Self-help housing is not as new to Third World cities as one might think and it goes back as far as the 19th century in many Western countries. In more recent experience in Third World countries, international organizations have commissioned numerous studies in order to evaluate the social and physical impact of this type of alternative housing system. This article traces the history of self-help housing, reviews the impact studies it has generated and gives a rundown on the main ideas found in academic analyses of actual self-help housing projects.
Third World cities like Port-au-Prince contain low-income populations so poor or so heavily engaged in generating income from self-employment that planners may find it difficult to design policies and programmes that can make an appreciable difference in the way these people house themselves. For the ultra-poor, housing characteristics are shaped by the price of food. For the self-employed, the characteristics are shaped by the need to use resources to produce rather than to consume earnings. Efficient planning for shelter improvement in such cases requires design standards and measures of progress which do not differ too much from what these households may already regard as satisfactory.
It has been noted in a number of works that the urban marginal population has a markedly higher fertility level than more privileged social strata. This tendency has usually been attributed to behaviors that are traditional, irrational and imbued with a fatalistic attitude characteristic of marginal population groups, the heirs of countrified behavior models. And it is these attitudes and behavior models that prevent them from having a more "modern" view of life, which is why they hesitate to practice birth control. This school of thought has been the more or less explicit doctrine of the family planning movement and it has in large part contributed to the development of policies and programs by international organizations working in the area of population issues. But in our opinion this concept is at best empirically inaccurate and at worst, clearly biased in its ideological content, which deflects attention from the real causes of poverty and underdevelopment. In this essay we take on the first aspect; that is, its empirical validity. On the basis of a recent study we will show that far from being irrational, the reproductive behavior of marginalized women is part of a logical and coherent strategy designed to strengthen the chances of survival of the family group.
One method of securing the revolution in Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta) was the restructuring of spontaneous housing areas in Ouagadougou, the capital—areas that housed 60% of the population. In an effort to solve the housing problems of the poor, the Burkina-bes regime promoted a collective approach to housing, with the aim of creating a collective consciousness around the housing issue.But obstacles came in the way of this strategy and it never came to fruition. There were problems because of the way the goals were interpreted by the residents and also because of the amount of human, technical and logistical resources required for the project. The result was faulty allocation and subsequent wastage of resources.
In this interview, René Dumont comments on the themes of his most recent book,
Pour l’Afrique j’accuse (Éditions Plon, Paris 1986) and on his work in general.
Having witnessed the failure of agricultural and industrial projects in Africa, Dumont makes
these accusations: (1) against the dominant economic system which subjects agricultural
products from Third World countries to the law of the market—supply and demand; (2) against
the dominant economic system for the development model copied from Western nations, which it
has advised, applied and financed in Africa; (3) against local political leaders because
they allow the exploitation of rural areas by cities and because they have persistently
denied the need for birth control.
As a cure for the serious problems faced by Africa and a prevention measure against
new catastrophes, René Dumont proposes solutions that involve the active participation and
practical knowledge of field workers—rural inhabitants and cooperants alike. He favors
decentralization of decision-making and equipment: each village should have its own dike,
well and reforestation program; appropriate measures should be taken to halt the free
circulation of livestock. The long term solution for Africa rests in the reappropriation of
agriculture by the local rural people themselves, beginning with the first agricultural
revolution—a revolution based on forage, intensive livestock-raising and animal
The strategies used by Sahelian women to counteract the food crop deficit can best be understood if we first examine why women create their own strategies and the circumstances under which they are developed. Awareness of the patriarchy system and separation of men and women in African societies is essential to understanding why rural women use strategies different from those of their male counterparts. Studying the different factors behind the food crop deficit sheds light on the living conditions of Sahelian women and on the things they have to deal with. The analysis of strategies adopted by Sahelian women is divided into two parts—individual strategies and collective strategies or those involving formal or informal women's groups. The conclusion focuses of the following question: Are Sahelian women offering practical development alternatives?
This paper deals with the African city and its mode of production, principally the periods before and after the "balkanisation". It examines various urbanistic practices such as that of urban network, regional organisation as related to agricultural resources, and intensive urbanisation. The observation is that after independence all these practices transposed whether consciously or not on negro-African soil have become outdated since they conflict with the local context. A brief conclusion allows us to pose a number of questions on these post-colonial urbanistic practices. In view of avoiding future errors of conception, one would suggest a new urbanistic practice for the construction of an authentic negro-African city that one may call Afrikacity, since the discrepancy between the proposed model and the present structures exists yet today.
The major idea being expressed in the literature on population and development is that development in Africa and the Third World in general is impossible without first modernizing reproductive behavior—for example, adopting birth control. It must be noted, however, that opinions are less clear-cut on the issue of migration. There is a lot of ambiguity about how the role of migration is seen in the development process on the part of economic planners, political decision-makers and the people themselves. This article examines some of the questions at stake which explain the confusion around the migration phenomenon and which create stumbling-blocks to attempts at migration policy.
