Urban Poverty and Coping Strategies of Urban Poor
Gosa Lema (MPA),
Lecturer at Madda Walabu University
Bale robe, Oromia, Ethiopia
This thesis explores urban poverty and the coping strategies of the urban poor in the slums areas of Adama. It seeks to make a contribution to understanding and analysis of the phenomenon of rapid mass urbanization and its social consequences, the formation of huge urban slums and new forms of urban poverty. Its focus is the analysis of poverty which has been overwhelmingly dominated by economic approaches to the neglect of the social questions arising from poverty.
The study is based on primary data collected from slums area in Adama. Two hundred poor households were surveyed and 180 respondents were fully complete and return the questionnaire. This was conducted by using a structured questionnaire to investigate the demographic, economic activities, expenditure and consumption, housing, family and social networking. The survey data was supplemented by some qualitative data collected through unstructured interviews with poor households.
The thesis found that poverty in the slums of Adama was most strongly influenced by, participation in the ‘informal’ sector of the economy, income, infrastructures, access to quality housing and other. Almost it is possible to call poor people found in slum area in the city are ‘absolute poor’, those who experienced poverty and vulnerability. In summary, the urban poor remain very much dependent on their household and social networking, the main social capital they use to adapt to life in Adama City.
Overall, the urban poor in this study experience the highest level of poverty and vulnerability in their everyday life.
Key words: Household, urban poverty, Slum, coping strategies,
Rural to urban migration has created rapid urbanization especially in sub-Saharan Africa countries concurrently with slow economic growth over the past decades. The number of populations in Africans living in urban has been increased from last 60 years (United Nations, 2010). The urban poverty debate engaged the issue of restructuring and household strategies during the last decade. Sassen’s (1991) thesis reveals that macro-economic restructuring causes a new social l polarization between emergent high-income and low-income occupational strata. A number of studies focus on household strategies in the period of global restructuring. Bryan Roberts (1995) stated that as poor households engaged in ‘informal’ sectors dependent on their household (Roberts, 1994).
The study conducted based on ‘livelihood framework’ s suggests that poverty is a product not just of material poverty, but of a set of interlocking factors, including physical weakness, social isolation, vulnerability and powerlessness (Rakodi, 2002). It studied from bottom up’, drawing largely from literature on sustainable livelihoods and then considers the structures and process ‘from the top down’ that helps or enables urban development at the same time oblige for urban development (Coetzee, 2002).
In Ethiopia, urban poverty, in comparison to rural poverty and national level poverty, has increased over time. This has necessitated urban poverty reduction as an important area of intervention in urban development and planning. Urban poverty reduction policies and strategies, however, have to be based on needs, capabilities and activities of the urban poor for effective achievements. Policies also need to address the differential situations the poor face in different cities and towns (OSSREA.2009).
The study area (Adama) is one of the town where the business and industries are growing rapidly simultaneously where there are many social problems increasing as a result of the population growth. Many of people infiltrate into the town from various parts of the country in search of jobs. Over population, unemployment, destitution, lack of income, poor housing conditions, poor health conditions, lack of access to basic facilities such as potable water, electric power, and a lack of reserves, etc are the major problem that most inhabitants are confronted with (Bezabih, 2009).
To identify the poverty and vulnerability level of poor communities in the city,
To identify the urban poor households livelihoods strategies to cope with their poverty and vulnerability,
To identify whether family and social network uses as the urban poor coping strategy.
Research Methodology & Design
The research design used in this study was the descriptive survey design. The quantitative method/approach was used to analyze data that collects from structured questionnaires distributed to households whereas the qualitative research approach was used to analyze the data collected from unstructured interviews.
2.1 Source of data
2.1.1 Primary source: Structured household survey questionnaire was used to collect primary data on the demographic, socio-economic and level of poverty of poor households, social services and social networks of urban poor and in conducting unstructured interviews, the researcher used purposive sampling in selecting the interviewees for unstructured interviews from each kebeles.
