Agbajowo, Lafinsoya | Unity, Our Strength

By the Nigerian Federation and JEI-Nigeria



23-30 AUGUST 2015


Introduction and background:

This report covers the incoming exchange to Nigeria from 23-30 August 2015, the first incoming exchange to Nigeria since the Federation was born in mid 2013.[1] Accordingly, this exchange focused primarily on core SDI rituals, especially savings, and to a lesser extent broader issues of mobilization, building Federation leadership structures, and launching the Nigerian Urban Poor Fund.

Participants included members of the Nigerian Federation (Lagos and Port Harcourt), JEI staff (Lagos and Port Harcourt), and representatives from the Ghanaian Federation and Peoples Dialogue, Ghana. Unfortunately participants from Kenya and the SDI Secretariat were unable to attend due to visa issues and conflicts in scheduling.

The weeklong exchange involved time both at the Federation/JEI office in Lagos and in the field in communities where the Federation is active. Accordingly, a variety of learning and exchange techniques were utilized, including ‘classroom’ lectures and interactive dialogues on theory as well as practical exercises in the field. At the start of each day of the exchange, participants reflected on the previous day’s activities and reviewed the objectives and schedule of the day ahead.


Opening session:

The exchange began with excited chants of “Agbajowo-Lafinsoya! Ogboriboisime-Nyo! Odudu-Odudu!” – meaning “Unity-Our Strength!” in three of the many languages of the Nigerian Federation. Over 75 savers from different informal settlements across Lagos had gathered together at the Federation/JEI office in Lagos, together with two visitors from the newly launched Port Harcourt chapter, eager to exchange with their Ghanaian counterparts. The exchange had just begun.

The Lagos chapter of the Nigerian Federation led the opening session, which included individual saver introductions and an overview of the objectives of the weeklong exchange. Thereafter, the Nigerian Federation gave a brief introduction comprising of the history of savings groups and Federation mobilization in Nigeria. Subsequently, Haruna of the Ghanaian Federation introduced the Ghanaian Federation, his savings group, and their activities/accomplishments. He carefully explained the relationship between federation members, the supporting NGO, and SDI. This introductory session served to launch the exchange, enable Federation members to get to know one another, and also for everyone to raise the important questions and issues that they wanted addressed during the week.


PHOTO: Opening session at Federation/JEI office in Lagos, with over 75 Federation members from more than 20 different savings groups in attendance

At the end of the day, there was a deliberation on how to revise the schedule to simplify and focus, and also better accommodate the core issues raised during the day’s program and facing the Nigerian Federation more broadly at this stage in their development – SDI core rituals, leadership development, and mobilization.


Exchange objectives:

During the course of an open session on Day 1 of the exchange, the Nigerian Federation agreed to the following list of priorities for the exchange:

  1. Savings (techniques for mobilization of new groups) and loans (within groups)
  2. Federation leadership structures and qualities (by understanding how leadership structures developed in Ghana, and reflecting on the Nigerian Federation’s development to date)
  3. UPF (how to launch, manage the fund, keep records, and explain benefits)


Savings, loans, and UPF:

During the exchange, more emphasis and attention was given to savings than any other topic. Given the size of Lagos, and challenges of bringing most of the Federation membership to a single location, it was agreed that the exchange would move to different zones around the city and convene larger groups of savers who lived close to those areas so as to enable broader Federation participation. Four locations were chosen: Orisumnibare (Apapa LGA), Tarkwa Bay (far out islands), Otodo Gbame (Lekki peninsula), and Bishop Koji (Amuwo-Odofin LGA islands)

On Day 2, the exchange was taken to Orisunmibare informal settlement for a convening of over 10 savings groups to discuss local savings and loan practices. Orisunmibare informal settlement was chosen for this meeting because 2 of the 3 savings groups located in the community have successfully initiated loaning within savings groups. Loaning is not presently widely practiced across the Nigerian Federation, and therefore Orisunmibare served as a good ‘learning ground’ for the rest of the Federation. The meeting held in Orisunmibare was interactive, including presentations by the Ghanaian delegates and several beneficiaries of the loaning schemes who explained how they had used the loans, and why they were helpful.

After the session on savings groups and lunch provided by Orisunmibare savers, the Nigerian Federation and Ghanaian Federation supported community-led profiling in neighboring Abete-Ojora community – in response to an urgent request by savings groups there for profiling to take place during the week of the exchange (see Profiling and Mapping section of this report).


PHOTO: Comfort Akinde of the Nigerian Federation explains the savings and loans practices in her savings group in Orisunmibare

On Day 3, in response to requests by the Okun Ayo – a settlement neighboring Tarkwa Bay on the far-out islands facing the Atlantic Ocean – to join the Nigerian Federation, participants in the exchange visited the community to explain what is the Federation, what are the benefits of becoming savers, and how to start a savings group. After a long discussion with the community, a new savings group was launched, named “The Young Shall Grow,” with over 15 members contributing during the initial collection. Simultaneously the Nigerian Federation and Ghanaian Federation supported community-led profiling and mapping in Okun Ayo to gathering basic information about the community and the challenges they face.


