Exchanges Archives - Page 2 of 3 - SASDI Alliance

SDI, WIEGO & Avina: Growing a Global Coalition of the Urban Poor

By CORC, FEDUP, ISN, SDI No Comments

By Yolande Hendler (on behalf of CORC)

Piesang River – the home of the South African Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), a meeting place filled with sounds of Portuguese, isiZulu, Spanish and English,  a place filled with expectations of what a four-day learning exchange might hold for its participants – representatives of urban poor networks from across Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil and South Africa. Are there joint mobilisation strategies? How does each movement build partnerships? And what does advocacy from the perspective of community leaders look like? These questions shaped the purpose of the four-day learning exchange from 21-24 September in South Africa’s east coast port city, Durban.


The participants included community leaders and supporting organisations from

  • the Brazilian Alliance of Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI)
  • the Ecuadorian Waste Picker Network
  • the Ecuadorian Network for Fair, Democratic & Sustainable Cities
  • the Association of Recyclers in Bogota, Colombia (Asociación de Recicladores de Bogota)
  • Fundacion Avina in Peru & Ecuador
  • Women In Informal Employment : Globalising & Organising (WIEGO)
  • Asiye eTafuleni in Durban (AeT, network of informal workers)
  • The South African SDI Alliance as hosts: Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), Informal Settlement Network (ISN) and Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC)

What brought together representatives from such different locations? Their affiliation to SDI (Brazil & South Africa), WIEGO (Colombia & Asiye eTafuleni, South Africa) and Fundacion Avina (Ecuador). All three are global movements of the urban poor. Although their approaches may differ, SDI, WIEGO and Avina share the vision of building equitable, just and inclusive cities. The learning exchange was convened by Cities Alliance, of which WIEGO and SDI are both members. Envisioned as a two-part exchange, the first was hosted by SDI in South Africa, while the second will be hosted by WIEGO in Colombia.

The exchange focussed on exposing the visitors to the South African Alliance’s approaches to- and outcomes of community organising. This included a visit to housing and informal settlement upgrading projects, a savings scheme, conducting practical data collection, a partnership meeting with government and getting to know the context of informal workers.

A People’s Approach to Housing and Upgrading

Visiting a people driven housing project at Namibia

Visiting a people driven housing project at Namibia Stop 8 settlements

While each movement shared its main focal areas and organisational approaches in presentations on the first day, a real sense of getting to know each other occurred through questions and anecdotes that opened windows into personal and collective experiences:

“In Colombia waste-pickers have been organising for more than 30 years – recycling is an option for poor people who are old or don’t have access to jobs. I was displaced during the war. My husband was killed by guerrilla fighters. Through recycling I was able to support my family” (Ana Elizabeth Cuervo Alba, Colombia)

“As waste pickers in Ecuador we lobbied the government to a point where we now have a national agreement that pays waste pickers for recycling” (Elvia Pisuña, Ecuador)

“Urban informal workers usually face extreme challenges with people resisting their presence in public spaces .We called ourselves, Asiye eTafuleni because it means – come to the table. Let us negotiate for the inclusive future of the working urban poor. “ (Richard Dobson, Asiye eTafuleni, Durban)

Incidentally, Piesang River also displays the fruits of FEDUP’s militant negotiation with national government around housing delivery. FEDUP leaders explained that the vast housing settlements in Piesang River and Namibia Stop 8 (a further area visited that afternoon) are a result of their success in convincing government to grant members direct access to their housing subsidy. This enabled them to self-build larger houses, culminating in the adoption of the People’s Housing Process (PHP) policy. Although it has not been without its challenges, PHP represents a breakthrough in altered approach from “delivery” to “collaboration”.

Recycling Exchange

Informal Settlement Upgrading Plans at Mathambo














In contrast, community leaders of the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) elaborated on their difficulty in achieving breakthrough in municipal support for informal settlement upgrading. With over 2700 informal settlements in the country and an increasing housing backlog, the ISN supports communities with tools and plans for negotiating with local government around service delivery through incremental upgrading. During a visit to Mathambo settlement, community leader and regional ISN coordinator, Ndodeni Dengo explained that despite the settlement’s relatively small size, existing structures were located in high density to each other, with most not larger than 9m2 – and a deficit of water, sanitation and electricity services. The community had collected data about its settlement through a detailed household level enumeration that helped them negotiate upgrading plans with the local municipality. By using wooden boxes for planning a new layout that would enable service installation, the community established their ideal design for the upgraded settlement.

How do urban poor communities organise?

Over the next two days the visitors were introduced to the driving force behind FEDUP and ISN’s housing and upgrading projects: the practice of daily savings and data collection as tools for community organisation.

Explaining savings Kwa Bester

Explaining savings Kwa Bester

At Kwa Bestar savings group, the visitors saw that saving is not primarily about collecting money, but about collecting people. Savings groups are a space where trust is nurtured through daily saving, sharing needs and identifying common solutions. At present, the group of 39 active members has saved US$ 2800. It is also engaged in forming smaller saving units to access loans by generating income through small businesses. The keen involvement of young people aged 8 – 25 in the savings process was a special highlight. Once more it became evident that savings is about growing and enabling people, showcased by the rich dance, drama and music performances by the youth.

Youth savings group shares dance performance

Youth savings group shares dance performance

Where savings builds self reliance, data collection builds knowledge: upon arrival at Zikhali, a small, rural settlement in the northern sugar cane fields of Durban, Rose Molokoane, National Coordinator of FEDUP and SDI deputy president, explained:

“When a community knows clearly who they are, which are their problems, it is much easier to negotiate with municipal officials”

This is how data collection through settlement profiles (of a settlement’s history, infrastructure, conditions) and enumerations (detailed household level surveys) enables partnership with local government officials. When walking around the area, the group mapped the settlement boundaries and landmarks such as water and sanitation points on GPS devices while others spoke to residents, collecting household data by using the Alliance’s enumeration form.

GIS mapping in Zikhali settlement

GIS mapping in Zikhali settlement


Household Enumeration in Zikhali

Household Enumeration in Zikhali

Approaches to building partnerships with government

It is through savings and data-collection that SDI’s urban poor federations leverage partnerships: saving contributions show self-reliance and community will; settlement-wide data powers a community’s negotiation capacity. On day three the visitors accompanied the Durban Alliance to a meeting with the local municipality, province and a representative from national government, discussing the progress of housing and upgrading projects.

The South Americans perceived

  • A strong relationship with government officials
  • A measure of trust and flexibility in receiving visitors at the meeting
  • Political willingness to listen and debate

Insights from the South African participants

  • The perceived trust and partnership with Municipal Government was “built by doing”, demonstrating results and inviting the municipality to be part of the social process
  • Despite the working group and formally conducted meetings, the municipality often does not give prompt answers to the most urgent needs of communities

The visit to Asiye eTafuleni (AeT) added rich insight to the experience of informal workers and an added dimension to partnership building with local authorities. The group was introduced to AeT’s work in developing inclusive spaces that support sustainable livelihoods for informal workers. The shared realities of informal settlement dwellers and informal workers became particularly evident on a walk-about through the bustling Warwick market in Durban’s inner-city. For AeT and the SA SDI Alliance the encounter highlighted similarities and differences in approach but most of all established a platform for increased collaboration in the future.

Government Partnership Meeting

Government Partnership Meeting

View on to a section of Warwick market

View on to a section of Warwick market


Walkabout in Warwick Junction

Walkabout in Warwick Junction
















Reflecting, Learning and Joint Advocacy

With a rich collection of experiences and impressions, the group gathered on the last morning to reflect and share on the ….

