Dr Robinah Kulabako of Makerere University describes the research work of T-GroUP – one of five projects in the UPGro (Unlocking the Potential of Groundwater for the Poor) and her work on Transition Management to trigger community action to improve access to safe water.
At the end of October 2018 the local transition team in Kampala has been very active organizing three ‘agenda setting’ transition arena meetings with participants from multiple communities (such as Makerere, Mukubira, Bwaise and Kawaala) in informal settlements in Kampala. The meetings aimed at supporting participants to develop short, medium and long term actions that would address the already identified local problems.
The local transition teams started the arena meetings by sharing some of the most important insights from previous meetings such as the vision narratives previously developed by the participants. The back-casting methodology was then used to support the participants to identify short, medium and long term actions.
The majority of the short-term actions developed by the participants were associated to educational and awareness raising activities related to water, sanitation and waste management. Some groups of participants discussed how to teach community members correct hygiene practices, proper construction of toilet facilities and practices of maintenance and protection of water sources. In one of the groups in Makerere and Mukubira zones, participants discussed to run a water harvesting plan at household level and to start lobbying with institutions like KCCA and NWSC to increase sensitization activities at community level related to water and sanitation best practices.
During the meeting with participants from Makerere and Mukubira zones, one of the developed long term actions consisted of creating a rewarding system for individuals who would carry on good practices in protecting and preserving water sources.
Other major actions developed in all organized meetings were related to ensure the enforcement of laws related to water, waste and sanitation management. In Bwaise, for example, the implementation of fines related to poor toilet usage and construction were discussed.
Additionally, participants in all areas spoke about the importance of mobilizing community members and setting up active groups aiming to carry on sensitization activities and to ensure the maintenance of services over time. For example, in Makerere and Mukubira zones, one group of participants would like to form a water committee, while in Bwaise zone the group of participants focusing on the problem of sanitation had the idea to form community led groups to prevent unplanned toilet construction.
Other important actions included the creation of Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs) for supporting the local circular economy by producing products from waste materials.
The results of the ‘agenda setting’ arena meetings show that the implementation of facilities and services alone do not contribute to solve local water, sanitation and waste management problems. Rather, a combination of actions is needed for addressing the rooted and interlinked problems. New organizational and governance capacities at both community and institutional level need to be developed in order to ensure the maintenance of facilities over time. The change of practices and behaviors related to water, sanitation and waste management need to be constantly supported by organizing awareness raising and education activities, by mobilizing and empowering community members, such as through active groups as well as by ensuring the reinforcement of laws. The collaboration and dialogue between local community members, institutional organisations, NGOs and private companies play a key role in the implementation of these actions and will be further explored in the next meetings taking place in January.
Sixteen participants belonging to Kawaala community participated in the first Transition Management arena with the aim to define the most urgent and priority problems in their communities. The participants arrived on time and shared since the beginning of the meeting their motivation to participate. Most of the participants already knew the T-GroUP research team since it has been disseminating its research findings in the community and some researchers participated in some of the meetings organized at community level. The dissemination of information and the continuous engagement of the researchers at community level played a key role in building trust with the community residents and in creating a comfortable atmosphere during the Transition Arena meeting. After an introduction given by the local team coordinator Prof. Robinah Kulabako, the participants discussed in two groups the most important problems in Kawala community.
Participants voiced the following as the main challenges affecting their community: lack of water supply, insecurity, inadequate sanitation facilities, poor infrastructures (e.g. roads and houses), contamination and scarcity of water, unemployment and poor waste management services. Then, participants in each group were invited to discuss the causes of these problems as well as the reasons of persistence. Multiple causes of the problems described above were discussed, such as the low awareness of the residents on how to build proper sanitation facilities or how to collect waste, the corruption and political tensions in the different sectors, and the lack of consultation and participation of local residents in decision-making processes run by local authorities. A representative from each group very enthusiastically presented the main points discussed in their group, as shown in the following picture.
The other participants actively participated in this last part of the meeting by asking questions, sharing their point of view and adding other examples connected to their experiences. One of the highlight of the meeting is that political tensions should be taken into account in the multi-stakeholder process because they are one of the causes of failure of many projects and initiatives in Kampala. The engagement, participation and collaboration with local authorities like Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) and public utility companies like the National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) is key for the development of new practices, cultures and policies related to water, sanitation and waste management. Additionally, the unsustainable behavior and practices of local residents regarding water, waste and sanitation management needs to be taken into account and innovative ways of engaging and sensitizing citizens need to be explored.
In March 2018 the local transition team in Kampala organized the first three Transition Management arena meetings engaging participants from seven communities of an informal settlement area of the city. These first community meetings aimed at supporting the selected participants to structure the problems in their communities.
Every first Sunday of the month, Kawaala zone holds community meetings in which various topics are discussed. The meetings are facilitated by mr. Wilberforce Sserwaniko, the local chairman, and his committee and are well attended. The T-GroUP team took advantage of this already existing communication vehicle and asked for a dedicated meeting to share our findings with the community.
There are three urban areas in which T-GroUP is active and, while most of the drilling activities in Dodowa and Arusha have been completed, in Kampala it took some time to get permissions. At first, the Ministry of Water and Environment had to formally approve the project drilling activities, which they did. Then, the Kampala Capital City Authority required more information about the project before giving their formal go-ahead. Thirdly, the Local Councils had to be convinced of the usefulness of the work, and, finally, land owners and tenants had to approve of the installation of piezometers on their land for monitoring purposes. It took Dr. Robinah Kulabako and Dr. Philip Nyenje a good deal of energy to take all hurdles. But they finally succeeded! The process also served as a good and thorough entrance of the project into the local communities. On Wednesday April 6, PAT Drill Uganda started drilling the first hole near Makerere University towards the top of Makerere hill. While drilling, the team was visited by David MacDonald and Dan Lapworth of BGS, who were in Kampala in the framework of the HyCRISTAL project within the NERC/DFID funded Future Climate for Africa Programme.
Meanwhile in Kampala, Dr. Philip Nyenje and Dr. Robinah Kulabako had gone to request permission to drill at the Church premises on Makerere Hill going down to Bwaise slum. Permission was required in order to be able to install a transect of piezometers between Makerere Hill, the perceived groundwater recharge area, and Bwaise slum, the groundwater discharge area. After introducing T-GroUP, they had good discussions with the Vicar of the church regarding the project, community mobilisation and other ideas in the field of water supply. Then, the Vicar requested Philip and Robinah to formalise their request in writing and deliver to him the letter. Additionally, he also requested Robinah to be a Guest Speaker during Mary’s day at his church. Robinah was happy to take up this challenge, as she regarded it not only to be an opportunity to strengthen and augment collaboration within the project and between the project and the community, but giving a sermon would also contribute to shaping Robinah spiritually.
The sermon was on “Living Wisely” based on Ephesians 5:15-17. Robinah really enjoyed it and she was happy to do the needful, combine religion with science, and get permission to drill.