**Cross posted from the World Bank website**
By Skye Dobson, SDI Secretariat, Uganda
In the slum dweller communities of Uganda — where over 60 percent of the urban population lives – the purported benefits of urban agglomeration are not being felt. Despite rapid urbanization, urban areas are characterized by rising unemployment and inadequate access to basic services. Rather than waiting passively for the benefits of urban agglomeration, Uganda’s slum dwellers have adopted a proactive strategy that is harnessing the potential of collective action.
The strategy is one that has evolved within the Slum Dwellers International (SDI) network. It involves the clustering — or federating — of community saving groups into urban poor federations. The National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU) is one of 33 federations in the SDI network. Founded in 2002, the NSDFU today comprises almost 500 savings groups and approximately 38,000 members. Savings are used to bring people together, build their capacity to act collectively, and build organizational capacity and trust.
When savings groups begin, they often focus solely on livelihood issues and income generation. But, with time and greater exposure to SDI rituals, such as enumeration and peer-to-peer exchange, communities formulate an urban agenda that looks beyond group members and toward transforming the settlements in which they live. This is when benefits to service delivery begin to accrue as part of a collective upgrading agenda. The spatial proximity of urban savings groups allows for the agglomeration of collective capacity necessary to create a critical mass of urban poor to hold public officials accountable, to collaborate with municipalities and leverage their savings. This critical mass is required to make community participation more than a platitude and aid more effective, and it is uniquely possible in the urban setting.
Over the past 10 years, the NSDFU has constructed sanitation units and community halls the slums throughout the country. Last year it began extending clean water and improving drainage, while in Jinja it has commenced construction of a low cost housing project. In almost every case projects were built upon land provided by municipal council, demonstrating true partnership.
The increasing returns to scale for the agglomeration of collective capacity are also evident. The more the federation grows, the easier it becomes to negotiate with government, mobilize members and savings, leverage funds, and implement projects. Because the NSDFU is part of SDI, the returns to scale also benefit tremendously from the growth of the global urban poor movement.
by Hellen Nyamweru, ACTogether Uganda
The partnership between the Federation and local government in Arua municipality has emerged exemplary in the first phase of TSUPU. This is thanks largely to community engagements and actually standing for what the program is based on. TSUPU, meaning Transforming Settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda, has served its purpose to a great extent in Arua Municipality.
Arua municipality, located approximately 480 kilometers northwest of Kampala, and the largest city in the district, has demonstrated an impressive understanding as far as TSUPU is concerned. When you find communities informed of all the development programs under TSUPU and having participated in the actual implementation of the same, then you know there has been positive impact on local governance in Arua. For communities to be in possession of all the community upgrading fund projects’ documents for all the transactions involved means there has truly been a transformation and empowerment of settlements of the urban poor. You can actually touch it! And it is exciting to witness this happening.
In a recent monitoring exercise, communities in Arua and the municipality technocrats clearly showed how meaningful collaborative working relationships can be developed and sustained for the development of Arua. The manner in which issues have taken course in Arua leaves one full of admiration and awe and calling for such powerful collective effort to be replicated elsewhere in the country. Arua municipality and the community have managed to form a web of interconnected efforts that support one another.
Arua federation is now an active change agent in the municipality, having been awarded monies to take on different projects in the municipality after a successful proposal competition. Through this undertaking the communities have felt valued by the municipality; they are thriving and want to go the extra miles to make their municipality a city. It is now clear that collaboration of different efforts is a sine qua non to development; it cannot be achieved in isolation.
Generally, the TSUPU project in Arua has contributed greatly to bringing the municipal officials and the communities closer. In the past, communities felt left out in many of the development ventures in Arua, but from a couple of interviews with the different communities and municipal technocrats who gave their account of the TSUPU projects, this initiative has been one of a kind.