  • Non-monetary value of savings. Savings are about collecting money and people (building social capital, trust, self-reliance)
  • Power of information: data collection is crucial for building self-reliance, identifying common goals and establishing negotiating power
  • Key role of women as cultivating transparency and accountability
  • Cultural factors present in South Africa: welcoming, joyful people, ability to join efforts and to coordinate
  • Youth work: value of young people generating and managing their own savings to use in initiatives of their choice (e.g. creative arts)
  • Global similarities in poor people’s struggles
  • Recycling as Income Generation: value in using opportunities around you (e.g. waste = recycling opportunity = income generation)
  • Increased awareness of interface between shack dwellers and informal workers

… and on strategies for the road ahead:

  • Mobilisation Strategies: Gain understanding of waste picker movements in South America
  • Building Partnerships: Plan further exchanges with local (i.e. national) counterparts of global movements
  • Prepare for Joint Lobbying at Global Events such as Habitat III.

As the global development community gears up for Habitat III, global movements of the urban poor are establishing a firm coalition. This learning exchange forms an integral part of that process, “allowing networks organised around livelihood and habitat to come together, share their experiences and strengthen their capacity to organise and advocate in favour of the urban poor” (Cities Alliance, Exchange convener). When speaking with a united voice, advocacy has the potential to influence policy discussions on increased collaboration between communities and governments.

“By referring to our connection with one another, WIEGO, SDI & Avina can make a strong case for a pro-poor agenda. Only if we come together as poor people we can show our governments that we are influencing their policies to meet the needs of the people. “ (Rose Molokoane, FEDUP Coordinator & SDI vice president)

Growing Partnerships with Local Government: Bulawayo visits Cape Town Learning Centre

By CORC, FEDUP, ISN, SDI No Comments

By Andiswa Meke (on behalf of CORC)

Recently, the Zimbabwe SDI Alliance spent four days on a learning exchange to the South African SDI Alliance in Cape Town (14-17 September). In the SDI network, Cape Town is one of four global learning centres for urban poor communities due to the capacity of FEDUP and ISN to operate at city scale and demonstrate productive partnerships with government. The team from Bulawayo included community, city and university representatives (from the National University of Science & Technology (NUST)) who are exploring the possibility of building a partnership between the Zimbabwean urban poor Federation and the City of Bulawayo. The Alliance introduced the group to a variety of its activities, foregrounding the value and approach of partnerships that place poor people at the centre of their own development.


Introduction to policy Questions

After a warm welcoming of the group by FEDUP members on the first day, the first presentation started by the Informal settlement Network (ISN) with the context of the SA SDI alliance and the work of Informal Settlement Network (ISN) from 2009 until 2015. The presentation showed delegates the work of ISN in In-situ upgrading, water and sanitation, area-wide upgrading, multipurpose centres and other activities that they have done so far. After the presentation the delegates from Zimbabwe were given an opportunity to ask questions:

“At what stage does the city get involved in re-blocking? What is the planning process and who does it? What is the participation between communities and the city?”

(George Masimbanyana, support NGO to Zimbabwe Federation of the Homeless and Poor)

After clarification by members of ISN and support NGO, Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC) the Zimbabweans had an understanding of the particulars of re-blocking (including its adoption as policy by the City of Cape Town in 2012) and indicated they would consider adopting it as a process that they can also try. The Bulawayo group then gave a presentation about the work they have done to date. The presentation gave an insight into the Zimbabwean Federation’s total savings, income and expenditures, total number of houses they have built and what their projects look like. The Zimbabwean Federation has also signed two Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with the City of Bulawayo. The group expressed the challenge of a lack of implementation and practical partnership, despite the presence of a formal agreement. The next days allowed the visitors to explore this topic further. They experienced how FEDUP and ISN formed practical partnerships and implemented projects with two municipalities.

Partnership around Upgrading: Stellenbosch Municipality

On day two, the group travelled to Langrug informal settlement near Franschoek to meet with the local Municipality of Stellenbosch. Langrug community leader and regional ISN coordinator, Trevor Masiy shared the successes and challenges the community faced with regards to being recognized as an informal settlement in that area. Lester van Schalkwyk, a municipality official, spoke of the difficulty the Municipality experienced in engaging with informal settlement communities. This is when officials realized the value of social and technical intermediaries like ISN & CORC to support and speed-up implementation of community – government partnerships. In Langrug this partnership translated into the first ever MoU between a local government and community, which enabled direct access to municipal funds for upgrading and implementation of re-blocking, drainage and a water & sanitation facility.


Municipality  official sharing challenges they encountered  with Langrug Informal settlement

Partnerships around Upgrading: City of Cape Town

The third day was an upgrading site visit to Flamingo Heights in Lansdowne, Cape Town, a settlement that was recently re-blocked through a partnership between the community, SA SDI Alliance, City of Cape Town, and other actors such as the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). Maria Matthews, community leader in Flamingo welcomed the guests and gave a brief history about the settlement and how they partnered with the city of Cape Town and the Alliance. She also gave insight about the challenges that they faced before upgrading where she noted that the community faced a high rate of crime because of the densification of their structures before re-blocking. She also cited that through the project the community managed to minimise the crime and now are safe. During an opportunity to ask questions, a Bulawayo official asked who owned the land that is now Flamingo Heights. ISN facilitator, Melanie Manuel, explained that the land belonged to an industrial company whom the City of Cape Town bought the land from. Maria Matthews, concluded,

“[Community] savings [contributions] are the core reason why we are here [in an upgraded settlement] today. We took the little we had and placed towards better living conditions.”

Community Savings as Negotiation Tool

The group then commenced to the FEDUP linked income generation group in Samora Machel. The visitors were welcomed with great hospitality and were given an overview of FEDUP`s income generation program. The visit highlighted the connection between regular saving and the ability to repay loans. This in turn enables access to further loan installments to expand a small business. In this sense, the power of individual and community saving became evident. In response to a question by the NUST representative on failed loan repayments, the loan facilitator explained:

“Saving group members are not given money that they don’t have in their savings balance, so if they fail to pay back the loan the money it is then subtracted from their saving balance.”

community leader sharing Flamingo Heights History

community leader sharing Flamingo Heights History

Area-Wide Upgrading as a result of negotiation

At UT Gardens settlement in Khayelitsha, the community came all out to support their leadership committee to welcome the visitors from Bulawayo. The Alliance shared the challenges and breakthroughs around upgrading the nearby wetland as a communal space. After giving a project overview, ISN & CORC members explained how they convinced the City to give them approval to use the land. A community leader, Thamara Hela, gave an overview of the recreational activities they envision for the upgraded wetland-park: a football ground, a gym facility and a park for the children to play where they could be safe. Read more here.

Meeting the Partners: City of Cape Town & Cape Peninsula University of Technology

Having visited a number of upgrading projects in Cape Town, the visitors met with the City of Cape Town to gain more insight into the process of partnership formation from a City perspective. The city explained how their department fits in the broader Human Settlements Sector, shared an overview of their partnership with the SA SDI Alliance, their role as service provider for ground works, engineering, topographical surveys and the Alliance’s role as technical and social support facilitator. The City shared the importance of an inter-departmental approach, which increases effective communication between various actors involved in ISU: the departments of solid waste, human settlements, water & sanitation. There was also an opportunity to observe direct engagement between communities and officials. Masilunge informal settlement leader, Lindiwe Ralarala presented the current ISU project process in her settlement, in particular the challenges of flooding, water & sanitation that the community would like to see the City address.

