Solar for the Slums of Jinja

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As of 2017, the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU) has organized 2,052 groups in 20 cities and towns. In Jinja, as in many cities in Uganda, the poor generally pay significantly more for electricity than formally grid-connected city residents. In addition, they are often exposed to grave danger by illegally tapping the main supply, or mixing kerosene with diesel to prolong its use — exposing themselves to respiratory risk and fires that quickly wipe out entire settlements. The federation has been organizing in Jinja for over ten years and is recognized for having one of the strongest community-government partnerships in the SDI network. In 2017, the federation began to organize for clean energy solutions, starting with targeted profiling and enumeration of informal settlement energy needs and priorities.


With support from SDI, the federation was able to develop and sign an MOU with Jinja Municipal Council (JMC), leveraging a 10% subsidy for 650 solar home systems and securing support for a pilot for solar-powered off-grid public street lighting. This contribution was subsequently increased to a 50% financial contribution by the Mayor. The project demonstrates an alternative basic energy service delivery model delivered by a community-based service cooperative with a membership drawn from the regional federation. The Jinja Basic Energy Service Cooperative provides subsidized access to home systems and will work in collaboration with the JMC to fabricate, install, and maintain pedestrian street lighting. The project aligns with settlement upgrading spatial plans co-produced by the federation, university and NGO partners, and the Council to provide visible and tangible change around which the community can organize to achieve more complex aims, such as land sharing agreements. Project finance is managed through the federation savings and loans systems. The project design offers a cost optimization model for clean energy service delivery for low-income households and public spaces in low-income communities.


Uganda is known for having some of the best conditions for solar energy in the world. Although the solar market in Uganda is well developed, the sector has yet to accommodate the majority of the urban population who reside in slums. With this project, Jinja has become a learning center for solar energy solutions, hosting peer-to-peer exchanges and trainings with federations from across East Africa. The project aims to improve the built environment and the lives of the poorest and, critically, build the agency of the urban poor and their capabilities related to project management and design. The project is directed by a multi-stakeholder advisory committee to the office of the Town Clerk, a body which includes federation members and has proven highly influential in the project’s success to date.

The project demonstrates the potential for inclusive and collaborative energy solutions to combat energy injustice and build greater urban resilience.

In the coming weeks, SDI will share the case studies from our 2017 Annual Report titled ‘The Road to Resilience’ here on our blog.  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. 

Building Communal Sanitation in Uganda


This is the third in a series of eight blogs that highlight lessons from community-led sanitation practices and experiences from across SDI’s network and which exemplify our practice. The blogs will cover practical, social and financial aspects of sanitation provision for residents in low-income, primarily informal, settlements. There is no single solution that can address sanitation across the network. This series offers a “toolkit” of options that speak to a variety of contexts. This “toolkit” is grounded in the experiences and learning of the urban poor Federations which make up SDI’s network.

This blog describes the Ugandan Alliances experiences with designing, building and managing communal facilities across the country. There are no capital subsidies for sanitation in Uganda and the Alliance has attempted to build mixed-use facilities that recover some of their capital costs through usage charges. While full capital cost recovery is still some time away the units provide concrete examples of collective planning, construction, management and maintenance. They have also assisted in securing partnerships with local government and leveraging tangible benefits (e.g. land) for scaling up sanitation provision across Uganda.

By Hellen Nyamweru, Silver Michael Owere and the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda

In Uganda, 32 million people do not have access to adequate sanitation. Over 8,000 children die every year from diarrhoea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation in Uganda (Water Aid 2015). In numerous enumeration, profiling and mapping exercises conducted in Uganda by the SDI alliance, sanitation “gaps” characterize informal settlements. A recent slum enumeration in Bwaise, Mayinja zone for instance revealed that approximately 220 persons lacked a location to ease themselves and most of the toilets in the area were either full, out of service or in very bad state emitting a foul smell. People ease themselves in buckets and pour out the waste in open drainages at night. The lack or inadequacy of an excreta disposal system is the main cause of diseases such as diarrhoea and typhoid in the slums. UNDESA (2014) statistics indicate that about 2.5 billion people still lack improved sanitation and that 1.1 billion people still practice open defecation, (15% of the world population), the highest of this number being in sub-Saharan Africa. Sanitation should be made a global development priority.

The Ugandan SDI Alliance [National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda(NSDFU) and the support NGO-Actogether] recognise the seriousness of these facts and have been at the forefront of advocating for improved sanitation in the informal settlements of Uganda, adopting a sanitation strategy that provides improved, simple and affordable sanitation to urban poor communities. The Alliance shares a deep conviction that every human being should have access to basic sanitation in order to live a dignified life.

The Ugandan Alliance has constructed 18 Federation operated toilets in Mbale and Jinja-(Eastern Uganda), Mbarara and Kabale (Western Uganda) and in Rubaga, Kampala Central, Nakawa, Makindye and Kawempe (the five divisions of Kampala city). There are two typologies of toilet. The first category consists of two storeyed sanitation units containing toilet stances and bathrooms on the ground floor and a community hall on top floor. The structure also contains a water tank and a tap. The second category is water borne toilets with a compact digesting chamber that is filled with worms that naturally digest the waste. The toilets use a small amount of water, which is flushed before being directed to the digester.


