Ghanaian Federation & People’s Dialogue: Responses to COVID-19


On behalf of the Ghanian Federation of the Urban Poor and People’s Dialogue on Human Settlements – SDI presents the work to fight COVID-19 across Accra.

A community-led management and response to the COVID-19 pandemic (CLeMRoC) is being actioned in collaboration with Accra Municipal Assembly, and other civil society organisations has been launched in Accra. The response team consists of community leaders, environmental health officers of Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA). Led by the Federation in Ghana, they are supported by People’s Dialogue on Human Settlements.

The aim of CLeMRoC is is to enhance sensitization, education and behavior change in people living in informal settlements and to influence the community response of the pandemic. The target communities within Accra include: Old Fadama, Osu Alata, Sabon Zongo, Agbogbloshie, Madina, Sukura, Ashaiman, Nungua, Teshie with ongoing work in several other communities.


Farouk Braimah, Executive Director at People’s Dialogue, reflects on the dire impacts that COVID-19 will have on informal settlements, shedding light on the ongoing pervasive issues of a severe lack of service delivery to the most vulnerable.

“When it comes to hygiene protection, why do we think this time it will work? It is about hygiene, washing hands, eating well, resting – these are the protocols, and there is nothing new about this. They have never worked in slums//informal settlements. How do we find solutions that respond to our unusual circumstances, that work in the informal settlements?”

CLeMRoC has formed an interim Community Coordination Centre (CCC) where all issues against the fight of COVID-19 will be anchored. These include: external relations, messaging via various formats, knowledge management, documentation, dissemination of learning & lessons, and interfacing with officials collaborating on efforts to support communities through participatory planning & advocacy. Also coordinating supplies, resource mobilization and media work.


The priority needs emerge as pre-existing challenges that are further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. There are limited existing health facilities and resources to manage and care for affected patients. As of 24th March 2020, when CLeMRoC was launched, the following items were of urgent need in relation to health (PPE) such as: masks and gloves, tissues, tippy taps, veronica buckets, soap & hand sanitizers. With the need to improve PPE on all levels, especially personal hygiene protection, hand washing training on developing tippy taps and veronica bucket with taps. Ongoing needs for food assistance to those whose livelihoods are impacted and funds for volunteers who are working on trainings in the community remain fundamental to the Federation’s response.


Community members being sensitized on Tippy Taps.

Please keep following SDI as we highlight the initiatives of SDI affiliates across Africa, Asia & Latin America in the fight against COVID-19 to support the most vulnerable throughout this pandemic.

A Lesson for All: Orangi Pilot Project Visits Tanzania Federation


Orangi Pilot Project is one of the most successful community-based upgrading projects in the world. Over 750,000 slum-based households in this Karachi neighbourhood have contributed directly to the material improvement of their sanitation situation. Through their sustained practical action they have forced the authorities to respond and the Orangi process is now being rolled out in other parts of Pakistan.

The SDI Secretariat has had links with OPP since 1991. When the Secretariat secured funds for a health and sanitation project they factored in direct interaction and horizontal learning between OPP and the participating Federations (Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe).

Given the challenges associated with travelling in Pakistan it was decided that OPP leadership would visit Tanzania instead and that other affiliates would also attend. The exchange programme took place between the 23rd and 30th August, 2015.   The participants from Orangi were  Salim Alimuddin Karimi (Director of OPP) and Javed Ali (community technical team)


OPP team outside the Federation offices in Vingunguti, Dar-es-Salaam


This report provides insights and analysis into Orangi Pilot Projects (OPP’s) exchange visit to Tanzania to assist with the social and technical development of a simplified sewerage project in Vingunguti settlement, Dar-es- Salaam. It was hoped that with OPP’s support the project could incorporate ideas that would allow it to scale up, affordably, to 1000 households. To date 42 houses have been connected and a detailed feasibility study is underway to determine the possibilities for expansion. The exchange, which took place between 23rd and 30th August and also included delegations from Kenya and Zimbabwe, was hence well timed in that the project is still in a formative phase with many dimensions of its scaling up yet to be decided on.

Insights and Analysis



The exchange clearly highlighted the single biggest challenge facing the project – the lack of an organized, saving federation in Vingunguti. During the exchange it emerged that the Federation in Vingunguti was very new and had not, as yet fully grasped the SDI rituals. As Joe Muturi (member of the SDI management team who was present on the exchange) correctly pointed out, “ It is very difficult to mobilize a Federation through a project”. He emphasized how women’s savings collectives versed in the rituals of the Federation should be the basic project building block, meeting to outline their needs, learning slowly and then, when ready committing financially to supporting projects to improve their lives. This level of community cohesion and co-ordination, the most vital cog in the project continuum, is not present in Vingunguti. Rather it is the project, and what it promises to deliver, which is mobilizing a community that does not have a substantive history of savings and collective action. Unless serious investments are made in building the base, significant problems may emerge down the line.

