income generation Archives - SASDI Alliance

Everything Fell into Place: Generations of Saving and Community Participation in Ruo Emoh

By CORC, FEDUP, ISN, News, Savings No Comments

The following narrative is part of a broader and in-depth documentation of the Ruo Emoh project. This documentation includes a video and booklet and is the result of collaborative efforts between the SA SDI Alliance, People’s Environmental Planning, UCT & University of Basel Master students (part of the City Research Studios hosted by African Centre for Cities), and the community of Ruo Emoh. A more detailed description of the Ruo Emoh project can be found here.

Interviewee: Ismaaeel & Mymoena Jacobs
Interviewers and Text: Kaylin Harrison, Lea Nienhoff, Israel Ogundare

The Jacobs (Kaylin, Lea, Israel)

Recently married Mymoena and Ismaaeel Jacobs are expecting their first child -a baby girl- together this year. Having a home in Ruo Emoh came at the most significant time for the Jacobs Family. For Mymoena, it is simply a case of “everything fell in place”. For Ismaaeel, as the first son to get married, he felt he needed this space.  A place of his own and it happened despite all the uncertainty and ups-and-downs of the Ruo Emoh project. The place became available to the growing Jacobs family tree.

“Never mind how small the place is, we got our own space, it’s a home, we can make a home out of this, so, that for me is more important than living in a mansion, or like not appreciating what we have here.” – Ismaaeel

The Jacobs know the burden and expense of renting on someone else’s property since they previously rented in Rylands. They also know what it means to share a house with many family members. In Ruo Emoh, they have a space of their own and Mymoena says, “It’s a nice stepping stone for any new couple.” 
Mymoena was born in Johannesburg and lived there for most of her life. Ismaaeel is from Cape Town and grew up in Lentegeur, where his family still resides. The place is what the Jacobs have constructed and made home for themselves. With Ismaaeel’s expertise lying 
in renovation, tiling and general construction, he took the structure and renovated it into a beautiful home. The beneficiary
 of the house in Ruo Emoh is Ismaaeel’s mother, Jasmine Jacobs. This home plays a significant role in not only the Jacobs currently residing there, but also for any other Jacobs family members. The house may be a home to future generations to come. This is the story of the struggle and the steps taken to finally get the house, in the words of Ismaaeel Jacobs.

It Was Almost Like a Movie

“It is 20 years ago, when the project started, and my mother was there right from the beginning. She was on the board for housing. I was a little boy, when all of this started. Every rand they had put together made a difference at the time. They were raising money with little food fairs. My mother was preparing cakes and boerewors rolls to sell. Later, I became the running guy for her; whenever they were meeting and other things, I would go. Sometimes, I was working, but then you hear at 3 o’clock is a meeting and you have to be there, we had no choice, we just had to move. When I came 
back home from the meetings I told my mother what was happening, what the next steps are, and I also picked up who is trying to run the show. We had so many challenges and everyone of us had their ticks. But nothing major. I remember when I went to the first meeting for my mother. Some of the other members were from around the area and I had known them by face, but not on a personal level. But after going to the meetings more and more, I was befriending people. Obviously, we were going to live together soon. At the time we were hoping to be neighbours soon, but eventually it just went on for a little while. In the recent years there were no fundraisers or these things any more, but when we met we were discussing how things progressed and how we could secure our property, since it was already our land. The challenge was to handle with the delays. Sometimes we needed to put in large sums of money and the committee would promise certain things on certain days, but it just wouldn’t be possible. The issues would linger for a few days, but the committee would sort them out in the end. I respect them a lot for that.”

We Stood Security Ourselves

“We had to put up a fence around the land. But it didn’t take long until parts of the fence were stolen. We had to take it off again. I played a part in that as well. We came in on a Saturday and we just took it off. At some point it was just the two of us, myself and Archie. Then the infrastructure came in and we knew we have to start to stand security ourselves. We came after work, on the weekends, 
to stand security at our grounds – day and night. I think this was when people got a more positive mind-set towards the project again. In the beginning this was an issue, but over time we had the feeling of ‘this is our ground’, we claimed it. If we want to stand security we will stand security because we own this now. Once people heard, once they got the go-ahead that things are happening now, things are going to happen, people had enough of the empty promises. Once things started… I can tell you people were really positive towards everything.”

The hope and aspiration that comes with owning a house, especially after
 a long period of waiting is unmatched. This house has a great significance for Ismaaeel’s whole family. Ismaaeel expresses how he and his brother looked forward to having the house. To both of them it was an aspiration and now it has become a reality, and at the same time a financial security.

Looking towards the future, Ismaaeel hopes to build up the security for the community and can imagine a complex typology. Mymoena has a plan in mind that when the baby arrives and things have settled, she will try to petition for better measures to reduce speed on the roads, for example getting a speed boundary.

When asked about lessons learned in the process the Jacobs responded, “I think to stand more together as a community. Don’t, because you are disappointed by one person, not help the community. That whatever challenges you get, let’s face it together. Don’t leave it to one.”

FEDUP’s recipe in the Free State: agriculture, income and Nala Local Municipality

By Archive, FEDUP, Youth No Comments

Mariel Zimmermann (on behalf of CORC)

“Large mines in the Free State are falling on hard times. Subsequently, our Federation members are complaining that it is now difficult to find employment in the mining sector. Historically, some of our members have used mining as a significant source of income. This is difficult since some of these mines are now closing. This development particularly affects the younger population, as their options to earn a living are even more limited.” – Lebohang Moholo (Savings Facilitator of the Federation in Free State)

Against this background, the Federation of the Rural and Urban Poor (FEDUP) in the Free State is exploring new ground – generating income through cultivating farmland. Agriculture offers an opportunity to create employment and to “keep the youth busy”, as Lebohang puts it. This approach aims to both reduce crime and counteract the negative consequences of the economic downturn that often affects the most vulnerable people in society.

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Saving Scheme in Free State

Income as a result of partnership: how FEDUP engaged Nala Municipality

FEDUP identified farmland in Wesselsbron (a farming town south of Bothaville), which is owned by the municipality and has been unused for years. FEDUP approached the officials with the proposal of an agricultural development project. Negotiations around an agreement with Nala Local Municipality (NLM) started in 2016. FEDUP wanted to provide the community with agricultural land to plough grain products, vegetables and dairy as well as technical knowledge and through agriculture create alternative sources of income.