Photo 1: Kisenyi sanitation unit. This is the biggest sanitation unit in Uganda with 13 stances (5 for men, 8 for women), one for the physically disabled, 4 for children, and a urinal. The unit also consists of a caretaker’s house, a water point, a community hall and resource centre, which doubles as an office of the Federation.


Figure 1: Uganda federation projects


Photo 2: Mbarara sanitation unit-Western Uganda


Photo 3: Mbale sanitation unit-Eastern Uganda


Photo 4: Kalimali sanitation unit -Kampala

From project inception regional Federation teams led the design, planning and construction of toilets with the guidance of the ACTogether technical arm and national NSDFU leadership.

The approach is demand-driven where communities realize the sanitation challenge and in turn initiate talks and negotiations to change the status quo. Community led approaches mean that investments are likely to be maintained and assists in ensuring that other issues are also addressed. Alliance sanitation goes beyond providing units and takes a holistic approach which includes improving people’s uptake of toilets.  NSDFU sells clean water at many toilets improving community hygiene and cutting down the distances many people have to walk to access water. Water is sold at UGX 100 per 20 litre jerry can – an affordable rate decided upon through community discussions and engagement. Federation members usually lobby the National Water and Sewerage Company (NWSCO) for a public meter as opposed to a domestic or commercial water point so as to benefit from reduced charges.  Domestic and commercial meters attract high charges because they are considered to be for private consumption. Toilet managers have to demonstrate that they will be providing water to persons in the community who live under water “stressed” conditions.  On average a family uses a maximum of three jerry cans per day, though this might rise to five or six jerry cans when they have to wash clothes and clean the house. During rainy seasons, community members collect rain water, saving a shilling or two. In different perception surveys conducted by the Ugandan SDI Alliance, communities indicate that cases of water-borne diseases have been reduced in the areas where water is sold.

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Tanzania federation undertaking training on bio-fill toilets at the Jinja Training material centre

Lessons from the toilets

Sanitation facilities have become an Alliance best practice that has been taken up by community groups and partners working on providing sanitation in urban settings. Since the establishment of the Kisenyi sanitation unit in 2004, communities in the federation have asked their local governments to provide land where they can set up public sanitation facilities. These projects also serve as catalysts of community mobilization. People living in the informal settlements are attracted to join the cause of the federation based on these public services. In Mbale for instance, the sanitation unit not only dramatically improved the sanitation situation in the settlement of Mission Cell, where no facilities previously existed, but it convinced the municipal council to award the federation a number of further contracts for sanitation units in the second phase of the Transforming Settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda (TSUPU) program, funded by the World Bank to improve living conditions in informal settlements. When communities witness such happenings in their settlements, they are drawn to join the federation movement.

The projects have also demonstrated a new model for communities to access and manage services, build their skills and capacity in construction, gain employment and generate income. During the development of these sanitation facilities, project recipient federation members appoint a project management committee in charge of construction and responsible for the management of the sanitation unit. On completion, the same committee appoints a management committee responsible for running their new project.

Project management committees are trained in toilet construction and are now skilled in this field. The toilet units also employ caretakers who receive an average of UGX 150,000 each month (see fig.4 toilet breakdown). This amount depends on the monthly collection/income from the unit. For instance, when the collection is low the caretaker’s allowance is reduced so as to accommodate other expenses incurred by the unit. The UGX 150,000 allowance is the ceiling for all Uganda federation projects.  Caretakers conduct the daily activities of keeping the unit clean and collecting the user fees.


Figure 2:Project Management Committee-Construction phase




Figure 3: Project Management Committee-management phase

Federating around the issues of improving sanitation has augmented the social capital of the communities in that the community takes a collective role in changing the status quo of their settlement. Members have learnt that unity and cooperation is very important in overcoming different challenges in their communities. Women are very active in sanitation meetings and make up the greatest number in the project management committees. They are committed to improving sanitation for themselves and their children. A good example is Mukama Wakisa saving group in Jinja, Walukuba West settlement. The group is made up of 53 women who wrote a proposal to the municipal council in Jinja seeking to be awarded a grant under the Community Upgrading Fund. After their proposal was evaluated they were awarded UGX 30,000,000 to construct a four stance toilet (2 for men, 2 for ladies), 1 shower room on either side, a store and an office for the caretaker.


Walukuba West Toilet in Jinja

The Uganda alliance sanitation strategy is guided by the pillars of the federation, the most prominent being savings. The realization that UGX 100 saved daily can make a difference catalyzes the Federation movement. The federation uses savings to show commitment as well as their financial contribution to projects. They bank these savings in the local urban poor basket fund (known as SUUBI) and then approach the NGO for additional funding for a sanitation unit.

A good example is found in Mbale municipality where Mission Cell savings group purchased land worth UGX 5,000,000 from a community member. They then approached ACTogether to support the construction of a sanitation unit. ACTogether lobbied for additional funds (UGX 54,220,000) from SDI’s Urban Poor Fund International. The group was awarded a total of UGX 38,220,000 which they used to construct the ground floor that consists of eight stances (4 for men, 4 for women), 2 shower rooms on either side, 1 stance for the physically disabled, 1 store, a tank on the roof, and a community water stand pipe . The group is also contributing towards the completion of the second floor which will have a community hall. So far the group has paid a total of UGX 4,360,000 since July 2013. The unit began operations in June 2013

ACTogether Uganda receives many proposals from community members who desire to have toilet facilities in their settlements. These proposals have to be backed by a 20% contribution from the communities which they mobilize using their urban poor fund saving basket. The NGO mobilizes additional funding from a wide range of agencies including the Uganda government, development partners (e.g. World Bank, Cities Alliance), and private companies (e.g. Barefoot Solar, Bartle Bogle Hegarty).