PHOTO: JEI’s Lagos Coordinator Rasheed Shittu with members of the Nigerian Federation launching a “The Young Shall Grow” savings group at Okun Ayo community

Savings practices were the focus again on Day 4 when the exchange participants visited Otodo Gbame informal settlement. Otodo Gbame is a community situated on the shore of the Lagos Lagoon in Lekki Phase 1, a predominantly Egun settlement whose principle occupation is fishing and fish smoking. Otodo Gbame is an important site for a Federation meeting because there are 36 active savings groups within the community – the largest number of savings groups in any informal settlement in Nigeria. Over 100 people attended the meeting, eager to benefit from the incoming exchange. The meeting lasted for 5 hours, with great presentations from the Ghanaian delegates – especially Aisha from the Ghanaian Federation who spoke about savings and upgrading at Ashaiman – and active participation from Federation members from Otodo Gbame and Federation savings monitors. Both the Baale (traditional leader) and Chief Imam of Otodogbame were present at the meeting supporting the work of the Federation, reflecting the unity in common purpose of the Federation in Otodo Gbame.


PHOTO: Savings and loaning training at Otodo Gbame (where 36 Federation savings groups are active) with over 100 savers in attendance

During the program in Otodo Gbame, Salifu from People’s Dialogue in Ghana, and Haruna and Aisha from the Ghanaian Federation taught extensively on savings. The highlight of that particular meeting was when Aisha from the Ghanaian Federation addressed the community, showing them her passbook and telling them her personal motive for saving. The women were particularly excited to see and hear her speak – especially the story of the Aishaman apartment complex built by the Ghanaian Federation – and were motivated to save more and “save with purpose.”

On Day 5, back at the Federation/JEI office, the exchange participants together held a reflection session on the meetings and discussions that had been held during the exchange. Members of the Nigerian Federation recognized the effect Aisha had on the audience at Otodo-Gbame and took her as a case study, identifying what she did to connect deeply with her audience, including:

  1. She spoke with passion
  2. She was able to break down complex terms to the understanding of her audience
  3. She spoke using examples when necessary and stories
  4. She moved them by speaking in a heart touching and personal way
  5. She spoke showing pictures and using props
  6. She has had consistent practice
  7. She was confident

During this session on reflections on savings and loans practices, Salifu with input from Haruna, Aisha and JEI gave the core federation leaders in Nigeria a detailed lecture on savings practices. This was partly to demonstrate the way that savings is explained in Ghana, as well as to distinguish daily savings from other kinds of savings, and tackle some outstanding questions from the Nigerian Federation. This session covered the following topics:

  • Why do we save? (an interactive session with the Nigerian Federation)
  • Different types of savings in Ghana
    • Ordinary savings
    • UPF savings
    • Pension and insurance savings (Ghanaian Federation testing this practice now)
  • Tackling a big question from the Nigerian Federation:
    • Q: What if we meet a savings group already on ground?
    • A: Understand their savings group/practice (structure, purpose, how it is controlled) and compare with the Federation savings group practice. Then if they want to join the Federation, help them transition into a Federation savings group.
  • Savings group structure in Ghana, key positions and roles/responsibilities:
    • Collector
    • Treasurer
    • Loan Officer
    • Loan Committee
    • Book keepers

Haruna concluded this session by explaining the risks associated with giving loans in a savings group and encouraged the Nigerian Federation to brainstorm on ways to ensure that loans get paid back within savings groups – warning that if they do not, it can be very challenging for the savings group to survive.

The next topic of discussion was launching the Urban Poor Fund in Nigeria. Core members of the Nigerian Federation have recently introduced UPF savings to a number of the most established savings groups in Lagos. This step was supported by the printing of new savings passbooks that now include a column for UPF contributions, which are now being distributed to Federation members in Lagos and Port Harcourt. However, many questions and uncertainty remained about how the fund is supposed to work, who manages the fund, and what the benefits are, including how to leverage UPF savings to access the UPFI. Therefore, the Ghanaian Federation and NGO representatives took time to educate core members of the Nigerian Federation, answer questions, and discuss the need for future exchange.

This conversation was led primarily by Haruna of the Ghanaian Federation, with support from Salifu of Peoples Dialogue. They explained that the primary benefit of UPF savings is that it attracts potential funds to communities to support development and upgrading projects. They additionally told the story about how the Ghanaian Federation established their UPF. The Nigerian Federation concluded that they would continue to encourage UPF contributions from all Federation members (thus far only a small number have contributed), but that they would be recorded in their savings passbooks and, for the time being, kept within the savings groups – and only transferred to a central fund once there was a clear and comprehensive plan on how the fund would be managed. The Nigerian Federation agreed that they will continue working toward elaborating their plan for UPF management as a next step.

On Day 6, the last full day of the exchange, the Nigerian Federation convened a meeting at Bishop Koji settlement of savers from 6 communities on the islands off of Apapa Wharf – the third sub-region within Lagos where the Nigerian Federation has been most active. The meeting was led by the Nigerian Federation with support from Aisha of the Ghanaian Federation and was primarily aimed at mobilizing and encouraging savers to continue to engage in federation processes.