In a first step, members of the Federations held a presentation about their activities and engagements to the municipality. This space was also used to introduce the Federation’s intention to launch agricultural development project. As the identified land has been cultivated by another community, which had left years ago, the municipality first needed to check with the leadership of that former community whether the land could be used or not. Having received this approval, FEDUP and different departments of the municipality met again for numerous times to discuss and to clarify the details of the arrangement.

On 26 May 2017, a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between FEDUP and Nala Local Municipality was signed. In this MoA the municipality would lease 20 hectares of unused farmland to the Federation free of charge from June 2017 to June 2020. NLM would also assist FEDUP by providing expert knowledge, as officials with agricultural expertise would help to train community members.

Lebohang describes the process of partnering with the municipality “as a long journey, which needed a high level of perseverance. It took about a year to make that agreement. We [FEDUP] went to projects officials, councillors and agricultural officials. Finally, we received the land.”

Even though the agricultural partnership took a long time, Lebohang describes it as a smooth process without any considerable challenges.

“The reason for that lies in the good relationship we have established with them [the government] over the time. We first built a relationship with them via land – we had meetings with them, we invited the councillors to our meetings and we also attend their meetings.”

Lebohang refers to a PHP project (People’s Housing Process) in Bothaville where FEDUP and Nala Local Municipality were jointly engaged in the construction of 50 houses. By building on the existing relationship, FEDUP managed to engage NLM around agriculture.

What does it take to make the MoA work on the ground?

Even though the agreement was signed nearly a year ago, the actual cultivation of the land has not started yet. The delay is due to extremely hard soil conditions because the land lay fallow for several years, which meant that the Federation members were not able to plant their vegetables. The delay is also due to a delay in technical skills training, without which the Federation does not want to start cultivating the land. Mama Emily (Regional Coordinator of the Federation in Free State) reflects,

“We want to do it correctly and this from the beginning. Our relationship with the municipality is mixed – sometimes it is good, sometimes it is bad. When it comes to meeting, the officials were always available. However, when it comes to decision-making it is very hard. They tell us that they will make a plan and that they will get back to us. But they do not. As soon as they have to provide something, it does often not happen or takes a long time.”

In order to see movement on the ground, the Federation is including youth in their negotiations with officials.

“We want to involve them in the development of the project, we want to have their opinion and actually we want to give them the ball. We hope this approach helps to speed up skills training and project implementation, as the municipality has identified youth engagement as a clear priority.”

In addition, the Federation currently negotiates with an external professional that works in the agricultural field for assistance in terms of technical knowledge and equipment, so that Federation members do not need to wait for government for skills training.


Saving scheme meeting in Free State

When reflecting on the past year of negotiating and exploring this new ground, one aspect becomes particularly evident for the Federation: when existing and established relationships are taken care of, they can offer a good foundation to build on over time:

“It is vital that each of us [FEDUP and the municipality] understands how the other works. This helps with negotiating and prevents misunderstandings. We also need to do our research – in particular on planned projects”.

Because of the agreement with Nala Local Municipality, 32 people heard about the work of FEDUP and joined a savings scheme called Kopano Ke Matla – Unity Is Strength. How true this is, especially when poor residents engage their municipalities.

The importance of saving: the pillow maker in Samora, Cape Town

By FEDUP, Savings No Comments

Compiled by Carmen Cancellari (on behalf of CORC)

Through the Federation Income Generation Programme, FEDUP savers have an opportunity to establish small businesses to generate income through accessing and repaying loans. 

The financial aspect is crucial, but how can the Federation contribute to building solidarity and sharing among FEDUP business women? The experience of Patience, a resident in the informal settlement of Samora in Philippi, Cape Town, gives us some insights about the impact of FEDUP in the life of women.

My name is Patience and I live here in Samora, Philippi.  For a living I have my own business, I make pillows. Now it’s been 7 years that I have been doing this. The first time I heard about the Federation it was in 2013, and that is also when I got my first loan.

What changed after receiving the FIGP (Federation Income Generation Program) loans was mainly in relation to the stock for my business. In fact, I was able to increase stock for my business and this also resulted in the increase of my profit. This helped me at home because I was responsible for my child’s education fees, who was studying at University of Western Cape, and since I could pay for her studies, she was able to continue and she graduated last year. So this is what was important, because my intentions and priorities have always been helping her to finish school.

Even at home I was able to fix some of the things. For example I managed to extend our house, I added two rooms and I saved some of the money… if it wasn’t for the loan I can say it was almost impossible to do all of this because I did not make enough profit from my business.

My business grew already a lot but I don’t want to stop here. At the moment, I am busy saving so that I can be able to buy a container. In fact now I cannot employ someone to help me because there is no space for both of us to work. Instead, I want someone who is going to help me because making pillows is very difficult and my business really needs me to hire someone. As a result of the stock which has increased in fact, my job has also increased and this is why I need someone to help me.

With my savings I think I will be able to buy the container next year January. And I do not want to rush it and end up having debts that I will not be able to pay back…I just want to save and know that I will be able to buy it.

Savings in fact is the heart of the Federation. My business improved a lot because through the Federation I learnt a lot about saving. Nolwando, one of the Federation coordinator, always teaches us about saving on top of the loans, and this way I have learnt how to save. There were times where I did not save at all and I was using my money on useless things.

I remember when I was working in Tsusa, there was a lady working with us who used to buy meat on a regular basis. She would make three orders a week! So one day I told her, as a person who was taught how to save, that she could save the R60 that she was spending on buying meat by, for example, eating cabbage and meals that she had prepared at home!

So the federation has helped me because now I am able to save and I can also help other people. And even today that lady has not forgotten me because I really helped her.

Patience (left) with FEDUP loans facilitator, Nolwando (centre)


Why we save: A photo story by FEDUP Mpumalanga

By FEDUP, Savings One Comment

By Ntombikayise Promise and Emgard Msibi (on behalf of FEDUP)

This photo story (text and images) was compiled by members of a FEDUP savings scheme in Mpumalanga with the purpose of introducing how urban poor women organise themselves through savings activities. 

It all starts with our ambitious citizens uniting to form one strategic society.

FEDUP members gather for a savings meeting in Kwa-Ndebele.

