Story of Kalivihar Slum: Cuttack Relocation

Nayana, the Mahila Milan leader is also a member of the Slum Development Association (SDA) and is well known for her work with slum dwellers. She is often approached by the authorities for conducting any survey in slums, is informed about new schemes and programs for the urban poor in Cuttack and also gives her opinion / ideas in favour of slum dwellers development. This is her report to MM monthly review. Kali Vihar is a settlement on Irrigation land situated along the riverbank with 164 families living there. Nayana’s settlement, Kali Vihar is to be relocated soon, but there is story behind it as to how they succeeded in getting houses for their community. This is a settlement where Mahila Milan has had a presence supporting the residents through various activities. Kali Vihar is located along the riverbank on a flood prone area, the city of Cuttack has tried several times to evict this settlement but were unsuccessful. Finally, they decided to relocate Kali Vihar to a place called Dhabereshwar 15 kilometres away from their present location. They will be allotted a plot size of 15X15 and given Rs  50,000 cash ( US$ 600).

The residents visited the site to find out there are no basic services in place, no transport facility, no means of communication, no livelihood options, no access roads, only water and a temporary community toilet was in place. There were no livelihood options in or around the site as most of the women currently work as house helpers. After visiting this site, Mahila Milan along with the communities and SDA members took an appointment of the collector to explain to him reasons why these communities should not be relocated there. The rationale was simple:  with no job opportunities they would be forced to come back and settle in the city. But the collector said, they would have to move. 

They then went to Cuttack Development Authority and explained the full situation, they got the same response from the CDA the rationale being “there is no other place”  they can be relocated to.  They were also informed that the Cuttack Development Authority planned relocation for 14 slums living along the coast in the Ring Road area under the Jaga Mission[1]. Nayana, said, even we are slum dwellers and have a right to live and be relocated in a well-developed place, so then why not consider our settlement along with those 14 slums? Giving it a thought, the CDA consulted with the Cuttack Municipal Commissioner who then sent their verification team to Kali Vihar to do an assessment. Later it was decided to consider Kali Vihar as well for relocation at Trishulia, 4 kms away from the current location. 

700 units of size 364 sq.ft has been constructed by the CDA at Trishulia. 7 buildings of 4 floors each having 120 flats are already complete, more are under construction. The area is well developed with schools, hospital is under construction, security has been provided, is a gated community, markets, bus stands are close by. There are private residential buildings and industrial areas where these women can get work easily as narrated by Nayana. The total cost of the units is 9,50,000 of which community contribution is 1.50,000. A down payment of 20,000 must be made by the communities, thereafter for the balance either they will be supported by the CDA to open bank accounts so that the EMI is deducted automatically for the balance amount from their bank accounts or a team from the bank will manually collect from the families once relocated. 

While 135 opted for the first one; 29 families agreed to move to Dhabereshwar. the reason for choosing the second site, was one, they would get money and secondly, they say they can accommodate bigger families if they grow incrementally making some adjustments and changes to the design of the unit. But there are consequences of this that they might lose their livelihood and will not be able to travel back to the original place to continue with their jobs because of the distance and lack of transport facility. Also, Dhabereshwar is not a well developed site with least facilities and hence gives no opportunity for them for livelihood or other activities. Nayana, has been explaining to them the benefits of shifting into ready buildings, but they are unable to change their minds. They also say, they will not be able to make the downpayment now will be able to take a loan and repay back. 

Families that agreed to move into buildings say they are in a position to pay 2000/month towards repayment as they already managed to get new jobs for themselves as laborers, cleaners, security guards for the new bus stand that is coming up. Again, this was possible because of Mahila Milan and SDA members as they were approached by the contractor and municipality to get them people to work at the bus stand. They will be paid 12,000 a month, some of them also got work as cooks in the Ahar Kendra at the bus stand. They will continue to work even post relocation. 

What should the next urgent action and follow up should be ?

  1. Informing the communities on necessary documentation required for relocation – Ration card, voter ID card etc.
  2. Supporting them in the process of forming housing cooperatives and registering them
  3. Talking to them on the post-relocation challenges
  4. Listing other relocation colonies /slums to be relocated to follow a similar pattern.

Insights and explanations 

  1. Why allowing communities to choose is critical yet has many known and unknown consequences.
  2. All cities will have such plans, and once some alternative is proposed, only strong networks can negotiate with well developed collectively created representations. 
  3. More organisation is essential, cooperatives must be formed, borrowing and lending systems have to be developed from now. 
  4. As has been seen in many other projects follow up is critical what gets developed in this project has value for the city and all other federations. 
  5. This reflects how large disaster linked large projects will produce displacements and have to be areas for interventions for community organisations.
  6. How can MM and NSDF develop proposals and protocols. 

[1] What is the JAGA mission- Odisha Liveable Habitat Mission (OHLM) -JAGA aims to transform slums into livebale habitat thus providing all necessary infrastructure and services as is provided to other sections of the society. 

Towards the Formulation of a Participatory WASH Framework for Informal Settlements in Harare:  Hopley Case Study

The technical group composed of the City of Harare  Staff (from the Harare Water Department, Public Relations Office, District Officers and  Customer Care departments ), the Alliance of Dialogue on Shelter Trust and the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation had a working session at Harare Water Offices on the 5th of September 2023. The meeting discussed the key parameters of implementing the proposed  Pro-Poor WASH  Policy in informal settlements in Harare once the Policy is adopted. The development of the Pro-poor WASH policy is being formulated at the same time the City of Harare has started the long-awaited regularisation of targeted informal settlements. The informal settlement of Hopley is one such settlement that will benefit from both the regularisation programme and the proposed Pro-Poor WASH Policy.

The Hopley informal settlement is situated in the southern east part  of Harare (Matamanda and Mphambukeli, 2022). The settlement  depends on off-grid infrastructure and is located about 15 kilometres from the city centre. Following Operation Murambatsvina, the settlement  was founded in 2005 (Tibaijuka 2005). Following the visit of a United Nations delegation that had come to assess the scope of the human rights abuse that the government had executed Operation Murambatsvina, the government of Zimbabwe sought to house the victims of that operation through the Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle (Tibaijuka 2005). The suburb’s population increased from an estimated 35,000 in 2015 to 60,000 in 2018 and approximately  to  80 000 in 2022 according to the Census preliminary report.

