This study considers the impact of integrated approaches to urban upgrading in two urban areas in Zimbabwe, carried out by Practical Action. The two areas are quite different - Chitungwiza is a dormitory town 25km south of Harare characterized by high-density settlements. Epworth is a largely unplanned, informal, peri-urban settlement just outside the Harare city boundary. Interventions in the two settlements differed too. Practical Action has worked in Chitungwiza since 1996, but in Epworth only since 2002.
The approach that was adopted was explicitly informed by the sustainable livelihoods framework. It aimed to help people achieve better housing and services by building their capacity organize themselves and boosting incomes from informal sector businesses. Much of this focused around businesses in the building materials and construction industry, so it was hoped that the connections between the businesses and improving housing would be very close. The benefits would be spread by the demonstration effect of successful businesses and cheaper building materials that others could take up. Uptake would be facilitated by some general training and support to organisations such as the housing cooperative. The external environment has presented significant challenges to the project, and the approach needed to be adapted to accommodate the changing circumstances. The experience highlighted how the economic crisis has limited the success of the project in improving livelihoods. Despite the problems, however, there are some positive signs that the project has helped to give people a sense of hope, and keep their 'heads above water'.