Eco-Economy Redevelopment

Redevelopment of informal settlements in South Africa has bee

Project team member, Mike Fitzpatrick, poses with a cell phone service and repair shop owner in C section, Monwabisi Park.

Project team member, Mike Fitzpatrick, poses with a cell phone service and repair shop owner in C section, Monwabisi Park.

In a struggle for volunteers, non-government organizations, and government organizations alike. To date, no organization has perfected a method for successfully implementing community redevelopment in informal settlements. The current method for redevelopment of informal settlements in Cape Town, South Africa has had some success in upgrading communities of South Africa, however the current structure is overloaded and the government cannot keep up with the demand for new houses. It is crucial for redevelopment organizations to evaluate the way informal settlements have grown and how past redevelopment efforts have been successful, but also how these efforts have failed. This chapter seeks to investigate how local economic activity can grow and expand with more of an emphasis on community-based redevelopment.

In Monwabisi Park the economy is struggling to support the growing population. The formal economy of the surrounding area is unable to provide adequate jobs for the expansive informal population of over twenty-five thousand residents. The project team has discovered that only 19 percent of a sample population is employed full-time, thus leaving a large percentage either underemployed or unemployed. In addition, the lack of literacy, trade skills, business training, and funding prevents the informal businesses of the region from expanding or serving as a source of economic structure for the community. To address these problems, the Monwabisi Park community is in great need of a structured community redevelopment effort with significant attention paid to economic growth.

The City of Cape Town has been doing major redevelopment in the informal settlements surrounding the city, but there are some basic flaws in their current approach. One major fault is that their efforts are geared toward arbitrarily giving housing to people in informal settlements based on a waiting list. This creates the undesirable expectation among informal settlement dwellers that housing should be provided for free and by waiting long enough they will receive the upgraded housing. However, it is clear that this waiting list method is not working; According to Alastair Graham from the VPUU, the Cape Town government has the capacity to produce only 10,000 households per year and a waiting list of over 400,000 households to build. Therefore, it is a critical that the government modifies, or expands its current approach toward rebuilding informal settlements in order to break this undesirable expectation. By focusing their redevelopment efforts on primarily providing upgraded hous-ing through private contractors the government misses a unique opportunity to help jump-start the development within the informal settlements. By supporting a redevelopment method that utilizes local labourers the city will be able to provide several economic oppor-tunities within the community. A redevelopment effort in Monwabisi Park that addresses not just housing, but developing the other major aspects of a functioning society such as economy, energy, water, transportation, safety and sanitation could serve as a sample formula for redeveloping other areas. The chapter will focus on creating an economic plan for a potential redevelopment effort to be implemented in a seed section of Monwabisi Park.

While working in the community, the project team identified many issues that a redevelopment plan implemented in Monwabisi Park should address. The major issue affecting the people of Monwabisi Park is unemployment, and the lack of jobs in Cape Town and the surrounding areas as well as a lack of available skills training. The overall redevelopment involves the use of EcoBeam structures, which have been previously used in Monwabisi Park upgrading. EcoBeam housing structures are simple to construct and easy to learn, and thus amenable to utilizing local labour. In addition, the materials that go into EcoBeam houses, mainly EcoBeams and sandbags, can be produced in Monwabisi Park. An Ecobeam factory, which produces Eco-Beams made of timber and steel, does not require electricity and can employ a minimum of four individuals to construct these beams. Not only can this industry provide jobs for residents, it contributes to the skill development of these residents in the area of carpentry.

In addition to the EcoBeam factory, the establishment of a sandbag sewing factory is critical to stimulating local economic growth and creating jobs for residents. Once community redevelopment begins, these sandbags can be used in the EcoBeam houses and buildings. After an initial investment of sewing machines and a place to start the factory, the production and purchasing of the sandbags can ultimately pay the workers a considerable salary with the remaining rand to be put aside in a community redevelopment fund.

As the key redevelopment industries develop and the redevelopment advances, there will be a need for management within the industries. While there are many people who possess the raw skills for management in Monwabisi Park, the skills are undeveloped and they do not have the basic knowledge to manage groups of people. In order to address this, the project team has created a plan to incorporate an apprenticeship program to train local community members the basic management skills needed to run the Eco-Beam factory, sand bag factory, and construction operations. operation on their own.

Along with management of key redevelopment industries, there will need to be some sort of management of the overall redevelopment. Plans for this management are outlined in the chapter. This management will be responsible for making decisions regarding what to do with incoming funding, such as where the funds get allocated to. The project team has devised a plan for establishing a Monwabisi Park Forum to handle all decisions that affect the entire community. The forum will be comprised of representatives for members from eight aspects of the community: women, youth, health-care, elders, disabled, business, Shaster, and Indlovu. All mem-bers of the forum will be elected by their respective groups except for the Shaster and Indlovu representatives, who will be Dianne Womersley and Buyiswa Tonono respectively. Shaster will propose ideas for the use of funding to the Monwabisi Forum, who will then either accept or reject the idea. If the idea is accepted, it will be implemented in the redevelopment; if the idea is rejected, Shaster will then rework the idea and bring it back to the forum to be looked at again.

One of the major issues with the economy of informal settlements is the unbalanced flow of the Rand. There is very little Rand coming into informal settlements and most of the Rand earned is spent back in the formal market on living necessities unavailable in the informal settlement. Creating a local exchange will make communities less reliant on the Rand and the formal market, a key aspect to becoming a sustainable, independent community. As Quintiliani writes, complementary schemes in third world countries such as Brazil and Thailand have been successful in improving the quality of life for communities and also enabling local businesses to thrive and grow.

A complementary currency scheme is essentially an agreement within a community to use and accept a non-national currency as a means of payment. This kind of strategy is beneficial in an informal settlement because it allows people who have no means to participate in the formal economy to be active contributors to the local economy.

The implementation of a complementary currency is an ideal strategy to be included in the WPI plan for redevelopment because it works closely with the principles of self-help, local economic growth, and community involvement. This redevelopment initiative lends nicely to the creation of a complementary currency system because of the number of new programs and enterprises that will be established for community benefit. Because these organizations are entirely new to the community there is no expectation of how things are to be structured or managed. This allows for the perfect experiment to see how a community embraces the idea of a complementary currency. This experiment is valuable because it introduces the complementary currency in a new, natural way instead of forcing local businesses to accept a complementary currency or change in any other way. The project team’s plan includes the creation of new jobs that will be critical to the successful implementation of a complementary currency strategy. The infrastructure and logistics for using a complementary currency scheme are written about in detail within this chapter.

Meet the Team