FEDUP members gather for a savings meeting in Kwa-Ndebele, Mpumalanga

When we stand together, we shall conquer. We create sustainable development through people-led development. Knowledge is power! We are one!

More impressions of KwaNdebele savings meeting

More impressions of KwaNdebele savings meeting

Securing our beautiful land for the poor. Umhlaba Wethu, Izwe Lethu. Our Land, Our Country. These women together with Walter Monyela [from CORC] gathered to ask the Chief of Kwa-Ndebele permission to buy the land of KwaMhlanga-Mountain View where they aim to build one hundred houses for the poor.

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As long as we are in motion, we will get there. Our vision is SMARTSustainable, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time bound.


Mama Madonsela speaks about being a FEDUP members in Leandra, Mpumalanga:

“It is a good experience to work with the Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP) because it has brought us dignity and happiness. We were able to get together as a unique group to gather information and then explore our talents. Hence we showcase our skills through the great work of art”

The vision of these FEDUP members is to develop their own initiatives by using their skills and drawing on the support of FEDUP. Not only do these members have skills for art but they also have their own garden where they plant mushrooms and strawberries. They are still in search of a market to sell these.

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Saving for the near future 

Initially the community of FEDUP did not see the value of saving, up until it was introduced to FEDUP. FEDUP in Bethal continued to grow from a small number of collectives. These women gather every Sunday afternoon to save money. Saving money makes them happy and wise enough to make good financial decisions with their lives.

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The coordinators in our savings groups play different roles. In the picture below our loan facilitator is Sbongile, our treasurer is Neliswe, Thembi organises transportation, Mainah is our secretary and Nomvula Nkosi is our programme director.


Our savings groups in Bethal, Mpumalanga:

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From Nairobi to Cape Town: Learning about Upgrading and Partnerships with Local Government

By CORC, FEDUP, ISN, Learning Exchanges, SDI No Comments

By Yolande Hendler (on behalf of CORC)

From Ghetto informal settlement in Nairobi, the Kenyan SDI Alliance together with an official from the nearby Kiambu County Government visited the South African SDI Alliance on a learning exchange in Cape Town from 22 – 25 February 2016. Community leaders and an official from Ekurhuleni Municipality, near Johannesburg, also joined the group.

The purpose of the exchange was to share experiences regarding informal settlement upgrading, partnership formation between community movements and local governments, project planning, preparation and mobilisation processes. Kenya’s Federation, Muungano wa Wanavijiji has been supporting Ghetto community in obtaining tenure security and identifying housing beneficiaries. Currently the settlement is set for the final phase in a government-upgrading project that requires re-planning its public spaces and houses, a familiar process that the South African Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) and Informal Settlement Network (ISN) call “reblocking”.


Priscilla, community leader in Sheffield Road speaks about reblocking

With introductions and an overview of the SA SDI Alliance on the first day, the visitors shared their key learning interests as relating to

  • Partnership Formation between communities themselves and between communities and local governments
  • Upgrading Processes – how communities organise themselves during upgrading, how technicalities in construction and implementation are dealt with, the role of project funding and community saving

Savings and Income Generation

With savings as the core practice of the SDI network, the afternoon visit took place at a FEDUP savings and income generation group in Samora Machel, Philippi. The group explained how its FEDUP membership enabled individuals to access small loans from the Federation Income Generation Program (FIGP). With a particular set of criteria for loan access, repayments and additional loan cycles, the group had established a number of small businesses such as beading, second hand clothing, fried chicken or locally tailored clothing.

The meeting sparked an animated discussion on how savers could maintain their momentum and interest in savings, especially after receiving a house or an informal settlement upgrade upgrading can be seen as fulfilling the “immediate savings purpose”. A loan group member explained that she viewed saving as valuable backup to draw on when problems arose. In Kenya, members became tired of “saving for nothing” – they therefore began using their savings in smaller projects while waiting for larger projects to occur. The Kenyan visitors further noted the value building trust between members through administering loans to small groups of five savers.


Mary Wambui (Kenya SDI Alliance) and John Mulia (Kenya Official) look at FEDUP savings book

FEDUP Income Generation businesses in Samora Machel

FEDUP Income Generation businesses in Samora Machel

Reblocking in the City of Cape Town

Over the next two days the group traced re-blocking projects and informal settlement upgrading projects in the municipalities of Cape Town and Stellenbosch.

In Cape Town the SA SDI Alliance used its first re-blocking projects in Joe Slovo and Sheffield Road settlements to build a partnership with the City of Cape Town to jointly pursue future upgrading and reblocking projects. As a result the City adopted reblocking as a policy, an indicator of increased intent to engage with community-led processes. In Sheffield Road the group saw how reblocking establishes access routes, courtyards, increased space for communal water and sanitation installation as well as safer public open spaces. Since reblocking, the community has successfully negotiated for electricity installation.

Courtyard in Sheffield Road after reblocking

Courtyard in Sheffield Road after reblocking

In Sheffield Road: Rashid and Samuel (Kenyan Federation) in discussion with Lulama (ISN leader for Philippi region)

In Sheffield Road: Rashid and Samuel (Kenyan Federation) in discussion with Lulama (ISN leader for Philippi region)

Mtshini Wam was the first settlement that was reblocked in partnership with the City of Cape Town in 2013. While walking through the settlement the group noticed the improved differences between the projects: the layout of Mtshini Wam enabled 2 households to share water and sanitation facilities. Noticeably, a number of residents had self-built a second storey on to their structure after having participated in a community design process for double storey units as further development after upgrading. Through persistent negotiations after reblocking, the community received municipal electricity and ground levelling to mitigate flooding. ISN National Coordinator, Mzwanele Zulu, explained that such incremental upgrading contributed to incremental tenure security.

Double storey structures in Mtshini Wam

Double storey structures in Mtshini Wam

In Flamingo Crescent, the most recently upgraded settlement (2014), community leader Maria Matthews introduced the group to the settlement’s reblocking experience: engaging fellow community members to save, planning meetings with the City and community participation during reconstruction. Due to its enumeration figures and the reblocked layout, the community succeeded in negotiating for individual service installation and electricity per re-blocked household (1:1 services). Flamingo’s site was levelled with all access roads paved and named before erecting the reblocked structures. The visitors saw that for the SA Alliance, upgrading / reblocking is a cumulative experience, with consistent improvements in new projects based on past project learning.