When the community upgrading funds were received in Arua municipality, the news was publicized to raise citizens’ awareness and participation in the utilization and accountability of the fund. Communities started coming up with different projects to undertake and forwarded them to the municipality for approval. The communities in Arua were truly recognized as partners in development and were involved in the selection and planning of the projects. They also participated actively in project implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
The Community Development Officer Mr.Geoffrey Edema, who was working closely with the secretary to the Municipal Development Forum, Mr. Martin Andama, together subjected the communities’ proposals to technical appraisal so as to clarify any issues, and later invited the same communities to go through the pros and cons of different proposals. After deciding which projects to implement communities received communication from the municipality in writing as to whether their projects’ had gone through the selection phase successfully or otherwise. Those projects whose proposals were successful then received funds for the project in their various accounts.
The different groups then sourced for contractors to carry out the different projects (with guidance from the municipality) so as to make the whole process as transparent as possible. Several contractors were considered, depending on prior experience and to ensure nobody takes advantage of unsuspecting communities.
After agreeing on the contractors to carry out the work, communities – with guidance from the municipality – took charge of the process of approving project commencement. A contractor would write directly to a community with a copy to the municipality requesting a particular sum of money to carry out specific tasks, but would not get the funds without inspection of the work already on the ground by the community in charge of the project with the municipal engineer and other technocrats. In this way, the contractor was kept in check and he could not afford to do sub-standard work.
In case of delays where the contractor felt he was falling behind schedule, he would write to the community with a copy to Arua municipality requesting for an extension of the time given. There was no time for verbal apologies or broken promises as has been common in the past; the process was strict and very transparent.
In the words of one Abbas Matata, a slum dweller in Arua and a leader in the federation in charge of negotiations and partnership, the TSUPU projects in the first phase gave communities the sense of being part and parcel of their own development. ‘When you hear us roaring, don’t just wonder, now you know, we felt so much in charge of these projects. we were like people working in those offices we once feared before and just putting down our signatures to approve the millions of funds in our accounts for the projects felt so good, we felt empowered’’ .
Of the six projects implemented in Arua under TSUPU, five are complete and are already serving the communities in the municipality. They have registered positive impacts and they have become the talk of the municipality. What is left is to have a Memorandum of Understanding put in place between the municipality and the communities, especially those that are directly linked to a community (such as the water projects) to ensure the projects are kept in the hands of communities for sustainability and replication of the same in other needy areas. By ‘sustainability’ the federation means to ensure that the project is maintained in good condition: for example that the water bills are paid in time to avoid disconnection and the collection area kept clean to ensure water is clean at all times. His Worship, the Mayor of Arua, Charles Asiki and the Deputy Mayor Kalsum Abdu have assured the federation of their support in this regard, as well as in other upcoming activities for the development of Arua city.
Below are the projects in detail:
LOCATION: PANGISHA WARD
GROUP AWARDED: ALIODERUKU MIXED GROUP
The project involved the fencing of a public primary school, Bibia Primary School, which serves as an educational facility for the children of Pangisha ward and the neighbouring parish Mvara. Before the fencing, the school was in such a state that every person would trespass onto the school premises and the children would not concentrate because of this kind of interruption. The school property was also vandalized; for instance, school doors and windows would go missing from time to time. The school sanitation facilities were always in a mess because they were used by the general public. The school land would get encroached from time to time and there were disputes over this. The school’s performance was low and absenteeism was high because children could come and go as they pleased. Parents and guardians could not monitor them and some would join dangerous groups due to peer pressure in the pretext of attending school.
Alioderuku Mixed savings group, a group in Oluod cell made up of 30 members (22 women and 8 men) wrote the proposal to have the school fenced because of the aforementioned issues. Most of the members in this group are widows and have children and grandchildren in the school and they wanted to correct the state of affairs.
