In July 2013 the Southern Africa Regional Hub - consisting of the SDI-affiliated urban poor federations from South Africa, Malawi, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Angola, Namibia, and Botswana - met in Windhoek, Namibia. The meeting allowed affiliates to report on the progress and challenges faced by their various processes and plot future strategies and work plans, bearing in mind regional trends. The meeting was an ideal learning platform for new processes such as Swaziland, Botswana and Angola who are being drawn into the SDI fold. Key issues discussed included sustainability within the scope of diminishing donor funding, challenges of loan repayment (especially around housing), strengthening of the community voice and leadership, shared learning across border towns in different countries, the possibility of a regional hub fund and organizing to prevent evictions.
A key aspect of this hub meeting was that it allowed affiliates to think collectively about challenges which they all face (e.g. diminishing resources) and propose actions at a regional level. This scale of engagement enables strategic cross-pollination of knowledge and planning to address challenges that cut across geographical boundaries. The strength of numbers replicated in a broad-based approach to citywide change can be replicated and achieve added political clout when affiliates strategize collectively to meet challenges.
While Namibia used discussions and field visits to critically address the issue of non-repayment of housing loans (a challenge reflected in most Southern African processes) it was felt that the meeting could also have attempted to develop the Windhoek process' stalled relationship with government. Being used to the political advantage of the local process is also an important component of regional hub meetings. The full report outlines the key activities, discussions and reflections while providing a list of the agreed upon outputs. Discussions are contextualized within SDI’s overarching goals of strengthening local government and building a strong community process.
Click here to read the full Southern Africa regional hub meeting report.
SDI President, Mr. Jockin Arputham (Right), signs MoU with Mr. Conrad Sidego, Mayor of Stellenbosch Municipality, in Langrug settlement, South Africa.
Our network of urban poor federations has, over almost two decades, pioneered community organization strategies that are able to influence formal authorities in an age of quickening city growth. SDI’s “ten cities” program over the past three years has made clear the terms of engagement for building cities that include the poor. The link between the “hard” outcomes of infrastructure accessibility and economic opportunity, and the “soft” processes of planning and decision-making for provision of such infrastructure is the chief driver of urban development today.
The urban poor federations and professional NGOs that comprise the SDI network now have a set of experiences that speak to the main challenges that persist in engaging the link of processes and outcomes. We understand these challenges through three major themes of finance, planning, and politics.
We have learned that financing shelter for the poor is about much more than mobilizing the resources for increasing access to land, services and housing. Most important is developing the systems for delivering projects and scaling up projects that make this finance meaningful. The urban poor federations in the SDI network have used the basic unit of the savings group as the means of building financial capacity in order to impact project planning and political capacity internally. The lessons from these experiences implicate persistent trends towards highly rational top-down project financing for city development.
Our approach to evaluating calls for funds from individual affiliates has always emphasized the need for projects to leverage: (a) funds from external sources, in addition to SDI’s Urban Poor Fund International (UPFI), and (b) relationships with formal authorities that extend the voice of the urban poor in planning and decision-making. This report shows how thinking about the financial equation of urban development in this way changes the ways in which projects actually get delivered.
When SDI federations have tried out alternative development financing approaches with government authorities they trigger new relationships that can scale up project delivery at citywide scale. For example, in Pune, authorities were utilizing funds for informal settlement upgrading projects that often could not reach their promised delivery outcomes. Both grassroots leaders in Mahila Milan and bureaucratic officials acknowledge that it has not been the lack of allocated funds that made projects often fail to get off the ground. Instead, the primary impediments were the top-down mechanisms for using the funds that excluded community priorities and voices.
So the Indian Alliance worked to build partnerships with government programs to demonstrate through practice how these institutions can be better designed to put more of the financial management and decision-making in a joint relationship with informal settlement community leadership. Now the Indian Alliance has been able to make federated groups of women-led savings groups in Mahila Milan an intermediary institutional mechanism for large-scale delivery of upgraded informal settlements, especially in terms of provision of housing and communal toilets.
We have learned that planning is not just about policies and physical designs on paper. Most important are the specific institutional designs and relationships through which physical planning interventions occur. By building accountable and strategic leadership at the citywide level, urban poor federations in the SDI network are creating an institutional mechanism through which development decision-making can change meaningfully. These experiences suggest that governments, especially at the city level, need to focus on supporting and engaging the mobilization of urban poor communities to represent themselves and network across the city. Once informal settlement communities have strong, accountable leadership and network across the city, they are able to put forth an articulate vision with authentic grassroots backing. Likewise, governments are enabled to orient development decision-making to incorporate better the priorities of urban poor communities, and to counter-balance much more dominant actors that drive urban growth.
One approach has been to scale up community planning activities, such as profiling, enumeration, and mapping, to regional and citywide scale. For example, in Kenya, communities have linked across the Mathare Valley in Nairobi to enumerate every household. Further, they have documented the exact availability of public services across this major informal region of the city. These activities have allowed Muungano wa Wanavijiji, the Kenyan federation, to bring together communities to link with University of Nairobi, and University of California — Berkeley, to develop a joint “zonal plan” for upgrading the entire Mathare Valley. Now, Muungano is beginning to sit with local authorities to see how the institutional environment can best be mobilized to achieve this plan.
Building institutional capacity to deliver on the promise of inclusive governance remains a major challenge as SDI gains a wider and richer set of experiences in working citywide. For example, in Kampala, Uganda, the National Slum Dweller Federation of Uganda has negotiated a joint Kampala Community Development Fund in which the Kampala City Council and the Federation sit together to manage funds specifically earmarked for informal settlement upgrading. The fund is growing in terms of available finance, and the governance of the fund proves to be the major growing pain, in order to respond to the acute demand for upgrading projects that the Federation is articulating.
We have learned that very significant impact for SDI urban poor federations occurs through policy changes. Projects and political relationships have to be geared towards enabling significant policy reform in order to make development processes more inclusive of the poor. Over the past year, urban poor federations in SDI have been able to achieve various key policy shifts. These changes have been possible because a mass mobilization of informal settlement residents has called for them and proven their viability through federation-led projects.
Indeed, the challenge here is to innovate through practice, and then to institutionalize the learning that occurs. In Cape Town, South Africa, the South African SDI Alliance now has multiple precedent-setting projects for “re-blocking” dense informal settlements. This approach to community-based design of shack alignments, has generated new community leadership structures, and enabled the city government to install basic services for residents. And this is in settlements where the government had initially planned to relocate large percentages of residents because the neighborhood was deemed too dense for upgrading.
The South African Alliance has utilized a formal partnership with the City of Cape Town to make the case that these pilot approaches to in situ upgrading of informal settlements can be scaled up to the city level. And the city has responded. Now the city council has approved a new policy on “re-blocking” citywide. This emphasizes both the need to redevelop informal settlements in their current physical location and the extent to which influential participation of the community is a prerequisite for successful implementation of such a physical intervention.
This article highlights the lessons of SDI’s work to trigger city development processes that are more inclusive of the poor. In our 2012 / 2013 Annual Report, we begin to uncover the process of learning that is taking place within the network for impacting the flows of finance, planning, and politics that drive urban development. The lessons learned are the basis of a poor people’s agenda for triggering the relationships between the poor and formal authorities that will produce more inclusive city growth.
In September 2013 a delegation from the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia and their support NGO, the Namibia Housing Action Group, traveled to Angola to link a mapping project being undertaken by Habitafrica in Benguela to the emerging SDI affiliate and their support NGO Mafiku. The Angolan urban poor federation has been active for roughly three years now. They are active in 9 cities and are made up of 10,592 members in 473 savings groups nationwide. Since the first savings group, the Angolan federation has been supported by the Namibian SDI Alliance, one of the more mature federations in the network. This kind of relationship speaks to the kind of horizontal "mentorship" that occurs in SDI, and the way in which learning centres, such as the Namibian affiliate, play an important role in building the network. This mentorship takes place practically during exchange visits - the primary learning strategy of the SDI network - when a delegation from one affiliate visits another to learn from them or offer their support. Participation in learning exchanges is critical to the building up of younger affiliates, as it provides the opportunity for community members to come together to learn from intra-network successes and failures. This process builds on the logic of "learning by doing," and begins to develop a collective vision at the settlement, citywide, national and international level.
Class under the tress. The Angolan federation would like to build new classrooms for young learners as one of their first projects.
During this most recent visit to Angola, the Namibian affiliate met with both the federation and the support NGO, Mafiku, to gain insight into the nature of activities on the ground and to support the Angolan federation in a number of key areas of work, including: mobilization of interested communities in Benguela City, livelihood projects, and the establishment of a national urban poor fund. In addition, the Namibian and Angolan delegations met with Habitáfrica to explore possibilities of sustaining a process of mapping and registration of land rights by actively involving the community in the process. In their discussions it was proposed that all maps created together would be shared with the communities and that the communities would be central to any upgrading and planning decisions. In addition, some practical advances include support around the opening of bank accounts for federation members, administrative support with bookkeeping and loan making for small businesses and livelihood projects, and the launch of focused savings for school improvements.
The horizontal "mentorship" referred to earlier has been critical to the development of the Angolan affiliate. It is through sustained support from more mature federations that younger affiliates are given the space and guidance to grow and strengthen their programs, activities and vision to make a marked impact in their own lives and the lives of their communities and cities. In fact, one of the most noted outcomes of this most recent exchange was the awareness of the Angolan affiliate of the need to build partnerships with other community actors and local government in order to achieve greater impact and reach more people.
Savings groups form the basis of collective action in urban poor communities. The establishment of community savings is a core ritual of the urban poor federation building process, and the central participation of women in community savings significantly improves the quality of the process and the probability of sustainable change. Community savings schemes help meet the needs of low-income urban dwellers and create the foundation for building urban poor federations that provide their savers with more influence and scope for action.
By being members of small daily savings groups, women with the lowest and least stable incomes are able to create a consolidated voice to help bring about the changes they seek in their city. They also realize their capacity to influence and change the nature of leadership from individual to collective, within and between communities, and thus effect even greater change. This is the essence of the federation-building model in SDI: it is by addressing the needs and aspirations of the city’s poorest women that the rest of the community begins to see meaning in coming together.
Sheila Magare of the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation recounts the effects of community savings in her life and her community:
“…I started getting small loans as well from the group to improve my vending business and I repaid the loans. I then joined other members of the group and got a big loan and we started a collective business of buying and selling snacks from our vegetable markets. This was a huge success and we never looked back. The profits from the business we used to buy building materials for houses even though we were landless. We used our savings booklets as evidence of the capacity of the poor to save and to collectively build their own houses. Armed with our savings records we engaged the City of Harare to allocate us land to build houses. The officials were surprised by how much we had saved. We earned their respect. In turn they changed their conditions for registering on the Municipal waiting list for accommodation… Even though it took us 5 years the City eventually allocated us land to build houses.
Using the same method we started talking to national government ministers as well. Our message was simple - that we were slum dwellers but we were not hopeless. We wanted government to change the policies that make it difficult for the poor to live decently in towns. We wanted the government to give us money to add to our savings. That way more poor people can have decent homes and safe water to drink and proper toilets. Mayors and government ministers in Zimbabwe now know me by name because, with other federation leaders we never get tired of fighting for other poor families.”
In addition to community savings, members of many savings groups also save towards a national fund. This is a fund that is used to leverage the savings of the urban poor to support larger investments in slum upgrading. As savings groups come together (or “federate”) at the settlement, city and national level, they begin to look beyond the needs of their savings group alone to the needs of the federation and the urban poor at large. In the same way, committees found at the level of the local savings group are replicated at network, regional, and national levels. This enables the generation of a self-governing national movement that is rooted in the hopes, aspirations, and challenges of its members.
Both functions reinforce each other. The savings and loans systems at the group level prepare communities for much bigger loans and project management demands when upgrading is undertaken. Federation savings groups see savings as uniting the community and building collective capacity to address larger issues with a wider impact beyond a particular group. Traditional savings associations work to the benefit of the members of the group. Within the federations, however, savings groups serve as building blocks for community institutions that in turn enable them to address and invest resources in issues that affect the entire community or city, stretching beyond those of livelihoods alone.
The development of the city-level federation is inextricably linked to the federating of the savings groups. The city-level federation grows out of the networking and institutional structures that arise from the coming together of savings groups in the same settlement or network, regional, and national level. In Uganda, this process started in Kampala and Jinja regions, and then spread to other areas through community learning exchanges.
Leaders groomed at the saving group level that demonstrate their capacity and dedication have the opportunity to rise to positions of leadership at higher levels, where they can provide mentoring to the citywide agenda that is firmly rooted in the ideals of the savings groups. In this way, the voices of the poor are taken from savings group level meetings to network-level meetings, and from there are able to inform the city agenda. Thus, the city federation is driven from the bottom, not the top. Network, regional and national level meetings are critical to maintaining this bottom-driven process. These, rather than projects, are what make the savings groups feel part of a larger process, a larger agenda, a movement.
One example of this is in Jinja, Uganda, where there are 42 savings groups across the city. These savings groups come together as six networks, each network having eight program facilitators – 60% of whom are women. The program facilitators (for issue-based committees on evictions, health, loaning, auditing, etc.) come together to form the regional council. The regional council provides a space where representatives of the savings groups are able to come together to plan and strategize. Facilitators are chosen for the capacity and accountability they have demonstrated in their savings groups. Five representatives from the Regional Council – three of whom are women – sit on the National Executive Council – the space for national planning rooted in the struggles and ideals of the savings groups.
Check out SDI's 2012 / 2013 Annual Report to read more about how community savings impacts urban change through organized communities and strong women leadership.
By Jockin Arputham, President, SDI and National Slum Dwellers Federation of India (NSDF)
It is sometimes hard to imagine that it is 28 years since the National Slum Dweller Federation of India (NSDF) linked up with Mahila Milan and SPARC to negotiate solutions to demolitions of hutments on the pavements of Byculla in Mumbai.
Little did we know at the time that we were giving birth to a new social movement that was going to spread across the globe.
Over the years the process of savings, enumerating, mapping and negotiating, started by 536 women pavement dwellers, has resulted in security of tenure for hundreds of thousands of families in thirty-four countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
In the meantime most of the women founders of the global movement have continued to live in their hutments on the pavements of Mumbai. Finally in November 2012 the founders of Mahila Milan - and SDI - began to move into their own homes.
The day they moved was a day to remember. What a sight it was to watch all the households pack their belongings onto trucks or buses and then leave in a colorful procession of vehicles from Byculla to Mankhurd. As they made their way through the city they passed many communities associated with the National Slum Dwellers Federation where crowds of Federation members stood under banners, waving and shouting. It was wonderful to dream that this procession, after passing through Mumbai, would continue through India and then circumnavigate the globe, knowing that in over 20,000 informal settlements they would receive the same welcome from crowds of Federation members who either knew them personally and loved them, or had heard about their amazing struggle from their friends and family.
The women of Milan Nagar live in "pukka" houses now, but as long as there are slum dwellers without secure tenure, access to services and improved housing, their work is not done.
Read about SDI's work to build this movement from informal settlement communities throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America in our 2012-13 Annual Report.
SDI is pleased to annouce our 2012/13 Annual Report, a reflection on SDI's continued growth over the past year.
This report includes an executive summary from the SDI Secretariat, a discussion and proposal of A People's Urban Agenda, including milestones for post-MDG sustainable urban development. We also take a close look at the citywide impact of SDI's projects and processes, exploring work done around community savings for urban change, citywide solutions to water and sanitation, and refining informal settlement mapping, profiling, and household enumeration processes. In relation to these important milestones, the report includes a discussion of the various engagements that have lead to important partnerships with governments at the city and national level, multi and bi-lateral aid agencies, private sector and other key actors in the urban development sector.
As Sheela Patel, chair of the SDI Board, states, "This report is a landmark exploration of both the successes and fruitful failures on our road of experimentation for building voice, influence and knowledge of, by, and for the poor in our cities."
Just as the word “Hub” denotes, it’s a center of activity or interest; a focal point of deliberating on common regional interests. It is for this fundamental reason that the 9th SDI East African Hub meeting hosted by the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU), brought together participants representing the East African countries under Slum Dwellers Federation namely; Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
The hub meeting is held quarterly and rotated between member countries. This quarter the meeting was held in Uganda and hosted by the Ugandan SDI Alliance. The meeting’s theme, “STRENGTHENING PARTNERSHIP” brought in representatives from the countries' support NGOs, Town Clerks and Officials from various Ugandan Municipal Councils.
Ms. Sarah Nandudu, the Vice Chairperson of the National Slum Dwellers of Uganda welcomed the participants and introduced them to the program for the next three days.
Mr. Hassan Kiberu the Uganda Federation National chairman kicked off the meeting with a keynote speech expressing his joy to host the meeting and urge the participants to make the good use of this forum in addressing the needs of the majority federation members whom which we represent.
In his speech to KUT members, Hassan reiterated that the SDI East African family as slum dwellers; We are the People! We are the Problems! and We are the Solutions!
These solutions cannot be met without integration and embracement of partnership with all stakeholders and actors in a bottom up driven change process. Hassan wound up his speech by calling a one minute silence in remembrance of fallen leaders who have passed on. The one minute silence was mounted in honor of the late Muungano Wa Wanavijiji Chairman Benson Erick Osumba, Tanzania Councilor who has been a friend of the federation and many other federation members who have lived their lives in a quest of making slums inclusive in the settlement developmental agenda. He urged the meeting to remember in prayers Catherine and Uganda Driver Mr. David, Sky Dobson who were involved in a fatal accident and are recovering.
The participants were grouped into three groups for site visits as follows:
Group One: Rippon, RIMAS saving groups and Danida Savings groups
Group Two: Masese Sanitation Unit, Street Lighting & Walukuba Learning Centre
Group Three: Rubanga Sanitation & Drainage System & Bugembe Water Project
The three-day forum was officially opened by His Worship the Mayor of Jinja Municipal Council alongside with His Town Clerk, Presidents of the Municipal Development Forums and Town clerks from various Municipalities.
The Jinja Mayor, Muhammad Baswari Kezaala (pictured above) invited the participants attending the 9th East African Hub and welcomed them to Jinja. He acknowledged that the poor have a right to the city, and therefore the need to bridge the gap between the poor and the rich. This partnership is as a result of a leadership that appreciates the course of the poor. We shall continue to partner with the NSDFU and will continue to do what is asked of the Council,” said Mayor Muhammad.
He appreciated donors for the funding and giving them a free hand to design and tailor projects that suits Jinja. The involvement of the poor in development projects is important in long-term sustainability of community participatory projects.
The East African Hub has demonstrated regional integration of three East African Countries unlike the level observed by the heads of states. The programmes under the flagship of AcTogether have planted the seeds of real programmes and projects to empower the poor.
The 9th East African Hub Meeting was also graced by the Lands, Housing and Urban Development Hon. Daudi Migereko. Initially the government faced numerous challenges involving slum upgrading in respective Municipalities; this has seen the development of the National Slum Upgrading strategy. This gave an opportunity for the federation to lay down priorities of upgrading. Communities through community led enumerations have established key infrastructural upgrading scenarios.
In her speech, Sarah Nandadu noted that this partnership has created unique kind of partnerships with settlements in different cities with their governments. This has been witnessed in the provision of technical support to the urban poor for free, giving them an opportunity to be part of sustainable development initiatives.
Minister Migereko pledged his support for the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda and invited KUT to Uganda. He thanked the efforts made by the Federation and Actogether in the job they are doing for its inline with straight forward thinking that ought to be reflected in our national leadership. Slum dwellers of Uganda should make a breakthrough in transforming themselves; this can happen only by transforming our cultures.
Slum dwelling should only be transitory and not a way of life for the poor. The outcomes of such forums should be shared with Government, and make proposals on issues that would enable us transform lives by addressing issues of slums.
Planning and urban development ought to be taken seriously and implemented. Planning in Uganda is a participatory process for all and my government is willing to work with slum dwellers, for in this modern day slum dwellers need not to live in such a poorly planned environment, we are engaging all stakeholders, said Minister Migereko.
He also cited the Indian federation; where women have taken it upon themselves to effect slum upgrading. Women are doing savings, participating in conceptualizing community project scope and implementing the project and at the end of it all transformative settlements spring up from the foundations. Let women take the initiatives of abandoning negative cultures and be relevant with the current times.
He also asked development partners to capacitate communities to take part in the development projects; this enables an enabling environment for transformation for communities to work towards improving their lives. The government of Uganda is coming up with a training policy to enable communities gain knowledge and skills in aiding self reliance and job creation for the youth, to produce quality work in the settlements.
He also noted that; he had seen many projects scrambled, because they are not implemented in a consultative way while the federations with their little resources have achieved a lot. His worship the mayor expressed his confidence that the Rio de Jaineiro declaration during the 5th World Urban Forum has been successfully planted in Jinja and he is ready to support it.
Building Bridges, Rather than Burning them Up
The underlying lessons of the 9th KUT meeting revolved around upgrading informal settlements, not only from a communal perspective but also the creation of a linkage that can mobilize technical and financial exercise presented by the formal stakeholders such as governments, Multispectral organisations, professionals, and academics. Upgrading settlements requires the inclusion of whole affected communities in the processes that go into such improvements. Whether we refer to the political, financial or planning aspects of upgrading, it is the initiative and leadership of organized communities that is the essential ingredient in making any objective project successful.
The National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda has enabled communities to build bridges with municipal councils and their respective senior officials. This has resulted in the provision of new sanitation blocks as part of a spatial layout plan developed by the community. Through enumerations and mapping, communities have been able to write proposals identifying the needs of a settlement. For example, Rippon Settlement in Jinja Municipality was able to lobby the Ministry to allocate them land to put up a sanitation block. The issue of sanitation was indeed prioritized as a by-product of enumerations.
Through the relationship that the federation has with the Ministry of Lands, land was allocated and, by virtue of writing a proposal to the Jinja Municipal Council Development Forum and project viability assessed and securing funding from the Transforming Settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda (TSUPU programme) to implement the project.
Like any other urban centre in East Africa, Uganda's urban centres are composed of migrants from different parts of the world for the purpose of economic gains. The central concentration of resources has led to huge influx of people which these urban centres cannot accommodate in terms of housing and basic services, leading to the growth of slums. The Uganda Federation was established and exists to engage with the urban community in identifying sustainable solutions to these problems. The federation works through an array of programmes that are community led in bringing together these communities and engaging each other into various action areas.
The federation has so far used its powerful tool of mobilization through daily savings and enumeration, aimed at collecting information that can be used in informing the government and stakeholders in their development quests. Through these the federation has been recognized as an model people’s organization with grassroot ties to development processes. So far the federation is a key player in the TSUPU Programmes implementation among with other projects. The federation so far has established sustainable partnership with various municipalities in Uganda and combined ties with other slum dwellers in Kenya and Tanzania. However the federation still faces challenges ranging from Rapid inflation, Political interferences and regular transfer of officers from their work stations.