During lunch time the exchange moved to the architecture building at CPUT, where the group was briefed about the partnership the Alliance has with the university. It enables students to engage with the reality of planning with ‘informality’, and results in alternative practice and conceptual approaches in town planning and architecture. The lecturers explained how they want to see town-planning link with urbanization:

“Urbanization is not about building houses, it’s about human beings. We want our students to understand that they are not just planning houses but planning better living condition for the people who they work with.”

Through project modules or internships with the SA SDI Alliance students support the alliance with their technical skills in town planning or architecture. The meeting showed the visitors that strong partnerships with multiple actors can achieve more. Read more about academic partnerships here.

City of Cape Town partnership meeting

City of Cape Town partnership meeting

Ideas for Partnership Formation in Bulawayo

The exchange concluded on a high note. The support between community members from Bulawayo and Cape Town was clearly evident in their common desire to see a practical and community centered-partnership emerge in Bulawayo. As the details need to be fleshed out and implemented in Bulawayo, the South African and Zimbabwe SDI Alliance leaders will keep supporting and holding each other accountable on the path of establishing inclusive partnerships that are key to community-centered solutions. We conclude by sharing reflection points of exchange participants:

 City Reponses

  • There is great value of strategic community organisation: “We need partnerships to really engage & resolve community problems in a manner that satisfies the community adequately. “ (Bulawayo City Official)
  • Value of Reblocking & Forward Planning: “the way to tackle the problem of regrouping people is beautiful: the communities are involved and they have a say in the way forward” (Bulawayo City Official)

Zimbabwe Federation Responses

  • Community Data Collection: “I realise we need to review our settlement profiles & use our data in a useful [strategic] way.”
  • Implement MoUs: “This exchange provided us with a way to figure out how to operationalize the MoU’s”
  • Joint funding for ISU: “We need to sit with the City and establish how we can use reblocking to deal with the issues in our country. Joint funding for ISU provides huge opportunities for countries like ours which are economically challenged”
  • Accountability: “ Let’s keep each other accountable on our progress with reports, and share our knowledge and skills”

 SA SDI Alliance Responses:

  • Learning Centre: We find that as a learning centre we end up learning from you too”
  • Exchanges as Mobilisation: Exchanges are a mobilizing tool: wherever we take visitors, we gain trust from the communities. While the visitors learn, our communities learn as well.”

Group photo during the exchange

Cape Town and Kampala Youth set up SDI’s Know Your City TV

By CORC, FEDUP, ISN, SDI, Youth No Comments

By Andiswa Meke and Yolande Hendler (on behalf of CORC)

Meet eight young storytellers, driven by their love for the arts and commitment to change in their communities. From 31 August – 5 September 2015 eight youth members of the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU) and the South African Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP) came together in Cape Town to be trained in community-based videography and filmmaking. The youth members from Kampala’s NSDFU and Cape Town’s FEDUP are both affiliates of the Shack / Slum Dwellers International (SDI) network.


Preparing equipment for filming in Khayelitsha, Cape Town.

Preparing equipment for filming in Khayelitsha, Cape Town.

The Know Your City Platform

The training formed part of SDI’s Know Your City (KYC) campaign on bottom-up and community generated data collection. As a global campaign, KYC seeks to collect and consolidate city-wide data in informal settlements as the basis for inclusive development between the urban poor and local governments. It draws its strength from data collected at the settlement level that is aggregated on a city-wide scale and used to make compelling arguments for more inclusive service delivery and informal settlement upgrading. Read more here.

Know Your City TV (KYC TV), on the other hand, seeks to ground this data in personal and everyday experiences, recorded by young people who live in informal settlements, with a sharp and localized understanding of their surroundings and communities, with a ‘direct’ link to the stories themselves. It is evident that data on informal settlements only becomes alive when voices, images and personal histories accompany it. The youth teams selected for the KYC TV training in Cape Town were drawn from two of SDI ‘s four learning centers: Cape Town and Kampala. KYC TV also grew from a previous Cape Town based youth exchange between SDI youth representatives from Uganda, Kenya, India and South Africa in February 2015. During this time youth members were exposed to community-generated video making, alongside James Tayler, filmmaker of the Bodaboda Thieves who facilitated the training during the recent KYC TV workshop week.

Group picture after filming in Cape Town's Company Gardens.

Group picture after filming in Cape Town’s Company Gardens.

A Glimpse Into a Videographer’s Training

On the first day of training, the group was tasked to find ideas that they could use for making a possible film – the first threads of weaving a story. Zandile Nomnga, from South Africa’a FEDUP, shared an idea of documenting her youth group’s use of art, drama and dance to build up young people in her informal settlement in Khayelitsha. When the rest of the group had pitched their ideas, some practical camera introduction began. For some it was a first-time engagement with hands-on camera experience. Day two was a fascinating excursion into all things technical: how a digital camera works, shot types and ratios, lighting tips, how to conduct interviews…. with the KYCTV ‘Pocket Film School’ booklet a constant reference point. A nearby park in Cape Town allowed for some first experimental footage.

With a wealth of background knowledge, the next two days were ones of exploring Cape Town, in its vastly different areas, looking to capture variety and the city’s characteristically stark social and political contrasts. The first was spent in Cape Town’s City Centre: arriving at the central station, the group made its way through a number of central locations in Cape Town – always with a keen focus on light, texture, shapes and colour, a practice in finding snippets and scenes that would make good film footage. They carefully chose the Golden Acre and Green Market Square, having encountered a group of street performers playing soulful music. The group took turns filming the performance, with James instructing and coaching them about what angles are suitable and how to capture imagery of moving people.

Filming street musicians in Cape Town's Green Market Square

Filming street musicians in Cape Town’s Green Market Square

In the early hours of Thursday morning the group gathered its equipment and headed to Makhaza, located in Khayelitsha, on the outskirts of Cape Town’s inner city and suburbs, and, home to the South African youth members. Most of the morning was spent filming and interviewing the residents and business people (hair salon owners and minibus taxi drivers) about their daily activities within the area. In the afternoon the group moved to Site C, in Khayelitsha, documenting a crèche in the area, interviewing the owner about challenges and progress. The day ended at Future Champs, a youth boxing and life skills centre – in Philippi East. The afternoon was filled with fun filming the boxing coach and interviews with the younger children to get a sense of why they chose boxing as a sport preference.

Visiting a hair salon

Visiting a hair salon

Interviewing a minibus taxi driver

Interviewing a minibus taxi driver




While the group had been focused on filming and gathering footage for the previous part of the week, little did it occur to them that their work was far from over. Friday therefore started off with uploading all video footage onto the computer systems and reviewing it. An in-depth introduction to software and editing programs followed, with detailed explanations on how to edit, crop, animate and create audio on the software to familiarise themselves with the program and produce edited videos.

Filming at Future Champs

Filming at Future Champs


Learning how to edit






Looking Back and Looking Forward

The group spent the last day enjoying a burst of pre-summer heat at Cape Town’s sea-side – a time of reflection and realizing that their journey had only just begun. For Allan Mawejju from Uganda the trip to Khayelitsha was a highlight, especially learning how to deal with people during interviews. The highlight for Zandile Nomnga, who loves music and dance, was the opportunity to chance upon and film a soul music group at the busy Green Market Square.

“With the knowledge we gained we will show our members back home how to document their daily activities and who knows this could also be a form of job creation where they would film what is going on in our countries and sell to a news network”.

Mamfuka Joweria Kaluxigi, National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda


It was clear that the group was leaving with an array of skills that will assist them in forming KYC TV teams together with the continued support from James and SDI, through the Ugandan and South African support organisations, ACTogether and CORC. Many expressed the desire to share their learning with friends and fellow youth members who did not have the opportunity to attend. Some want to produce mini documentaries about their informal settlement and the activities that the youth do. The following weeks will be dedicated to consolidating the skills learnt during the training and produce the first mini documentaries.

