated on such a highly technical and immediately practical level. The consultants requested we share our slums map so they could overlay it with maps from KCCA and NWSC in order to generate agreement on the extent of slum settlement and prioritize the areas of operation for the project. It was clear this was a concrete opportunity for the information the federation had gathered to influence planning for the whole city and target planned improvements to service delivery to the most vulnerable.

In Map 1, below, you can see the map produced by KCCA in 2010, showing 31 slums (in yellow). This is the most recent map available from the city authority. Map 2 was produced by ACTogether and NSDFU and shows the 62 slums (in orange) mapped in 2014.

Map 1. KCCA Identified Slums (From Kampala Physical Development Plan)

KCCA Slum Map

Map 2. ACTogether and NSDFU Slums (2014)

Federation Slum Map

The consultants used these two maps and another from National Water’s Urban Poor Unit to produce the following map (Map 3) to propose a consensus on slum coverage. The green areas are only confirmed by one source (mostly ACTogether/NSDFU) as part of the recent profiling work – highlighting what we believe to be a critical lack of recognition for the scope of slum coverage in the city.

Map 3: Confirmed Slum Areas, Kampala (Fichtner 2014)

Confirmed Slum Areas

As a result of this information, priority areas for the project were altered to reflect on the ground realities  – a big achievement for the federation. The consultants were able to advise government that the scope needed to be expanded to 40 parishes and that administrative boundaries were not sufficient to identify slums, as some parishes are comprised of informal and formal settlement. The development of the feasibility study rests on conceptual guidelines including: “placing the communities at the center of the decision framework with a view to improve the quality and sustainability of services and reduce costs.” ACTogether and the NSDFU have demonstrated their relevance to this process and eagerly anticipate slum dwellers being part of the decision framework in a way that is unprecedented in Uganda.

Last month ACTogether and the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda were contacted by KCCA’s Strategic Planning Department requesting us to support them to gather the most recent information on slums to assist with the formulation of the Kampala Five Year City Strategic Plan, which will include a slum redevelopment component. This month we will present to the Management Committee of KCCA and present a draft MOU for partnership that will enable us to leverage our data to achieve significantly more substantial partnership between slum dwellers and the city – especially as the city embarks upon the precinct physical development planning process for implementation of the Master Plan (2012). 

Here in the Uganda learning center it is clear that Knowing Your City is the critical fist step in planning for your city. The comparative advantages of slum dweller communities to Know Their City is obvious and gaining recognition from an increasing number of state and non-state actors at a very practical level. In Uganda the federation and ACTogether are increasingly finding a balance between technical and community knowledge, recognizing that both are necessary and the challenge is to find creative combinations of community and expert knowledge and practice. As the federation and government learn from each other and adapt their strategies accordingly we truly see a movement toward collaborative planning. As Watson (2014) suggests, this kind of partnership goes beyond merely the debates required to shape plans, and extends community participation into the realm of delivery, implementation and management.


Kampala Communities Collect Data to Break City’s Implementation Impasse

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Photo: On the left, the site of an eviction in Kisenyi, Kampala, contrasted with congested living conditions in Kisenyi on the right. 

By Skye Dobson, ACTogether Uganda

Images of women and children desperately splashing water on their faces to alleviate the sting of teargas in Kasokoso slum (just outside of Kampala) have been splashed on the front pages of Uganda’s newspapers this month. News broadcasts have been dominated by footage of riot police loading young men into pickups, residents setting up roadblocks of fire, and a Mayor being beaten and eventually having his car set alight by infuriated slum residents. The cause of this chaos? Land disputes: disputes that evoke a passionate and intricate set of political and cultural sentiments in Uganda and have resulted in a seemingly intractable impasse – crippling planning and development initiatives.

In Kampala, Uganda’s capital, land tenure arrangements are among the most complex in the world: intensified by one of the highest rates of urbanization (approaching 6%). Attempts by the Ugandan government to administer land have typically relied upon formal cadastral systems, which have been powerless to disentangle the webs of layered and competing land tenure arrangements. Proposed developments all over the city have stalled, completely crippled by seemingly unresolvable land wrangles.

As Kampala city moves into a new era of administration – as a result of the establishment of the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) in 2010 (which established the Authority to administer Kampala on behalf of the central government, replacing the former Kampala City Council), it remains to be seen how it will address the present impasse. Officials in the KCCA express unwavering commitment to developing the city in accordance with the recently formulated Kampala Master Plan, but – as is common with such city plans  – implementation strategies are about as clear as the vision of those doused in teargas.