“Reblocking made a big difference, but upgrading is far from over,” Maria Matthews explained. “We have many social and health problems remaining here.”

(Maria Matthews, Flamingo Crescent Community Leader)

Arrival in Flamingo Crescent

Arrival in Flamingo Crescent

After reblocking in Flamingo. 1:1 Services per household.

After reblocking in Flamingo. 1:1 Services per household.

Upgrading in Stellenbosch Municipality

In Langrug the group encountered an example of partial reblocking in a settlement about ten times the population size of those in Cape Town, with about 4000 residents. Community leader, Trevor Masiy, traced the settlement’s partnership with the SA SDI Alliance and the joint partnership agreement with Stellenbosch Municipality, which informed the settlement’s upgrading initiatives in drainage and storm water projects and two Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Facilities. Trevor also highlighted the challenges experienced by disrepair of past upgrading projects. He therefore emphasised the value of community involvement not only in project planning and implementation but also in maintenance.

Walking through partially reblocked section of Langrug.

Walking through partially reblocked section of Langrug.

View on to Langrug

View on to Langrug

Water and Sanitation Facility in Zwelitsha section, Langrug

Water and Sanitation Facility in Zwelitsha section, Langrug

Partnership Meetings

Two separate partnership meetings with Stellenbosch Municipality and the City of Cape Town allowed the visitors and two visiting officials an insight into the practical workings of partnership building and project negotiations. The partnership meetings in Cape Town and Stellenbosch focussed on updating all gathered on current project progress and discussions on renewing and continuing the partnership relationships. Discussion highlights included:

Cape Town

  • Alliance emphasises that its partnership focus with the City is not only reblocking but also informal settlement and area-wide upgrading


  • The muincipality explained that reblocking is not just about structure upgrades but about enabling basic service provision
  • The municipality spoke about its partnership with Langrug and SA Alliance as fluid, moving towards different ways and means of reaching a common goal
Partnership Meeting with Stellenbosch Municipality in Franschoek

Partnership Meeting with Stellenbosch Municipality in Franschoek

Alliance begins Cape Town partnership meeting in song in Bosasa Community Hall, Mfuleni

Alliance begins Cape Town partnership meeting in song in Bosasa Community Hall, Mfuleni

Reflections and Learnings

On Upgrading:

  • “We have been focussing on permanent houses. This can become strenuous for communities because it demands resources and scaling up. But our thinking has changed when we saw how reblocking has attracted government attention. (Rashid Muka, Kenyan Federation Leader)
  • “In Kenya we always thought that upgrading means erecting permanent structures. I am learning about incremental upgrading – something I’d like to take home” (John Mulia, Kiambu County Government, Kenya)
  • “The value of an incremental approach is that you don’t start with the end product (a house) and impose it on a community. Upgrading is not only housing. You can be in a temporary shack and as long as you have opened up spaces to basic services, then that is upgrading.” (Mary Wambui, Kenyan SDI Alliance )

On Building Parternerships

  • “What is key in achieving a relationship with a municipality? Involving the community, drafting good plans and implementing precedent setting projects that can influence policy, especially if there is no policy yet” (Sizwe Mxobo, CORC Technical Support)
  • Strong social movements that know what they want are important in building partnerships. They can remind municipalities about their commitments” (Nkokheli Ncambele, ISN Coordinator Western Cape)
  • “We want to pull stakeholders together and understand how to journey together. We want to be able to say this exchange gave birth to some of the lessons we learnt. What has come out clearly is the value of learning by doing.” (Rashid Muka, Kenyan Federation Leader)
Group gathers in a courtyard in Sheffield Road

Group gathers in a courtyard in Sheffield Road

On Community-Led Engagement

  • In this exchange I understood a lot about talking with communities. Government needs to understand the value of partners coming on board. The government of Kenya has made many plans but the community needs to point out what they want and need, not us the government. A project becomes sustainable when it is community driven.” (John Mulia, Kiambu County Government, Kenya)

How Mpumalanga Youth Create Change, Acquire Land and Income

By FEDUP No Comments

By Yolande Hendler (on behalf of CORC)

FEDUP's KwaNdebele youth group in Mpumalanga

FEDUP’s KwaNdebele youth group in Mpumalanga

For Sylvia Mduli South Africa’s Youth Day on 16 June 2014 was energising and inspiring. She recounts how the Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP) gathered seventy FEDUP youth coordinators from across the country for a workshop in Durban. Discussions focussed on the youth’s experiences on the ground, their challenges and how they could use FEDUP’s mobilisation tools to organise themselves, build partnerships and influence change in their lives and communities.

“When I went to the youth exchange in Durban I saw how active other youth groups were and how they ran their youth activities. So I wanted to start my own youth group. Since then we have grown a lot and our members are doing many activities including income generation. Our challenge is that we need land for a youth office so we can do our work. We asked the FEDUP mamas to help us organise a partnership meeting with the local chiefs and councillor so we could share our work and negotiate for land”.

(Sylvia Mduli, Mpumalanga Youth Coordinator)

Sylvia Mduli (far left) with fellow FEDUP youth coordinators

Sylvia Mduli (far left) with fellow FEDUP youth coordinators

The meeting took place in early December 2015 in KwaMhlangu and was supported by long-standing FEDUP coordinators Nomvula Mahlangu (Mpumalanga) and Rose Molokoane (National). The group introduced itself to the listeners present, speaking about membership, its momentum of gathering savings and their income generation initiatives. Sylvia explained that the group’s struggle for land was based on the aim of building their own houses. Their immediate priority, however, was acquiring land for a youth office that would be a space for gatherings and income generation activities such as beading or storing recyclables.

“In 2015 our group had 62 members – 40 women and 22 men. We saved a total of R 15 970. As a group we do daily savings and collect them from each member during door-to-door visits. We also do stokvel and birthday party savings. We meet every fortnight and exchange ideas. This is how we started recycling cans, bottles and boxes and selling them to the depot. We used our recycling income to organise an end-of-year party We also use our earnings for more income generation – some members have a hairsalon, utshisa nyama [street barbecue] or do beading.   We also have a small catering business with 22 chairs that we rent out. We bought them for R40 each and rent them out for R7 each. You know we are always fighting for the money. Its not easy but we are trying!”

