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close this bookTraining Human Settlement Workers in Eastern & Southern Africa (AFSC - Mazingira Institute, 1981)
close this folderIntroduction
View the documentBackground
View the documentThe workshop
View the documentFollow-up
View the documentThe proceedings


For many of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the achievement of independence triggered an explosion of rural migration to urban areas. The attendant problems of rapid urbanisation and lack of rural development remain the dominant forces shaping settlements patterns in the Region. Responses to these problems have more recently focused on people-oriented approaches: self-help housing and shantytown upgrading in the cities or village cooperatives in the rural areas. Although each country may be in a different situation and have different policies, the wealth of experience accumulated was thought to be worth sharing.

In 1980, a small group of people working on settlement issues in Southern Africa began planning a Workshop to bring together some of their colleagues in the region. Their idea was to compare notes and to benefit from each other's experience in training human settlements workers. With initial assistance and encouragement from a Canadian NGO, CUSO (Canadian University Service Overseas), a lengthy process of correspondence and fundraising was initiated. The resulting Workshop which was held in Lusaka from 28 September to 4 October 1981 is reported in this publication.

The Workshop considered the training of "front-line" workers in the belief that training people who can help communities to help themselves leads to the most sensitive and worthwhile results. What distinguished the participants from those at so many other international gatherings was their level of operation and practicality. The meeting was an informal sharing of experience between people who, for example, train builders, run trade schools, teach school leavers, and train, assist or mobilise the residents of low-income areas. They came from Angola, Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Observers from the UN Commission for Namibia also participated. Some of the participants came from NGO's while others were from central or local government agencies in the various countries. The list of participants and their organisations is given at the back of this booklet.

The workshop

Zambia proved to be an ideal location for the meeting not only because of its centrality and good communications with all the other countries, but also because Lusaka's history of settlement improvement projects provided impressive evidence of what can be done when self-help is an integral part of the process. For seven days, the participants lived and worked together just outside Lusaka, making use of the conference facilities run by the Zambian Council for Social Development, the coordinating body for non-governmental organizations in Zambia. All of the days and most of the evenings were filled with presentations of training materials, working group discussions or descriptions of the settlements situation in the countries. The open-air conference room and simple accommodation provided the setting for intensive work, as well as opportunities for slide shows, films and the chance to get to know each other informally.

True to the principles of self-help and group work that formed the Workshop content, the tasks of managing the proceedings were shared by all participants, who performed the tasks of recording and chairing sessions, keeping a library and organizing projectors, meals and transport. On the first day, each member of the group identified the concerns that he or she wanted to be addressed by the Workshop, and the topics of the working group sessions were selected based on these concerns. The sessions were modified following a self-evaluation mid-way through the week and, somehow, time was found to discuss and visit settlements project sites in Lusaka.


By the end of the week, the value of regional sharing of experience was very evident to all the Workshop participants who identified as useful follow-up:

1. Writing up and publishing the proceedings.
2. Further Workshops on other topics.
3. Networking of people and information.

This publication is the outcome of discussions on the first item. The participants decided on the type of document and contributions were later sought to help with producing it. Two participants followed up by doing the editing and organizing printing, and thanks are due to CUSO Canada and UNCHS-HABITAT who jointly funded the publication.

The seven days were too short to share all the information we brought with us, both documents and ideas, and although the meeting successfully kept its focus on training, it was clear that there were numerous other topics the participants had plenty to say about. Furthermore, participants realized there were other people in other countries who would benefit and, have much to contribute to similar, discussions; human settlement workers in the Region constitute a large and active group of people.

There is scope for other similar gatherings, including smaller sub-regional meetings which could provide a forum for intensive discussions of specific problems (such as local building materials production independent of South Africa) or discussions in another language (for example Portuguese). No specific topics, locations or participants were suggested although it was considered important to stress that. future Workshops should have the following characteristics which made this one a success:

1. Focus on the practical issues of self-help.
2. Concern with work at the community level.
3. Focus on workers with secondary or perhaps primary school background.
4. Participants to include field workers and community leaders.
5. Participation by a mix of NGO and government organizations.
6. Informality and associated modest costs.

Finally, the idea of starting an information sharing network emerged and was refined during the Workshop. By the end of the week Settlements Information Network Africa (SINA) had been launched, each participant being a founder member and undertaking to activate more members in their own or other countries. The initiating members hope that SINA will increase the exchange of information in the Region by putting more people in touch with each other and with existing sources of information. For example, there are a number of institutions already which have information on self-help settlements projects, including:

Centre for Housing Studies, ARDHI, Tanzania
Housing Research and Development Unit, Nairobi
Centre for African Studies, University of Zambia
LEHCO-OP Lesotho
National Housing Directorate, Maputo
UNCHS-HABITAT Regional Film Library

The Network should put community development and other human settlements workers in various organizations and countries in the Region in touch with these sources and with each other. Although the first members are from a few countries in the East and Southern parts of Africa, it is expected that the Network will grow to include others. It will also be a way for people to promote and conduct future Workshops.

It is intended to collect a list of documents, audiovisual materials and other types of information available and circulate it to Network members. The first newsletter will consist of a -list of the membership as well as some items of news, requests and suggestions. The Network entry form is reprinted here and can be detached from the centre page and used to join SINA. This publication will also be sent free to the first Network members thanks to UN assistance. Further copies can be obtained by writing in and paying a small sum for postage,

The proceedings

It has not been possible to print all the papers presented at the Workshop in full here. Those interested in learning more about specific topics might contact participants through the Settlements Information Network. Their names and addresses are printed at the end of this volume. This will also help initiate and activate the Network.

These proceedings are divided into three sections:
1. The Settlements Situation Brief reports from each participating delegation provide some basic background to people who have no experience or very limited information about each country. They are not intended to be complete and some may disagree with their emphasis.

2. Training Case Studies These concrete examples of training case studies were very stimulating for the Workshop participants. They complement the settlements reports and illustrate some of the general issues that were raised about training.

3. Working Group Discussions The Working Groups raised more questions than it was possible to answer and sometimes each session began to sound like the theme for a future workshop. Nevertheless, these discussions can be a guide for workshops on training in people's own countries and workplaces. They might also assist those initiating and conducting training programs.

As the Workshop indicated, there is a need for ongoing discussion both about training methods and also about settlements issues in Southern and Eastern Africa. The delegates hoped that these proceedings might be read and used with the same spirit of exchange and questioning that characterized their own meeting. Any comments or criticisms can be directed to them and to all of our colleagues through the Settlements information Network.