Coping: Poverty in Mathare Valley

A menu from a local hotel

I am not an expert of the topic of poverty but I am an experienced expert in living with the poor and poverty for 40 years in Mathare. Looking at different projects that have been initiated in addressing poverty, very few invest in poverty according to the basic definition of what is poverty. I am student of development studies at Kampala International University and listening to my lecturer at the campus, I have come to note that many projects do not genuinely address poverty in slums.  The basic definition of poverty is a situation of lack of or limited access to basic human needs. While communities struggle to empower themselves, expert do their best to investigate best practices to address poverty.

A very good example is the innovation and creativity of vendors in Mathare, Korogocho and Kibera who started selling small amount of sugar and maize flour for shs. 5/- to Shs. 30/-. With time, the corporate sector was forced to adapt to the changing times and reality in slums after investigating the buying trends in slums. We now have Blueband Kadogo. A spot check on various menu in hotel revealed that people operate on small budgets. When it comes to water and sanitation, people will try and look for a house near toilet blocks or water points. House next to these two areas is considered to be expensive.

On the financial front most people operate on informal financial systems. Groups meet once per week to repay and take loans. No money is ever taken to the bank. This system is very popular in slums since most needs are urgent. The banking and micro-saving institutions take long to process loans. While formalizing this kind of system, people prefer where they can access their money without difficulty. – simon


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