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All posts tagged Community

Empowering communities with participatory community enumeration

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Presenter: Hello once again, and welcome to your community friendly program, Community Watch. It’s coming to you from your number one radio station, National 90.5 FM, the first on the dial. I am your regular host, Kemi Aduroja.

If you are just tuning in for the first time, this program showcases various initiatives carried out to make our communities healthier. Today, we have another interesting topic to discuss in the studios. Today, we bring you yet another wonderful effort, called “community enumeration.”

SFX: Bulldozers at work. Fade out under presenter.

Presenter: Dear listeners, this program showcases the efforts of an NGO to empower several communities in Abuja, Nigeria. The NGO uses community enumeration to help citizens direct funds to the most desperate sections of their communities.

This story helps dispel many myths about poor communities: first, that poor communities are chaotic, crime-ridden and cannot organize themselves. The truth is that the majority of residents earn their living through hard work, and that they lack schooling and are underpaid. And secondly, that the poor cannot resolve their issues because they lack funds and knowledge.

Partnerships between communities, governments and other agencies can help people understand how residents cope in these slums, why they live the way they do, and what they need. This is where community enumeration comes in.

In Kenya when the Railways Corporation notified residents of the Kibera slum of plans to demolish structures in the area, community members quickly enumerated the people and the buildings likely to be affected. The findings revealed that about 20,000 buildings and over 108,000 people would suffer. The residents formed a group to negotiate on their behalf. Pressure was applied to government to stop the plans, and they were cancelled. In 2005, the Railways Corporation started negotiations with the community group. They later conducted a more comprehensive enumeration, which led to a voluntary resettlement scheme that is currently operating.

Enumerations are useful for resettlement. They help local people to organize themselves and propose alternatives to demolition and resettlement, including compensation.

SFX: Bulldozers at work. Fade out under presenter.

Presenter: To many living in Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, the sound of the bulldozer can mean only one thing – demolitions and forced evictions. Here in Abuja, memories of the homes demolished by the government are still fresh in the minds of many people. Because of these demolitions, most of those affected have resorted to living in satellite towns. These communities are now overcrowded and in urgent need of basic services. But an NGO has come up with a solution that will empower these communities. I have here in the studios with me the Executive Director of the Women’s Environmental Programme, Patricia Achakpa. It’s good to have you join us.

Mrs. Achakpa: It’s my pleasure.

Presenter: Mrs. Achakpa will be telling us all about her NGO’s project on community enumeration. Mrs. Achakpa, what is community enumeration?

Mrs. Achakpa: First of all, enumeration is the process of gathering statistical information about a community. But community enumeration goes further. It involves mainly the members of the community, who design and conduct the exercise themselves. What the Women’s Environmental Programme does is to provide the technical skills and resources to help community members gather the information.

Presenter: Why did you choose to carry out this initiative?

Mrs. Achakpa: Well, because of the forced evictions and demolitions carried out in Abuja in the recent past, a lot of low-income people now live in the many communities scattered around Abuja. As a result, the population in these settlements has increased drastically, leading to overcrowding. These communities lack basic services like clean drinking water. People live in extremely unhealthy living conditions. Their houses are substandard and unplanned. If an epidemic or fire were to break out, the whole community could be destroyed.

So, in order to prevent such horrific consequences, the organization decided that community enumerations were necessary to bring to light the situation in the community. This process will also empower the communities, make the local people aware of their strengths and weaknesses, and help the local people mobilize to overcome their challenges. They can use this information to resist forced evictions or to demand compensation. Community enumeration will also result in proper planning for the communities and meet the developmental needs of the communities.

Presenter: How is this initiative different or better than the enumerations carried out by the government?

Mrs. Achakpa: The government census gathers various kinds of data from members of a community, by having consultants come in and ask questions and then return to their offices. At the end of the day, the communities only get involved when they are being counted; that’s their only involvement.

We started this program last year, after we visited other African countries to see how it is done. Our project is different because the communities themselves are the ones physically involved in the exercise, and collecting the information. Once we have trained the enumerators, they conduct the process from start to finish. So this program is not ours but theirs, for their collective benefit.

Presenter: Talking about benefits, what do these communities stand to gain from this participatory approach to enumeration?

Mrs. Achakpa: Like I said earlier, before introducing this initiative in Nigeria, we visited some other countries. We travelled to the US, India, and African countries like South Africa, Ghana and Kenya. We found that community enumeration is working there. This approach empowers residents by giving them information on their communities. They can use this information to negotiate with their government and with other partners, including politicians. You know that politicians often approach residents, asking them about their developmental needs and making promises, especially near election time. Having the information from community enumeration allows residents to lobby and advocate for their needs, and hold governments accountable. Abuja is full of communities, or slums as you call it; they are all around. They all lack basic amenities – no toilets, drinking water, health services, and so on. So this project is all about people getting ownership and improving these slums.

Presenter: I am sure you know that demolitions are still happening, and that some communities have been targeted as the next to be affected. How can these communities benefit from this project?

