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Community empowerment for urban resilience: an innovative approach for Paka-Djuma, Kinshasa

The idea taps community power to tackle the climate change challenge and enhance overall resilience among the slum population of Paka-Djuma.

Photo of Francesca Pini
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Rapid urban growth in Kinshasa became synonymous of deterioration with overcrowding, loss of open spaces, and poverty. The slum of Paka-Djuma (Commune of Limete) was targeted by our assessment due to the massive and disorderly influx of population coming from the conflict-affected Equateur Province, which resulted in uncontrolled slum growth and appalling living conditions. Sanitation and environmental issues are considered as an urgency for the targeted area, which is currently completely ignored by urban development initiatives. The long-term objective is to favor sustainable urban growth by improving the living conditions of the population in the slum of Paka-Djuma and empowering them to become promoters of their own development. The main purpose is to generate a proactive dynamic among the slum-dwelling communities enhancing their capacity towards auto-determination and leadership. More specifically, the idea is to activate a Community-Based Organization (CBO) which will A) deliver key environmental services, especially Solid Waste Management (SWM); B) develop its own fundraising capacity, C) produce a virtuous circle on social trust, community cohesion and active participation. By the end of the project Paka-Djuma inhabitants will be able to advocate for their own rights. One main challenge will be the design of locally feasible SWM activities, by primarily adopting the 3Rs model (reduce, reuse and recycle) and developing a value chain and market for recycled materials.


The idea will be implemented in the slum of Paka-Djuma. The direct beneficiaries are the local residents participating in and benefiting from the services offered by the CBO (12,000). The indirect beneficiaries are the population of the Commune of Limete (673,000) and the broader City-Province of Kinshasa. The project idea will offer the slum dwellers with opportunities to change their own environment for the better by reversing the current degradation into sustainable urban development.


The idea was designed with and for the people of Paka-Djuma. Local residents’ voices were listened through a household survey in April 2015. Collected data show that 75% evacuate their waste in the open environment (street/ river) and about 60% complain about environment insalubrity. At the same time, a promising willingness exists among community members to participate in social initiatives (71%), mainly in the form of voluntary service. The idea also originates from the analysis of climatic events in the intervention zone. The IPCC 4th Assessment Report confirms that in the last two decades very high river-flows and increasingly heavier rains and floods have been recorded in Kinshasa. In Paka-Djuma, these hazards are exacerbated by the pollution of the Kalamu River with solid waste. In addition to risk mitigation through SWM activities, the idea is to build resilience of the slum population to long-term changes. The creation of a rooted and democratic CBO will ensure the necessary flexibility to adapt future actions to actual needs, including protection issues. It will also reinforce the slum-dwelling communities’ cohesion, advocacy power, and partnerships with all relevant urban actors, both public and private. 3Rs income-generating activities, coupled with saving and credit mechanisms, will contribute to the sustainability and scaling-up of the CBO itself through the maximization of limited resources. Gender equality will be prioritized at all stages. CBO founding membership will equally represent men and women and will be trained to target different age and sex groups.


  • Yes, for two or more years


  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for at least two years


  • Yes


Cesvi, established in 1985, is a secular, independent INGO, working in 25 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. Cesvi strongly believes that helping the most vulnerable contributes to the well-being of everyone on the planet, our “common home” to be preserved for future generations.


The idea we proposed by submitting the “Community empowerment for urban resilience: an innovative approach for Paka-Djuma, Kinshasa” was born recently in our team. In April 2015, an ad hoc survey was carried out based on a door-to-door methodology by 11 Cesvi staff members supervised by Cesvi Protection Manager. Thanks to the assessment we discovered that food insecurity, lack of water supplies and poor sanitation, security problems especially concerned to child protection affect the majority of households. Cesvi is currently implementing Health and Child Protection projects in Kinshasa. Thanks to our presence on the territory every day we have the chance to speak and listen the population of the city finding out and understanding their needs. One effective way to overcome this unacceptable situation is to offer the local residents with opportunities to change their own city for the better by reversing the current degradation into sustainable urbanization.