The Ugandan Alliance’s sanitation intervention has served to demonstrate the capacity of the urban poor to the government and other development partners. It has exhibited the community’s ability to design projects, budget on available resources, negotiate for land, construct facilities, and craft ways of ensuring project longevity and sustainability. Communities are now equal partners – not passive beneficiaries – in development projects . In Jinja and Mbale for instance, the community has been engaged in municipal infrastructure upgrading programs including the construction of public sanitation units, waiting sheds, community drainage systems, street lights, and health centres.


Toilets in Jinja constructed by the community using TSUPU funds 

Several sanitation projects have been set up on land provided by the government and for which building commencement fees have been waived. Sanitation units in Kisenyi Mbarara, Kabale, Rubaga, and Kinawataka sit on land provided by the government. The government has also provided technical support in project design and supervision during construction to these toilets in the spirit of partnership and contributing to a common goal of improving community sanitation.


The communities are involved from the initial stages of project conception, and toilet fees are agreed upon by a general consensus. Communities have had experiences where toilet facilities provided by local government for which no fee was charged have broken down because of poor maintenance. Some of these toilets have been taken up and privatised by landlords or Parish Development Chiefs only to charge exorbitant fees, which local residents could not afford. They therefore agree on a figure which considers their pocket while ensuring the continuity of the project. All federation toilet projects in Uganda charge UGX 200 for toilet use and UGX 500 for bathroom use. This cost is lower than other public facilities (e.g. the city centre and bus park) where the charge is UGX 300 for toilets. Showering at the bus park bathrooms costs UGX 1000. Children use federation facilities free of charge.

To further subsidize on this cost, federation members running these units are exploring the subscription system where a family subscribes for toilet usage on a monthly basis paying UGX 6,000. The subscription system ensures a guaranteed source of income for the unit that can be used to maintain the facility. The names of the family members are registered with the caretaker who then provides a subscription card to the household head. The card is used by the registered family for as many times as they wish till its expiry at the end of the month. While paying these amounts at any community sanitation facility, one has to consider that the federation has to pay water bills and electricity bills while at the same time ensuring a good ambience in the facility, keeping it clean (soap and disinfectants) and providing tissue paper to the users.

Mbarara Nyamityobora Toilet Breakdown

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Fig 4: Nyamityobora toilet breakdown,Mbarara

Experience on mini-block toilets

Over the years, the Uganda federation has been thinking on how to approach the issue of limited space in relation to setting up sanitation units. Space among other factors has been one of the major hindrances to the provision of sanitation units in slums considering congestion and density. Some parts of Kampala, such as Bwaise, have a high water table that makes toilet construction an extremely expensive venture.

Through peer-to-peer exchanges, the Ugandan SDI Alliance piloted a new toilet model that uses very little space. Bio-fill toilets are water borne with a compact digesting chamber that is filled with worms that naturally digest the waste. The toilet uses a small amount of water that is flushed before being directed to the digester. The worms naturally digest the waste, reducing mass and smell. The size is ideal for crowded slum areas and can be easily raised for places with high water tables. The pit only needs to be emptied after every two years. Each stance is designed to accommodate 20 users in a day. A public toilet with four stances can therefore accommodate a maximum of 80 long calls (defecation) per day and many more short calls. Surpassing this number would mean overloading the facility that can result in the toilet breaking down. Communities are sensitised against overloading their units to avoid such costs.

Because the toilet uses only a limited amount of water, necessary water can be collected from rain tanks and supplemented with purchased water during the dry seasons, reducing maintenance costs and eliminating the cost of water and sewerage connections and bills. Water is diverted into a soak pit where it is safely filtered before draining into the ground. When the pit fills digested waste is safe for manual removal and can easily be processed to become high quality fertiliser. To implement this new technology, the engineer at ACTogether worked with an international intern from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)  to develop sanitation prototypes to be used by the communities.

1 stance biofill = $1000 (2.5 millions) 1 stance with double pit = $1200 (3 millions)
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 2 stance biofill system = $1000 (5 millions) 4 stance and 2 shower rooms biofill public toilet =$6400 (16 millions)

Four models of toilet are currently available:

  • 1 stance biofill toilet (uses worms to digest the fecal matter)
  • 2 stances with a double pit (fitted with two septic tanks)
  • 2 stance bio-fill toilet (uses worms to digest fecal matter)
  • 4 stances public toilet and 2 shower rooms (this can either be fitted with a septic tank or bio-fill technology-worms- depending on the population of the settlement. .

The double pit is advantageous in that one side of the toilet can be closed to allow decomposition. Once the manure is removed and sold that side of the toilet can be used. This rotation ensures that the facility can be used constantly.

Bio-fill units are provided to communities through a loan arrangement and require a federation savings group to deposit 20% of the total cost as a commitment fee before the construction of the unit can start. The beneficiaries then have to repay the loan in full in a matter of years depending on the type of unit. Repayment periods range between 1 and 4 years depending on the unit. In most cases, the toilet proposals are made by families saving locally. Landlords also apply for the loan and spread the cost across tenants’ monthly rentals. Once the loan has been paid to full balance the individual or the group owns the facility. Using the innovative technology of pre-cast panels, these toilets can be disassembled in case the owner or the group is relocated or in unfortunate circumstances where there are evictions. The repayments from these units are used to scale up the toilet provision process in other regions.

