Empowering the Urban Poor to Improve Their Communities
This is the third of three articles highlighting Cities Alliance Country Programme results in Liberia, which will host the Cities Alliance Assembly from 25-27 April 2019. The other two articles cover results at the national and municipal levels.
With its goal of improving the lives of 400,000 slum dwellers in Greater Monrovia, The Cities Alliance Liberia Country Programme focuses on the urban poor. It builds their capacity to participate in national policy process, ensuring that they are recognised as a credible, constructive and effective development partners.
Country Programme activities at the community level, such as community profiling and settlement forums, empower communities and help them become acknowledged as an integral part of the city. They also help communities identify priority small infrastructure projects, which are funded through the Country Programme’s Community Upgrading Fund.
Profiling Greater Monrovia’s slums to empower communities
In partnership with the YMCA, Slum Dwellers International has used the Country Programme to support slum communities in Greater Monrovia to profile over 84 slum settlements. As of the end of 2018, it has mobilised 179 saving groups with over 4,970 registered members in 35 slum communities.
This partnership has also trained over 1,212 slum dwellers in the profiling and mapping of communities. These trainees have learned how to collect data on their settlements using various techniques, including digital coding of structures and households, questionnaires, and GPS to capture boundaries and service points.
Communities can share this data with local authorities when calling for improvements in their living conditions and in identifying priority interventions. As is essential in a data-starved environment, this primary information is also being used to inform other Country Programme activities, particularly the Community Upgrading Fund projects directly implemented by the Cities Alliance Secretariat team in Monrovia.
Launching a national Urban Poor Federation
These federations enable communities to organise around activities such as savings groups, enumeration, and mapping and have a platform for collective action.
Through the Country Programme, two national organisations to support the urban poor have been launched: The Federation of Liberia Urban Poor Savers (FOLUPS) and Federation of Petty Traders and Informal Workers Union of Liberia (FEPTIWUL). Both these institutions have established working relationships with local government, which uses the data collected by slum dwellers to address key issues in the city. City officials have come to recognise and value the federations as a medium for discussions between slum settlements/informal workers and the city government and township commissioners.
The Community Upgrading Fund (CUF)
The Community Upgrading Fund component of the Country Programme provides financing for small infrastructure projects selected by the communities themselves. Using the data collected by SDI and YMCA during the profiling activity, communities were placed at the centre of the Country Programme to convene settlement forums and identify their priority needs, such as building toilet facilities, renovating a school, or establishing water points.
Once communities have agreed on priority projects, they are submitted to the CUF steering committee for approval and vetted for feasibility. The steering committee comprises representatives from all stakeholders: The Cities Alliance Liberia team, the Ministries of Internal Affairs and Public Works, the Slum Upgrading Unit, local governments, non-governmental organisations, slum dwellers and street vendors.
The CUF then provides funding for the projects, which are managed and implemented by the community. The Liberia Country Programme team engaged a local construction firm, which will in turn hire community members to do the work. For the water projects, the team helps the communities interact with the Liberia Water Corporation to approve the sites and ensure adequate water pressure.
By the end of 2018, the first 10 projects had been identified to build schools, water points, and community meeting halls. In the first phase, the Cities Alliance Liberia team is currently implementing four of these projects: a kindergarten in West Point community (NV Massaquoi School), construction of a classroom block in New Kru town (Tomorrow Children School), three water kiosks in the King Peter community, and three water kiosks in the Popo Beach community. By 2019, the Monrovia team expects to have 20 CUF projects up and running.
The Cities Alliance team has also organised a learning exchange with Ghana to explore eco-friendly design and construction techniques, such as biogas digesting toilets, to potentially inform CUF activities.
About the Liberia Country Programme
The Cities Alliance Country Programme is designed to provide long-term, programmatic support to help Liberia realise its developmental objectives, in a way that benefits the urban poor. Programme activities aim to improve the lives and opportunities of up to 400,000 slum dwellers in Greater Monrovia, with interventions at the community, municipal and national levels.
Through the Country Programme, the Cities Alliance works with a diverse range of Liberian partners to support local authorities in Greater Monrovia with implementation, including the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Department of Urban Affairs, organised civil society groups in cities, and the private sector.
International development partners include United Cities and Local Governments Africa (UCLGA), UN-Habitat, Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI), Comic Relief, DFID, International Growth Centre, Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), StreetNet International, Habitat for Humanity International, UNOPS, and the YMCA.