Empowering Asian slum-dwellers with city-wide solutions for participatory planning and infrastructure budgeting with Local Authorities

                                                              

Empowering Asian slum-dwellers with city-wide solutions for participatory planning and infrastructure budgeting with Local Authorities

Practical Action
Solution proposed by: 
Practical Action with partners in each country: SUP (Faridpur) – Society for the Urban Poor; DHARA (Jessore) – Development of Health and Agriculture Rehabilitation Advancement; LUMANTI Support Group for Shelter (Nepal); FEED-Sri Lanka (Akkareipattu) – Fed
In a Nutshell: 
We have mainstreamed slum-dweller engagement in local authority planning and budgeting through sustained and repeated practices of local-level participatory planning, benefitting over 31,600 people from 82 communities across 6 municipalities in Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Communities not only plan, but take a lead as appropriate infrastructure choices are installed.
Where and When: 
Faridpur & Jessore Municipality, Bangladesh; Butwal & Bharatpur Municipality, Nepal; Akkaraipattu & Kurunegala, Sri Lanka from April 2012 to March 2016
Challenges: 
Our engagement in these locations over a number of years meant we were well aware of challenges to be addressed. These included (1) the need to institutionalise a set of structures and practices at community and municipality levels which ensure slum dweller priorities are identified and addressed on a continual basis without discrimination. (2) The need to choose and install infrastructure choices that are appropriate, affordable and used and maintained in the long term, and which would scale up beyond the project. (3) The need to bring peers together (across communities, municipalities and countries) to share expertise.
Innovation: 
Innovation has been in both systems and infrastructure. Systems: introducing effective practices to handle transitions in leadership at community and local authority level to ensure continuity of participatory planning and budgeting. Also working with town-wide federations of slum-dwellers to ensure on-going peer support. Technologies and infrastructure: introducing new waste management practices for biogas such as dry-fermentation of organic waste, and new types of waste transport vehicles or home-composting and gardening techniques. Adapting water and sanitation technologies e.g. for arsenic protection, shared septic tanks and better faecal sludge management.
Concept: 
The key concepts behind this solution are (1) building the capacity of both slum dwellers and local authorities for a sustainable solution (2) building relationships among peers for on-going support (3) the role of an NGO as a facilitator and catalyst, rather than acting on behalf of others (4) planning is never enough: solutions also need to be realised on the ground. This enables the development of other key skills in: choice of technologies, procurement of materials, construction and supervising quality, systems for on-going operation and maintenance, partnerships for effective running of services such as waste management. The project’s theory of change involved planning by slum dwellers and their inputs to annual municipal planning and budgeting processes, and the processes of other major projects. We worked with Local Authority staff to help them engage more effectively with slum dwellers and their needs. The voice of slum dwellers is strengthened by bringing all slum communities together in town-wide federations. This leads to budgets being allocated for prioritised infrastructure improvements (with some cost-sharing with project funds), and those projects being realised on the ground again in partnership with communities, while creating livelihood opportunities for the poor.
Description: 
Context: The project worked over 4 years in 6 towns and reached 82 slum communities. The towns varied in size from nearly 250,000 (Jessore in Bangladesh), to 28,000 (Kurunegala in Sri Lanka). In all three countries, the existing legal and policy framework promotes decentralised governance and a role for local communities in expressing their priorities, and having these supported by Local Authorities. There are resources available to Local Authorities could be used more effectively: either from their own budgets, or through major donor-funded projects. Actions: By building capacity of both slum dwellers and LAs, and through targeted, practical demonstrations of urban services delivery we aimed to improve urban governance and the lives of slum dwellers. The project has helped the communities to organise themselves and form associations that would represent their priorities in front of the authorities and other stakeholders, and deal with a diversity of local interests. The associations are formalised holding elections and participation from all the edges of the communities. On the other hand, repeated sensitisation, constant communication and initial bridging with slum people, have built the capacity of local authorities to work in participatory ways. The project worked as a catalyst, providing minimal model infrastructure services, technical backstopping and expertise, which has brought the two groups to work together on practical tasks. The priorities of low income communities are now reflected in annual development plans. Communities are able to make priorities (infrastructure, management, basic rights, etc.) based on demand and ensure their proper delivery from local authorities. The project has provided an example for sustainable service delivery by municipal authorities to poor communities. It has empowered communities to realise their rights. This is expected to remain a continuing system where both the groups can work together for knock-on benefits.
Impacts: 
A sustainable mechanism developed for slum based associations, leading to demand generation for infrastructure services and other needs. Continuous engagement of local authorities with slum people to provide demand-led services, leveraging at least €2 million (more than the project’s budget) in additional infrastructure investments by the project’s third year. 18,800 slum dwellers directly benefited from infrastructure and service improvements, and livelihoods generated for 337 people. Slum dwellers enjoy lower health costs, increased respect in the town, and greater socio-economic and cultural opportunities. Marginalised groups such as harijan sweepers, displaced people and women-headed households benefited in particular.

Photo Gallery

Photo credits: Practical Action
Photo credits: Practical Action
Photo credits: Practical Action
Photo credits: Practical Action
Photo credits: Practical Action