The alliance is set to popularize these units by spreading the idea to landlords in all of Kampala’s informal settlements. They are suitable in circumstances where there is little space and a need for limited water consumption. Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), the governing authority in Kampala, has come down hard on landlords who rent units that do not make provision for toilets and bathrooms. They have put in place stringent measures that mean closure of the rental units unless they comply.  The Alliance wishes to capitalise on this and sell bio-fill toilets, thereby revolving monies in the Urban Poor Fund while at the same time increasing toilet coverage in the slums and in turn keeping diseases such as typhoid and dysentery at bay.

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Photos showing Kitunzi market bio-fill public toilet before and after upgrading

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Wakaliga toilet in Rubaga divisions showing the state of the toilet before upgrading and after

In a perception survey conducted by the Alliance late last year, communities reported improved hygiene and clean environment as key results from the sanitation intervention. Individual beneficiaries are also enjoying odorless, clean and easy to maintain toilets in their compounds. One beneficiary shared her joy in having the new unit and how she can now host visitors with confidence in her house unlike in the past.

“I would get embarrassed every time I hosted visitors because of the filthy smell around home that would come from my old toilet, a pit latrine that kept filling now and then. With this new toilet, I don’t have to worry about all that, you can’t even tell where the toilet is located, there is no bad smell and many people are asking me where I got this toilet”

Impact and Policy

At the national level, ACTogether and NSDFU are members of the Uganda National Solid Waste Strategy committee steered by the Ministry of Lands Housing and Urban Development which focuses on how municipalities can manage solid waste. Presently, municipalities are preparing individual solid waste plans to feed into the National Strategy.

The government is obliged to find solutions for ensuring access to water and sanitation for all but the high population and the pressure of urbanization makes this difficult. At best, the state has been able to supplement these efforts by providing land, funds and the technical support necessary to establish sanitation units.

Communities have proven their potential to manage capital projects. This has also attracted international recognition, a case in point being the awarding of funds to community groups in Jinja and Mbale to put up community toilets under the Cities Alliance/World Bank funded TSUPU program worth UGX 150,000,000. To date thirteen toilets have been built under this programme ( 8 in Jinja and 5 in Mbale)

The Ugandan Alliance believes the journey towards adequate sanitation and water is still long but we take pride in being active change agents on this agenda. Community services provided by the federation allow those who cannot access these facilities to access sanitation and water through their own means, a clear demonstration of active citizenship.

“I have an erection… of the heart.”

Photos by Herbert Kalungu, ACTogether Uganda

By Skye Dobson

That get your attention? Yes, well it got ours too. It was late on the third day of an international conference in a slightly stuffy hotel in Kampala. Delegates were giving closing remarks and I wont lie, I was checking emails and I think my colleague was reading the news. Unbeknownst to us a prominent Kampala politician was handed the microphone. Standing up he stated in a bellowing voice, “I have an erection” [2 second pause – in which my colleague and I dropped our phones and clutched each others arm in delightful disbelief] “… of the heart.”

The honorable politician was emphasizing just how happy he was with the partnerships between communities and government that were emerging in the various countries represented.  From that day – about five years ago – my Ugandan colleagues and I have used this phrase to describe our feelings for any big achievement related to our work.

And so it was yesterday when we drove back to Kampala from a day in Jinja aroused by the energy and the progress being made by the SDI Alliance in Uganda. It was overwhelming to witness just how seamlessly all the elements of the SDI “toolkit” are being deployed by the community, allowing us to witness the holy grail of development: an authentic people-driven holistic urban development process. The federation has remarkable agility for a community movement – an agility that is the result of a long hard slog and methodical refinement of its skillset. Like a talented boxer it makes everything look so simple.

We had gone to Jinja to visit the Jinja Materials Workshop in Walukuba. The project is in the final stages of its last phase of construction.  On a 1,800m2 plot, secured through negotiation with Council, the federation first constructed a building materials production center with a basic shed, curing pit and storage container for the fabrication of Interlocking soil bricks, ladies (prefabricated concrete minislabs), t-beams, pavers, tiles etc. In the second phase a demonstration house was constructed using the low cost materials fabricated by the community on site. And in this, the final stage, the federation has constructed a three-story building with a community center on the ground floor and a guesthouse with 18 rooms on the upper two floors for students undertaking training and visitors of the federation. This three-story building has been under construction for a mere two months and the progress is outstanding. The site is also home to a biofill worm digester toilet, which was as the first of its kind in Uganda and was built by the federation about 18mths ago. Today it is as clean as it was back then, despite being used by a construction site full of youth every day. The toilet does not smell at all and the flapper pan ensures a neat and tidy toilet for the community. These toilets have now been replicated throughout Kampala and the worms for the toilets are bred on-site by the federation.

Now this all sounds great, but it is not the full story. What I have described could have been achieved without affecting any kind of change in the community and without any potential for transforming business as usual in the urban development process. The land could have been purchased. A developer could have constructed the building. An NGO could have hired a consultant to manage the trainings. A contractor could have been hired to build. And nothing would be different in Jinja. But things are different.

