By: Saori Ogura The indigenous Lepcha people have lived in Sikkim, a world biodiversity-hotspot, for more than eight centuries. Their traditional agricultural practices, hunting and gathering, enabled them to be self-sustaining in the biodiverse forest. Cultivated agriculture began around 1900 with the introduction of wet rice and cardamom. In the 1970s, commercial cardamom got expanded. In 2000, cardamom production collapsed due to disease. My research involves case studies at three scales on land use changes in the Lepcha territory following the expansion of cardamom. The first is a coarse grained GIS study of land use change for the village from 1988 to 2102. The other two are fine-grained key informant interview studies—one on land use change, and the second on the persistence of traditional food crops. I found decline in crop diversity in the area devoted to the monocultural cardamom cash crop system, which regionally resulted in a forest cover increase after the crash of the cardamom, and the persistence of traditional food crops only in the most remote villages.
By: Jamie Pounds Stanton & Tom Stagg
This study in El Salvador aimed to determine the feasibility of strengthening and expanding a local resource management plan, the Plan Local de Aprovechamiento Sostenible (PLAS). The Bay of Jiquilisco and the surrounding mangrove ecosystem in the Bajo Lempa is a UNESCO-designated biosphere reserve and a Ramsar wetland valued both for being a large carbon sequestering ecosystem and rich in ecological variety. Further, the nearby communities rely directly on resources from this ecosystem for their livelihood. However, degradation of this ecosystem is threatening both the sustainability of the environment and the livelihood of residents.
Aiming to assess the broader social characteristics of this region, we identified four variables as important to the implementation of local environmental resource conservation policy: effective communication structures, community ownership of the policy, relative economic stability in the region and access to alternative markets and resources.
We conducted 76 household surveys and held over 10 hours of semi-structured interviews, the community leaders and citizens alike stressed the importance of sustainable regulation of their ecosystem. They value the mangrove ecosystem and know intimately that without proper conservation efforts, they cannot continue to survive as communities. Unfortunately, we also found that over 80% of community members in communities where the PLAS has been implemented are unaware of the regulations dictated by it. Additionally, 92% reported that there were no locations where they could acquire alternate materials to sustain their livelihoods. In addition, it was widely reported that enforcement, as well as monitoring and evaluation, was insufficient. Both the community leaders and the forest rangers expressed a need for increased resources, such as technical assistance and funding to train and employ more rangers, and for supplies as simple as uniforms.
We recommend supporting the expansion of the PLAS, but have identified key areas that need improvement where PLAS has already been implemented; if these issues are not addressed, they will also limit conservation efforts in new communities. Community education and investment in monitoring and evaluation are two areas where we are focusing our recommendations. A third recommendation underscores the need for support of established cooperatives in fishing, shrimping, and dairy production, among others. Our survey confirmed a very low level of income in the Bajo Lempa, with 62% of households surveyed stating they did not have dependable work, and 34% reporting a monthly income of $0. Improving the economic conditions in the region can relieve some of the burden of the mangrove ecosystem system as a provider of food and building materials.
Architecture is a part of countries culture as much as art, language, music and other components. In many countries, vernacular architecture is disappearing. Eventhough this is true in developed countries, such as the UK, it is especially evident in developing nations, including countries in Africa. Vernacular architecture utilizes materials that are found locally and uses construction techniques that have passed from generation to generation. Changes in techniques have evolved over time but materials stay constant. The main materials used in Malawi vernacular architecture is mud and thatch. Walls are constructed with mud in one form or another. Examples of just mud, clumped on top of each other was documented. More common was mud applied to a frame, either made of reeds, bamboo or wood. The most common method was using mud to create bricks, the bricks either being sun dried or burnt in kilns. The last method of constructing walls is rammed earth, which does not use any wood for the construction, and is the most sustainable. People believe that because thatch has to be replaced, it is temporary. Much of this depends on the thickness of the thatch roof. A proper thatched roof can last up to 70 years, with the ridge being replaced every 20 years. Safari lodges are constructed in this fashion. The average person cannot build a roof to this standard, so a roof is thatched based on what can be afforded.
In Malawi, thatch is both difficult and expensive to obtain. Because of this, not only are thatched roofs thin, but a layer of plastic is placed below the thatch to prevent leaking. Mud and thatch are both viable and sustainable materials. The issue is that people build what they can afford and in many cases it is the bare minimum. Many people have the perception that vernacular architecture is sub standard, temporary, for the poor. If constructed properly this is not the case. Take a look at safari lodges which are built with vernacular materials. In fact these structures are built for tourists, who want to experience the “real Africa”. The problem is that the perception of a mud hut is the one of the dilapidated structure and not of the possibility of what these vernacular materials are capable of. This perception continues because there is very little information on line for people to actually view. African vernacular architecture needs to be documented, not only because it is vanishing, but more importantly to educate about it’s beauty and it’s place as a real and sustainable building technique.
