‘Megaslumming’ – Why and how do people live in slums?

How did an informal settlement such as Kibera emerge in the first place? What are the economic forces that shape the reality of life for slum-dwellers? What does it mean to live in extreme poverty?

Adam W. Parsons aims at giving answers to these and related questions in the book ‘Megaslumming, which was published by Share The World’s Resources and launched in Kenya in January 2010. Documenting the lives and livelihoods of the inhabitants in one of the world’s most infamous slums openly questions the unjust economic system that connects the different worlds in the northern and southern hemisphere. It is a description of life in the slum through the eyes of its different residents – the AIDS orphans, the grandmother-headed households, the neglected schools, the Nubian elders, and most of all the street boys who become the author’s guides and bodyguards […] 

One of the street boys – Djemba, central character in the book and Adam’s personal guide inside Kibera – was filmed by documentary photographer and filmmaker Jason Taylor:

From the book’s content:

They say Kibera is the largest informal settlement in sub-Saharan Africa, with more than a million people squashed into an area the size of Manhattan’s Central Park. […]

As we passed through a district called Kianda into a dense and slippery market, amidst hundreds of people bustling inside thick smoke from fried foods, Djemba asked if I would like to see their home. The ground was ridiculously precarious, lined with rocks and an open sewer which had turned into a stream after so much rain.

I had to walk in a semi-crouch to avoid tripping over a boulder or having my throat gashed by a clothes line, but the boys in front of me deftly hopped between the crevices and pitfalls. Their house, after sliding around warrens of mud paths for some time, was the standard six by twelve metres shack made from wattle and daub, a latticework of sticks and earth topped with rusting sheets of corrugated tin. The precarious path leading down to it was too narrow to raise the arms, leaving a gap of less than a metre between the family of ten who lived in a room straight opposite. […]

One of several book reviews:

“Parsons’ mix of hyperbole, realistic dramatisation of life in the ghetto and a hardnosed analysis of how places such as Kibera came to be is very compelling. This may be another mzungu writing about Africa’s sorrows but it is difficult to ignore what he says. Whether it is how the economic SAPs (structural adjustment programmes) African governments sheepishly agreed to from the 1980s to the 1990s thus impoverishing millions of Africans or the fact that “for every $1 received in loans by 1998, sub-Saharan Africa paid back $1.41 to their creditors – principally the World Bank and the IMF”, or the theft of public resources, family desertions by fathers/husbands, the rampaging HIV/Aids, Parsons coldly demonstrates that no human being should be forced to live the life that a majority of Kiberans live. … The implied question in ‘Megaslumming’ is: can we really continue to tolerate or ignore such inhumanity that is slum life?” 

Dr Tom Odhiambo – Department of Literature, University of Nairobi

You can find out more about the book, purchase a copy or download an abridged free PDF version at stwr.org/​megaslumming

Selected STWR reading recommendations (more on their corresponding website):


For additional information check our preceding article Inside Kibera and also the following websites:

Map Kibera is a free and open digital map and an interactive community information project.

Kibera News Network (KNN) is a citizen video journalism project covering news and stories happening in Kibera, from the inhabitants’ own perspective.

Voice of Kibera is an interactive local news site that maps reports on Kibera from local sources – including SMS. Send your message to 3002 (keyword “kibera”) to report what YOU see happening in Kibera!

Kibera TV (on facebook . blogspot . youtube: The real story from the heart of Kibera told by Kibera Filmmakers and Journalists. New video news stories & documentaries on things you’ve never seen about Kibera. Showing another picture of slum life. A project of Hot Sun Foundation.

One thought on “‘Megaslumming’ – Why and how do people live in slums?

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