Like other informal settlements across Zimbabwe, Hopley has been marred with both water and sanitation challenges. The families in Hopley have been resorting to water from protected and unprotected wells which are in their backyards and some wells are even in the adjacent Granville Cemetery.  This has prompted responses from the city as well as NGOs to provide safe water from the Council grid, mini-grids from solar-powered boreholes and water kiosks with some families buying expensive drinking water from private companies. The Alliance of Dialogue on Shelter Trust and Zimbabwe Homeless People; ‘s Federation has partnered with the City of Harare, supported by VEI in a community participatory water provision project for 2000 families. These interventions have been positive and helpful however, they are inadequate to cater for everyone in Hopley – hence unsafe water is still being used by the majority of households. Additionally, the multiplicity of water providers has not been coordinated and different approaches are being used.  Some of the approaches have contradicted each other.  For instance, there are some sections which do not have safe water sources at all and others access free water from donor boreholes yet some sections are expected to buy water from Kiosks or pay for water connections and water charges to the city. Given this experience, the working group has noted the need to formulate a framework for the provision of safe, adequate and affordable water in informal settlements.  This framework is intended to augment the Pro-Poor Wash Policy as well as the informal settlements regularisation programme of the City. The framework is intended to guide the approaches to water provision in communities of the urban poor that are appropriate and affordable.   In addition to working with the Hopley Community and The City, the Alliance of Dialogue on Shelter Trust and the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation have partnered with the Development Governance Institute ( DEGI), under the Inclusive Urban Infrastructure (IUI)project to support the Hopley community in developing a framework that guides WASH access in informal settlements using Hopley as a case study. The IUI research project is funded by the UK Research and Innovations’ Global Challenges Research Fund. The rich experiences of the Hopley community have provided crucial lessons for developing the framework,  exciting work lies ahead.

Unveiling SDI’s Global Impact: Exploring Global, City and Settlement Levels

By Yilinn Yang

This presentation details SDI’s reach on three levels — continent, region, and country. At each of the levels, there is a map highlighting the areas in which SDI is involved and a summary detailing more specifics about SDI’s involvement.

At the continental level, the data that is included is the number of regions, countries, cities, settlements, savings groups, federation members, and youth federation members involved. At the regional level, each country that is a part of that region has a summary, detailing the same information as that in the continental level in addition to the federation and NGO involved in the country.

Finally, at the country level, the same summary is included, as well as some of the main cities involved. The locations of these cities are also highlighted on the map. The goal of this powerpoint is to consolidate data from affiliates in a centralised location and to provide a visual detailing SDI’s reach.

Click HereClick HereClick HereClick HereClick HereClick HereClick HereClick HereClick HereClick HereClick HereClick HereClick HereClick HereClick HereClick HereClick HereClick HereClick HereClick HereClick HereClick HereClick HereClick HereClick HereClick HereClick Here
Previous slide
Next slide

SA SDI Alliance and the Asivikelane Campaign

The lack of basic services has been a challenge for informal settlement dwellers in South Africa. Many informal settlements lack basic services, some walk a distance to access basic services and those who do have access to the services struggle when they need their services to be maintained (fixing when they break or are stolen).

Through the Asivikelane campaign, social movements (ISN and FEDUP leaders who are community facilitators for different informal settlements) collect data by contacting community residents about the conditions of their services. As a result, the data is shared with relevant departments to ensure a strong relationship such as Solid Waste Management, Water and Sanitation, Maintenance Unit, Roads and Storm Water etc.

To address community issues, these departments engage directly with informal settlements on a regular basis. As a result of these working relationships, refuse removal intervals have been improved, toilets have been unblocked, damaged or non-functional facilities have been repaired, water taps have been repaired, storm water drainage is maintained, chemical toilets are drained regularly, and some communities now use the spaces they used for dumping for community gardening and recycling.  For instance, the Department of Solid Waste provides cleaning materials for cleaning campaigns, refuse bags, and waste management education for residents and now communities are able to contact the department of solid waste directly to request for assistance when their waste containers are overflowing.

With the help of waste management, the Asivikelane Campaign have conducted several cleaning campaigns in the following settlements:

  • Mathambo Informal Settlement;
  • Havelock Informal Settlement;
  • Parking ton Informal Settlement;
  • Mallaca Informal Settlement;
  • Johanna Road Informal Settlement;
  • Boxwood Informal Settlement;
  • Simplace and NCP etc.

SDI Rituals: Profiling & Enumeration through the Vusi Ntsuntsha Project


A piece written by Camila Yanzaguano, Erica Levenson, Manuela Chedjou, with photography by Ana Holschuch. 

Every year SDI hosts students from The New School, as part of their International Field Program. During the internship the students, alongside the SA SDI Alliance and Know Your City youth from the Western Cape, documented the data collection process and community organising of the Vusi Ntsuntsha project. 

Bridging the gap in data surrounding informal settlements is one of the main priorities of SDI. As the profiling process has developed SDI has relied more and more on the community participation of residents of informal settlements. The lack of data on informal settlements is a major issue, and speaks to a larger oversight of informal settlement residents. For this reason, community participation in the data collection process is crucial. Through SDI’s ‘Know Your City’ Campaign (KYC), this profiling and enumeration work is active across 32 different countries, in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, serving as an engine for active community participation. The initiative’s main goal is to produce valuable data on informal settlements so that the data can be used to determine what and where service improvements are needed.

Settlement profiling and enumeration is a process driven by the community for the community. The process helps to organize communities and define the most pressing problems in their settlement, as well as provide a space for communities to discuss priorities while encouraging cross-learning. Through social interaction, residents of informal settlements learn from each other and give helpful suggestions regarding the implementation of development projects.

Informal settlements are typically built by the residents themselves, and the conditions of the construction are not always under local or national codes and regulations. In South Africa in particular, there has been a steady increase in the number and population of informal settlements in the last two decades. The lack of information and data on these settlements has made authorities’ attempts at improvements extremely prolonged. Thus, the KYC initiative aims to expedite slum upgrading projects by compiling crucial data, all the while engaging communities in the process.


photograph taken by Ana Holschuch at Vusi Ntsuntsha meeting.

Enumeration, settlement profiling, and mapping are some of the processes that KYC is involved with and led by slum dwellers. Gathered data has facilitated sanitation improvements as well as the construction of transportation infrastructure, such as the paving of roads within several informal settlements across the SDI affiliated countries. As a result, residents of informal settlements have received improvements in roads, potable water, and sanitation- improvements that they have needed for some time. In some cases, communities have been able to get access to health services, construction of community centers, and schools.  

Enumeration is a community-driven process that has been used by the SA SDI Alliance for years. Enumeration is essential to profiling residents of townships: how many residents per household, what resources they have and do not have, and so on. The data gained by enumeration is then presented to governments and used in requests for resource provisions. In other words, by having an exact number of people residing in each area, it becomes simpler and quicker for the government to budget, plan, and implement upgrading projects at the sites. 

The South African (SA) SDI Alliance has been working in informal settlements for years and has come together with communities to develop the Vusi Ntsuntsha project through community participation. The Vusi Ntsuntsha project was stalled for twenty years, but with leadership commitment and contributions from members of the Vusi Ntsuntsha community, the project was recently re-established. The ultimate goal of the project is to build affordable, proper housing for community members using subsidies from the South African government. With the help of community leaders and the Alliance, the Vusi Ntsuntsha project is making impressive progress. 


photograph taken by Ana Holschuch around profiling and enumeration of the Vusi Ntsuntsha project.