PHOTO: Salifu of Peoples’ Dialogue (Ghana) sharing his experience federation building in Ghana with Federation members at Bishop Koji with savers from 6 different communities in attendance


Profiling and mapping:

Because the Nigerian Federation has been using profiling as a tool to mobilize more informal settlements to join in Federation activities and start savings groups, as well as map out and identify all of the informal settlements in Lagos, the Nigerian Federation thought it important that the exchange touch on the profiling methods used in Nigeria, accomplishments thus far, and the goals ahead.

Accordingly, alongside meetings focused on savings and loans taking place in Orisunmibare on Day 2, a portion of the Nigerian Federation led a profiling and mapping exercise in neighboring Abete Ojora community. Similarly, in Okun Ayo on Day 3, a portion of the Ghanaian Federation demonstrated how they organize savings mobilization and outreach in Okun Ayo. By the Nigerian Federation leading during the first profiling exercise, and the Ghanaian Federation leading during the second exercise, we were able to learn from each others’ strengths and weaknesses which informed broader conversations about the profiling process, techniques, purpose, and outcomes.


PHOTO: Kayode, Comfort, Paul, and Emmanuel of the Nigerian Federation training Abete Ojora community on household tally as part of profiling process


Federation leadership:

A secondary, but very important thread of the exchange was the theme of federation leadership. This topic was first discussed at length on the day that the Ghanaians arrived in Lagos, before the formal exchange program commenced. This initial conversation was primarily between the Ghanaian Federation members present, and core members of the Nigerian Federation. Discussions began with the issue of how the Federation broke with RUDI, and its founder. The Ghanaian Federation members were eager to have a better understanding of what specifically happened to force the Federation to break away. The Nigerian Federation explained that the founder of RUDI tried to leverage the Federation’s members for his political campaign for local office, started a personal loan scheme that corrupted Federation’s savings processes, threatened with physical violence (through his vigilante force) anyone who dared to disagree with him, and extorted money from a number of community leaders for them to be eligible to receive promised future payouts of “SDI money” in return. Furthermore, they explained that the leadership of RUDI was not made up of Federation members, but instead was comprised primarily of male elders from a select group of communities in Mainland Lagos. For all of the above reasons, the Nigerian Federation is relieved to have moved on and hasn’t looked back since the split with RUDI. However, the transition was difficult. The most challenging aspect was explaining the split to some of the less active Federation members who weren’t involved in the negotiations and fall-out with RUDI. Although, with time, this has become less and less an issue as the Federation continues to grow.

The Ghanaian Federation members explained that they were not surprised that the Nigerian Federation had to go through this transition, and likely there would be many more to come. They further explained that every federation goes through such struggles, and the important thing is to learn from the experience and build back stronger. Additionally, the Ghanaian Federation advised the Nigerian Federation, based on their own experiences, not to mix politics with savings no matter the promise or prospects – as doing so will undoubtedly give rise to problems. The Nigerian Federation explained that they take several lessons from the experience – that political campaigns and federation-mobilization can’t be intermingled, that leaders of the Nigerian Federation must be savers who are active in trying to advance federation aims and objectives, and that central loan schemes to individual savers corrupt savings practices and undermine savings groups, among others.

Later in the week, on Day 5, we revisited the issue of federation leadership during a daylong reflection on where the Nigerian Federation is today, and what the way forward is. The team from Ghana threw more light on the issue of leadership within federations by explaining the evolution of the leadership structure in Ghana over the nearly 15 years’ history of the Ghanaian Federation. The Lagos chapter of the Nigerian Federation sat in rapt attention, taking furious notes, especially during the stories of leadership crisis in the early years of the Ghanaian Federation. The Ghanaian federation went on to describe the first round of leadership structures put in place during an annual Federation retreat around 2005 – and more recent adjustments to the Federation leadership structures based on their study of leadership structures in 5 different countries’ Federation leadership structures. They explained that today they have four distinct levels of leadership, namely: community leadership, zonal leadership, regional leadership and national leadership. However, they explained, this leadership structure didn’t come into existence over night, and that the Nigerian Federation should not rush to establish structures prematurely.

Instead, the Ghanaians challenged the Nigerian Federation to develop second-tier of leadership where experienced federation members identify and train others to be able to lead certain processes as well. The Ghanaian Federation members pointed out, however, that typically what happens is that active federation members try to act as gate-keepers – preventing others from coming up so that the benefits and opportunities can be shared amongst a smaller group of people. JEI-Nigeria reflected that they agreed second-tier leadership is the biggest challenge that the Nigerian Federation faces today, and that if second-tier leadership is successfully developed, the federation will grow exponentially and more quickly advance towards meeting their goals.


Outcomes and next steps:

During Day 5 and Day 6 of the exchange, core members of the Nigerian Federation held meetings to think about how to strengthen the Nigerian Federation and simultaneously bringing in new practices, such as UPF savings. Among the reflections and conclusions reached, the Nigerian Federation decided they need to convene more trainings to build the capacity savings monitors, profiling facilitators, and the key members of savings groups such as the collectors and treasurers. They additionally concluded that they would request for more opportunities for exchange – both internally within Nigeria and externally with other federations in the SDI network – so that they could deepen their understanding and skills.