2.1.2 Secondary source: Documents and related materials used to strength the findings.
2.2 Sampling method:
Predominantly, the study used a purposive sampling technique focusing on the inhabitants those are poor in the study. Using purposive sampling technique, 200 poor households were selected as a respondent, the researcher believes that these subjects are fit for the research compared to other individuals again because of time, money and workforce the researcher forced to use this sampling technique.
2.3 Tool for data analysis
The responses obtained from questionnaires grouped accordingly, summarized and organized thematically. Data collected through questionnaires were analyzed quantitatively using simple tables, chart, graph and percentages while data collected through unstructured interview was analyzed qualitatively based on descriptive analysis.
Review Of Literature
3.1 The ‘Urban livelihood framework’The concept of ‘urban livelihood framework’ developed in contexts of developing countries of Africa and Asia (Rakodi, 2002). A livelihood comprises the capabilities, both material and social resources and activities required that are essential for a means of survival. It is sustainable when it helps poor to cope with and recuperate from venerability and enhance its capabilities and assets sustainably. Its approach helps to draw conceptual framework based on different livelihoods dimensions (Carney, 1998). It does not explain poverty only from the income level, but uses broader concepts of deprivation and insecurity (Chambers 1983 and 1989)..3.2 Household and livelihood systemsMobilization of resources and opportunities such as involving in to labor market, pooling asset and creating social networking are considered as urban household livelihood system (Grown and Sebstad, cited in Rakodi, 2002).
The household ‘strategy’ has wonderful benefit of reestablishing urban poor people, however, there is no clear understanding about which poor households have sufficient control over their total assets and environment to pursue goal-oriented behavior that would be sustainable in helping the poor livelihood (Rakodi, 2002). Studies have revealed that the social response to economic crisis has produced other changes at the household level. These are has increased labor force participation by women and income earning of children, reduction of overall consumption level (Chant, 1994, 1996; Escobar Latapi and Gonzalez de la Rocha, 1995; Kanji, 1995; Moser, 1996 cited in Beall and Kanji1,1999).
Income, Housing, Education, health and security of urban poor and vulnerability
Income is one of important dimension that poverty can be viewed from. Dependence on cash for purchases of essential goods and services, Employment insecurity/casual work, unskilled wage labor/lack of qualifications to get well-paid jobs, inability to hold a job due to bad health, Lack of access to job opportunities. The poor are forced economically, socially and politically to settle into slums and squatter areas (UN-HABITAT, 2003). It has been found that slums and squatter settlements house a significant proportion (25%-50%) of city populations in developing countries (Bulsara, 1970)and the access to the basic services such as water supply and road access is poor in squatter areas in the west Africa and this is as the result of their low level of income (O’Connor, 1983)
Cairncross et al., 1990; Meikle, 2002 noted that urban poor are living in environmental conditions that are vastly inferior to other areas. Because of this poor people are settled in Informal area which is legally not bounded. Recently, there is improvement, however there is substantial part of the urban population in developing cities still remains without adequate access to basic urban infrastructure (Edel and Hellman, 1989; Ward, 1990; Islam, 1996).
Health and Education are the other dimensions of poverty. The poor in cities settle on marginal lands, which are prone to environmental hazards, such as landslides and floods, Exposure to diseases due to poor quality air, water, and lack of sanitation, Injury and deaths rising from traffic Industrial occupational risks, unsafe working conditions, especially for those in informal sector jobs. Poor people in the urban areas have no capacity to access education due insufficient school sizes in rapidly growing cities and they are inability to afford school expenses. Concerning urban poor people security, they cannot afford Land and housing in authorized areas, therefore, the poor typically build or rent on public or private property. Houses lack proper construction and tend to be in unsafe areas prone to natural hazards as well as many human made problems which characterized by Evictions that cause loss of physical capital, damage social and informal networks for jobs and safety nets, and reduce sense of security (Deniz B. and Christine K, 2001).
