Tag Poverty

Paving the home

Cement floors and the horizons of the possible.

Starting in 2000, a program in Mexico’s Coahuila state called “Piso Firme” (Firm Floor) offered up to $150 per home in mixed concrete, delivered directly to families who used it to cover their dirt floors. Scholar Paul Gertler evaluated the impact: Kids in houses that moved from all-dirt to all-concrete floors saw parasitic infestation rates drop 78 percent; the number of children who had diarrhea in any given month dropped by half; anemia fell more than four-fifths; and scores on cognitive tests went up by more than a third. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, mothers in newly cemented houses reported less depression and greater life satisfaction.) By 2005, Piso Firme had spread to other states, and 300,000 households—about 10 percent of dirt-floor houses in Mexico—had taken part in the program.

It helps if the street outside the house gets paved, too—not so much for health reasons as for economic ones. Economists Marco Gonzalez-Navarro and Climent Quintana-Domeque found in a 2010 study that paving the street in the town of Acayucan, Mexico, added more than 50 percent to land values and caused a 31 percent rise in rental values. It also considerably increased households’ access to credit. As a result, households on paved streets were 40 percent more likely to have cars.


From “Paving Paradise”, by Charles Kenny, Foreign Policy, Jan/Feb 2012 :: via Koranteng

Originally published at culture-making.com.

OK, and now can we get one with the torn shirt? Thanks!

Frustrated with the way he saw poor people depicted in typical journalism and fundraising campaigns, a Canadian volunteer with Engineers Without Borders is photographing low-income rural Malawians he knows both as they’d typically be seen by the West, and as they prefer to see themselves. Evidently one difficulty in making the “poor” photos is getting his subjects to keep a straight face.


Bauleni Banda, sustenance maize farmer, Chikandwe, Malawi

The truth is that the development sector, just like any other business, needs revenue to survive. Too frequently, this quest for funding uses these kind of dehumanizing images to draw pity, charity, and eventually donations from a largely unsuspecting public. I found it outrageous that such an incomplete and often inaccurate story was being so widely perpetuated by the organizations on the ground – the very ones with the ability and the responsibility to communicate the realities of rural Africa accurately.

This is not to say that people do not struggle, far from it, but the photos I was seeing only told part of the story. I thought that these images were robbing people of their dignity, and I felt that the rest of the story should be told as well. Out of this came the idea for a photography project, which I am tentatively calling “Perspectives of Poverty”. I am taking two photos of the same person; one photo with the typical symbols of poverty (dejected look, ripped clothes, etc.), and another of this person looking their very finest, to show how an image can be carefully constructed to present the same person in very different ways. I want to bring to light some of the different assumptions we make about a person, especially when we see an image of “poverty” from rural Africa.


from “Perspectives of Poverty,” by Duncan McNicholl, Water Wellness, 28 April 2010 :: via Aid Watch

Originally published at culture-making.com.

Decolonizing Harry

cc r-z/flickr

If you are restricted in your range by poverty you are but confined to the most significant and vital experiences. It is life near the bone where it is sweetest.
—Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Though I’ve belted you and flayed you,
By the livin’ Gawd that made you,
You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!
—Rudyard Kipling, “Gunga Din”

When I set out to live in a biblically-centered community four summers ago, I really didn’t plan to find myself in the role of a colonial master, attempting to control my darker-skinned minions with insulting benevolence. It just sort of happened that way.