Accepted Paper:

Livelihood strategies' destruction and elite capture: an ethnography of a participatory slum-upgrading programme in a Nairobi informal settlement  


Andrea Rigon (University College London)

Paper Short Abstract:

Through the ethnography of a participatory slum-upgrading programme, the paper analyses how these interventions affect the life projects and livelihood strategies of diverse sections of residents, leading to different responses and elite capture.

Paper long abstract:

Slums may not offer the ideal living conditions, however, they are a "good solution" to the need of urban tenants to spend little in housing in order to invest in their children's education and in their rural place of origin where they plan to retire, or to the need of economic returns that substitute pension schemes for the owners of the slum structures that are rented to poorer tenants.

Slum dwellers, whose livelihood strategies are linked to housing and service delivery in the informal settlements, attempt to make predictions on the effects of development interventions on their livelihoods, which often generate fear and uncertainty. Participatory programmes with their participatory construction of project outcomes - supposedly to be determined through a collective process - further increase uncertainty, fuelling residents' fears.

Through an ethnography of a 'slum community' undertaking a comprehensive upgrading project, the paper analyses elite capture and the effects on social exclusion of the technical implementation of participatory policies aiming to get community democratic representation in a context of pre-existing consolidated power imbalances and different livelihood strategies.

Development intervention in informal settlements may undermine the conditions that make slums convenient for large sections of their residents. Slum-upgrading is inherently destructive of certain livelihoods. To avoid worsening the lives of slum dwellers, slum-upgrading programmes have to prioritise the creation of alternative livelihoods rather than the provision of services and housing.

Panel W078
Urban renewal, uncertainty and exclusion (EN)