“We didn’t know how to make films but today we are able to shoot, edit our own videos and tell our stories, I thank God for the opportunity and Know Your City TV for the platform”

Muwanguzi Solomon, National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda

Community Voices – “Welcome to Santini informal settlement”

By FEDUP, ISN No Comments

By Santini Community Members (on behalf of ISN)

This blog was written by Santini's community documenters depicted in this picture: Veronica Lebakeng, Nwabisa Ndzendze, Bathandwa Yengeni, Loniswa Dumbela. Grace Lebakeng, Thobela Nqophiso, Thulie Lebakeng, Thanduxolo Bayibile, Melikhaya Nqopiso, Likuwe Bayibile

This blog was written by Santini’s community documenters depicted in this picture: Veronica Lebakeng, Nwabisa Ndzendze, Bathandwa Yengeni, Loniswa Dumbela. Grace Lebakeng, Thobela Nqophiso, Thulie Lebakeng, Thanduxolo Bayibile, Melikhaya Nqopiso, Likuwe Bayibile

For the SA SDI Alliance community-generated documentation is an integral aspect of community-driven process. This means that communities are not only best positioned to take a central role in driving their own development interests but also to speak about and document their experiences in community organisation processes such as informal settlement upgrading . For communities it is evident that

“No one can tell our story better than we can”

In Mfuleni, Cape Town, community leaders in Santini informal settlement have been involved in pioneering a community-centred documentation approach in the Alliance. Through a series of workshops they have used ‘story-telling and writing’ to record and document their story. This includes Santini’s experience of community mobilisation and preparation for upgrading as well as personal accounts of realities, challenges and desired alternatives.By documenting their own experiences, community members are building a voice of the urban poor from the bottom up.

This is the first in a series of blogs entitled “Community Voices”, written by community residents, who introduce their settlement and share their story.



History of Santini

Santini is called Santini because it was once an open space with a lot of sand [in isiXhosa “isanti” means “sand”]. We started living in Santini in 2004 with most people coming from the Eastern Cape. We were living as backyarders in the surrounding formal houses before they [plot owners] got RDP houses.

There came a time when the plot owners [formal homeowners] had to move to an open space (which was already called Santini) because their RDP houses were going to be built. The backyarders moved to Santini as well. We [backyarders] weren’t allowed back into their plots when the houses were done, some claimed that they didn’t have space anymore.

In 2004 there were 8 shacks in Santini, but today there are 43 shacks including the ones brought in by the South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO). We don’t feel safe because people in [the formal houses] claim the land [Santini] belongs to their children and not to us [as former backyarders].  Apparently their children are in need of a place to reside, so the people in the formal houses approached SANCO to resolve the matter. It was agreed via SANCO that the residents’ children can reside in Santini too.

Thanduxolo, Santini community leaders with steering committee members record their memory of Santini's history

Thanduxolo, Santini community leaders with steering committee members record their memory of Santini’s history

Our Reality Now

These are the things we need:


We don’t have proper electricity. We rely on connections from the formal houses, and we pay R150 monthly. If the electricity ends before the month ends, we are required to pay more. If we do not pay more money, our tap will be unplugged. The connections are dangerous. When a big truck passes by the wires break, and they can shock the children when they are playing.


In Santini we have only one tap and there are many people living here so we hold a long queue when we need water. We cannot get water at night because of safety.


We have a total of 7 toilets, but only 4 are working and are far from us. We fear to use the toilets at night. We fear to be mugged because of the darkness.


We don’t have proper roads, so emergency services are unable to assist the community in times of need like when someone is sick or there is a fire.


Proper Houses

We don’t have proper housing, and the structures that we are living in is old. We can’t even extend because we have no land of our own. Some people have extended families, and it’s hard to live in a one-room house with everyone.


Since we have no street lights we fear going outside during the night because it’s dark. It’s risky to go because we fear being mugged.

Dust Bins

Our place is filthy because we don’t have a place or dust bins to drop unwanted materials.


We don’t have drains so people use toilets as an alternative and that results in the blockage of the toilets.


We need electricity, water, toilets, and proper houses. The ideal solution is to get more toilets or each household to get their own toilet to avoid waiting for people when one wants to use the toilet.


Tracking and documenting Santini’s solutions thus far

We, as a community of Santini, decided to seek help from the Informal Settlement Network (ISN). We told them about our living conditions and challenges as a community.Nkokheli Ncambele [Western Cape coordinator of ISN] is the one who introduced us to ISN. After the introduction to the [SA SDI] Alliance, we attended their meetings [and understood the processes] . [After some negotiation] toilets were installed by the municipality. We then began [Alliance] processes like enumerating our settlements. ISN also introduced us to the tools of profiling, community designing and learning exchanges. During profiling, we measured the existing structures. We used the enumeration to record the number of people living in Santini and their activities. A group of us went on a visit to see Flamingo Crescent and to be educated about the re-blocking of Flamingo Crescent.

SA Alliance in Botswana: Building a strong urban poor Federation

By CORC, FEDUP, SDI No Comments

By Kwanele Sibanda (on behalf of CORC)

For the Shack / Slum Dwellers International (SDI) network, horizontal exchanges between savings groups and communities present an opportunity for bottom-up learning and mutual support. While each SDI affiliate shares the same tools and practices for community organisation and people-centred development, the use of these tools is shaped by local socio-economic and political contexts. Exchanges, therefore, also explore how new-found insights can be adapted to realities “back home”.

As an SDI learning centre, the SA SDI Alliance and FEDUP in particular have supported the growth of the Botswana SDI Alliance, the Botswana Homeless and Poor People’s Federation and support NGO. This blog reflects the workings of an international exchange, strategies for partnership building, and the necessities of rooting the strength of a Federation in daily saving, strong trust and cohesiveness on the ground.

Gointse (Trust for Community Initiatives) explains partnership with Stanbic

Gointse (Trust for Community Initiatives) explains partnership with Stanbic

Background of the Exchange

The SDI exchange to Botswana by the South African delegates was originally aimed at supporting the federation of Botswana in making a presentation to the new Minister of Local Government and Rural Affairs. In spite of efforts made by the Minister to meet the federation, the set meeting coincided with an emergency that he described as critical and could not be postponed.

From the previous visit of the South African delegates dated 16 – 19 October 2014, the Botswana federation has shown growth and determination to work with resources at their disposal. The federation of Francistown has been very influential in the growth of the federation, nationally. The Francistown Federation started off by influencing their local City Council especially the Town Clerk who in turn is now taking a lead in introducing the federation to officials in other cities as well as different government departments. The attempt to meet the Minister was through the efforts of the Francistown Town Clerk and the local supporting NGO (Trust for Community Initiatives).

As the meeting with the Minister was postponed at the 11th hour, the federation members from Francistown and the SA SDI Alliance used the opportunity to visit a fairly new local saving scheme (Boiteko Saving Scheme).


Boiteko saving scheme meeting took place in Gaborone . A message of appreciation was given to the saving scheme members for attending the meeting even though it was scheduled within a short period of time. Amongst the issues discussed, the following was the most pressing for the saving scheme in Botswana as a whole.

