Water, Electricity and Citizenship for Vila Santo André
29 Aug 2013
Vila Santo André is an informal settlement located in the outskirts of Porto Alegre off Avenue Ernesto Neugebauer. The settlement, established in the 1970s, is situated on a parcel of land that is owned by the Rio Grande do Sul State Department of Highways (Departamento Autônomo de Estradas de Rodagem, DAER) and has grown gradually. Vila Santo André is currently home to approximately 1800 people occupying 370 social housing units with most community members living in Vila Santo André working as informal recyclable waste collectors.
Work of the Vila Santo André Sustainability and Citizenship Network
The Vila Santo André Sustainability and Citizenship Network has been working with residents, Porto Alegre City Hall and the State Energy Company of Rio Grande do Sul (Companhia Estadual de Energia Elétrica, CEEE) to address these key issues and coordinate the installation of a formal electricity grid in Vila Santo André since August 2013.
The Sustainability and Citizenship Network network model being used in Vila Santo André developed from the multi-sector network model developed in the Vila Chocolatão resettlement. The network continues to work with the community to improve their lives and opportunities.
Issues and Challenges
Lack of access to potable water and formal electricity
Social challenges related to poverty, social exclusion, drug addiction, alcohol dependency, violence.
Give the community access to safe drinking water
Give the community formal legal and safe electricity
Improve the living standards and well being of the community members of Vila Santa André
Build a strong community in Santa André
Build a meeting place for the Residents Association of Vila Santo André
Build a meeting place for the Residents Association of Vila Santo André, to become a meeting point and a place for professional courses as well as literacy courses
The network has been working with community members since August 2013 and encouraged community leaders to restructure the Vila Santo André Residents’ Association and elect new leaders with formal roles within the group in preparation for demanding improved basic urban services.
To prepare for the connection of formal electricity and water network members, including representatives from the city’s Local Governance, provided educational programmes to residents about how to connect their homes to the new water network and the importance of clean drinking water for good health.
Prior to works commencing, officers from DMAE also conducted technical meetings with local leaders to explain what they would be doing, the health benefits for residents and how formalising water accounts and addresses in the community had the potential to build citizenship.
Then, Porto Alegre’s Municipal Department of Water and Sanitation (Departamento Municipal de Água e Esgotos, DMAE) was responsible for installing a formal water network in Vila Santo André.
Building of the Residents Association meeting centre: a multi-purpose space being used by many groups
Porto Alegre transportation infrastructure company, Triunfo Concepa played a very important role in the support to the Vila Santo André community. Due to their work and to their financial support the Sustainability and Citizenship Network were able to build a Resident’s Association headquarters in Vila Santo André. This was the most important step towards change in that community. This building serves not only as a community meeting place but its is also a centre for cultural and capacity building actions and activities.
There are many different initiatives now happening in Vila Sandré meeting centre:
There are literacy courses for adults (in a partnership with CIEE-RS and Todos Somos Porto Alegre) and workshops about citizenship and environmental education.
It is also being used for the Network’s meetings.
There are many other projects and ideas related to the use of its space (like different ones being promoted by the City Hall’s Capacitapoa) – Associação dos Empresários do Humaitá e Navegantes (Association of Entrepreneurs from Humaitá and Navegantes) and Centro Universitário Metodista IPA (Methodist University) are two new partners that are currently tracing strategies to work alongside the community throughout the Association in order to face different social problems.
This meeting place is also important because, as it happened in Chocolatão, FASC (Fundação de Assistência Social e Cidadania/Social Assistance and Citizenship Foundation from the City Hall) and SMS (Secretaria Municipal da Saúde/City Hall’s Health Office), both actors that are part of Porto Alegre’s City Hall, are working with the residents in Santo André and use the Association as a centre for their workers.
By working together, there was a great incentive to empowerment and community engagement and this group has ensured the provision of safe and legal power for the 300 or so families living in the area. The Vila Santo André Electricity Network was officially launched on 18 September 2014 and the Water and Sewage Network on 24 December 2014.
A meeting space has been built for the Residents Association, this is being used by many other groups in support of the Vila Santo André community.
Future plans and actions
While network members have worked hard to regularise access to water and electricity in Vila Santo André, they anticipate that the most significant challenges that will be faced by the community in the years ahead will be related to the biggest challenge which is to develop a long term culture of emancipation, as the great majority of inhabitants survive from collecting and sorting garbage and in this community there is not a formal Recycling Unit. We have to embrace new forms of income generation, besides formalising and capacitating the different informal recycling units.
Vania Gonçalves de Souza is the Local Governance Coordinator for the Vila Santo Andre Sustainability and Citizenship Network. She was also the Local Governance Coordinator for the Chocolatão Sustainability and Citizenship Network who worked with the Vila Chocolatão community as they prepared to resettle to the Nova Chocolatão community. This was the City of Porto Alegre’s original innovating project, the Social Inclusion project for Vila Chocolatão.