PHOTO: “Profiling = putting our communities on the map” is a slogan of the Nigerian Federation – here pictured on their way back from Okun Ayo where together with visitors from Ghana they carried out a complete community-led profiling, tally, and mapping process, as well as launched Okun Ayo’s first savings group



[1] The Federation in Lagos was born out of two prior incoming exchanges to Nigeria in June and August 2013, which focused on house-numbering, mapping and enumeration of the informal settlements in Mpape, Abuja, and in Badia East, Lagos, due to both settlements being under threat of eviction. The first savings groups in Lagos started in Badia East during that time.

National Community Exchange – Durban to Cape Town


**Cross-posted from the South African SDI Alliance blog.**

By Yolande Hendler, CORC South Africa

Informal settlement leaders from Kenville and Foreman Road in Durban are mobilising their communities to upgrade their settlements with better services and improved spatial layouts. Last week’s exchange to Cape Town (29 April – 2 May 2014) therefore presented a first-hand opportunity for them to draw insights from fellow community leaders.

Over the week the Durban visitors were hosted by Kuku Town, Flamingo Crescent, Langrug & Mtshini Wam communities in and around Cape Town. Each day was dedicated to an in-depth visit of each settlement. This included a detailed site visit, discussions on  collecting savings, enumerating and profiling settlements and contributing to planning and mapping. Besides bringing leaders together on a national level, the exchange also connected communities locally: for leaders from Kuku Town, Flamingo and Langrug the exchange comprised a first time visit to the other settlements. Exchanges are thus the most important learning vehicle in the South African Alliance, facilitating the direct exchange of information, experience and skills between urban poor communities.

Day one in Kuku Town: Upgrading & Savings 

Community leaders met in Kuku Town, a small settlement that recently completed re-blocking and in the process secured one-on-one water and sanitation services from the City of Cape Town. Read more about Kuku Town and re-blocking here. In the discussion community leaders took the visitors through a step-by-step picture of Kuku Town’s experiences. ISN representative, Melanie Manuel, explained that


Community leaders share their experiences around organising and upgrading in Kuku Town community hall.


“What we do in ISN is not only to beautify our settlements but to actually change the way we live. Savings and partnerships – like we had with Habitat for Humanity and the municipality – are an important part of this.”

Yet, before partnerships can be formed, a community needs to know its settlement in terms of the number of (un)emloyed people, the number of structures and families and details on service provision (electricity, sanitation and water). This information is collected in enumerations. Kuku Town community used its enumeration data to plan its re-blocked layout and to negotiate the provision of one-on-one services and short-term employment opportunities through the City’s Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).  Community leaders explained that they organised themselves in clusters to be able to navigate the logistics around communication and construction during re-blocking.

Among a variety of questions, the visitors took special interest in understanding the connection between savings and upgrading, especially the role of community contributions. Melanie explained that

“Savings contributions enable us as communities to take ownership and responsibility of the changes and upgrading in our settlements. We want to move away from a ‘free for all mindset’ and restore dignity and pride to our communities”

But collecting savings poses a continuous challenge. How to go about motivating communities and responding to accusations? Flamingo Crescent’s community leader, Auntie Marie, shared her experience:

“Getting the community’s commitment for daily savings is difficult. People only want to act when they see that things are happening. You’ve got to be tough. If you’re not tough you won’t get anything right”

For Kuku Town community leader, Verona Joseph, the partnership with the City and its support in this regard, was crucial.  This became evident at Kuku Town’s official handover that afternoon which was attended by the ward councillor and City officials.  The handover and a site visit completed the first day of the exchange, demonstrating what a tangible community-government partnership can look like.


Exchange participants join handover ceremony in Kuku Town. 


Kuku Town site visit: Inspecting water and sanitation units provided by the City. 

Day two in Flamingo Crescent: Re-blocking and Partnerships

Flamingo Crescent is about to begin re-blocking and – in partnership with the City of Cape Town – is set to receive one-on-one services. On a walkabout through the smoke and dust-filled pathways community leaders received a thorough impression of the settlement’s layout. Most structures – consisting of old cardboard, zinc, timber and plastic pieces – are situated around a broad, u-shaped pathway that is intersected by smaller, narrow footpaths. Flamingo’s population of about 450 people resides in 104 structures. The entire settlement makes use of only 2 taps and 14 chemical toilets that are emptied three times a week. The absence of electricity means that fire is used as a central source for cooking and warmth.


In a nearby community hall, Flamingo’s steering committee explained its relationship with ISN and the challenge of collecting savings contributions due to its high unemployment rate (50%). Flamingo’s enumeration acted as a powerful entry point to negotiating an improved layout and service provision with the City of Cape Town. Together with students from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (USA) the community designed the re-blocked layout and conceptualised plans for a crèche and a play park.  Later, the visitors joined the steering committee’s meeting with a Cape Town City official who provided an update on the City’s contribution to upgrading.  For the visitors this was of particular value as it emphasised the crucial role of partnerships and the number of actors involved in a given project. The question at the forefront of many minds was: how can we do this in our communities at home?



For Auntie Marie, Flamingo community leader, it is evident that

“If it wasn’t for ISN, I don’t know where we would be. Through ISN we were introduced to the City and we got a partnership. We started thinking, ‘Now something is going to happen’. Flamingo is going to be re-blocked!”


