Friday, 31 August 2012

Empowering slum communities to attain clean and healthy living environments: Kibumbiro Zone Day

Imagine a community where individuals are aware of their roles and responsibilities in preserving and protecting their living environment and those who excel are rewarded with cash prizes. This is no longer just an idea nor a thought but a best practice in Kibumbiro Zone a slum community in Busega Parish, Rubaga Division of Kampala. One will have to think twice before littering in this Zone following a resolution by the local community members to impose a fine to whoever is caught carelessly dumping and sprawling garbage. On the other hand households and individuals who excel in keeping their homes and surroundings clean will be rewarded with cash prizes of not less than 500,000/=.

This was at the launch of a monthly clean up and sensitization exercise facilitated by Shelter and Settlements Alternatives; Uganda Human Settlements Network (SSA-UHSNET) a network comprised of civil society organizations, communities, individuals, and private sector stakeholders working together with the main purpose of lobbying, advocating and sharing information for better policies, programs and practices towards sustainable improvement of human settlements in Uganda.

 The event drew participants from all circles of life including the taxi and boda-boda operators, local leaders, heads of households, business persons, Rubaga Division leaders, officials from Kampala City Yange Program and the Secretariat of Shelter and and Settlements Alternatives; Uganda Human Settlements Network (SSA-UHSNET) to mention but a few. The area LC Chairperson Hajj. Kimera Mohammed introduced the teams that will keep the initiative alive in the area and cautioned all residents to be wary of indiscriminate garbage disposal. He explained that SSA-UHSNET not only did it fund the whole initiative but also provided all the equipments necessary for cleaning in addition to purchasing a mobile public address system to help in community mobilization efforts. Among the equipments are wheel barrows, hoes, spades, gloves, rakes, pick axes, gum boots, brooms and reflector jackets among others. Samona Products (U) Ltd a leading manufacturer of herbal cosmetics, skin care and personal care products in Uganda also donated waist reflector jackets to aid in the cleaning exercise.

The Network hopes that this campaign will give the slum communities a unique identity through promotion of volunteerism and establishment of interactive sensitization campaigns for the slum dwellers. The campaign’s slogan states thus; “Towards improved conditions of Slum dwellers: You have a right to a clean and healthy environment.” Through such exercises, the Network engages with community members, Local Council leaders, local government and City Authorities, drawing attention to both communities’ right to a clean and healthy environment, whilst emphasizing individual roles and responsibilities in preserving and protecting their environment.

The exercise was witnessed and attended by Mr. Allan Kajoro the Community Liaison Officer for Kampala City Yange, a series of monthly on-going social themes through which each Kampala City stakeholder can have a chance to participate in being a part of the solution based on their passion and skill set in resonance with a specific community need in and around Kampala. In his sensitization message he explained that KCCA had to take another key step of blowing the dust off the Solid Waste Management Ordinance 2009 and prosecuting some offenders. The Ordinance requires, among other things, that the party that generates garbage (the garbage generator) is responsible for its final disposal.

While officiating at the same event, Mr. Luyimbazi James, the Town Clerk for Rubaga Division expressed his appreciation to SSA-UHNSET for funding the initiative. Despite being in office for a few weeks, he was instrumental in securing garbage trucks to collect and dispose garbage that was cleaned that day. Mr. James endorsed the initiative of rewarding best performing households and promised to link the initiative to Health Inspectors at the Division. He suggested that those caught littering and sprawling garbage all over the area should always be fined and asked to do community service. The Town Clerk was flanked by the Assistant Supervisor of Solid Wastes in Rubaga Division Mr. Ssalongo Kagimu who promised to prioritize timely garbage collection from collection points at a tip of a phone call.

Despite the efforts of the Network, there is still a lot of garbage in slums, which gets mixed up with human waste during the rainy season and ends up in spring wells, most of which are contaminated and also the failure to sort garbage that is not biodegradable, like plastic, from organic waste. However it is worth noting that this initiative is a great platform not only for promoting SSA-UHSNET’s agenda of improving the conditions of slum dwellers but also contributing to the identification of issues, problems and challenges in human shelter and settlements within the context of the community and their resolution to promote sustainable and equitable human development to actively participate in taking care of their living environment.

Hardly can such an event go without something worth home writing about. Moments into the sensitization meeting after the clean up exercise, community members were thrilled when it all dawned on one a taxi driver who was handed over to the community after being caught red handed littering yellow banana peelings after a cleanup exercise. He was forgiven on grounds that he was absent when the resolution was passed and was also the first culprit however this could not deter the giving of a cash reward of 50,000/= over to his accuser.

Reporting by Agaba Martin Program Assistant Shelter and Settlements Alternatives; Uganda Human Settlements Network (SSA-UHSNET)

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Cleaning Busega With Love

Cleaning Busega with Love!

