Small Community Projects Make a Big Difference to Residents of Arua

Arua is one of 14 fast-growing secondary cities taking part in the Transforming the Settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda initiative supported by the Cities Alliance.

Fencing a school or adding a water tank may seem like a small undertaking. But community projects such as these are making a big difference for the residents of Arua, Uganda, where more children are attending school, residents have access to clean water, and women feel safer going about their daily tasks. 

Located in northwestern Uganda some 270 miles from Kampala, Arua is one of 14 fast-growing secondary cities taking part in the Transforming the Settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda (TSUPU) initiative supported by the Cities Alliance through our Country Programme model.

Community projects such as those in Arua – fencing schools, building water tanks, constructing roads and local waste management projects – are important development tools. Residents work together to determine what needs to be done to improve their community, and then implement the project. In the process they develop the capacity to manage a development project financially from start to finish and acquire the tools to interact effectively with local authorities.

Making schools safer  

In Arua, several communities identified making schools safer as a priority. To achieve that goal, community organisations undertook projects to fence five primary schools in various parts of the town. The fencing has helped improve security at the school by preventing trespassers and vandals from accessing school grounds. And since there is only one entrance/exit, it has ensured that students and teachers remain in the classroom throughout the school day. 

The extra security has helped all five schools boost both enrollment and performance. In 2012, Bibia Primary School – which benefited from the fencing project – had a first grade class for the first time in its history. In 2013, its enrollment skyrocketed from 200 students pre-fence to 700 students.

Most importantly, parents and children feel much better about the schools. “We can now stay safely home with confidence that our children are safe at school because of the fence,” said parent and resident of Osu Cell, Hamza Aciri. He also welcomed the fact that trespassers are no longer able to access the school after hours, leaving trash and used condoms in the building for children to find.   

Access to clean water 

In order to have better access to clean water, communities in Arua have undertaken four water projects through TSUPU, including the construction of boreholes, water stand pipes, and storage tanks. These projects have provided over 200 households with clean drinking water during the dry season, when water is scarce.

Not only have these projects provided people with clean water, they have also helped make the community safer for women residents. During the dry season the National Waters and Sewerage Corporation rations water, and in some areas it is only available late at night or in the predawn hours – leaving women and children who collected the water vulnerable to sexual  and other forms of violence. With the new water tanks, water supplied late at night can be stored in the tanks and collected during daylight hours, making the task significantly safer. 

To ensure that the projects will be sustained over the long term, the water management committee has instituted water fees of UGX 100 (USD .04) per jerrican and 3,000 UGX (USD 1.12) per household each month for the borehole.

In addition, the Arua District Youth Development Forum built a three-stall flush toilet at a local police health centre that had for years operated without a latrine.

Improving mobility and cleaning up the city 

Other projects focused on improving local roads and making travel safer. New community access roads with culvert bridges were built linking the town’s Adriko and Prisons neighbourhoods, and the Oli A and Oli B communities. These roads have shortened the distance between the neighbourhoods and made it easier for residents to access schools, health centres, and markets. The culvert bridges also allow residents to safely cross streams, which frequently flood during the rainy season.  

TSUPU funding has also enabled the Arua Municipal Environment and Sanitation Watch to clean up the town’s Central Business District. Bins are now available for garbage, and a local campaign has raised awareness on the importance of proper waste disposal. Women have also been employed to collect waste from households and businesses and bring it to the primary collection site for a small fee.


Implemented by the Government of Uganda, TSUPU supports national and local government working directly with urban poor communities to collaboratively manage urban growth, improve residents’ access to services, and formulate inclusive urban development policies that benefit the poor.

Since 2009, it has:

  • Sparked a national dialogue on urban issues in Uganda involving all stakeholders through national and municipal fora
  • Supported the formulation of a national urban policy to respond to Uganda’s rapid urbanisation growth and challenges
  • Helped cities improve governance by creating channels for partnerships between citizens and their local governments
  • Empowered slum dwellers by mobilising them into savings groups
  • Leveraged investments – the practical experience urban poor communities gained through TSUPU provided the upfront institutional framework to support the World Bank’s USD 150 million municipal support programme, expanding TSUPU from five to 14 secondary cities.
  • Helped train the next generation of urban planners by giving planning students hands-on training in inclusive development

For more about TSUPU and our Country Programme model, please see