Since the fencing of the school, many positive impacts have been registered: children are now kept in school and they can be monitored by their parents and teachers. The school’s performance has also gone up and it is now taking in more pupils than before. The school’s property is now protected and there are no more disputes over the school’s land. What exists now in the area is peace and a good learning environment to study so as to make responsible persons of Uganda’s future leaders. The project shows that the federation recognizes education as a key element to development. The project has meant greater exposure for federation practices in Arua and people are very aware of the works of the federation, with many having joined after seeing such tangible evidence coming right into their community. They have been introduced to the federation rituals of saving and are doing just that to ensure they are change agents in Arua municipality.
The group continues to save and have a total of UGX 3,500,000 in daily savings and have loaned UGX 3,000,000. They have an excellent loaning system with a strict loan officer – an elderly lady called Alupo, also nicknamed ‘catechist ‘because of her strict nature and emphasis on adherence of loan repayment. Their urban poor basket has UGX 355,000. They have several projects such as poultry farming, confectionery, and tailoring and they are also traders of honey from the Congo-Uganda and Sudan-Uganda border. According to the chairperson of the group, Chandiru Esther, the members are thinking of writing a skills development proposal to try and see if they could benefit from the 2nd phase of TSUPU by getting some funds to assist in skill development so as to continue uplifting themselves.
PROJECT: CONSTRUCTION OF CULVERT BRIDGE ON AFRA STREAM
LOCATION: KENYA WARD
GROUP AWARDED: AFRA B SAVING GROUP
This project involved the construction of a foot bridge connecting several areas in the municipality; Pajulu-Prison, Adiko cells and Bazaar and Mutu cells. The project came in place due to bad experiences the community had as a result of flooding. Arua generally has hot and dry climate but it has some rainy seasons when the region experiences heavy rains that sometimes cause floods and affect many households. The culvert bridge was constructed to guard against such an occurrence because it will divert the water to appropriate channels. In the past, such floods would mean no business between the neighbouring counties during the rains, it would also cause death of young children and animals who would be carried away by the waters of Afra. The bridge therefore would serve as a remedy for this.
The bridge is now in place and has addressed these needs. The residents are no longer afraid of the wet rainy season; they know things will be different this time around. It has also reduced the distance between the neighbouring cells. Nowadays, residents do not have to trek long distances or go through another cell to access the neighbouring one. It is now simple. School children are also enjoying the facility; in the past they would cover long distances to and from school, leaving little time to study. Business is now booming, keeping in mind that Arua people are very enterprising and hardworking with a big number of immigrants from Congo and Sudan. It is clear that this town is growing at a very fast pace.
Afra B savings group, the group responsible for bringing the project into the locality, have all the documents concerning the project and actively participated in its implementation. At one time there was a delay in completing as the project specified and the contractor had to formally write to the group requesting a grace period. This shows the strictness observed in this project and the communities now feel very valued in the whole process. Mzee Khamisi Marjan had this to say, ‘I could not believe the contractor writing to us apologizing for not completing in time but committing himself to finishing over a specified period, this was unheard of, we have never heard of this! we felt respected for that,. I am an old man and I tell you I have witnessed it projects left incomplete by contractors who knew nobody would do anything to them. But in our case, it was different, we knew we mattered’
PROJECT: WATER PROJECT
LOCATION: AWINDIRI WARD
GROUP AWARDED: NSAMBIA SOUTH UNITED COMMUNITY GROUP
This project involved the provision of water in the locality of Nsambia in order to ease access to this precious commodity for the many households in this area. Before the project establishment, the community would crowd around the only available water point or consume water from unknown sources after purchasing it from people who circulate water on bicycles, which in many cases would lead to diseases.
According to the households interviewed, this project has saved them from paying exploitative costs for water charged during the dry season. In the past they would pay UGX 700 per jerry can; but now they only pay UGX 100 for the water. It has also reduced congestion and quarrels at water points. These are now issues of the past, and people are very organized now. From various views of many men in the area, the project has had an impact right at the family level; misunderstandings between husbands and wives over suspicion of unfaithfulness when the women are out fetching water for long hours are no longer there. Some women also reported that cases of rape and harassment have gone down because they do not walk in the dark anymore. In the past such misfortunes were common, though they would go unreported because women feared reporting to the police due to reprisals. Women are now more productive, having more time to utilize for other activities, rather than spending much of it seeking water. Many of the community members interviewed also shared that the water point has greatly contributed to reduced cases of waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid. The epidemics are a thing of the past in Arua municipality. To the federation at large ,the project has been able to mobilize many into the federation and they have joined saving groups.
