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Communities and Human Settlements

#7: Kibera: Making the Invisible Suddenly Visible

Sabina Panth's picture


Our Top Ten Blog Posts by Readership in 2011

Originally published on February 3, 2011

The Map Kibera project is a pioneering enterprise that has applied a combination of modern technologies that local residents can use to uncover information about their locality and use that information for needed awareness and reform.  The project has trained the local youth of Kibera (Kenya) to use the hand-held global position system (GPS) and open source software  (OpenStreetMap) to illustrate a map of the physical landscape and resources encompassing the region and apply digital media and mobile technologies (photographs, video-clips, SMS reporting) to tell stories behind the imprinted information on the map.  The goal of the project is to reinstate the often non-transparent nature of data collection and reporting conducted by external agencies into the hands of local residents, who not only become repository of information about their communities but can also scrutinize the information “to influence democratic debate, access resources and plan development on their own" (Project Concept Paper).

Paving the way for a greener village

Smita Jacob's picture

A tiny green oasis stands out amidst acres of dry arid land. As many as 12 different crops—including a wide variety of pulses, fruits, vegetables, and flowers—as well as a farm pond constructed through the Employment Guarantee Scheme and a vermicomposting pit are all seen on this one acre farm in the drought-ridden village from Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh. Suhasini, a young Dalit woman who decided to experiment with the only acre (0.4 hectares) of land she owned, asserts confidently “Next year, most of this surrounding land would be green as well—the other farmers will definitely follow me.”

Suhasini is one among over 1.2 million farmers across 9000 villages that are practicing a cheaper and more sustainable method of agriculture across 1.2 million hectares in the state, even as more farmers are becoming part of what is termed a farmers’ movement for sustainable agriculture in Andhra Pradesh. The program named Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture (CMSA) is essentially an alternative to the conventional-input intensive-agriculture model. It promotes the use of locally available, organic external inputs—including cow dung, chickpea flour, and palm sap—and the use of traditional organic farming methods such as polycropping and systems of rice intensification (SRI). 

Decentralizing Kenya: Four Paradoxes

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

When I was growing up in Bavaria—Germany’s largest and proudest state—there were a lot of efforts to revive remote regions, especially those bordering the former East Germany and Czechoslovakia.

There were special incentives for industries to locate in these regions and important federal subsidies to their local governments. Other countries made much more radical attempts at reshaping their economic geography.

Indonesia forced people from “overpopulated” Java to resettle in remote parts of the country, including to the culturally distinct province of Papua. Brazil, Nigeria, and Tanzania relocated their capitals to “decongest” their mega-cities.

All of these experiments yielded the same result: complete failure! Germany’s remote regions never became centers of economic activity, while the big cities—especially in emerging economies—continued to mushroom and grow.

These lessons are important for Kenya as it embarks on a massive decentralization program—arguably the most radical in the world today.

“The Green Will Double our Happiness”

Naomi Ahmad's picture

Farmers in Bangladesh adapting to increased soil salinity and climate change.

Barguna is at the very southern end of Bangladesh and looks nothing like the rest of the country.

Bangladesh is very green – driving through you can see the luxuriant green rice fields stretching out endlessly, the spread interrupted only by clusters of dark trees surrounding a small village, and sometimes by the yellow patches of mustard fields. But Barguna is not green and vibrant - it has now become drab brown.

Stepping onto the soil of Barguna, one is reminded of a parched desert. The ground is rock-hard, cracked and mostly barren. I was careful, threading lightly - afraid of stepping too hard in case the ground suddenly gave away.

The district wasn’t always this desolate. But devastated by repeated cyclones, erratic weather patterns and saline intrusion along the coast, farmers in these coastal communities have seen their lands yield less and less with the passing years.

Youth in Sri Lanka: Do they have a Voice?

Susrutha Goonasekera's picture

Recently, I read a blog post by a young Nepalese delegate that attended the World Bank’s Annual Meetings in Washington and thought (at the time) that he summarized an issue which was at the heart of a majority (if not all) youth in South Asia. In his own words, he says “Let’s be honest. As a youth growing up in Nepal, it is sometimes very hard to get people – and by people I mean seniors in decision-making positions - to take you seriously. It is even more difficult to get them to listen to your ideas or acknowledge you as an important demographic, capable of more than burning tires and picketing politicians”. It made me wonder if this was indeed the case with youth in Sri Lanka.