  • Botswana has a law that disregards the nature/circumstances under which a group is established and wishes to have financial transactions that it be registered as a company. This act poses a challenge to the federation because of tax related burdens, registration process and other financial burdens that may be required by the law.
  • The groups have since resorted to opening bank accounts using one member of the group under conditions that include a letter to the bank stipulating that he is termed account holder and merely represents the group and can only undertake financial transactions authorised by two named signatories of the group’s choice. Boiteko Saving Scheme is no exception to the challenge.
Group photo after meeting with Boiteko Saving Scheme members

Group photo after meeting with Boiteko Saving Scheme members

  • The saving scheme was established in February 2015 with 27 members at its highest. Without seeking information internally, new members went to various government departments to find out if the poor people’s movement was registered. Upon realization of the other, word spread, dispute ensued, and sixteen members shunned the group leaving unity of the remaining on the canvas. The group currently stands at 11 members  and has a total of  P2 000 in savings up to date.
  •  In July 2015 the federation allegedly made a presentation at a Public Service Event where different Ministers were present. The presentation was broadcast on national television (BTV) and was seen by members that had forsaken the group. It is believed that the publication of the presentation somehow proved the authenticity of the organization as opposed to unfounded, simmering rumors.
  • The groups are being supported by the local NGO in opening bank accounts. The members of the new group expressed their need for support as they are not yet well versed of the other components in the alliance other than savings.
  • Savings Report
Total Number of saving schemes 55
Women 1 191
Men 122
Total Savings P276, 136.23
Total UPF P31, 473.94
Funds used to start income generating projects P260, 926.66
      Inputs made by the SA SDI alliance and Francistown delegates
  • Within groups, it is always ideal to have manageable numbers; however it is wise to be aware that numbers matter in influencing policies such as that currently affecting them on opening of bank accounts.
  • In making presentations, follow all levels of influential structures starting with the local chiefs so that your process is well understood and no one feels undermined.
  • Make daily collections a norm so as to bond as savings members and generally improve your savings.
  • Use the small projects  you are already doing to demonstrate to  government and other institutions your interest and how you wish to scale it up.Make use of  government resources like the ‘Poverty eradication programme’.
  • Start programmes for supporting other savings schemes because you tend to learn more when you share more.
  •  Choose honest people  to handle your finances to avoid jeopardizing the organisations name
  • Avoid making long meetings that will discourage attendance.
  • Members need to understand the power of working collectively.
  • Save with a goal and make good use of the savings . It is normally pointless to be endowed with savings that remain untapped when challenges prevail or opportunities present themselves.
Far Right - Sarah Mulaudzi (FEDUP) sharing her savings experience

Far Right – Sarah Mulaudzi (FEDUP) sharing her savings experience


  • The federation of Botswana has to draft a programme were it will be supported in areas that include mobilization, savings recording system and explaining the different components in the alliance.
  • Once the meeting is confirmed with the Minister, leaders should prepare themselves for a presentation and should include in the agenda the policy requiring them to register in order to open bank accounts.
  • Each region has to start writing stories about the different projects and activities that they are doing.

Alliance and Community Architects Network plan inclusive cities in Philippines

By CORC, FEDUP, ISN, SDI No Comments

By Andiswa Meke (on behalf of CORC)

From 16-23 June 2015, the SA SDI Alliance joined community designers and architects for the third regional workshop of the Community Architects Network (CAN) in Metro Manila, Philippines. The Alliance team consisted of 3 FEDUP and ISN community members who are involved in managing community construction as well as two of CORC’s community architects. The workshop was hosted by CAN’s Philippine Alliance organisations of HPFI (Homeless People’s Federation Philippines Inc.), TAMPEI (technical Assistance Movemnet for People and Environment Inc.) and PACSII (Philippine Action for Community-led Shelter Initiatives, Inc.),


The theme of the 2015 workshop was “Together we CAN! People Planning for future inclusive cities”, emphasizing that strong partnership can yield excellent achievements. There was an estimate of one hundred attendees from different countries (representatives from public institutions, academia, CBOs and NGOs). The workshop spanned eight days and involved several activities: getting to know the Philippine context, sharing various country experiences updates on approaches and experiences of community architecture, reflection sessions and exhibits.

The group split to do community fieldwork in two locations in Metro Manila, the heritage site Intramuros and Muntinlupa City. The SA SDI Alliance members had the honor to work on more than two groups and with different communities. The Alliance sent five members to attend with the aim of exposing them to the programme and gaining knowledge to apply in South African community upgrading. The alliance looked to build and strengthen partnerships and lobby potential stakeholders.

CAN 13

CAN Background

CAN is a regional network of community architects that focuses on improving the living conditions of poor communities in Asian countries through community-based projects under the Coalition of Community Action Program (ACCA) regarding people housing, city-wide upgrading and recovery from disaster . CAN has opened opportunities for interested young professionals, academic institutes NGOs, CBO`s to come and engage with design skills to support communities in finding solutions to their own needs.


In 2013, a workshop of the same nature took place under the theme “People CAN make change and progress”, where communities were introduced to bringing about change through acquiring tools, skills and information. Communities were taught different skills from mapping and savings to profiling. After the ten day workshop, the community members and architects came up with solutions that would push local government towards building avenues that would represent the people as well as a building plan that would be community driven and understood. The network strongly believes that the role of community architects is to build the capability of people through participatory design and planning so that people themselves become the solution.

CAN 2015 workshop: TOGETHER WE CAN

On the opening day, the host city Intramuros held a number of talks that gave an overview of Philippines informal settlements and introduced city-wide development approaches in Asian cities. The delegates were split into groups and sent to different cities around the Philippines. The purpose was for delegates to identify and resolve issues and share knowledge around the communities.

A public forum took place on the eighth day, where all groups presented their findings and suggestions and were given the opportunity to select the best plan for each community and share their experiences surrounding their visit.

CAN 53

CAN 45

Challenges for the re-blocking group in informal settlement Sitio Pagkakaisa, Manila

  • Community members who don’t want re-blocking.
  • Critical challenge was the materials the houses were built in, which would not be easy to remove. In some informal settlements people have already secured land tenure with their subsidy money and their savings, they now fear that they will be unable to build houses once the re-blocking takes place

Challenges for the Intramuros, Manila

  • Finding a solution to better the high density of the settlements
  • The most challenging part was designing an upgrading plan that would address the needs and embrace the heritage of the Intramorous communities
  • Issue of land tenure and people living in private land deemed as a major challenge in upgrading –related processes.

CAN 33

Learning points

  • A community’s knowledge of its settlement is essential for drafting development plans and interacting with government officials about pressing issues in informal settlements. The community seemed informed of the development plan and where they are lacking in terms of services.
  • The partnership between local officials and the community is vital. It is kept strong to an extent that the municipality is willing to communicate and engage with communities regarding housing and informal settlement upgrading.
  • When community leaders have a good relationship with community members, they make informed decision together.
  • Savings is the pillar of creating communal consistency in the informal settlement
  • SA SDI Alliance members learnt how to engage with problem solving in the context of a different country, how to use existing SDI tools in a completely different setting and an approach to building communities with a strong heritage value who showcase this in their planning.
SA SDI Alliance Team

SA SDI Alliance Team

Outcomes of the exchange

  • Intramuros: Suggestions for sustainable and participatory options for informal settlements in Intramuros heritage site, in context of its revitalization plan.
  • Muntinlupa: Suggestions for holistic solutions for informal settlements located in high risk zones with insecurity of tenure
  • CAN delegates managed to advocacy for interaction between Muntinlupa City and its Barangays.
  • New CAN attendees were exposed to the practical implementation of SDI rituals
  • CAN delegates gained membership of the CAN

Alliance at Human Settlements Learning Exchange in Durban

By CORC, FEDUP, ISN No Comments

By Jeff Thomas (on behalf of CORC)

A SA SDI Alliance team comprising FEDUP and ISN community leaders, regional co-ordinators and CORC representatives was invited to attend the International Human Settlements Learning Exchange in eThekwini Municipality from 15-17 April 2015.

