Kawama Housing Project

Jinja was the former industrial hub of the country, but much of its economic base collapsed in the 1970s and the town was left with widespread unemployment and poverty. In 2002, visitors from Slum Dwellers International federations in Kenya, South Africa, and India met with Jinja slum dwellers. With the input of the SDI visitors, the Jinja residents were able to synthesize their concerns and ideas with those brought by SDI and they began to envision ways in which an organized federation could address the needs they saw in their own community. Soon after, they began working to establish a Ugandan federation of community savings schemes.

From its founding in 2002, the inaugural Mpumudde savings scheme has grown tremendously in size and strength. Today it boasts 246 members and meets at least once per week to save and discuss matters of concern to residents. It has also become the first savings scheme to embark upon a full-fledged housing project.

The House Modeling Phase

During this phase, the community constructed small models of the houses they envisaged themselves living in. This exercise was instrumental in generating dialogue concerning design, construction materials, and costs. The Mpummude residents started with large, luxurious, multi-storey homes and over the course of the modeling project stripped these down as practical concerns were discussed.

These designs were then replicated in life size models at a large, open-air exhibition on the Kawama site in June, 2010 (shown above). Around 1,500 federation members from across the continent attended the exhibition as well as housing ministers and other dignitaries from the East Africa region. Such exhibitions provide an opportunity for the urban poor to enter into dialogue with professionals about construction materials, construction costs and urban services.

Learning-by-Doing Begins

Community-to-community exchanges with the Tanzanian federation exposed the Ugandan community members to the interlocking brick technology and it was decided this approach would be well-suited to the Kawama housing project. Ugandan federation members traveled to the Chamazi site in Tanzania in July 2008 to receive training in the methods and returned certified in low-cost building techniques.

These skills have now been passed on to members throughout the Ugandan federation as the initial students have become the teachers and reproduced the training they received in Tanzania.

The Ugandan federation also used the Laadi building method to keep costs down. This technique was introduced to the East African federations during exchanges with the Indian federation, who began using the technique in the mid-1980s. In contrast to a traditional slab construction, Laadis are pre-fabricated concrete shells, about 30-inches square, which require a minimal amount of concrete and no shuttering.

Click here to read more about laadi-making on the Kawama site.


Today, one block of six units is nearly complete at the Kawama site and the members have begun to move in.

Plans for a block of thirty units have been drawn up and the ground prepared for construction. Federation members have begun to move into their new homes on the Kawama site.

Members Move Into Their New Homes

Clement Muhwana, who joined the Uganda Slum Dwellers Federation in April 2002, was the first to move into the new homes on the Kawama site. Clement says, “I joined Kawama because I wanted to move from a slum to a better place.”

Whilst showing us around his new house Clement told us, “Right now I’m, so pleased! I’m so pleased. I no longer move about looking for work. I am even working where I am sleeping. I am so pleased and I encourage all my fellow members to have the same spirit and work hard to reach the stage that I have reached.”