There is an undeniable need to generate some order in Kampala, where planning dysfunction threatens the livelihoods of the rich and poor alike. And, while the author works for an organization supporting the rights of slum dwellers, this is not a paper that will simply argue the right of slum dwellers to stay and leave it at that. Such arguments cannot and should not be enough to satisfy either the government or the slum dwellers. Posturing on the part of rights groups, planners, and politicians is doing nothing to alleviate the fundamental challenges that perpetuate the acute poverty faced by the majority of Kampala’s residents. Instead, Kampala needs creative implementation strategies based on up-to-date data, authentic and informed citizen participation, and negotiation that accepts compromise will be needed from all sides.

The National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU) has been at the center of a collection of actors – including Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI), Cities Alliance, and UN-Habitat’s Global Land Tools Network (GTLN) – trying to forge such strategies in Uganda. The efforts are only just beginning, but perhaps hold promise for an approach to planning that has a greater grounding in reality and fosters a much higher likelihood of implementation. As a member of the SDI network, slum dwellers in the NSDFU utilize tools such as profiling, enumeration, and mapping to organize their communities and catalyze informed negotiation and partnership with government toward inclusive urban development. Here I focus on three potential components of the strategy being developed.

The first relates to the information required to plan. There has been no census in Uganda since 2002. The budget has not allowed it to take place for the past two years as scheduled. Thus, development plans are formulated on the basis of data that is over 11 years old. Any resident of Kampala can tell you that their city is not the same city it was a decade ago. The prevalence of multiple and overlapping land claims – particularly as it relates to Kibanda occupants (those who have rights to the land, in addition to those of the land owner) mean the majority of land tenure claims are not documented. As a result, many claims to tenure are not visible until threatened residents express these claims through protest – often violently.

The first component of the strategy, therefore, acknowledges that up-to-date data on the city and the tenure claims of its residents is required to understand actual on-the-ground realities. NSDFU has conducted citywide enumerations in 5 municipalities in partnership with the Ministry of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development (MoLHUD) with support from Cities Alliance’s Land, Sites, and Citizenship program. It has also piloted the Social Tenure Domain Model tool developed by the Global Land Tools Network (GTLN) and subsequently incorporated the tool into the profiling and enumeration work being rolled out in 14 municipalities. These experiences have informed the Kampala profiling process completed in November 2013, which gathered essential planning data on all 58-slum settlements in the capital.

Currently, the NSDFU and its support NGO, ACTogether, are preparing the preliminary findings from the citywide slum profiling of Kampala conducted by the NSDFU in November 2013. The profiling covered 58 slum settlements covering each of the five divisions of Kampala. Information is gathered through focus group meetings with local leaders and the community in each slum settlement. During these meetings a detailed questionnaire is administered by slum dwellers in the NSDFU. The initial findings are unprecedented, suggesting extreme levels of inequality and exclusion across Kampala. Nearly 70% of slum settlements in the city of Kampala have faced eviction threat, with 1.5 million slum residents currently facing high threat of eviction. More detail on these findings is presented below and includes statistics on land ownership and threat of eviction.

Initial findings suggest that 55% of land in slums is privately owned (Division breakdown: Rubaga 33%, Nakawa 80%, Makindye 30%, Kampala Central 66%, Kawempe 64%); 21% is held under customary ownership (Division breakdown: Rubaga 33%, Nakawa 0%, Makindye 9%, Kampala Central 28%, Kawempe 34%); 12% is owned by the Kingdom (Division breakdown: Rubaga 26%, Nakawa 3%, Makindye 31%, Kampala Central 0%, Kawempe 1%); and 7% is owned by the municipality (Division breakdown: Rubaga 8%, Nakawa 10%, Makindye 10%, Kampala Central 6%, Kawempe less than 1%).

Sixty-nine percent of slum settlements have faced eviction threats, according to residents (Division breakdown: Rubaga 46%, Nakawa 60%, Makindye 88%, Kampala Central 57%, Kawempe 69%). Of the 58 slum settlements surveyed, 52% presently face the threat of eviction (Division breakdown: Rubaga 15%, Nakawa 60%, Makindye 88%, Kampala Central 29%, Kawempe 69%), and 25% of these are report the seriousness of the threat to be high (Division breakdown: Rubaga 15%, Nakawa 60%, Makindye 88%, Kampala Central 29%, Kawempe 69%).

The 32 settlements facing a high eviction threat contain approximately 1.5 million residents (Division breakdown: Rubaga 524,000, Nakawa 148,000, Makindye 633,000, Kampala Central 14,400, Kawempe 171,500).

