The Road from Rio: Sustainable Development and the Nongovernmental Movement in the Third World

By Julie Fisher | Go to book overview
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Exhibit 3.5
A Brazilian Neighborhood Movement

The Nova Iguacu neighborhood movement in Brazil represented 120 neighborhood associations by 1985. Yet the 6,000 people who attended meetings represented only 3 percent of the population of the neighborhoods, and the government did not respond to the movement's demands. The exhausting nature of daily survival makes it difficult for people to get to meetings, even if they can afford the bus fare.". . . The changes which have occurred are generally subtle and fragile. In this sense, many analyses of grassroots movements have erred on the side of exaggerating the novelty, strength, and autonomy of grassroots popular movements." 67

working can also take up valuable time and resources. Very rapid growth can lead to feuding and mistrust. This happened in Senegal between 1976 and 1984, as some small federations acquired as many as 300 member GROs within a few years. 68
10. The process of federation should be gradual enough for members to be able to learn from each other as well as from outsiders. Also important is the need to train a second generation of leaders. Without this training, there is a danger that the creative, committed process now occurring in the Third World will lose momentum.

The terrible conditions, economic constraints, and sheer fatigue under which most people live have fueled grassroots networking, but they can also weigh it down, as a study of a Brazilian neighborhood federation summarized in Exhibit 3.5 shows.

Although there is an enormous amount of development activity and institution building bubbling up from below, the right mix and quality of outside technical assistance and self-reliance is not easy to determine. And even self-reliance may degenerate into self-serving behavior. One large Senegalese peasant federation is already "generating bureaucrats" according to Pradervand ( 1990:171). The content of what should be expanded remains a serious question, as yet only partially answered. What is undeniable, however, is that there is now sufficiently varied and innovative evidence that GRO networks are a cohesive and powerful mechanism for scaling out. They are in the forefront of understanding the connections between poverty and environmental degradation if not yet the population issue.


NOTES
1.
Lecomte, 1986, p. 21.
2.
Segmentary lineage systems may account for the ease with which a farmer's network among the Tiv in Nigeria has spread.

-72-

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