Uganda´s Slum Aid Project Speak to Us…

POSTED BY Ruban Selvanayagam, October 17th 2011

With a high per capita growth rates, Uganda is another example of an African nation that is assisting in elevating the continent to new economic realms.  Yet, as is a common story throughout the region, the separation between the haves and have nots continues to show no signs of mergence.  The severity of poverty is well reflected in the country´s housing conditions in the form of a lack of even the most basic forms of shelter for significant proportion of the population combined with no cohesive solutions and a seeming disinterest in achieving progress by those in power.  Please see a brief interview below with Kabanda Agnes from the Slum Aid Project where we discussed some of the core issues:

(1) What is the Slum Aid Project? Slum Aid Project (SAP) is a national NGO whose main target is to work for the improvement of the lives and livelihoods of slum communities in Uganda.  SAP has been in existence for 16 years during which period it has been able to acquire a degree of understanding of the social dynamics in the slum communities.  Given the increasing complexity and magnitude of slum conditions in the country, SAP has recently readjusted and sharpened its focus and interventions.  While still committed to its interest in improving the lives of slum dwellers, our revised focus aims at ensuring that many other like-minded organisations and actors in slums emerge and are helped to acquire the necessary skills, competencies, attitudes and knowledge to enable them effectively support slum dwellers in improving their livelihoods.

(2) Uganda’s economy is forming part of what many international commentators see as a ‘new face of Africa’ – do you feel that wealth is being distributed more amongst the poor? Despite the economic success that Uganda has been experiencing in recent times, I honestly do not see the poor benefiting in any way.  Our people in the slums remain in inhumane conditions without any real solutions being provided that can truly meet their needs.  As in much of Africa for many years, it is the elite that are benefitting from the wealth – the poor, on the other hand, continue to be left out and slums remain the home of disease, crime and other social ills such as prostitution.  Many slum dwellers are eating a maximum of 2 small meals a day; children are malnourished and HIV remains a serious problem.  Parents cannot afford US $ 2 (every 3 months) to buy food for their children while at school so many remain at home or need to work.  Although awareness of the core issues is increasing, very little progress is being made and the menace of ongoing rapid slum growth is very strong.

(3) Do you see that the Ugandan government is taking decisive action with regards to the slums? There have long been ‘great plans’ proposed by the government but the large majority have not even been implemented.  Corruption is one of the major issues in Uganda and much of the wealth that the country has benefitted from has not been distributed in the way it should have been.  In the rural areas as well, in spite of the government’s promises of better standards of living for people, life has changed very little.

(4) What are your thoughts about the Cities Without Slums (CWS) programme? I have heard of the CWS coming to Kampala and positively welcome the initiative – however, the major issue that I see is that many slum residents depend on the city (through petty work) and, if relocated to the peripheries, they are likely to be unemployed nor have access to the same services as compared to what are found in urban areas.  This was the case by projects created in Mukono by the Habitat for Humanity organisation – many of the residents ended up abandoning these homes and returning to the slums as they were unable to survive financially.

(5) Do you feel that there is a strong relationship between NGOs such as the Slum Aid Project and the government authorities? From our own perspective, whilst we do collaborate with the local government in some aspects of our work on a ground level – the support and cooperation we receive on a wider scale are insufficient.

(6) Does the government communicate with those living in slums and understand their needs? Today, people living in the slum areas can now speak out which was not the case before – the government indeed knows the problems of people living in poor housing but the lack of action is always blamed on a ‘lack of resources’. All is not negative however: recently, for example, the government opened up a big hospital in one of our project slums in Kisenyi – for us, this was great news considering the massive hurdles that slum dwellers have in accessing adequate health care and essential medicines.

(7) One of the main factors facing many African cities is the issue of expansion and removing of slum communities (evictions) – such as on centrally located land which has high values which is used for construction.  Do you think that the government is doing enough to protect those that are being evicted? Yes, evictions still remain commonplace and there is often little or no help for those affected.  It is one of the unfortunate consequences of economic growth in our cities where profits almost always surpass the needs of the poor living in slums. The government is clearly not doing enough to protect those being evicted as they are often involved in the process themselves.  Indeed, some of the plots are being acquired by corrupt government officials.

(8) One of the core issues of improving lives for people living in slums is via income generational activity – can you talk through some of the programmes that are happening in the slums your organisation are involved with? One of our main focuses is to help slum dwellers engage in income generating activities – including training programmes aimed at young women within in-demand vocational work such as hairdressing and sewing.  Small credit is also being accessed by our women through a SAP established microcredit office we now have, spearheaded by one of our own legal experts – this has enabled many of them to have their own market stalls and build their income streams successfully.

(9) What do you think are the main infrastructure reforms that need to be undertaken in relation to the high level of urbanisation that cities like Kampala are experiencing? The major issues that I view are the construction of modern habitable houses; drastically improving infrastructure such as drainage; garbage management measures; school / health centres whilst equipping them the necessary materials; vocational / practical training centres; social services and children’s recreational centres to name a few.

Categories: Base of the Pyramid Housing, Bottom of the Pyramid Housing, Global Affordable Housing, Low Income Housing

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  1. […] districts, amenities and essential infrastructure.  As was highlighted in an interview with Kabanda Agnes from the Slum Aid Project in Uganda, a development created by Habitat for Humanity became abandoned due to residents being unable to […]

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