The exchange, a first of its kind, was hosted by the Municipal Institute of Learning (MILE) in partnership with eThekwini’s Human Settlements Department and the Affordable Housing Institute (AHI). It included about 200 local, national and provincial government officials, eThekwini Municipality councillors, private sector housing, NGO and academic representatives.  

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 11.42.19 AM

It aimed to “share different organisation’s perspectives and experiences within the human settlements sector to improve housing service delivery” (Reference). The exchange focussed on new funding models for affordable housing finance, effective new housing typologies and guidance for establishing socially inclusive and responsive housing settlements.  For the Alliance it was an opportunity to share concrete experiences in community participation that move beyond infrastructural approaches to human settlements development.The event was billed as an international exchange in that the keynote speaker, Professor Jeremy Gorelick, is a globally acclaimed expert in the area of alternative, more-sustainable funding models for housing finance. Among other things, he is the Managing Director of Capital Markets for the USA-based Affordable Housing Institute, a non-profit and tax exempt pro-poor consulting and research firm which operates in 43 countries.
Community-Based Implementation at Alliance's Namibia Stop 8 Housing Project in eThekwini Municipality

Community-Based Implementation at Alliance’s Namibia Stop 8 Housing Project in eThekwini Municipality

Examining Sustainable Funding Models 

His presentation on the first day examined factors relating to the opportunities and challenges of financing housing development in Sub-Saharan Africa, followed by a brief exploration of “Public-Private Partnerships” and “Municipal Development Funds”. The day also involved presentations by KZN MEC for Human Settlements and Public Works, SALGA’s Sustainable Human Settlements Specialist and the Treasury’s DDG who spoke on the South African Model of Human Settlements Finance. Seated around tables in the audience, participants were given the opportunity to discuss the presentations and share feedback on these at a plenary session.

SA SDI Alliance Team at Exchange

SA SDI Alliance Team at Exchange

Visiting Cornubia housing project 

While the first day focused on a sustainable funding model, the second day comprised two key parts: presentations and a field trip.  The presentations related to a series of existing and proposed human settlement projects while the field trip took us to two of them: KwaMashu Centre where a multi-storey 1000-unit social housing development is planned and Cornubia, a 25000-unit housing project and associated social and light industrial precinct to the north of Durban. At both these projects participants were afforded an opportunity to engage in a question and answer session with municipal officials leading the visit.

Cornubia Housing Project,

Cornubia Housing Project, eThekwini Municipality


Cornubia, eThekwini Municipality

Cornubia, eThekwini Municipality

Community-Centred Human Settlement Development

The third day’s focus shifted to issues of community participation in human settlements development discussed by the Project Preparation Trust, the SA SDI Alliance and Habitat for Humanity South Africa. The CEO of Project Preparation Trust examined the meaning of ‘people-centred development’ and its relationship to infrastructural development’. He shared 8 actions that South African cities need to take in order to become more people-centred. Key amongst these were

  • the need to understand local communities and circumstances
  • approaching participation as ‘negotiation’
  • focusing on partnership and trust-building
  • asset not deficit-based thinking
  • understanding informality by working with it not against it
  • and most importantly, focussing on improving livelihoods and quality of life

The SA SDI Alliance team shared its experience in pioneering people-centred development initiatives since 1991. The presentation focussed on the Alliance’s experience in community-driven human settlement upgrading in relation to ‘project preparation’ and ‘project implementation’. While project preparation was explained as comprising community-based savings, data-collection (profiling & enumerations) and planning, implementation looked at upgrading in terms of improved services, re-blocking and housing.

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 12.31.08 PM


The emphasis in both regards was on how the Alliance approach provides opportunities for people to participate in and drive their own development, leading to self-pride and greater sense of ownership of the final product. It also emphasised the central role of women in driving the process and the need for partnerships between poor communities and government. A series of quotes about the Alliance process from significant national human settlements ministers concluded the presentation, clearly communicating that,

“It’s only a fool who cannot support this process”

(Derek Hanekom, SA Human Settlements Minister, 1999)

Habitat for Humanity SA’s final presentation shared its new strategic direction since 2012 and its use of the 4P model: People-Public-Private Partnerships. Habitat shared its approach to leadership capacity-building workshops, the role of asset-mapping and sustainable livelihoods analysis, the artisan audit towards providing appropriate skills training which is part of a social scoping exercise run in communities that participate in their own development programs.


Discussions aimed to broaden thinking and practice by municipal officials and sector practitioners alike. As a result of the presentations and discussion on community-centred participation on Day 3, the concept of ‘Public-Private Partnerships’ introduced on the first day had been broadened out to include People-Public-Private Partnerships, in which communities become central role-players in project preparation (community driven savings, data collection and planning) as well as implementation. As the Alliance continues to seek out a partnership the municipality, the exchange indicated a growing awareness concerning the significance of community-driven process and collaborative partnership between stakeholder sectors.

YOUTH: Young. Organised. United. Talented. Hardworking.

By News 2 Comments

By Skye Dobson [Cross posted from SDI Secretariat]


“Poor people have me. Rich people don’t need me. If you eat me you’ll die. I am worse than a demon. Who am I?” 

This was the riddle Rogers, a youth member of the South African SDI Alliance posed to youth from across South Africa, Uganda, Kenya and India at the opening of a peer-to-peer exchange held in Cape Town, South Africa for youth activists last week. He put his phone on the table and said that whoever solved the riddle in 3 minutes would get the phone. To honor the riddle, I will tell you the answer at the end of the blog. 

Unfortunately the phone deal has expired.

“As a girl, I’m always told things happen because of fate. But it’s the things I do, not luck, that determine my fate. So we must forget about fate, and move forward.”

Shikha, India


The exchange was inspired by the youth activism of Prayasam, an Indian organization founded in 1999 to enable children to participate in the decisions that affect their lives. When Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI), an international network of slum dweller federations in 33 countries, learned of Prayasam’s work and the shared strategies used to organize communities to profile and map their settlements as a starting point for negotiations with authorities, it was agreed that the two organizations would do well to promote peer-to-peer learning between youth members and other youth groups trying to make change in their settlements. With support from Sundance Films, SDI, Prayasam, The Community Organization Resource Centre (COURC), and SDI hosted a 6-day learning exchange for youth from informal settlements in Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, and India.

“I taught myself how to share and how to love. The River of Life showed me you can solve your problems as a group.”

Lucky, South Africa


A River of Life exercise on the first day – led by the Prayasam youth – kicked off the exchange and supported reflection by the youth on the highs and lows of their lives and their goals for the next three years. The youth drew and presented their personal rivers to the group. The stories were touching, referencing hardships such as the death of family and friends, early pregnancies, gang membership, and lost opportunities owing to a lack of financial resources. On the high points of their rivers, however, they explained the pride experienced when they got into or performed well at school, found spiritual direction, became members of youth groups, and took part in exchanges with other youth both locally and abroad. While their highs and lows were described in individual terms, it was fascinating to note that their aspirations for the future were almost entirely group-centered. The youth spoke of wishing to bring their communities together, of wanting to empower their peers, about increasing the membership and impact of their youth groups, of setting a good example to children, and of advocating for the rights of the young and the disadvantaged. This exercise set the stage for the youth to engage each other more openly. Instead of the standard introductions of formally structured peer-to-peer learning, these introductions stripped the process down to authentic fundamentals: Who am I? Why am I here? How did I get here? It was clear that the process was as much about answering these questions for oneself as it was about sharing it with others.

“The film showed that you’re never too young to make change.”

