Multi-year projects build on life-changing work in Uganda


Urban Systems Foundation and ACTS sign agreement

Work is expected to begin soon on two multi-year projects to help improve the lives of Ugandans.

The projects extend efforts over the past several years, supported by the Urban Systems Foundation, to provide potable water and to help students complete high school in the two communities of Kinyamufara and Nyakyera.

Carried out in collaboration with ACTS (Africa Community Technical Service), the projects support the goal set by the foundation’s board in recent years to work more closely with the two communities on a longer-term basis. This arrangement was formalized in an agreement signed by ACTS and the foundation on Sept. 26 in Vancouver.

Signatory and Urban Systems Vancouver branch leader Mike Olmstead says the agreement marks “a small but important milestone” for the foundation’s Uganda initiative.

The two new projects were identified through a needs assessment that the Urban Systems Foundation completed. The assessment was the first step taken in the Urban Systems Foundation’s five-year plan for its work in Uganda.

The first new project, to enhance primary school facilities, will help the schools and populations that feed the high schools attended by students sponsored by Urban Systems’ staff and the foundation.

The other project, to build capacity of the central water committee, will help to ensure that the gravity-fed water systems already funded by ACTS and the foundation are self-sustaining.

“These ideas have been well thought out,” Mike emphasizes. “The needs were assessed and identified and then we carefully thought about what we could address with these two communities. The agreement with ACTS was negotiated on this basis.”

“We are already working with the high-school students there. So this is essentially helping the elementary schools, and making sure the water systems are operated and maintained properly.”

It’s anticipated that ACTS representatives will travel to Uganda soon to initiate the two new projects, guided by a detailed framework laid out in the agreement.

Among the initial steps to undertake with the primary school project are documenting all of the eligible existing elementary public schools and discussing the initiative with the head teachers and the conditions for carrying out enhancements, such as cost sharing. ACTS representatives will also liaise with the respective district education departments to present the overall project and secure their commitment to become active participants, which includes sharing the costs.

Some of the highest priority enhancements identified through the needs assessment include rehabilitating or expanding latrines and providing hand-washing stations in conjunction with latrines. Rainwater harvesting facilities, building and repairing classrooms and providing textbooks and school supplies are also potential projects, Mike says.

He notes that the over-arching hope for the project is to build the education systems’ capacity in multi-year planning.

Developing deeper capacity for the central water and tap-stand committees to effectively govern and manage the gravity-fed water systems is the other new project’s ultimate goal. Mike notes this will involve the archdiocese of the Church of Uganda and the Ugandan government, which work closely together to deliver many services.

“What we’re hoping to do is enhance the archdiocese’s capacity in the design, construction and operation of gravity-flow water systems. This is a new area for them.”

The committees’ existing constitutions will also be examined to leverage their governance and management principles. Training and mentoring needs will be identified in consultation with the committees. Capacity-building activities will engage both elected officials and staff.

“We want the (water) systems to be self-sustaining, both from an operational and financial perspective,” Mike says. “If we can add value through our perspective and experience on governance, administration and operations, we are most happy to do that.”

In support of this work, Urban Systems Foundation will provide $125,000 and $90,000 over the life of the primary school and central water committee projects, respectively.

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