So often in the operalisation of community led federated urban poor movements, leadership structures have been challenged throughout community projects and processes. However, in pursuant of the success of any community agenda, there needs to be the existence of strong leaders who have the ability and mandate of their movements to mobilize residents through planned processes, has had powerful outcomes for the success of any community project.
Participants noted an apparent dependency on technical support from the NGO, insufficient contributions from savings, difficulties with uninterested or unaccountable leadership structures, and a general lack of “sensitization” of the community. It was emphasized that community mobilization is the key to the sustainability and partnerships formulated of any upgrading project. As long as the NGO drives the process, the project fosters a growing sense of entitlement in the community and prevents residents from taking ownership.
Reactions to the Mayor's Speech & Reports from Site Visits
The President of the Moroto Municipality Development Forum applauded the mayor’s speech and envied the residents of Jinja for being lucky by having committed leaders from the municipality. He promised to mobilize his other colleagues to work with the federation and communities in his municipalities.
The representative of the president of MDF Entebbe expressed her excitement on the meeting and promised to entrench community procurement in their project circles in her municipality. Her promise was based on her experience from the site visit on two projects one funded and implemented by the Municipality which has stalled and the one implemented by the federation which is functioning however how simple it is. She promised to mobilize and advice her seniors to one conduct and exchange program between Jinja and Entebbe and Two to redesign their SUP implementation circle.
The MDF President, Masaka Municipality appreciated how the federation is undertaking its activities and projects in such a consultative way. He appreciated how the residents of Jinja are managing public land. He added that in his town most of the lands for developments have been grabbed and that has paralyzed the development of my municipality and many others that haven’t spoken. He promised to continue working with the federation in organizing the communities within Masaka Municipality to join into the big voice of slum dwellers.
The secretary of the Gulu Municipal Development Forum shared about the problems affecting the Gulu people especially the high number of Internally Displaced Persons due to ever ending wars in Northern Uganda. IDP’s have turned their camps into slums without services. He requested for support from SDI and other partners in alleviating the plights of the Gulu people. He also reiterated that partnership is the only way out to sustainable development.
Richard, from Tanzania Federation expressed his joy on how the Ugandan federation is working with the community and the partnership with the Jinja Municipality and the Government. He however urged the Uganda federation to assist in the replication of the same to other countries within the East African Hub. He noted that the Uganda government is committed to support the federation and request if the Uganda government can assist Kenya and Tanzania federation in mobilizing their government to support the two federations in their respective countries.
A representative of Gulu Municipal Council raised some key issues by sharing the outcome of his research on “At what extent can slums generate income to improve the well being of the urban poor”. He noted that whenever you begin improving the welfare of a certain community alone then you are attracting influx to that area. These issues takes us to the point of sustainability of these improvements, which must be integrated with employment, but the questions is that what do you do with the un-employed (those without skills that can attract employment)?
Stella Stephens from Tanzania CCI urged for the focus on proper book keeping since lack of these records do plunder groups and organization to fallout
Municipal Development Forums
The Jinja Municipal-Wide Development Forum is a multispectral forum that promotes sustainable urban development in Jinja, where the community plans its projects side by side with their respective with their Municipal Councils.
MDF has an executive Committee elected by the Communities from the community, Private, Public and media sectors. The Committee is chaired by an elected president. The Committee currently works on a voluntary basis, for it’s a partime assignment. Members sitting at the Jinja Municipal Forum come from various savings groups in Jinja, technical teams of the Council, government officials and the private sector.
The Municipal Development Forums, particularly in Jinja was widely lobbied by the National Slum Dwellers federation of Uganda.
The forum is a platform to share development ideas and strategies of making Jinja a better Municipality. This would include policy issues, infrastructure development and creation of linkages.
Financial allocations are allocated to development projects based on communal priorities, whose proposals and work plans are filed with the MDF for scrutiny, and upon verification and approval of the proposals funds are allocated to the project through the TSUPU (Transforming Settlements of the Urban poor in Uganda) programme. The National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda has widely up scaled their sanitation projects through the TSUPU programme and allocation of land from the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development.
The TSUPU programme is a partnership initiative undertaken by the Government of Uganda and its support partners to align urban development efforts at the national government, local government, and community level. It aims to:
a) Develop a national urban policy that will guide sustainable urban development in Uganda, ensure the empowerment of local governments, and reinforce the importance of active community participation.
b) Build the capacity of local governments to strategically manage urbanization.
c) Empower organizations of the urban poor to actively engage in local development.
d) Focus on secondary cities (Arua, Jinja, Kabale, Mbale, and Mbarara)
As the curtains to the 9th East African hub meeting were drawn down, it was indeed evident from the various country reports, challenges and Points of actions that KUT (Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania) will support one another in the establishment of best practices through the establishment and strengthening of partnerships for the better of communities represented at the regional, continental and global networks.
“When the NGO disappeared it was like a shepherd looking after the sheep and the sheep were scattered…that is what I was picturing. To my surprise we found that all the people we found last time were still here and it gave us more courage to emphasize our support.”- Rose Molokoane
Recently a team from South Africa visited Swaziland to meet with the communities aligned with the Swaziland Low Income People’s Organisation (SLIPO). The team was made up of South African community leaders and a member of the SDI secretariat. While professional and leadership processes in Swaziland have stuttered over the years, the exchange team learned that many of the Swazi savings schemes and communities remain committed. Infighting amongst leadership and a lack of clarity about the core SDI rituals and how to implement them remain significant challenges. The core purpose of the exchange was to assess and re-invigorate the Swazi process and leadership, albeit with the pledge of sustained support from South Africa; in the words of Rose Molokoane “Swaziland will become like South Africa’s baby”. Although SDI’s presence in Swaziland is small, the exchange visit raised a number of issues and examples that speak to much broader and diverse challenges within, and beyond the SDI network. These came up in the nightly reflection sessions conducted by the exchange team.
Dealing with issues of Leadership:
“Lets take our caps down and say we have volunteered as the leaders to make this country better for the poor. We do not use elections we ask who is good at what! All of you come together, assess yourselves and see who is good at what.” – Rose Molokoane
One of the core issues hampering the Swazi process was a lack unity amongst the leadership on the way forward. The South African team emphasized unity of purpose and mapping a clear way forward in their engagements with the Swazi leadership. What struck me was the manner in which the South African leadership engaged their Swazi counterparts. Social movements are complex organisms, comprised of individuals with divergent opinions who simultaneously need to present a united front. Negotiating internal community dynamics involves listening, assessing and intervening in a supportive but decisive manner without undermining individuals. It involves walking a line and speaking a language unique to community members who have faced similar challenges. The anecdotes, similes and comparisons that comprise this rhetoric avoid personal antagonism while making powerful points about unity of purpose. It is unlikely that a professional will ever understand these dynamics; drawing out points which are important but may seem irrelevant, the manner in which to listen and hear what people say, how to suggest changes subtly, using metaphors to build collective unity of purpose, cutting to the core of the issues which are hidden below the surface and learning from the engagements instead of just “teaching” others.
“We learnt that we must find a good way to solve problems. Fighting is not the way - we must come together and talk and look at the way forward. The mistakes are there to teach us lessons and give us power. From our mistakes it should make a strong way to make SLIPO strong. We have to come together and work together.”- SLIPO member
The lesson here is about the way in which communities speak to and engage one another, what they see differently and how they use practical experience to define such engagements. The Swazi engagement illustrated firsthand what is gained when capacitated community members engage each other on their own terms and in their own language, a learning engagement that is very different to those mediated by professionals.
A topic of discussion that emerged amongst the exchange group was the long-term sustainability of the Swazi process. Despite various interventions made over the years to re-invigorate the process, SLIPO remains unable to leverage resources or move towards internal sustainability. This begs the question of how long external funds can be used to prop up social movements. Is the withdrawal of funding a disservice to the urban poor? Should leaders be doing more to make the movement sustainable since donor funding is never guaranteed in perpetuity? What dependencies emerge when donors continue to fund movements that do not have the capacity to be sustainable or leverage significant resources from government? And do such dependencies ultimately weaken communities and leaderships who continue to rely on external assistance rather than deepening their own capacities?
These questions speak to much broader themes within the SDI network and the development world. The importance of communities being involved in their own development processes is magnified when that involvement implies some form of contribution (whether financial, technical or through sweat equity). The very basis of the entire SDI network, female centered savings groups, stresses savings as a means for enabling communities to bring something to the negotiating table. The process is not merely fiscal, as it builds capacity and a collective agenda alongside a financial basis for negotiation. If a process is truly built from the bottom-up it is these savings schemes that are the building block for leveraging further resources and funding - their sustainability rooted in the social capacities that develop alongside them.
Urban or Rural?
Initial impressions of Mbabane were not of a large bustling urban center but of a town somewhere between rural and urban. While some factories and warehouses dot the road to Manzini, Swaziland remains largely rural. Can countries like Swaziland, Lesotho and Botswana, were SDI has begun to establish a presence, really be considered urban in the same sense as Kenya? Not that any two pictures of urban poverty are the same but different dynamics are certainly at work. Communities still retain strong rural ties and layouts could be considered peri-urban-a form of urbanism that is evident in many countries in which SDI works (e.g. Malawi, parts of South Africa). The long history of Swaziland as a “labour reserve” for South African industry (especially mining) has created a large migrant labor force undoubtedly affecting the dynamics of communities and urban poverty in cities like Mbabane.
As the SDI network expands it needs to develop varied responses to different cities along the continuum of urbanization. Informality in dense, urbanized and rapidly growing cities is very different to that experienced in Mbabane. Recognizing such dynamics and learning from how they play out at a community level is imperative to deeper and more insightful engagements, not just in Mbabane but also in similar cities across the SDI network.
Way forward for Swaziland:
“The federation in Swaziland is very much alive because even though they have been informed late yesterday about the meeting their attendance did not reflect this.”- Emily Mohohlo
The exchange team ended their visit by drafting, in close conjunction with the Swazi leadership, a work plan. The plan aims to re-invigorate savings schemes, draw Swaziland into the Southern African Regional Hub, capacitate leadership through mentorship by the South African process and complete construction of the SLIPO office so that the federation can have a place to meet and store records. In the final reflection session, conducted with the Swazi leadership, the team stressed unity of purpose and the strength of local savings groups as key to the way forward.
“Now we have a proper program we can bring back the image of the Swazi federation. We have to become a strong united front. Change can happen if you as an individual can become the change - you have to be the change that you see. You have to build the unity amongst the leaders - there are many issues that are pending and through unity you can move forward with this. For all these days that we have been together we are not doubtful that we have seen progress and that this will bring positive results and positive reports to the Southern African Hub and the entire SDI family.” - Excerpts from reflection session
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.
The positive externalities of this agglomeration of collective capacity are not hard to see. The NSDFU is the key community mobilizer in the Government of Uganda’s Transforming Settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda (TSUPU) program. The NSDFU has capitalized upon the opportunities of this Cities Alliance-funded program to expand from Jinja and Kampala to Arua, Mbale, Mbarara, and Kabale. Within this national program, the NSDFU has demonstrated that organized communities can: improve urban governance by organizing citizens to demand accountability; improve urban planning by generating information on slum populations; improve living conditions for members and non-members alike through slum upgrading projects; and improve the environment by upholding their responsibilities to keep cities clean and maintain public services.
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.
Kalimali zone, where the federation’s sanitation unit is located, is one of the five zones in Bwaise III parish in Kawempe municipality. The zone is home to approximately 277 residents and it covers approximately 4 acres of land which is owned by the kabaka.
The project began with community enumerations during which each house was allocated a unique number agreed upon by the community enumeration team. The community, lead by their LC1 chairman Mr. Musisi, took the lead in sensitizing the community about the sanitation project and the need to gather information about their settlement.
Through their weekly meetings the savings group discussed the management of the project, where to store the tools, who the various members of the PMC are and voted a chairperson of the PMC Ms. Nankinga.
One of the group members offered a piece of her land to the group to establish the community toilet facility. An agreement was made between the land owner and the NSDFU to enable planning and give the community ownership of the facility.
The community looked at the architectural plans for the sanitation unit building and discussed it in detail together with the ACTogether engineer, Mr. Waiswa Kakaire. Specifically keen on the issue of water (one of the biggest challenges in Bwaise), the design was appreciated because of the provision of a water tank at the top. It was, however, suggested that a care takers room be included in the design.
Thursday 7 February 2013
In the wake of dawn at 7am on Thursday, the federation leaders in Kawempe, the LC1 chairman for Kalimali zone Mr. Musisi, community members form Kalimali saving scheme, officers from ACTogther and SDI and Diana Mitlin of IIED stormed the town clerk’s office in Kawempe municipality with building plans in hand to be submitted for approval. Sure enough the town clerk was filled with awe at the seriousness of the community about changing the sanitation situation in their community. The technical team, composed of the health officer and the municipal engineer, joined the town clerk and a meeting commenced.
The federation presented the project to the team and explained why this is very important to them according to their findings from the enumerations they had conducted in the settlement. The technical team, impressed by the presentations, appreciated the plans and pledged full support to the initiative. The town clerk assured the community that technical support will be availed free of charge to support the project
Friday 8 March 2013
It’s time to build! On the 8th of March 2013, the community in Kalimali was all set to commence construction works on their Sanitation Unit. It is safe to say that Women’s Day was celebrated as the day construction work commenced. With the Project Management Committee (PMC) already in place, a meeting was held to assign the roles to the different members: clearing the heap of garbage off the site, demolishing the existing structure of the old pit latrine and members of the procurement committee set off to purchase materials needed.
Friday 15 March 2013
Construction work begins! More than 10 women and men from the Kalimali savings group turned up to start digging the foundation and moving materials to the site. Despite rainy conditions and slippery grounds, the community worked to ensure that the ground level was set, the bricks were laid and materials were on site. Bwaise being the “floods hub,” the foundation had to be extra strong with lots of marrum, hard core and iron bars to ensure stability of the sanitation block.
By Kotimi Kéré, resident of spontaneous zone “Taabtenga” in Ouagadougou (translation by Chantal Hildebrand, SDI Secretariat)
Photo above: Kotimi Kéré, adjoining treasurer of the “Association ‘Id-rayim-taab yeele,” and community member of sector 45 “Taab-Tenga” (a spontaneous zone of in Ouagadougou).
Taking part in the study tour to Ghana from 21-26 January 2013, I got a better understanding of the SDI strategy. It is a matter of mobilizing poor communities to improve their living conditions and be able to influence the actions of decision-makers in the favor of these populations.
Aspects of SDI strategy that arouses the most interest during this exchange included:
Mobilising communities around a common project and/or idea;
The introduction of savings groups within urban poor communities. People living in slums are a the priority poor. Having faith in an individual project, each community member, to the best of their ability, will put aside a little bit of money everyday to add to their savings book (for example, 2 cedis, 5 cedis, etc.);
The possibility of savings group members being able to save enough to support individual projects;
The solidarity and team spirit found within the savings groups in terms of supporting each member even if they experience difficulties in repaying a loan;
The main lesson I learned from this trip is the following:
The modernization of cities is often a process split into two speeds. On the one hand, the institutional principles set by national and local policy makers, and on the other side, the poor settlements in cities who have difficulty fitting into the formal principles. The inclusion and non-marginalization of the urban poor are esstential to the modernization of cities.
The alternative is to make the urban poor aware of their own abilities to change their destinies. We do not always need to wait for others to do everything for us and lift us out of our misery. Overcoming poverty and improving our lives depend primarily on us. It is necessary to know our prioities to first realise our own progress with patience and self-confidence. Although poor, I can find ways to spare a little of what I earn each day to support projects that benefit my life. The battle for registering poor communities in urban development is based primarily on our abilities to improve our own living conditions.
From what I have seen and learned, in my opinion it would be selfish to keep it to oneself. I come from a community living in a precarious neighborhood (slum) of Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. In my opinion, I think the first action to do on my return to my country is to mobilise my own community to change our current living conditions and our lives.
To read Kotimi Kéré's testimonial in French, please click here.
Photo above of Ouagadougou delegation that participated in the exchange to Ghana: Florent Y. Bakouan (representative from Laboratoire Citeyonnetés), Madeleine Bouda (community member from Taabtenga), Kotimi Kere (community member from Nioko 2) and Franck Kabore (representative from le Coalition Nationale pour L’Habitat).
Part II: The Way Forward
By Chantal Hildebrand, using “Restitution Ghana report” by Florent Bakouan.
Upon their return to Burkina Faso, the Ouagadougou delegation who participated in the learning exchange to Ghana met to discuss how to implement some of the lessons and tools they learned in the spontaneous zones of Ouagadougou. It was agreed that they would begin by sharing the lessons learned in Ghana with their own communities specifically Nioko 2 and Taabtenga – the two spontaneous zones where Mrs. Bouda and Ms. Kéré live.
Beginning with Nioko 2, a presentation was conducted by Mrs. Bouda reporting her experience on the Ghana exchange and presenting the SDI approach and core rituals. Attended by 150 community members and members of a local women’s group called “Songr Nooma la Zamstaaba” (which Mrs. Bouda is a member), the presentation resulted in a collective interest in implementing some of the SDI approach in the Nioko 2 community. Identifying lack of access to safe drinking water in households as a key issue in the community, the interested residents decided to mobilise the rest of the Nioko 2 community around this priority. The community, with the help of Laboratoire Citeyonnetés and the other individuals who participated in the Ghana exchange, have begun mobilizing community members through the establishment of a savings scheme, with current membership totaling 130 people. Future plans include:
Conducting an enumeration of Nioko 2, identifying areas with available drinking water, the number of households without water, those who want water, etc;
Conducting a mapping exercise focusing on the current water situation in the community.
A meeting in Taabtenga is scheduled for Sunday 10 March 2013. As explained by Mr. Florent Bakouan, a representative from the Laboratoire Citeyonnetés who participated in the Ghana exchange, in Taabtenga, like Nioko 2, “Nous allons partager ce que nous avons appris au Ghana, susciter l'adhésion des habitants à l'approche SDI et envisager avec eux un projet commun pour le réaliser par eux et pour eux.” – English translation: “We will share what we have learned in Ghana, build support from the residents around the SDI approach and consider a joint project with the residents to help facilitate community-run upgrading and work with them on a communal project to realize by them for them.”
He ends by saying, “En conclusion…Nous avons mis l'accent d'abord sur l'adhésion des populations à l'approche SDI, ensuite à leur mobilisation autour d'un projet commun. Nous allons progressivement étape par étape pour avoir plus de chances de réussite.” – English translation: “In conclusion… we focus first on public support around the SDI approach, then their mobilisation around a common project. We are progressing gradually, step by step, to have a better chance of success.”
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:
PROJECT: FENCING OF BIBIA PRIMARY SCHOOL
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.
Conclusion 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.
On 12/12/12 the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU) celebrated its 10th Anniversary. From a few savings groups in Kisenyi, the federation has spread over the last decade across Kampala, to Arua in the north, Mbale and Jinja in the east, to Kabale and Mbarara in the west. The federation is now comprised of over 38,000 slum dwellers and approximately 500 savings groups. NSDFU and its support NGO ACTogether Uganda decided it was important to mark this milestone and bring together members and partners for a very special event that would serve as a time not only for celebration, but reflection and mobilization.
Planning began in November. NSDFU members and ACTogether staff decided to approach Uganda’s most famous artist, Bobi Wine, known affectionately as the “Ghetto President.” They asked Bobi whether he would be interested in helping Uganda’s slum dwellers to celebrate the event and generate publicity for the work of the federation. At the meeting NSDFU member, Katana Goretti, who hails from the same slum as Bobi Wine – Kamwoyka – explained the work of the federation, its history, and its hopes for the future. ACTogether and SDI explained the larger movement to which the NSDFU is part. Bobi listened intently and asked many questions about federation work before informing the group he was honored to be approached and would work with ACTogether and the NSDFU to put on a historic event. He instructed his management team – Angry Management, led by the tireless Lawrence Labeja – to give full support. It was decided that a free concert for slum dwellers would be the grand finale of the anniversary celebrations.
NSDFU was committed to ensuring the event be more than a mere celebration. One of the most frequent pleas of federation groups is to gain access to markets for their goods. It was decided the event would provide such a space. With Christmas a mere two weeks after the event, the timing for a huge slum dweller’s income generating activity market was right. A Savers’ Convention and SUUBI (Urban Poor Fund) sensitization drive would also be held on the day. Housing and sanitation models would be displayed, and donor and government partners would be invited to attend. The event would also provide the perfect space to launch the Federation’s book, 10 Years of Okwegatta: A History of the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda Narrated by Members. In the book, member stories are transcribed to tell the history of federation work, federation regions, federation slum upgrading and livelihood projects, as well as federation achievements and challenges. The book can be viewed at this link: www.sdinet.org/media/upload/documents/10YearsofOwegatta_opt.pdf
At the November National Executive Council (NEC) meeting members were briefed on their respective roles and responsibilities. The logistics involved in hosting such an event were managed with ease by the well-organized federation. Each region was charged with coordinating the savings groups in their networks, arranging transport for members, providing lists of those wishing to participate in the livelihood market, and producing t-shirts to sell, and making a banner to show who they are. The federation in Kampala searched for a venue for the big day. The NSDFU was keen to host the event in Kampala Central, where the federation began, and it was decided that the most cost efficient option for such a huge crowd was Old Kampala Secondary School. The school has two huge football fields and the management agreed (special thanks to Mr. Okumu) to give the federation free use of tables and benches for the exhibition, and toilets on the day. Once the venue was set, the advertising began.
Flyers were produced and Angry Management arranged for truck drives which would announce the event and the work of the federation over a loud speaker from the back of a truck as it drove through the slums of Kampala. Federation member and aspiring DJ, “DJ X” from Makindye, took the microphone and did a fabulous job of inviting all slum dwellers to attend the NSDFU’s anniversary. Cloth banners were also hung by the Angry Management team around Kampala’s slums to raise awareness (shown below). Pioneer Easy Buses – Kampala’s city-wide bus company – showed advertisements for the event on the televisions in all buses.
Uganda’s national newspaper, the New Vision, was approached to continue its work to raise awareness for issues facing slum dwellers. With support from the South African Trust the New Vision dedicated a significant amount of space in its papers in 2012 to highlighting the work of Ugandans to improve living conditions in the country’s slums. It also trained journalists in community engagement and identification of change makers in slums. During the feature, the NSDFU was profiled twice in full-page color articles. The articles can be viewed at the following link: http://www.newvision.co.ug/mobile/Detail.aspx?NewsID=635886&CatID=434
NSDFU and ACTogether asked the New Vision to announce the winner of the Ugandans Making a Difference urban feature at the event, provide advertisements for the event free of charge, and compile a full page color write up following the event. The New Vision was also requested to provide a cash sponsorship of UGX 8,500,000 (USD $3,400). The New Vision Group eagerly agreed and special thanks must be extended to Ben Opolot, John Eremu, Cathy Mwesigwa, and Daniel Komunda. Following discussions with New Vision, ACTogether staff member Helen Nyamweru and newly appointed board member, Dr. Steven Mukiibi, were asked to sit on the panel which choose the winners. An article about the competition can be viewed at the following link: http://www.newvision.co.ug/news/638028-vision-group-unveils-slum-project-winners.html
On the 11th of December members from the furthest municipalities from Kampala began their journey. Members from Arua (approximately 480km from Kampala) and Kabale (approximately 420km from Kampala) had a long journey to make. NSDFU members agreed that no regions would be provided accommodation support for the event, as the costs would become too great resulting in fewer members being able to attend. Arua region decided it would still come the day before and members would sleep in the community hall of the Kisenyi III federation sanitation unit. The unit was the first NSDFU project in Uganda and there could not have been a better way for it to be used on the anniversary! Members slept on the floor, in hallways, and in chairs. Some members took it upon themselves to ‘guard’ the others and report that the federation members were in high spirits despite the cramped conditions.