Sefiso, South Africa

A key inspiration for the youth exchange was a film called The Revolutionary Optimists, which follows Amlan (founder and Director of Prayasam) and three of the children he works with, as they become agents of change in their communities. The film not only captures the incredible work of Prayasm’s children, but the realities of life in Indian slums. On the second day the youth were able to see the film at a community center in Langa as well another from Uganda, The Boda Boda Thieves, which captures some of the realities of life in Uganda’s slums. The feedback from the youth was thoughtful and insightful. They were quick with their praise for the Indian youth and concluded that one is never to young to make change in his/her community. They expressed the similarities they saw between conditions in India and their own countries – particularly related to poor sanitation, teenage pregnancy, and child labor. They joked of the celebrities in their midst! From The Boda Boda Thieves film they concluded youth must be very careful when it comes to peer pressure and a desire to get money quickly. They all had stories about youth who had succumbed to peer pressure and “gangsterism” and they made references to the contributing factors. They discussed the importance of reaching out to parents so that they can support their children to join youth groups and take part in productive afterschool activities as an alternative.

“Statistics might be different from experiences.”

Sibo, South Africa (Sizakuyenza)



A unifying strategy across many of the groups is the collection of data by youth in order to plan for change and negotiate with other actors – often the State – to implement solutions. Both Prayasam and SDI affiliates profile slum settlements, but their approaches are slightly different and the youth were able to share and reflect on each others strategies, achievements, and challenges. In the spirit of Learning-by-Doing, the youth went to a settlement in Nginalendlovu in Khayelitsha anda settlement profiling exercise which was facilitated by community members and supporting professionals in the South African SDI Alliance. Half the group used GPS devices to map the boundary of the settlement, while the other half conducted the socio-economic profile with the local community, while trying to squeeze into all available shade under the awnings of shacks. Rogers, a youth member from Kwazulu Natal administered the questionnaire with infectious enthusiasm and finesse.

Community members were guided to discuss and generate information on their settlement, from the origin of its name, to issues of tenure security and services, to the biggest challenges facing the community. They expressed major concerns with water supply, flooding, and crime, but they were unanimous that the biggest threat to their community at present comes from rats. One gentleman explained that his cat was eaten by a rat and that children are attacked and one child’s hand was bitten off. It is important to note that a problem with rats was not amongst the check boxes on the questionnaire. This highlighted Rogers’ skill as a profiler and the need to allow sufficient time for communities to make less structured contributions throughout the profiling process. The community was eager for the compiled information to be returned to them and the discussion about their issues to continue so that they can begin to generate solutions.

“…everything in nature has its own reason.”

Rogers, South Africa



The reflections from one of the youth on his visit to Path Out of Poverty (POP) on Goedgedacht Farm visit were so poignant. Through a long term, holistic, programme, POP builds confidence and skills in rural youth and offers opportunities for self advancement and for making a real contribution to their own communities. Rogers said he was “blown away by POP” and that he learned “everything in nature has its own reason. You can learn from nature if you’re patient. If you watch it, it will teach you.” One could argue the same is true for these youth, who clearly have so much to teach the world about their realities and how they believe change is possible. Within them, like nature, the solutions can be found for many of the world’s ills. Salim, one of the Indian youth, said the way poems and song are used to “manage the kids” at the Goedgedacht Farm will really help him to strengthen his leadership at the preschool in his community, while Kamalika from Saldanha was inspired to go back to her community and work with small children.

“They come in wrecked and leave as a piece of art”

Sibo, South Africa


On Wednesday the youth visited Sizakuyenza to see youth projects, including a recycling project, health services, and a women’s home called House of Smiles. The local federation designed Sizakuyenza to serve as a basket of services for the federation saving groups and their wider communities. The recycling initiative (Solid Waste Network) provides employment for youth and supports the municipality to keep the area clean. Many of the youth from South Africa and the youth from India were particularly interested in the waste project, as they have plans to operate waste management businesses of their own.

At House of Smiles the youth asked many questions about the women who live in the shelter and whether they were safe from their husbands once inside. They were interested to hear about the close relationship the center maintains with the police and the confidence they place in them. Many of the youth harbor suspicions about police, but the House of Smiles team has developed a close working relationship with them, which makes their premises and inhabitants feel secure.


In the afternoon a youth choir by Ubuhle Bendalo, a youth group of about 90 members based in Makhaza, Khayelitsha. The group meets most days after school and uses the performing arts to develop each other’s artistic skills and address challenges in their community. The song, dance, and poetry were moving and had a number in the audience trying to blink away tears. The youth in Makhaza work hand-in-hand with the local police to fight crime and youth participation in gangs. A police officer gave testimony that the settlement has been transformed by the presence of the group. For Shikha, from Prayasam, the afternoon with Ubuhle Bendalo was the highlight of the week – she was infected by the group’s vibrancy and wanted to take that energy and vibrancy back home.

“At first I was not about to swim. I don’t know how to. But when I heard those guys explaining, I decided to try.”

Allan, Uganda

Thursday was a day of physical exertion! The day began with some training at the Future Champs Boxing Gym in Philippi and ended with surfing in Muizenberg. The two events highlighted the powerful role sports can play in the process of team and community building, the humbling and unifying effects of learning something new, and the power of fun in managing some of the stresses of daily life. Manish, from Prayasam, was inspired to take some of the tools of the Future Champs (boxing) and Waves of Change (surfing) programs back to the Sports Academy he is part of in India. Many of the youth had not seen the ocean before. Many could not swim. Yet, they surfed! They laughed in the “salty water” with their faces plastered with white sunscreen and fearlessly took on the challenge.




“And to those who sent me here: I will make you proud.”

Sifiso, South Africa

On the final day of the exchange the youth had a reflection on the week and all agreed they had become family. With sincerity they told each other how much they would miss being together and pledged to stay in touch and provide continuous support via social media as much as they can.

And the answer to the riddle? It’s “nothing”. Poor people have me. Rich people don’t need me. If you eat me you’ll die. I am worse than a demon. Nothing.

Though the riddle was a whole lot of fun, the week’s exchange made it very clear that poor people don’t have “nothing” at all. Though poor, the youth showed they have authenticity, compassion, innovation, and commitment to improving their own lives and those of their communities. Exchanges such as these will inspire changes within individuals and communities in ways we cannot possibly predict. But, this is the exact strategy (as much as it sits at odds with increasingly logframe and indicator obsessed NGOs): Bring the people together and let them create new knowledge, develop their own insights, reaffirm their own value, develop new strategies, and then figure out how to implement.

“I am not the same person I was before I came here.”

Patrick, Kenya

Savings Symposium: Strong Savings Make Us Alive

By CORC, FEDUP, ISN, SDI No Comments

By Yolande Hendler (on behalf of CORC)

From 23-29 November 2014 the SA SDI Alliance and SDI affiliates from Malawi, Zambia & Zimbabwe gathered for a weeklong savings symposium in Cape Town to strengthen the Alliance’s savings practices. The group of 80 community and youth leaders discussed the power of savings for organising communities, leveraging municipal resources and opening a space to address individual, group and community needs.

Opening Greetings of Symposium

Opening Greetings of Symposium

Na-eema Swartz, Symposium Co-organiser, counts savings collection taken during first day.

Na-eema Swartz, Symposium Co-organiser, counts savings collection taken during first day.

Symposium overview: field visits and discussions

Discussions assessed the Alliance’s current savings patterns, locally and nationally. They clarified what roles and responsibilities exist within savings groups, identified existing challenges and developed solutions for these. Visiting affiliates shared their savings practices, systems and strategies, supporting the SA alliance through the exchange of alternatives ideas and opportunities.