Discussions during the exchange indicated an expectation that the project would be for free – in no small part related to the Tanzanian Alliances provision of the first system as a grant and not a loan (recent correspondence indicates that the Alliance is now requested loan repayments for the system but there may be challenges because of its high capital costs). Over the course of the exchange the team from OPP, supported by the SDI Management Committee, worked extremely hard to emphasis to the community that they needed to contribute financially towards the sewerage system. OPP illustrated this point by describing, in detail, how residents in each lane in Orangi had been able to pay for their entire primary sewerage infrastructure. By the final day of the exchange some progress had been made with community members indicating that they would be prepared to pay for infrastructure themselves.

An important social (and financial) aspect related to the project will be negotiations between structure owners and tenants. This relates not only to building collective action to implement and manage the project but also to negotiating project finance (see finance section). The Tanzanian alliance does have experience with mediating landlord/tenant relationships around shared sanitation – drawing in local councilors. These experiences should be applied to this project.

A further point that warrants debate is the ability of the Tanzanian federations leadership to mobilize the Vingunguti settlement. The Federation in Tanzania is not yet strong and it was noticeable during the exchange that the NGO often fills this space where the Federation should be.  It remains to be seen whether the Tanzanian Federation has the capacity to mobilize this community in order to conduct a project of this scale – and if they do what other priorities may suffer.


Discussing roles, responsibilities and finance with the Vingunguti Federation



i) Subsidies

A number of extensive discussions took place around financing during the exchange. As noted previously, the first phase of the project was a grant. The OPP team noted that providing a subsidy for phase 1 of the project and then expecting residents to finance phase 2 would be extremely difficult – as a precedent for non-payment for the system had already been set. While the Tanzanian Alliance now does require those who received the system in the first phase to repay the loan – this was done retrospectively. Also the conditions and terms of said loan repayment were not debated before construction began.

The team from OPP shared how the simplified sewerage system in Orangi was financed fully by the community, one lane at a time. It was strongly emphasized that the community felt ownership of the system because they had to pay for it – financially and through sweat equity. Construction would not begin before the community had saved all the necessary funds and those who refused to pay would be covered and then later charged double when they wished to connect to the system.  The Tanzanian Alliance were keen to follow the OPP approach by working land-by-lane to mobilize as many houses as possible along the proposed sewerage line (the more houses which connect the less the capital costs) and encouraging them to save collectively for the system. Lane-by-lane technical capacities can be built and new technical skills to reduce costs can then be deployed. Salim from OPP noted that the first lane was the hardest to organize – taking over 6 months for the community to resolve issues and come up with finance. Time and effort must be invested in working incrementally, lane-by-lane, in Vingunguti to build a model which is scalable and affordable.

The willingness of the community to contribute is the crux of the project’s financial challenge. In a grant atmosphere where other role-players (and even the Tanzanian Alliance) provide services for free changing attitudes towards payment will be absolutely vital. In addition SDI has already provided significant capital and technical support to the project (Project capital for the pilot through SHARE, funding for the preparation of a feasibility report and the funding of the OPP exchange). SDI cannot continue to fund a project in which the community does not contribute financially.

ii) Affordability

 There is little doubt that the existing model is not affordable for the poorest tenants in Vingunguti. For a variety of reasons (discussed in the technical analysis below) capital costs are much too high when compared to incomes from the preliminary findings of the feasibility report. Rebuilding dilapidated latrines to then connect to the system has added additional costs that increase the total.  Measures to reduce these costs are discussed in the technical section below.

Joseph Muturi, from the management Committee, upon discussions with the Tanzanian Federation, noted that most of those present at the meeting (and those who have accessed the system to date) are landlords who, he feels, can afford to pay to connect to the system. He noted that if landlords can be mobilized to pay, and costs come down due to technical interventions, then the system could be affordable.   He stressed that intensive negotiations between landlords and tenants need to take place to ensure that rents are not then increased to unaffordable levels to cover costs- leading to evictions. Issues of absentee landlords and those who do not wish to participate also need to be considered.

In the existing pilot not all the houses along the sewer line are connected to the system. Simply put more connections equal a division of costs between more households – with each household paying less. OPP and all the visiting delegations agreed that the Tanzanian Federation needs to work to mobilize as many households along the sewer lines as possible – and that their maps should show all the houses not just the houses connected.