Mexico's economic crisis is particularly severe today. There are very definite reasons for this fact. It is due, no doubt, to the international circumstances surrounding the fall in oil prices, but internal development policies of past decades, the "stabilized development" model in particular, must share the responsibility for this crisis. The article analyzes in some detail the evolution of Mexican State regional planning policies since 1970 under each of three successive six-year governments. The author shows the growing concern over planning issues in general and problems encountered in implementing economic and administrative decentralization policies in particular. While the importance of massive amounts of private and public industrial capital is acknowledged, public powers were strained in their efforts to assure State control of forces outside the reach of its apparatus. Thus in spite of the good intentions and concrete efforts of the State in the area of regional planning, economic development still tends to polarize around a few large urban centers.
III. Institutions, idéologies et changement social
The 1970's are generally perceived as a decade of profound change which marked a turning point in the policies of international organizations on the fight against poverty in developing nations. This perception undoubtedly arose out of the predominance of debates on equality, redistribution of wealth and the establishment of new programs to fight poverty in both rural and urban milieux. The article attempts to show that the failure of expectations based on the "trickle-down" theory did not lead to a real critical examination of either the end results of the policies or the intellectual grounds underlying actual projects. It was mainly the work instruments that took on a new form.
What is the impact of religion on social policy in the world of today? The article starts out by showing how this influence can exist on many levels and take highly varied forms and then goes on to illustrate this influence using three modern-day examples: the influence of Gandhi in India, the social teachings of the Catholic Church since the election of John-Paul II and the impact of Islam in Black African countries. The article concludes on the failure of the predominant ideas of the 19th century, still in existence today—positivism and the socialist ideal—and powerless to offer direction in daily life.
The author begins by explaining the meaning of the Liberation Theology movement, its origins and its impact on the Church. Liberation Theology is the product of new religious experiences undergone by Latin American Christians fighting for justice. Through reading and application of the Scriptures they realized that God is on the side of the poor, the oppressed and the outcast—in short, God is on their side. The author then examines the link between Liberation Theology and Marxism. To do this he develops four integral themes in Liberation Theology that have points in common with Marxism: the Critique of Ideology, Dependency Theory, the Preferential Option for the Poor and Man as the Subject of History. The author concludes that Liberation Theology has entered into a crucial dialogue with Marxism, that it has enriched, through this dialogue, the understanding of the biblical categories of Christian doctrine, but that its relationship to Marxism involves only the area of social analysis and even there the relationship is only tangential.
The author questions filmmaking practices where the Third World is the subject, especially in the case of the documentary. She starts out by examining the interest harbored by so many filmmakers for Third World problems and wonders about the motivation which seems to lead to "images" that are very different from one filmmaker to another. While her initial question focuses on the filmmaker's view of realities seen and filmed but rarely experienced, the main point at issue is the purpose served by the documentary, and the problems of distribution and audience perception. Why, how and for whom is the Third World filmed?
The author harks back to a subject featured in an earlier issue: the knowledge crisis (Revue internationale d’action communautaire, 15/55, Spring 1986). Returning to some of its most recurrent themes, he attempts to show that in spite of the explosion in forms of knowledge, in spite of extensive exploration in many directions these themes have certain basic features that create a coherent and... slightly familiar form.The simultaneous occurrence of indeterminism and the return of the subject seems quite an ordinary event in a history of social sciences which since the end of the 19th century has been belabored by the incessant classic debate between Positivists and Humanists. And in fact, many of the approaches outlined in this area (comprehension, intersubjectivity, the search for experienced meaning) relate to themes generated more than a century ago by the German historical school. It is therefore regrettable that we did not look to the roots of comprehensive hermeneutics: In ignoring history (of the sciences) we risk faltering in the expression of its concepts. In other respects an incontestably new dimension appears on the landscape of social sciences. Natural science have lost their prestige, no longer obligatory as a model or seen as a reference point. The time is especially right for an open exchange since similar problems are cropping up on various points. Doesn't the very effervescent, uncertain, unpredictable quality of socialness demand a descriptive, narrative approach? And isn't it the uncertain and irreversible that some of the new natural science models such as the thermodynamics of non-equable systems are attempting to deal with? These, among others, are some of the directions and extensions that a "Knowledge Crisis II" could explore, and the author makes a strong appeal for work in this vein.
This article reviews the main influences marking the development of both the theory
and practice of community work in the United Kingdom. The author analyzes the political
context in which community animators have worked and, particularly, the relationship between
these workers and the State.
In order for community work to lead to progressive social change, community
animators must have a clear understanding of the nature of the State, how social conflicts
have been handled through the State and the channels opened by their own support of and
participation in progressive action. It Great Britain community work is in itself a major
issue given recent changes in relations between the central government and local governments
and the conflicts which have ensued.