Throughout the week the group based these discussions on field visits to savings groups and upgraded informal settlement communities like Flamingo Crescent, who contributed 20% of the cost of each upgraded structure. These visits enabled a hands-on space for the symposium members to accompany local treasurers and collectors and learn how to complete saving record forms during door-to-door savings collections in Khayelitsha, Philippi and Samora. During other visits symposium members supported network meetings in Samora and Mfuleni in Cape Town, where four or five savings groups in a particular area regularly report back to each other on a network level.

Field visit in Flamingo Informal Settlement

Field visit in Flamingo Informal Settlement

Understanding savings in the SA Alliance

FEDUP national co-ordinators, Rose Molokoane and Marlene Don, opened the savings symposium by exploring the purpose for the gathering, revisiting the history of savings in the SA Alliance and its significance as a core methodology of the broader SDI network. Rose therefore reminded the gathering of the SA alliance’s history as rooted in its first exchange in the early 1990s with urban poor federations in India who were practicing daily savings.

Rose and Marlene revisited the main aims of FEDUP and ISN, namely

  • Encourage self reliance
  • Organising communities
  • Use savings and other methodologies as a tool to leverage external resources

These are underpinned by FEDUP and ISN’s 5 core principles:

  • Love
  • Trust
  • Accountability
  • Transparency
  • Commitment

Examining Alliance savings and looking forward

The purpose of the symposium was therefore to retrospect and understand the foundation on which the Alliance has built its savings, examine current savings patterns and look forward in terms of how these can be strengthened and developed. Based on impressions from the field, symposium members split into six groups, discussing questions, documenting suggestions and opinions in order to reach tangible outcomes. The questions under discussion were:

  1. What is a saver?
  2. Who is a collector?
  3. Who is a treasurer?
  4. What kind of savings do we have?
  5. Which kind is best for our organisation?
  6. How do we collect savings?
  7. How often do we collect savings?
  8. How do we record?
  9. How do we do reconciliation & savings?
  10. How & when do we do audits of our savings?
  11. How did you become a collector / treasurer?
  12. How do we run savings meetings?
  13. How should we deal with inconsistencies?

Each group presented its responses to the larger gathering, thereby mapping out a foundation on which to continue building the SA Alliance’s savings. The responses and group discussions will be used to develop a guiding framework for savings patterns in the Alliance. Communities thereby use savings not only as a tool to meet identified needs but to enable constructive negotiation with governmental tiers for resources and participatory development.

As members of each province reflected on the experiences gained during the week, it became evident that it was indeed a rich time of learning, exchange and building strong savings patterns.

“I learnt how to record in savings books, and I learnt the strength of being part of a group like this. I realised we can do it together. You made me feel so welcome” (Wendy, FEDUP Youth, Free State)

“I learnt the purpose of savings and how to motivate my community to save when I return home” (Sifiso, KwaZulu-Natal)

“Our federation belongs to us and we are the ones who will make it alive through strong savings!” (Rose Molokoane, FEDUP National Co-ordinator)

Presenting Group responses

Presenting Group responses

A month with Father Jorge – His reflections on South Africa, Zambia & Namibia

By CORC, SDI No Comments

By Yolande Hendler (on behalf of SA SDI Alliance)

Father Jorge is one of the longest-standing friends and a much-valued mentor not only of the SA SDI Alliance but also of the broader Shack/ Slum Dwellers International (SDI) family. He has been visiting South Africa for the last 25 years, joining us for his most recent visit from October to November 2014.


From Argentina to Japan to the World

Born in Argentina in 1930 Father Jorge Anzorena, has been living in Tokyo, Japan for more than 50 years as a Jesuit priest, an architect and a professor, leading a remarkable life (read more here). His attentive ear for people, listening, understanding and documenting the organisation processes of poor communities throughout the world draws a common thread through his experiences.

As part of an initiative in 1976 by the Catholic church and Jesuit order to understand how poor people organised themselves around land and housing Father Jorge began travelling between numerous poor people’s movements and communities in Asia, ranging from Philippines to Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka. About a decade later, Father Jorge visited South Africa and became part of the first dialogues between urban poor communities from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Father Jorge has visited South Africa regularly ever since.

Reflections on South Africa

This year Father Jorge spent time in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban– visiting many communities, attending meetings and gatherings such as the National Human Settlements Indaba and reflecting on changes, challenges and points of progress:

“Over the years that I have visited I have witnessed three upgrading projects, in Sheffield Road, Mtshini Wam and Flamingo Crescent. When we first started upgrading in Sheffield Road it took a long time, and few people were enthusiastic because they didn’t know what to expect. Now in Mtshini Wam, we are looking at the next phase after upgrading, which is densification together with a team of professionals that was interested in building on the wishes of the community in order to be as inclusive as possible. Very rarely do you find professional teams that are considerate of the community’s wishes and plans. In Flamingo Crescent you can see developments in the upgrading projects: it was completed after just 5 months of construction, where Mtshini Wam took one year. There is also a transformation in the community. People are really thinking about how they can develop themselves.”

“I have also seen a change in how the alliance relates to government (and vice versa) in two meetings I attended with officials of the City of Cape Town and the Department of Water and Sanitation where FEDUP/ISN, CORC and students were presenting alternative models to the Department. It seems that government is taking more notice of the alliance and considering its capacity to present the projects and plans of the community”

Father Jorge at National Human Settlements Indaba in Johannesburg

Father Jorge at National Human Settlements Indaba in Johannesburg

Reflections on Zambia

During October and November Father Jorge was warmly welcomed by the Zambian and Namibian Alliances. The Zambian federation shared its work on water kiosks that the community of Kalunduville settlement near Kafue had built to ensure their first ever access to water in the settlement.

“The water kiosks are important because they require community effort and connect people to each other. Sometimes with individual benefit projects a community can be separated but when everyone contributes (like digging the trenches) this can really change the mentality of a community and build solidarity which is very important for slum dwellers”

At a savings scheme meeting in George Compound in Lusaka, which gathered Federation leaders from all over Zambia, the Federation spoke about the projects it is undertaking through using community savings such as eco-san toilets, home-improvement loans, the building of resource centres and drainage systems.

“This Federation is unique because it doesn’t live on hand-outs – please, wherever you go, tell them that the Federation in Zambia is alive!”

(Cecelia, Zambian Federation, Ndola)

Visiting Kalunduville settlement near Kafue, Zambia

Visiting Kalunduville settlement near Kafue, Zambia

Water Kiosk in Kalunduville settlement, Kafue, Zambia

Water Kiosk in Kalunduville settlement, Kafue, Zambia

With the Zambian Federation in George Compound, Lusaka

With the Zambian Federation in George Compound, Lusaka

Reflections on Namibia

The Namibian Federation invited Father Jorge to Etuyeni savings group in Havana settlement just outside Windhoek and to a group meeting of various savings schemes’ bookkeepers in Gobabis. Etuyeni savings group shared its challenges around accessing municipal land and its plans to build houses through using savings to make its own bricks. In Gobabis the Federation’s bookkeepers shared insights on the strong savings and financial system it has established in managing its own funds.

“In Namibia I noticed the change of responsibility. It’s not the NGO that is responsible for the finances but it is the community. In many other places the NGO pushes the community to return the money – but when the community controls the money they take much more responsibility to use it. Often it is difficult for poor people to think long term because the focus is on surviving in the moment. But the change that comes with savings is that people can start thinking about the near future. ”

Meeting with Etuyeni Savings group

Meeting with Etuyeni Savings group

Etuyeni savings group makes bricks in Havana settlement, Windhoek

Etuyeni savings group makes bricks in Havana settlement, Windhoek


Old friends reunite in Windhoek