Though the event did not officially start until 2pm, members came to the site early to help set up. Groups with tent and chair rental projects were asked to bring them to the event and erect them early before the anit-terrorism unit arrived to conduct a sweep. Pepsi Cola agreed to provided tents, chairs, and 2,500 free sodas in sponsorship of the event. Nile Breweries agreed to supply tents. Barefoot Solar generously decided their sponsorship contribution would be to outfit one of the federation’s sanitation units with solar power in 2013. Pioneer Buses – Kampala’s city-wide bus system – offered free promotion of the NSDFU anniversary on all its buses and social media, while Record TV also provided free coverage. Individual donors Heather Gardiner, Christine and Tiree Dobson, and Caroline Power also provided sponsorship support.
Each region selected 10 ushers. These members were charged with all the logistical responsibilities involved with setting up and clearing up their income generating activity and project displays. Regional ushers were allocated tags (shown below) so they could be easily identified by security personal. It should be noted that security was a very serious concern for the federation and the authorities. In the lead up to the event, NSDFU member Lubega Edirss and NSDFU chairman Hassan Kiberu did an exceptional job securing permission to host and secure the event from the Inspector General of Police, the Kampala Metropolitan Police, the District Police Commissioner, the Kampala Capital City Authority, and the Anti-terrorism Authority. Securing such support required endless trips to these offices and Lubega now boasts of having the phone number of every high-level security officer in the country!
All 11 regions of the federation were allocated a space to exhibit and sell their goods. Some of the livelihood projects included: candles, liquid soap, clothes, beads, bags, briquettes, shoes, jewelry, grass mats, baskets, amaranth products, bread, donuts, cookies, soaps, mushrooms, clay stoves and more. The vast majority of these projects were initiated and are managed by women.
Approximately 70% of all NSDFU members are women and they constituted the bulk of those in attendance on the day. The groups reported good sales on the day both from fellow members and guests. In addition, members moved to their fellow savings groups for ideas and contacts during the day so they can test the income generating activities of fellow members in their own settlements.
NSDFU is planning to create more regional livelihood projects in 2013 following the success of the Nakawa Region Candle Project in which numerous candle-making groups came together to form a regional alliance. Networking the project groups regionally means they can fulfill larger orders and access larger markets. Since the event, the Nakawa candle makers have been asked to fill another large bulk order. Members are exploring other regional projects through contacts made at the event and groups they learned of in the 10 Years of Okwegatta book.
The book and the exhibition at the anniversary highlight the incredible array of skills to be found in the NSDFU and also the power of collective action toward livelihood improvement. The savings groups in the federation extend small loans for livelihood projects and their organizational capacity allows them to grow their businesses, account for their monies, and diversify their products as they learn from fellow slum dwellers in the network. The partnerships the federation forges with municipal councils helps these groups get access to the Ugandan Government’s Community-Driven Development (CDD) funds owing to their demonstrable capacity to manage such funds effectively.
No NSDFU event would be complete without singing and dancing. Many groups in the federation have singing or drama groups, which raise awareness for federation rituals and in many cases also generate income for groups when they are hired for functions. Each region was asked to prepare a performance for the anniversary celebration. The performances were so colorful and inspired and a delight for fellow federation members and guests to witness. The groups performed songs and plays about savings, women’s empowerment, and lifting oneself out of poverty.
They performed in the traditional style of their region highlighting the great diversity of culture within the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda. The Bakiga from Kabale performed the Ekizino Royal Dance, full of vigorous stamping and jumping. The Lugbara from Arua were painted in the traditional style and performed a thrilling local dance. The Baganda people from Kampala peformed the ever-delightful Bakisiimba, traditionally performed for the Kabaka (King), while the Basoga from Jinja, the Bagisu from Mbale, and the Banyankole from Mbarara delighted with songs, plays, and dances from their respective cultures.
As mentioned, members decided the event would also provide the perfect space for a massive SUUBI sensitization effort and savings drive. SUUBI is Uganda’s Urban Poor Fund, which was established in 2010. It has extended loans for housing, sanitation units, and livelihood projects to federation groups throughout Uganda. SUUBI is designed as a basket fund to which the urban poor, their partners in government, and donor agencies contribute. The unique element of SUUBI is that is a fund that the urban poor control themselves. The monies that their small daily savings and organizational capacity leverage are directed to projects the members prioritize, design, and implement themselves.
At the event federation leaders explained the function of SUUBI and members were encouraged to save to SUUBI that very day. There was a competition for SUUBI savings, with the winner receiving a 10 million shilling loan for a community slum-upgrading project. On the day, members saved over 3,400,000 shillings (USD $1,400) and DFCU Bank – in which the SUUBI account is held – was invited to participate in the verification and banking of member savings on the day.
Chairman, Hassan Kiberu, announced the savings of each region and declared Arua region the winner. Members from Arua saved, on average, close to 4,000 shillings (USD $1.60) per person. At this announcement Arua region came running onto the main field waving their pink saving books, dancing and ululating with excitement!! The win was consistent with Arua’s history as the federation region with the strongest daily and SUUBI savings. Since returning to Arua, the members decided to use the loan to construct a sanitation unit – a project prioritized following community conducted enumerations (slum surveys) – and have already negotiated for land in Arua municipality.
In the lead up to the event, federation members, led by Robert Kakinda, Vicky Nakibuuka, and the ACTogether engineer, Waiswa Kakaire, constructed models of the sanitation units being built by the federation and a low-cost, multi-storeyed house model. The models were exceptionally detailed and Robert Kakinda spent the day explaining the designs and costs to guests and federation members. These models helped visitors to appreciate the kinds of projects SUUBI makes possible thanks to the exceptional organizational capacity of the NSDFU members. The models helped demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of federation projects and the fact that good design can reduce cost and simplify the construction process so that slum dwellers can build for themselves. At present, the NSDFU has one housing project in Jinja, an sanitation unit projects in Kisenyi, Kinawataka and Bwaise in Kampala, as well as Mbale, Jinja, and Mbarara. The sanitation units are double-story and house a community hall on the top floor which is used to host regional federation meetings and rent out for income generation. The sanitation facilities, including toilets and showers, are for men and women and have provisions for the disabled.
The guest of honor, State Minster of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Rosemary Najjemba officially opened the event and spoke to those gathered about the work of the Ministry. She praised the efforts of the federation and encouraged them to continue to work hard and resist the temptations of corruption as they grow. Robert Kakinda and Sarah Nandudu explained the models to the Minister, who asked many questions and then signed the NSDFU message board with the following message: “I would like to see cities without slums therefore I support the NSDFU!”
The federations travelled with many of their municipal council partners. Mbale municipality came with the Mayor as did Nakawa Region. Many regions came with councilors, and Arua came with its Community Development Officer. One member, Sarah Kiyimba, told me, “sometimes municipal council representatives – and even members – don’t really believe the federation has so many members and does so much work, but at the event they really saw.” Mbarara region even made a sanitation unit model out of cake (shown below)! The cake was auctioned off by the Mayor of Nakawa to raise funds for the completion of the unit in Mbarara. The total raised was UGX 230,000 (USD $92).
Bobi Wine arrived at about 4pm to greet the federation and whip up excitement for the concert to come. Bobi Wine was also presented with an award by New Vision for the work he has done in Kamwoyka to improve drainage and sanitation. His car, with its “Ghetto” number plates was parked at the entrance of the school, much to the delight of passers by.
In the evening Bobi performed a free show in front of thousands of screaming slum dwellers. He spoke of the ingenuity to be found in the ghettos of Uganda and the potential within each and every person in attendance. He spoke of his own rise from a slum dweller to an international superstar. Bobi sang live, with a full band, and his opening acts were members of the Firebase Crew. Joining him for the main show, was fellow Ugandan sensation Nubian Lee.
The NSDFU and ACTogether know that the challenge in 2013 is for the slum dweller movement in Uganda to consolidate the impressive gains made in the past 10 years (to build an autonomous urban poor movement, raise awareness for the issues faced by slum dwellers, begin to work at city-scale, improve sanitation, become an established learning center in the SDI network, achieve national recognition, create an urban poor fund, and promote good governance and womens’ empowerment) and intensify the leveraging of slum dweller social and political capital for greater improvements to the lives of the urban poor.
In the past month a major event has come to pass for the women who began this worldwide movement of slum dwellers nearly 30 years ago on the pavements of central Mumbai. After so many years, the women of Byculla have finally begun to move into their own homes.
In the coming weeks, SDI will cover this important story with a series of blog posts describing the history of Mahila Milan, SPARC and NSDF and how a handful of young professionals connected with a group of women living on Byculla's sidewalks to create the spark that would eventually evolve into a national, and then international, movement.
This first post in the series will take a quick look what it means to live on the pavement, highlighting the innovation of the urban poor and their incredible capacity to find effective solutions to the challenges of daily life.
Sundar Burra offers a helpful definition of "pavement dweller" in his 2000 paper, "A Journey Towards Citizenship: The Byculla Area Resource Center, Mumbai" :
Pavement dwellers are households who live and raise families on pavements (sidewalks). The basic requirement fo the establishment of a dwelling is a stretch of pavement, free from vehicular traffic, usually 2-3 meters long and 1-2 meters deep from the kerb to the wall of the property bordering the pavement. The first occupation of a stretch of pavement is usually a family settling to sleep on the pavement surrounded by their meagre possessions, followed byt he erection of a plastic or saching sheet stretched from the wall to a point near the curb of the pavement.Thereafter the lean-to tent will gradually be replaced with slightly a more permanent structure of second-hand poles, packing cases, timeber boards, cardboard, occasionally loose bricks covered with plastic sheets. A second floor is often build to provde additional sleepling space, though the ground floor 'ceiling height' is rarely more than 1.5 meters and that of the loft a metre.
Please keep an eye on this space for more on the history of Byculla's pavement dwellers, as well as the story of how the women of Mahila Milan have been able to negotiate for alternative housing in a way that provides a win-win solution for the communities and government alike.
Celine d’Cruz describes how strong leadership from the Philippines Homeless People’s Federation is helping the urban poor cope with climatic disasters
The author describes how federations of the urban poor in the Philippines are helping families affected by floods rebuild their lives after Typhoon Durian.
Helping poor people save, acquire land and build homes are key components of this work.
Committed local leadership has secured community trust, established good working relations with local government and explored long-term sustainable solutions.
The lack of affordable land and housing options for the poor in most cities in the Philippines means that between a third and a half of the urban population live in informal illegal settlements. These lack access to toilets, water supplies and electricity and the danger of eviction is constant. Without secure access to land and safe housing communities place more and more of their scanty resources into just surviving. They are caught in a hopeless cycle of squatting and eviction, which leads to further impoverishment. Such communities are particularly vulnerable to disasters such as Typhoon Durian, which struck at the end of 2006.
The Philippines Homeless People’s Federation brings together poor community organizations in cities across the Philippines, all engaged with finding solutions to problems they face with secure land, housing, income, infrastructure, health, welfare and access to affordable credit. The Federation has a number of new leaders who are focused, confident and support the communities with elegance and sensitivity. This article describes how these leaders, and the activities they are involved with, are helping the urban poor recover from Typhoon Durian in the Bicol Region and reduce their vulnerability to other similar disasters in the future.
Mayon Volcano and Typhoon Durian
Bicol is one of 17 regions in the Philippines. It occupies the Bicol Peninsula at the southeastern end of Luzon Island and some other islands. Mayon Volcano, in Albay Province, is a major landmark, rising 2462 metres above the gulf. It is the Philippines’ most active volcano. Its sides are layers of lava and other volcanic material. It has had 47 eruptions in recorded history; the first in 1616 and the latest in November 2006.
Typhoon Durian followed shortly after the November 2006 eruption, leading to floods that created mayhem in surrounding settlements and took many lives. Mudslides of volcanic ash and boulders from Mayon Volcano killed hundreds and covered a large portion of the village of Padang (an outer suburb of Legazpi City) in mud up to roof level. The death toll was estimated at 1000, which is either equal to or surpasses the death toll from the major 1814 Mayon Volcano eruption.
After November 2006, the federation of the urban poor in Bicol needed to redefine its strategy. Two leaders from the Philippines Homeless People’s Federation, Jossie and Rollie, went to provide support.
Following the disaster, all foreign aid was routed through local government. At such times corruption is commonplace and there is no one to demand accountability from government. Despite this, people were not ready to trust the federation until it organized exposure visits to Manila where people met with other urban poor federation communities.
Helping people save money
Some of the communities had been saving as part of the federation before the disaster struck, but in March 2007, the federation started helping people save in all the evacuation centers. As the men slowly started returning to work on construction sites, in the handicrafts industry and elsewhere they had money to put aside. The federation helped them manage their own money by explaining that savings are like drops of water that slowly fill a bucket.
The federation had to first get permission from the Municipal Social Service Department to enter the evacuation centers. It had to explain its objectives to the municipality and only started working with those municipalities which were interested.
The government said it did not have enough land to relocate all the families. It worked out a set of criteria for selecting affected families but many were left out. Families who could not prove they had land title were of lower priority. This also encouraged people to save as most families who were seriously affected understood that they had to work hard to secure their own safety.
In the year that followed, 1036 people saved a total of 600,000 pesos (US$14,634). Some saved daily while others saved weekly.
Relocating families to new land
As soon as the savings groups were created, conversations began about land. This was the main preoccupation of affected families who had lost their land. The local community chose some suitable and affordable land and the federation helped them purchase this land with a loan. In government relocation packages, the flood victims only get a certificate of occupancy from the municipality. Borrowing money from the federation, however, allowed people to get land in their name. With title to the land and a safe house, families felt more secure about their children’s future.
The federation has since purchased three pieces of land in three different municipalities after checking with disaster experts that the land was acceptable for relocation. The aim was to move beyond the ‘doling out’ mentality to finding a long-term solution and a ‘self-help’ approach to coping with disasters. This is in line with a key federation principle of working with communities affected by disasters: moving them from being victims to victors. The federation understands that living free of cost comes with no security. People can be evicted or houses demolished at any time, whereas buying their own land gives people security. Under the federation there are no free houses, so people borrow money, then pay it back into the fund allowing others to borrow. In the long-term many more people benefit.
Floods due to typhoons regularly affect some families, but the government’s immediate response is to keep them in evacuation camps with very poor living conditions. Local schools are used and when school starts, families have to wait until the end of the school day to occupy the buildings. This creates conditions of stress and anxiety for families who want to return home. The infrastructure is also appalling and toilets overflow because they cannot cope with such high levels of use. Headmasters also complain that families vandalize the school premises. The solution is far from perfect for all concerned, but it is the only one the government has found to date.
Relocation process followed by families in Camalig and Ginubatan
Identify affordable and suitable land
Secure a loan to purchase the land
Sub-divide the land between families, including roads and infrastructure, and mark the location of each plot
Collect and store water from the local springs for construction
Provide land allocation certificates for each family
Start constructing housing, beginning with temporary houses and moving on to construct permanent houses when resources are available
Secure loans from the Urban Poor Development Fund for those who cannot afford construction
The three pieces of land are in the municipalities of Daraga, Camalig and Ginubata (see table below/above). In Daraga, the federation needs government permission to use this agricultural land as a relocation site. The Mayors have to collectively declare and reclassify the agricultural land and permission is needed from the Daraga Agrarian Reforms Department, the Mines and Geo-science Bureau and the Philippines Volcanology Center, which needs to confirm that the land is safe for relocation. There are three landowners in Ginubatan but most of the land formalities are completed. The plot is also agricultural land, and special permission from the Ministry of Agriculture is needed to begin construction. It may be that every single tree removed during construction will need replacing.
Municipality in which land has been purchased
Number of families to be relocated there
Land area (hectares)
Cost of land (US$)
Amount of repayment per family per month (US$)
72 families, each getting 100 square metres of land to grow fruit and vegetables
The Latin American, African and Asian Social Housing Service (SELAVIP)
1 year and 6 months
SELAVIP funds are insufficient so the Urban Poor Development Fund is being explored
Land for relocating families affected by floods
Rollie and Jossie work as a team in Bicol. Jossie is one of the victims of the Payatas landslides in 2000. She lives in Quezon City in Manila, in the relocation site for the affected families of the Payatas landslides. She was born in the Bicol Region and currently spends at least ten to 15 days there a month, working with Rollie to support the federation building process.
Rollie was a trade union leader in the transport sector in Manila from between 1975 and 1990. He lives in Montelupa - the settlement along the rail tracks in Manila where he met the Homeless People’s Federation survey team in 2003. He tried to find out more about the Federation and realized it ran very differently to the trade union where leadership was authoritarian and power hungry and misused funds. He detached himself from the trade union leaders because of this.
Rollie and Jossie have earned the trust of the local communities. It took time for the local communities to see that the federation was not a non-government organization or a funding agency but a people’s organization. It was only when the community was walked through all the following steps that they understood that the federation was different and began to trust it: 1) registration of their local organization, 2) surveys, 3) meetings, 4) savings, and 5) exposure to other city federations.
Rollie and Jossie learnt that there were three categories of affected people: those completely washed out who lost their land, left, moved to Manila City or moved in with relatives, those who half lost out, and those who were not washed out but continued to live in the danger zone. The municipality prioritized the first category even though the latter two categories of people also needed attention. The government identified land for those they prioritized, but built homes without people’s participation using international funding. Foolishly, they built in places that were still in the danger zone.
In the very beginning, after meeting with the communities, Rollie and Josie also met the mayor and the elected municipal councilors who make up the policy making body of the city. Most disaster management is done by the Social Services Center under the Mayor although some government officials understand what the federation is trying to do and have been supportive. The Mayor and the city have their resources but the community also now has its own savings. So they decided to work together to find a more lasting solution.
Leadership has not been without is challenges. Rollie and Josie described how sometimes those with bad experiences had dissuaded others from trusting the federation. Likewise, traditional leaders sometimes forced communities to raise money for their own interests.
Learning from exposure trips
Rollie and Jossie invited the Mayor of Camalig and his team on an exposure trip to Iluilu to meet with the Mayor and the federation there, and to better understand the work of the federation at the city level. The City of Iluilu has one of the more mature federations. It has been involved with various city slum upgrading projects and has developed a very good working relationship with the city council. The federation and the city work together with other federations and citizen groups to create a city level strategy.
This began following a small project providing loans for families to construct houses in a flood relocation area. Resources were only available, however, for a fraction of the families who needed loans. Selecting which families would benefit was difficult. The federation, therefore, created a multi-task team of different federations, professionals and businesses at the city level. This team will help the federations find long-term, sustainable city-level solutions, supporting all families affected by floods. Ultimately, the federation hopes that the team will help make Iluilu a city where every poor family has a secure home.
This process is forcing the federation to refine its own skills and to work with different citizen groups and articulate their interests to find city-level solutions. In doing so, the federation hopes to find answers to a problem that is too complex for it to tackle alone.
The federation has created different committees to manage relocation:
peace and order,
audit and inventory,
land and housing, and
Crucially, files need moving, permissions need to be obtained and large amounts of paperwork and documentation needs to be in place. Cito, a local leader, is in charge of the land and housing committee and conducts this role. He works with Jossie and Rollie who have given him the space to work without much interference. Although untrained in this area, he has learnt on the job and is now ready to mentor others.
Through this work, Cito says he has learnt patience, self control, how to negotiate with people and officials to secure permissions and how to get the work done without paying bribes. He is motivated and values the principles of the federation. He stresses that members must attend all meetings regularly because if not they will not have accurate information and may misunderstand what is going on. All families who are part of the federation relocation project therefore meet every month. Besides this, leaders like Cito who have taken on responsibility for different tasks also meet once a month to review progress.
Funds to help the poor
Discussions about a City Urban Poor Fund are underway amongst the federation leadership. The Urban Poor Development Fund already exists but an additional fund could facilitate further change. A national fund would also provide different options for accessing and dispersing funds. This national fund could be led by senior government officials, chaired by a local pastor and have federation members on the board. Consultative meetings are underway to determine what kind of institutional mechanism is needed for this to work.
Climate-related disasters occur on a regular basis and the federation is also talking about establishing a Disaster Fund. SELAVIP and more recently Misereor money has been used for this purpose but funding needs scaling up. Such a fund would be used for:
immediate crisis intervention,
providing businesses with small loans to help communities get back on their feet,
providing long-term loans for buying land and for housing,
long-term investment in collecting information such as family and settlement surveys and family photo identification in all danger zones, and
a satellite survey along the ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’ to locate all cities in the danger zone, identify communities under threat and begin thinking about long- term city solutions rather than waiting until disaster strikes.
About the author
Celine d'Cruz was one of the founding members of the Indian Society for the Promotion of Area Resources (SPARC) in1984. She is currently one of the global coordinators of Slum/Shack Dwellers International, an umbrella organization formed by 15 national slum/shack/homeless people’s federations to support each other and new emerging federations.
Celine d'Cruz, Slum/Shack Dwellers International, please insert postal address in here
NAIROBI, Kenya, November 13 | The Norwegian Minister for International Development, Heikki Holmas and UN-HABITAT Executive Director, Dr Joan Clos, visited Mukuru Kwa Njenga slums to share experiences with the slum dwellers as well as tour some of the ongoing projects such as the Mukuru Greenfields housing project.
The two visited the settlement to offer encouragement to the Kenyan people living in slums and encouraged the communities to instill confidence and scope to some of the projects they are engaged in, under the stewardship of Muungano wa Wanavijiji. The visit was organized by UN-HABITAT, SDI, the Norwegian Embassy, and the Kenyan SDI Alliance: Muungano wa Wanavijiji, Akiba Mashinani Trust and Muungano Support Trust.
Min. Holmas is received by founder of Mukuru Kwa Njenga settlement, Mr. Mzee Njenga.
During the visit, Minister Heikki Holmas made the following statement: “The objective of the visit by representation of the Norwegian Government and UN-HABITAT to Mukuru slums is to give support and encouragement to the Kenyan people and the country’s institutions as it continues to bring about reforms in Kenyan land and housing. The right to own a home gives one and his family the opportunity to grow as a human being. There have been strong movements in Norway that campaign for home ownership. There is also the need for public policy on land and housing to affect the housing agenda in Kenya, this will then give organized communities the opportunity to develop areas where they live in conjunction with their government.”
