Slums: Upgrading People’s Livelihood

Main street in Mathare 4A

I like my sister very much. She is the only girl we have in the family amongst five boys. We had a heated debate about slum upgrading which people have already started saving for in Kosovo. She is part of leadership for savings scheme and also a structure owner. While the intention is good, my worries was about the real tenants, who pay rent but do not own any structure within the community. Are they going to benefit? I think no. Since all the land has been occupied within Kosovo and structure owners have taken over. She had a difficult time trying to convince me that the process is inclusive for the the structure owners and tenants; My question to her was, where will they get the extra land for tenants? Land is never exported or imported but rather it is the people who move to where there is land. She was not convincing despite her insistence that all will benefit.

After sometime, the topic changed to livelihood with the community. According to her and neighbour who joined in the discussion, the current economic activities in the slums should be catered for while designing any upgrading project. People withing the informal settlement are able to save on a daily basis because of their involvement in the informal trade. 

In Mathare, most people are either selling within or working as casual labourers in the nearby neighhoods of Eastleigh, Town and Industrial area. It is this kind of informal trade that enable people to aspire f0r higher activities. Some of the economic activities currently taking place might not fit into the newly upgraded houses. It is important for planners to also factor in livelihood. It is through informal livelihood that people are able to save, service loans, feed their families and provide education to their children.

At the end of our discussion we were all in agreement that Slum Upgrading is not all about upgrading houses but also upgrading people’s livelihood. – Simon


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