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Favelas in Brazil

The first favela, or hillside shantytown, appeared on the outskirts of Rio De Janeiro 100 years ago. Despite numerous official attempts to eradicate these hand built renegade suburbs, housing the poorest of the poor, they have multiplied over the past century. Today there are more than 600 favelas, where one in five Rio residents lives. São Paulo also has a large number of favelas.

The favelas are units of irregular self-constructed housing that are occupied illegally. They are usually on lands belonging to third parties, and most often located around the edge of the cities, often crowded onto hillsides. Residences are built without permission or a license and are often disorganised, without numbered streets, sanitation networks, electricity, a telephone service or plumbing. In recent years favelas have been troubled by drug-related crime and gang warfare.

In the past the authorities have taken a number of steps to reduce problems in favelas. They have set up self-help schemes, with the local authority providing local residents with the materials, such as breeze blocks and cement, needed to construct permanent accommodation. The local residents provide the labour, the money saved can be spent on providing basic amenities such as electricity and water.

However a recent campaign is threatening the existence of the favelas, which are home to 1.1 million of Brazils poor. The favelas are close to some wealthy areas of cities and these residents are keen to evict the poor from their homes. Officials are citing a variety of reasons including environmental protection, land ownership disputes and concerns over the safety of those living in the hilltop favelas. However Jose Nerson de Oliveira vice president of the favelas in Rio de janeiro has said, 'It isn't about land or trees or anything like that. The simple fact is they don't want the poor close to them'.


Favela -People living in roughly built huts (shanties) usually by a city.

Eradicate -To get rid of as if by tearing up by the roots. To destroy completely.

Renegade -An outlaw; a rebel.

Amenities -Something that helps towards physical or material comfort.


people's farms.






Project originally funded by EU and DfID with support from Tower Hamlets LEA