3.4 Urban economy, urban social organization and household coping strategiesThere is no doubt that urban areas are essential to basic human functions of living and working since they are engines of economic growth (Mattingly, 1995). Availability of different economic opportunities in urban areas attract migrants from rural areas in search of work and give a chance to improve their lives (Meikle, 2002). Most of the time urban poor community often involved in illegal or semi-legal activities like begging, searching waste or prostitution. The urban poor need to be involved in employment immediately after their movement to cities, as they need higher cash incomes than most rural households in order to survive (Wratten, 1995; Satterthwaite, 1997; Satterthwaite and Tacoil, 2002). Informal economy and family strategies are related and means for urban poor living. In order to engage in to informal economy binding relationship and kinship are the basis. Urban poor uses family based household for coping with the environment in the absence of state welfare because individual survival depends upon family provision of care for elderly and the infirm, and this is through pooling of inadequate incomes and sharing of shelter (Roberts, 1995). Kinship and friendship networks (the family) together helps individuals in order to find jobs in the urban economy and provides assistance in the case of hardship and emergencies (Lomnitz, 1977).
The various literatures exploring as social organization plays essential role in the life of urban poor (Hossain, 2000, 2001). Urban social organization of the urban poor is a collection of family networks and co-operation found in the family networks is the type of social interaction. In the poor communities most nuclear families lives in the same residential compound arrangement and shares a common housing material or equipment’s. And most of the time these families are related through either consanguinity or marriage ties (Lomnitz, 1997).
Result and discussion
4.1 Demographic and Economic background of urban poor
Majority of urban poor participated in the study are poor people with age group of 21-30 which is the level of age where they can participate in any types of job. However, these people are living the life of their family yet, means they are in the poverty. Overwhelming of poor people in the city has an origin in the city itself and lives for 2-30 years. This may be because of people in the city poor family in their background and this poverty chain makes them to remain in their poverty. The urban poor of Adama city are mostly involved in a variety of occupations in urban informal sectors and due to a lack of education and employment training, they usually do not get entry into the more competitive formal sectors of urban employment. Urban poor households have no capacity to save big amount of money and cannot keep their savings securely because lack of awareness about banking system and its importance. Most of them keep their savings ‘in hand’ in order to be able to respond to any economic crises immediately. Some lend money to members of their community in the same neighborhood.
Table 1 Housing materials of the respondents
Material Frequency Percent
Roof: Tin 177 98.3
Cement 23 1.7
Wall: Cement 5 3
Wood 155 86
Other 20 11
Housing is an important aspect of the quality of life and an important expression of material well-being. Housing is one measure of the extent to which individuals /households are achieved their daily need (McCutcheon, 1983).
Table-1 shows that the roof of only (23%) of houses is made of cement whereas the roof of (98%) of houses is made of tin. The table also shows that the walls of (3%) of houses are made of cement. And the walls of (86%) and (11%) of houses are made of wood with mud and other respectively. The houses of urban poor in the city are mostly made of low quality materials and the quality of housing of the urban poor is very low and they are subject to further vulnerability to flood during the rainy season. And almost every year the slums areas are seriously affected by heavy rain flood and their situation becomes severe while abnormal floodwater increases through monsoon rains. Lack of access to secure and safe housing is a central feature of urban poverty. At least 600 million urban dwellers in Africa, Asia and Latin America living in housing that is so overcrowded and of such poor quality.
4.2 Access to urban infrastructure facilities
Table-2 Access to infrastructure facilities
Access to infrastructure facilities Frequency Percent
Source of light Electricity 179 99
Gasoline/gas 1 1
Source of water River 0 0
Supply/well-tube 180 100
Modes of waste disposal Dust bin 108 60
River/canal 60 22
Other 12 18
Total 180 100
The urban poor have little access to urban infrastructure facilities despite having lived in the city for a long period of time. Table-2 Most of the urban poor (99%) have access to electricity but their access is inadequate and irregular. The remaining only (1%) of the urban poor have access to gas.
