Mapping Namatala Settlement in Mbale: A Learning-by-Doing Exercise.


“We want to be recognized as citizens!”

The residents of Namatala settlement carried out a mapping exercise between the 16th and 25th of September, 2010. The exercise involved the mapping of all structures in the settlement that have been classified into 6 cells/zones namely, Somero, Nyanza, Wandawa, Doko, Muvule, Sisye. All structures in these cells were measured and each structure was given a number.

The mapping of informal settlements is a key ritual of Slum Dwellers International and it has been used as an important strategy to enhance the recognition of slum dwellers by governments in countries throughout the SDI network from India, to the Philippines, to Kenya and South Africa. The findings constitute a key instrument for slum dwellers in their negotiations for secure tenure, adequate housing, basic infrastructure and other social services.

During such activities, slum dwellers are encouraged to work with their governments, local leaders and universities. This was the case in the Namataala mapping exercise. Such cooperation helps the communities to expose government officials and others to the conditions in which they live and have them endorse the community-generated maps. Such endorsement is critical as it constitutes official recognition of the existence of informal settlements.

Officials from the Ministry of Lands Housing and Urban Development and Mbale Municipal Council were very supportive during the process of mapping the Namataala settlement. They appreciated the fact that the communities were taking initiative promised to support the replication of such processes in other settlements in Mbale and across Uganda.

The ritual of exchange was not lost during this exercise as federation members from India traveled all the way to Uganda to share their experiences in mapping. The visitors were from the slum of Dharavi and had much to share about their experiences successfully mapping the world’s second biggest slum. The Government of India has responded positively to this development and is gradually addressing the needs of slum dwellers by affording them security of tenure and identifying land for slum dwellers to construct their own houses. Similar processes are also underway for thousands of slum dwellers living in the airport slums of Mumbai.

Apart from marking Namataala’s existence on Uganda’s map and safeguarding residents against any illegal eviction, the verified and endorsed map will help the people make a case for specific services and facilities and claim their rights as citizens of Uganda.

The learning-by-doing process was clearly observed. Being the first initiative of its kind in Mbale, the team did not know much about mapping at the beginning, but their lack of knowledge did not hinder their eagerness to learn. One lady shared her excitement, “ I thought this activity was for the graduates! Just to find out that even I, who stopped in P.2, can read a tape measure!” The community members who participated will now teach their fellow slum dwellers across Uganda the skills they learned and assist them in their own mapping endeavors.

The sketch map produced by the community is now being digitized by the ACTogether team. The map will show the housing structures, social services and other physical features in Namatala. ACTogether believes that this will help inform many development interventions planned for Namatala in the future as well as safeguarding the area against any illegal evictions that are bound to occur in areas where there is no formal mapping. Plans for more mapping exercises are underway as part of the Cities Alliance program 2011.


By  Hellen and Phiona

ACTogether Uganda