CALGARY, Canada – At least 25% of the 1.2 million residents of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas (slums) have experienced an improvement in their quality of life as a result of the Favela-Bairro (slum-neighborhood) program developed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
The project was designed by the IDB and implemented by the government of the City of Rio de Janeiro, beginning in 1996. Since then, more than 100 slums have benefited from the program’s first two phases.
Vidigal, Borel, Tijuca and Morro da Formiga were among the first slums to benefit from the project.
The Favela-Bairro program’s objective is to identify the poorest slums that are most lacking in public services, and to provide them with the necessary services and infrastructure for those communities to become fully integrated into Brazil’s second largest city.
The idea behind Favela-Bairro is that the communities selected to participate in the program are provided with basic public infrastructure, which can be rare or nonexistent in these areas. The program also provides the slums with access to potable water, sewage systems, electricity, public lighting, paved roads, reforestation, parks and designated areas for athletic activities.
The program also introduces garbage collection, community daycare and support centers for families, children and adolescents living in the slum.
A recent IDB study comparing the communities that participated in the Favela Bairro II project – which concluded in 2007 – with communities outside the program, indicated the project was successful.
Access to piped water from the city’s system has reached 81% of slum dwellers included in the project, compared to 55% for the non-participating communities.
In addition, Favela-Bairro II resulted in a 3% increase in the number of properties registered with the city compared to properties in slums that were not included in the program. There also was a significant impact on the estimated value of the homes in the communities that benefited from the programs.
The average increase in value reached R$8,000 (US$4,800), representing a 44% increase in the value of homes compared with those located in slums that did not benefit from the initiative.
Even though the income levels of the beneficiaries remained steady, the overall value of their assets grew by approximately 15%, due to the appreciation of their properties.
There was also a slight, but noteworthy, increase in the number of children and young people (residents under the age of 20) who attended school in these communities.
Favela residents are regularly consulted about the priority levels of different projects. When a conflict arises, assemblies are held in order to allow community members to debate and decide which initiatives will be carried out.
The success of Favela-Bairro has been widely reported. The success has resulted in a wave of community improvement projects throughout Rio de Janeiro – and beyond.
“The program in Rio de Janeiro was highly influential and is serving as an example for the entire region. It has even served as an example for a similar program in India,” says José Brakarz, a senior urban specialist at the IDB.
Presently, the IDB is involved in the development of projects similar to Favela-Bairro in 18 countries in Latin America, including Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Colombia.
IDB already has loaned about US$500 million to the Favela-Bairro project. The first two phases of the program together received US$360 million from the bank.
Last December, another loan of US$150 million was approved for the implementation of the Favela-Bairro III projects, which will benefit 100,000 residents in 30 Rio de Janeiro slums.
The third phase of the project aims to improve 18,000 homes, create 28 new daycares capable of accepting 3,360 children up to 6 years of age, build and equip two fixed and 10 mobile social service centers that will attend to at-risk families, and implement five social welfare centers for about 2,500 between the ages of 17 and 25.
Inspired by the success of the plan developed by the IDB, the city of Rio de Janeiro launched its own Morar Carioca [Rio de Janeiro living] plan in 2010, an ambitious strategy aimed at urbanizing all of the city’s slums by 2020.
It’s possible that the goals of the Morar Carioca project will not be reached by the stipulated date, given that subsequent mayors might choose to discontinue the program created by the current mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes.
However, taking into account the positive results that already have been achieved, there are plenty of reasons for optimism.
“In 20 years, the slum problem will have been largely overcome,” Brakarz says.