Community members have to be ‘visible’ to the government in order for any project to be planned. Profiling and enumeration create an undeniable visibility of residents and their needs. Through enumeration many important questions are answered: how long respective people have lived in their respective settlements and how they make a living. The data collected is ultimately used to ensure that all residents’ needs are accounted for in planning and service delivery. The data collection work of communities has gained organizations such as SDI and the SA SDI Alliance worldwide recognition. By collecting necessary information, the Western Cape Provincial Government was able to screen all Vusi Ntsuntsha beneficiaries and to provide a response about members who qualify for grants, and set new options for those households who do not qualify. Today, at least half of the 800 beneficiaries have been enumerated and verified, becoming formal members of the Vusi Ntsuntsha project. 

Vusi Ntsuntsha’s process of profiling and enumeration has been crucial to the projects movement and success. Community members not only created valuable data but also gained knowledge during the process. Today, new projects, such as Mossel Bay, are starting with the support of the SA SDI Alliance. Vusi Ntsuntsha leaders and members are exchanging their knowledge on enumeration with Mossel Bay members. Community participation emerges as a key way to give power to the people within informal settlements. Communities are becoming more visible,  capitalizing on their rights as citizens. 


In Short, “Mapping is Important”

[caption id="attachment_11171" align="alignnone" width="600"] Mama Ronnie Hochobes explaining the importance of collecting enough points with the GPS to Mama Wenky Snyder from Okurangava.[/caption]


By the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia

“Mapping helps in starting the upgrading process for our communities, as partners in the development process” – Rebekka, Oshikoto Region, Namibia Shack Dwellers Federation

To date, the Namibia Shack Dwellers Federation has completed the only national level informal settlement profile within the SDI Network.

Ms Rosalinda Hendricks reflects: “It all started off with information collection amongst ourselves as federation members who are saving, we developed a questionnaire for profiling, collected information in 235 informal settlements, which was published 2009 with the support of the Ministry of Regional Local Government, Housing and Rural Development at that time. We further also carried out enumerations, interviewing each household in different informal settlements so we can use the data to inform the local authority on the affordability of residents in accessing services, and negotiating for buying land.”

To know where you are and what your neighbourhood looks like is the start of knowing your city. Mapping is an integral part of the enumeration (slum profiling and household level surveys) of slum dwellers federations. Following community mobilization, data collection begins with a community mapping exercise. With nothing more than pens and markers and pieces of paper – usually spread on the floor or another available stable surface – the mapping and the conversation begins!

Community elders, women, and youth gather around, the discussions and debates are lively and filled with excitement. Boundaries are drawn, disputed and redrawn. Landmarks and services are marked out. Then the community drawn boundaries are layered over satellite imagery and the discussion continues. For many community members this is the first time they see their settlement drawn on a map.

But it doesn’t stop here. This map needs to be digitized for it to become useful. Accompanied by community members, their GPS devices and recording sheets, federation members trained as mappers then proceed to walk the boundaries, capture the points and seek out and map the services indicated by the community.

It is Geography Awareness Week and along with community mappers and geographers from all over the world, SDI federations are celebrating the maps they are producing and reflecting on the power of their maps.

Below are some reflections from Namibian federation members actively involved in mapping work on the importance of mapping in their mobilizing, organizing, and upgrading efforts:

Juliane from the Kunene Region:

“Mapping is important to know where the services in the settlement are located and also to know the size of the area. When we do mapping we create awareness on services and encourage the community to start taking action in their own development. Mapping helps us to know how many households are in the area and also the schools. The process gives us an opportunity to discuss solutions around the challenges that we face in the community so we can help ourselves to address our needs. Mapping also helps us inform the municipality on what is going on in the settlement, at most times the officials don’t know.”

Wendelina from Erongo Region:

“Mapping informs us on the size of the land and the conditions of it. Some people built their structures where they are not supposed to do it. If they know the boundaries, it helps gives us more support in our vision of what we want for our community.”

Candy from Zambezi Region:

“Mapping helps us see our community, how big or small it is.”

Ester from Oshikoto Region:

“Once we know how big the settlement is, it helps us plan better and know that the settlement is divided into two. Some locations are big.”



Tuerijandjera community collecting boundary points for the settlement.


Mapping Evululuko in Oshakati.



Freedom Square Enumerations Team, finalising structure mapping and enumerations for upgrading.

The Namibia Shack Dwellers Federation has begun the updating of their historic settlement profile date base on SDI’s global slum database on ONA platform. To date they have profiled 62 settlements, and mapping of 39 informal settlements has been completed. Capturing of the data has commenced on ONA and community members are actively training in data capturing as well. Thus far they have captured 41 of their settlement profiles and uploaded 14 maps.


Data Entry in Oshakati for Evululuko Informal Settlement.


Community collected and captured mapping data available in ONA platform.

Five regions (Omusati, Ohangwena, Karas , Oshana , Khomas) have been actively collecting data in their settlements this past year. This involves community meetings, discussion of development priorities, settlement history, and the mapping of boundaries and services.

The federation has made presentations to various local and regional authorities, encouraging ownership of the information, and supporting the development and strengthening of partnerships between the federation, communities, and local, regional, and national authorities.


Profiling and Mapping for Alternative Slum Upgrading Solutions in Kiandutu, Kenya

[caption id="attachment_1378" align="alignnone" width="480"] Mtatu B, one of the clusters in Kiandutu Informal settlement.[/caption]

**This post was originally featured on the Muungano blog** 

By Muungano wa Wanavijiji documentation Team

In 2011, the Kenyan SDI Alliance began scaling up its strategy to support community-led upgrading in anticipation of engaging the Kiambu county government to deliver on a new national and city slump improvement initiative and housing programmes. Subsequently in 2015, Muungano wa Wanavijiji, with the support of Slum Dwellers International (SDI) has successfully negotiated a partnership strategy, that would see all informal settlements in Kiambu County identified, profiled, mapped and documented for future slum upgrading and resettlement plans.

Kenya for example follows many previous government programmes and slum upgrading models such as the; Kenya Informal Settlements Improvement programme and the Kenya Slum Upgrading Programme that set out to address slum improvement and upgrading, but has particular importance in that, the support it offers city governments to achieve “slum-free” cities focuses far more than its predecessors on in situ upgrading and tenure security for those living in informal settlements.

Despite the priority given to participation and empowerment by development agencies, there have been few opportunities for the poor to develop their own alternatives. However, Muungano and other SDI affiliates are using community-led data collection, upgrading initiatives, and partnerships to advance change across informal settlements and even at the city-wide scale. The power of communities and their ability to gather data that can influence policy is immense: The urban poor have demonstrated that cities have to work with urban poor communities to collect data and maps of all informal settlements in the city, as the basis for inclusive partnerships between communities of the urban poor and local governments. This has proven to be a critical starting point for meaningful development interventions to address the issues facing our cities, particularly in the informal sector, including human settlements and economy, which constitutes the majority of our cities’ people.