Mr. Heikki Holmas also took notice of the tool of savings, which helps community mobilize under a common vision, which in future will be a model to future generations within and without the country for years to come.
ED of UN Habitat, Joan Clos, addresses the gathering.
UN-Habitat Executive Director, Dr. Joan Clos, shared the following: “I appreciate the real change that we have been able to spot on the ground which is essential in every communal setup. The world today is growing fast, specifically if I take issue with Nairobi which is one of the fastest growing cities in Africa, with the new constitutional changes and devolved county governments the country’s growth will continue to be felt. I must say the grass root organizations around savings is important especially to some of the projects you are involved in, this is fantastic. UN-HABITAT will continue to support such movements be it technically or socially that they took root.”
Dr. Clos also took note of the need for technical officials working with communities that we provide advice on technical aspects underlying fundamental things and not delegate knowledge to communities to initiate projects at the beginning which can easily compromise the well being of the project at its initial projects.
Mukuru community members gather for the visit.
The Millennium Development Goal 7, Target 11 commits the international community to improving the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by the year 2020. However, rural-urban migration, natural increase and expansion of urban centres all contribute to rapid urbanisation resulting in the constant increase in the number of slum dwellers.
Secure land tenure and property rights are fundamental to shelter and livelihoods, and a cornerstone for the realisation of human rights and for poverty reduction. Secure land rights are particularly important in helping reverse gender discrimination, social exclusion of vulnerable groups, and wider social and economic inequalities linked to inequitable and insecure access to land.
It is now well recognised that secure land and property rights for all are essential to reducing poverty, because they underpin economic development and social inclusion. Secure land tenure and property rights enable people in rural and urban areas to invest in improved homes and livelihoods. They also help to promote good environmental management, improve food security, and assist directly in the realization of human rights, including the elimination of discrimination against women, the vulnerable, indigenous groups and other minorities.
It’s now being witnessed that changes in land policies, which reflect these principles, are being implemented in a variety of countries across the world. Today, however, land resources face pressures and demands as never before, and developing countries still lack the tools, systematic strategies and support necessary to deliver secure land rights for all.
Sound land policies should protect people from forced removals and evictions, or where displacement is determined by legitimate processes as necessary for the greater public good and is carried out in conformity with national and international norms, policies should ensure that citizens have access to adequate compensation. Another critical dimension is ensuring gender equality, because women face such widespread discrimination around land and property. When women enjoy secure and equal rights, everybody benefits. Also, secure land rights for all citizens contributes to conflict reduction and improvement in environmental management as well as household living conditions.
During the visit, the following projects were presented to the Norwegian Government and UN HABITAT by Muungano wa Wanavijiji and the Kenyan Alliance:
1. Finance Modeling Through Community Tools- MUKURU GREEN FIELDS HOUSING PROJECT
Faith Moraa, an architect with AMT, explains the designs for the Mukuru Green Fields housing project.
Urban development and sustainable development are not contradictory. There have been recent efforts by Slum Dwellers International to show that urban growth and development can be managed to make cities more livable and to curb the issue of inadequate housing, especially when it comes to the poor living amongst us. However, the tendency to think that urbanization is primarily responsible for unsustainable development is still predominant.
Under this subheading, we look at the Mukuru Greenfield Project. As the clamor for better housing by the urban poor continues, the need for secure land tenure is indeed becoming a major problem for the poor. It is out of such circumstances that 2,000 community members using the SDI tool of savings came together to address their plight- housing and secure tenure. The community identified a 23 acre piece of land in Mukuru Kwa Njenga’s sisal area.
Akiba Mashinani Trust (AMT) then took the mantle to help the community to negotiate the price of the land with the owner of the land on the behalf of the community. The negotiations began and a substantial price value were arrived at. The quest for acquiring the land began, AMT negotiated with ECO Bank for a loan to the 2,000 community members to offset payment for the 23 acre land. The loan was granted with Slum Dwellers International as the guarantor in the land acquisition deal.
Having been able to continuously save their personal resources, the community has been able to repay their loan to Eco Bank and have embarked on putting forward deposits for the next phase which is house designs and construction. The designs are awaiting approval from the Nairobi City Council and it is expected that ground breaking process will be in January 2013.
Opportunities that arose from the Process
Community Mobilsation and Savings
Access for basic services and infrastructure
Security of tenure to over 2,000 Kenyan citizens
House dreaming processes for the urban poor to ensure participation and project ownership
Embracing current market cross subsidies strategies, hence affordability of housing infrastructure by the poor
Competitive Community tendering process
Incremental house improvement strategies.
2. Changing the Planning Discourse- MATHARE ZONAL PLAN
Edwin Simiyu of MuST and Emily Wangari of Muungano explain the Mathare Zonal Plan.
Mathare is an informal settlement that is home to nearly 188,000 people confronting a range of challenges. Mathare is one of the largest slums in Nairobi, a city where over half of the approximately 3.5 million residents live in over 180 different slums. Like many informal settlements, Mathare is characterized by unsafe and overcrowded housing, elevated exposure to environmental hazards, high prevalence of communicable diseases, and a lack of access to essential services, such as sanitation, water and electricity. Residents in Nairobi’s slums frequently suffer from tenure insecurity, while widespread poverty and violence further increase their vulnerabilities.
The Zonal plan offers planning strategies for thirteen villages in Mathare Valley. The analyses and recommendations in the plan emerged from an ongoing collaborative project involving residents, the non-governmental organization Muungano Support Trust (MuST), the University of California, Berkeley (UCB) Department of City and Regional Planning, the University of Nairobi (UoN) Department of Urban and Regional Planning and Slum Dwellers International (SDI).
Guiding Principles and Goals of Mathare Zonal Development Plan
The Mathare Zonal Plan aims to integrate the dimensions of our Relational Model for Participatory Upgrading. Using this approach, we developed Community Planning Teams comprised of residents from each village in Mathare that focused on valley-wide issues. Through this process, the project worked with residents to build new awareness of the opportunities and challenges for infrastructure planning at the zonal scale.
While the Community Planning Teams generate ideas for improving the settlements’ physical conditions, we recognize that local action alone is insufficient and broader policy change will also be necessary to improve living conditions and the lives of slum-dwellers. Thus, our approach rejects single-issue slum improvement approaches and instead focuses on the inter relationships between poverty alleviation, securing infrastructure and services, improving housing, economic opportunities, food security, human health and safety, among other issues.
Key project principles and goals include:
1. Build upon existing community assets and strengths.
2. Use infrastructure planning as an entry-point to address other related issues.
3. Ensure meaningful participation & community ownership.
1. Generate Valley-wide analyses of existing conditions and concrete ideas for improving lives and living conditions.
2. Provide evidence & ideas that can strengthen community organizing, leadership and coalition building.
3. Provide a framework for addressing emerging policies and plans at the county, municipal, and national level aimed at slum dwellers.
4. Inspire service providers to invest in valley-wide infrastructure provision.
3. Linking the National and International Development Agenda to Community Needs and Processes: Railway Relocation Action Plan (RAP)
David Mathenge (MuST) and Jack Makau (SDI) present the concept behind the RAP.
In 2004 the government of Kenya through various state agencies issued eviction notices to persons living on public lands that were considered riparian. It’s to this effect that the Federation of Slum Dwellers (Muungano wa Wanavijiji) initiated advocacy and lobbying campaigns to address the looming danger of forced evictions which would have rendered millions of people homeless. Out of these efforts the evictions were suspended and dialogue given a chance.
The federation, with the help of SDI, approached Kenya Railways to foster discussions on suitable mechanisms of preventing mass evictions. It is estimated that 10,000 people live along the railway riparian. Through an exchange programme organized by SDI, government officials from the Ministry of Transport and Kenya Railways toured India to learn how the country had dealt with a similar situation.
This then led to the formalization of an engagement between the World Bank and the Kenyan Government on the need of coming up with a Relocation Action Plan (RAP). The Kenyan SDI affiliate, through recognized tools of enumerations and mapping was able to develop concrete recommendations and plans that would see 10,000 people resettled. It is estimated that the project cost was USD 40 million.
4. Kenya Jubilee Campaign
On 12 December 2013 Kenya will celebrate 50 years as an independent republic, marking the nations Golden Jubilee celebrations. The Fiftieth Anniversary marks a significant milestone in a nation’s heritage, a very symbolic moment. In the Bible it formed the year of Jubilee, a year that literally signified “True Liberty – Ukombozi wa Kweli”. The Jubilee is an announcement of freedom, restitution of land and property, ending inequalities created by the extremes of wealth and poverty. In Nairobi, slum land is claimed by three distinct categories of owners, namely:
The Registered Title Deed Holder
The Kenya Jubilee campaign was started to build awareness to the plight of issues affecting urban poor Kenyans and to give hope to Kenyans. Those who occupy slums live under the shadow of constant threat of demolitions, violent evictions, fires, floods and insecurity. Their neighborhoods often lack the most basic amenities and infrastructure and this situation is often preserved by powerful forces within Government and the private sector. The Jubilee campaign is meant to set a legal precedent to deal with land occupied by the slum dwellers and the development of legislation with a bias on guidelines on evictions and community land ownership bill.
The Women and Sanitation campaign is a comprehensive campaign to improve sanitation conditions for Nairobi’s slum dwellers, beginning in the expansive slum of Mukuru. Women are the most severely affected by a lack of toilets and bathing facilities in informal settlements, as they become vulnerable to sexual assault, unique health problems, and a lack of dignity.
It is rather obvious that lack of sanitation facilities in poorly planned areas has got a tremendous impact on the health and economic development of communities, unfortunately women and girls are the hardest hit by absence of toilets and bathrooms within the areas they reside.
In crowded urban settlements women go through the entire day without relieving themselves and also risk harassment or even rape when accessing toilet facilities in the cover of darkness. In urban areas, shame, embarrassment and the great desire for privacy force women to defecate in secluded areas where they risk assault or underneath their beds put plastic containers that act as emergency toilets. Needless to say, menstruation, pregnancy and postnatal bleeding add further complications and discomforts.
SDI is happy to annouce our 2011/12 Annual Report, a reflection of where SDI has grown to over the past 25 years. This includes a discussion of SDI's practices for change, a report on the SDI Secretariat, the building of internal reporting and documentation systems, and SDI's international advocacy and increasing presence on the global stage. The report concludes with a discussion of SDI's approach to key urban issues affecting the lives of the urban poor across the developing south, including water and sanitation, climate change, natural disasters, incremental habitat, enumerations and mapping of slum settlements, and financing slum upgrading.
By the Tanzanian Urban Poor Federation with the support of the Center for Community Initiatives (CCI)
Dar es Salaam is the largest city in Tanzania with an estimated population of 4 million people. 80% of its population is estimated to be living in informal settlements where people are living with inadequate access to services such as water, sanitation and poor housing. Due to extensive use of pit latrines associated with inadequate supply of clean and safe water and unhygienic pit emptying practices, informal settlements dwellers largely live in high risk of contracting diseases including cholera and diarrhea.
In their efforts to improve sanitation in Tanzania, particularly in Dar es Salaam city, the Tanzanian Urban Poor Federation initiated sanitation projects by providing micro loans for latrine improvement to its members. In 2011, federation members from Dar- es-Salaam organized an exchange visit to Malawi aimed at acquiring the knowledge from fellow federations on how they are managing loans. While in Malawi federation members learned that the Malawi federation is giving loans to both federation and non-federation members with the aim of making intervention at a wider scale to enable poor communities to improve their sanitation situation. In July 2011 initial loans were given to 10 non-federation members. It was based on an understanding that the majority of federation members are tenants who are not able to apply for toilet loans due to their land tenure status and furthermore sanitation problems affect entire communities regardless of their land tenure status and whether they are federation members or not.
Before issuing the loans to the initial 10 borrowers the process of loan provision started with the training of twelve technicians of whom two were men and ten women and strengthening the relationship with the local administration at Mtaa (settlement) level. The loans given to non-federation members are managed at two levels; the saving scheme (which identified the borrowers) and Mtaa leaders. These two parties are working in collaboration. The Mtaa leaders are the guarantors of loans and make follow-ups with non-federation members while the saving scheme, based at the same locality, ensures that the loan follow-ups are made and the repayment is done according to schedule.
The loan provision to non-federation members started as a pilot project and so far it has been very successful, as all the initial ten borrowers have finished repaying their loans before the agreed time. This success has led to the implementation of a second phase where another loan has been extended to 10 people in August 2012. In total 20 toilets have been constructed which serve 120 households and 250 people respectively.
Amongst the second phase of beneficiaries of the loans was Mr. Khatib Athuman, 60 years old who did not manage to hide his deep appreciation for accessing the loan for improving his toilet. Since 1996 Mr. Khatib who has a family of 7 people has been using a simple pit latrine constructed with lined old car tires and dilapidated iron sheets which did not offer privacy, had bad smell and the pit was overflowing. This exposed him and other family members to high health risks and embarrassment due to poor means of emptying which was done using tins by Mr. Khatib’s son. Because of limited space it was very hard for Mr. Khatib to access a place for digging a big pit for diverting the waste, as an alternative he was digging a small pit for emptying little waste just to make the room available for toilets use for another three to four days. During the rainy season the situation becomes worse and emptying occured more than three times per week. Mr. Khatib’s wife added that the situation of their toilet was very bad to the extent that it has affected the relationship with her grandchildren as they usually wish to come and spend days with them but because of the lack of a proper toilet they could not allow them to come with the fear of risking their health.
“My grand children could not visit us because of a bad latrine, even this coming Eid holiday they asked if they could come but we did not agree with them because of the latrine” -Asha, Mr. Khatib’s wife
Speaking during the handing over of toilet construction materials to 10 non-federation members at Keko Machungwa settlement, the representative of Temeke Municipal Health Officer Mrs. Rehema Sadick said, “lack of adequate sanitation has been one of the major challenge contributing to eruption of diseases such as cholera and diarrhea which leads to a loss of lives as well as income.” She insisted that the community should use this opportunity by accessing loans for improving their toilets and although the Municipal Council has limited financial resources they are ready to work with the federation through provision of technical support and mobilizing communities.
In total the amount of loans given to non-federation members is TZS 8,780,000 Tshs (USD$ 5487.5) in Dar es Salaam. More community members are expected to be reached with the federation through this initiative not only in Dar es Salaam but as well as in other regions where they have already started implementing sanitation initiatives.
The Keko Machungwa settlement has set a good example of community led initiatives in improving water and sanitation services by constructing 1 public toilet at the market, constructing 30 households toilet and drilling one borehole connected to three water points. The federation has also initiated toilet-emptying programmes using Gulper technology and the training of Hygiene promotion teams (PHAST teams) for community mobilization on improving hygiene practices.
The federation has also managed to convince some land lords to adopt eco-san technology in order to get rid of the challenges involved in emptying pit latrines including the issue of space for digging another pit as well as unhealthy manual emptying practices and the lack of road access.
These initiatives focus to bring the government down to the settlement level to provide resources and work with communities to scale up sanitation improvements in informal settlements and improving living conditions in general.
"The challenge of a radical democratic practice was both a personal and an organizational one. Group relations had to be reorganized, but individuals had to grapple with personal changes as well. The process of building a movement for social transformation had to allow for, encourage, and nurture the transformation of the human beings involved. Individuals had to rethink and redefine their most intimate personal relations and their identities" (Ransby, 2003; 369).
The above quote explores the transformation of individuals within the Civil Rights Movement as described in Ella Baker’s biography. I thought it would be interesting to examine the same phenomena within the Slum Dwellers International (SDI) movement.
This blog will be the first in a series of blogs on the individuals who make up the over 1.2 million slum dwellers that comprise the SDI movement. The series will explore the tales of individual transformation that are woven amongst the story of the evolution of the movement at large. These individual transformations, multiplied by over a million, are what give the SDI movement its dynamism and in turn feed a cycle of transformation at the individual and movement-level.
At the end of the series I hope to synthesize these tales into a more analytical piece on the topic of individual transformation within social movements.
This first blog will introduce a woman SDI president, Jockin Arputham, calls “Talkative Mama.” Her name is Katana Gorreti, the national treasurer of the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU). Katana explains this moniker as follows – doing a perfect imitation of Jockin whilst quoting him it must be noted:
Mr. Jockin is good because he really wants to hear the voices of women. He always tells me, “You talkative woman, you go and look for things you can do. You do things on the ground” … He is always saying women put things in the right way, they see that things are done.
Katana is a tiny little firecracker. Her diminutive stature is but a momentary guise for this tireless, bold, and dedicated 36-year old mother of six. Katana possesses absolutely no ego and is humble and generous in her authentic praise of others. Recently I watched as she worked right up until the day before giving birth to her last born, Justus. Two hours after giving birth she was discharged and got on a boda boda (motorcycle taxi) with her newborn and went home. The very next day she and Justus were back to work.
Life before the federation
Katana grew up in Bweyogerere, Kampala. She recalls wanting to be an accountant because she did very well in math at school. She was unable to pursue this goal, however, as she could not raise the school fees required for high school and her family was unable to find a sponsor for her. “My father did all his best for us to get education” Katana says, “he took me to good schools before he was bankrupt. He tried his best for all of us.”
Katana’s father went bankrupt after being falsely arrested when a generator was stolen from his workplace. He spent time in Luzira Prison until the real thief was discovered. The incident took a heavy toll on the family. Her father, who had been a storekeeper and bookkeeper took to farming when he was released from prison and found it difficult to make a living.
Despite being forced to drop out of school, the local Women’s Council noticed Katana’s dedication and capacity and in 1996 she was nominated to be their secretary. She worked hard for these women and in 2001 she was elected general secretary of the local council in her area. It was in her capacity as LCI secretary that she was introduced to SDI by a support professional working to build a federation in Uganda.
Katana said that when the SDI methodology was explained to her she agreed to try it in her area. She organized a meeting of 13 women and asked the professional to come back. “We told these women about savings on the 21st of July, 2007” Katana recalls, “and Cathy came with the savings books and we started saving. Then we started getting visitors from SDI, like Rose Molokoane and other groups started coming to our group to learn about the federation.”
The benefits of Federation membership truly became apparent to Katana when she and her neighbors in Kamwokya faced an eviction threat.
There is one mess I didn’t tell you about – that really convinced us to join the federation. In 2008 we had a serious eviction threat. It was claimed that all our land had been bought. When they came we had no information – we consulted the federation’s supporting professionals – they advised us to form a committee to follow up on these issues. We formed a committee and gave each person a responsibility to get information. I was one of the people who had to go to the Ministry of Lands to ask for the title for the land so we could see who really owned it. We asked for the title and we found out who the rightful owners were. It was not the person that was threatening to evict us even though they had even come with graders! We met the RC [Regional Councilor] and we informed the community and they were aware. When the land grabbers came the community was so mad – the police had to stop them from killing the land grabbers. We saved the major part of the land. We saw that working together could be very important.
This event was a victory for the movement and for Katana it crystallized in her mind the value of being part of a federation. It was more than just savings. Katana began to learn more about the other SDI rituals to see how these could make a difference in the lives of people in her community.
In 2008 – around August, we started settlement profiling. We visited Jinja and did profiling. I was in Kimaka settlement. I was not one of the leaders by that time, but because of my hard work I was selected to be part of the profiling team. We completed the whole of Jinja.
Working as part of the profiling teams gave Katana a richer understanding of the SDI movement. She interacted with members from other SDI countries to conduct the profiling and she learned about the lives of slum dwellers in other parts of her country. She began to truly feel part of a movement. As this sentiment grew within Katana she became a key mobilizer for the federation and was selected to be part of the team that would mobilize 5 new municipalities into the Federation in 2009.
In 2009 the TSUPU [Transforming Settlement of the Urban Poor in Uganda] program began and we conducted a massive mobilization effort in Jinja, Arua, Mbale, Mbarara, and Kabale. I went to all of them. Kabale was the most difficult. When we went to one cell, they chased us and wanted to beat us. They thought we were an organization that had come before and taken all the people’s savings. They were calling us thieves. But we kept coming back and talking to local leaders and eventually they came on board. A team that went to Mbale had also failed. But, we came again with Celine and a new team and we organized to meet the Community Development Officer. We then managed to mobilize them. When we went to Arua it wasn’t difficult to mobilize them. We found them already saving in their boxes and giving three people a key. We shared the SDI methodology and how it could help them improve their savings and more. In Mbarara they thought we were going to give them money, but they came to understand and even the mayor started saving.
An emerging leader
As Katana became more and more involved with the federation she found herself being groomed to take on a leadership position. Katana speaks with tremendous affection and respect when telling me about the NSDFU chairman, Hassan Kiberu. “Hassan taught me to remain calm and keep quiet. He told me, ‘You are a leader. You have to be an example, not bickering here and there.’
She explains that sometimes when others would argue with her she would get angry, but the mentoring she received from Hassan helped her to understand that, “It takes no matter to stay calm. You don’t lose anything.” Katana learned to listen and she learned to respect the views of those who disagreed with her. “I leaned the responsibility I have as a leader, both as a community and society. As a leader I have to see what benefits others and not to think of me. I can think of what will benefit the majority. What do the majority think of me?“
She came to see that harmonizing the very many views within the community and helping the community to work together was part of what being a leader was all about. “When we work as a team we can get many things. We can’t sit back and say ‘I’m poor I can’t do anything.’ No. You have to start small and you get big.”
She tells me she was inspired by other women in the Ugandan federation and in the SDI network, “I saw these strong community women leaders speaking and I thought I can also be a leader. I saw Rose Molokoane talking about traveling all over the world as a leader and I thought, yes I can do that.”
She realized from these women that to be an effective leader you can’t just talk. You must work hard. Katana felt she was well positioned to invest heavily in the federation. “I’m hardworking. Me I do every job. I got that spirit from my mother. She is a hardworking woman. She suffered a lot of domestic violence in her last marriage so she works hard. She focused on her work and becoming a business woman to support her children.”
It wasn’t long before Katana was appointed the role of National Treasurer for the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda. In this role she is able to use those strong math skills that had once inspired her to want to be an accountant. But her appointment to this position was more about her dedication and commitment to the federation and her trustworthiness. Federation leaders are not elected in Uganda as NSDFU does not want politics to poison the membership. Instead, leaders that exemplify the values of the federation and lead by example are groomed for certain positions of responsibility. “In my area I used to maintain the funds for the public toilet. From my area I had already been trusted to handle resources safely. This made me a good choice.”
When one sees the level of dedication to the federation Katana exhibits on a day-to-day basis it is easy to wonder whether she ever views her leadership role as a burden. I asked Katana and she responded that, “It depends on how you handle issues. If you handle it alone it becomes a burden. If it’s in your head alone, banange …”
Today Katana explains that she has a different kind of confidence and this has an impact not only on her work with the federation but upon her home life and her self-perception.
