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.

In Uganda, Pro-Poor Information System Continues to Grow

STDM pic for blog

PhotoStructure Owners (Yellow) and Tenants (Blue) in Mission Cell, Mbale

By Skye Dobson, SDI Secretariat 

The National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU) pushes ahead with its innovative mapping work in Mbale Municipality. The federation conducted a city-wide slum enumeration in 2011 as part of the Government of Uganda’s Transforming Settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda Program – which is supported by Cities Alliance. The enumeration was conducted just like any other SDI enumeration, but because of its role in this national-level government program – active in 5 Ugandan secondary cities – the federation hopes it will set a precedent for the way community collected data can inform the development of municipal development strategies and slum upgrading strategies country-wide.

Following enumeration, NSDFU seeks to link its enumeration data to spatial data to create maps than can be used to generate discussion between slum dwellers and local authorities on upgrading. NSDFU’s mapping efforts were given a boost recently with support from a joint partnership between UN-Habitat and SDI. Thanks to a new tool developed by the Global Land Tool Network (GLTN), the federation expects to improve and refine the outputs of community enumeration and mapping – particularly related to land use and tenure. The land tenure issue is inextricably linked to the upgrading issue and NDSFU is starting the difficult process of disentangling the web of claims and counter claims in the country’s slums that often pose an intractable barrier to development interventions.

The land information tool called Social Tenure Domain Model (STDM), was piloted in Mbale municipality by the federation over the last six months and was received well by NSDFU, the Mbale Municipal Council and the Ministry of Lands Housing and Urban Development. The pro-poor information system is based on free and open source software, is user-friendly, and is a welcome example of how sensible technological innovation can respond to and encourage social innovation by aiding the information gathering and negotiation steps in a community-driven strategy.  

Federation members, officers from the Ministry of Lands Housing and Urban Development, as well as municipal officials have been trained to use the software. The federation in Mbale, which was able to negotiate for office space within the Mbale Municipal Council offices, now has the software installed on its computer and is able to update the database without assistance from professionals.

At a recent reflection, the federation discussed methods for taking the process further. They decided that further sensitization is required to ensure there is no suspicion in the participating communities and they strategized ways to conduct such sensitization in conjunction with elders, local councilors and municipal officers. The federation discussed the need to be mindful of political events that may coincide with mapping activities as these have a tendency to complicate sensitization efforts. They designed guidelines for future training of questionnaire administrators and mappers and emphasized the importance of verification activities.

Critically, the federation discussed how they would use the information gathered and the maps completed. They reinforced the fact that the information is useless unless it informs negotiation and dialogue – both within the federation and with local authorities. The federation determined strategies for using the information to plan for increased service provision and potentially generate certificates of residence that will provide a first step toward incrementally improving the tenure security of Mbale slum residents.

The STDM pilot project in Mbale is supported by Cities Alliance and Government of Uganda through the Ministry of Land, Housing and Urban Development (MoLHUD) as well as the Federation of Surveyors (FIG) Foundation. 

STDM Pilot Project Kicks Off in Uganda


**Cross-posted from Global Land Tool Network**

With the enthusiasm and cooperation of the Government of Uganda through its Ministry of Land, Housing and Urban Development (MLHUD),  municipal officials, community leaders and members, the Social Tenure Domain Model (STDM) Pilot Project was launched in Mbale Municipality, Uganda, 03-07 October 2011.  The project will  test how this land rights recording system can effectively record all forms of land rights for women and men living in informal settlements, including formal, informal and customary land rights common in Uganda and elsewhere.


Slum Dwellers International (SDI) and UN-HABITAT through GLTN have joined forces to use and test STDM by using data generated from a participatory enumerations process which is on-going in Mbale. As such, the pilot combines new technology with community engagement from decades of experience by SDI. The pilot is not only testing the STDM software, but also  building the capacity of multiple stakeholders on how to use it, and how to best document the process, with the  aim for potential scaling up in the future.

The project will be implemented in collaboration with the existing government programme called: Transforming the Settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda (TSUPU).

During the week, various meetings, workshops and training sessions were held to exchange information, undertake planning and start capacity development in regards to its actual implementation. Actogether, an affiliate of SDI, with the slum federation leaders and community members – the key implementers of the project- plan to start the sensitization and data collection process in the next few weeks.

Early versions of STDM were developed in partnership with ITC of Netherlands, World Bank and International Federation of Surveyors (FIG).

Creating impact with community-collected information


Pictured above: Goretti Katana, national treasurer of the Uganda Slum Dwellers Federation, speaks in Mbale municipal hall to introduce the profiling exercise to city officials in February 2010.

By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI secretariat

In February, I joined members of slum dweller federations from Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, who were on an exchange to assist the Ugandan federation to profile the city of Mbale. Just in this past year, the federation, supported by NGO Actogether Uganda, has profiled the cities of Arua, Kabale, Jinja, and Mbarara, in addition to Mbale. I am now back in Uganda, as the federation and Actogether launches household enumerations in each of these cities.