Check back here in the coming days for more on this exchange. In addition, you can take a look at an additional report on the exchange, put together by the Durban representatives, here

Using Enumerations for Upgrading: Namibia to Cape Town Learning Exchange

Namibia to Langrug

By Namibia Housing Acton Group (NHAG) & Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN)

The below report refers to an exchange that took place from 6 – 8 March 2013. 

Purpose of the Exchange:

The exchange was initiated by the Namibia Housing Action Group (NHAG), supporting NGO for the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN), in order to expose municipal officials, the federation members and the NGO itself to upgrading as a result of an enumeration process. The municipal officials and community members on the exchange are directly or indirectly involved in the Community Land Information Program (CLIP), Namibia’s version of the enumeration process. Upgrading as a result of this enumeration process has not yet taken place. Cape Town and Stellenbosch provided a great platform for the exchange delegates to learn and influence a change in mind-set and the promotion of a bottom up approach to planning procedures in their local authorities and influence national government policy in the future.

Langrug Site Visit, Stellenbosch: 

The exchange started off with a site visit to Langrug informal settlement in Stellenbosch. Trevor, a community leader, explained the outcome of the survey to the delegation: 

“Mapping is done in the community to identify all the issues that the settlement is faced with. Alfred from the ISN ‘two years back, enumeration showed the community that they can talk to the municipality. The leadership for the enumeration is divided into sections, with each one having a subject to focus on; from health, social issues and mapping. The lawsuit form the Rupert family brought about the presentation of the needs analysis of the community to the municipality. With the enumeration we focus on building up people so they can build communities. Through the enumeration a working team was created, 16 families were relocated within the settlement. The communities have taken the ownership of their own development and the municipality added value; the current projects in the settlements are the outcome of a needs analysis. Community members are encouraged to make small contributions to get access to development. The important outcome of the enumeration was that it helped the team get the numbers to request for development in the area; especially the grey water runaway passages build by the community. As the enumeration provided a clear view of the people in the area that are affected by different issues, support groups have been formed for health issues. The washroom facility was one of the main outcomes from the project, the community members are assisting in the construction and small contributions will have to be made by the members for the sustaining and usage of the facility. The mapping will also assist the community in the re-blocking process.” 

There was also a short introductory meeting with the Stellenbosch Municipality to give an overview of the relationship that has developed between the community and the municipality.

Namibia to Langrug

Mshini Wam settlement, Cape Town

The community facilitators from the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) showed the delegation around, explaining the process of re-blocking and the benefits it brought and will bring in the future. Since the structures have been re-arranged there are clear pathways for the community members to easily move around the settlement. The creation of space between the clusters formed provides space for the municipality to be able to bring services in the future as you can see in the photo below. The clusters have been set up in such a way that all the households, doors and windows are facing each other, so as to provide security among the households from possible intruders. Within clusters there are small gardens.

Lessons learnt on the exchange: 

  • Municipality’s role in the delivery of services through the use of surveys and partnership.
  • Projects initiated by the community through enumerations.  The norm for Namibia is that communities complete the enumerations, present it to the local authorities with the hope their development needs will be made a priority in planning. Through the exchange we learned that we could push for our own programs in the community, such as the establishment of support groups and the community contribution to facilities.
  • There is a need to have agreements signed with the local authorities in order to have a greater understanding of the roles and responsibilities when it comes to involving the community in upgrading.
  • The budgeting system of the Stellenbosch municipality provided a clear picture on how to prioritize funds for communities involved in upgrading
  • Communities pushing the local authority for an upgrading plan to be jointly developed.

 The relationships developed on the exchange are important as now the different local authorities have an in-depth understanding of the possible outcomes of enumerations. The federation members and the local authority officials interacted on the exchange thus creating an opportunity to foster an “open door approach” with local government which could lead to important meetings around enumerations and settlement upgrading.

Impacts of the exchange on projects and relationships in Namibia:

  • The federation members will start working on programs with the community to promote upgrading options. This will change the normal procedure of always waiting for the municipality to deliver on upgrading. Communities will start working on programs to support each other.
  • Planning the layout with the Gobabis municipality to re-block Freedom square (Damara block) informal settlement
  • Municipality of Grootfontein to find an approach to involving the community in settlement development programs and signing an agreement with the NHAG and SDFN
  • The Community development officer from Keetmanshoop to use the community approach to managing the new reception area in the town.
  • Keetmanshoop municipality to strengthen relationship with the community. Work together on finding solutions to the communities housing and service issues in informal settlements.
  • Strengthening of collaboration and cooperation on enumerations
  • Possible inclusion of the community in the Targeted Intervention Program for Employment Creation and Economic Growth (TIPEEG). 

Namibia to Langrug

Namibian Delegation. from left; Community Development Officer Gobabis, Councilor Keetmanshoop, SDFN member Keetmanshoop , Community Development Keetmanshoop, Councilor Gobabis. Back; Municipal CEO Grootfontein


SDI Invited to Explore Links in Lima, Peru

By Anaclaudia Rossbach (Rede Interecao, Brasil), Celine D´Cruz (SDI Coordinator) and Maria E. Torrico (Red Interaccion, Bolivia)

Participants: (i) from Secretariat, Celine D´Cruz; (ii) from Bolivia, Maria Eugenia Torrico and Elizabeth Bustos; (iii) from Brazil, Eli Sandra Santana and Anacláudia Rossbach.