Through the small I have, I have done something. I am proud. Today I sit together with my husband and we together send the kids to school. Since I work so hard I get very tired. When I can’t do any work at home my husband helps and if I have to travel to Arua he takes full responsibly for the children. This never happened before I was in the federation. Before, we were parallel. Now we work together. He has also changed you see. He now says ‘if we assist women they can also assist us.’
She contrasts he husband’s view with that of other Ugandan men she has encountered. “In Uganda there are still many men who think women should not lead” Katana explains. “Someone can ask you, ‘You as a woman, you are talking? You are just a woman. You are urinating while squatting, what can you say?’” Katana has a response to such degrading insults, “What I always say is that the world is changing. Development makes many changes. When you empower women you empower the nation.”
Katana has seen the way women are changing in the federation. “With the federation women we are thinking big – we want businesses, we are also planning, we can buy a piece of land, we can acquire a loan, we can become a society and do things for ourselves. We do not have to wait for begging.”
She is inspired by her fellow women federation members, especially, she tells me, Sarah Nandudu – the Vice Chairperson of the Federation. “I really appreciate the way Sarah handles her issues as a woman. She takes the issues slowly, but steadily. She always has answers. She always tries to cool down the house. She can identify where the issue has come from and how it can be resolved without fighting each other.”
Today Katana thinks of herself as supporting the movement at large, not only her community in Kamwokya. “You know one time Medie [support professional] told me, ‘Katana you need to think country-wide’. Now, when I go home I think about what will happen tomorrow for the whole federation. What will happen in Arua? In Mbale? In Jinja? Like that.”
I asked Katana what advice she would give other federation leaders and she told me:
Work as a team and love your federation. We are doing this out of love. If you don’t love what you do you would stop. You reach home and you are so tired you don’t eat supper. You make the federation part of you. That is when you mobilize even your husband. Today I told him I would come late and he is looking after the children. When you make something part of you everyone around you, everyone can understand. That way I can’t say it is a burden because it is part of me. I have to do it because it is part of me.
Katana concludes by telling me, “Whenever Jockin visits Uganda he asks me, ‘Are you still talking mama or are you doing something?’”
To this Katana says she only has one answer these days, “I say to him ‘Mr. Jockin, there is no time for talking. It is time for action.’”
As the world becomes increasingly urban, so too does the challenge for adequate and affordable housing. No where are affordable housing challenges greater than in the slums of the Global South. Like most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana’s affordable housing sector is characterized by an acute inability to meet rapidly growing demand due to inefficient land markets, a lack of affordable credit, and poor planning. It is believed Ghana needs to build a minimum of 500,000 homes a year to address the housing deficit – not accounting for population growth. In urban centers it has been reported that 5.7 million additional rooms will be required by 2020. While such predictions must be taken with a grain of salt, it is clear that the magnitude of challenge is immense.
Ghanaians are by now familiar with tales of housing schemes gone bad. The Ayigya project, for example, involved the construction of 800 apartments of various sizes on 50 acres of land. The project, which reportedly cost some ¢300 billion, has not been maintained and was recently reported to be home to over 1,000 squatters. The fate of the project is similar to that of many donor and state interventions. In general, government provision of affordable housing has, like elsewhere, proven to be overly expensive, incapable of going to scale, and unresponsive to the needs of the urban poor who presently account for the bulk of the affordable housing demand. Market-led strategies are also problematic. For the urban poor, mortgages for the most basic housing are unaffordable. Interest rates are too high, wages are too low, and collateral that would satisfy a commercial bank can rarely be found in communities of the urban poor. In short, institutional dysfunction precludes the vast majority of the Ghanaian population from access to affordable housing.
Throughout the Global South, Slum Dweller Federations are attempting to address this institutional dysfunction. The Ghanaian Urban Poor Federation (GHAFUP) is no exception. GHAFUP has approximately 131 savings groups comprised of almost 11,000 members. These groups spread across 7 regions and are networked not only nationally, but engage regularly with federations throughout the global SDI network.
In Ashaiman, a Ghanaian municipality in which almost the entire population lives in slums, the adequate and affordable housing needs are acute. Formerly part of the Tema Municipality, Ashaiman has long been settled by those serving the industrial needs of Tema – Ghana’s prime industrial and harbor city. The community in Ashaiman has been hard hit by the industrial decline of Tema, with unemployment crippling the capacity of residents to invest in housing.
In order to address this state of affairs, GHAFUP mobilizes communities into savings groups. They save daily, mobilizing not only financial resources but collective capacity as members meet weekly, manage their funds, and discuss issues of concern to their communities and strategies for addressing them. GHAFUP members formed the Amui Dzor Housing Cooperative and set about planning a housing development to house 32 families. GHAFUP’s collective efficacy facilitated the formation of a partnership with the UN-Habitat Slum Upgrading Facility. UN-Habitat helped negotiate a long-term mortgage for the cooperative from a commercial bank at an interest rate of 12%. SDI extended loans from the Urban Poor Fund at an interest rate less than 5%. Together this credit enabled the GHAFUP members to commence construction.
The project, named the Amui Dzor Housing Project, is a social housing project. The three-story structure consists of 15 commercial units, one and two bedroom apartments, and a 12-seater public toilet (managed by the cooperative), which subsidizes the cost of the housing. Visitors pay a small fee to use the services and the housing cooperative collects this money and uses it to help pay back its loans. Unlike many public sanitation facilities in Ghana, this unit is maintained well thanks to the collective capacity of the cooperative managing it.
The federation has driven the housing project since its inception. They negotiated with the traditional council to secure the land for the project – even taking members of said council to India on and exchange to view the housing projects of the Indian federation. GHAFUP was also central to the process of formulating a relocation strategy for housing those displaced by the construction process in transitional housing. In addition, GHAFUP partnered with architecture firm Tekton Consultants to design the structure, they sourced construction materials, dug trenches, and assisted with grading. Members selected beneficiaries for the project themselves, and negotiated with local authorities for support. The project has created tremendous goodwill between the federation and the Ashaiman Municipal Authority.
During focus group discussions held at the project in February 2012 the federation emphasized the greater understanding the project has generated for federation processes in Ashaiman. They have proven they can manage projects of considerable scale and claim to now be treated with greater respect by local authorities.
At the meeting, federation members reported that repayments are progressing well and money is being funneled back into Ghana’s Urban Poor Fund, which will help to finance other GHAFUP development projects in the country. This is a key element of SDI’s Urban Poor Fund concept. Repayments on loans secured by member federations do not come back to SDI, but rather to a national-level Urban Poor Fund, which continues to revolve money into new capital projects for members. The public toilet project generates an impressive income from users and this money will assist the community to pay back their loans. Women’s business empowerment initiatives are also striving to increase the capacity of members to make loan repayments.
The project’s has been recognized as a model for affordable housing provision. Amui Dzor Housing Project was awarded “Best Social Innovative Housing Project” for the urban poor and low-income people by a panel of housing experts in 2010, while Tekton Consultants was awarded “Best Designed Architectural Concept for a Mixed Use Development in Social Housing for the Urban Poor.” The Ashaiman Municipal Authority and the Traditional Council are eager for the project to be scaled up and plans are underway for a second phase to commence. The importance of having the support of the Traditional Council cannot be overestimated. Over 80% of land in Ghana is owned by traditional chiefs, so taking any affordable housing strategy to scale will require their close collaboration.
The Ghanaian example highlights the effectiveness of the SDI approach to affordable housing. Federations save money as a collective, increasing their capacity to access credit as well as mobilizing the collective capacity and trust required to sustainably manage projects. The savings of the urban poor also decrease the level of subsidy required and increase project ownership. Community involvement serves to reduce costs by mobilizing community labor, utilizing local knowledge in sourcing building materials, and generating the skills required for project maintenance. Partnerships between organized communities of the urban poor and other urban development stakeholders – particularly local authorities – is essential for going to scale and addressing the systemic dysfunction that has for too long excluded the urban poor from decent and affordable housing.
The Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) and the uTshani Fund are two organisations working in alliance to bring the urban poor in South Africa together and bring their huge collective resourcefulness, creativity, energy and social force to the task of delivering secure, affordable housing to everyone. The FEDUP / uTshani Fund alliance has initiated housing projects in urban and peri-urban communities across all nine provinces, improving the lives of some 17,000 households so far.
FEDUP’s primary vision has been to ensure that the urban poor – and particularly poor women – gain full citizenship rights and become key actors in determining the development priorities and policies of cities. The Federation has worked to move both urban policy and poor communities away from crisis-led reactive interventions to gendered long-term partnerships in which the urban poor themselves play a key role as visionaries and partners in generating “win-win” solutions that create revised models of development.
At a mass gathering on March 1st, attended by local, national and international shack dwellers, city officials and NGO staff, FEDUP reasserted its vision to build inclusive and pro-poor cities by positioning the poor as central actors in urban development. They were gathered at Stretford Park in Extension 6 of Orange Farm, where joyous singing and chanting resounded throughout the park, overlaid with the DJ’s big dubstep beats.
While the gathering buzzed and hummed, the deputy minister of Human Settlements Ms. Zoe Kota-Fredericks, and Gauteng Members of Executive Council met in a private meeting to discuss the unlocking of People’s Housing Processes in the province. Patrick Magebula, national FEDUP leader and advisor to the minister of Human Settlements Mr. Tokyo Sexwale, mentioned that the processes in Orange Farm are unfolding across the country, and poor people’s groups across the country are actively contributing to changing the way government engages poor residents. Since March 1992, when women across the country mobilised around savings collectives, the Federation has engaged with formal banking institutions and all three tiers of government, helped setup Shack / Slum Dwellers International (SDI) by participating in and leading international exchanges, and most importantly, ensured the material improvement and tenure security in the lives of thousands of poor people. The FEDUP has shared their successes (and failures) and supported new savings initiatives in encouraged and supported savings groups in Angola, Brazil, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Namibia, Uganda, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
On Ms. Kota-Fredericks’ arrival, she addressed the crowd and said, “We are encouraged that people take their own initiatives rather than waiting for the government to come to them. Through your savings you were able to build yourselves better houses, much better than the RDP houses that the government provides. The government needs this kind of commitment from the community so that we can be able to provide services faster and more efficiently”.
Houses built by the Federation through the People’s Housing Process have been of significantly higher quality than those built through privately contracted government delivered starter houses. The current houses being completed with the subsidy pledge are all larger than 50 m2 in size with a fully fitted bathroom, a kitchen with a sink as well as three to four spacious bedrooms. The houses are fully electrified. The finishing includes plaster inside and outside, and is also painted inside and outside. These are achievable through the savings and contributions of the beneficiaries.
The beneficiaries on the projects are mainly elderly women. Young men and women help the beneficiary to construct the houses. Subsidy forms are completed among the members and submitted to the provincial housing Department for approval before building can commence for any beneficiary.
Said Mrs. Manthoka and Mr. Mangena of Orange Farm about a poor people’s movement, “It was a good experience to work with the Federation. It brought us happiness! It was so unfortunate that the whole thing came to a standstill now… There was a problem with the interpretation of the subsidies. People thought that government would be paying the subsidies upfront”.
Poor people have always been in charge of their own developments, building very innovative, very large, and very effective shelters that meet their needs. These creative, colorful, and appropriate homes tend to constitute the vast majority of the architecture of the Global South. It is thus imperative that shack dwellers themselves be involved in the struggle to house the urban poor. They have the appropriate skills and vision to develop their own, comfortable settlements, with a small amount of professional and financial support from the experts and politicians.
Ms. Kota-Fredericks mentioned the long standing relationship between the FEDUP and the national department of Human Settlements. It started with the pledge from Minister Joe Slovo in 1994, which was followed up by Sankie Mthembu-Mahanyelele. Minister Sisulu also pledged subsidies to FEDUP and uTshani Funds in 2004, but provinces have been slow to release these funds for a number of reasons. Rose Molokoane, national coordinator of the FEDUP, commented that a lot of work still remains, as many people still live in harsh conditions. Said Molokoane, “The majority of our people are still poor and can’t afford proper houses. They are living in appalling conditions in informal settlements. But we are confident that our partnership with the government will grow stronger and will achieve more. When we started banks could not loan us money as we were regarded as high risk customers. But we have never lost hope, we decided to do it on our own and it worked”.
Some quotations borrowed from the following online articles:
It is nearing the end of my stay in Mumbai, and I know I am going to miss this city as soon as I board the plane. I have spent the past week getting to know her streets and her people, and it is an experience I will certainly not forget. Mumbai is the kind of city that stays with you – the fragrance of the food, the colors of the sky at dusk, the buzz of people and traffic in the streets. Like other great cities of the world, its rhythm is invigorating and awe-inspiring – the vibrancy and speed of everyday life, set against the beautiful backdrop of history.
Over the past few days, I had the opportunity to revisit Dharavi: to walk the streets and narrow alleyways of the potters’ village and the recycling areas of the vast informal city-within-a-city, the world’s most well known slum.
We make our way from Bombay Central to Dharavi by train. It is past rush hour, so the great crowds I have heard so much about have subsided. The train is cool and quiet as it rumbles along the Central Line, and it is not long before we arrive at Sion station, the entrance to Dharavi. Actually, there is more than one train stop in Dharavi, making it very easy to access from almost anywhere across Mumbai. This, along with its central location, is one of the main factors contributing to increased interest in Dharavi as a site for private re-development. But re-development plans have not taken into account Dharavi’s place as a commercial hub in Mumbai’s informal and formal economies. They have not accounted for the outdoor kilns in the potters’ village, or the vast workshops where all means of recycling take place. Nor have they accounted for the long tradition of food production, leather shops, and textile mills. For now, plans are at a standstill. But there is a long road ahead if the vibrant economy of this bustling town is to be preserved.
We start off in the potters’ village. Here, thousands of local people work with hundreds of pounds of clay every day, stamping, pounding, molding and spinning it into beautiful pots, urns, serving dishes, candle holders for Diwali and statues of the Indian god Ganesh. Orders come in from all over Mumbai. Pottery is sold to housewives and retailers. We walk for half an hour, past shops and workshops, each one with a home overhead. Men sit inside, spinning handmade pots on wheels. A woman is polishing water pots outside her home, rubbing wet clay onto just-fired pots to smooth over imperfections. There are hundreds of the same pots lined up a few feet away. I ask her how much these sell for. Sharmila, one of the women working at the Indian support NGO, SPARC, translates for me. “About 100 or 120 rupees,” she says. This is equivalent to about US $2. This isn’t much, of course. But it is US $2 more than nothing, and when you multiply it by the 50 or 100 pots beside her, it’s a significant income. Multiply that by the many other workshops around her, and it becomes clear that Dharavi is more than a small piece of Mumbai’s vibrant economy.
From here, Sharmila takes me to another area of winding streets, this time lined with one recycling workshop after another. I have heard about Dharavi’s recycling industry, but again it is something else to see it up close and personal. Each workshop is busy with men and women sorting through, cleaning and producing every type of plastic imaginable. Women sit outside in the alleyways sorting through plastic cutlery and take-away boxes, as men work away inside on melting and shredding them to be reused across India and beyond. Dharavi is home to the largest plastic recycling industry in India. If the proposed redevelopment took place, where would this industry move to? How could it not be accounted for? How could it be seen as anything less than integral to the very heart of the city’s economy?
The next day I visit the Mahila Milan-NSDF office in Byculla. This was the neighborhood where SPARC first began its work back in the 1980s, when they made links with the community of pavement-dwellers who had their homes along these streets. Today, the streets are still lined with homes and shops, people milling about, living and working in the heart of central Mumbai, just blocks away from Bombay Central train station. Again, I am struck by the presence of the informal right alongside the formal city. Not even alongside it, but smack in the middle of it. Part of it. Contributing to it. We spend some time speaking with the women of Mahila Milan living here. They have been members of MM for over twenty years. They have negotiated with local government for toilets, for water taps, for electricity. Now each home is hooked up to the electrical grid, they have access to community toilets, and many people have water taps inside their homes. And they have prevented demolitions, prevented the threat of middle-of-the-night bulldozers and unannounced evictions.
The women know they will not be able to stay in Byculla forever, but in many ways it is better than moving out to Mankhurd, further away from jobs and schools. They made their homes here on purpose, and although they know they will have to leave eventually, it becomes clear yet again that a home is so much than a formal house. It is a community, a sense of security, access to the services and opportunities that bring rich and poor alike to the cities of the world. Why then should the right to enjoy these be a privilege only afforded to the rich? In Mumbai, the poor have claimed their space in the city – their right to it. Now the question is how they will hold onto that, and how the rest of us will support them.
For more photos from Ariana's trip to Mumbai, visit our Facebook page.
Mumbai has a constant buzz. That is the best way to put it. The city is always moving, coming and going in all directions And full of light. I arrived in Mumbai three days ago, and immediately was taken aback by the vibrancy of it. Even as I made my way from the bustling airport at 1am to my hotel, taxi cabs lined the streets and pavement dwellers sit in front of their tin shacks, eating around fires.
I am here to visit the Indian SDI alliance, an impressive trio of organizations consisting of Mahila Milan (the women's savings collectives, which are federated citywide as well as nationwide), the National Slum Dwellers Federation (a network of male-dominated slum dweller federations operating at the same scale as MM) and the support NGO, SPARC. I have heard tales of the dynamism, innovation and success of MM-SPARC-NSDF, but truly there is nothing like seeing it for yourself. The same goes for Mumbai, for Dharavi, for all of it: you can read all the books, see the movies, read the newspaper and taste the food abroad, but there is nothing like coming face-to-face with the life of the city, of the people, to make you really understand.
Yesterday was my first day in the field. Alongside a colleague from SPARC, I visited three of Alliance's projects in Greater Mumbai. First we stopped at a housing project in Dharavi called Rajiv Indira, designed by the women of Mahila Milan. The building is light and airy, with children playing and riding small bicycles in the wide corridor. On the ground floor there is an open courtyard, where women congregate with their kids, chatting about the day. All but the top two floors of the building have been constructed with 14-foot ceilings so that families can build a mezzanine floor to maximize the 225 sq ft space.
The women make this happen through financing from various sources, but savings is a big part of it. Not only does money collected through daily savings go towards financing the actual housing projects, but it also serves as a means to organize, mobilize and unify the group around a common vision for the community. Even after moving into the building, the women continue to save in order to pay for maintenance and further improvements to their homes. It is not a project-based activity, but instead becomes the very core of their activities.
I have read so much about Dharavi. How residential and commercial uses co-exist. How many millions of dollars are generated there. How high the population density is. How poor some of the living conditions. How vibrant, and dynamic a place it is. But again, nothing compares to reality. It is not simply a slum - Dharavi is a town. The true essence of an informal city, existing right in the centre of the formal city, feeding into it minute to minute and day by day. We make our way to a community toilet project, turning off the main (4-lane) road and onto a crowded, winding side street. We pass a Hindu temple, painted bright with garlands and incense adorning the entrance, and are shaded by green canopies of tall, old trees. A white cow passes us on the right.
We arrive at the community toilet and it is bright, airy and clean. My colleague explains that it is used by 226 families (roughly 1,300 people), each of whom pays 20 rupees per month (about USD .40). Others pay 2 rupees per use. There is a caretaker who looks after the facility daily, closing it only from 1am - 5am. He has a room upstairs that he shares with his family, and there is a lovely roof terrace with a mosaic tiled floor that can be used by the 226 families for community events and meetings. There are basically two other options for toilets in Dharavi: 1) shit wherever you can find a hole, which often means holding it in until it is safe (especially for women), and of course causes numerous health risks; or 2) use one of the government-provided communal toilets, which tend not to be well looked after, and are often dark, smelly and unpleasant to use. By making this a community project, it has kept the toilet clean and pleasant to use. One of us even stopped to pay the 2 rupees to use it during our visit!
The last site we visit is a housing project called Milan Nagar, also designed by the women of Mahila Milan, located in Mankhurd settlement quite a ways from the centre of Mumbai. This group of women were pavement dwellers, perhaps Mumbai's poorest population, and some of Mahila Milan's oldest members. They lived in shacks along the sidewalks, crowding the streets near Bombay Central station. The women tell us that one of the biggest differences in their lives today is that they are no longer called "pavement dwellers" - that they are respected by others because they now live in formal housing. But pavement dwellers chose their spots on the streets to be close to economic activity, and the women say this is one of the challenges of their new home. It is further to go to work, and they cannot come home between jobs to spend time with their children. There are three different design options within the building, each one consisting of a mezzanine floor like the building in Dharavi. The homes are modest but beautifully maintained, with sparkling pots and pans and spotless floors. Children play in the hallways, and music pours down the stairwells as a family upstairs prepares for an upcoming wedding.
After spending the afternoon at the SPARC offices, housed in a beautiful old municipal building in South Bombay, another colleague whisks me off to a Mahila Milan function in honor of a Hindu holiday celebrating the beginning of spring. This is the real thing. There are hundreds of women, all dressed in colorful saris and their best gold jewelry. We are asked to come on stage, and are honored with flowers, and decorated with saffron and turmeric on our foreheads. We eat sesame sweets and listen to the women speak about their daily realities, from the importance of daily savings to their struggles with crime. Before the close of the evening, traditional music comes on and the women begin to dance. We are drawn into the crowd and a young women smiles and grabs my hand. We dance together, laughing and I doing my best to imitate her every move. It is infectious - the vibrant soul of this community. Empowered and real, dancing under the scaffolding of 900 new homes.
Leaders of the South African SDI Alliance congregated between 16 – 18 January 2012 to follow up on progress made since the strategic meeting held at Kopling House in January 2011. At last year’s meeting, the Alliance agreed to a shift of focus towards upgrading of informal settlements. Despite one of the world’s largest housing delivery programmes, the South African government has failed to curb the demand for housing and the improvement of basic living conditions for millions of poor people. The Alliance has pledged ‘to strengthen the voice of the urban and rural poor in order to improve quality of life in informal settlements and backyard dwellings’. This we will accomplish by supporting communities who are willing and able to help themselves.
At the Kopling House strategic meeting, the following four broad strategies were decided upon to define the work of the network:
Building communities through the Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) and Informal Settlement Network (ISN) using SDI social tools;
Building partnerships with government at all tiers;
Implementing partnerships through projects; and
Keep record of learning, monitoring and evaluation.
Upgrading informal settlements is an inherently complex endeavor considering the various socio-political realities connected to harsh living conditions and illegality. However, across South Africa the urban poor are mobilizing and building institutional capacity to engage local governments around community-initiated upgrading agendas. As the Alliance’s saying goes, “Nothing for us without us”. Dialogues and outcomes of this year’s strategic meeting focused on meeting the development indicators, which the Alliance set for itself at Kopling House. This year will see a renewed focus on the following:
Capacitating regional leadership structures, and the creation of a national ISN coordinating team
Recommitment to the spirit of daily savings, daily mobilization and daily exchanges of learning
Deepening the quality of selected settlement upgrading, while growing the ISN network
Developing relevant and sensitive indicators, guidelines and protocols for the Alliance’s core activities to spur self-monitoring and evaluation.