[caption id="attachment_1380" align="alignleft" width="570"] Community participation in the structure numbering training session.[/caption]




[caption id="attachment_1381" align="alignleft" width="570"] Structure Coding[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_1382" align="alignleft" width="570"] One of the federation members Eva Muchiri numbers a household.[/caption]





[caption id="attachment_1383" align="alignnone" width="570"] Henry Otunge ‘veteran’ takes one of the teams through the basics of cognitive mapping of their settlement.[/caption]


Kiandutu community participation and engagement with the Kiambu county government is one classical example as to why partners and stakeholders need to build strong foundations in offering joint solutions for informal settlements.The Kenyan federation for example has utilized its space to deliver on local solutions such as improving sanitation standards, conserving the environment and house improvements for the poor at the grassroots. The partnership between Muungano wa Wanavijiji and the Kiambu County Government, who’s MOU will soon be formalised, is one key example of how local advocacy can change the slum landscape in Thika.

[caption id="attachment_1379" align="alignleft" width="570"] A recent joint technical meeting between Kiandutu community representatives, Muungano wa Wanavijiji, SDI and Kiambu County Government Officials.[/caption]












Securing changes in urban policy and practice through precedent-setting requires the development of alternatives that are supported by grassroots organizations. Once the need for pro-poor alternatives has been demonstrated by precedent, residents will tirelessly lobby their state institutions to ensure that the necessary reforms are introduced. As noted above, a key mechanism for influencing policies is the use of community-gathered settlement data in local advocacy (for upgrading, improved service provision, etc.). Precedent-setting is a strategy for influencing policy by building upon residents’ resilience and creativity to transform their settlements from the inside out.

With the continuous evolution of technology, Muungano wa Wanavijiji through the support of Slum dwellers International have continued to perfect its community data collection tools that if correctly used, continues to build upon the urban space, where slum dwellers would remain visible to any planning agenda held in trust by their city governments.

In the belief and spirit of the Know your City campaigns, currently running in 33 SDI country affiliates around the globe, data collection practices will soon evolve, where complex requirements for technology-laden data collection and analysis would put every single informal settlement- house hold and settlements on the map making every settlement visible.

This therefore is likely to positively influence local plans and urban policy frameworks at the local level. In response to the advancement in technology, the Alliance has been testing the use of digital tools for its own data collection and analysis in Kiandutu informal settlement. The Kiandutu’ Participatory Settlement Profile and Mapping Project has two central goals: to set a precedent for a community-based implementation of comprehensive data collection; and to empower the urban poor with new knowledge and tools to help them articulate their needs and demands using digital media.

There can be no social change that can truly benefit low-income communities if the poor have not participated in designing, managing and realising that process of change.

Quotes from the Kiandutu settlement profile and mapping

“As we embark on this journey, I would like to acknowledge the partnership that exists between the people of Kiandutu, Muungano, SDI and the Kiambu County government. It is also important for policy makers in each and every county, which are still in dilemma of, address the challenges of informal settlements to first focus on the people, organizations and processes rather than advocate on consultancies to address a people problem.”

Gabriel Kibui, Chairman Muungano Kiandutu.

“My wish is to see this process generously deliver on my security of tenure, quality housing and improvement in the delivery of services such as water, sanitation and drainage infrastructure and services.”

Florence Wanjiru, Resident Kiandutu

“The Kiambu County government is making considerable attempts to encourage communities and stakeholders to find long-term solutions to address issues of informal settlements, especially by regularizing and redeveloping such settlements as Kiandutu by subsidizing programmes to provide formal housing for the urban poor.”

Lucy Kiarie, Kiambu County officer

Addressing Evictions Before Push Comes to Shove

A Commentary On A Recent Spate Of Evictions To Affect Federation Groups In West And Southern Africa.

In the last fortnight the SDI Secretariat has received reports from a number of our affiliates about large-scale evictions taking place in settlements in which the SDI network has a presence. Current estimates are that over 40,000 people have been evicted in Badia East, Lagos (Nigeria), Crab Town, Freetown (Sierra Leone), Old Fadama, Accra (Ghana), and Caledonia Farm, Harare (Zimbabwe).

In their desperation to find a way to stop the destruction of Crab Town, the SDI affiliate in Sierra Leone reached out to the network. A lively correspondence has ensued. It is a revealing and enlightening communication between slum dwellers and support professionals that reminds us that the SDI network has its roots in a struggle against evictions and that over thirty years later struggles for land and security of tenure still lie at the heart of the movement.

We invite you to read the full correspondence, included below, and to contribute to the discussion. SDI will continue to support community efforts to get ahead of the bulldozers and invites its partners to intensify efforts to find workable solutions.


On Sep 7, 2015, at 6:36 PM, Samuel Sesay, SDI affiliate in Sierra Leone wrote:

Dear All,

It is sad to inform you that one popular slum in Freetown situation at Aberdeen Beach axis has been absolutely demolished and about 9,000 slum dwellers made homeless in the middle of the heavy down pour of rain in West Africa. The entire exercise started on Saturday 5th Sept. 2015 and the demolition work is still going on. The entire deal was driven by the Ministry of Tourism with the intention of taking away all the coastal slums and make them attractive for tourism. The government intend to continue in this until they get rid of all coastal slums in Freetown. This has created a very serious alarm. Fedurp and Codohsapa went on the ground and bull dossers, caterpillars and vibrant youth were hired for the exercise.

Sorry we couldn’t provide pictorial evidence because the entire area was heavily covered with military and police presence and picture and videoing was not allowed, if you are caught, then you will be charged to court for various offences. So, that is the situation we are faced with right now and the exercise is still on going. So that is that the SDI family.


Samuel Sheka Sesay,

Programme Coordinator

Centre Of Dialogue On Human Settlement And Poverty Alleviation (CODOHSAPA).

REPLY From: Joe Muturi, National Leader Kenya Federation


Date: 11 September 2015 at 11:52:57 AM SAST

Dear Samuel,

On one of my visits to SL, you took us to a part of kroobay where the families where evicted and I remember telling you that you should never take visitors on field visits to showcase your failures. This is exactly what I meant. If you appeal for sympathy after evictions happen then they will continue to happen. You must do something to make sure you raise the price of evicting a community. 

As I say this I want you to know that my and all of SDI’s thoughts are with you and we feel you. We know how cruel it is and we also know how difficult it is to deal with these situations. 

The immediate problem is that when a community is evicted and they do not stay on the land, they end up losing because they are already hard hit and cannot afford to re-invade the land. And when they leave the settlement everyone ends up looking for a place to go by themselves and it is very difficult to bring them together again. 

Nigeria, has had an experience of going to court and getting compensation for the evicted families. So I am copying in Megan who can share on the Badia East experience. I am also copying in Jane, who could share a Kenyan legal precedent where the courts granted compensation for evicted families in a settlement called city carton.

These cases are however exceptions made possible by the involvement of the world bank in Nigeria, and in Kenya we had new laws and the judge was previously muungano’s lawyer. It is easier if you had done an enumeration but I think you had only a profile. And therefore this is the info you will need to fight for the settlement. These cases are long and hard and if there is a legal NGO in SL you could try getting them to take up the case.

Whatever else you do make sure that this eviction does not go away quietly. You must make sure that it is in the media and that there is a petition to government, delivered with people power and some oomph. Demonstrate or do whatever you have to make sure everyone knows that there are consequences. And all settlements in SL need to see you as the movement that fights for them.

