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South Africa Archives - SASDI Alliance

How Lesotho is building an organised, urban poor movement

By FEDUP No Comments

“Saving is our heartbeat”, any member of South Africa’s Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) will tell you. “This is how we organise, how we build trust, open spaces to talk and share, find ways to support each other and change our lives. We don’t collect money, we collect people.” Over the last twenty five years the South African federation has grown from a handful of savings groups in the North West and Kwa Zulu Natal Provinces to 626 savings groups in eight provinces with 43 999 members.

Lesotho federation and Tshwarellang saving scheme members (Free State) after mobilising new savers

Lesotho federation and Tshwarellang saving scheme members (Free State) after mobilising new savers

What does it look like when savings groups multiply, and federate within their cities – how does an urban poor, country-wide federation emerge? Through horizontal learning exchanges, South Africa’s FEDUP has been supporting emerging savings groups in Lesotho to do just that. Within the SDI network, the definition of an “emerging” federation is a group that has started building savings collectives but has not yet federated nor achieved citywide scale and is yet to develop a critical engagement with state institutions and other development actors.

As a tool for building strong and organised movements of the urban poor, exchange visits between federations, enable savers to “learn by doing”. In particular, the exchange visits from Lesotho to South Africa have focused on strengthening the foundational aspects of a saving scheme. These included opening a new savings scheme and mobilising members, how to collect and record daily savings, how to engage local government authorities and how to facilitate a network meeting, in which several savings scheme in a region come together to report, organise and support each other.

Manana (left) and Nthabiseng (right) display their bedding (income generation) project for Tshwarellang saving scheme in Free State during the exchange.

Manana (left) and Nthabiseng (right) display their bedding (income generation) project for Tshwarellang saving scheme in Free State during the exchange.

Some of the challenges experienced by Lesotho Federation members included poor recording of savings books, complications with opening bank accounts, and challenges with compiling savings and project information from all districts. These were the focus of Lesotho’s last exchange to Free State province in South Africa in September 2016.

During a door-to-door, daily savings collection, Lesotho federation members shared:

“I realised that the daily collection was not just about collecting money from the members but also checking on their well-being. Some savers didn’t attend meetings because Elizabeth’s husband was seriously ill, Ntswaki just delivered a baby, Sero is not well in health and Dweni’s husband is in hospital. The groups then decided to make financial contributions other than daily savings to help with transport to hospital or medication.”

Federation members singing during the evaluation meeting of the exchange

Federation members singing during the evaluation meeting of the exchange

So how do savings groups multiply and federate? Through “learning by doing” as reflected in comments by Lesotho federation members at the end of the exchange:

The mobilisation experience taught us that we can approach totally random communities for saving scheme establishment.

We learnt about saving networks and their importance and that is something we do not have in Lesotho.

We saw that feedback to members on activities such as collection of money is crucial as it enhances transparency.

We realised your love for the organisation because some of you have even reached the stage of getting houses, but you are still active members and that shows us that you were not chasing after houses.

Jemina Nkoni (left) and Malefu Semonye (right) received a certificate and trophy for the third best performing saving network in the Free State

Jemina Nkoni (left) and Malefu Semonye (right) received a certificate and trophy for the third best performing saving network in the Free State

How to sustain and scale up fire sensor technologies in Kenya and South Africa?

By CORC, FEDUP, ISN No Comments

By Thandeka Tshabalala (on behalf of CORC)

A multi-stakeholder discussion kicked off in early January in Nairobi, Kenya to deliberate on the lessons learnt from the fire sensor installation pilot project. In July 2015, The American Red Cross initiated a fire sensor technology pilot in Mukuru, Kenya and Khayelitsha, South Africa. About 2000 fire sensors were installed in both informal settlements. The discussion dwelled on the lessons learnt during the implementation of the project. It also explored options and possibilities of scaling up the project to other vulnerable communities throughout the world.

CORC (Thandeka Tshabalala) and Red Cross in conversation on fire sensor technologies

CORC (Thandeka Tshabalala) and Red Cross in conversation on fire sensor technologies

A human centered design approach

How can the early warning sensor best address urban fires? Urban fires are amongst the highest occurring disasters affecting urban poor communities. The project intended at strengthening and equipping the communities to best respond to the fires. Community engagement, learning, education and empowerment were seen as the underlying principle for an effective fire sensor. Community feedback (more specially vulnerable groups) on the design and technology formed the conversation around community ownership and perception of the sensor. All in all, an early warning fire sensor alone is not a definitive solution but building community capacity such as community based fire fighters and stations (a small community station is proposed for Mukuru settlement) – is truly building community resilience in fire response mechanisms. The sustainability of the project is thus far dependent on the community contributing towards the purchase of the device taking responsibility in maintenance when necessary. However, in the long run the project aim is for the community to be involved in the formation of governance structures to eliminate any risks of fires and independently sustaining the community based firefighters and/or stations. Moreover, the project aims at linking the fire sensor distribution to address unemployment.

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Are there possibilities of scaling up the fire sensor project?

Scaling up the project would positively impact more people and address fire vulnerabilities at a global scale. However, context, urban mobility and sustainability are to be significantly considered. A fire sensor well suited to the context is important i.e. building material, sources of fires (wild or household fires) and local capital. For example, when comparing the two fire sensor models, one device had an added element of a smoke detector, which also slightly increased the cost of the device. Yet the Lumkani device, used in South Africa, focused on measuring the rate of rising temperatures in small structures is best used in this context, e.g. zinc structures or small tents such as in refugee camps.  Most urban populations are constantly in transit and in search for better economic opportunities. The residents in Mukuru are mostly tenants while in Khayelitsha they are ‘owners’ of the shacks. Due to flood threats, soon after the installation of the devices some of the tenants in Mukuru had already relocated to other parts of the city taking the device along. The relocation posed a difficulty in engaging the community around coordinated response mechanisms. In South Africa, a community response to fires is dependent on networked devices giving an alert. Shacks with no devices pose a threat to the rest of the community should the fire start in them.

The Lumkani device

The Lumkani device

When discussing long-term effectiveness of the sensor project for the wider vulnerable communities three words arise: scaling-up, sustainability and transferability. What role do donors play in the funding process? Upscaling the project requires multilateral partnerships and synergies with other projects to pool resources together. This calls for global advocacy to governments, especially to focus on fire prevention mechanisms instead of a responsive reaction to fire. This means building partnerships for infrastructure investment in the communities. Opening up access routes, disaster resistant material and water points should be a priority. In some instances the community and/ or fire services respond to fires before they create a lot of damage. However, in other instances this is not the case due to lack of access routes and dangerously hanging electrical wires which restrict fire engines who are unable to respond effectively.

Visit to Mukuru, Nairobi

Visit to Mukuru, Nairobi

Team site visit in Mukuru

Team site visit in Mukuru

From project to program: what still needs to be done?

There is still a need for data collection as a strategic tool to provide mechanisms for generating basic data on fire hazards, vulnerabilities and losses. Even though the fire department collects data on every fire occurrence the data is still not used to influence investment in fire prevention, preparedness and mitigation infrastructure. The hope to increase awareness at both community and institutional levels through data collection tools, improves risk identification and the use of knowledge, innovation & education to build a culture of safety. User friendly data can be used to target certain age groups so as to make fire awareness attractive and also strengthen disaster preparedness for effective response. This will enable the move from risk management through emergency relief and response towards a partner based early warning risk management. After each fire disaster in Khayelitsha, disaster management organizations respond with relief material that the community uses immediately to start rebuilding. This project aims to showcase that this approach needs to end and instead encourages the approach of preparing communities to better deal with urban fires.