Favela Experience

Vidigal, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


Planeterra’s partnership with Favela Experience, is helping to increase revenue flow into the community by supporting and promoting local businesses and projects. In some cases, nearly 60-80% of the budget of the local micro-enterprises are composed of the earnings they make from tourism. This sustainable income allows them to focus on the important work they are doing for the community. Investments into local infrastructure have provided local partners with the necessary tools and resources to improve the overall quality of their projects, develop sustainable new revenue streams and receive tourists in a professional manner, ultimately increasing their social, economic and environmental impact while generating additional jobs and positive visibility for the community. 

community members benefitting
micro-enterprises benefitting

Critical Need

In the city of Rio de Janeiro, close to 3 million people – around 30% of the population – live in favelas (shanty-towns). There are over 1,000 of them ranging from newer or more challenged communities with slum-like conditions, to highly-functioning, vibrant neighbourhoods.  All those living in favelas live in informal conditions; 95% of favela homes are built of brick and concrete. Residents put decades-worth of income and physical labour into the construction and 30% of them are not connected to a formal sanitation system.

Throughout the past several decades the challenges in the favelas have increased due to severe government corruption, inter-gang warfare, drug-trafficking and militias. As a result, residents of favelas are often discriminated against for living in these communities and often experience inequality and exploitation. This stigma results in difficulty finding job opportunities, and youth often find themselves involved in criminal activities due to this lack of opportunity.  In recent years, favela culture has gained popularity in the tourism industry, which is starting to offer a major source of socio-economic development opportunities for local people. 

That being said not all tours are created equal and many large organizations, hotel chains, and agencies still use guides from outside the communities and pay local services poorly in order to guarantee large profit margins, resulting in further exploitation. Meanwhile, local favela guides, businesses, and social projects struggle to compete with large non-favela organizations and lack the technical knowledge and budgets to create high-quality marketing strategies.

Our Involvement

With support from Planeterra, Favela Experience has developed a new social enterprise tour in Vidigal, benefitting five micro-enterprise and community organizations. Planeterra funded the construction, development of facilities and helped purchase equipment for the microenterprises. Training and incubation are being conducted by our partners, Favela Inc. This experience is created by and led by the local people of Vidigal, not only allowing them to earn an income from the tours, but also as a way to own and empower members of their community. 

One of Planeterra’s tourism industry partners, G Adventures, will bring travellers to experience the community by meeting local people and participating in different activities such as capoeira (Brazilian martial art) sessions, visiting an old dump turned innovative community agro-forest, tasting the local Vidigal artisanal beer and purchase unique handicrafts, all supporting members of this community.