This is easier said than done, because you are always trying to build a relationship with government. In Kenya we say we work like a rat, “we bite and blow”. You fight and appease at the same time. You fight over one settlement with ministry of tourism and you build a project in another settlement with another ministry. You should never allow an eviction to happen without a noise. 

SDI can help in making a noise if you help us document the eviction and keep us updated on what you are doing. The secretariat will post on its website and all of us will highlight it wherever we are, So keep sharing with us on a daily basis.

Lastly, since you know the evictions for coastal slums will continue. You need to take preventative steps. One way is to create a coastal slums federation – a daughter federation of the  big federation. A federation that is just focused on building advocacy and proposals for the coastal slums. If I remember well there are plenty of coastal slums, mo wharf, kroobay, Susan’s bay, colbolt etc. when doing this remember you must mix the positive and negative. Do advocacy and the building local solutions for the communities.



REPLY From: Megan Chapman SDI affiliate in Nigeria


Date: 14 September 2015 at 10:10:57 PM SAST

Dear all,

Very sorry for the slow reply, Samuel, and very sorry to hear of the demolitions and displacement in Freetown. How are the people coping? Can you provide any further details about the background to the evictions — was there any prior statement of intent to demolish by the Ministry of Tourism? Was there any notice? Any prior attempts at engagement between the affected community/communities and the government? Any action in court? Any protest or action since? Media attention?

Indeed, Nigeria has plenty of experience with forced eviction — large scale and ruthless — and, sadly, little experience of success in getting compensation or justice through the courts. Decades of losing in court and continued demolitions is what led us to seek partnership with SDI so as to try new methods — namely mass mobilization and proactive engagement — aimed at changing the politics towards bringing an end to forced evictions in Nigeria (both by raising the costs, as Muturi explained, and practically illustrating win-win alternatives). 

We have tried many different approaches to dealing with forced evictions through litigation and advocacy. Generally, it is always best to start working preventively before the worst happens. Trying to get compensation, resettlement, etc, after the fact is an up-hill battle. We have, literally, dozens of demolition/eviction cases before Nigerian courts, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), and regional human rights courts — the most successful ones are those where the community is able to continue to stay united and mobilized, bring a lot of media attention, and pursue various political and legal angles at once.

Of all these cases, we have only had ONE instance of after-the-fact compensation — the Badia East 2013 case that Muturi has mentioned. Indeed, there was no opportunity for prior engagement in that case, since the rumors of possible demolition came less than 48 hours before the demolition and the Lagos State Government denied its intention to demolish just the day before they came in and demolished 267 structures affected 9,000+ people. 

After the demolition, we followed many angles very very quickly. The community protested two days after the demolition. We filed a case in court seeking an injunction against demolition of the rest of the community. We petitioned the NHRC, which came to investigate a few days after. We got a ton of media attention, including New York Times, Huffington Post, and other international news. And — most importantly — we petitioned the World Bank, which was simultaneously funding an infrastructure upgrading project in Badia East and argued that the WB had a responsibility to the intended beneficiaries of its project.

The last angle was the one that ultimately led to a modicum of relief for the people. World Bank’s involvement was the game changer because we were able to make a compelling legal and political case (with risk of public embarrassment) that the Lagos State Government should have followed World Bank safeguard policies on involuntary resettlement to come up with a “resettlement action plan” (RAP). Ultimately, our continued pressure on World Bank and World Bank’s continued pressure on the Lagos State Government led to a retroactive RAP that involved modest financial and livelihoods assistance amounting to $2mill, which went to landlords (without title documents) and tenants alike — a first in Nigerian history.

That said, the process was messy and imperfect. All of us wish the risk had been identified beforehand and the community had started preparing years in advance. Based on this experience (and dozens of others with even less successful outcomes), the Nigerian Federation is now mobilizing communities at risk of eviction to organize, build strength through savings, profiling, legal awareness, strategic alliances, and proactive solutions. 

Happy to chat more on Skype or phone, including discussing the specifics of potential legal claims and/or looking at the political landscape to think about strategic advocacy options. For legal assistance, perhaps you could reach out to Timap for Justice (we can put you in touch if you do not already have contacts)? Just let us know how we can help. 

In solidarity,


Megan S. Chapman

Co-Founder / Co-Director

Justice & Empowerment Initiatives – Nigeria



[caption id="attachment_10554" align="alignnone" width="578"] Residents of Bogobogoni village in Kibarani, Changamwe watch from a distance as buldozers demolish their houses as police gaurded the demolition of the houses without a court order to pave way for a private developer. Over two thousand people were left homeless. Photo by Gideon Maundu.[/caption]


This is nothing new for us. Violence, displacement, and legal disempowerment perpetrated by entrenched political and market interests are systematic realities in the lives of slum dwellers the world over. In all of these cases it is clear that the desperate efforts of poor people to cling onto miserable pieces of land end up clashing with vested interests of people with money and power. Local politicians and businessmen resorted to violent means to assert their claims to the spoils of development that should be going to those who often end up being its victims – informal settlement dwellers themselves.

[caption id="attachment_10553" align="alignnone" width="602"] A demolition scene at Mitumba Slums near Wilson Airport Nairobi as several Houses were demolished on November 19,2011 , in the ongoing government exercise to clear settlements said to have been illegally constructed on a land belonging to Kenya Airports Authority (KAA)..,government bulldozers rolled into the Slum ,Two Primary Schools and SDA Church were demolished . William Oeri (Nairobi)[/caption]


But before we go any further we need to get some facts straight – starting with some facts about poor people and about cities.

Reality number 1. People are leaving the rural areas for good reasons. Changes in how land is farmed and owned and increasingly tied to global markets are leaving more rural people in crippling debt, without land, work, money or any hope of surviving. At the same time, increasing numbers of natural disasters are destroying rural livelihoods and impoverishing more and more households. With TV, cheap mobile phones and easy communications, people in the most remote villages now know what cities have to offer, and their choice to migrate is usually a well-informed one.

Reality number 2. In cities they find job opportunities as well as markets for their own informal businesses, making and selling cheap goods and services. And the money they can make in cities can usually be enough to support themselves and their households, as well as send money home to relatives still in the rural villages. In cities they have better access to schools, health care, culture and opportunities for a future no village could ever offer.

Reality number 3. Cities need large supplies of cheap labour. This is imperative for various city-based economic activities in many different sectors such as industry, construction, the public sector and the informal sector. This cheap labour toils in the factories, staffs the crews that build houses, bridges, roads, and shopping centres. They sweep the streets, carry away the city’s garbage, prune its trees and maintain its sewers. They are the housemaids, the taxi drivers, the cleaners, the delivery boys, the clerks. And where would our cities be without the markets and the street vendors, selling prepared foods, fruits, vegetables, clothes, shoes, and so on?

