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)

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