The project and its potential cannot be assessed in isolation from the messy, tireless process of movement-building from which it sprung. It’s a process that began in 2002. The stories of the members mobilized throughout the years are captured exquisitely in a collection of mini-memoirs compiled in a book entitled: 10 Years of Okwegatta: A History of the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU) Narrated by Members It details the mobilization of members by federation members from Kenya, India and South Africa. It documents the growth of saving groups, the networking of these groups at the settlement and municipal level and the way peer-to-peer exchanges with other federations taught the Ugandan federation to use profiling and enumeration to understand their community better and to negotiate with government from a position of greater authority and collective capacity.

As documented by Nyamweru and Dobson (2014), the introduction of the TSUPU program in Uganda provided the federation and opportunity to scale their process in unprecedented ways and the Jinja federation seized this opportunity with both hands. It quickly emerged as a learning center when it came to: city-wide profiling, to initiating and sustaining municipal and settlement development forums, and undertaking small upgrading projects in partnership with government. By 2011 the federation had emerged as a highly competent player in the urban arena, ensuring Community Upgrading Funds targeted communities in greatest need (as identified in profiling), were demanded by the community (through forums) and would be managed by the community (through its savings groups and project management committees). It convincingly demonstrated the dramatic cost savings to be achieved through the use of community contractors.

And now, as construction of the Jinja Materials Workshop nears completion, it is clear to anyone that has watched this federation grow, that the project is utterly infused with this history and this energy and it is that which makes it a game changer.

Our trip to the project was motivated by a request from Jinja to add a solar component to the innovations at the workshop. They had learned of the “Solar Hub Model” from the SDI Council (which unburdens the poorest from the responsibility of investing in the trunk infrastructure required to set up a solar system through establishment of a central hub where communities bring rechargeable batteries that power a simple solar home package.) SDI’s solar projects officer, Charles Hunsley, was there to explore the idea further with the local affiliate. The discussion around solar illuminated the game-changing x-factor very quickly.

First, the federation members steered the conversation. They did not defer to the professional visitors, but interrogated their ideas and suggestions in a way that enriched the ultimate conceptualization of the project. When assessing the viability of the project the federation members made reference to the existing energy options in the various surrounding settlements – information they had gathered during profiling, but also regular engagement with groups in each area. They explained how the poor often pay more for power than more wealthy city residents and often expose themselves to grave danger illegally tapping the main supply (too often resulting in electrocution by live wires), or mixing kerosene with diesel to prolong it’s use, exposing themselves to high respiratory risks and fires that can wipe out a settlement. Fishing communities along the banks of Lake Victoria in Jinja live in such conditions, with wood shacks offering little protection from highly flammable an unregulated energy. Their stories exposed the energy injustice SDI’s solar agenda seeks to combat.

In order to gather additional information about present expenditure on energy the federation decided it would conduct a mini enumeration to rapidly assess affordability across Jinja’s informal settlements. For communities requiring a loan for the purchase of fittings or batteries the federation noted that SUUBI (Uganda’s federation-established Urban Poor Fund) could provide loans that would be monitored by the local SUUBI loan team in the same way they monitor sanitation and livelihood loans.

The federation members were excited by the prospect of communities coming to the center every four days to charge their batteries. This, they agreed would enhance the dialogue between the federation and communities across Jinja around their incremental upgrading needs. Some slum dwellers may begin with an energy upgrade and move on to upgrade their sanitation situation or the permanence of their house using the low-cost materials available on site. During visits for charging the community can explore the materials center – which may eventually more appropriately be called a Resource Center for Incremental Upgrading and view various prototypes or create their own. In the process the dialogue and practice of incremental upgrading will grow, wholly driven by the local community.

The skillful athlete had blown us away with his left and right hooks and came in for the knock out punch. Head of the Jinja federation’s negotiation committee, Joseph Sserunjoji stood at the end of the meeting to challenge the professionals: “The question is not if we are ready, but if YOU are ready?” And that’s when the … err … heart got excited. This community is in charge of a precedent-setting project for incremental, in situ, affordable, inclusive urban development and is impatient for the rest of us to catch up.

Federation Creates Industry & Employment in Jinja, Uganda

Jinja Materials Workshop

Plans for the Materials Workshop and Training Centre in Jinja, Uganda. 

By Ariana K. MacPherson, SDI Secretariat 

Major construction is underway in Uganda, a country where youth unemployment sits at roughly 80%.[1] Because of this, training young people in construction is a promising venture for the largest poor people’s movement in the country, the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU).

On an exchange visit to Uganda, federation members from India, Kenya, and South Africa as well as SDI coordinators began a discussion on the cost of building materials and the challenge this poses for the federation’s projects. When federations from the visiting countries shared their experiences around making materials themselves, the Ugandan federation knew it had the capacity to do this, thanks to the skills gained in Tanzania (making soil-stablised bricks and clay tiles) and in India (making prefabricated concrete mini slabs, know as laadis). They decided they could set up a workshop to teach others and bring down the cost of accessing building materials in Jinja.

As a result, NSDFU, in partnership with support NGO ACTogether Uganda, is in the early stages of constructing a production and training centre in Jinja. This will train community members in the production of a range of low-cost construction materials, and to be used in Federation projects and sold commercially for the local market. Youth unemployment is an issue of major concern in Uganda. This project will not only provide a scalable solution to slum upgrading, but will provide a path to employment that is so far lacking in the Uganda context.. 