The Uganda Human Settlements Network launches a community clean up and sensitization drive in slum communities
Not even the early morning rain could halt the much anticipated launch of the community clean up and sensitization drive on the 28th of July 2012 in Busega Central C Zone. What started as an idea at the Uganda Human Settlements Network Secretariat in Bukoto would later culminate into one of the memorable days in a slum community deep in the outskirts of Kampala city. Others will always remember it as a day their woes of clogged smelly and dirty drainage channels were opened and cleaned, to others it is a day that they met their leaders headed by the Mayor of Rubaga Division her worship Joyce Ssebugwawo. Still to others it was a day crowned with reflections of having a right to a clean and healthy environment, whilst emphasizing individual roles and responsibilities in preserving and protecting their environment and the general feeling that their conditions as slum dwellers could be improved.
Some of the cleaning equipment that was delivered by SSA-UHSNET
As early as 6.00 am SSA-UHSNET dispatched its team that included the Program Officer, Program Assistant and the Mzungu Intern who would later come to terms with curious eyes of the little ones in Busega. “Mzungu, mzungu bye bye…” they shouted in chorus. The SSA-UHSNET team delivered equipment worth 2.5 million that included wheel barrows, hoes, spades, gloves, rakes, pick axes, gum boots, brooms, reflector jackets and a portable public address system that had been earlier delivered to alert the community about the impending “bulungi bwansi.” The rest of the Secretariat crew headed by the Executive director Ms. Dorothy Baziwe accompanied by the chairperson of the Water and Sanitation Working group Mr. Ssebunya Kiiza joined the activity in the wee hours of the morning. The artistically designed day’s banner said it all: The day’s theme ran thus: Community Clean up and sensitization exercise; “Towards improved conditions of Slum dwellers: You have a right to a clean and healthy environment.” Indeed it was a beautiful piece of art with captions of people doing the real work.
The days theme displayed on the banner
The long wait that had started with the preparatory activities spearheaded by the steering committee headed by the LC II chairperson Mr. Kimera Mohamed soon came to an end as each resident scrambled to get hold of an equipment to use. Heaps of hoes, spades, rakes, gumboots, among other materials were reduced to nothing and residents descended upon the garbage and the filth in the drainage channels. News of the activity spread like wild fire, in a few moments boda-boda riders abandoned their rides, equally the shopkeepers temporarily went on a selling strike, to sum it all, both the young and old, men and women, leader and the led, small and big inflicted pain on any cleaning equipment they could lay their hands on.
Residents take part in the exercise
What seemed to be pools of dirty water started snaking its way through a sparkling clean drainage channel. Heaps of garbage and rubbish were brought next to the road awaiting a garbage truck. Beads of sweat started forming on participants’ foreheads a proof that some great work had been done. The day would not go without something to write home about as the Parish councilor contestants worked hard and harder to outclass their competitors vying for the same seat that fell vacant with the sudden demise of the former parish councilor. What an opportune moment to spot the best contestant!
Parish Councilor contestants on duty!
By 11.30 am the Zone was sparkling fresh and clean, the beats of the drum were changed with the public announcer urging people to gather for a sensitization meeting. One by one, the participants who neither had any trace of tiredness nor remorse for the great service they had rendered to the community, gathered and attentively listened to one speaker after another starting from the hosting Local Council One Chairperson Mr. Ssalongo Kyambadde and each of the contestants was given a chance to greet the people and address the issues related to the days proceedings. A team from the famous Kampala City Yange; a series of monthly on-going social themes through which each Kampala City stakeholder can have a chance to participate in being a part of the solution based on their passion and skill set in resonance with a specific community need in and around Kampala was at hand to witness the success that the Uganda Human Settlements Network had registered.
The Uganda Human Settlements Network secretariat Team
News that her worship the Mayor of the Division was on her way changed the rhythm of the meeting, the dull and long faces beamed up with wide cheers and a standing ovation that was accompanied with the National Anthem and as usual the Landlord’s (Buganda) anthem. I could clearly see that her presence meant a lot to her electorates judging from the warm reception she got. Each speaker echoed words of wisdom as regards water and sanitation in the area, the quest for public toilets, garbage trucks and a health centre took center stage among other community needs.
Her worship the Mayor of Rubaga addresses the people
Speaker after speaker thanked “Shelter” for having made the day possible. The mayor expressed her gratefulness to SSA and pledged to work together with all those who are ready and willing to. Her stern warning to those who dispose their waste matter improperly and those who intentionally dump wastes in the drainage channels could not be under looked. She declared a crackdown on those who build houses that do not have toilet/latrine facilities but offered a grace period of three months. The day was crowned with a question and answer session with residents directly posing questions to their leaders. The camera shutters later had a field day as residents curved around their mayor and the SSA-UHSNET team for a group photo. 
The mayor (center) and her team from Rubaga Division, KCCA Kampala City Yange team, SSA-UHSNET team, Local Leaders of Busega and the community pose for a group photo