The OPP team was able to provide the young, but enthusiastic CCI staff with a number of very practical suggestions to reduce the cost of the sewerage system. These are listed below and taken from the exchange report:

  • Pipe work: Tanzania has been using Class B PVS pipes while OPP use concrete pipes. The Tanzanian team needs to investigate concrete or cheaper pipes.
  • Manholes: Two to three connections can easily be connected to a manhole. For turns/twist elbow bends could be used. This reduces the cost of connecting each connection to a manhole. Also the manholes are made with C.C blocks, which require technical skills of Masonry and plastering on both sides. The cost of M.H casting may considerably be reduced by in-situ casting, using steel formwork.
  • T–Chamber: The use of the T-chamber will help both in controlling the blockages in the system by tracking any object/garbage before entering into the system.
  • Construction by using local material: The need to use the local available materials which are cheaper as well as encouraging beneficiaries to provide building material that they might have. The use of the community technicians and youth within the communities reduce the costs of constructions.
  • Attaching the toilets to wall of the house: Attaching the toilet to an existing wall of the house reduces costs.

During the exchange it was noted that the system would remain expensive if, for each connection, the existing latrine is rebuilt (through an existing programme of sanitation loans). A variety of technical suggestions were made by OPP as to how it would be possible to repair and rehabilitate, rather then rebuild, existing latrines so that they can be connected to the system. Ideas included concrete rings to re-enforce collapsing pits and focusing on fixing the slab only and not financing an elaborate and expensive superstructure. Once repaired latrines are connected to the system the social and technical expertise should exist within the community to incrementally upgrade toilets that’s are in poor condition.


Javed inspecting a manhole that forms part of the simplified sewerage system


The team tracing possible future sewerage lanes



The OPP exchange challenged the Tanzanian Alliances position that they had to consider access to tertiary sewerage treatment facilities before starting the construction of primary sewerage systems, lane-by-lane. OPP argued that if the community was able to fund and build their own system, and sewerage from that system leaked into the open (or flowed unregulated into the existing ponds in Vingunguti) it would provide a direct challenge to government to link the system to secondary and trunk sewers. This type of practical action would challenge authorities to act, rather then the common approach in which communities sit back and expect services to be delivered.

Given the previous commitment of authorities to fund 500 of the 1000 connections the Tanzanian Alliance needs to make sure government is 1) reminded of this commitment and 2) informed at as many levels as possible about the project (A precise synopsis of the feasibility document /project plan should be developed to do so) 3) Begin to think through the necessary institutional tapestry that will enable the project to scale up.

In addition CCI needs to retain and foster the connection with OPP – through correspondence and perhaps at a later stage exchanges.


The wastewater ponds that border Vingunguti


Discussing the Sanitation Challenges faced by Vingunguti


An attempt has been made to order these in terms of current priorities. However it is expected that many actions will run concurrently:

  1. Mobilization and building a strong Federation base, in the settlement (through savings) should be the number one priority in Vingunguti. The Tanzanian Federation may not be strong enough to do this alone and the LME team should monitor progress in conjunction with the Management Committee, providing support when needed.
  1. SDI should not invest any more capital into the project at this time. Based on recommendation number 1, the community needs to demonstrate a willingness to make a significant financial contribution to the project. It is simply not sustainable or scalable for SDI to keep investing funds in Vingunguti until the community takes ownership of the project.
  1. The OPP model of working lane-by-lane should be followed, in context, to allow for manageable project units to develop. Even if it takes 6 months to a year the community process needs to develop to a point where a single lane in Vingunguti is saving, mobilized and ready to install a technically affordable sewer system. Technical and social support needs to be provided to the Tanzanians to ensure they retain this focus.
  1. The Tanzanian Alliance needs to clarify issues of loan repayment around the project’s first phase as a priority. This needs to be negotiated retroactively but clearly articulated going forward. It is vital for the first recipients of the system to set an example by contributing financially towards the system.
  1. CCI’s technical team needs to follow up on OPP’s suggestions and report to the SDI projects team on progress – as well an pursue an active engagement with their OPP colleagues. At a later stage this may lead to an exchange for said professionals to OPP but this should not happen until it is clear that the community are ready to finance and drive the project.
  1. The Roles and Responsibilities for the project (listed below) as devised by all those on the exchange should become a guiding document that all parties refer to.

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  1. The Feasibility Study that is being deveoped by the Tanzanians should be critically assessed with the above points in mind.