Driving infrastructure developments through a participatory approach (forums for communities under the Kampala Jinja expressway project):

Many African countries today are increasingly investing in infrastructural developments, but how have these governments ensured plausible safe guards to protect people from horrendous spillover damages caused by such investments”?

Housing is a major challenge for many of the urban poor; the photo shows some of the dominant housing typologies in Uganda's informal settlement.

These developments with no objection are highly of much value especially moving these countries forward in terms of economic growth and development, but unless international safe guards are observed, such projects risk causing severe consequences on people, environment, social services and livelihood.

The Ugandan national agenda seems to think so much with an emphasis on infrastructure development in the country's vision 2040, including a key project called the Kampala Jinja expressway project (KJE). This project is a 90-100 meters wide road and it’s expected to transverse in areas of Mbuya(Kinawataka), Mutungo, Kireka, Kirinya and Butabika under volume 5 which are largely slum areas with already pressing issues that can be exacerbated by this infrastructure development if there is no right holistic planning approach.

Funders of this project (European Union and African development bank), demanded that prior any commencements, international safe guards be observed so that no one is left worse off. This meant that apart from monetary compensation from government of Uganda, there are other things that are worthwhile to consider so that people who are to be displaced are not worse off therefore, their standard of living is maintained and improved.

Women participation is a key in urban forums, their plight is a priority in achieving cities that are inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

To ensure that no one is left worse off, funders brought a major player on board Cities Alliance, a global partnership entity that helps cities to reduce urban poverty, which conducted an environment, social-economic impact assessment that resulted in various initiatives of intervention.

For cities Alliance, the implementation of such initiatives seemed monumental for one partner to accomplish therefore, fostering such initiatives, other partners in the field of community philanthropy, had to be enrolled like ACTogether Uganda, given its enduring experience and the philosophy it possess in of organizing communities (saving groups) and conducting settlement forums.

Richard Wandoba one of the leaders of the National Slum Dwellers Federation OF Uganda leaders speaking to the forum in Mbuya I

It is worthy noting that all initiatives; that ACTogether and other partners intend to do both in and outside the right of way, will or depend solely on the establishment of settlement forums. These forums are conducted by ACTogether Uganda under the project setup and communication structures initiative, which requires forum establishment and formation of community saving groups as part of organizing community.

These forums are seen as collective social platforms at all community levels( parish,division,city and national level), and take a bottom-up participatory approach, where community members are provided a platform to share concerns, set their priorities and make decisions in development projects like the KJE. In addition these forums constitute issue based committees that feed settlement forum committees.

Under the KJE, ACTogether and NSDFU have successfully established settlement forum committees in all communities where the development is to traverse under volume 5. It was prudently thought that given the myriad of concerns in urban communities, a certain form of focused committees at parish levels, be put in place to follow up, discern and drive community issues that can be addressed during a wider community convening something that has been fully implemented at least everywhere the project is to pass. For example in Banda settlement, the settlement forum committee with support from ACTogether Uganda and the federation of slum dwellers managed to organize two wider forums where various issues were substantially discussed. Community members during the forum interacted with various stakeholders such as police, KCCA, UNRA, gave in their inputs and received positive feedback from these stakeholders.

When communities meet together, they not only front issues affecting them but also debate and generate alternative solutions.

Now this is a promising gesture, if such communities have started to put in use such forums, it implies that now people are ready to take important steps in trying to mitigate any harm/unclear circumstances through fully cooperating and discussing collectively with one voice. These forums as earlier hinted will further create a room for partners to communicate various intentions embedded in the project more so the same platforms, will promote free communities that are bound to one another with common economic and social interests that can be arranged by mutual agreement and free contract.