Municipalities visited: within Lima metropolitan area – Puente Piedra, San Juan de Miraflores and San Juan de Lurigancho

Institutions visited: Public Health projects lead by Joe Zunt and Silvia Montano and NGO KalLpa.

Context: This visit [06 – 09 September 2011] was the outcome of an invitation to Celine/SDI after she was invited to share SDI’s experience at Washington University, Seattle to a joint team of Neurologist and the School of architecture. This team of health, architectural professionals and students have been working on a joint project with communities in Lima. They invited Celine/SDI to explore the possibility of working with the mothers groups in Peru. What attracted the team was the idea that within SDI savings groups were more than just micro savings and extended to other parts of the communities life.

Meetings held:

Day 01

  • Celine´s presentation for multidisciplinary students from Washington University was facilitated by Joe Zunt Neurologist affiliated to Washington University and Silvia Montano a local Neurologist in Lima. This was followed by a Visit to Pitagoras School, local partners for environment and public health projects by Washington University, Joe Zunt and Silvia Monano.
  • Meeting with mothers from parents students association (APAFA) to present SDI methodologies and identify interests for a next day follow up, they are residents of a broader neighborhood called Lomas de Zapallal, constituted by several smaller settelements, located at Puente Piedra Municipality. Present: 12 mothers and APAFA President.
  • Internal meeting in the evening with exchange team and hosts Joe Zunt and Silvia Montano. Introduction to Jose Vinoles who will be the local anchor for the rest of the week program, that should include follow up visits at Lomas de Zapallal and to KalLpa NGO, including eventual visits to communities were they operate projects related to public health, youth, income generation and improve of urban environment.

Day 02

  • Team meeting on LA Hub coordinated by Celine D´Cruz. Issues discussed: (i) exchange Brazil – Bolivia to take place on the first week of October. This exchange will have two objectives: a) A team led by Fernanda Lima and leaders from Brazil will support Bolivia on their internal planning process and setting up of goals and targets for short and medium term and b) to explore more about the savings instruments from Bolivian groups. (ii) Exchange to Philippines. Discussion on composition of the exchange teams and a subsequent stop over in Brazil for a small exchange of 2/3 days to consolidate planning and a broader discussion with Brazilian savers on savings schemes instruments adopted in Bolivia. The idea is to strengthen savings schemes capacity in Brazil. (iii) On LA hub expansion. We discussed open possibilities in Ecuador (M. Eugenia contacts) through a local social movement and Colombia through Architect Alejandro Echeverri (Sheela Patel contact). The approach will be narrowing the long distance relationship and evaluate after a couple of months the feasibility of exchanges. The idea of having more countries (poor) attached to Brazil, like Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, could represent a window of opportunity to leverage international funds for the hub.
  • Follow up meeting at Pitagoras Schooll with mothers from Lomas de Zapallal. The mothers from the previous day meeting weren’t present, but Jose Viñoles facilitated a meeting with other new mothers and just one of them was interested on a further visit at her small settlement. Her name is Sarita Garcia from the settlement called Eliseo Collazos Verde and a visit was scheduled for the following days.

Day 03

  • Meeting with KalLpa President Alejandrina Zamora Pariona and team to exchange institutional information. KalLpa basicly operates in 4 regions in Peru: Ayacucho, Cuzco, Ichitos and Lima on community based projects related to urban environment, public health, youth and income generation (see more at HYPERLINK They invited us to visit one youth center on income generation and one community at San Juan de Miraflores. This community, called Minas 2000, would also be visited by a theater group, supported by Canyon Ranch Institute (US) and Jose Viñoles. We also had conversations with Canyon Ranch Evaluation and Program Manager Maura Pereira, present on the exchange.
  • Visit to Youth Center at San Juan de Miraflores. Presentation of mutual programs and brief discussion of possible synergies between SDI methodologies and the purpose of the center located within the municipal offices of San Juan de Miraflores, it is a partnership between NGO, local and central governments.
  • Visit to community Minas 2000 at municipality San Juan de Miraflores. Discussion about community issues like lack of water, infrastructure, risk areas, it is a very poor community with shacks in a private property (owner uwilling to sell and exploring rent). The settlement has a total of 200 families. After the presentation by Brazilian and Bolivian community leaders, the local women immediately reacted positively on incorporating SDI methodologies and 2 savings schemes were set. (i) group with 7 members, treasurers Hermila, Monica and Milagros; (ii) group with 20 members, treasurers Ester, Elva and Rosa.