Building on the needs and expertise of the Federation, these training and capacity-building activities will use the market to create a sustainable, income-generating project that can have impact at scale. 

The workshop will be launched as a joint venture between the Federation and the Jinja municipal council, demonstrating the Federation’s ability to solicit government support and render it as a potential partner of governments elsewhere, thus adding to the Federation’s credibility. The value of the Federation is its ability to be responsive to the real needs of people on the ground. Additionally, the materials produced will be useful for the projects the Federation undertakes. 

The workshop will operate as a social business, covering its costs through income from student fees, accommodation rent and the sale of building materials. Setting itself up from the beginning with a sustainability plan will allow the workshop to continue working and creating impact without requiring support from external donors. In addition, the training centre’s fees will be set far below those of similar vocational training institutes, making training accessible to low-income slum dwellers. In addition, scholarships and / or student loans will be available for those unable to pay. Low fees will be offset by labor provided as part of the students’ training course. 

The workshop proposes to introduce low-cost, ecological building materials to the market in Jinja and beyond. Training and capacity-building (as well as potential for income-generation) will be replicated as producers and contractors learn from the Federation and adopt these methods and, as graduates from the centre’s training put what they have learned into practice in Uganda’s informal settlements, these low-cost, ecological building materials will begin to have broader impact. Namely, the production of low-cost building materials will increase the urban poor’s access to such materials, thereby increasing the chances of building durable, safe shelters. Slum upgrading will become a less costly endeavor, and will be able to be more easily replicated at scale.  

[1] Mail & Guardian, “Uganda’s Museveni admits youth unemployment is out of control,” 10 October 2012,


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.


Financing Sanitation Solutions in Uganda


By Noah Schermbrucker, SDI Secretariat 

The relationship between development donor and recipient is by its very nature a tenuous and unsustainable one. The vagaries of donor funding are subject to sudden sea changes as international development agendas shift focuses and locations. The very fact that phrases such as “development trends” or “funding focus” exist in popular vernacular underscore the impermanence of donor finance. Ironically this occurs amidst a plethora of calls for sustainable projects, cities and resource use. How can projects be sustainable if the funds that support them will not always be available?

Mobilised and organised communities provide a long-term framework with the capacity to develop and maintain infrastructure developments. However if these projects are merely physical manifestations of donor finance they will not have the ability to go to scale across cities-they have to work within the formal market to revolve at least part of the finances invested. In some cases they may even yield a small profit for the urban poor who can re-invest money gained to further improve their areas. Successful models can be tracked, refined and shared across the SDI network taking into account local contexts and constraints. As such projects gain traction and momentum they become more attractive to funders who wish to maximize the limited resources they have to invest and perhaps even other urban poor federations who wish to invest in infrastructure projects and realize a return on these investments. 

The communal toilet projects in Nakawa and Rubaga market in Uganda are beginning to grapple with these pressing issues. In working towards a model that can pay for itself and realize a small profit, infrastructure is separated from the donor-recipient cycle and becomes self-sustainable and possibly, at a later stage, self perpetuating. This presents an opportunity for the tangible infrastructure results of a pro-poor community driven process to go to citywide scale. 

After providing a brief project background the main focus will be on the project finances and loan repayments for the Nakawa project that demonstrate the possibilities for an economically sustainable pro poor model toilet model.  Further community context will be given by a transcribed interview with Mdamba Umar from the Rubaga Market toilet Project Management Committee (PMC).

jinja jinja3


The Federation’s 2011 enumeration revealed that over 82.5% of slum residents in Jinja do not have access to a toilet on their compound, while 95% do not have access to clean water and sanitation. Rubaga settlement/market alone has a population of over 1000 people who visit the premise on the daily basis. Over the years the market had one pit latrine which filled up and was demolished. Currently, the settlement has no single toilet and thus the population either visits the neighborhood or use plastic bags. The federation has been working very closely with the Jinja municipal council to mobilize and organize the people to address this challenge through a number of interventions. Finally the Jinja municipal councilor has allocated a piece of land to put up sanitation (both toilet and shower facilities) and a community centre to support the affected families and the community. The project is being boosted by a contribution from the Municipality (land) & the Community is contributing labour and savings, and then SDI is contributing seed capital worth USD7843.


The tables below present a basic breakdown of the most important aspects of the project finance; the initial capital contributions, running costs, profits and projected timeframe for loan repayment. These form a key part of the project and are managed through the PMC and other relevant committees.


Contributions for Nakawa:


20% from community


20% from government


60% from SDI


Labor and savings

Technical support

Transportation vehicle (no fuel) and Land





Total = 13M (UGX)


Total = 13M(UGX)


Total sought = 40M   (UGX)


Projected running costs & profits for Nakawa:


Unit est. daily takings


Per month


Per Year


Running costs (maintenance, wages)


Balance (ie. minimum repayment pa)












Loan Terms and Repayments

In the interests of conservatism and in order to cater for unexpected expenses, the federation would like to spread the loan repayment over 6 years.

Projected loan period:  6 years

Interest rate: 8% pa

Loan amount: 37,440,000 UGX = $15, 600


year 1

year 2

year 3

year 4

year 5

year 6


Principal repayment
















Total payment
















Monthly contribution









Community Perspective:

Mdamba Umar: Toilet Project Management Committee (PMC)-Rubaga Market Toilet, Jinja

I am from the project managment committee of this sanitation project here in Rubaga market, Jinja region. We aquired land from Jinja municipal council free of charge due to our relationship with the council. Drawings were made by the community and these were approved.