(Sylvia Mduli, Mpumalanga Youth Coordinator)

Mpumalanga youth collect door to door savings

Mpumalanga youth collect door to door savings

Rose Molokoane (Left), Nomovula Mahlangu (Right)

Rose Molokoane (Left), Nomovula Mahlangu (Right)

Together with the chiefs and councillor the group inspected a large piece of land, a portion of which was promised to the youth in a prior meeting. Sylvia emphasised the success of the youth group’s meeting with the elders who agreed to sell a portion of land to them. They also supported a FEDUP by joining the FEDUP funeral scheme and requested that the youth group present their work to youth in the chiefs’ area. The councillor indicated his interest in engaging with the youth as a group that could mobilise the entire community.

“We now need to make a proposal to the chief and continue to save. It will be local elections soon so there will be a new councillor. This can be difficult but we will continue to talk to the new councillor. I have learnt that there are some organisations that you join and at the end you get nothing out of them. But with FEDUP it is “work for work”. “

(Sylvia Mduli, Mpumalanga Youth Coordinator)

Regional chief addresses the group.

Regional chief addresses the group.

In a country that has an “urbanising and youthful population” the priority of building South Africa’s youth is evident (see the National Development Plan (NDP)). While the youth-oriented lens of the NDP focuses on improvements in critical educational, social and economic indicators, the building of self-reliant youth movements is essential, especially in urban and rural poor contexts. FEDUP coordinator, Rose Molokoane underscores the point:

“We need an organised youth that is able to create an agenda of change in their lives. Our children grew up seeing their mothers create impact and opportunities for the poor in their communities. We are pulling the youth next to us to learn from us. To draw in the youth is to create the next level of leadership. There are so many service delivery protests in South Africa and it is heartbreaking to see the youth leading them. We need to groom new youth leaders that want to learn about new avenues to negotiate with the state. Because of unemployment we advise them not to sit down and wait for the work to come to them.”

Expanding Informal Settlement Upgrading through Khayalethu Livelihood Initiatives

By FEDUP, ISN One Comment

By Thandeka Tshabalala (on behalf of CORC)

As the last quarter of the year comes to an end, we take time to give an overview of the Alliance’s Khayalethu livelihoods initiatives that have been supported by the Alliance’s City Fund.

The Khayalethu Initiative supported by UK funder Comic Relief is a collaborative platform between three urban sector NGOs including CORC, on behalf of the SA SDI Alliance. CORC’s work centers on the creation of a City Fund that would act as a citywide finance facility for community identified upgrading and livelihood projects in Cape Town. The aim is to leverage partnership and financial contributions by municipal counterparts. (Read more here.)

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The Khayalethu livelihoods initiatives aim to demonstrate the linkage between informal settlement upgrading and sustainable livelihoods. The SA SDI Alliance has recognized that there is critical need to move beyond informal settlement upgrading, with a focus on infrastructure and basic services provision to improved livelihoods and income generating initiatives within informal settlement communities. In-situ upgrading with minimum relocations adds value to strengthening livelihood opportunities because community governance is strengthened and community vulnerabilities such as basic infrastructural services (e.g. water, sanitation, electricity), shelter, social services (e.g. education, health care, Early Childhood Development) and skills development is dealt with during these upgrades.

Consequently, community socio-economic vulnerabilities such as crime, unemployment and access to education or health care are usually identified during the profiling and enumeration exercise. With all the challenges facing low-income households in informal settlements the Alliance, together with communities, aims to find strategies to strengthen and enhance livelihoods in informal settlements. The focus on improving people’s livelihoods is about improving their living conditions, quality of life and prospects for the future. The emphasis is on creating sustainability and resilience within the community with little reliance on external sources. This is reflected in a phrase often used by Alliance members: we use what we have, where we are. The Khayalethu livelihoods programs highlighted here, respond to unemployment, food security, lack of access to early childhood development and strengthening livelihood through skills development.

Community Bakeries

The project was initiated in October 2014 as a social enterprise and livelihood opportunity for the ISN and FEDUP members. Ten groups consisting of 5 members were selected from several communities within Cape Town namely Khayelitsha, Mfuleni, Gugulethu and Philipi. The members’ trust among each other and eagerness to start the business was the driver for the project. Members were selected from the existing savings schemes and community members who had the will to start a business. Saving was emphasized as the main driver of a successful collective based business. Savings as the backbone of the alliance brought several benefits to the groups such as building trust among members and providing resources for the business. A baker-to-baker exchange was used to strengthen and transfer knowledge among members. The exchange assisted the groups’ improvement in product quality and solidarity among group members. Bakers from well performing groups visited bakers from non-performing groups and visa versa. They all spent the day baking and marketing the product.

The challenges of setting up the community bakeries were building solidarity among members through a well-kept financial record and constitution. Due to the lack of basic numeracy and business management skills setting up a collective enterprise takes up a lot of mentorship. However, participants with existing or previously owned businesses proved to be successful because they understood the basic principles of operating a business. Other challenges such as crime and lack of access to trading spaces take a toll in the growth of such small businesses. As spaces in informal settlements are highly regulated by the local municipality, community members needed to get permission from the local municipality to put up trading stalls. They were therefore forced to bake from their homes.

Training and skills development

In partnership with The Business Place and The Tourism Business Institute of South Africa (TTBISA), community members with existing businesses were given skills development training. TTBISA with the support from Food and Beverage Seta offered a baking and hospitality learnership for 14 youth members from the community bakeries. The learnership equipped the bakers with business management and baking skills. With the stipends received from the learnership the students contributed towards the growth of their businesses. They were placed in various retail shops in the city so that they can learn more about customer relations and management of their businesses.

The Business Place offered short training courses on market research, business banking, costing and pricing of products to small business owners in the communities. The courses were offered to people who wanted to start, improve or expand their business. This opportunity was expanded to members of the Federation Income Generation Program (FIGP), who, after accessing loans they were mentored on how to start a small sustainable business.

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Food security and nutrition through Gardening

Due to high unemployment rates and distant location of certain settlements from economic opportunities, food gardens become an important vehicle to address food security and nutrition among low-income groups and informal settlements. In partnership with Soil for Life the Alliance trained community members in organic farming. For three months the community-farming group is trained in building the soil (most of the soil in Khayelitsha is sandy and becomes difficult to grow food), transplanting and developing the vegetables. Sustainability of the gardens is vital hence the groups are taught how to build their own compost and harvest seeds for the next crop. Due to lack of space in informal settlements, Soil for Life places emphasis on growing vegetables in limited spaces, containers and bags.


