Identifying Solutions to Uganda’s Flooding Challenge through Community Engagement

March 14, 2023

UNDP Uganda Accelerator Lab engage with the community of Makerere Kavule

In recent years Uganda has experienced heavy rains during the rainy season, and sometimes during what is conventionally the dry season, in part due to the devastating effects of climate change. This has resulted in recurrent floods that have led to destruction of properties and increased prevalence of disease. Floods pose a significant threat as they endanger human life and impair economic activities. With more than 10 percent of all jobs and main roads in Kampala lying in flood-prone areas, over 170,000 people are routinely affected by floods within Uganda’s capital city.

Makerere Kavule Kigundu is one of the areas most impacted by floods especially during the rainy seasons. The area is a catchment basin that collects water from the surrounding Kololo, Mulago and Makerere hills. As a result of its geographical location and the land tenure as a wetland, it is prone to regular flooding. It is against this background that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through the Accelerator Lab in partnership with the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) began community engagement efforts with Makerere Kavule residents to design community led solutions to the flooding challenge.

Community engagement has enhanced understand of how to tackle Kampala's flooding challenge

The engagement is part of broader UNDP programming on harnessing collective intelligence (CI) to address impacts of the climate crisis. Under this programming, 15 Accelerator Labs are supporting the design and testing of cutting-edge CI projects related to the climate crisis. The UNDP Uganda Accelerator Lab is working with KCCA and other stakeholders to enable communities and leadership structures within informal settlements to design low-cost resilient drainage systems in Makerere Kavule, aiming to overcome the impact of floods on their livelihoods.

This initial engagement has been structured to understand the effect of floods on the community, understand community led solutions already in existence, proposed community solutions and most importantly to assess the willingness of the community to participate in designing flood resilient drainage systems. The structure of the engagement involved focus group discussions with residents and leadership of the area to allow for candid conversations to take place and for more inclusive participation.

During the engagement, communities testified to having been immensely affected by the floods and as a result, many have lost their homes, personal items, and suffered from diseases such as cholera and malaria. The residents noted that during these times many school children miss classes and flood victims experience trauma due to loss of property. 

Inclusive community engagement has enabled UNDP to better understand community needs

The communities further highlighted that the reluctance of leaders to enforce laws that stop individuals from constructing near the drainage systems and wetland degradation have intensified the problem of floods. The residents of Makerere Kavule also noted that the effects of the floods have been exacerbated by inadequate sanitation, poor waste management and poor drainage systems.  Residents mentioned the lack of garbage collection centres which has resulted into dumping of garbage in the water streams and further exacerbated flooding. Residents also recommended that responsible parties repair and work on the drainage systems, improve waste management by both residents and responsible government bodies, and provide health care especially during disease outbreaks.

The field assessment that took place on 20th February 2023 in Makerere Kavule within Kampala city will enable UNDP and partners to find local solutions that have the potential to accelerate development in this area. UNDP’s interaction with communities will harness the power of various intelligence sources, including the community, and distribute decision-making from within to assist partners in understanding problems, developing new solutions, promoting more inclusive decision-making, and providing better solutions to overcome flooding in the area.

Following this engagement that initially set out to assess willingness of communities to participate in designing flood resilient drainage systems, data will be disseminated into the community and a portfolio of suggested solutions tested. Continue to watch this space on developments of this collective intelligence initiative.


By Hadijah Nabbale, Head of Solutions Mapping; Berna Mugema, Head of Experimentation; Nathan Tumuhamye, Head of Exploration; and Violet Namata, Communications Assistant