By: Jon (Twingi) Sojkowski
El Salvador is one of the most densely populated countries in the Western Hemisphere. It exhibits deforestation rates comparable to those of countries like Haiti. As with much of Latin America, historical land use patterns and ownership have favored large-scale, singular landholdings, for which regulations or management regimes were nearly nonexistent. Today, authorities are attempting to reform and implement a functioning environmental permitting system, even as new investments in sensitive coastal areas will substantially increase over the next five years. The discussion will outline the challenges facing countries like El Salvador with evolving institutions and rule of law concerns. It will consider the role civil society can play in forging real development compliance–no matter the country—and will highlight the work of a visionary Salvadoran community-based organization, La Coordinadora del Bajo Lempa, whose vision and practice of rural development stand in dramatic contrast to conventional ”know-how.”
The good thing about social sites is that history, in one form or the other, is becoming more accessible to all. For example, people share decade old pictures of families and cities or advertisement via facebook or chain emails. These snippets from history give one a quick glimpse into the cultural and social fabric of that time. By this I don’t mean that by mere looking at pictures and adverts one can get a full understanding of societies. Nevertheless, these tiny doses of information do provide a window into the societal norms and prevalent cultures of that time. Looking at such images of Cairo and Karachi during the 60s and 70s, It was interesting to observe the extent to which these societies have regressed or progressed in terms of inclusiveness, diversity of religions, cultural norms, fashion, gender sensitivity, civic sense, and in their overall social thinking since then. The definition of modernity would of course vary depending upon which side of the fence you are looking from. However, there is hardly any debate on the fact that societies across the globe are increasingly becoming divided on the basis of religion and ethnicities. Besides many other reasons for such state of affairs, lack of public places and mixed-use physical spaces are some of the important reasons that play a direct role in creating polarization. Open spaces for recreation in big metropolises across the developing world are diminishing and as a result there is a growing tendency for violence amongst youth as a means to self expression. Karachi, once called the Paris of Asia, is now bracketed with war torn countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. Though, Cairo may not yet be there, but the way things are happening there, the times may not be too far. The deterioration in law and order results in gated communities and mixed use spaces become sparse. It is often seen that public spaces suffer neglect and results in abandonment when the affluent classes do not frequently visit such places. So, to what extent can we say that a lack of public spaces in mega cities leads towards regression in society? Is the current pattern of development sustainable?
By: Unjela Kaleem
By: Brandon Alexander Harrell:
Government Failure in Providing Housing Solutions for Urban Poor in Kenya: According to UN-HABITAT, Nairobi has some of the most densely populated, unsanitary and insecure slums in the world. About 60% of the city’s population lives in the more than 100 slums and squatter settlements around the city. The excessive and expansive slums which pervade Nairobi’s periphery serve as proof of a history of turbulent governance and the consequential housing market failure. The market failure can be attributed to poor governance, high cost of housing finance, a complex land tenure system, stringent planning and building standards, and rapid urbanization compounded with poor economic growth. The lack of affordable housing options for low-income and no-income residents of Nairobi is particularly important due to the fact the new Kenyan Constitution 2010 guarantees every Kenyan the right to decent affordable housing. An estimated 60% of Nairobi’s 3 million person population are low-income, urban poor living in slums which constitute less that 5% of the Nairobi’s total land. As these slums continue to grow due to a migrating rural populations and internal natural population growth, it is in the interests of Kenya, and the entire Horn of Africa, to see to it that the urban poor are housed.
Our analysis of the various housing interventions spearheaded by the (Government of Kenya) seeks to highlight their strengths and weaknesses and to suggest ways in which they might be improved to ensure maximum benefits, especially for the poorest of the poor. Such projects include: Kenya Slum Upgrading Project currently under way; Umoja II and Dandora Site and Service schemes and Pumwani- Majengo resettlement; Kibeta High Rise.
What we find is that the GOK has failed to provide access to affordable housing solutions and instead, all interventions by the government to improve access to housing have ended up benefiting the middle and upper-middle income classes. Historically, these programs have failed due to mismanagement and corruption, and lack of political will to provide jobs and resources for the ever growing low-income population.Through an analysis of changes in housing policies, cost-effectiveness of housing projects, level of public/ private partnership (PPP), we hope to shed light on the current trends in slum upgrading and on future possibilities. Alternatives to explore include project management of PPP in the production of low income housing, NGO intervention and community led housing production/upgrading.