Mrs. Achakpa: Community enumeration is not only for communities who have experienced forced evictions. But most of the time, it is used where there are demolitions and land-grabbing going on. In Africa now, it has become normal for governments to destroy communities, because they feel these settlements are illegal, over-populated, and uninhabitable. They fail to consider what becomes of the people afterwards. During the demolitions carried out between 2003-2007 in many areas in Abuja, our NGO could not get an accurate count of the number of people living in these slums. Even those who had land legitimately given to them by community chiefs were not compensated by the government because they could not prove ownership of their land.

For example, we have worked in Jiwa community, which we have been reliably informed that the government will soon come to demolish. We have helped the community members to understand that by participating in this project, they will come to know everything about their community. They will know everything – from the population of their community to the state of its drinking water, the state of electrification, and many other types of information.

Presenter: As Mrs. Achakpa says, training community members to enumerate their communities is one way to help them identify and take ownership of problems in their community and successfully advocate for their needs. But it is not the only step required. In the example from Kenya that we talked about in the introduction, community members mobilized themselves to effectively negotiate with those in power to meet their needs. In fact, the whole community needs to be involved right from the beginning of the community enumeration process. The community needs to carefully decide which questions should be asked; they need to discuss how the collected data should be analyzed, what it means; and they need to mobilize around the issues that the data identifies. Finally, community members need to find ways to present the information to governments and effectively negotiate with those in power to address the needs that are identified through community enumeration. (Pause) Let’s take a short break, then talk to some community members to get their views on the subject.

Break

Presenter: Jiwa is one of many communities located in Karimu, a major suburb of Abuja. Now, we will hear from some Jiwa residents who will describe their community in their own words. Don’t go away.

SFX: Fade in noises of the community, the usual hustle and bustle, then under speakers

1st resident: I am Aishatu Mohammed, a woman leader in Jiwa. I am 50 years old and I was born here. The toilets here are in very bad condition, and no one is willing to use his land to build better toilets. What is more, we do not have a functional health centre.

2nd resident: My name is Dahiru Adamu. We are really suffering in this community. No water, no light … in fact, no sign of government assistance.

3rd resident: My name is Abdulsalam Tanko. I have been living in this community since I was born. I am an enumerator trained in Jiwa. We go from house to house gathering information about our community, on the forms we give people to fill. The government has come before to demolish this place, and we hear they are coming again. This area is very poor. With this program, we can lobby the government to provide water, light and improve Jiwa. I encourage other communities to take advantage of this program.

SFX: Fade up noises of community, then out.

Presenter: Welcome back to the program, Community Watch, on National 90.5 FM station. I am still speaking with Mrs. Achakpa of the Women’s Environmental Programme. Now, Mrs. Achakpa, how is this community enumeration done?

Mrs. Achakpa: First, we go to the leaders and members of a particular community to talk to them on the need for community enumeration. Once this is accepted, we pick out a few community members, about 30 or 40, who can read and write, and train them as mappers and enumerators. The mappers divide the community into clusters, marking each house with green ink, not red which is the sign of demolition in Abuja. The enumerators distribute three sets of questionnaires, which deal with households, businesses and institutions in the community. Before distributing the forms, they pre-test them to make sure they are suitable for the community. When all the necessary adjustments have been made to the forms, we mass produce them and distribute them to be filled in. The last stage is assembling and analyzing the data. And then the result is presented in documents and charts.

Presenter: You started this program in 2009; tell us about your success or otherwise.

Mrs. Achakpa: We started doing community enumeration in 2009 with about six communities, such as Karu and Lugbe in Abuja, and we still keep in touch with them. They have started getting involved in negotiations for a better life. They even formed an association, the Federation of the Urban Poor or FEDUP, which is an affiliate of Shacks and Slums Dwellers International. FEDUP has also started a savings scheme for co-operative housing, and is now negotiating with the government to provide collective land on which to build. We in the Women’s Environmental Programme are acting as a go-between to arrange a meeting between the government and the communities’ representatives. We also help in negotiations to prevent misunderstanding between community members and officials.

Presenter: How does this program benefit women in particular?

Mrs. Achakpa: We have found out from past demolition exercises that women and children are the most affected. They sometimes lose their homes and businesses. Sometimes female breadwinners and children are raped or attacked while trying to relocate. But when women and men in the community participate in community enumeration, take ownership of the data collected and mobilize effectively to halt demolitions, these ill effects can be avoided.

Presenter: What are the challenges you face in running this project successfully?

Mrs. Achakpa: Number one is funding. Many communities have now heard about us and call on us to come and help, but we are constrained by funds. Our only sponsor has been a foreign organization, Misereor. The Nigerian government has not yet responded to our many requests that they partner with us to develop these areas instead of demolishing them. That is what these communities want. But we trust that with this initiative, community leaders are now better equipped to demand of the authorities how development should proceed in their communities. This, we believe, will make their communities healthier.

Presenter: Thank you very much, Mrs. Achakpa, for your time. I must congratulate you on your organization’s efforts at creating healthy communities in our city.

Mrs. Achakpa: Thank you, too.

Presenter: And that’s a wrap on today’s show. Thank you very much for listening. We hope you have learned something from this healthy community initiative. Please share your comments and feedback with us on our hotlines, at 33155. I am Kemi Aduroja. Join me next week for another edition of Community Watch on National 90.5 FM. Bye.

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