Once verified, this information will be critical to NSDFU as it seeks to expand implementation of the strategy outlined above in Kampala and for developing a concrete partnership with KCCA – specifically as it relates to the impending formulation of detailed development plans for the capital.

The second component recognizes that this information, this data, should not simply inform a consultant preparing a development plan or the physical planning department of the KCCA. In matters of land, communities need to trust and understand the data available if it is to guide planning. The urban poor have a deep distrust of the information cited by government, which they perceive to have historically been used to crush their rights and demands. Conversely, when communities drive the data gathering process, it sets in motion a discussion with authorities that is based on information the community owns. When they begin the negotiation process, they are able to do more than demand a right to stay: they begin a discussion on strategies for a way forward for upgrading based on concrete information. Politicization and manipulation of urban poor communities by politicians, developers, and even fellow community members has proven an equally significant impediment to urban land management. This component recognizes that equipping a wider base of citizens with actual information can help to counter the tendency for rumor and mistruths to drive the discussion.

The third component, then, relates to negotiation and partnership. It is clear technocrats cannot implement their development plans without community buy-in – unless they plan to use force to evict all those opposed to their plans. The community, likewise, will not benefit from continued haphazard, un-guided developments, which threaten the safety and viability of their settlements. Neither party benefit from the present state of affairs, which is characterized by both sides shouting and neither listening. The technocrats will only – perhaps justifiably – listen to the community if it can answer the question: What is your alternative? The community, meanwhile, will only listen to the technocrats if they agree to listen.

We are already finding that the present requirements for planning approvals will need to be adapted to fit the local land tenure realities if development plans are to have any chance of implementation on the land occupied by the majority of Kampala’s residents. We will keep you updated as the profiling information is analyzed, verified, and utilized by the NSDFU. 


Taking Water & Sanitation to the Citywide Scale

Kisenyi, Kampala

By Noah Schermbrucker, SDI Secretariat 

Developmental agendas on the global stage generally involve a reliance on statistics. The millennium development goals (MDG’s) provide quantifiable targets for countries to work towards. For example Goal 7, Target 7C aims to halve the global population without access to sustainable drinking water and sanitation.  The official website for the recent Rio+20 conference on sustainable development proudly boasts of USD $513 billion mobilized in commitments focused on transport, green economy, disaster reduction, desertification, water, forests and agriculture.

 Statistics are interesting since they can capture a vastly complex and multi-faceted problem and reduce it into quantifiable terms. This makes sense when speaking to a global audience on a global stage. Results, progress and challenges can be “packaged” into numbers that can be increased or reduced through interventions. The seemingly obvious point worth stressing is that global statistics and the march towards them imply sustainable solutions that can go to citywide scale. Solutions thus need social, political and practical traction to tackle the structural conditions that produce endemic urban poverty. Critically they also need to cater for the poorest of the poor.

While global platforms focus on making sweeping changes and commitments one wonders how deeply below the surface they scratch? Do they begin to unravel the complex relationships between competing politics, history, planning, design, spatial exclusion, policy and practice that are interwoven in defining how cities are and have been shaped? Structural conditions of spatial exclusion are built into the urban fabric and cemented through multiple interwoven processes defining the forms of cities-largely excluding the poor from services and benefits. Proposed solutions on the global stage tend to disaggregate this interconnectivity into different “silos” to be treated as separate difficulties through separate interventions. Furthermore there is a an assumption that solutions, focused on their specific “silos” can be produced by top down interventions at large scales; through adjustments to existing systems of governance and development, through the re-imagination of capital and the introduction of new technologies.  What is missing is recognition of the value of community experience that can engage with decisions as they play out on the ground-a far cry from the podiums of international events

Zim - Dvarisekwa - Skyloo Construction

Constructing an Ecosan sanitation unit in Zimbabwe

The Malawian, Tanzanian, Zimbabwean and Zambian SDI federations are grappling with taking water and sanitation solutions to citywide scale from the bottom up. At a recent meeting hosted by the Malawian team some of the key points raised affirm the complexity of taking sanitation to citywide scale. Examples from the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) in Pakistan illustrate the potential for communities to take sanitation solutions to scale.

Different technological sanitation options were raised during the meeting in. Communities frame sanitation technology in social, political and financial terms. No “wonder toilet technology,” no matter how touted it is on the international stage can have impact unless it makes sense within the local context.  What becomes clear is that it is not the technology that strictly matters but the processes that exist around it; does it make sense socially, financially and locally?

Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) in Pakistan is an example of sanitation technology that “fits” into daily life-it makes social as well as technical sense. The system has encouraged informal communities (Katchi Abadis) in Karachi to develop internal sewerage systems (latrines, sanitary lanes and collection sewers) that follow the natural drainage channels of the settlement (nalas). Organised communities finance, manage and build sanitation solutions that they now have ownership of, and a vested interest in maintaining. Sewerage lanes feed into trunk sewers provided by the state-a political partnership is forged.

Holistic approaches that have the buy-in of communities can mobilize political action and momentum. Influencing written policy is not enough. Government needs to be drawn into collaborative partnerships that show how community engagement can enhance and benefit service delivery. For example authorities in Blantyre can assist in linking informal settlements to trunk sewer and water systems. 

In Pakistan the OPP created the political momentum and practical evidence to meaningfully engage the state around an area in which they had previously had little impact. The OPP also showed an alternative solution rather than merely making a call for limited state resources. It made sense for both the poor and the state to invest, at scale, in this model.

In terms of the scale of investments, in Karachi’s katchi abadis, people have invested Rs 180 million (US$ 3 million) and government has invested Rs 531 million (US$ 8.85 million) in sewerage through ad hoc projects.  Similarly, people have invested Rs 154.5 million (US$ 2.58 million) in water lines and government has invested Rs 195.7 million (US$ 3.26 million).  These households have built their neighborhood sanitation systems, and their total investment is around one-sixth of what it would have cost if local government had undertaken the same work. Outside of Orangi, the work has expanded to 419 settlements in Karachi and 23 cities/ towns also in 85 villages (spread over the Sindh and Punjab Provinces) covering a population of more than 2 million”

Eco-San Toilets Malawi

Ecosan toilets in Malawi

If sanitation provision is to go citywide communities are all too aware that a variety of deeply contextualized options must be available in the same city and even the same settlement. Discussions in Malawi emphasized the need for a variety of options and systems that are affordable for the poorest of the poor. Communal financing and management of public toilets, the rehabilitation and revitalization of government toilets, eco-sanitation models and localized communal septic tanks that do not have to be linked to the main sewer system were all discussed. 

Citywide water and sanitation finance models that provide small loans to slum dwellers are already in place in many SDI affiliates (e.g. India and Uganda) and and could provide the financial backing to take such an approach to scale.  To reach a citywide scale financial options for sanitation must cater to the poorest of the poor within a settlement and it is here that the SDI federations have a vital role to play. A citywide model is a model that works because the urban poor wish to invest their finances and can access a service that works for them through this investment. The scale of investment in OPP shows the impact that is possible when sanitation is affordable to all and makes sense locally.

By March 2010, 112,562 households had provided themselves with sanitation through 7,893 collective initiatives organised in lanes, representing 90 per cent of the entire settlement of Orangi. Collectively, communities invested P Rps. 115 million of their own money in their sewerage system, with the government investment being P Rps. 745 million. From 1997, OPP-RTI started to work outside of Orangi by documenting and mapping settlements and infrastructures and drainage system across Karachi; and increasing level of engagement with concerned government departments and agencies such as the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation and Sindh Katchi Abadi Authority, as well as Karachi community-based organisations.

Sanitation and water provision are not a distinct “silo” but are part of developing strategies for informal settlement upgrading across the city. Recognition of the multiple factors that affect sanitation were expressed by the federations throughout the meeting. Discussions covered planning standards and regulations being outdated and ill suited to informal settlements, the physical geography of settlements and how this affects sanitation options, the challenges of accessing local funds from government, the fluctuating costs of building materials and what materials are acceptable amidst many other problems. It is clear that all these issues are deeply intertwined but often “housed” in different areas of the state, market and city.

Injections of capital and global political commitments are only as good as their ability to understand and engage with the complexity that is on the ground. At a large scale, on an international podium these grounded details appear far and removed, something that enough money and political maneuvering can sort out “over there”.  However as these ideas and actions move from the international stage they are invariably translated and altered only once again to be re-constituted as coherent and rational at the next meeting. Perhaps it is time for the flow of information to move the other way round? To embrace the complexities, contradictions and details that the Malawians, Tanzanians, Zimbabweans and Zambians are working with, to realize that solutions need to cater to the poorest of the poor, that there is no single technological “silver bullet ” for urban poverty and better understand the ingrained systematic links that perpetuate exclusionary urban forms. OPP shows that grounded community models do work at scale and need to be afforded serious consideration and investment.