PROJECT: BOREHOLE WATER PROJECT
LOCATION: ZAMBIA CELL, MVARA
GROUP AWARDED: NYALUMVA WOMEN GROUP
This project was awarded to a group in Zambia cell made up of women, most of who are wives to teachers in Mvara senior secondary school. They implemented the project in conjunction with Arua municipality and they possess all the necessary documents for the project. The project was to serve several zones in Mvara which lack water. According to residents, they have suffered from the lack of water for as long as they can remember. Since completion of the project, the borehole is now operational and is serving more than 250 households in Mvara. Its management is organized in such way that each zone is represented in deciding matters concerning the borehole, including the charge per month, the collection, and security and maintenance of the borehole.
There are five zones in the area i.e. Coast zone, Ndrifa zone, Orube zone, Anyafio West and Anyafio East zones. Each zone has two representatives on the borehole management committee. The representatives meet regularly to discuss matters pertaining to the borehole & water delivery and propose suggestions for the monthly charge to be paid by consumers. This creates a unified meeting after mobilizing residents of the various zones they represent and then the proposed charges are discussed to arrive at a consensus. Other matters of security and fencing of the borehole also take the same course. The federation is well represented in the committees and is doing a good job of mobilizing other members into the federation and into the culture of saving.
PROJECT: CONSTRUCTION OF CULVERT BRIDGE AT OLI A and OLI B
GROUP AWARDED: ARICEN WOMEN A1, A2, B1, B2, C1C2, D1 savings group
This project is soon coming to completion and all operations are moving well to ensure that it is finished within the period of grace granted. It suffered several setbacks from the weather conditions to community dynamics and land disputes but all has been resolved to ensure that the community gets the long-awaited foot bridge to connect Oli A and Oli B to Dadama County. Through consultative meetings between the municipality and the communities, many matters were resolved with a few communities compensated over land. The bridge is set to complete in the month of March and is very welcome in the area. It will shorten the distance covered to access different cells, widen the economic window and diversify economic activities in the area, ultimately putting a stop to the problems caused by floods in the area during the rainy season.
The Aricen women savings group is made of many women, with a few men having joined the group after seeing the successes it was registering. The group has all the documents pertaining to the project and has been very instrumental in resolving disputes around the project, some emanating from the very contentious item – land. They also helped iron out the expectations and misconceptions of TSUPU as a project in the area.
Aricen is a powerful, large federation group (as the name suggests) from A to D covering various cells in Oli. They have a very good loaning system and have been able to undertake several livelihood projects such as goat rearing, basket making, mat weaving, tailoring and bead works, which generate some good income for them. The ability to partner with the municipality on this project has been a very big achievement to them.
PROJECT: REFUSE COLLECTION
LOCATION: BAZAAR NETWORK OLD BUS PARK ARUA
This project was implemented by communities, most of them local council leaders in Arua, but not specifically members of the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda. The implementers have however employed many slum dwellers who collect the refuse in the various localities of Arua town to keep the town clean. They have also provided garbage skips in different locations of the town to act as collection points. The project is doing well and although there is a need to scale up to keep Arua clean, the project has been able to contribute positively to the reduction of refuse around the central business district. There are already scenic benefits and the air is not heavy or filthy anymore. With time, and probably with the guidance of the municipality, the group will find ways of scaling up. Solid waste management is proving to be a vibrant area to invest in; it could bring back so much and provide employment to many people if well organized.
