Federation profiling has revealed time and again that sanitation improvement is a top priority for the urban poor in Uganda. The recent Kampala city-wide profile conducted by ACTogether and the NSDFU revealed the following ongoing challenges with open defecation and the “bucket system” (using a bucket in the house for defecation and dumping it outside).
Some of the constructed toilet facilities.
Sanitation in slums is complicated by high density and haphazard planning, complicated land ownership and local politics, environmental challenges of groundwater quality and flooding in low-lying areas. Enumerations also revealed that the main challenges related to sanitation include: toilet ownership complicated by landlord-tenant relations, limited local capacity to safely empty and repair pit latrines, lack of disabled accessibility, and lack of gender-specific toilets.
ACTogether Uganda and the NSDFU are committed to addressing the immediate and pressing need for improved sanitation in Uganda’s slums and have constructed sanitation units throughout Kampala and 5 other municipalities. Several of these units have incorporated second-floor community halls and have successfully experimented with new construction techniques and community contracting. Our experiences have shown that communities are willing and able to participate in the process of construction and management of improved sanitation units.
We believe that the only sustainable way to keep sanitation activities and facilities affordable and accessible to ensure long-term use and maintenance is to adopt a strategy that is initiated and driven by the local community. Our process begins with enumerations that identify the need for sanitation and act as a base for planning interventions in communities that prioritize sanitation. Local savings and skills are used to leverage limited resources and outside support. The Federation then assists in government negotiations to secure project approval and land tenure. ACTogether provides necessary technical assistance in the design of sanitation units, sourcing additional funds and loans, and training in financial and physical maintenance.
When the project is initiated, a Project Management Committee is created from local community members and trained by the Federation to oversee the construction and management process. The community is engaged throughout the process from initiation to long-term maintenance to ensure that the outcome meets local needs and expectations and to cultivate a sense of ownership that protects against vandalism and sustains long-term use and maintenance.
Actively incorporating the community takes advantage of local skills and networks to empower the urban poor to solve their problems themselves. It shifts some of the responsibility from an overburdened central government that has struggled to find land and money for upgrading projects, profile slums accurately, enforce sanitation regulations in slums, and manage public facilities. This changes the dynamic of the relationship between the government and the urban poor by encouraging collaboration and mutual respect and combining the strengths of both the local communities and the government to collectively work towards improving the city’s sanitation.
ACTogether and the NSDFU are constantly learning from the successes and failures of our past projects and reaching out to national and international partners to gather ideas and knowledge on how to best improve sanitation in a manner that is affordable and effective for the urban poor. Already, we have improved the system of PMCs, affordability of the unit design, and negotiations with government and partners for securing land and project approval.