Reality number 4. These important inhabitants of our cities often have no choice but to live in slums. Land prices in cities have skyrocketed and the poor find themselves increasingly priced out of any formal land or housing market. In most cities in Africa and Asia, planners and governments, at all levels, have been unable to cope with this influx of poor people and with the natural growth of urban poor populations. It is hard to find cases where governments have been able to intervene successfully in these markets with programmes to help meet the land and housing needs of their poor populations.

Reality number 5. Slums are solutions to housing problems. Policy makers, city managers, urban planners and many citizens tend to see the growth of slums in their cities as unsightly and lawless blights that should be cleared away or at least hidden in out-of-the-way corners of the city. Nobody would argue that a crowded, dirty, unplanned settlement is anybody’s idea of an ideal living situation, with its poor quality housing, its bad infrastructure (or no infrastructure at all) and its insecure land tenure. But if you go beneath their admittedly grim outer layer and take a deeper look at what is really going on in slum communities, you will often find them to be places of support and hope and growth and not places of despair at all. In fact, these makeshift settlements evolve quickly into vital and complex life-support systems for the poor, which can help meet a variety of their needs and give them a base for lifting themselves out of poverty. They may fall short when it comes to design, status, comfort and resale value but they generally tick a number of boxes that are critically important for the urban poor, such as location (proximity to jobs, income opportunities, transport hubs, schools), space for home-based economic activities, community support systems in the form of networks of friends, neighbours or kinsfolk, and affordability.

[caption id="attachment_10557" align="alignnone" width="605"] A demolition scene at Mitumba Slums near Wilson Airport Nairobi as several Houses were demolished on November 19,2011 , in the ongoing government exercise to clear settlements said to have been illegally constructed on a land belonging to Kenya Airports Authority (KAA)..,government bulldozers rolled into the Slum ,Two Primary Schools and SDA Church were demolished . William Oeri (Nairobi)[/caption]


Given these simple facts one would imagine that city leaders would recognize poor people as valuable contributors to the smooth functioning of our cities and slums as the foundation stone for good urban development. But this is often not the case. In fact as the tragic events in Caledonia Farm, Badia East, Old Fadama and Crab Town demonstrate many city governments make decisions that force poor people out of their homes and off their land. One has to ask the question: “Why?”

Those who are responsible for evictions or choose to justify them often present them as the process by which people who have illegally occupied a piece of land belonging to someone else are removed from that land by due process of law. In this view, the squatters are the criminals and the property owners are the victims. This does not capture the human reality of an eviction, which is always painful, violent and impoverishing for the evictees. And it also does not capture the unjust systems of land use and property ownership in many countries that allow a few to enjoy great property wealth and leave many with little or nothing at all.

There are cases, it must be noted, where evictions cannot be avoided, and this may apply to some of the current crises. But even when health hazards or environmental risks make evictions necessary, suitable alternatives, negotiated with the affected communities, need to be provided. It is not in the interest of the city authorities and the better off to treat poor citizens like leaves swept into a corner only to be blown far and wide by the winds of desperation and necessity. Once evicted the urban poor do not disappear. They do not rush off to the rural areas. They find other parcels of land in the city to settle on once again.

Conventional wisdom tells us that the courts, the constitution, and flimsy barricades are the only recourse for those who face evictions. But it is because of the very power relations described above that we know (not just theoretically, but from bitter experience) that laws, pyrrhic victories in courts, and unfocused public demonstrations do not and will not turn the tables — will not restrain those with power and resources whose intention it is to grab the spoils of development. This does not mean that SDI disregards constitutional rights, litigation, and the courts. However, we know that these are reactive or defensive tools, often applied after evictions have already happened.

There has been a gradual evolution in how community organizations handle evictions. For decades their main tools, as mentioned above, were organizing to bravely and often quixotically resist settlement specific evictions through demonstrations, marches and barricades and by filing court cases to stop demolitions. But during the violence, fear and dislocation of an eviction it is hard to think clearly and negotiate alternatives. Once a crisis erupts, the tools available to communities reduce sharply. So the question for poor communities has got to be how to create a more pro-active, longer-term process to resolve these eviction conflicts. Instead of waiting for the eviction squads to come and then trying to stop them, what if communities could find space to focus on the longer-term goal of securing tenure and gradually building houses long before the evictions happen?  Litigation and confrontation are always a last resort, but more and more community organizations have developed, refined and scaled up a number of long-term strategies to stop evictions and change their relationships with their city governments, and these strategies are now starting to bear fruit.

In a seminal document prepared for Cities Alliance, our colleague Tom Kerr summarized the experiences of slum dwellers in SDI and its sister organization the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights and came up with 5 tools or strategies that communities have used to negotiate alternatives to eviction.

Strategy Number 1 – Ever expanding networks.

Karl Marx pretty much summed up the state of affairs more than 150 years ago when he declared that the poor are weak because they are not united and they are not united because they are weak. In Europe and the United States at that time the primary terrain of conflict was the industrial factory. While their dwellings were just as squalid, unplanned, overcrowded and insecure as the shantytowns and slums of today, the overwhelming majority of the urban poor worked in these factories. There was not much of an informal sector and so the urban poor and the working class were pretty much synonymous. They were also more easily able to organize since they were concentrated in close working proximity. They were able to come together and secure the occasional victories. But as Marx pointed out “the real fruit of their battle (lay), not in the immediate result”, but in their ever-expanding union.

The urban poor are now defined as much by their physical vulnerability and their living conditions (if not more so) as they are by their direct exploitation as wage labourers. Nevertheless the first and most critical strategy remains the same – to build a movement – that is to federate illegal slum communities at the city, national and international level. With that strength comes unity and with that unity comes strength. Local, national and global solidarity is the number one macro strategy to force negotiations for decent alternatives to evictions. No household or community alone can negotiate with the city for alternatives when organized and well resourced vested interests are pushing for projects that lead to wholesale dislocation. Only when the urban poor negotiate together, in organizations which have the collective force of big numbers, does it work. To make change, there needs to be a “critical mass” of people breaking down resistance to change, and dissolving the barriers between poor people and decision making about the allocation and distribution of resources. Community networks also create platforms for horizontal learning, mutual support and sharing of ideas between poor communities, in different parts of the city, different parts of the country and different parts of the globe.

Strategy Number 2 – Women Centred Community Savings.

Collective saving binds people together, teaches them to manage their collective resources and helps them take control of their own development. Savings make room for poor people to develop self-reliance and self-awareness and to make decisions together through a collective mechanism. When small savings groups link into larger networks or Federations, these networks give community members access to greater financial resources and enhanced clout when negotiating for their basic needs, and enables the poor to deal with the larger, structural issues related to their problems — especially eviction and access to urban land.