The project aims to both draw on lessons learned from experiences in other areas of Kinshasa and offer innovative solutions.First of all our idea is different from other similar initiatives due to the involvement of the Community-Based-Organization (CBO). The first component of the idea is focus on capacity building of the slum-dwelling communities through the activation of an integrated Community-Based-Organization (CBO). The weakness of mutual engagement among the slum-dwelling communities makes them unable to effectively address their own communal needs through a self-help approach and to advocate and request services from local government authorities.However the needs assessment conducted by Cesvi interestingly highlighted a diffuse willingness among community members to participate in social initiatives (71%) mainly in the forms of voluntary members. Cesvi’s approach is different because this component is conceived to capitalize on this encouraging attitudes to mobilize and reinforce the capacity of the local communities through the creation of a CBO.Cesvi will assist these volunteers in all steps needed to obtain an official registration from the local authorities.


• Effective impact on indigenous peoples • Lend acquisition • Resettlement and or other relevant potential social impacts • Impacts on natural inhabitants and on forest conservation area


We think the SWM is an essential tool for the population in order to improve their livelihoods in the slum and it is a good way to engage and raise the Government attention on this issue. It could be the very first step towards a better future for Paka-Djuma population. It involves both local authorities and communities giving them the basis for working together helping Paka Djuma future generations. Moreover it could result in a good governance exercise and it could serves as a pilot project to be presented in cluster networks.


Thanks to the ad hoc survey we carried out in April 2015, we acnkowledged that only 17% of the sample was born in Kinshasa while the rest are mainly from Equateur, Kasai-Oriental and Province Orientale. Among the latter, 82% of represent rural-urban migration. In Paka-Djuma protection is a major challenge: 28% of the households involved in the survey experienced episode of violence in the last 12 months (among them 32% in terms of rape, 20% child abuse and 17% gender-based violence, GBV). Sanitation and environmental issues are considered as an urgency for the targeted area. Collected data show that (a) Nearly half of the population does not have proper sanitation facilities and practice open defecation, (b) 75% evacuate their household waste in the open environment (street or river) and (c) about 60% complain about the environment insalubrity, do not feel comfortable in this setting and consider water access, personal and environmental hygiene as priorities. In order to successfully overcome this issues, the CBO will need to build a viable and solid organizational structure, transparent management procedure and participatory democratic processes. At first, we wanted to directly engage the local authorities through awarness campaign then we decided that in collaboration with the local communities, Cesvi will define the criteria to recruit the core group of CBO founding members and will support them in devising an elective system to choose their leadership.


Cesvi believes that interventions in fragile states have to mainstream as much as possible elements of social and economic interactions as well as good governance in the target location.Thus collaboration among local authorities, local population and CBOs are the key drivers for being impactful on the process of change.This approach is at the foundation of this proposal, and aim to empower beneficiaries to became actor of change.The creation of the local CBO will lead to reinforce their system of advocacy and cohesion within the community. Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) will be explored in the design and implementation of specific activities, e.g. the marketing of recycled in the SWM.

How does your idea connect to the broader system of the city where you plan to implement?

Founded in 1985, CESVI is the largest development focused NGO from Italy – with operations in 27 countries. CESVI deployed to DRC in 2002 to implement WASH programmes in support of displaced populations in North Kivu. Since then, CESVI has implemented humanitarian and development programmes across WASH, Child Protection, SGBV and Livelihood Recovery sectors with the support of 18 different donors across three provinces. Since October 2014 Cesvi is actively involved in a national program of cervical cancer screenings in collaboration with Kinshasa University and the Congolese Ministry of Health. The activities include first level centers for screenings and second level centers for diagnosis and therapy in order to cure small lesions and to avoid invasive cancer. Moreover, since 2012 Cesvi is implementing a protection project in Kinshasa.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Chioma Ume

Hi Francesca!

Below is some feedback from our experts. We look forward to your responses!

Hi! Thanks for your submission. We are intrigued by your idea and curious to learn more.
Here are some things we'd recommend looking into: Who is your primary and secondary audience for this? Have you spoken to them specifically about the approach to get feedback? What are their needs, perceptions and expectations? Where do they think change is necessary? 
With respect to the community, what is the specific ask from community members? - What is the level of effort and can this be justified as a commitment from the community? 
Finally, what type of external support or partnerships could help you make this idea a reality? 

Photo of Francesca Pini

Hi Chioma Ume,
Thank you for your interest in our idea!