As far as I know, youth in this country are by no means a ‘push over’. For example, since the defeat of terrorism in May 2009, the youth of this country has stepped up in a noticeable way to try and make a ‘new beginning’. A ‘youth open house’ held at the World Bank premises on 01 September saw the dynamism of a handful of such youth groups engaged in activities that ranged from peace and reconciliation to the promotion of ICT development to urban planning. The fact remains that the youth of this nation are taking matters to their own hands and it’s high time that the Government as well as the development partners ‘STOP’ and ‘LISTEN’ to what the youth of Sri Lanka has to offer!!

From Bangladesh to the World: How Knowledge Sharing has Changed Resettlement Training

Fabio Pittaluga's picture

I admit when I started the whole idea of setting up a course on resettlement at a local Bangladeshi university I thought it was going to be a long shot in the dark. I had a gigantic portfolio to look after in terms of safeguards support, and that left little time to do anything else. I also it would be difficult to show results quickly and make a convincing argument that this was worth the effort. But stubbornness at times is a key ingredient to achievement, i.e. persistence and resilience.

The course (now known as MLARR – Management of Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation) started out as an effort to train of a cadre of professionals to better manage the social risks associated with land acquisition and resettlement in Bangladesh. Given the population density and land scarcity, resettlement in Bangladesh continues to be a huge challenge for its development, as virtually all infrastructure requires moving people. Supported by AusAID and DFID, The first course was designed and delivered in 2009. That was the beginning, and what I’d like to focus is how far we’ve come from that first shot in the dark:

Our home, our village, we shall rebuild it

Nugroho Nurdikiawan Sunjoyo's picture

Available in Bahasa

In September this year I visited a number of communities in Yogyakarta, in Java, Indonesia, who were rebuilding their lives and homes after experiencing a series of natural disasters. The reconstruction process which I saw is perhaps in example of post-disaster community participation at their best.

Our home, our village, we shall rebuild it

Island gathering highlights the many ways of seeing REDD

Benoît Bosquet's picture

This past September, we were invited to an unusual event with Indigenous Peoples in the territory of Guna Yala on Panama’s Caribbean coastline recently. A dozen representatives of the World Bank, including the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) secretariat, met up on the tiny island of Gaigirgordub, which is part of the San Blas archipelago.

These islands are specks of land no more than two feet above the water line, surrounded by crystal clear waters, and the verdant mountains of the mainland on the horizon. The Guna people become islanders because of a conflict a century or so ago, but they have not lost their attachment to their forests. You just have to look at the landscape as you drive through Guna Yala to see how dense the forests are, in stark contrast to their adjacent province of Panama, where agriculture and urban expansion have taken their toll. So what better place than Guna Yala to talk about the role of Indigenous Peoples in REDD+ (the acronym for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and conservation of forest carbon stocks)?

Poor Evaluation Methods Can Mislead: New Developments in the Millennium Villages Evaluation

Gabriel Demombynes's picture

by Michael Clemens and Gabriel Demombynes

Contrary to persistent perceptions that sub-Saharan Africa is mired in intractable misery, many of the region’s countries have experienced sustained economic growth, deepening democracy, improving governance, and decreasing poverty in recent years.

To take just one aspect of the African Renaissance, in five of six countries for which recent data is available—Malawi, Tanzania, Rwanda, Nigeria, and Ghana—rates of child malnutrition as measured by stunting have declined in the last decade. Because so much is changing in Africa, it is crucial to take this “background” change into account when evaluating the impact of local policy interventions.

This is evident when considering the Millennium Villages Project (MVP) evaluation, which we critiqued in a peer-reviewed journal article. Recently, we examined the three peer-reviewed papers that dealt with the MVP’s impacts and showed that they do not back up the project’s claims of large impacts, in part because they don’t take “background” change into account.

There’s a new development: The MVP has just released its first study that does try to distinguish changes observed at its village sites from broader changes happening across Africa.

Connecting the Dots!

Subhash Ghimire's picture

Let’s be honest. As a youth growing up in Nepal, it is sometimes very hard to get people – and by people I mean seniors in decision-making positions - to take you seriously. It is even more difficult to get them to listen to your ideas or acknowledge you as an important demographic, capable of more than burning tires and picketing politicians.

In the one week I spent in Washington DC, at the World Bank and IMF annual meetings, rushing madly between meetings, presentations, discussion forums and Indian restaurants, I learnt that this deep-rooted attitude is changing. And fast.

Maybe it is the Arab Spring. Maybe it is the realization that without embracing youth into the South Asian market economy, we will have made zero progress in terms of development even ten years down the line. Or maybe, it just makes sense – maybe we are finally realizing the inherent interconnectedness in our world. Realizing that one project from a little village in Nepal is directly linked to the socio-economic structure of our communities, countries and regions.


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