Kennedy Odede, who grew up in Nairobi’s Kibera slum, reflects on poverty tourism in the New York Times:
I was 16 when I first saw a slum tour. I was outside my 100-square-foot house washing dishes, looking at the utensils with longing because I hadn’t eaten in two days. Suddenly a white woman was taking my picture. I felt like a tiger in a cage. Before I could say anything, she had moved on.
On the educational value of these trips:
To be fair, many foreigners come to the slums wanting to understand poverty, and they leave with what they believe is a better grasp of our desperately poor conditions. The expectation, among the visitors and the tour organizers, is that the experience may lead the tourists to action once they get home.
But it’s just as likely that a tour will come to nothing. After all, looking at conditions like those in Kibera is overwhelming, and I imagine many visitors think that merely bearing witness to such poverty is enough.
A few months ago Ravi Kanbur wrote an interesting paper suggesting that development workers should have to go on routine ‘exposure’ trips, where they spend a few days staying in a rural village to get a better perspective on poverty. Several others thought this would be a good idea, but I remain concerned that this would be nothing more than a glorified poverty safari, akin to earning a merit badge in the Boy Scouts.
The very first post on this blog was on poverty safaris. What do you think of them?
Hat tip to Aid Watch for the link.