We are constructing this toilet with one side for men and another for ladies and access for the disabled. Above the toilet we are going to put our community hall for Jinja. The municipal council promised to put a sanitation line. Now there is a temporary septic tank.

We have almost 1000 vendors at the market but only one toilet which was not enough-this was made clear by the enumeration. This toilet was a pit latrine but the new one will be a water-borne toilet that can accommodate more people and has a shower. We have used new forms of technology like T-beams and ladders which are cheaper than conventional options

Under the Project Management Committee (PMC) we have a procurement committee, the tender board. First we do material sourcing. We go to suppliers and ask for a formal invoice and quotation which we then compare at our local office.  We discuss what material we can purchase, at what price and who is supplying both quanity and quality.

The members of the community will pay for this service. Those who wish to use the urinals will pay 200 shillings and the shower will be 500 shillings. We agreed on these prices after analysing the enumeration information.

The main challenges we face are; funds come in installments so that delays the work, at times the council comes late to supervise the work,. The community has participated fully because they were interested in this project. We have built this modern toilet which is a pilot project not only for Jinja but for the whole of Uganda and all the work has been done by the community.


Uganda Loses USD $177m Annually Due to Poor Sanitation: What is the Federation Doing?

Construction in Nakawa

By Skye Dobson, SDI Secretariat 

A World Bank report released this month estimates Uganda loses USD $177 million annually due to poor sanitation. According to the report, Economic Impacts of Poor Sanitation in Africa – Uganda, the majority of these costs come from the annual premature death of 23,000 Ugandans from diarrheal disease, including 19,700 children under the age of five. Nearly 90 percent of these deaths are directly attributable to poor water, sanitation, and hygiene. The study estimates 13.8 million Ugandans use unsanitary or shared latrines and 3.2 million have no latrine at all and defecate in the open.

The National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda is working to address the country’s sanitation crisis, which is experienced most severely by those living in the country’s crowded slums. Having already completed two sanitation units, one in Kisenyi – a slum in central Kampala – and one in Rubaga, a slum in Jinja, the federation is pushing to scale up its approach throughout the country. It has begun construction of a unit in Nakawa, Kampala and is about to commence construction of units in Mbale, Mbarara, and five other settlements in Jinja. The federation prioritizes settlements revealed by enumerations to be particularly underserved.

Federation-built sanitation units vary in size, depending on the amount of land the federation is able to secure through negotiations with landowners and municipal councils. Generally, however, the federation attempts to design units with at least 3 stances for males and 3 for females as well as bathing and disabled facilities. In addition to the sanitation services, a second floor is constructed for use as a community hall. This hall can be used for federation meetings, saving money on renting space, and also rented to others to generate income.

Project funds typically come from three sources: the first is community contribution. This contribution takes the form of financial capital (usually 20% of project costs in order to secure a loan) and also community labor and management. An additional contribution is sought from the municipal council in order to strengthen collective responsibility for sanitation and contribute towards the kind of institutional strengthening required to take the strategy to scale.  The final contribution comes from SDI’s Urban Poor Fund International (UPFI). This money comes to the federation as a loan at an interest rate of 8%.

In order to repay the UPFI loan the community has structured their sanitation units as income generating facilities. Community members pay a small user fee – typically much lower than that charged by similar facilities – and can rent out the community hall. The fees collected are used to maintain the facility and repay the loan. The federation conservatively expects to repay a loan of $25,000 within 6 years based on use projections for the toilet and bathing facilities.

During the construction phase the federation forms a Project Management Committee (PMC) headed by a PMC chairperson and PMC treasurer. The PMC has 4 sub-committees: Procurement committee; Finance Committee; Construction Committee and a Security and Store Committee.  These sub-committees are comprised of federation members, members of the local community that are not in the federation but may be central to the project – such as the landowner or market chairperson – and local authorities. The PMC receives training from other federation members in the SDI network and where necessary outside experts. A recent training held in Uganda, for instance, was conducted by the World Bank for the purpose of exposing the federation to procurement standards in the hope that the federation will be better equipped to participate in future large scale Bank projects.

Once construction is complete, the PMC changes. The project operations PMC is comprised of 2 caretakers to maintain the facilities to a high hygienic standard, 2 collectors responsible for day-to-day collection and banking of user fees, and federation Health and Hygiene representatives, a treasurer and project chairperson. All projects within the federation are overseen by regional leadership and the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda’s National Executive Committee (NEC).

As the projects grow, so too will the number of Ugandans with access to adequate sanitation. The federation will continue to strengthen partnerships with outside actors and streamline its internal processes to make its approach more efficient and more scaleable. This is how the federation is working to reduce the incidence of premature death, preventable disease, and the wasted precious resources outlined in the Bank’s report.  

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


Starting with Sanitation: New Approaches to Slum Upgrading in Uganda

Sanitation unit in Jinja


**Cross-posted from the ACTogether Blog**

By Skye Dobson & Frederick Mugisha, SDI Secretariat & ACTogether Uganda

In Jinja, a municipality in Uganda’s South-East, slum dwellers are setting a precedent for upgrading and expanding sanitation infrastructure in the country’s slums. The Uganda Slum Dwellers Federation has pursued a number of community-centered steps for changing the status quo.