Resourcing the Alliance through effective partnerships with local governments, universities and other development agencies such as the National Upgrading Support Programme (NUSP, Dept of Human Settlements) and the promotion of establishing Urban Poor Funds, similar to the Stellenbosch experience.
Building coalitions of the urban poor with capacity to capture the imaginations of city builders, both from the top-down and the bottom-up, is not often highly regarded or understood when upgrading strategies are devised. The Alliance is committed to strengthening the voices of the urban poor through building effective, pro-poor partnerships and platforms with local government, and implementing these partnerships at project level.
As the process to understand the discrepancies and commonalities between the agendas of communities and the municipality get underway, work must begin. Communities and the municipality develop, in partnership, a mix of “quick wins” that can build trust and show real change for communities. At the same time, the Alliance is geared towards challenging many of the assumptions that lie behind planning for the urban poor throughout cities in South Africa. Other projects that get chosen for implementation are difficult cases designed to influence the way the municipality operates so that its methods come closer to the planning priorities of communities.
All the project types also influence communities. At these interfaces of bottom-up agency and top-down city management, new ways of seeing, grappling with and undestanding informality emerge, and shack dwellers are no longer passive by-standers to the development enterprise, but active partners and innovators, finding workable, affordable and scalable solutions to urban poverty.
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.
By Anaclaudia Rossbach (Rede Interecao, Brasil), Celine D´Cruz (SDI Coordinator) and Maria E. Torrico (Red Interaccion, Bolivia)
Participants: (i) from Secretariat, Celine D´Cruz; (ii) from Bolivia, Maria Eugenia Torrico and Elizabeth Bustos; (iii) from Brazil, Eli Sandra Santana and Anacláudia Rossbach.
Municipalities visited: within Lima metropolitan area – Puente Piedra, San Juan de Miraflores and San Juan de Lurigancho
Institutions visited: Public Health projects lead by Joe Zunt and Silvia Montano and NGO KalLpa.
Context: This visit [06 - 09 September 2011] was the outcome of an invitation to Celine/SDI after she was invited to share SDI's experience at Washington University, Seattle to a joint team of Neurologist and the School of architecture. This team of health, architectural professionals and students have been working on a joint project with communities in Lima. They invited Celine/SDI to explore the possibility of working with the mothers groups in Peru. What attracted the team was the idea that within SDI savings groups were more than just micro savings and extended to other parts of the communities life.
Celine´s presentation for multidisciplinary students from Washington University was facilitated by Joe Zunt Neurologist affiliated to Washington University and Silvia Montano a local Neurologist in Lima. This was followed by a Visit to Pitagoras School, local partners for environment and public health projects by Washington University, Joe Zunt and Silvia Monano.
Meeting with mothers from parents students association (APAFA) to present SDI methodologies and identify interests for a next day follow up, they are residents of a broader neighborhood called Lomas de Zapallal, constituted by several smaller settelements, located at Puente Piedra Municipality. Present: 12 mothers and APAFA President.
Internal meeting in the evening with exchange team and hosts Joe Zunt and Silvia Montano. Introduction to Jose Vinoles who will be the local anchor for the rest of the week program, that should include follow up visits at Lomas de Zapallal and to KalLpa NGO, including eventual visits to communities were they operate projects related to public health, youth, income generation and improve of urban environment.
Team meeting on LA Hub coordinated by Celine D´Cruz. Issues discussed: (i) exchange Brazil – Bolivia to take place on the first week of October. This exchange will have two objectives: a) A team led by Fernanda Lima and leaders from Brazil will support Bolivia on their internal planning process and setting up of goals and targets for short and medium term and b) to explore more about the savings instruments from Bolivian groups. (ii) Exchange to Philippines. Discussion on composition of the exchange teams and a subsequent stop over in Brazil for a small exchange of 2/3 days to consolidate planning and a broader discussion with Brazilian savers on savings schemes instruments adopted in Bolivia. The idea is to strengthen savings schemes capacity in Brazil. (iii) On LA hub expansion. We discussed open possibilities in Ecuador (M. Eugenia contacts) through a local social movement and Colombia through Architect Alejandro Echeverri (Sheela Patel contact). The approach will be narrowing the long distance relationship and evaluate after a couple of months the feasibility of exchanges. The idea of having more countries (poor) attached to Brazil, like Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, could represent a window of opportunity to leverage international funds for the hub.
Follow up meeting at Pitagoras Schooll with mothers from Lomas de Zapallal. The mothers from the previous day meeting weren’t present, but Jose Viñoles facilitated a meeting with other new mothers and just one of them was interested on a further visit at her small settlement. Her name is Sarita Garcia from the settlement called Eliseo Collazos Verde and a visit was scheduled for the following days.
Meeting with KalLpa President Alejandrina Zamora Pariona and team to exchange institutional information. KalLpa basicly operates in 4 regions in Peru: Ayacucho, Cuzco, Ichitos and Lima on community based projects related to urban environment, public health, youth and income generation (see more at HYPERLINKwww.kallpa.org.pe). They invited us to visit one youth center on income generation and one community at San Juan de Miraflores. This community, called Minas 2000, would also be visited by a theater group, supported by Canyon Ranch Institute (US) and Jose Viñoles. We also had conversations with Canyon Ranch Evaluation and Program Manager Maura Pereira, present on the exchange.
Visit to Youth Center at San Juan de Miraflores. Presentation of mutual programs and brief discussion of possible synergies between SDI methodologies and the purpose of the center located within the municipal offices of San Juan de Miraflores, it is a partnership between NGO, local and central governments.
Visit to community Minas 2000 at municipality San Juan de Miraflores. Discussion about community issues like lack of water, infrastructure, risk areas, it is a very poor community with shacks in a private property (owner uwilling to sell and exploring rent). The settlement has a total of 200 families. After the presentation by Brazilian and Bolivian community leaders, the local women immediately reacted positively on incorporating SDI methodologies and 2 savings schemes were set. (i) group with 7 members, treasurers Hermila, Monica and Milagros; (ii) group with 20 members, treasurers Ester, Elva and Rosa.
Visit to community 24 de Diciembre at the Municipality of San Juan de Luricancho. Based on the success of previous day, KalLpa invited us for a meeting with another community, called 24 de Diciembre (estimated number of 200 families) located at the Municipality of San Juan de Luricancho. In the meeting we had the presence of about 8 women and 1 man, the “official community leader”. Besides the presence of the community leader we managed to set up a savings group with the 8 women present, 2 treasurers, Marta and Wilma.
Conclusion meeting with KalLpa team. We agreed on a synergy between both programs, SDI and KalLpa and to stay together following up the savings groups located in their communities. For an initial follow up by KalLpa we will send material (savings books) and information, and Jose Vinoles and Stelita (from KalLpa team) will be our local anchors. A follow up exchange is planned by the beginning of December to set up broader institutional arrangements.
Afternoon,meeting with Sarita Garcia and community women at Eliseo Collazos Verde (Lomas de Zapallal, Puente Piedra) to present SDI methodologies and discuss community issues. Also a very precarious settlement (90 families), with water, but no infrastructure, poor transport connections and shacks. They are located on public area and are already requesting land titling, what is very easy to get in Peru, even in precarious settlements. A savings group was set with 18 members, treasures: Sarita, Emilia y Mariluz.
Consolidation of Peruvian savings schemes under supervision of Jose Viñoles/KalLpa NGO.
Follow up visit coordinate by the Brazilian team on December/2011 to: (i) institutionalize local partnerships; (ii) follow up of savings groups; and (iii) planning exercise with the communities for a long term vision with professional support form Brazilian team (in Peru there is no integrated slum upgrading project, the idea of this exercise is to engage communities on a common dream/goal).\
Espina stands. She tells us that she is positive – that she tells women in her community she is not ashamed, and that because she takes care of herself, she does not look sick, “Do I look sick?” she asks with a coy smile on her face. She breaks into song and the woman by her side stands as they begin to dance. They are strong, empowered, have taken control of their lives and ensured that their voice is heard. Espina is right – they do not look sick. They do not look like AIDS or anything close to death. Dressed in bright East African fabrics, they are vibrant and full of life.
These women come from Zambia and are gathered in Windhoek, Namibia to meet with fellow slum/shack dwellers from across Southern Africa to exchange learning around challenges and successes in their efforts to improve living conditions for urban and rural poor throughout the region.
Yesterday they gathered in a nearby settlement called Barcelona. Under the shade of low-hanging branches, members of urban poor federations from across southern Africa gathered alongside members of the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN) to share knowledge and experience and find solutions to some of the struggles facing the local group here in Barcelona.
Lucia, a SDFN leader from Windhoek, described the challenges they have faced in collecting loan repayments and audit books from community members who have already obtained housing through the SDFN process.
We wait patiently for community members to gather. Slowly they appear, intrigued by the group of visitors waiting under the tree. Eventually, roughly fifteen members of the Barcelona group gather to meet with us, describing how they started their efforts in 1998, meeting on Sundays to collect and report on savings. It was in those early days that they set a goal of saving N$500 per person to put towards purchase of the land, so that someday they could own homes there.
Before long the group accomplished this goal. They purchased the land and constructed shacks on it, continuing to save money towards construction of their homes. In 2002, twenty-four of the group members had saved enough to build homes. Each contributed a down payment of N$750 and received a loan of N$15,000 for housing construction. To date, 31 of the 39 members have constructed homes in Barcelona settlement. Of these, four have paid off their housing loans and now own their homes outright.
Although the community is still participating in a group savings scheme, savings and collection of loan payments have been less regular since most members have acquired housing. It has been a challenge to keep track of owners and to keep up the momentum for savings. In addition, SDFN leaders describe difficulties they have had in obtaining audit reports to contribute to the Federation’s national reports. It seems as though the community has lost touch with the bigger picture of the Federation, and the power that they have as Federation members.
Gradually the community members opened up about some of the challenges they have faced locally. Some owners have rented their homes out to a ever-changing stream of tenants. Loan repayments are not being made by all members. The suggestion is made that tenants must be approved by the group, and members are reminded that until the houses are paid off, they are owned by the Federation. Local members are encouraged to remember their own power as members of a national federation – they can engage the police if necessary, as they are the legal owners of these homes.
A young woman speaks up. She tells the group that she is renting a room in one of the homes. She is paying towards the loan and for water, but she was unaware that the loan was acquired through the Federation or that there was a local savings scheme. She stays for the length of the meeting, taking responsibility for a bundle of savings books showing interest in becoming involved in the group.
An old lady is squatting at the front. She tells the group that she took out a loan for her home and was making her payments, but fell sick and has not been able to continue making full monthly payments, “I divide my money that I need for food, and the rest I pay towards my house, but still it is not enough,” she says. A Federation member from Swaziland suggests that perhaps she could rent a room out to increase her income. She needs help to make this work, and the group says they will help her. Another SDFN member reminds us that this is why savings schemes are so important – they maintain group unity, and keep people informed of what is happening, why individuals can or cannot make payments, and how the group can find solutions to these problems together.
Before the close of the meeting another woman raises her hand. She is very concerned about the situation in one of the houses. “A mama built this house, and then just disappeared!” she says. Apparently the mama’s son and a policeman are now living there, the policeman renting a room, and the homeowner is never seen. Repayments are not being made. It turns out her son is at the meeting. He raises his hand to speak. He tells the group that his mother is living in Khomasdal, another settlement in Windhoek. He has started paying towards the water, but has not been paying for the house. Marlene, a Federation member from the SDI Alliance in South Africa, asks him, “Do you understand that the house you are staying in does not currently belong to you, but to this Federation? Are you willing to take the necessary measures to make this house yours?” He says he is and the group decides to write up a contract right then & there, putting this agreement in writing with the hope of ensuring that loan repayments will now be made.
These solutions would not have been possible without the coming together of people from across the region, exchanging experience and ideas, and encouraging local members to open up about their experiences. This kind of exchange empowers not only the local Federation, but the visiting ones as well, as they share knowledge with others while gaining new knowledge to take back to the Federations at home.
Building a bridge between the “informal” and the “formal”: Reflections on slum upgrading in South Africa
In January, the South African SDI Alliance affirmed a vision to build city-wide networks of informal settlement communities that mobilize to upgrade their settlements. Nearly six months later, about 30 representatives of the Alliance partners — the Informal Settlement Network (ISN), Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP), Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC), iKhayalami, and uTshani Fund — met in Cape Town to reflect on the upgrading work that has been accomplished thus far.
On 7 June, visitors from elsewhere in South Africa visited the settlement of Sheffield Road. There, the ISN and CORC have worked with community leadership to re-arrange or “re-block” shacks in the dense settlement built on a road reserve. In addition to re-arranging the settlement spatially, they have built upgraded shack shelters. As the project has fallen within the ambit of a city-wide partnership between the Alliance and the Metropolitan Municipality of Cape Town, the community has been able to work with the City to install new toilets in locations planned by the community as part of the arrangement of shacks.
The Alliance then spent the next two days reflecting on the way in which the upgrading process has unfolded in Sheffield Road. The lessons from this case study served as a springboard for a deeper discussion around basic principles for upgrading projects ongoing or still to come both in Cape Town and in the Alliance nationwide.
The underlying lesson of this discussion is that upgrading informal settlements is anything but the technical exercise presented by many in the formal world such as governments, professionals, and academics. The primary challenge lies in the basic fact that upgrading settlements requires the inclusion of whole affected communities in the processes that go into such improvements. Whether we refer to the political, financial or planning aspects of upgrading, it is the initiative and leadership of organized communities that is the essential ingredient in making a project successful.
Evaluating and learning from Sheffield Road
Critical feedback from all participants emphasized both positive and negative aspects of the process and outcome of the Sheffield Road project. Positives included the demonstration that in situ reconfiguration of space within a settlement can make a large contribution to the building of social bonds and life within a settlement, as well create a safer environment from both crime and natural calamities. Further, the relationship of the city-wide ISN and the leadership of the Sheffield Road community helped build a bridge to municipal officials. This resulted in the provision of new toilets located as part of a spatial layout plan developed by the community. Though leadership structures have been challenged throughout this process, the existence of strong leaders able to mobilize residents through a risky process of tearing down shacks and rebuilding, has been a powerful impetus for the success of the project.
Participants noted an apparent dependency on technical support from the NGO, insufficient contributions from savings, difficulties with uninterested or unaccountable leadership structures, and a general lack of “sensitization” of the community. It was emphasized that community mobilization is the key to the sustainability of any upgrading project. As long as the NGO drives the process, the project fosters a growing sense of entitlement in the community and prevents residents from taking ownership.
What is blocking out?
Blocking out is a way of refining the planning of informal settlements. Put more simply, “blocking out” or “re-blocking” refers to a rearrangement of shacks in an informal settlement. Re-blocking is a way of addressing the larger concept of spatial reconfiguration versus the simple delineation of sites. The difference is between focusing on individual households or space that is used by whole communities. The space can be used for communal amenities, or to create lanes for installation of services such as water, sanitation and electricity.
Blocking out is also understood as a way to increase tenure. It demonstrates community capacity with regard to planning, and makes way for installation of services, which can provide a greater level of security to residents.
In the case of Sheffield Road, iKhayalami, a NGO linked to CORC, provided replacement zinc shelters to residents who moved their shacks as part of the “re-blocking” exercise. The Alliance debated whether this should be linked to “re-blocking” and how it should be done.
Positive aspects of provision of shelter are primarily related to the fact that residents’ shelters may be damaged in the course of moving their shacks. Further, they are only given four walls, so they contribute to the building of their new shacks, breeding stronger ownership of the project. Finally, the provision of a shelter upgrade through iKhayalami was considered necessary for mobilizing the community in a non-disaster situation.
Criticisms of this approach centered on the linking of private housing space — the upgraded shack — to what is primarily a project about public living space — the re-blocked settlement. Some participants noted that the upgraded shelter may be seen as minimizing the existing investments that residents make into their shelters prior to the re-blocking exercise. A related point was that informal settlement residents have demonstrated great resourcefulness in building shacks and sourcing material for these shacks. Therefore, provision of a new shelter may distract from larger upgrading projects. Some suggested that the provision of new shelters in the context of re-blocking could amount to a reduced form of “RDP” housing provision, and could set an example for a R5,000 subsidy for improved shack versus a R50,000 subsidy for a government house.
Another critique suggested that it would not be cost-effective for CORC/iKhayalami to provide heavily subsidized shelter upgrading solutions at any kind of meaningful scale. While some participants saw this as a critique of working to upgrade private shelter through provision of modular iKhayalami-type materials, an additional view was that this was also a way to access the resources of the State for the poor. The NGO would be making an up-front investment to get much greater returns in terms of the potential resources that could be secured from the State. The view is that funds such as those coming from Emergency Housing Fund or Urban Settlements Development Grant could be made available at large scale for such an upgrading protocol, given a proper demonstration model. The popularity of the iKhayalami shelters in the projects proposed to the Community Upgrading Finance Facility (CUFF) board, even with a 10% required contribution on the part of informal settlement residents, indicates that this may be a favorable option.
Finally, there was a discussion about the difference between finance for public upgrading improvements — eg. public space, basic services — and funding constraints for individual improvements — eg. shelter. This led to a discussion of the possibility of trying to implement a financial instrument for shelter upgrades. It could be partly microcredit, which would help provide some recognition for the investments that families make to upgrade their shelters. By the same token, the discussion acknowledged that upgrading an informal shelter is a risk that would be very difficult to get banks to take on without some kind of further guarantee. Hence a mix of grant funding and microcredit was proposed as a way to a) provide access to finance, and deepen formal acknowledgment of investments that the poor make into their shelters, and b) to develop a potentially sustainable mechanism for both securing finances for upgrading informal households from a State nominally keen on providing subsidies for poverty alleviation, while simultaneously “banking” an “unbanked” sector.
How do communities organize to upgrade?
“Blocking out is actually a mobilization tool more than anything else. We are saying that we are an Informal Settlement Network. So we need to be preaching informal settlement upgrading.”
— Rose Molokoane
The case of Sheffield Road highlights a number of challenges regarding community organization. The long time frame of the project is due primarily to difficulties in mobilizing savings contributions for the shelter upgrade. Further, the ISN leadership engagement with the community included the institution of a new community leadership structure that was not initially accepted by the community. Ultimately, there was a sense that it was especially difficult to build a constituency for upgrading at Sheffield Road without dangling the carrot of a shelter upgrade.
But if a community-led approach to upgrading is to be taken to scale within the Alliance, then everyone agreed that the key conversation is about how communities organize themselves. Savings has long been the backbone activity of the Alliance partners. Yet savings has been one of the most difficult activities to mobilize in the upgrading process. A central contradiction is that savings has long been a membership-based activity linked primarily to FEDUP. But upgrading is a community-wide process, which therefore requires community-wide pooling of financial resources.
In Sheffield Road, re-blocking has been done in clusters of about 15 shacks, and savings has also been organized at that level. In Umlazi in Durban, the community divided itself up into five different sections, and has begun saving by section for upgrading projects.
Such strategies for community-wide savings have a big impact on the methods of organization that communities are finding necessary for upgrading at the whole settlement scale. In Slovo Park, in Johannesburg, the community leadership realized that it had to organize structures all the way down to the block or street level in order to be effective. “We realized that we were holding lots of meetings and people weren’t coming,” said community leader Mohau Melani. “We realized that we have to go down to the block level.”
It was further noted that enumeration can be an effective tool for promoting such organization. Perhaps even more importantly the use of enumeration as a tool for understanding the most important needs of a community was underlined. Participants agreed that, in most cases, the enumerations taking place within the Alliance are not being used to the full extent of their potential effectiveness.
A social movement aimed at the upgrading of informal settlements is an issue-based social movement. Therefore, the primary activities of this movement need to be geared towards identifying developmental issues — through tools like enumeration, profiling, and regional dialogues — as well as the pooling of political and financial resources — through the establishment of deeper leadership structures, savings schemes, and participation of women.
The challenge of scale
The establishment of the Community Upgrading Finance Facility (CUFF) is an initiative of the Alliance designed to encourage a constituency for community-driven upgrading projects nationwide. CUFF operates through a bottom-up structure. Informal settlement and backyard shack dweller communities make proposals to a board composed of a majority of slum dwellers, for grant funding for upgrading projects.
The intention of CUFF is to demonstrate a wide multiplicity of upgrading solutions, methods for community leadership of upgrading projects, and institutional structures for bottom-up, city-wide finance facilities for upgrading that can eventually be adopted by the State. CUFF was established earlier this year, but few of the projects that the board has approved are yet up and running. Participants in the meeting agreed that a renewed focus on deep mobilization, as detailed in the previous section, needs to be the primary focus in order to generate a constituency for projects that will be creative, effective, respond to community need, and have potential for going to larger scale.
The number one determinant of an effective upgrading project is an organized community. It was resolved that the following factors are key to evaluating an effective community:
Leadership structures are constituted all the way down to the street or block level. At the settlement-wide level, a Community Development Committee that include all existing structures in a community (eg. women’s forums, business forums, task teams, etc.)
Regular community meetings where residents have a chance to bring up their needs and have them recorded.
Community-wide savings. There are different methods that can exist for how these are organized, but the key is to have transparent and accountable systems that breed trust in the process.
Enumeration. A clear and participatory account of the needs and make-up of the community.
Regional dialogues to draw out the type and scale of needs that exist at the regional or city-wide level.
Participation of women.
Partnership with local authorities. These are designed to increase learning around the challenges and successes of community-led strategies for informal settlement upgrading, and to get these methods adopted as policy.
NGO role is to link communities, provide strategic support for external partnerships, and advise network leaders on building their movement. NGO professionals do not mobilize communities, and should not become primary implementers or managers of a project.
Focus on existing community investments in their settlements. Shelter upgrades should not ignore the pre-existing capacity for building, maintaining, and upgrading shacks in informal settlement communities.
Alliance goal is to develop a large variety of upgrading solutions, and not to standardize a one-size-fits-all approach for all settlements.
Shelter upgrade can accompany other upgrades, but mobilization (meetings and exchanges) should make clear that such work is entirely de-linked from other types of upgrading (eg. blocking out). Role of shelter upgrade is to provide a model that can access further resources from the State for the poor.
Slum dweller community leaders from throughout South Africa made a historic commitment last week to build and network community organizations in order to upgrade informal settlements at scale throughout the country’s cities. The three-day meeting at the Kolping House in Cape Town brought together over 100 delegates from the Informal Settlement Network (ISN), Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), Poor People’s Movement (PPM), Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC), uTshani Fund, uDondolo Trust, and Shack Dwellers International (SDI).
This wide-ranging alliance of community organizations and non-governmental organizations linked to SDI agreed to a program of action designed to build community leadership around issue-based development. Key activities include capacitating communities to collect their own information through household surveys, so as to be active participants in planning for their settlements and cities.
Further, a cornerstone of the agreed resolutions was an intention for networks of community organizations to build partnerships with municipal authorities. These partnerships will form the basis for a program of community-centered planning for upgrading settlements, and managing urban growth.