Day 04

  • Visit to community 24 de Diciembre at the Municipality of San Juan de Luricancho. Based on the success of previous day, KalLpa invited us for a meeting with another community, called 24 de Diciembre (estimated number of 200 families) located at the Municipality of San Juan de Luricancho. In the meeting we had the presence of about 8 women and 1 man, the “official community leader”. Besides the presence of the community leader we managed to set up a savings group with the 8 women present, 2 treasurers, Marta and Wilma.
  • Conclusion meeting with KalLpa team. We agreed on a synergy between both programs, SDI and KalLpa and to stay together following up the savings groups located in their communities. For an initial follow up by KalLpa we will send material (savings books) and information, and Jose Vinoles and Stelita (from KalLpa team) will be our local anchors. A follow up exchange is planned by the beginning of December to set up broader institutional arrangements.
  • Afternoon, meeting with Sarita Garcia and community women at Eliseo Collazos Verde (Lomas de Zapallal, Puente Piedra) to present SDI methodologies and discuss community issues. Also a very precarious settlement (90 families), with water, but no infrastructure, poor transport connections and shacks. They are located on public area and are already requesting land titling, what is very easy to get in Peru, even in precarious settlements. A savings group was set with 18 members, treasures: Sarita, Emilia y Mariluz. 

Next steps:

  • Consolidation of Peruvian savings schemes under supervision of Jose Viñoles/KalLpa NGO.
  • Follow up visit coordinate by the Brazilian team on December/2011 to: (i) institutionalize local partnerships; (ii) follow up of savings groups; and (iii) planning exercise with the communities for a long term vision with professional support form Brazilian team (in Peru there is no integrated slum upgrading project, the idea of this exercise is to engage communities on a common dream/goal).

 See more photos from the exchange to Peru on the Peru Flickr page.

SDI Coordinators Visit Uganda Alliance

**Cross-posted from ACTogether Blog** 

By ACTogether Uganda

On the 12th of July a delegation of Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI) coordinators arrived in Uganda. All three ladies are Federation members. Rose Molokoane, from South Africa, who is also the Vice President of SDI, was joined by Mphatso Njunga from Malawi, and Sheila Magara from Zimbabwe. The visitors came to see the latest progress in the Uganda Federation and share lessons from abroad.

Meeting with the World Bank

The three coordinators only had a short amount of time to spend in Uganda, so they proceeded straight from the airport to the World Bank offices to meet with Mr. Martin Onyach-Olaa, Senior Urban Specialist. Also in attendance, were members of the Uganda Slum Dwellers Federation and their support NGO, ACTogether.

The visit to the World Bank was timely, as Mr. Martin Onyach-Olaa had spent the previous week visiting the Federation in Jinja and Mbale. He was tremendously impressed with the work of the slum dwellers. For a full account of his visit please consult our previous blog entitled “The World Bank Visits the Uganda Federation.”

Mr. Onyach-Olaa emphasized the centrality of slum dwellers to the urban development agenda. He made it clear that no strategy for urban development in Uganda can solely focus on the 40% of residents who live in formal settlements. Without the mobilization, organization, and participation of the 60%, urban development strategies are bound to fail. He lamented the fact that urban centers used to be the places where Uganda’s best infrastructure was found. Today, however, it is the opposite: “In an urban setting you will be met with potholes,” he said.

As the key body responsible for monitoring implementation of the preparatory phase of the Transforming Settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda (TSUPU) program, the World Bank was heartened to see how well the Federation has fulfilled its responsibility as part of the program. As the implementation phase of the project commences, the World Bank is encouraging the Ugandan Ministry of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development to prioritize the first tranche of TSUPU funding to the Community Upgrading Fund, as he is confident that the Federation is mobilized and waiting.

The visiting coordinators expressed their appreciation that Mr. Onyach-Olaa took the time to visit the Federation and see, first-hand, its work.  “Many in other countries don’t leave their offices and just talk about the community from the office,” said Sheila Magara. Rose spoke about SDI’s history of interaction with the Bank and how difficult it has been for them to understand the SDI-approach. The World Bank, she said, thought working with communities was too risky and insisted that it was their mandate to work with governments.

With time, however, seeing encouraged believing. The Bank first came to appreciate the Federation’s approach in India. The Indian Federation proved that community managed sanitation projects can be more efficient and better able to achieve city-wide scale impact than public or private sectors approaches. Rose made it clear that Mr. Onyach-Olaa’s visit was the first step in the seeing-is-believing process and indeed it was clear what an impact his visit had had. “Talking around a table is not so useful,” said Rose, “I can tell a nice story without anything behind me.”

The parties discussed the critical importance of the enumeration and mapping work the communities have been engaged in and its relevance to urban planning processes. Mr. Onyach-Olaa asked that the Federation present their findings to the Bank, which will encourage MoLHUD to utilize it to strengthen the urban situational analysis that was commissioned to prepare the national urban policy. The SDI coordinators agreed that this is an important next step.

The meeting concluded with all parties agreeing on the importance of continued partnership as their respective goals overlap considerably. Each party can bring unique capabilities and capacity to the urban development sector and, as such, should work in collaboration and ensure their work is complementary and builds the systems and institutions necessary for development to be sustainable.

Meeting at the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development

Following lunch, the SDI coordinators, Uganda Slum Dwellers Federation members, and ACTogether staff ventured to the Ministry of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development. Having just passed through election season, there are now a host of new Ministers to sensitize about the work of the Federation and the commitments made by their predecessors. The new ministers were given a newsletter highlighting the Federation’s latest activities and achievements.