Strategy Number 3 – Community Enumeration and Mapping

SDI linked federations of the urban poor have very consciously undertaken a strategy of self-enumeration and self-surveying. Federations constantly gather reliable and complete data about households and families in their own communities. Then they codify these techniques into a series of practical tips for their members and have thus created a revolutionary system of information gathering and management that forms the very basis of a real governmentality from below. All SDI federations are now deeply aware of the radical power that this kind of knowledge gives them in their dealings with local and central state organizations – especially when it comes to trying to prevent evictions. In every country and city there is a host of local, state-level and local entities with a mandate to eradicate, rehabilitate or ameliorate slums.  But none of them know exactly who the slum-dwellers are, where they live or how they are to be identified. All slum policies have an abstract slum population as their target and no knowledge of its concrete, human components.  Since these populations are by definition social, legally and spatially marginal, invisible citizens as it were, they are by definition uncounted and uncountable except in the most general terms. By rendering them statistically visible, the Alliance controls a central piece of any actual policy process dealing with upgrading, relocation and resettlement.

Strategy Number 4 – Participatory Preparation of Alternative Plans

When poor communities are backed up against the wall and demand their rights through protest or defend what they have through resistance they are putting the authorities in a position where they only have two options: to acknowledge what people are demanding or to reject it. Such a situation is often a dead-end for communities – as the evictees in Accra, Freetown, Harare and Lagos will testify. But things can be very different when there is an opportunity for community organisations to design strategies and plans which demonstrate that their situation can be improved and on that basis begin a dialogue with the authorities. Demonstrable and testable alternative ideas backed up with large numbers of people is a strong way for community organisations to establish their credentials as development partners and therefore by association as citizens with defendable rights.

Strategy Number 5 – Urban Poor Funds

Urban Poor Funds or similar community managed development finance facilities are institutions that have been set up in many SDI countries to respond to different local needs, capacities and political contexts. They all build on the financial and organisational assets that are generated by community savings. As a result money is pulled through the system by people’s real needs, not pushed though by the development agendas of other actors. They become the basis for deal-brokering, for leveraging significant resources from within the network and beyond and putting these resources behind alternative plans to evictions that have emerged from participatory planning and are backed up by knowledge derived from mapping and surveying. This in turn is backed up by large numbers of organized, united and informed slum dwellers – not only from the affected settlement – who are no longer victims but empowered people capable of having a decisive say in their own development destinies.

SDI has chosen to put its efforts and energies into these long-term eviction prevention planning strategies – instead of being defensive, waiting for eviction to come and then scurrying to find a way that “they” should not evict “us” too easily. At the end of the day it is all about ordinary slum dwellers organizing themselves community-by-community, coming together at the city level, at the national level, and at the international level. SDI choses to link communities together so that they can equip one another with knowledge, unity and organisation, starting processes of change, working out and proposing alternatives, making governments understand that when there are evictions, everybody loses, barring a handful well connected individuals.

Our colleague Jane Weru a renowned human rights lawyer from Kenya once summed this up with these insights:

“I am sure you must be asking yourselves who we are as Shack Dwellers International. You see people from all over – brown, white, black coming together and I am sure the question as to what brings these people together must be floating in your minds. I was thinking about that question.

First thing that came to mind is that essentially the people in Shack Dwellers International, in the support organizations, and the Federations are mainly people who are discontented. Discontented with the current status quo. From India to Kenya to South Africa we are people who are very unhappy about evictions. People who felt very strongly that it was wrong for communities, whole families to live on the streets of Bombay or to live on the garbage dumps of Manila. We felt very strongly about that. So we the people within Shack Dwellers International are people who are, in a sense, the discontents of our societies.

I think also we the people within Shack Dwellers International are people who have a vision. We are the dreamers to a certain degree. We believe that this world can be better and we believe that working together we can make a difference. So essentially we are pragmatic. And you can see our pragmatism in the approaches we have. This pragmatism has led us to develop social movements. Not only in our countries but across the borders.

We have a vision of an alternative world that we want to see in existence. And that vision is based on our current discontent with what we see in our cities. This vision is backed up by our practices. Backed up by our customs and our ways of doing things. We have enumerations, savings, house models and these are practices and customs that lead to the development of this alternative society that we believe in.

And how is this? How do these mundane customs and practices like savings and enumerations bring change in our society?

I think these practices and customs help develop a new culture amongst us. What is this new culture? I think the culture that we’ve developed within our community is a culture of care and nurturing, because in our saving schemes we interact at a very high level. We save on a daily basis. On a daily basis people move from house to house collecting money and like we say within the Shack Dwellers International network – collecting information, collecting problems and seeing how as a community we can begin to resolve those problems. Using the different resources we have at that communal level we begin to address the problem of the women who does not have food in her house for that day, who is able to come to that community organisation that has developed within that settlement and say: “today I was not able to get work, can you give me a bit from my savings. So I can buy food today. And if I don’t have a bit from my savings, can this community give me a bit of money for today so I can put food on my table.”  So we develop these communities of care and sharing, right from the ground. That is the culture we develop.”

[caption id="attachment_10558" align="alignnone" width="387"] Scene of inferno on Saturday night at Mukuru-Hazina Slum in South B, Nairobi. More than 100 houses were reduced to ashes rendering more than 400 people homeless while an informal school and electric posts were not spared. Area chief Solomon L. Muranguri said the fire was caused by a stove. Photo/SAMMY KIMATU (31.07.2011)[/caption]

Below is a selection of images of evictions and demolitions that have taken place in the past few years in Kenya and Ghana. 

[gallery link="file" ids="10568,10569,10570,10571,10572,10573,10574,10575,10576,10577,10578,10579,10580,10581,10582,10583,10584,10585,10586,10587,10588,10590,10589,10591,10593,10594,10595,10597,10600,10601,10602,10603,10604,10605,10606,10607"]

Agbajowo, Lafinsoya | Unity, Our Strength

By the Nigerian Federation and JEI-Nigeria



23-30 AUGUST 2015


Introduction and background:

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

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

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


Opening session:

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

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


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

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


Exchange objectives:

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

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


Savings, loans, and UPF:

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Profiling and mapping:

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

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


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


Federation leadership:

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

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

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

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


Outcomes and next steps:

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


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



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

Uncovering the Pockets: Profiling Accra’s Slums

Photo 1

By Mara Forbes, SDI Secretariat

The Ghana federation is embarking on its largest and most ambitious data collection process to date – citywide profiling of seven municipalities in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA). GAMA is comprised of 11 districts, each of which has multiple sub-metros and many neighborhoods.

Last week the Ghana Federation of the Urban Poor (GHAFUP) held a “learning-by-doing” planning exchange to lay a strategy for their first citywide profile. Federation members and technical support staff from Uganda, Sierra Leone, and South Africa joined the Ghana federation to share lessons from their own citywide profiling experiences.

It was immediately clear to all involved that they had underestimated the shear size of Accra’s informally settled communities. During the first day of mapping the federation discovered that many of the communities identified by local authorities were a mixture of formal areas interspersed with pockets of informal slums. These slum pockets are not formally recognized by local authorities.

