Creating Great Public Spaces in Three African Cities Kampala Project
In Africa -like in many other places in the world – public spaces are used for public life, commerce and interaction. However, lack of funds, planning, and maintenance, as well as priority for motorized vehicles, has turned many public spaces into unsafe, unforgiving and unconnected places. In addition, many public spaces are difficult to access, especially for those living in vulnerable situations. This is especially the case for the city of Kampala. There is a lack of formal public parks and open spaces in the city, particularly in outlying areas and slum settlements. This has led to people using informal spaces that are not protected. And, of those formal spaces that do exist, they are often of poor quality.
We identified Lukuli Community Playground as the ideal location to undertake a pilot intervention. Lukuli Playground is in an area with the most need in the city. It is located in a poor community and suburb where the huge recreational needs of local residents are completely neglected, as the sorry state of the park demonstrated. Lukuli Playground serves 12 Parishes with an approximate population of 409,500.
In order to address the critical issues we identified in Lukuli as well as increase the awareness and importance of public spaces we began a pilot project, in collaboration with HealthBridge and funded by UN-Habitat. For this project we used 5 strategies:
Lukuli playground is unique in that it is actually owned by the community. This meant that our community engagement process needed to be thoughtful and slow in order to ensure full community participation and ownership of the project.
The main capacity building exercise thus far has been involving Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) in the overall process from the very beginning as a way of modelling how a park can be developed through community engagement. We began the project by briefing five KCCA officials, including the Division Mayor, about the overall project. In terms of capacity building among the community, it was originally our intention to organize trainings with local residents about maintenance of the space. However, it was felt that this workshop was not necessary as the community began to maintain the space on their own without our intervention.
Awareness-raising was built into each of the other strategies and was not a specific strategy on its own. We used community meetings and the Minecraft training to explain the importance of public spaces and highlight our study findings about the situation of the parks in Kampala. These activities increased the interest in our project and the interest in public spaces.
The community’s plans for the park were quite ambitious and it became clear that there would be some projects that would remain incomplete at the end of the project because of lack of funds. The planning process for the development of the park went well with the community. But the actual building of the park encountered some challenges. The community prioritized toilet construction, the need to stop the flooding in the park, and the need to address the rubbish dumping in the park. The initial toilet structure was presented to KCCA and included a basic design that was accessible for people living with disabilities. KCCA required changes to the initial design to include changing rooms, especially for the female playground users, and to expand the number of toilets to meet the needs of the large population that uses the playground. This resulted in a greatly expanded structure. Rather than change course the community decided to continue to build the structure as per KCCA’s requirements. Various service providers were selected from within the community, which helped build community trust and ownership. The funds available were not enough to complete the structure. It currently has walls, and a roof, but lacks the toilet facilities inside. For now the changing rooms are being used by visitors engaged in sports activities. However, several improvements were finished including levelling the ground, redesigning the netball court areas, and the work to stop the flooding. The children’s playground has been completed and is waiting for the grass to grow. It was busy before it was even finished and it has created an excitement in the community, especially among the children and their parents who sometimes accompany them. Even before the completion of the children’s play space, the immediate result is an estimated 80 children as young as two years are accessing the park per day and in some instances their accompanying parents. For the first time parents feel secure to let their children visit and play at the park in the enclosed children play space. Parents are also now a common feature at this play space giving them a chance to play with their children, stimulate their brains and strengthen parent-child relationships. Rubbish has dramatically reduced in the playground and the community is committed to raising more funds to continue to improve the park.
Policy takes time to implement and this project was one of many activities that Advocates for Public Spaces (APS) is undertaking to improve policy. However, this project on its own could not realistically achieve a policy objective. It has, however, provided APS with an example of a how a park can be developed using a community engagement approach. We plan to use this park as a tool for our future advocacy efforts at both a city level and a national level.
The pilot project was just the beginning of our activities in this community. We plan to continue working with the Board of Trustees on further improvements and KCCA on policy: A fundraising plan is being developed to complete the structure for toilets and changing rooms after which the project will be launched.
Through our Support Services, we have the potential to make a real and positive change in the community. This is one of our key areas of focus here at Advocates for Public Spaces, and a source of much success for our Environmental Health Organization. Get in touch with us today and see how you can lend a helping hand with this program.
Education & Outreach
Most of our efforts pertaining to this program involve studying new approaches and developing innovative ways to implement them. We evaluate our success in this field by gathering qualitative and quantitative data, and using that information to measure shifts and changes from our baseline measurements.