By the year 2000, half the world's population will be living in cities; 70 percent of this urban population will be in developing countries. This will add to the problems of urban poverty, a deteriorating environment, and the gap between the demand for urban infrastructure and services and the available supply. As governments fail to address these deficiencies, low-income groups are seeking to develop creative solutions of their own. This book, based on case studies, analyzes the role of NGOs and other intermediary institutions in supporting low-income groups and their community organizations in improving housing and living conditions in the Third World. It focuses on funding and supporting the improvement of housing conditions and the provision of housing-related infrastructure and services in urban areas. It discusses the use of credit and innovative finance systems for low-income housing, basic services, infrastructure investment, income generation and community development. The discussion of the issues is based on the case studies provided: five from Asia, two from Africa, nine from Latin America, and two international ones.
In considering the scale and extent of the need for investment in shelter, infrastructure and services the book points out that urban population growth has far outpaced the institutional capacity to manage the enormous increases in population, resource consumption and waste generation. Most city and municipal governments have virtually no independent investment capacity. They also have inadequate powers for raising revenue and lack the institutional capacity needed to plan and manage infrastructure and service provision and to recover costs. Inadequacies in water supply provision ensure that a high proportion of the population in most urban centres collects water from open streams and wells which may be contaminated, or purchases water from vendors who lack quality or price controls. Alternatives to investing in conventional water-borne sewage systems are suggested that may be more cost effective for providing adequate sanitation.
Conventional responses to the gap between investment needs and current investment flows have failed because of the failure of various levels of government, the private sector and development assistance agencies to contribute more to the investment needed in housing infrastructure and services. They have failed because of a lack of resources for investment, and because they have not developed responses which mesh with local people's needs and priorities and build on the resources available. What is needed is a change in the official "model" of urban development to one which works in partnership with these people, supports the investment flows they make, helps loosen the constraints they face, and works with them to ensure that infrastructure and services are provided or improved with very limited per capita budgets.
The growing role of NGOs in community development is seen as instrumental in changing the conventional model of financing and managing urban development to one which gives higher priority to ensuring that all urban households are reached with basic infrastructure and services, and which recognizes the importance of the inhabitants' participation in the planning, execution, maintenance, and control of projects. The different roles undertaken by NGOs include: to give technical and financial support to low-income households and communities to carry out development projects; to design and implement programmes to supply safe water and adequate sanitation and drainage to low-income groups; to act as "consciousness raisers" for low-income groups; and to influence policy for establishing new social models. The NGOs whose work is considered in this book all have a strong emphasis on support for the development of community organizations and have been involved in developing innovative funding schemes offering access to credit schemes which have concentrated on income-generating investment. The book highlights the experiences of women in gaining credit. They are often discriminated against and have limited access to informal credit systems. Their household and child care responsibilities allow them fewer opportunities to develop income-earning activities. Despite these problems, women are a high proportion of borrowers in many credit schemes and some case studies have focused on schemes to make more credit available to women, and to encourage women to take on new social roles.
The book draws the general conclusion that the solution to poverty in the Third World requires both the mobilization of additional resources and the better use of existing resources including technical and organizational skills, financial resources and productive capacities. Lessons drawn from the case studies show: there is a need to increase the collective capacity of poorer groups for negotiation and management; low-income groups are not only poor in a financial sense and an effective local community can help to alleviate multiple deprivations; community participation must be a key feature in NGO projects directed toward the development of poor communities; it is essential to work at an appropriate scale; there is a need for better coordination between organizations carrying out community projects; all development programmes should include a credit component; and it is important to make development programmes efficient and effective.