“Our strategy is a version of that old rally cry: ‘Nothing for us without us,’” said Patrick Magebhula, ISN chair, FEDUP president, and advisor to Minister of Human Settlements Tokyo Sexwale. “The kind of upgrading we speak of is not about land and services alone. This is about realizing real citizenship and equality in our cities.”
Magebhula made the remarks at a ceremony on Friday, 21 January, where the South African SDI Alliance joined hands with housing officials from the municipalities of Cape Town and Stellenbosch to reaffirm their partnerships to upgrade informal settlements. The Cape Town partnership has already led to upgrading projects in 7 informal settlements with active involvement of the local community, facilitated by the ISN as a network of informal settlement communities throughout the city. In total, the Alliance and the municipality have already agreed to work in at least 20 informal settlements.
“I have been walking this road with the Alliance for two years. I have shared the pain and I have shared the joy,” said Mzwandile Sokupa, director of the Cape Town municipality’s informal settlements department. “We bring all resources to the table, in terms of people, in terms of funding, in terms of will … We are also saying, ‘nothing for you without you.’”
Johru Robyn, Town Planner in the housing department of the Stellenbosch municipality, noted the transforming effects of his department’s partnership with the SDI Alliance. “We have pursued many public-private partnerships, but our partnership with [the Alliance] has led to a total rethink of our housing strategy,” he said.
The shift has been two fold. Firstly, Stellenbosch had never before considered an informal settlement upgrading program. Johru also noted the impact that the Alliance has had on the way Stellenbosch engages with informal settlement dwellers: “Now we don’t go to the community to talk to the community. Now we go to the community to speak with them.”
One of three planned partnered upgrading projects is already underway in Stellenbosch, and the city is exploring the creating of a jointly-managed “urban poor fund,” for wider scale upgrading in the municipality.
Nation-wide, the South African SDI Alliance has 23 pilot projects for informal settlement upgrading underway in 7 cities. Another 32 are planned, for a total of 55 pilot projects. Such work is done in partnership between communities, municipal governments, and, in 2 instances, also academic institutions.
FEDUP has long been the largest civil society initiative to empower the poor to build houses for themselves utilizing the governmental People’s Housing Process subsidy. Since 1994, the Federation has built over 15,000 houses.
Federation national coordinator and SDI deputy president Rose Molokoane reflected the Federation’s shift in focus to incremental upgrading during the round of singing that punctuated Friday’s ceremony. After singing an old Federation song about building houses, “Zenzele” (do it for yourself), she pointed to Magebhula who wrote the song. “ Now I want someone who composed this song to make a remix,” she said.
Katana Goretti , 35, lives about three miles from Kampala City Center with her family.While juggling several seasonal and short-term small businesses, Katana faced domestic violence at home.She alone provided for her five children. It was difficult. Her business required her to spend most of her time away from home and unable to care properly for them.Katana said, “I never felt alive at that time, although I could breathe and walk. I had no confidence in myself.”
In 2007, ACTogether and members of the Uganda Slum Dwellers Federation mobilized and sensitized residents in her settlement about savings and working together to solve their problems.She helped form a savings group and was elected as both the secretary and the collector. She participated actively and worked tirelessly to balance these new roles with her business and household responsibilities. “I started dreaming of sleeping in a dry house. I was tired of sleeping in water and the children fell sick all the time,” she said.
Using her savings, Katana bought 4 bags of cement and presented them to her husband, demanding that the family build another house. “That shocked me a lot, but somehow we pulled it together and started construction,” said James. He used his carpentry and masonry skills to provide most of the labour for the construction.
“Participation in federation activities has changed a lot of things in my life.The first time my husband, James, saw the importance of saving was when he did not have money for school fees. I just withdrew money from my savings and paid the school fees." James agreed to join the federation and start saving too.
The family is now united, sharing problems, joys and responsibilities.Katana runs a small business in Owino, the biggest market in Kampala City. She plans to seek training in business skills and management to improve her current business as well as explore new opportunities.
In addition to saving, some training on rights and responsibilities, problem solving, and leadership skills was provided by the federation. The settlement she lived in was threatened with eviction and Katana actively mobilized the community to come together as a ‘single voice’ and demand Government protection from eviction. With support from LWF and ACTogether, the eviction was stopped.
Thanks to daily saving, the family has abandoned their old flood damaged house.Katana’s dream of sleeping in a dry house is becoming a reality.A wheelbarrow of cement, sand and bricks welcome you at the new three-roomed house being constructed with the savings of Katana and James.The raised foundation of the new house will help to keep them dry during times of flooding, protecting them from sickness and disease.
There is not and will never be a one-size-fits-all approach to upgrading informal settlements. Every settlement has its own technical issues such as land ownership, land quality, and shack organization. Every settlement also has its own social issues such as history, communal organization, and labor. SDI has found, through practice, that there are a series of steps by which government and communities, working together, can engage the uniqueness of each settlement, and find ways to upgrade settlements that are sustainable and scalable.
Upgrading through partnership with communities can seem difficult. But the alternative is worse. Officials in almost every municipality in the country can tell at least one story of an upgrade that was refused because there was not enough buy-in to the project on the part of the community. The challenge is to identify and encourage the proliferation of community organizations and networks that can facilitate the following protocols for producing partnership-based informal settlement upgrades. Through partnership, municipal officials can strengthen their cities and towns to be forward thinking, people-centered, and productive places to work, play, and live.
Defining upgrading: Informal settlement upgrading is not simply “site and service,” or the provision of full services minus a top-structure. Upgrading is any intervention that improves the physical properties of a settlement that enhances the lives of its inhabitants. This can either start with or should lead to security of tenure. Therefore, upgrading can many anything from drainage installation, to communal toilets, to the blocking out of shacks, to lighting, to community facilities such as halls or schools or gymnasia, to incremental housing improvements (either individually or in any configuration), etc.
Enumeration: Communities and human settlements can only be upgraded by building on the local knowledge and capacities that exist within a given settlement. Through the practice of enumeration, communities count themselves, develop a detailed socio-economic profile of the settlement, and begin setting developmental priorities. Communities use the enumeration to confirm the identified need for upgrading and to create space for dialogue around planning for the future of the settlement.
Partnership with municipal government is built through the sanctioning of the enumeration by the municipality, including an agreement to incorporate the information gathered into the municipal planning process. Sometimes, local officials may question the validity of statistics gathered by communities. SDI has experienced many cases where communities and officials work together to verify information, so that everyone is satisfied as to their legitimacy. At the end of the day, communities must own the process by which information is collected. This also builds capacity for participatory planning rooted in the information gathered from an enumeration.
Savings: When communities have a stake in the development they are able to sustain it. Experience has proven that when communities contribute actual financial resources to upgrading their settlements, they become active participants in the process. SDI’s experience is that a contribution amounting to approximately 10% of the cost of the upgrading builds ownership and trust within the communities to implement and manage the financial and social aspects of any project.
City-wide networks of communities: Social problems are sure to arise in an informal settlement upgrading project. Upgrading means change, and any process of change is bound to kick up dust. It is important for municipalities to work with networks of poor communities that can serve as interlocutors. These community-based actors can help support a community as it goes through the inevitable challenges of an upgrading process. They can help support the establishment of savings schemes, and the practice of community-led enumerations, as well as help develop practical capacity to work with technical professionals. Network leaders can also support the municipality to engage a community on a sustainable basis. Finally, these networks can facilitate the exchange of learning from one upgrade to many other settlements, so that the capacity for the implementation of future projects is greater.
84 families from an informal settlement in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil, will receive keys to formal houses on 3 July. 18 of those families are part of this scheme because of their participation in savings schemes.
Portal do Campo was an informal settlement established around 1999, when the City of Osasco relocated the residents from another informal settlement called Rochdale,. The municipality had promised that land would eventually be provided for the population.
But what was supposed to be temporary became permanent. So in 2007, the City of Osasco purchased the Portais area, which includes Portal do Campo and Portal Menck, to develop a new housing project.
The residents are receiving rental vouchers from the City, while they are wait for the project’s completion. The City is finishing the first stage of the housing project, with 84 units from what is planned to be a total of 600. The criteria adopted to decide which families would enter the new houses first included participation in negotiations with authorities and community meetings, as well as family size, need, and length of time staying in the settlement.
In Portais there are 7 savings groups with 252 savers. They have shown their capacity and confidence through their participation, dedication and organization in this project. Because of their engagement and commitment, 18 savers were included on this first stage.
A couple of photos from the Chamazi housing project in Tanzania. Through a collaborative process with other actors, the Federation has managed to influence Temeke Municipal Council and the Ministry of Land, Housing and Human Settlement Development to reduce the plot sizes from the minimum of 400 square meters to 150 square meters. This is being implemented at Chamazi resettlement housing project. Furthermore the Federation has also participated in the development of the unit title and mortgage finance laws. These housing laws are expected to put in place mechanism for improving housing stock in the urban areas.
Pictured above: Residents of the Kambimoto incremental housing development in Huruma, a slum area in Nairobi, Kenya.
By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI secretariat
Top-down strategies for "eradicating slums" are seemingly always in vogue. Planners, government officials, commentators, and most non-governmental civil society actors, all aim for State-conceived, State-driven solutions to the "problems" of slums. Occasionally, we might hear about the potential of the social energy and even the density of informal settlements. But the solutions, we hear, must always come from the State.
But we can consider for a moment where these "formal" actors are headed, and from where they get their ideas. It is not the State. Governments of the Global South are quite evidently incapable of conceiving and implementing solutions without the people such policies are intended to address. The slums of the South are growing. And in the absence of effective State interventions, the poor — the world of the "informal" — are providing the vast majority of shelter solutions.
So "formal" actors — the State, planners, etc. — are getting their ideas from those who populate the world of the "informal" — the urban poor themselves. Instead of centrally-planned, greenfields housing developments, governments from South Africa to Kenya are talking about "slum upgrading" or "informal settlement upgrading." In India, the term that most closely mirrors this is "redevelopment." To varying degrees, policies that deploy these terms in each country are rooted in "informal" practice. Improvements in the living spaces where people already live.
But "upgrading," while a step in the right direction towards more people-centered kinds of urban policies and planning, is often too vague. It can still mean big projects that results in the removals of many shack dwellers to new slums outside of the city to make way for improvements that often accrue only to a few of the original residents of the area. The goal of any kind of urban policy will always, at some point, mean fully-serviced and titled top-structure housing with secure tenure. Given the capacities of all the actors involved in the policies that would address that kind of goal, in addition to the magnitude of slums in most of the cities of the South, such achievements are still far off in the future.
The poor know this, and address it on a daily basis in the only way they can: incrementalism. To build incrementally is to live within one's means, adding on and improving one's dwelling and environment bit-by-bit. There are obstacles to this approach, namely lack of security of tenure. How can a person save to upgrade when he or she faces the constant threat of being evicted? But even without total security of tenure (i.e. full title), the poor are willing to build incrementally.
I wrote a couple months ago about the Federation incremental housing project in the Kambimoto neighborhood of Huruma in Nairobi, Kenya. There, each homeowner is building the floors of their houses day-by-day, making their own laddi bricks — an alternative egg-shell shape of bricks used for ceilings and floors for the first two floors of the houses — through exchanges with SDI-affiliated savers in India. The residents of this project do not have full title. What they do have is a memorandum of understanding with the city council approving the project. They also receive municipal services. This is just one example about how the poor are leading the way towards new understandings of tenure arrangements and how such attempts to provide security to the poor achieve great things on the ground.
The key is to enable the poor to enact the solutions they already have at their disposal, not to run over them with State-developed, new top-down plans. Even though "formal" actors are beginning to adopt the rhetoric of "upgrading," they usually stray from its original "informal" meaning. "Informal settlement upgrading" still means programmatic, State-driven responses to urban poverty. The "informal" does not fit so easily with the strictures of the "formal." Incrementalism gets brushed aside in favor of rhetorical slights of hand that only glance at the true intentions of "informal" solutions.
The issue of incrementalism got a high-profile mention this week in an article in the Financial Times’ latest installment of its special issues on cities. Heba Saleh reports on development plans in Cairo, where slum dwellers are getting pushed further and further out of the city, while more poor people push back into the city for jobs:
The result is that Cairo is ringed with extensive areas of densely inhabited slums, where the streets are often too narrow for cars to pass and no land has been allocated for services such as schools, hospitals, markets or parks. But affordability and proximity to jobs in the central parts of the city continue to attract people to these neighborhoods, where homeowners build cheap but sturdy housing, adding extra rooms or floors whenever they have the cash.
Laila Iskandar, a development expert who heads CID Consultants, argues that the dynamics in the slums have much to teach government planners when they lay down their schemes for the expansion of the city. “All they are thinking about is how to send people to live in the desert [around the city],” she says. “They still have a top-down European view of the city and they deny that migrants from the countryside need a style of housing that they are not planning for.”
“These people do not have lump sums to pay for flats, and mortgages are out of their reach. Rent is also too expensive for them. They need to be able to build their homes incrementally.”
In the coming months, we will explore this theme further, analyzing examples of incremental solutions, and the ways in which the "informal" world can lead the "formal" world to actionable solutions to the problems of urban poverty. Your comments are, as always, most welcome.
Savings schemes in Mbale, Uganda, were first established earlier this year. Earlier this month, the Federation decided that it would be important to sensitize informal settlement communities on issues related to hygiene and sanitation.
They engaged the municipality of Mbale, to work together on a city-wide activity that involved cleaning trenches, collecting garbage, and door-to-door sensitization and mobilization in the slum settlements of Namataala, Kikyaafu, Namakweeke, Nkoma, and Mission, among others. All of these activities were done in conjunction with municipal officials (the mayor, senior assistant town clerk and the coordinator of the Cities Alliance-funded program for the Transformation of Settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda from 15-17 May.
This development reflects the strength of the Federation in mobilizing communities, as well as the willingness by the municipal council to work with the poor communities in transforming their living environment. The mayor, in her speech to the participants, thanked the members for coming up with such wonderful initiatives that complement the work of the municipality. She added that each division has a municipal town agent but that such functionaries were not in a position to identify the sanitation challenges as the federation did in just 3 days.
The Mbale federation is growing stronger and the membership is increasing significantly. So far they have a total membership of 1324 members with 1019 members who are female. Total savings is 4,066,7550 Ugandan Shillings. The Federation members have already constituted committee representatives who meet once every month at regional level (city level), twice at network level and weekly at saving scheme level.
On the final day of discussions at the World Urban Forum, SDI hosted its second networking session entitled People's Organization and the Struggle for the Inclusive City. The panel included federation representatives from the Philippines, Zambia, Mexico, Brazil and Zimbabwe, and they discussed in detail the challenges faced by the urban poor in their efforts to be active members within their own societies.
Sonia Fadrigo from the Philippines spoke about how the UPFI gives the communities the initial funds to be taken seriously at the negotiation table - "no one will talk to you if you look poor and you look like you are begging for money," so the Urban Poor Fund International helps to open the door for the communities.
The communities have to save towards the UPFI and Sheela Magara from Zimbabwe highlighted the social benefit of saving. "You collect money, you collect people, you collect problems then you can build people and build houses," she said.
Other overarching themes to come from the session concerned the importance of information gathering, communities coming to the negotiating table with external actors armed with information and seed money. The chances of the meeting being a fruitful one, are drastically increased. And the reality is that the communities already have the answers to their problems — they know exactly what needs to address and in what order. With their information in hand, they are able to channel the government's resources to where it is most sorely needed.
As if to emphasize Sheela's comments on building an individual through savings and financial capacity, the UPFI funds are managed by the communities. UPFI gives communities a sense of self sufficiency and it builds their confidence. Once you have an organized and confident community, they have a voice that cannot be ignored.
The National Movement of Recyclers in Brazil was included in the session, and though not allied to SDI, their experiences were similar. They held a forum of 1800 recyclers in 2001 at which a memorandum was signed, which was the beginning of the Latin American network of recyclers. 2006, second forum in Columbia, which was an international event. They found that through sharing their experiences, they were able to learn from one another. So in short, community organization is the key, combined with dialogue and sharing of experiences among networks of organized communities.
Finally, the Ugandan Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Michael Werikhe spoke about the importance of the UPFI:
It is special because it is for the people at a global level, at a regional level, and a local level. And it is managed and done by the community themselves. As governments, we need to support the slum dwellers in the efforts for information. It shouldn't be an exclusionary process. But with information, you know your strengths and weaknesses. Governments survive on the urban poor majority.
pictured above: Mukuru residents examine the new eviction order from Kenya Railways Corporation.
By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI secretariat
As I have already discussed earlier this week, enumerations create enough anxiety due to near-unavoidable internal dynamics of communities. But in the case of the railway relocation program in Nairobi, we should be clear about the ultimate cause of such nervousness: the on-and-off eviction that the Kenya Railways Corporation has been pursuing for the better part of the past decade.
On Monday, residents of slums along the railway learned that the Kenya Railways Corporation had issued a new 30-day eviction notice to all people living within 100 meters of the railway line over the weekend. As we walked through Mukuru on Tuesday, Pamoja Trust staffers and community enumerators handed out the eviction notice to begin discussing what they could do about it. The enumeration was supposed to empower the community to negotiate with the Railways Corporation for a relocation that took their needs into account. A unilateral eviction threat totally defeats that end.
Pamoja sought to reassure residents in Mukuru, many of whom have already witnessed or experienced an eviction earlier this month due to the installation of an oil pipeline nearby the railway line. The all-too-familiar sights common to recently evicted areas of what were the former foundations and flattened ground of shack floors dot an empty space nearby the line in Mukuru. Residents were concerned about the time frame for eviction, but perhaps because there was already action on the ground in the form of mapping, numbering, and enumeration, led by community members themselves, they were not too perturbed.
In Kibera, it has been another story. After disputes between structure owners and tenants delayed the start of the process last week, the eviction notice threw a new wrench into the works this week. Mapping and numbering should have begun yesterday, but concerned residents postponed the activities because of the eviction notice. They needed reassurance that Pamoja was not conspiring with the Kenya Railways Corporation against them. To this end, Pamoja showed them a formal letter submitted to the Railways Corporation opposing the eviction notice. The railway line operator is claiming that the eviction notice did not apply to those affected by the ongoing relocation program, of which this enumeration is a part. But the notice does not make any such distinction.
Instead of helping to jump start the process in Kibera as planned, the South African exchange team visited some of the other sites in Nairobi where Muungano wa wanavijiji (the Kenyan slum dwellers federation) have developed for themselves. The multi-storey, high density dwellings in the slum of Kambimoto in Huruma provided a useful counterpoint to the Mukuru / Kibera experience and, in particular, this week's eviction notice.
The upgrading project has 86 units that were financed by individual savings, group savings, and the Kenyan urban poor finance facility associated with Pamoja, Akiba Mashinani Trust (AMT). Muungano member Susan Wanjiru moved into her home in 2004. She told me that the federation in Kambimoto is planning to build another 100 houses, but faces a particular challenge in the rise of material costs since the first houses were built. "Now we are planning to be incremental," she said.
The project is just one of many examples of one of the most important prerequisites for incremental building: security of tenure. The federation has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the city council for the land, but "no we are fighting to get the title deed," Wanjiru said.
In Mukuru, trash is everywhere, most structures are made of wood beams and mud, sometimes with corrugated iron. The residents have lived under constant threat of eviction for almost a decade. In the Kambimoto upgrading project, the pathways are clean, lined with plants and flowers put out by the new homeowners. They do not have full security of tenure, but the MoU has been enough to spur the residents to continue to invest in their homes.
pictured above: The clean, plant-lined pathways of Muungano's Kambimoto (Huruma) slum upgrading project.
One of the key challenges of urban poverty is to find people-driven solutions to housing finance. An innovation of many federations in the SDI network has been to develop what are known as “urban poor funds.” All federations in the alliance practice daily savings as a means for community organization. These savings can often be used for various kinds of micro-credit as well, though their primary purpose is, as a general rule, to bind communities together, get them to unite around their own problems and their own resources.
But any member of a saving scheme can withdraw their savings at any time. There is nothing keep that person in a saving scheme except their own ties to their community and their specific scheme. The money always remains theirs. Federations that have been around for some time — what is known in the SDI lingo as a “mature” federation — soon realize that in order to develop at any kind of scale, they need to search for ways to come up with a committed, revolving finance facility: the urban poor fund.
Though an urban poor fund operates in different ways in different countries, the basic idea is the same. Each federation member commits a non-refundable amount of money that will initiate the fund. In South Africa, just to give one example, this commitment has a value of approximately US$100. The idea is that these funds that come from organized communities of the urban poor will attract more from outside sources like governments, donors and the private sector. Then, the fund can begin giving out loans to federation members to build houses, start businesses, buy land, and install services. If the loans are repaid then the fund “revolves,” meaning that the money can be loaned out again to someone else. For an excellent summary and analysis of the different kinds of urban poor funds that exist within the SDI alliance, a paper by Diana Mitlin, our colleague at the International Institute for Environment and Development, is a worthwhile guide: “Urban Poor Funds: development by the people for the people” (pdf).
It is a powerful tool for development that really puts organized communities of the urban poor at the center of their own development. So what happens when the fund essentially vanishes — nearly overnight? Sounds devastating. But this is exactly what the Zimbabwean Homeless People’s Federation experienced when their fund, called the Gungano Fund, fell prey to the cruelties of hyperinflation that wrecked the Zimbabwean economy in 2008.
Federation members were determined to keep it going. Still anxious to continue repaying outstanding loans, members developed a system they called dombo-to-dombo (stone-for-stone), where instead of repaying in money, they repaid in material supplies for which they calculated an approximate worth.
With the introduction of the US dollar and South African rand as replacement currencies for the Zimbabwean dollar, the federation is now looking to restore the Gungano fund. I had the privilege of being part of a two-day reflection meeting that the Zimbabwean federation held in Harare at the end of January to discuss how to take the fund forward. My colleague Louise Cobbett and I have a full report of this meeting up at the main SDI website which goes through all of the issues raised and resolved around the fund and how it ties into the greater work of the federation.
It takes the kind of unity forged through savings, information gathering, and — in the case of the Zimbabwean federation — the common traumas of economic hardship, disease, and state-directed violence, to address such a difficult, innovative facility like the urban poor fund with the creativity and seriousness I saw at this meeting. With “urban poor funds,” “community development funds,” and similar terms becoming buzz words in the so-called “urban development sector,” the urban poor themselves are providing some of the most creative, effective examples of how these can actually operate.
pictured above: SDI deputy president Rose Molokoane and Michael Werikhe, Ugandan minister of Housing, Land, and Urban Development, at a meeting of SDI delegates and Ugandan officials in Mumbai, India, last week.