Community Voice:

At first we were many so then they divided us into groups. One group went to New Town and one went to Kandar and one went to Mamobi. I was in the Mamobi team. When we got there we first took [mapped] the boundary of the whole Mamobi. We couldn’t finish that day so we had to come back. The following day we took [mapped] the pockets of slums. We took [mapped] a lot! Because the place was so big we couldn’t finish all the slums, so they were saying we should pick some service points, such as streetlights, roads, toilets, garbage dumps, schools, churches and mosques. So we took [mapped] all these things and when we got back we saw it was too much. So we needed to choose just some. Since the federation can’t build schools and churches we decided we should pick some key services like toilets, garbage dumps, water points, and drainage. So the following day we took just those points and it was very fast to capture. It was fantastic! Everything was moving on so well. People were eager to learn the GPS and some were doing the recording. We all came back together. Meanwhile there were some slums people couldn’t finish so we had to go back to the field to help capture the whole place and it was marvellous. Some of the community leaders were so tired and they refused to go back to the field. Only one went back, but the rest of us all went to help finish.

– Rhode Allhassan, Federation member from Ashaiman

After seeing and understanding the actual context on the ground the team had to come back to the drawing board to develop a new plan for identifying slum areas within these communities. After much discussion and reflection it was agreed that in order to conduct a citywide profile the teams must first enter a community or neighborhood and map the boundaries of the electoral/administrative area. During the process of walking the boundary and discussing with local leaders the team can then identify and map the boundary and services of the pockets of slums within each community. Once these slum pockets have been identified and mapped the community will return to hold the profiling focus group discussion.

Photo 5Planning their mapping approach

Community Voice:

Learning about the GPS was a good experience because I never thought I could hold it and use it. But I could use it, I learned. Also recording the data – I did that as well. I was able to figure out the coordinates on the GPS. I learned to capture the data on the computer and I felt on top of the world! I realized I now have a level of confidence to impart the knowledge I learned to someone else. I was able to build my confidence to share knowledge with others. Being with the foreign team (delegates from Uganda, Sierra Leone, and South Africa) I learned so much. I learned from Sharon (Uganda federation leader) how I shouldn’t be selfish when you know something. You should be ready to impart what you know to others and be patient. The international team was not bossy, they know many things, but they don’t think they are so big. I’m so eager and want to put in best. I’m ready to learn and face my challenges now.

– Mabel Hawa Abakah, Tumah Vela Savings Group, Nungua

Photo 2Mapping team

Community Voice:

This is going to improve my community based on me. Because the knowledge and understanding I’ve had I now can teach and inform the community so they have the knowledge too. The savings will help our community because it is this savings that gives you the power and strength. It shows the authorities your weight to put in for something to improve the community. Without savings, someone can’t come from outside to help you. I made them to first understand that our development will be 95% based on our savings. Even yesterday, some people called and came to the house to get information on starting savings. They wanted to buy savings books but didn’t have the money, but are willing to come in and start. I was telling Sharon (Uganda federation leader) that God works in mysterious ways. Coming together with this humble family [federation]. I give glory to God to making me part of this unique family. I’m so happy. I can’t emphasise it.

– Mabel Hawa Abakah, Tumah Vela Savings Group, Nungua

In the span of a week the team had planned to profile and map four communities within Ayawaso East – one of eleven sub-metro areas in Accra Metropolitan Area (AMA), which is just one of the seven metropolitan areas the federation is planning to profile and map within the next year. Due to their adaptability, new plan, and enthusiasm to uncover all the pockets of slums in the four communities of Ayawaso East they mapped 26 settlement boundaries and the services available in each settlement. In addition, they mapped the four larger boundaries of Kanda, New Town, Nima, and Mamobi (the four communities of Ayawaso East) – a total of 30 boundary maps.

Photo 3Data entry team

Community Voice:

The data capture was the most important thing I learned. It is the first time I’m doing this. It’s a blessing in disguise for me because I didn’t know something like this would help me. We have been doing profiling and mapping but we hadn’t been doing the capturing, so it was a new thing. I didn’t think we would do this but we did! It’s a lot of work and good. The data capturing will help me because it can help me draw a map on my own. I can teach my brothers and friends who are near do it and when I’m not there. They can help continue the process.

– Terry Otu, New World International Savings Group, Nungua C5

Community Voice:

When I came I was feeling shy and afraid to do certain things. The first day she (Anni, SDI Secretariat) taught me how to use the tablet in capturing and I used it for 2 days. The second day I was perfect! I was on the field recording, but was told to come and do data entry. I thought it was something big and I couldn’t do it. But when I got here my colleagues were here and they welcomed me. I needed an account and was going to use my facebook, but they said I could have an email. They said I can use my date of birth or something to remember to make my own email. I never thought I could have this. They showed me how to create an email address. Terri was entering the services but then Anni said it was my turn. I could type though my speed was slow, but she said I could make it and to take my time. It is now pushing me to learn more. This will not be the end of my learning. I want to plan to buy a computer for myself. I’m very happy.

– Rhode Allhassan, Federation member from Ashaiman

Photo 4 Rhode Alhassan capturing data

In the next few months the data team of the Ghana federation will continue to refine and deepen its learning in order to most effectively and efficiently roll out profiling and mapping to rest of AMA as well as the remaining six Metropolitan Areas of GAMA. No doubt the data and information collected will be a huge feat for the Ghana federation and the SDI network, but more importantly will provide the communities with the tools and information to engage and dialogue with their local authorities around service provision, security of tenure, and possibilities for joint slum upgrading.

Community Voice:

Our work in LSC 2 [Lands Services and Citizenship 2 – National Urban Development Program funded by Cities Alliance] is going to bring a lot of issues and skills into the Ghana federation of the Urban Poor. Since we have been doing profiling and enumerations, it is only the support office that normally captures the data. But now we see that the Ghana Federation of the Urban Poor is improving by capturing our own data that we collect in the field. We are hoping that these few people we have trained, that they will train more people to come on board. Because this won’t only be Accra but will be in other regions and we need to bring people on board to have those skills.

We have trained a lot of people, and we are learning how to engage with the sub metros and the city itself. Before the support office gave letters to the city, but now we [community members] distribute the letters and after distributing the letters we go there to follow up. We sit with them and we told them what we want them to do to support us in the community. Our plan is to use the information to engage the municipal assemblies for the development of the communities and services they are lacking. So we use the information in order to advocate to the assemblies.

Another big achievement is towards the AMA. It has now opened its doors towards Old Fadama for the Ghana Federation and People’s Dialogue and SDI to enter. This is a big achievement! For the past 14-15 years they didn’t do that. They don’t even what to hear our name. But now they open their doors and anything they want to do, they call federation and People’s Dialogue and they are asking the communities advice on how they can come in and do development here. They need more advice from our support office and the federation. If we are able to sign the MOU with AMA it will be the biggest achievement. The mayor himself came out several times to do a press conference saying he has demolished Sodom and Gomorrah but Old Fadama is still staying and Old Fadama is going to stay forever. So that is the message he is saying  – we grabbed that message and are going to use that message in order to push him to sign the MOU so we can also be partners with them to see how we can get the security of tenure. When we get the security of tenure, we have achieved the biggest thing. We can then come together to figure out how we can develop this place with nice affordable houses for the people. Now that these people opened their doors, it’s an opportunity to us to also move in.

– Baba Fuseini Al-Hassan, Tungteeiya Savings Group, Old Fadama