Looking at how the first phase of TSUPU has taken course in Arua, one is left admiring the collaboration between the municipality and the federation and hoping that things will continue getting better and better as we get into the second phase. Community capacity has been built, their negotiations, management and procurement skills sharpened; they have been empowered and are change agents in the municipality. TSUPU has received a lot of credit among the Arua residents as a program that promotes good, governance and management, for the prudent utilization of the funds to benefit the Ugandan citizenry, especially the poor and marginalized, as well as foster equitable national development.
**Cross-posted from the ACTogether blog**
by Hellen Nyamweru, ACTogether Uganda
Jinja was one of three cities to be visited as part of the GIZ project. The two other cities selected include Harare, Zimbabwe and Pune, India. The team’s main focus was on joint projects between local government and the urban poor and the conditions that allow such projects to succeed.
The communities and the Jinja Municipality were very receptive during this mission. The officials at the municipality availed themselves and were very cooperative while interacting with the team.
The Jinja municipality officials – the Town Clerk, Deputy Town clerk as well as other technocrats – showed a lot of interest while giving their account of how their relationship with local Jinja urban poor communities has evolved over time. According to the Town Clerk of Jinja, the relationship between the municipality and the slum dwellers’ communities in Jinja can be termed as ‘protective’ in such a way that even if some individual wants to overstep then the rest will keep an eye on him or her. Jinja municipality has become a learning site for most municipalities who want to explore the successes in Jinja. Mbarara, Lira and Rukunjiri municipalities have visited the municipality on learning missions to learn about how to drive development in their municipalities.
The physical planner of Jinja municipality described the relationships as a cordial one that dates back to 1995 when research exercises initiated programs such as the Danida project in Walukuba division. Several settlements have been set aside for planning: Soweto, Kikaramoja, Kibuga Mbata.The structural plans to enable this are being developed. A detailed plan has been prepared for Soweto where the municipality will work on roads. A consultative meeting was planned for Soweto that afternoon.
In Kibuga Mbata, consultative meetings are underway on how to best plan for the settlement. People have to be sensitized that planning standards are not an obstacle but that they facilitate good development for beauty, orderly development and it is important to economic,environmental,health benefits’.
The team was keen to learn how community expectations are reconciled with the Municipality’s mandatory requirements such as building codes and construction designs, which are usually set to be followed by law. Such issues are bound to arise, especially due to affordability of houses while dealing with the poor. To this, the physical planner shared that such cases are addressed by holding community discussions around an issue. A case in point was Kawama construction site whose building plans had to be realigned so as to fit an agreed design reached at after several meetings between the council, ACTogether and the communities. The technocrat’s offices are always open and the parties are ready to interact with communities over issues.
Issues on the sustainability of this relationship were also explored in view of changing government and structural adjustments which might bring new persons on board who might not be as supportive to communities and their projects as their predecessors. To this query, the town clerk shared his experience in Jinja. He is new in Jinja and has been at the station now for four months but he has been working with the communities like he has known them for 10 years and beyond. The relationship is strong and almost natural because the communities are also eager to collaborate and bring development to Jinja. It leaves one with no choice but to blend in and move with the times. He says he was briefed by his predecessor upon taking office four months ago and this is what happens to any new technocrat joining the municipality. This has ensured continued collaboration with communities. A Memorandum of Understanding is also to be signed to seal this deal amidst other joint working group exercises already underway in Jinja between the municipality and the communities of slum dwellers.
The question of local revenues contributing to developing Jinja municipality was also broached and, according to the technocrats at the Jinja municipality, local revenues mobilized in Jinja are necessary but not sufficient to develop and supply adequate services for the fast-growing population. Jinja local goverment, originally founded as colonial administrative institutions, has not been restructured to cope with the fast-growing population. The municipality is financially weak and relies on financial transfers and assistance from the central government. Moreover, tax administrations are often inefficient and not able to properly account for revenues collected. For instance, 25% of the local revenue collected goes to the Local Council leaders and, once distributed, leaves no finances to develop the many zones and parishes in Jinja municipality.