 The primary audience are both the community members of Paka – Djuma and the local authorities from the beginning of the project, the secondary audience instead are the Commune of Limete (673,000) and the broader City-Province of Kinshasa.
 The approach is towards the participation of the community, especially for reporting feedback through the participation in consultation (attending meetings, elect representatives for management, give feedback on operation and management)
To improve reliability of a service both selection of operators and a feedback systems will be implemented. An efficient feedback system is provided through training of bookkeepers and providing them with the right materials. In addition, special attention will be placed on a proper communication system.
Maintenance of established infrastructure and services is a major problem in developing countries nowadays. In the slum of Paka-Djuma , community participation and management have been identified as possible solutions to maintenance problems. A solid waste management system is in fact a continuous maintenance system, which always requires community participation. With community management often the highest level of community participation is meant, i.e. involvement in decision-making.

Community’s needs:
develop An appropriate organizational framework, adaption of personnel management and training of existing staff in communication skills in order to raise funds and finance their structure even after the conclusion of the project. Produce a virtuous effect on social trust, community cohesion and active participation.

Community’s perception:
local leaders -traditional leaders, formal governmental institutions and informal organizations- seems to be either active in the management of the service or in contacts with the municipality or the community.

Community’s expectations: Be able to deal with the community management considered as a situation in which a community takes the responsibility for, obtains authority over and carries out control on operation, management and maintenance of a service benefitting its members.

Be active in showing proper contributions in labor, in participation in consultation, and in administration and management.
Community members and local authorities always play a different role in SWM.
Now the community want to be involved in the collection system and work with the local authorities.
Involvement in management of solid waste services includes participation in the management of solid waste services and keeping in contact both with the municipality and the community.

They ask women and children to be involved as well in the process. They would like to see women involved as initiators, managers, operators, political activists, educators, and watchdogs of the community. Youths as well, mainly active as operators of solid waste services.

The effort is to overcome the usual problem in dealing with solid waste management: low participation of households comprises issues such as low community priority for solid waste management, low willingness to participate in collection systems and in keeping public spaces clean. Preliminary research and proper consultation of the community on the desired service, appropriate incentives for households and servants, and caretaking systems for streets and other public places are all adequate and appropriate methods to overcome these problems. In any case our first preliminary assessment shows the commitment of the local residents in being involved (71%).
Another effort would be succeed in including women and socio-cultural minority groups in the collection management. 
We may need support for the following activities:
 - marketing
- endwaste

Photo of Chioma Ume

Thank you Francesca!

Photo of Rehana Merali

Really interesting! This is somehow similar to our idea although ours focus more on disaster risk reduction and management, and we are aiming to create centres that will not necessarily have the status of a CBO. But the appproach on community power and empowerment is the same! May I ask how will you help the CBO develop their fundraising capacity? Will this be done by putting the CBO in touch with NGOs (e.g. like yours) for the CBO to receive sub-grants, or by creating linkages with government departments, or by tapping into local resources? Or a bit of everything? Will the aim be for the CBO to be financially self sufficient by a certain timeframe? If so, which timeframe are you looking at?

Photo of Francesca Pini

Thank you for your interest on our idea!
Our idea is based on mobilizing and reinforcing the capacity of the local communities through the creation of a CBO to generate a proactive dynamic among the slum-dwelling communities enhancing their capacity towards auto-determination and leadership. In order to do so, the CBO will need to build a viable and solid organizational structure, transparent management procedures and participatory democratic process.
Cesvi will assist CBO members in constructing leadership, membership maintenance, information management, problem solving and accounting.
The creation of the local CBO will lead to reinforce their system of advocacy and cohesion within the community. Several coordination meetings, workshop will be organized to the purpose of creating networks among all relevant urban actors and reinforcing their collaboration. Public private partnership (PPP) will be explored in the design and implementation of specific activities, e.g. marketing or recycled in the SWM component.
The scaling up of this project will be ensured thanks to the reinforcement of the CBO’s advocacy and fundraising capabilities. In particular thanks to the training sessions provided, the CBO members will acquire the right skills and techniques to advocate and campaign effectively in order to influence local decision makers and scale up initiatives to bring about positive changes in their communities.
CBO members will be trains on societal income generation, income generating activities (IGAs) start up and business planning.

Photo of OpenIDEO

Congrats on making it to the Feedback Phase Francesca! We would love it if you can take some time to answer the new Refinement questions that we've added to your original idea submission form. To answer the new questions, hit the Edit Contribution button at the top of your post. Scroll down to the entry fields of the new Refinement questions. Hit Save when you are done editing.

Also, here's a useful tip: When you update the content of your post, it'd be helpful to indicate this in your idea title by adding an extension. For example, you can add the extension " - Update: Experience Maps 11/16" to you idea title. This will be a good way to keep people informed about how your idea is progressing!