Livelihoods through recycling

The Solid Waste Network (SWN) is a network of approximately 1500 informal waste pickers in informal settlements. The recycling program is a social enterprise program with the aim of delivering a unique and value adding collection and payment service to informal waste pickers across Cape Town. The goal of this initiative is to create access to livelihoods and income generating opportunities for informal settlement residents through the recycling of glass, plastic and paper waste.

Despite being targeted by criminals during collections and experiencing product pricing fluctuations, the SWN managed to sustain its operations. In order to strengthen the network cluster meetings, recycling workshops were used to create awareness about recycling. Therefore, the strength of the program lies in the collective: collectively waste pickers removed 50 tons of waste.

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Early Childhood Development

Early childhood development is important for the growth and education of all children. While planning a multi-purpose centre, the community of K2 in Site B, Khayelitsha decided to start an informal space-based crèche. The analysis of the enumeration showed that there was a high number of children not attending crèche. This was partly due to the high unemployment rate in the settlement and the parents’ inability to afford crèche fees. The residents used the results from the enumeration to improve access to early childhood development for their children. In partnership with Sikhula Sonke, the community has started an informal learning space, which will be integrated into the multi-purpose centre once completed.

FEDUP’s Yona Yethu Youth Group Tackles Unemployment in Gauteng

By CORC, FEDUP, ISN No Comments

By Motebang Matsela (on behalf of CORC)

Yona Yethu is a group formed on 25 April 2013 by eight youth members of the Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP) who reside in Blue Gum View section of Gauteng’s Duduza informal settlement. With the aim of changing  their environment the group formed a non-profit organisation that goes under Yona Yethu, with a membership that has increased to 42 dedicated individuals.


Yona Yethu Background

The sprawl of unemployment within this community led the group to come together and address unemployment in an effort to alleviate poverty, drug and alcohol abuse. This motivated the group to make a difference within their neighbourhood, hoping to extend their initiative to the greater community, in time. While other youth point fingers at the government, blaming it for unemployment in townships, Yona Yethu thinks of different ways of tackling their social concerns.

Yona Yethu Projects

Cleaning of dumping site
The group started with cleaning and clearing an illegal dump site situated near their settlement. They first mobilised each other around environmental concerns and lack of recreational space. Secondly, they created an opportunity to generate income through recycling,  a car wash and waste & refuse management initiative which includes bin cleaning, arts & crafts and landscaping. Initially the funds generated were utilised to register this entity legally as a cooperative with the relevant department or institution. Presently the income is directed towards savings. The savings are timeously utilised for operations and purchasing of new materials where deemed fit.

Fighting illegal dumping brought about a concern for the environment and taking actin to ensure the safety of children who were often seen  playing in the rubble and refuse that posed health and safety hazards. The team embarked on cleaning those sites to create what they regarded as an informal community park. The social spaces that they managed to create through beautiful landscaping has been their response to the lack of recreational spaces in their township, for the youth and adults to enjoy equally.

Yona Yethu won the Botho ke Bokamoso Award (Humanity is the Future Award) for the best new project in 2014, hosted by the Ekurhuleni Metro Municipality. This award was accompanied by a prize of R50 000 shared amongst two groups. They have managed to build a working partnership with the Municipality which is committed to giving ongoing support through agricultural training programs. With this skills training the members are looking at developing food gardens to sell freshly harvested produce which will be used as a form of income generation and to tackle youth unemployment.

Added to this commitment, the waste and refuse management team receives training which supplies them with refuse bags and other materials to conduct their work. The municipality has also scheduled a new training for the youth which will focus on water and sanitation with the possibility that after completion of training the youth will get employment from the relevant department.

Duduza resident, Innocent Ndlela, said he is very proud of what the young people are doing for the community while also making ends meet at home. He encouraged them to continue doing a good job that benefits the community:

“I like that they are fighting against one of the biggest challenges in our township which is illegal dumping. Many residents, including children have been sick as a result of the filthiness in the dumping sites next to our homes. It is not always up to the government to create jobs but the youth needs to stand up and pave their way to success.”


The hard work conducted by the team has lured external stakeholders  like Valley Steel to support the team with protective gears such as gloves,boots and overalls that will be useful in the daily activities of the group.


Moreover, this team has been attracting the interest of other external stakeholders like Valley Steel which supports the team with protective gear like gloves, boots and overalls to conduct their daily activities. Interested parties like this were drawn in by the efforts put by Yona Yethu. It was evident that there are concerned citizens of South Africa   making it easier for support to come.

The recycling program includes the collection of recyclable materials which the group  sell to recyclers once a certain amount is reached. This is done through their waste & refuse management activities, where they identify any recyclables from households refuse bins before the Municipal waste removal teams collect the contents in the township on Tuesdays. As soon as the municipal collection is done, the group washes the bins and fits them with a new refuse bag as a service to those willing to pay for it. The charge for cleaning in R20 which rises to R30 with an addition of a refuse bag. The income generated is reinvested back into the business, some saved and some is used to pay wages to those conducting the work.


Art Work
Unemployment drove the youth to come together and share their skills and knowledge in order to create employment for themselves.  The members have different skills and interests, though all aimed at one goal.  This has allowed the group to be involved in different projects such as performances, making arts and crafts. Regular meetings to collect creative ideas and share thoughts and skills in the process are an important feature.  The money made is invested back into the business for equipment and materials, and the rest follows similar processes as mentioned above.

Their artistic ability is evident on a daily basis through art installations created with the ones partaking in the landscaping through artefacts like water fountains. Hlabane Mokoena, a member of the organisation, also pointed to the installation of a self-built water fountain at the park.

“With the different skills that each one of us has, we work together to provide the community with what is useful to them. We also make profit from self-made wire-cars. One of our challenges are residents who undermine us ” said Mokoena. Others give discouraging comments, doubting our ability”



Car wash
Not far from the park is  a car wash that the group has opened with the aim of generating income. This was one of the initial ideas the team identified as a income generation method, that is still operational till today. The car wash is actually one of the profitable undertakings by this team as it generates a large amount without a high initial capital cost. The car wash employed four of the Yona Yethu members who are committed daily to the operations and bookkeeping as needed. The team is then paid from the profits that it generates. One challenge experienced with this particular business is the competition the group faces as there are many carwashes operating in the surrounding area. This means that they have to work hard to uphold a good reputation and strengthen their marketing.