Cities Alliance TSUPU Projects
In a meeting with the Commissioner of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, the relationship between the Government and communities was further expounded. There has been a change in the way communities relate to the Government and vice versa, especially under the TSUPU project. The Government carried out a few projects before trying to address the issue of slums in Uganda, for instance in Namugongo settlement in Kampala. The Government acquired land but did not conduct comprehensive engagements with the slum dweller communities. The communities were not regarded as partners but as beneficiaries, and in fact regarded themselves as beneficiaries; they felt that the Government was doing them a favour and hence let the Government take control of everything such that even when the construction was over, the now-planned area started suffering from lack of public accountability and collective responsibility for sustainable development. Soon after the market values of the area went up, because the area was now planned. The people were bought off (silent eviction); they sold their houses and moved to a nearby wetland, hence creating another slum, (Kanyogoga/Soweto in Kampala). That project was not sustainable because it did not involve the partners (slum dwellers) who the settlement was being planned for.
The Government has learnt a great deal from then on and has tried to take in lessons from partners such as the SDI who recognize that slum dwellers are part of the urban economy. Urbanization in Uganda, unlike in other developed nations, is driven by poverty. The high rural-urban migration is a major contributor, with people coming to town to make a little more income than they make in the rural areas. Upon arriving in the cities, people then decide to make their stay permanent, leaving the unprepared cities which have to absorb these migrants. This tells us that the slum issue is not about to end and hence the time to act is NOW.
The people in Uganda have the power to solve many issues if only they are organized; one of the good practices of SDI is organizing slum communities into a unified group championing a cause. In Uganda, elective politics is practiced and this gives communities an upper hand in deciding on leadership, for example they can choose pro-poor leaders and engage in profitable partnerships to change their lives.
Experiences of TSUPU in Uganda
The program of TSUPU by the Cities Alliance and World Bank has been a successful one and one that has clearly shown a shift in the way the Government relates to local communities. It is a collaboration between the central government, local governments and the communities working together in a complimentary nature. The program has three major components: the urban forums, the Community Upgrading funds and now the Municipal Development funds.
Urban Forums have been a forum in which the slum dwellers, the middle class, the academia, municipal officials and generally the public have been engaging in discussions to develop their municipalities. These forums have now scaled down to settlement level where we have the communities engaging with their leaders, such as local council leaders, over issues aimed at bringing development in their settlements. In the past there was a little tension, whereby the middle class felt the slum dwellers should not be part of the discussions, but over time people were made to realize the need of engaging each and everyone in the discussions
How do the Community Upgrading funds operate?
All the Ministries are required to have accounts with the Central Bank. A Memorandum of Understanding is signed between the Ministry and the municipality. The ministry then transfers the funds to the municipalities’ accounts in US dollars. The Community Upgrading Fund is regarded as a public fund, managed as the law requires. It calls for procurement of services from a contractor by competitive basis.
The current CUF procurement guideline is rigid because it excludes slum dwellers who do not have companies themselves to compete with those who have been in business for ages. This can be corrected by either revising the CUF guidelines and including a clause which calls for communities’ / slum dwellers’ certification of payment to a contractor only after the work is well done. This is in view of the shoddy work some of the CUF projects portray. (One example is the Masese toilet which is only 3 feet deep! This is very disturbing especially because this is a community facility. Logic suggests that even a household toilet is much deeper than this! Yet it’s a community project, even a household toilet is much deeper.)
The second option would be to register a slum dwellers construction company that would be able to compete favorably with the other companies once a bid is out. The federation has a history of excellent community facilities and they would surely give competition to other firms when that time comes.
From a visit to BAMU (Bring Amber Coat Members to Unite), a savings group in Amber Coat market, there is a lot of financial discipline among members of the saving group. The loaning system is up to task with members being fined if the rules set out by the group are not adhered to. This group has borrowed large sums of monies from a financial institution – Pearl Micro Finance – which has a very high interest rate (36% per annum) and collateral of 60% of the total loan required which is very expensive for the communities. The community hopes to continue engaging the municipality to find out how the issue of collateral security can be addressed so that they can access funds. This is however a long shot because most, in fact all financial institutions in Uganda, are privately owned and are very profit oriented.