First, the Federation completed an enumeration in 2010 to determine need. The enumeration revealed 82.5% of Jinja slum residents do not have access to a toilet in their compound and 95% do not have access to water on their compound.  The Federation’s profiling activities revealed the vast majority of residents must purchase water from privately owned water points at an average of 100 shillings per jerrican. The profiling also revealed that many of the municipality’s sewer systems failed long ago, leaving residents no option but to relieve themselves in the bush or the lake.

The enumeration revealed especially vulnerable sections of Jinja. One section that was particularly underserved was Rubaga Market. The community in and around Rubaga market only had one dilapidated public toilet that was unsanitary and unsafe. Most residents preferred to go in a bush or walk to an adjacent settlement to find facilities. This reality contributes to the staggering number of children who die in Uganda from diarrhoeal diseases – some 26,000 under five each year.

Second, the Federation approached the local community and market authorities to discuss a solution. The Federation is acutely aware that sanitation projects undertaken by NGOs, governments, or CBOs alone are rarely sustained and/or scaled up and they thus seek to foster partnerships between local authorities and the community to ensure projects are targeted and maintained efficiently.

For its part, the Federation was prepared to contribute member savings to the project. This represents a key signifier of urban poor’s commitment to the project, desire for the project, and capacity to contribute financially toward slum upgrading. A particularly interesting component of this project is that the community contribution – some 15 million Ugandan Shillings (almost US$6,000) was sourced from member repayments on another Uganda Slum Dwellers Federation project – a housing project in Jinja. This exciting development highlights the scalability of Federation slum upgrading projects through revolving finance.

The municipality, impressed by the information collected by the Federation and the financial contribution it mobilized, agreed to supply land for the sanitation unit to be constructed. The contribution of the municipality is another key ingredient to scalable and sustainable slum upgrading.

One of the most exciting things about the project is that it could provide a working model for how communities and local authorities can work together to improve access to water and sanitation infrastructure. The Federation hopes that this will make it an attractive partner to private companies, donors, and municipal governments throughout the country.  The Federation has seen such a phenomenon in India, where the Indian Slum Dweller Federation works with partners to provide sanitation services to the urban poor at tremendous scale. The hope to emulate this success right here in Uganda.

Thirdly, the sanitation unit will provide much more than simply hygienic benefits. On the second floor of the unit, the Federation will construct a community hall and office space for the Federation. This space can be used to generate income that will help to repay the loans taken to complete the project and thereby start a new pool of funds that can be used for other upgrading initiatives. The Federation is confident in the success of the model, as it is based on a sanitation unit they constructed in Kampala in 2004. This unit has been maintained to impeccable standards by the Federation, still generates income, and it still being used for Federation meetings, activities, and business.

And lastly, the Federation is using innovative low-cost building technologies that are gaining increased recognition and promise to reduce the cost of slum upgrading in Uganda. Jinja Municipal Council was initially skeptical about the use of laadis and T-beams in the construction of multi-storied structures and this delayed the approval of building plans. However, after consultation and sensitization on the matter, the Council has come to appreciate the technology so much that it is now directing other groups to visit the site and learn more about the technology’s benefits.

Sanitation unit in Jinja

“We are citizens. We are not squatters.”

By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI secretariat

People have lived in the settlement of Kikaramoja in Jinja, Uganda, since the 1950s. Waiswa Magoola, age 47, has always lived here. His father bought land in 1953, and even after Ugandan independence in 1962, when the land was given to the Jinja town council, he continued to pay fees for the land.

Magoola explained that the settlement used to be home to fishermen, teachers, factory workers and municipal employees. But in recent years, many of the factories have moved to Kampala, a two hour drive away from Jinja. With the factories went the jobs.

When I asked Magoola how many people living in Kikaramoja have regular work these days, he estimated about three per cent. Other residents sitting around him interjected to say that Magoola may even be too kind in his estimate. Casual labour is a way of life for those living in Kikaramoja.

The settlement has suffered for years because of a lack of security of tenure. The residents have been effectively barred from building permanent brick structures, so their houses are all wattle, mud and wooden sticks. It is an ever-present outrage to those who live in Kikaramoja, said Magoola. “We are citizens. We are not squatters.”

As I walked around the settlement last week, occasionally I saw a small brick structure. The only kind allowed: a toilet. “People are willing to build their own homes … We are able. We have the ability,” Magoola said, pointing to a pile of bricks that lay next to one person’s mud hut. “But we have been stopped.”

Last year, the community seemed to have faced down an eviction threat after the municipal council sold the land to a local university. The community conducted an enumeration (click here for the full enumeration report), and now some community leaders claim that the municipality has committed to giving the land to the community.

However, when I visited a meeting of local savings scheme members, anxiety was rife because they did not have any written commitment from the council that the land would soon be theirs. “[The politicians] are herding us like cattle,” said resident Jane Opoda, who is 30 years old. “We are not settled in mind. We are scared.”

The key, said Paul Okada, is for the community to be organised in the way that it deals with formal political structures like the town council. The 23-year-old was adamant, like much of the community, that it should not be single leaders going to negotiate with the town council about land. The issue affects the community and there should be many representatives at any meeting with the council. “If we get a voice here, that will be good,” he said.