Friday, January 27, 2006


Two weeks ago, when I wrote an article about SkillShare - Namibia I listed several organizations that were supported by that effort. Today, I would like to focus on one of those organizations, The Urban Trust of Namibia (UTN).

The Urban Trust of Namibia was founded in 1994 by the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) and the Co-operative Housing Foundation. In addition financial assistance was provided by the Ford Foundation.

UTN focuses on "enabling communities, business associations, groups and institutions to promote effective, efficient, democratic and developmental forms of urban governance." Like many very effective non-profit organizations that operate as NGOs, UTN is not member-based, but it is registered as a charitable trust, managed by Board of Trustees.

The Aims & Objectives of the organization are:

- To promote policies for a balanced urban and economic growth that seek to improve the living conditions of the urban poor;
- To encourage policies that foster self-reliance, a sense of community participation in urban management decision-making and implementation;
- To increase the capacity of community-based organisations and manage their own development and resources;
- To empower low income communities through the dissemination of information based on data collection and research on urban management policies practices in Namibia and the region and through imparting of skills and abilities to effectively utilise information, resources and resolve;
- To cooperate with both central and local government agencies in the interest of promoting a democratic pluralist society;
- To promote the Namibian informal, small and medium enterprise sector throughout the policy-making process;
- To strengthen the institutional capacity of UTN to plan and implement initiatives that diversify its financial base and promote its sustainability and the technical capabilities of its staff.

The Target Groups of The Urban Trust of Namibia are:

- Urban Poor
- Local and Regional Urban Policy Makers
- CBOs

It focuses on Five Main Areas of Activities:

i. Research:
Mostly focusing on Urban Policy and Management Housing SME

ii. Training:
- Leadership
- Advocacy
- Skills Building
- Capacity Building

iii. Advocacy and Information:
Information dissemination influencing local authority policy at the local level

iv. Workshops / Meetings:
Awareness workshops on decentralization

v. Publications:
Comparative Study: Local Authorities in Namibia
Newsletter - The 'Urban Talk'

UTN receives its core funding from the Ford Foundation. Additional support has been received from FEF, Canada Fund and the Cooperative Housing Foundation, DED, ADF, UNICEF, NAMDEB, UNDP, and Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA). However, UTN seeks to diversify its financial base by also generating funds through service provision.

The Contemporary Africa Database (of institutions) maintained by The Contemporary Africa Database (of The Africa Centre of London has posted a Case Study on Participatory Planning Initiatives that was presented by The Urban Trust of Namibia (Erastus Haufiku)

In that Case Study it states that "Democratic development in Namibia has not enjoyed so much of popular participation from the citizenry, with the exception of the civil society sector that is trying hard to mobilize communities to participate in democratic development process that are aimed at promoting and enhancing civic participation in strengthening governance at different levels of our society."

"Nevertheless citizen participation in democratic process is not exploited to its maximum. And UTN's vision is to help create "a society that is made up of self-reliant communities capable of self-management and determining their own destiny by mobilising local and other resources and promoting participatory and more equitable development."

"The Case Study is too long to include in this article in its entirety, but I would like to mention a project or two that are mention in the Study. One of these is the "Participatory approaches within Informal market Development Project."

This project has been developed with the aim of enhancing civic participation in market development planning and management. The project was develop to present an alternative models of Industrial Markets Development concept of the Namibia Development corporation that has not make much success in Namibia and also other approaches of similar nature by various local authorities of Namibia in their attempts of constructing market sides for the communities for trading.

"Most of this market have turned into white elephants or with some the initial purpose was compromise and the markets were turned into a business stalls for more advance business people. Most institutions are more result oriented and rash into things to expected better results with limited inputs into the process. In the case of above approaches the money is availed for the design and the construction of the markets with less time spent on generating the inputs from the people that will ultimately use the infrastructure and once the infrastructure is not sufficient to the clients then they immediately turn away from using the infrastructure with the result that resources are waisted for something that is not optimum used by the intended clients.

UTN has successfully advocated with the Local Authorities of three towns Namely Tsumeb Otavi and Windhoek to allow the participation of the local community in the planning and management of the informal markets. UTN believes that informal market tenants knows what exactly they would want the markets to look and how they want to operate on this markets. Allowing them in decision-making provides with the opportunity to influence the face of final products, which they feel ownership to and they ultimately make the optimum use of the infrastructure.

UTN started the project by organising a group of people into a committee that will be responsible for market management at the end. UTN took this group of people through capacity building programme to enable them to effectively articulate their need and aspirations with regard to their involvement in the informal market development initiatives.

One of the interesting developments that have taken place in Otavi is that there was a plot allocated by the Local Authorities for the construction of the Informal market, UTN has solicited resources from Africa Development Foundation to cover for the cost of construction of the Market. The community appreciated and thanked the municipality for its generous offer of the plot but the Market committee have indicated to the municipality that the side where the plot was offered was not strategically located to attract clients. They have requested the Local Authorities to identify suitable side that is strategically located and in easy reach to attract customers. Discussion on the suitable side for the market has went on for about Five Months between the Market Committee and The Local Authority.

What is interesting to note during the discussion process was that the committee has put their proposal forward on the suitable side and has motivated the suitability of the side they prefer the Market to be constructed. When UTN was approach by the Local Authorities for commend, UTN informed the Local Authorities that UTN not be part of this discussions directly but rather just to facilitate the process toward the solution of the problem since it does not have the mandate to decide on the side. UTN however informed the Local Authority that it is not surprise by the differences that has arose between the Local Authorities and Market Committee since it is healthy and encourage to allow dialogue between the stakeholders who wish to clear up differences on issues that are of common interest. I would say that progress has been made in solving the Market location problem, Local Authorities have considered the proposal from the Market committee and is finalising the decision on the request.

This indeed is the interesting and the outstanding learning experience, which UTN has observed and could regard as one of the best examples of participatory process where stakeholders are given the equal platforms to dialogue with the aim of reaching at the same end or solution with the political representatives at the local level."

Well, it looks like I only have time to review one project of the Urban Trust of Namabia, but please read the Case Study for yourself and visit the Contemporary Africa Database site on the Urban Trust of Namibia as well as the United Nation Association's Pilot Site for the Omusati Region that it has initiated in partnership with the Urban Trust of Namibia.

The Research And Teaching On Human Rights, Gender Issues And Democracy In Southern Africa site for the Urban Trust of Namibia can be found at this link.

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