By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI secretariat
This week, SDI delegates are traveling through Uganda with members of the Cities Alliance secretariat to meet with Uganda Slum Dwellers Federation-organized communities, ACTogether, an NGO supporting the activities of the USDF, and officials from all levels of government. This is part of a project facilitated through the new Cities Alliance “Land, Services, and Citizenship” program that is focusing on five secondary cities in Uganda (Jinja, Mbale, Arua, Mbarare, and Kabale).
During the Cities Alliance consultative group meeting last week, SDI and ACTogether delegates met with the Ugandan minister of housing, land and urban development Michael Werikhe and his commissioner, Samuel Mabala. The key goal of these engagements, at all levels, is to ensure that organized communities of the urban poor are put at the center of the processes of development in Uganda.
Updates on this greater process of organizing communities through SDI’s tools such as savings, community-driven information gathering, and community-based urban poor funds, will be forthcoming as events progress on the ground in Uganda. As one of the poorest countries in Africa, with a low rate of urbanization (about 15%), this is an exciting opportunity to put organized communities at the center of urban development in its relatively early stages.
During last month's SDI Council meeting, I caught up with Patience Mudimu, a project coordinator at Dialogue on Shelter, an NGO supporting the activities of the ZHPF. She told me that the Federation and Dialogue held a number of meetings with local government authorities during the convention. "For possibly the first time, we were getting directors to queue up to have appointments with us," she said.
There have been follow-up engagements with authorities from five different cities — Harare, Masvingo, Chiredzi, Mutare, and Bindura. The plans under discussion in all of these places reveal a lot of the challenges and possibilities of local administration and urban housing in Zimbabwe.
In Harare, Dialogue on Shelter is talking with Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda about a partnership between the ZHPF and local government to renovate hostels in four settlements. Though town planners are often responsible for much of the implementation process of policy, mayoral will is key, Mudimu told me, to give political clout to a project like this.
In Masvingo, the Federation is facilitating exchanges of local ministers between different cities. As part of the exchange program that they agreed to at the housing convention in October, Mayor Femias Chakabuda wants to bring Federation members in Masvingo to visit the Federation-built settlement in Victoria Falls. According to Mudimu, Chakabuda was particularly impressed by his visit to the settlement.
The Chiredzi local authorities invited Dialogue on Shelter and the Federation to give a presentation to the full town council. They gave this presentation in early November about the difficulties that homeless people have in obtaining land.
The authorities in Mutare had given land to the Federation to build boreholes, a project being funded by SDI's Urban Poor Fund International (UPFI). As part of the negotiations at the housing convention, the Mutare authorities gave a verbal go-ahead, but there is still no written agreement on the issue.
Finally, Bindura authorities have offered space to the Federation to build a community resource center.
As Mudimu noted to me, while it can be tough to achieve much publicly at these big housing conventions, the public show can serve as a good backdrop for successful negotiations and partnerships behind-the-scenes.
Part I -- Bolivia: New Freedoms in the Home of the Bolivarian Dream
Though named after the liberator of much of South America, Simón Bolivar, many consider Bolivia to have achieved real freedom only with the election of Evo Morales as president in 2006. Morales, a former trade unionist, is the first leader of the continent’s poorest country to be of indigenous descent. Now in the throes of a pitched re-election campaign, the country is coming to terms with the promise and reality of the Morales era. Many poor people have flocked to the fast-growing cities in the western region of the country, the heartland of much of Bolivia’s indigenous culture. This region comprises much of Morales’ political base. The growth of service industries in cities, the persistent poverty of rural areas, and the decline of formerly strong industries, like mining, are proving to be powerful forces attracting many to move to urban areas in Bolivia.
Urbanization there has brought with it the attendant difficulties that affect most cities in the developing world: Vast, dense tracts of informal settlements, lack of access to proper infrastructure and development for the cities’ poorest inhabitants, and local and national government authorities that struggle to deliver solutions to the problems of urban poverty in ways that empower the citizenship and dignity of the ordinary poor people these politicians claim to represent.
Still, Morales’ election and first term has brought a measure of hope and optimism to urban dwellers. Rosemary Irusta is a leader of Habitat Para La Mujer, Maria Auxiliadora, a community in Cochabamba based around communal savings and ownership of all housing and infrastructure. She had a typical take on the change in perceptions that many poor people have towards the government, at least at its highest political levels. “We respect this government. It is good,” she said. “But we have problems at the local level.”
4 November -- Cochabamba: informal land in the “Water Wars” battleground
From 3 November to 7 November, leaders of the Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP) in South Africa and leaders of savings schemes in Brazil, visited three cities in Bolivia as part of an exchange arranged through Shack / Slum Dwellers International (SDI) alliance. Both FEDUP and the Brazilian savers are affiliated to SDI. The exchange visit was coordinated by Maria Eugenia Torrico, an academic and community organizer based in Cochabamba. She has been providing technical support to communities in both Cochabamba and the nearby mining town of Oruro that are mobilizing themselves to solve their own problems. The primary goal of the exchange, according to Torrico, was to see how the work already being done at the community level in Bolivia could fit into the grassroots-based, scalable methodologies of SDI affiliated federations throughout what has been called the Global South. In Chochabamba and Oruro, Torrico also brought a leader of a community in Oruro named Clotilde Lopez.
The visit began in Cochabamba, which Torrico described as the most developed city in the country, as well the most unequal. Half of the city’s residents live in informal dwellings, and only one fifth of the population has regular access to water. In 2000, Cochabamba was ground zero of what has been referred to as the “Water Wars.” The city has long struggled to provide proper water infrastructure for all its inhabitants. In 2000, based on a World Bank recommendation — some might say it was more an instruction rather than a recommendation — the Bolivian government moved to privatize the water supply. After violent protests, community leaders took over from a multinational company that had won the tender to run the city’s water supply. These leaders run the parastatal water company, SEMAPA, as a cooperative, but the water supply is still a big problem in the city. The poor can routinely pay up to ten times the price that the rich pay for water, as they are not connected to the formal water supply infrastructure.
The southern part of the city is entirely informal. And given the large numbers of people moving to Cochabamba — Torrico cited the growth of service jobs as a main factor for the city’s growth — the southern boundaries are encroaching northwards in the popular understanding of this border. Almost all of the land is privately-owned and much is designated for agriculture despite its evident lack of suitability for such purposes. Dust and rocks are omnipresent on the hilly landscape in this side of the city.
In the ninth district of Cochabamba, Irusta’s ComunidadMaria Auxiladora stands out amid the unfinished, relative mansions families receiving remittances from relatives who have emigrated are building in incremental fashion. One million people have emigrated since 2004, and remittances are a major part of the economic calculations made by many ordinary Bolivians. Remittances also have a strong effect on the social fabric of the country. On a public bus from Cochabamba to Oruro, I spoke with a man who complained bitterly about the “traitors” who go abroad to live as “slaves.” Torrico suggested to me that this is a not atypical view.
Irusta, along with her husband Margín, and a few other families, started Maria Auxiliadora in 1999 as a response to persistent domestic violence in their communities. They soon came to the conclusion that housing was a determining factor in the culture surrounding domestic violence. They began to buy land and form community associations around a traditional form of Bolivian communal savings called pasanaku. The leadership structure emphasizes gender as a key factor in community stability. Both the president and vice-president of the community must be women, and these positions must rotate. Eventually they started to build houses and also began to focus on servicing these stands. They secured an arrangement with local authorities by which the finance for these servicing projects was split equally between the community and the government.
Communal land ownership and leadership has been a mixed experience for the Maria Auxiliadora community. Because all of the land, houses, and infrastructure are under collective ownership of the community, they face particularly strong difficulties in securing credit for projects. Similarly, they have trouble accessing the benefits of government-run social programs. To get a government subsidy one also needs to secure a loan, which requires individually-owned assets. Though the national government is working on a new national housing policy, Maria Auxiliadora feels unrecognized in the deliberations. “Neither the central government nor the local government understands our proposal,” Irusta said. “So they just ignore us.” The regulations of the community include a ban on the sale of alcohol, and the transference of any property rights to women in the case of divorce. Every Sunday, the community works on a given project that they have prioritized and they hold a community assembly.
The community does not all live on the land that they have bought. Rosemary and Margín Bellot have still not moved to this area — they live in another informal house in the south side of Cochabamba. 248 families will eventually live on the plots of land purchased by the Maria Auxiliadora community, but they only move in a few at a time. In addition to community members themselves, two NGOs have also helped construct houses for the community.
As part of the exchange meeting, Nomvula Mahlangu of FEDUP emphasized the need for organizing daily savings collection schemes. Claudia Bento, a Brazilian saving scheme leader demonstrated how this is done in Brazil, and encouraged community members to take a look at the savings booklet developed with a support NGO called Interaçao. Community leaders seemed interested and excited by the possibilities of daily savings. After Ana Paula Barreto of Interaçao suggested that the community could start with an enumeration, Rosemary said that they had already conducted a census but had not yet processed their data.
Those from the community who attended the exchange meeting appeared excited when hearing about how SDI methodologies have worked in both Brazil and South Africa. Given the frustrations that the community has had in dealing with local authorities, Mahlangu’s description of the relationship that FEDUP has with the South African department of human settlements was particularly intriguing.
Elsewhere on the southern side of the city stands a 15-year-old government housing project called Calicanto. Of 600 houses developed by the government, only 300 are occupied. Half of these houses are occupied by renters. Torrico has been in touch with the secretary of gender in the community leadership structure concerning the possibility of conducting an enumeration. Though a government project, the houses are built on private land. The planning of the project appears to have been near non-existent. The only public space in the community is a cemetery.
A community called20 de Octubre epitomized the boomtown atmosphere of Cochamba’s southern region when we visited on 4 November. At least five different houses were being built as we walked up the steep hill on which the settlement rests. While we waited for a meeting with a group of women who have been working to improve their community, I wandered off to examine some of the ongoing construction. I spoke with Francisco Aguada who was building a house with the help of two friends. They had been working for the two past weeks He hoped to be done by the middle of November to move in with three of his cousins. Almost houses in informal settlements in Bolivia are built with cheap brick material. Aguada said that the cost for 1200 bricks was about 1450 Bolivianos (US$200).
The women who live in 20 de Octubre complain bitterly about sexism in the community. When Mahlangu mentioned to them the possibility of visiting South Africa one day as part of a future exchange, the Bolivian women responded with surprise. For them, they said, it is a challenge to convince their husbands to allow them to meet as a group down the hill, let alone halfway across the world.
These women save and pursue small community improvement projects with the support of a small group of nuns. These include putting up lights and building roads. On the latter project, the community managed to convince local authorities to provide the necessary machinery. They have legal status as a community-based organization, and have committees on health and female empowerment. Jordana Przybyl, a nun supporting the community who also lives there, suggested that the rapid growth of 20 de Octubre has not allowed for the kind of social fabric that would allow for communal responsibility for infrastructure there. “The first thing for us here is for women to leave the kitchen,” she said. Given the need for women empowerment, Mahlangu suggested that an exchange with the Maria Auxiliadora community could help provide an alternative example to these women.
5 November -- Oruro: Mobilizing for infrastructure, between the devil and the lord
The patron of the mines in Oruro is the devil. Given the traditional pre-eminence of mining as the raison d’être of the town, it is unsurprising that Oruro’s central traditional ritual carnival honors the devil. Though the decline of jobs in the mining industry due to automation has reduced the town’s population, those who remain have moved increasingly closer to the city. Urbanization is therefore a rapidly intensifying trend. It is here, Torrico’s hometown, that we encountered a strong set of women-led communities, already looking toward pursuing projects beyond the community level.
Clotilde Lopez’s community, known as Nuevos Horizontes, is made up of people who came from primarily rural areas about twenty years ago. Clotilde took over from a former president who had been considered ineffectual. She found out about a government program for upgrading poor communities. The national government contributed 70% and 30% came from municipal authorities. Each of the 144 families in the community now has its own toilet, as well as wash basins that are shared communally. The community, which had been saving, primarily based on the traditional pasanaku system, was able to contribute to building roads. This encouraged the government to service the site where this community resides. All the houses were built through individual savings as well, along with help from the Inter-American Development Bank.
The community of Taruma Juan Lechín, named after a hero of the mine workers, Nuevos Horizontes, and another community have worked together to build a community center inTaruma Juan Lechín that they all use. Most of the women present at the smaller Nuevos Horizontes meeting also attended the gathering at Taruma Juan Lechín. At a meeting of close to 100 people, punctuated by performances of traditional dance by community children, leaders shared their experiences and listened to those of the leaders from Brazil and South Africa. Here, community members had many questions about how SDI savings scheme function in practice.
Many examined the savings books from Brazil and South African. Though the South Africans required translation help, they were keen to share the insights. Sebastiana Camacho, age 72, has been living in Taruma Juan Lechín for the past seven years. “I want to learn their language to share with them,” she told me after the meeting. “Saving is very important. To save like this we will be able to achieve many things.
A third community, Urbanización de Aurora, is a prime example of the traditional practice of pasanaku. Similar to traditional savings schemes in many countries, such as stokvel in South Africa, this community saves weekly to spend on different priorities determined by the scheme in a given month. At the end of the year, all unspent funds revert to the donors. The group will give out small loans from the savings, and also participates in occasional exchanges with other pasanaku groups in the city.
Mahlangu told the members of the savings scheme in Urbanización de Aurora, called Grupo Femenino Virgen del Socavón, that the similarities with the traditional practice of stokvelsavings in South Africa was a promising base for more developed savings practices. “To me, this feels like South Africa, seeing what you are doing here, she said. The group appeared to have a keen understanding of savings, and engaged in a focused discussion about the technical aspects of savings as practiced by SDI-affiliated groups in both Brazil and South Africa.
The various community groups in Oruro that are led by women have begun organizing at the city level. Currently this seems to be more on the order of exchange rather than coordinating specific projects together. The Women Leaders of Oruro, as they are known, have gathered now for 12 years and include leaders from Nuevos Horizontes, Juan Lechín, andUrbanización de Aurora. Torrico has supported these exchange activities, and the group has registered and obtained legal status as a community-based organization. After meeting and dining with this group, the SDI visitors were treated to a performance of traditional Bolivian music performed by a talented group of young men who called themselves Grupo Sin Límites, the group without limits.
6 November -- La Paz: New bureaucrats and a new agenda for housing reform
The exchange in La Paz, the administrative capital of Bolivia, was not with communities, but was aimed at learning — and perhaps influencing — ongoing developments in the country’s housing policy. Instead the SDI group first met with representatives from the Foro Permanente de la Vivienda (FOPEVI) — Permanent Forum on Housing — to learn about an enduring convergence of community-based leaders, NGOs, academics, policy-makers and other stakeholders to develop a new housing policy for the country. The forum began in 1996.
“When we started we could not have dreamed that we would have a kind of president like Evo Morales,” said Annelise Melendez, a professional supporting the work of FOPEVI. The forum was initiated during a time when there was no proper policy about housing in Bolivia, according to Melendez. Houses were generally constructed in a self-managed process with little attention from the government, particularly at the central level. A key breakthrough for the forum came when they won their fight for the inclusion of the right to housing in the new constitution passed at the beginning of 2009. Now, Melendez said, FOPEVI is focused on developing ways that the government can implement the kind of policies that can breathe life into this new right.
The forum held a two-year series of meetings to develop a draft policy for the government to adopt. These are documented meticulously as an appendix to the draft policy that FOPEVI published with a wide dissemination strategy. This included paying for the placement of an abridged version in major newspapers. FOPEVI has also developed a Bolivian housing index to keep track of major indicators related to housing issues. For many of the involved CBOs, the key is to develop ways to empower women when it comes to housing. “Even with or without Evo Morales, women — and especially poor women — will face great difficulties. That is why we want a women’s movement,” said Paulina Laredo Vargas, one of the community leaders involved in the development of the FOPEVI draft housing policy.
Though the final public meeting of the exchange took place in the office of the vice-minister of housing, the vice-minister was not present. Instead, Alberto Calla Garcia, the director general of housing in the national government, chaired the meeting. Calla Garcia had previously been an academic architect who had worked closely with Torrico and others through FOPEVI. Now that the right to housing has been passed, he said, the real work has begun. He emphasized his interest in continuing a participatory process of policy development and implementation that would include consultation through FOPEVI, NGOs and academic institutions. The important thing, he said, is that policies must come from the bottom upwards.
The key aspects of the housing policy, now in its technical and implementation phases, were what he described as: sovereignty, land, economy and jobs, technical assistance, technology, and research. He noted that an issue will be contending with the role of market forces in housing, and is looking at the possibility of developing a government land bank and creative sources for housing finance. Though the country faces an official housing backlog of 300,000 units, he described the current outlook as “favorable”: “We have cooperation from the people. This policy came from the people and not the government. We are also in a time of change. Peaceful change,” he said, referring to the perceived quiet revolution of the Morales presidency. “There is a political will to fulfill this policy … It is the character of our country. We have a long history of very strong social movements.”
He also referred to “international synergy” on the development of housing policy. He participated in an international workshop on housing policy the week prior to our visit and has a relationship with Cid Blanco of the Brazilian government. He was clearly interested and at least somewhat aware already of SDI’s work. He kept his attentive staff in the meeting beyond 5 pm, when the rest of the government office building had begun closing down. He was keen to exchange contact details and defer incoming calls as the meeting progressed and leaders from Brazilian and South African federations shared their experiences, particularly regarding partnerships with governments in the respective countries.
Later that evening, as the delegates from Brazil and South Africa prepared to depart for Brazil, Torrico asked that everyone join in for a feedback session on the exchange. Barreto said she was impressed by the good networks that already appear to exist within communities, particularly in Oruro, and between communities and government. According to Torrico, the meeting with Calla Garcia and his staff in the department of housing was fruitful in that it opened up space for Torrico to submit additional proposals for the housing policy currently under development. This room, she said, could allow for the development of regular working group meetings between various stakeholders and the national government around housing policy and its implementation. All agreed that documentation of these engagements, as well as engagements within and between communities would be a key aspect of promoting the development of SDI-type methodologies in Bolivia.
When Kwanele Sibanda, from the support NGO called Community Organization Resource Centre in South Africa, suggested that Torrico could consider registering as a legal NGO in order to obtain additional funds that might not otherwise be available for her work, she responded that she needs to clarify this issue on two levels. Sibanda said that the communities, particularly the more developed savings and self-help schemes in Oruro could serve as an initial board to manage such an NGO. Most importantly for her is the need for such a move to emanate from the priorities determined by the communities that she is supporting. She has been working on a voluntary basis, and described her own trepidation about approaching communities as a full-fledged NGO. Furthermore, she wants to discuss this issue further with SDI, as both sides evaluate the progress of the work ongoing in Bolivia.
Torrico said that though she was currently unsure which groups most needed her support from a constructive standpoint, this visit had allowed her to decide which groups she would avoid. This is particularly the case for the community of Maria Auxiliadora, which has a questionable leadership structure and development plan. In terms of encouraging savings schemes more along the lines of the SDI methodology, she intends to focus on developing the roles of treasurers in the communities in which she works. In terms of her support role, she said that she most wants to help facilitate exchanges between communities at the city and national level, as well as initiating enumerations within given communities.
The work taking place in Bolivia goes beyond isolated traditional savings schemes. In Oruro, a strong group of women has joined together to begin working at the city level. There, the women were particularly interested in the kinds of experiences the delegates from Brazil and South Africa could related about working in such a way. Networks already exist to partner with different stakeholders, including at least some senior government officials. The goal will be to figure out ways for linked communities to develop concrete, actionable priorities, mobilize around their own resources, and leverage additional support for these priorities from the greater network of housing stakeholders. It is a story that is ongoing throughout the SDI network. In Bolivia, there is great promise for communities to take the lead, at scalable levels, in a unique political moment.
Part II -- Brazil: Samba and Savings
Though the primary focus of the exchange in early November was to support and learn from the Bolivian process, the South Africans spent another full day in two different settlements near Sao Paulo. A large meeting in Osasco brought together a number of neighboring communities. The meeting took place in a brand new community center that has not even been officially opened. The center is part of a large government housing development that was leveraged through saving schemes in the settlement. The development will house 600 families in double storey units, and 242 of these families are active savers.
The government attention to the settlement was not always forthcoming, said Alex Sandro Moraes Da Silva, a leader in the Osasco community. “It’s not because our president flew over our city and said, ‘Oh, let’s work in that community.’” Rather, the community was able to get the city government to commit matching funds for community savings to begin funding the development. Later, the authorities ratcheted up their investment further. The multi-storey design was initiated by the municipality. “There was an architect design,” said Ana Claudia Rossbach, director of Interaçao. “It was discussed with [the community], but it was a professional design.”
In his speech to the assembled, community member Gillson Santos referred often to actions initiated by the NGO. “The proposal that the NGO came with was for us to organize around savings and enumeration,” he said. Though clearly proud of the achievements of his community in Osasco, he referred often to NGO-driven mobilization strategies, even if they ultimately centered on community participation and leadership.
Moraes Da Silva implicitly addressed this point in his remarks. “We have to learn how to say what we want and not just let government decide for us,” he said. He cautioned that once community members were in a house their work did not end. This has already been an issue. Once the community realized that they did not need to use their savings to build the actual houses — the government had agreed to subsidize the construction and services on a given site — it decided to use savings to finish the walls and extend the houses. Mahlangu shared the South African experience of working with government through what is called the People’s Housing Process, as a means of comparing the work going on in the two countries.
Though not all communities in attendance had savings schemes, much of the meeting was used to discuss problems that they have within the savings schemes. Two women treasurers from a savings scheme in the community of Jardim Aliança told of being defrauded by the one male treasurer in their scheme. Savings scheme leaders also promoted the use of Interaçao-branded savings scheme booklets. The common logo, they argued identifies groups in the states of Sao Paulo and Penambuco as being part of the same drive towards federation at the national level.
The day ended with an unplanned visit to Vila Real. The delegates from South Africa already knew a couple community members as both Inés Ferreira and Claudia Bento, who traveled to Bolivia, live there. The invitation was so unusual that it seemed to surprise the staff of Interaçao. Nevertheless, the otherwise-exhausted South African delegates accepted the invitation with great enthusiasm.
The community in Vila Real is highly organized. Savings schemes there began in 2005, and community members have managed to use their own savings to convince the government to expand a mooted project for development of roads and other infastructure. They are also using savings to build and upgrade their houses. Eli Santana, a treasurer for a savings scheme in Vila Real, said that the strategy goes beyond housing. “We are not just a savings group. We are working with all of the problems in the community. And that allows us to bring these problems to the municipality,” she said. The savers in Vila Real have gone a number of exchanges to other places in both states of Sao Paulo and Penambuco and are one of the key groups pushing towards federation at the national level.
The visit to Vila Real was undoubtedly a highlight in the personal experience of the trip for everyone. The South African delegates remarked that they wished the visit had been planned so that we could have stayed with the community that night, generally a highly instructive aspect of SDI exchange. Visits to the many pagode (a style of samba music) bars, races through the streets, chats with community members, a feast of traditional Brazilian food, and sharing of dances and songs between the South Africans and Brazilians capped off the final night of the exchange.