A key challenge for communities that collect information about themselves through city-wide profiling, and household enumerations, is how to make the most impact with the information they have. This can mean getting the information endorsed as official by local authorities, which in turn ensures that it becomes the basis for urban planning decisions in a city. The information collection can also help facilitate closer relations between organized communities and their government so that they can work together to prioritize allocation of resources and improve informal settlements.

The information can also be used to create a public awareness about the planning challenges that exist, and to develop political will within government to approach communities as equal partners in development. Ugandans opened up the New Vision newspaper yesterday to learn how slum dwellers in every informal settlement in Mbale are drinking water contaminated by human waste. New Vision is the most widely-circulated newspaper in the country. A local leader named Richard Wandoba used the information collected through the recent city-wide profiling exercise to raise awareness about drinking water conditions in slums throughout the city. This kind of city-wide approach means that organized groups of the urban poor are now ready to meet with local authorities as equals to engage around planning issues, such as water provision.

You can find a JPEG file of the full article here.

Keeping Mbale clean

By Lutwama Muhammed, ACTogether Uganda

Savings schemes in Mbale, Uganda, were first established earlier this year. Earlier this month, the Federation decided that it would be important to sensitize informal settlement communities on issues related to hygiene and sanitation.

They engaged the municipality of Mbale, to work together on a city-wide activity that involved cleaning trenches, collecting garbage, and door-to-door sensitization and mobilization in the slum settlements of Namataala, Kikyaafu, Namakweeke, Nkoma, and Mission, among others. All of these activities were done in conjunction with municipal officials (the mayor, senior assistant town clerk and the coordinator of the Cities Alliance-funded program for the Transformation of Settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda from 15-17 May.

This development reflects the strength of the Federation in mobilizing communities, as well as the willingness by the municipal council to work with the poor communities in transforming their living environment. The mayor, in her speech to the participants, thanked the members for coming up with such wonderful initiatives that complement the work of the municipality. She added that each division has a municipal town agent but that such functionaries were not in a position to identify the sanitation challenges as the federation did in just 3 days.

The Mbale federation is growing stronger and the membership is increasing significantly. So far they have a total membership of 1324 members with 1019 members who are female. Total savings is 4,066,7550 Ugandan Shillings. The Federation members have already constituted committee representatives who meet once every month at regional level (city level), twice at network level and weekly at saving scheme level.

Approvals signed for land in Uganda


pictured above: Federation leader Patrick Biija (standing) explains savings and the process of federation to the Jinja Central Division chairman (left) and senior assistant town clerk (right).

By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI secretariat

When SDI delegates from Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa visited Uganda in the beginning of February it was to help consolidate the process of profiling and federation building that has been underway there since 2002. Another goal was to meet with Cities Alliance in order to explain our process and work with them and government officials to develop a proper framework for developing sound urban policies and implementation activities in five “secondary cities”: Jinja, Mbale, Arua, Mbarara, and Kabale.

SDI delegates visited with local federation members and local politicians in Jinja and Mbale, where the CA program is already underway. Municipal-wide profiling has already taken place in both of these cities. The Mbale profiling was conducted while we were there, and the profilers reported that, in addition to successfully collecting data from all 14 informal settlements in the city, they mobilized six savings schemes, in addition to two that already existed.

In Jinja, we met with leaders of each division in the city. In Uganda, the administration of cities is broken down into a number of sub-units, of which divisions are the second biggest after the municipal unit. Discussions with division chairman, senior assistant town clerks, community development officers and the chairs of smaller units within each division, called LCs, were vigorous. In each division, LCs, and other officials challenged the federation to include them in their mobilization of savings schemes, collection of information, and other activities. This is a potentially promising development, as people-led development cannot take place at scale without the support and facilitating power of government officials at all levels.

In the Mpumudde division, the federation is already well known. In part, this is because federation leader Patrick Biija is on the division council. But, beyond this fact, the federation has demonstrated its organizational power there. When we met with the division, Biija presented the plans the federation had drawn up for a housing development in Kawama, located in the division. Biija later told me that this project is a key test for the federation: “We want to show the council that we can develop our own area.”

The Kawama plan was developed in 2008. The local federation visited with the division council to consult with the relevant planning authorities. They then went back to talk within the federation to agree on what kind of houses they want, given what was feasible and what would reach the maximum amount of people. The plan ultimately included 208 double-story units, as well as a mixed use sanitation facility that would include a nursery school, an office for the federation and a meeting hall. This building is not unlike one that has already been built by the federation in the slum of Kisenyi in Kampala. Such units have similar models elsewhere in the SDI network, like in India and Zimbabwe.

At the beginning of the month, the plan did not yet have final approval. But this week, I received word that the remaining signatures have been made and the plan is set to begin. The federation now has the title deed for the 7.6 acres of land designated for the project. A big step to demonstrate the capacity of organized communities of the urban poor to work towards their own development hand-in-hand with government in Uganda.


pictured above: The federation-developed Kawama plan, posted during a meeting with political leaders of Mpumudde Division, Jinja.