The urban poor have access to the municipal water supply. Table-2 shows (100%) of the poor to access the water supply even though it is inadequate and insufficient. Urban poor mostly use a number of the public and their neighbor’s well-tube. None of the respondent use river for their home.
More than half of the urban slum poor (60%) of the respondents have access to municipal waste disposal facilities and the rest of them (22%) and (18%) dispose their waste in river/hole and other; they collect and burn monthly respectively.
This is evident inadequate water supply, light, in general social service and the lack of proper road and inaccessibility make the settlements more vulnerable as in the event of fire or other emergencies, neither fire engines nor ambulances can reach these settlements especially during rainy season.
In contrary, other study conducted in Nairobi (2006) shows that only five percent of slum households have access to an electricity supply, which is generally used for lighting purposes. Even though urban poor have an access of electricity for light, the availability of the light is characterized by interruption, which means inadequate throughout the year and this may be consequence them to another cost to have other source light like gasoline and finally this intensify their vulnerability.
Access to safe water is one issue of concern in urban poor communities. The study conducted in ten cities of developing region which revealed that the poor has no access or cannot afford for piped tap water (grant, 2004) and in the early 1990s, statistics shows that more than 80 percent of the urban population in Africa, Asia and Latin America were ‘adequately served’ with water (Satterth waite, 1995). The same to this finding, this study shows, urban poor in the city have an access to drinking water even though it is inadequate. This means there is a clean water access in slum areas of the city but there is no sufficient public water pipe and concerning the private, unwillingness to sale the water may make the access more inadequate. Supporting to this finding, access to such services is also found to be limited and, where it exists, supply remains highly irregular and inadequate (Islam, 1991; CUS, 1993; Islam et al., 1997).
4.3 Forms of coping strategies of the urban poor
Types of family
Diagram1. Types of family
The family plays an important role in the adaptation of the urban poor to city life. Different forms of families exist among the urban poor with the nuclear family being the most common. Diagram-1 shows that (24%) of the families are single parent. Due to poverty and a lack of adequate accommodation, the household head usually lives in the city with his wife and children and therefore nuclear families are prominent. Diagram- 1 shows that (43%) of the families are nuclear where only a husband and wife, or husband, wife and their children live together. The remaining (31%) families are identified as extended.
The finding corresponds to this study conducted by Mizanuddin (1991) where about 58% of families among the squatter communities are reported as ‘nuclear’. Due to the lack of adequate accommodation facilities in the cities and problems of movement with large groups, people who migrate to the city either come alone or with their wives and children and thereby the nuclear family form is predominant among poor communities.
Table 3. urban social networks
Urban social networks Frequency Percent
Kinship: 27 15
Non-kinship 153 85
Total 180 100
The urban poor have both kinship and non-kinship networks in the city; especially non kinship network is more common in the urban poor. Table-3 shows that (25%) of the total respondents have kinship networks in the city. Non-kinship networks are more common among the urban poor. About (85%) of the total respondents have non-kinship networks in the city. This indicates non-kinship community based networks are widely common among the poor communities and this is essential to cope with poverty.
Social networking plays an important role in these households for coping with poverty and vulnerability. In addition urban-rural networks play a significant role in the social and economic life of poor communities. Village networking is very common among the urban poor. Despite living in the city for a long period of time they generally do not lose their bond with their villages.
The distinctive demographic features of the urban poor are important for understanding the nature of urban poverty in the city. Urban poverty in Adama city is not associated with rural-urban migration. Poor people living in the city slums are mostly born in the city. Poverty is clearly seen in patterns of income and consumption of poor slum communities. Poor people are involved in low paid jobs and they have insufficient earnings to support their livelihoods. The urban poor often provide and/or receive financial assistances from their relatives, friends and neighbors to help them cope with their poverty and vulnerability. And this is through non-kinship urban social networks. The family plays an important role in the adaptation of the urban poor to city life. Especially nuclear families are predominant among the urban poor in the city. Urban-rural networks are most important among poor people in City. Meeting relatives/families and getting remittance from villages are the major reasons for continuing urban-rural networks by poor.
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