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< prev - next > Disaster response mitigation and rebuilding Reconstruction pcr_tool_1_an_introduction (Printable PDF)
People-centred Reconstruction (PCR):
An Introduction
What PCR means
When disasters strike, they often affect the most
vulnerable people; this is particularly true in the
developing world. Home owners may lose their
biggest asset; many people may be forced away
from their livelihoods.
This toolkit focuses on reconstruction by and for
poor people in urban and rural locations. The tools
recognise that reconstruction often starts very soon
after a disaster occurred and therefore needs to
be planned for at a very early stage. In most cases
some people start to repair or rebuild their houses
immediately whilst others in the same location may
be supported with tents or transitional shelters.
Out of disasters, low income communities
realise their own houses with little or no
professional inputs. This may be a lengthy,
incremental process, with rooms being added or
improvements made over the years, as money
becomes available. And whilst they are in charge of
the process, they may not do all the construction
works themselves, but hire artisans or make use
of more skilled friends or relatives. What makes
the difference with more top-down approaches is
that home-owners manage the entire construction
process and take decisions individually or
collectively to achieve this. Being in charge of the
process can empower people and helps to reduce
their vulnerability.
In rural areas, this is by far the most common
housing process. In urban areas, though, there is
a greater variety. In larger cities, the cost of land
is so high, that vertical development e.g. in the
form of multi-occupancy buildings has become a
more affordable solution. Also, the most vulnerable
cannot afford to own a house, and therefore
become tenants. Others again end up as squatters,
sometimes in very makeshift housing. The case
of Mama Susan, to the right, is one example of
current urban housing development.
Participatory practices exist since decades
and, throughout the world, these methods are
commonly accepted to be an important component
of successful development programmes.
Whether we call them house owner-driven,
community-based or simply ‘people’s process’,
there is evidence of growing interest in the use
of participatory approaches also for post-disaster
recovery and reconstruction in both urban and rural
Mama Susan builds a house
Mama Susan Taplokoi Maina lives in one of the
spontaneous settlements that have sprung up
around Nakuru in Kenya. Practical Action first
came across her in 1997, when she was about
60 years old. She had lost her husband, and
of the six children she had with him, four died
young. She had managed to buy a plot with her
savings and the help of others, and was living in
a single-roomed house made of timber off-cuts
and galvanised iron sheets. Her main income
came from selling second-hand clothes and
vegetables in the market. As she was getting
older, she did not want to end up being a burden
on her children. She needed a more secure
income that could help her to improve her house.
Using some of her income from sales, she
extended the house to add a single room that
she rented out. The rental income helped her
to build another room, and another. The more
rooms she built, the more her income increased.
By 2003, she was letting 12 rooms, at about $7
per month. From this, she managed to raise the
capital to invest in materials to build a better
house for herself.
For many years, Mama Susan has been a
member of a self-help group, initiated to improve
the neighbourhood. They also started to discuss
how their houses could be improved. They finally
opted to build their walls with stabilised soil
blocks, and Practical Action worked with the
group to build their capacity to do so. Mama
Susan now lives is a much better and larger
house on her own plot.
Mama Susan’s house in Nakuru