BAMU savings group is also seeking a loan from SUUBI (the Ugandan Alliance’s national urban poor fund) for the second time. They have a good history with repayments of large-sum loans and it is hoped that BAMU will act as a successful pilot for the SUUBI to be scaled up to other community groups in due course.
Local communities in many municipalities are able to access Community Driven Development funds (CDD), but these are usually small sums of monies not exceeding UGX 5,000,000 (approximately USD $1,899).This kind of money is welcome but it cannot support big projects that have a big impact to communities such as construction of toilets, water stand points, opening of roads, among others. The remedy here would be to widen the threshold for the CDD funds so that communities are able to access them, since they are further limited in getting these funds when it comes to the Community Upgrading funds as of present.
USMID: How does the USMID program feed into the TSUPU project?
Uganda Support to Municipal Infrastructural development (USMID) is an extension of TSUPU in which 9 more municipalities will be supported by the World Bank and Cities Alliance with the aim of responding to the municipal local governments’ challenges in the context of the Government of Uganda’s broader Local Government Development Program. This will be done by addressing the need for the institutional and financial strengthening of selected municipal Local Governments’ and financing limited infrastructure investments needs by introducing an enhanced urban window to the government Local Government Development Program.
Uganda’s 5 Cities Program (TSUPU) has been a training ground, and the experiences are invaluable for USMID though the lessons are still being learnt. For instance, there will be need to collaboration with the Ministry of Local Government especially on the issue of transfers of municipal town clerks over the USMID program period. Such transfers have, in the past under TSUPU, caused major delays and program reception problems. There also still needs a mentality change at the municipal council level; the municipality should stop viewing TSUPU as a Ministry’ program but as a program for their own municipalities and designed to benefit their own municipalities.
The mission was very beneficial to all the parties involved as it is always good to get an outsider’s view of how the Federation is working and how the relationship between the government and the local communities is evolving. Lessons from other SDI affiliate countries were shared and ideas exchanged on how we can all continue to build from best practices to develop Uganda.
By Skye Dobson, SDI Secretariat
In a previous piece on the Makerere/SDI partnership in Uganda, Noah Schermbrucker, questioned the sources of knowledge that guide urban planning. In this second installment I would like to continue that discussion. When considering the planning profession I am often reminded of Michel Foucault’s account of the clinician and the evolution of scientific empiricism in The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception (1963).
The “gaze” of the planner these days is often perceived to possess the same objective and rational wisdom as that of Foucault’s clinician. In urban development circles urban planners are believed capable of revealing the city’s hidden truths and taming urban unruliness through a classificatory kind of wisdom, which enables them to identify nodes of dysfunction with supposedly enlightened and absolute objectivity. The planner, like the medical clinician, is believed to possess no agenda and seek solely to maximize efficiency.
Such scientific empiricism, Foucault explains, abstracts knowledge from the subject. This, I believe, is the danger of modern urban planning and the reason SDI, with support from AAPS, is eager to ensure the planning profession reconnect with the subject of analysis.
In this, the second phase of the partnership, Uganda’s future planners ventured into the field with their community professors – placing the “knowers” firmly in the realm of the “known” – to use Foucault’s terminology. Groups of approximately 10 students boarded buses on the 5th and 6th of March bound for the 5 secondary cities in which NSDFU works. From Arua in the country’s north-west, to Mbarara and Kabale in the south, and Jinja and Mbale in the east, the students secured a rich exposure to the urban challenges facing Uganda.
These 5 cities, part of the Cities Alliance-funded Land Services and Citizenship (LSC) program (called TSUPU in Uganda), have a strong federation presence that is driving community collected information gathering, forging deep and productive partnerships with municipal government, and launching community managed development projects in slums. This new partnership will certainly contribute toward strengthening and deepening this ongoing initiative.