Unemployed but Making Money: Income Generation in Port Elizabeth

By News No Comments

By Yolande Hendler (on behalf of CORC)

Bulelwa Msila & her mother sell vegetables in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth

Bulelwa Msila & her mother sell vegetables in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth

As Bulelwa Msila arranges vegetables on a small vending stand on New Brighton’s busy Ferguson Road, a chilly gust of wind ushers passers-by into nearby homes. Due to Port Elizabeth’s winter weather, her mother is not braaiing (grilling) fish that day:

“Actually my mom sells fish but today it’s too cold. This is just a small business that I started with my mom, just to survive. I buy the vegetables from the fresh produce market. There is a lot of junk food that people eat, so we decided to sell vegetables because they are affordable and healthy. People buy from us because we are cheaper than supermarkets. Many come at the end of the month [after pay-day]. I also have another job but this one helps us to earn more. We use the money for our day-to-day expenses like electricity and school fees for my daughter.”

(Bulelwa Msila, Federation Income Generation Program)

Linda Mpako, who oversees FEDUPs income generation program (FIGP) in Port Elizabeth, explains that the program provides tangible access to financial assistance through small-scale loans. In particular it supports people who are not formally employed nor earn a regular income.

FEDUP’s Income Generation Program in Port Elizabeth

FEDUP has registered the FIGP as a micro-finance institution that draws its loans from FEDUPs National Urban Poor Fund (UPF). The UPF is built up through the payment of a once-off membership fee of R750 that is asked of each new FEDUP savings group member. In order to access loans in consecutive tranches, an individual needs to become part of a loan group (of 5 members), be an active saver and member of a savings group. Each province is guided by a FEDUP appointed loan facilitator like Linda, who provides support around loan group formation, loan disbursements, repayment cycles and other needs.  Read more background here.

Linda Mpako, FIGP Loan Facilitator Eastern Cape

Linda Mpako, FIGP Loan Facilitator Eastern Cape

In the Eastern Cape, the FIGP has mostly attracted people who are not yet members of FEDUP-based savings schemes.

“People are interested to find out about us because most people already have businesses but they don’t have finances to sustain them. The FIGP interest is very low – we are the best on the ground. We don’t just issue money to anyone. People need to become part of a savings scheme. The repayment is manageable when over four months you are paying back R 276,67 per month”

(Linda Mpako, Eastern Cape, Loan Facilitator)

Motherwell: Income and Strong Savings go hand in hand

Further outside Port Elizabeth, Vivian Gulwa welcomes Linda into her home in Motherwell.  She is on her third loan cycle, making a success of her beading business.

“I usually buy coffee mugs [ traditional metal mugs] in a pack of 6, decorate them with beads and sell them for R150. You will find that most people love to put them into their display units. Many of us make necklaces and traditional artwork so I had to shift and make something different. As long as you start with a small thing and have the spirit to grow, you can think of anything. I thank God for what I learnt from FEDUP: in savings groups we buy groceries in bulk. We will never go hungry in this programme, we are building each other and encouraging each other”.

(Vivian Gulwa, FEDUP member in Motherwell, Port Elizabeth)

FEDUP members showcasing the work they do under FIGP.

Vivian Gulwa (far right) showcases her beading work financed through the FIGP together with members of her savings group.

Nomsa Dyalom and Busisiwe Tekane are very recent FEDUP members.  Both are seamstresses using FIGP to become more independent in running their business:

“We are a group of 5 women in Motherwell community who make beadwork and sew clothes. We have been working in this field for 5-6 years but only came together as a loan group recently when we heard about FIGP. We are not yet members of FEDUP but we are in the pipeline. The loan group will assist us in getting additional money to make our business more successful – especially since some of us are pensioners. The loan will help us spend our money independently – we will no longer quarrel with our husbands to convince them that we want to use some of the pension money for our business.”


Nomsa Dyalom and Busisiwe Tekane

Building business strategy to build long term livelihood

In terms of business strategy Linda advises that new loan groups should use the example of people from outside South Africa. Through working together, it becomes possible to buy products and stock the spaza shop [corner shop] more cheaply. Unsurprisingly, one of the main challenges is competition: if potatoes are in season, you will find people selling potatoes in the same street – or sweets and fat cakes. Linda expresses the necessity for training so that people start checking with their community what people need. Overall, she shares:

“In my experience the FIGP is delivering what people need. It helps with unemployment and growing the FEDUP membership. We are seeing how families that have never worked can make money. Because of savings and small business, FIGP is like a survival skill. It shows when poor people use their own skills they can make money without being employed.”

(Linda Mpako, FIGP Loan Facilitator, Port Elizabeth)

Mama Nobom's small business

Mama Nobom’s small business

Mama Nobom sells handmade crafts

Mama Nobom sells handmade crafts

Tracing Migration Histories in Tambo Square, Cape Town

By SDI No Comments

By Sarah Cooper-Tognoli

This piece traces the individual migration stories of four informal settlement dwellers in Tambo Square, a settlement affiliated to the Informal Settlement Network (ISN). It is a product of creative initiative taken by an intern of  Shack/ Slum Dwellers International (SDI) who worked with the South African SDI Alliance. Drawing on the difference between the Xhosa terms for ‘where are you staying/living now’ (Uhlala phi?) and  ‘where are you from’ (Uvela phi?), the migration map sheds light on personal experiences of  migration and documents the broader history and challenges that affect the residents of a particular informal settlement.

Bangiso, Patricia, Nomaphelo, Tebogo

Bangiso, Patricia, Nomaphelo, Tebogo

My map describes information gleaned from key informant interviews conducted in July 2015.  The interviews revealed the movement histories of Norma, Nkosikhona, Tebaho, and Patricia (Phumela) — four residents aged 27-30 living in Tambo Square, an informal settlement in the township of Mfuleni, Cape Town.  The interviews were conducted as part of my work researching migration for Shack Dwellers International (SDI).  The interviewees were identified in the process of conducting a Focus Group Discussion (FGD) with the Tambo Square community.  I chose Norma, Nkosikhona, Tebaho, and Patricia (Phumela) not only because their stories were incredibly moving, but they showed me such warmth, openness, and kindness that I felt compelled to understand more and document their stories in a map.

