Wednesday, June 28

Slum Dwellers International: Urbanism From the People Up

I was ecstatic to find this heartening photo story of the creation, from the ground up, of a replacement village for slums in Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi. The community was organized through an international super group of federations called Slum Dwellers International.

Selected photo's and their captions:

Preparatory meetings

We are all Architects on the ground

We will smile like this for our real houses

Celebrations during the Ground Breaking Ceremony

The first brick

Adobe Everywhere

Look at our first house coming up

A hub of employment creation

Women power

Home Finally

In the lounge

Future architects

See the whole photo story here.

SDI has built a combined total of 80,000 new homes in countries like South Africa, India, Thailand, Cambodia, & the Philippines.

They do so without help from the United Nations, the IMF, or the World Bank. They do so by empowering people. This is urbanism from the people up. It can be done.

More information about Slum Dwellers International:
Slum Dwellers International (SDI) is a loose network of people's organisations from an increasing number of countries in the [Global] South. The network is made up of Federations of community organisations and other grassroots initiatives that are in the process of developing Federations. Linked to this network is a group of professionals who are committed to supporting Federations of the urban poor.

The SDI affiliates in twenty-three countries have come together to give a voice to the poor in an arena of decision-making that has, in recent years, been confined to global organisations that champion neo-liberal theories of development.

As a counterpoint to these agencies, social movements (such as the women's and environmental movements) have emerged. They see themselves as opponents of centralised state power, backed by these global agencies - the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Then there has been a plethora (now diminishing) of organisations in civil society who have mobilised poor individuals, mainly through micro-finance, to help poor people improve their individual standards of living as a means of adapting to the reality created by the alliance of power between multi-laterals and national governments.

SDI affiliates are attempting to pioneer an alternative route to the two that are mentioned above.

Monday, June 12

Growing Security, or... Park as Wall

I'm a little late to this one, but it's too interesting to not post:

Mexico to grow 'green wall' along U.S. border - MSNBC

"MEXICO CITY - Mexico is creating an environmental reserve about 30 feet wide and 600 miles long on the Texas border, a “green wall” to protect the Rio Grande from the roads and staging areas that smugglers use to ferry drugs and migrants across the frontier.

Much of this border zone is remote and inhospitable — generally too rough to hike through unless you’re a black bear or a pronghorn sheep, species that have flourished in the area’s deserts and mountains..."

Related Posts:

Friday Photography Border Film Project
Border Stability: One Home at a Time

Tsunami Recovery in Thailand | Part 9: TSUNAMI TOURISM

(Part 9 of a 12 part series)

Five weeks after the Tsunami hit, Sishir Chang went to Thailand to see how the people there were recovering and to see how those concerned could help. The following is the ninth installment of his experiences in the aftermath of one of the world'’s most devastating natural disasters. Originally published in the Southasian, the article is being republished here, with previously unpublished photographs, with the author's permission.


With so much attention being paid to the tsunami many of the Thais sought to capitalize on it. At many souvenir stalls there were tsunami VCD’s and DVD’s for sale while T-shirt shops sold tsunami t-shirts featuring the Hokusai woodblock print of The Wave. At some places they offered to sell pictures from the tsunami such as of a man running away from a wave breaking through the tops of palm trees, a car on top of a building and piles of debris and bodies washing up along a beach. On the ride in from the airport my driver even offered me a tsunami day package to go see the worst hit place by the tsunami. He even added that lunch and shopping stops would be included.

While it seems crass to commercially take advantage of the tsunami, the residents of Phuket are suffering very much economically because of it. Several Thais that I spoke to said they’re getting very little aid from the government or from major relief agencies. Maem a cabana vendor in Patong was typical, her business had been wiped out in the tsunami and since then she had only received 2,000 Baht (around $50) from the government and nothing from aid organizations. The most aid she had received was 200 Euros from a German for saving his life. Vhola Nathku, an Indian tailor, was rebuilding his store with insurance money but had received nothing from the government, both Thai and Indian. He also said that practically all of the reconstruction being done in Patong was from insurance. A few other Indian tailors I spoke to couldn’t even count on insurance and they called themselves “tsunami refugees” since they had no livelihood after their shop was destroyed and were left hoping to find some other work. The desperation brought on by the tsunami had caused some businesses to include a direct appeal to aid to potential customers like a sign at a massage parlor that said, “Massage; Please to subsidize victim tsunami to pay off debts.”