Savings and Credit

ACTogether encourages and supports urban poor communities to get organized around Savings and Loans schemes. Members can save for building a house, securing tenure, implementing a development project in to improve their living environment, or for their own individual purposes. According to ACTogether’s approach, the loan proposal, proposal vetting, loan sanctioning and daily savings collections are the community savings groups’ entire responsibility. It also allows the community to look upon the money as their own and grow in confidence as they learn how to manage their own funds and operate their own savings and loans system. These are usually organized in a very decentralized manner to maximize people’s participation.

Housing Construction and Modeling

ACTogether helps slum dwellers design housing and infrastructural facilities in ways that best respond to their needs and financial capacities. House model exhibitions are large, open-air events attended by housing professionals and members from the government. Slum dweller communities gather and show real-size house models which they have designed and constructed for themselves. Such exhibitions allow the poor to discuss and debate-housing designs best suited to their needs. It also allows them to enter into dialogue with professionals about construction materials, construction costs and urban services. Slum dwellers have always been the architects and engineers of their settlements. In many cities, local governments are now beginning to see that the urban poor can play a significant role in creating housing stock for low-income communities.

Enumerations and Mapping

ACTogether promotes information as a powerful tool and asset for the urban poor. With knowledge and information concerning their settlement and living environment, the slum dwellers develop a strong tool for negotiation with the local authorities. The methods used by ACTogether Uganda to gather information on slums are all based on slum dweller community participation. They are the ones to conduct enumeration and mapping of their settlements, to count the services available in and around the slum, to define the status of land tenure, tenancy ratios and government structures. Communities receive support from ACTogether, other slum dweller communities in the Ugandan Federation, and fellow SDI members from abroad. As such, collecting information is also a means to build the capacities of slum dwellers.

Exchanges

The most important vehicle for community learning is through the direct exchange of information, experience and skills between the urban poor communities themselves. As part of the learning and training process for community-led slum upgrading, ACTogether organizes exchange visits and events between the different savings groups at city scale, national scale, and at international scale in partnership with other Slum Dwellers Federations from overseas countries affiliated to the Slum Dwellers International network.These exchanges also help to spread knowledge about how urban poor groups can take up initiatives to improve their living environment themselves. It is also an important mean to strengthen the federation process that joins together the different savings groups, and to support a continuous learning cycle among its member groups.

Health and Hygiene

Health is a basic right of every individual and ACTogether Uganda seeks to promote healthy living by forming health and hygiene committees in slum settlements. Members engage in internal and international exchanges to share information on HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and water and sanitation issues among others. Such exchanges stimulate health and hygiene campaigns in Uganda’s Federation. The federation also composes songs with messages promoting healthy environments, positive living, and collective social responsibilities. The interaction of health and hygiene issues with Federation activities has enhanced greatly the spirit of settlement-wide savings as the schemes mobilize around the such issues. Members have also formed sanitation committees that assign community members special days for cleaning their respective settlements.

Negotiations and Security of Tenure

ACTogether works to facilitate and support grassroots-led advocacy efforts aimed at building a strong, self-reliant Federation of Urban Poor capable of negotiating effectively at all levels of government. Poverty is a multi-faceted phenomenon: it not only involves a lack of income, but also an unstable asset base, inadequate shelter, public infrastructure, and basic services. The project aims to help slum dwellers improve their housing quality, secure tenure, improve access to basic infrastructure and services (sufficient and adequate water supply, sanitation, waste collection, drainage, access to health and educational facilities), secure their rights as citizens (including an official address, an ID and a passport, the right to vote, police and emergency services operating in their neighborhood, etc.), and eradicate exclusion and discrimination practices.

Income Generation Activities

ACTogether supports and encourages group initiatives aimed at improving community living conditions. Community groups are managing to support and sustain small businesses, such as selling cloths, poultry keeping, goat rearing, bricklaying, mushroom growing, plastic recycling, and candle and soap making. These initiatives increase group savings and provide employment to group members. Many of the communities supported by ACTogether benefited from the Government’s National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) program where communities received chickens, broilers, and layers as seed capital to boost their income levels. Exchange visits provide a tremendous opportunity for communities to share lessons and ideas on how to improve their income generating activities and stimulate innovative income generating activities in different communities.

Suubi and Loaning

As the Ugandan Federation grows in size and confidence, the need for finances to support community group initiatives becomes more eminent. ACTogether, SDI, and the Lutheran World Federation worked together to start a Ugandan Urban Poor Fund – called the Suubi Development Initiative. The Fund, which is managed by representatives of the savings groups, was formulated in accordance with the experience of other SDI urban poor funds, but tailored to fit the Ugandan context. Federation members commit a non-refundable amount of money that helps build the fund. “We are setting up the fund in the same five towns where the government facility is targeted in order to build slum dweller capacities to draw down resources for their development”, said Sarah Ibanda, CEO of ACTogether. When organized member communities contribute to such a fund, it is hoped that they can attract additional funds from outside sources like governments, donors and the private sector. Indeed, the Ugandan Government has already promised to contribute to the fund through the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development. These funds can then be given out as loans to federation members to build houses, start businesses, buy land, and install services.