Winners and Finalists
Cooperative Programme for the Development of Urban Neighbourhoods
Aims and ObjectivesASSOAL aims to contribute to improving access to secure decent housing and basic social services through democratic processes throughout Cameroon, whilst creating a culture of citizen participation and empowering the poor to positively shape their living environment. In collaboration with the RNHC, ASSOAL set up housing cooperatives and promoted participatory budgeting, whilst advocating for the formulation of adequate policies and their implementation. The targeted beneficiaries are poor communities across the country amounting to around 250,000 people, with special emphasis on women and youth. In the long term, ASSOAL hopes to reach 40 per cent of Cameroonian urban dwellers.
Yaoundé is a good illustration of the urban living conditions in Cameroon. The population has almost doubled to approximately two million over the last decade, while investment in the urban sector has lagged behind, with the provision of services and facilities only increasing marginally. The number of informal neighbourhoods has grown rapidly, exacerbating social and economic problems. Almost 70 per cent of the urban population lives in precarious areas, with more than 50 per cent living below the poverty line. The land system is poorly regulated, with title deeds attached to less than 10 per cent of the land, and access to credit for housing remains limited by high interest rates. Across Cameroon 5.6 million people living in slums face similar circumstances, as the urban sector is undermined by structural problems such as significant housing deficit and governance issues linked to a latent public service culture and limited transparency, participation and accountability.
In order to demonstrate the validity of new approaches such as participatory budgeting and housing cooperatives, ASSOAL and the RNHC have carried out a series of pilot interventions. For example, in the periphery of Yaoundé, a pilot cooperative housing project is underway to address housing affordability. Houses have 80m2 of inhabitable space, with three bedrooms and a living room, kitchen, bathroom and veranda, with drinking water and electricity. Three hundred houses are to be built and the first three have been completed. Local labour and mostly local materials are used. The broader aim is to enable the construction of 1,500 houses on a country-wide scale through 17 housing cooperatives. Credit to the housing cooperatives is made available through a revolving fund which is overseen by a Board of Directors, a technical secretariat responsible for the reception and analysis of records of application by the cooperatives and a committee responsible for recovery tracking and monitoring of the use and final destination of resources. A Steering Committee oversees the strategic guidelines and carries out bi-annual technical reviews to maintain quality and adjust future actions. It approves the list of projects selected, and liaises with regional city planning authorities, ensuring coordination between stakeholders.
Furthermore, in 2003, ASSOAL set up the first two pilot projects in participatory budgeting based on the Brazilian model. In 2008, 19 other participatory budgeting projects for neighbourhood improvement were rolled out in three phases of 12 months each.
So far, the participatory budgeting process has led to the prioritisation of infrastructure provision (water supply, street lighting and road improvements), social programmes (health, job creation), and building of housing units.
In addition, the programme also focuses on building capacity at local, national and international levels:
Finally, ASSOAL also engages in advocacy and lobbying for the right to housing and secure tenure, as well as working to influence, formulate and promote housing and urban development policy.
Most costs are covered by contributions from donors such as CORDAID, the European Union, the World Bank, UN-HABITAT and the French Cooperation in Cameroon. Additionally, ASSOAL and its partners (cooperatives and CSOs) commit to mobilise at least ten per cent of the annual budget of around US$1.7 million.
More specifically, interventions identified through participatory budgeting processes are financed through public and donor funds mobilised through lobbying at higher levels and direct negotiations with municipalities, while the cooperative housing pilot project is financed through a revolving fund. This fund received seed funding from:
The Fund sets an interest rate of one per cent and is refinanced by loan repayments, with any shortfalls by individuals met by the cooperative through a solidarity mechanism.
Although imported materials are used in some components, e.g. cement for flooring, most of the materials used for cooperative housing construction have low embodied energy, such as straw-stabilised earth bricks and other locally-sourced materials.
The project has enabled basic services to be provided to communities where they were previously lacking. The provision of electricity in the cooperative housing units decreases reliance on other fuels such as wood or charcoal and the installation of improved latrines and waste management systems has helped to decrease water pollution. Three mobile units for household waste collection have been established in three neighbourhoods, benefitting 3,500 inhabitants. A unit has also been established to manage electrical, electronic and digital waste.
This led to a greater awareness of the collective strength of the community in influencing decision-making. Cooperation between many different actors who have learned about each other through dialogue and collaboration has been achieved, resulting in common objectives being presented to local authorities for implementation. There has been a noticeable increase in the ability of communities to identify priorities and fulfil aspirations, including through the mobilisation of actors and beneficiaries in neighbourhood networks and cooperatives, the elaboration of alternative proposals for the funding of housing and basic services and the local monitoring of the services rendered by the municipalities.
The commitment of the residents to participatory activities, for example in participatory budgeting processes and housing cooperatives, has increased the level of engagement in the definition and management of local policy, whilst creating feedback mechanisms that influence national urban development strategies.
The programme has focused on specific vulnerable and marginalised groups, namely women, youths and disabled people, as important beneficiaries and actors of urban transformation, with several activities and services specifically dedicated to reducing existing social inequality. Women have progressively become more involved in spaces of participation and workshops have been carried out for specific groups, e.g. on gender and land rights.
ASSOAL was also successful in creating a healthier environment. Improved water, sanitation and solid waste management, along with the provision of training and campaigns on hygienic and safe practices has resulted in a reduction of mortality and morbidity rates (decline in helminths, cholera, malaria, etc). Houses are constructed according to safer building codes and roads are maintained in better conditions, decreasing the risk of accidents.
EvaluationMonitoring of participatory budgeting processes is carried out by ASSOAL half-way through the project, and by an independent consultant upon completion. In 2011, an impact review was carried out in Yaoundé by a consultant using statistics and participatory methods to collect and compare data with initial findings. In 2012, the World Bank Institute monitored the ICT component of ASSOAL’s programme.
Mr Jules Dumas Nguebou
President of the Executive Bureau
Actions Solidaires de Soutien aux Organisations et d'Appui aux Libertés (ASSOAL)
BP: 5268 Yaoundé quartier Bastos face KINDJO
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