When the students arrived in each of their respective cities they first met with federation leaders who debriefed them on the urban reality in their municipality, the work of the federation, and the enumeration process. The students asked these members many questions and engaged them in rich discussions on issues of land tenure, services, and housing.
The groups then paid a visit to the Municipal Council to meet with various political and technical municipal officials. The federation introduced the students and partnership to the municipal officials and its links to the LSC/TSUPU program. In each city the officials, most of whom had been part of the enumeration effort, praised the new partnership and expressed commitment to supporting the initiative as well as incorporating federation enumeration data into the municipal planning process.
Following the visit to the municipality, students ventured into the settlements in which the federation members live. Armed with the enumeration data the students were able to interrogate the data and enrich their understanding of its meaning. In focus group meetings and one-on-one interviews life was breathed into the data. The stories of members about eviction, lack of services, and housing conditions ensured the students would see the data for what it is: an account of life in slums and an essential ingredient for effective urban planning. They also came to see the local community for what it is: the best resource for local knowledge and the most invested in the urban development agenda.
For most of the Makerere students it was their first time to visit these cities and as the country’s future urban planners they expressed gratitude for the opportunity to see that Kampala’s urban planning needs are not the same as those of secondary cities.
In Kampala, each of the capital’s 5 municipalities (formerly divisions under Kampala City Council, these are now municipalities under the newly formed Kampala Capital City Authority) played host to a group of about 10 students as well. The federation first took the students to the Municipal Offices in Nakawa, Makindye, Rubaga, Kawempe, and Kampala Central. Like they did in the secondary cities, the Kampala students were able to meet officials from the Division and introduce the program as well as ask questions.
The students then split into smaller groups in an effort to verify federation profiling data on each of the parishes within the 5 municipalities/divisions. This was a massive undertaking and one that involved the students covering great distances each day. Though they live and study in Kampala, many of these students had not ventured so deeply into the city’s slums nor examined so closely the socio-economic realities therein.
With their community professors leading the way and the blessing of municpal officers, the students were able to move freely in the slums, ask questions, make notes, and take photographs to enrich the profiling data collected by the community. These observations were critical for the students as it enabled them to problematize the certainties of planning they have learned in the academic world.
The students will now take the data – hopefully no longer abstracted from the subject – and analyze it further in order to compile reports that will be returned to the federation for verification in the next phase of the partnership. After verification, the students will finalize the reports in a uniform format that will be published. In the final stage of the program students will return to the municipalities in which they worked and assist the federation to present the information to local authorities and discuss the critical contribution such information should play in the planning process. They will also share lessons on the way their conceptualization of what it takes to be an effective planner has changed during the program.
In Noah’s blog post he correctly pointed out the power that comes with knowledge. Foucault argues the reason the myth of the clinician’ s objectivity survived for so long is because, “the gaze that sees is a gaze that dominates.” In this first field visit as part of the urban studio, the gaze of the planner was brought closer to that of the subject, which we think is a positive step toward making the planning profession more responsive and more capable of executing its duties.
SDI will keep you posted as the workshop in Uganda unfolds.
Video source: ICMAvideos
The International City Managemement Association (ICMA) has partnered with Cities Alliance, the Government of Uganda and the Uganda SDI alliance on a project that seeks to transform informal settlements starting from mobilization of urban poor women around savings schemes, the backbone of SDI’s methodology. In the following interview, Sarah Nandudu, a national leader of the Uganda Slum Dwellers Federation, explains how the Transforming Settlements of the Urban Poor (TSUPU) project in Uganda supports efforts to improve water and sanitation by using these core methodologies. As noted on the ICMA website, “part of ICMA’s role in the project is to work with local governments to engage citizens of slums to improve public service delivery, especially water and sanitation.”
For more information on the TSUPU project, click here.