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As the title of my map suggests, “Uhlala phi (Where are you staying/living now)? Uvela phi (Where are you from)?” my work explores the movement histories of informal settlement residents and centers upon understanding where they were born, where they have lived, and where they are living now.  Critically, it also delves into the underlying reasons for their movement, lived experiences throughout, challenges faced, what they define as their needs, as well as a timeline in years to ground this information.

During the FGD, produced and conducted in conjunction with representatives of the SA SDI Alliance, I gave Norma, Nkosikhona, Tebaho, and Patricia (Phumela) a map of South Africa and asked each of them to mark their birthplace/year and their movement history ending in Cape Town.  The sheer act of sitting side by side and drawing on a map and the interaction this allowed created a rapport, or rather a connection that transcended the activity — I say this in truth at that cost of sounding cliche.  In general, the map exercise and the follow-up questions involved were guided by both my conversation with Dr. Owen Crankshaw (Sociology Department, UCT) and Dr. Borel-Saladin (post-doctoral fellow at the African Centre for Cities, UCT) at the University of Cape Town, as well as Dr. Owen Crankshaw’s ”A Simple Questionnaire Survey Method for Studying Migration and Residential Displacement in Informal Settlements in South Africa” (SA Sociological Review, 1993).  This research revealed gaps in the information produced by migration surveys of informal settlements, which my work attempts to bridge.

Migration Workshop and Focus Group Discussion with Tambo Square residents, Sarah Cooper-Tognoli and CORC support staff


Nomaphelo, Bangiso, Tebgo and Patricia collect ideas and associations related to the idea of “movement” (migration)


According to Dr. Crankshaw and Dr. Borel-Saladin there is a paucity of data when it comes to where people originated (their ‘home home,’ — a term I have encountered in South Africa) and that residents of informal settlements often live in a nearby informal settlements before settling in their current place of residence.  Thus, asking these residents where they lived before their current residence does not provide accurate information as to their origin (‘from from’).  Therefore, one aspect of my focus was on birthplace (and year), movements from birthplace to current residence, and a timeline of these movements in years in order to chronologically contextualize them.

The movement histories of Norma, Nkosikhona, Tebaho, and Patricia corroborate this movement pattern with each having lived in another informal settlement in Mfuleni before moving to Tambo Square. My interviews with all four residents reveal that three out of four originate from the Eastern Cape.  This trend in internal migration (by far the dominant form of migration in South Africa) from the Eastern Cape to the Western Cape was also supported by my interview with Nkokheli Ncambele — the Informal Settlement Network* (ISN) Coordinator for the Western Cape.  As both a resident of Mfuleni, and whose job entails constant interaction with communities in Mfuleni, he holds considerable authority on the topic of urban migration histories.  “The Informal Settlement Network (ISN) is a bottom-up agglomeration of settlement-level organisations of the poor at the city-wide scale in six South African municipalities, including Cape Town. ISN mobilises communities to engage government around security of tenure and better service delivery” (“Building Inclusive Cities” 2013/2014 Annual Report, 2014).

Tracing Tebogo's movement history on a map of South Africa

Tracing Tebogo’s movement history on a map of South Africa


Overall, my map outlines the spatial, temporal and experiential trajectories of Norma, Nkosikhona, Tebaho and Patricia (Phumela).  The map is displayed in the form of a layered circle broken into quadrants; at the center lies Tambo Square — each person’s current place of residence, and the current year.  Corresponding colored lines represent each resident’s movement trajectory.  For instance, if one follows Tebaho’s movement history, one starts at Tambo Square, and moves along the blue line encountering four dots (with a corresponding blue box informing the location, year, and reasons for his movement), and lastly arrives at Tebaho’s birthplace, and year.  Thus, my interview questions (referred to above) — Where were you born?  What year were you born?  What year did you leave your birthplace?  How old were you when you left?  Why did you leave?  Why did you come to Cape Town? — are answered.  Nestled amongst this information (within Tebaho’s quadrant) is text that provides answers to further questions: Was your first urban residence in Cape Town?  If not, where?  Do you have a job?  How do you feel about where you are living? Who do you live with/are you living with family? Do you have links to family in Cape Town, or larger South Africa? If so, do you visit, and how often? What are the needs you need met in terms of infrastructure and livelihood?  Thus, one is able to read graphically the movement history of Tebaho, and the other three informal residents of Tambo Square.  In general, as a timeline, the information closer to the circle center represents its relevance to the current year.

It should be noted that much of the information from Patricia (Phumela) is missing.  Her interview was translated from Xhosa (unlike the others) and her information was less detailed.  Regrettably, she was not available for a follow-up interview when I returned to Tambo Square.  Nevertheless, I thought it was important to include Patricia (Phumela) for two reasons: firstly, the lack of information is both representative of the nature and time constraints of short-term field work — one does not always get the full story; secondly, many movement histories, and thus, stories of informal settlers, remain unknown, and Patricia is emblematic of that.  In reality, Patricia’s movement history is surely as rich as Tebaho, and yet, it is unknown in this context.

Patricia and Andiswa

Patricia and Andiswa

In addition, I would have liked to have further explored the concept of ‘home’ in a more metaphorical sense by probing the issue of whether Tambo Square “feels like home.”  In a follow-up interview with Tebaho his answer spoke volumes: ‘Do not think this is my home; think of this as a hiding so long as looking for economic sources.  Hiding; not a home.’  As a colleague at CORC, a South African and native Xhosa speaker, points out “home” in Xhosa is where you were originally born; if you were born in the Eastern Cape and if your parents are from the Eastern Cape, that is your home.  The implications for this sense of “home” for South Africa’s cities is both upsetting and intriguing.

In conclusion, my intention for this map is to display data in a way that does not detach it from the people it seeks to portray, but brings to light Norma, Nkosikhona, Tebaho, and Patricia’s journeys, (and more precisely, a bit of their lives) as well as the rich influences of migration on residents of informal settlements.  I hope that the way I have portrayed their stories conveys the great respect I have for their courage amidst immense struggle and their willingness to share their stories with me.

Sarah Cooper-Tognoli is an MA candidate for International Affairs at The New School, New York. 


Nomaphelo traces her migration history