A staunch ally of the Federation, the Commissioner for Urban Development Mr. Samuel Mbala, chaired the meeting. He welcomed the guests by detailing the strong partnership his office has forged with the Federation. He then introduced the new Minister of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development and the new Minister for Urban Development to the visitors.

 Introductions were followed by remarks from Pradip Kuria, the chairman of ACTogether’s board of directors.   Mr. Kuria thanked the Ministry for its partnership thus far, and urged the newly elected ministers to sustain the efforts of their predecessors. Following a summary of ACTogether’s work, Mr. Kuria asked Rose to make some follow up remarks.

Rose commented on the necessity of introducing the Federation and its work to the new ministers. “We wanted to introduce ourselves and our work so the partnership with your Ministry contributes seamlessly.” She then brought up the commitments made by the former Minister in order to put pressure on him to abide by the promises made before he left office. “We hope we will not disappoint each other,” Rose concluded.

Both new ministers promised they would not let the Federation down. The Minister for Lands, Housing, and Urban Development said that his Ministry will strongly support such initiatives. “As a Government we don’t have the capacity to deliver all that is required alone,” but, he remarked, working in collaboration with each other the two parties can achieve much. The Minister’s request was that ACTogether submit its work plan to the Ministry so that an active partnership can be negotiated. He congratulated the Federation on its savings methodology as, he contends, it is “essential to sustainable development… Those who are not ready to save cannot push themselves forward,” he said. Critically, he promised that the previous Minister’s commitment to provide land to the Federation would be taken care of – as would the shilling-for-shilling contribution to Suubi promise. The Federation will need to continue to apply pressure to ensure these are more than just empty pledges.

Rose challenged the Ministry to honor its commitment as SDI is prepared to contribute more to Uganda’s urban poor funds if there are concrete pledges from the government to invest in the Federation.

Pradip encouraged the Minister to visit the Federation’s local projects and programs and to participate in international exchanges to see the impressive achievements that have been possible in international Federations that have forged strong partnerships with their governments.


Journey to Jinja

On their second and final day in Uganda the coordinators traveled to Jinja to – among other things – visit the region’s latest project – a sanitation unit and community resource center in Rubaga market. The Federation was able to negotiate for a small piece of land in the market from the Jinja Municipal Council. This was an impressive feat given the fact they have already been allocated land from the council for the Kawama housing project.

The land upon which the project will be built had been occupied by a dilapidated toilet block that no longer functioned, leaving the local population with few sanitary options. Indeed, when the SDI coordinators asked to be taken to the nearest toilet they had to take a rather long walk to a nearby guesthouse. These toilets were only available to visitors because Federation members from Northern Uganda were staying there.

The Federation came together with the management of the Rubaga market and decided to work towards a solution for the lack of sanitation (for a detailed article about Jinja’s sanitation concerns please refer to the article entitled “Water and Sanitation Concerns in Jinja’s Slums”). Thanks to repayments coming in from the Kawama housing project, the Federation is able to access most of the required capital to complete the project. They will use the same technologies being employed in Kawama and will use a design similar to a unit the Federation constructed in Kisenyi, Kampala.

The design consists of a ground floor for toilets and showers and an upper floor for a community center. The community center will be used for Federation meetings and income generating activities. Because the Federation will manage the sanitation unit, there is far less chance that he toilets will fall into disrepair. This is because the Federation community has itself decided that the toilets and necessary and have organized a project management committee that will manage maintenance of the facilities. The toilets in Kisenyi are impeccably clean and in excellent condition years after the project was launched by the Federation.

A second reason for the Jinja trip was the SDI coordinators’ desire to attend the regional Federation leaders’ meeting. At this meeting leaders from each of the Federation’s 8 regions came to Jinja to present their monthly reports. The meeting was an excellent opportunity for the visitors to learn of the latest achievements and challenges facing the Federation. The meeting was also attended by Mpummude’s Assistant Town Clerk, who has been most supportive of the Federation’s agenda.

Rose encouraged the leaders to place greater emphasis on the role of collectors and treasurers as they are the backbone of the Federation. She argued that it is impossible to have a strong Federation without strong, committed, and skilled collectors and treasurers. She also urged the groups not to imitate the projects of other regions, but to think carefully about the projects they think would be most beneficial to their communities.

Kawama Housing Project

The last stop on the Jinja trip was the Kawama Housing Project in Mpumudde. Upon arrival the SDI coordinators were greeted with songs and dances from the local women. They were also greeted by 6 brand new, community-constructed houses. The houses represent the first tranche of the project and the coordinators were also able to see the preparations being made for the second tranche of 30 units (for the latest updates on the Kawama Housing Project please visit the page devoted to it on this website).

The coordinators heard from the 6 beneficiaries of the first houses and the 30 beneficiaries selected for the new block.  The 30 were selected owing to their status as the poorest members of the community. Though this represents a significant challenge in terms of financial viability, it is consistent with the Federation’s mission to uplift the poorest members of the community. These beneficiaries – mostly women – have already begun planning for their repayments with assistance from the community and ACTogether.

The coordinators were shown around the site, introduced to the beneficiaries, informed of the project management processes, and shown how building materials are made by federation members.