Featured Programmes

Click on a title below to see documents and photos for each Featured Programme: 

Angola - Musseque/squatter settlements 

Rapid and unregulated urbanisation, particularly in Luanda, has been the key trend in urban development in Angola since independence. This unregulated urbanisation has resulted in vast urban areas called “musseques” with irregular layouts and poor levels of infrastructure and services, but composed largely of “solid-built” houses. Over the course of the civil war, millions of people fled the fighting in the countryside and headed for the relative safety of towns and cities in the affected provinces. Often the populations of whole villages were displaced when their settlements were overrun or threatened by the warring armies. Although it is evident that the war was a major and dominant factor in urban expansion, high fertility rates also increasingly explain the rapid rates of growth of urban populations. These continue in the post-war years thus maintaining the trend of urban growth. With rising land values, there is increasing pressure to eliminate informal inner-city settlements and open up these areas for commercial development. Lacking a clear policy on urban land development, the government and private-sector partners have embarked on an increasingly aggressive program of slum clearance and the removal of the poor to the periphery of the city.

Angola - Peacebuilding and humanitarian aid
DW’s peacebuilding programme was launched in December 1998 during the same month that the Lusaka Peace Process collapsed and Angola entered its final destructive phase of conflict. DW hosted a meeting of the major civil society and religious institutions including resulting in the founding of the Angola Peacebuilding Programme (PCP). In the post-war period the PCP focused its energies on reconciliation of communities and reintegration of demobilized soldiers and their families. The PCP partners joined forces in the period leading up to elections in order to ensure that the democratic process would not provoke local conflicts and lead to a breakdown in the peace process as had the last elections in 1992. DW and its former PCP member institutions have mounted renewed partnerships focused on civic education, electoral training, conflict resolution and instituting organized participative planning at the local community level. In this way DW has continued to support its partners’ work through the post-war years.

Angola - Project Sambizanga
The Sambizanga Project started in 1986 in Sambizanga, one of the oldest informal settlements in Luanda and as the country’s first integrated squatter-upgrading program in the musseque informal settlements. DW developed a community-based model for upgrading water, environmental sanitation and public health services in peri-urban areas of Sambizanga. The specific project objectives are: to improve access to basic services of water supply, sanitation and primary health care services for the project area population and to mobilise the community to actively participate in the improvement of environmental and public health conditions in the project area. The strategy used by the project emphasises the work with members of the community, CBOs, NGOs and local and national government authorities. The project employed two main strategies: community mobilisation and physical upgrading. Training is an inherent component of both strategies. The project was a pioneer in slum-area upgrading and won a UN Best Practice award at the Habitat II Urban Summit in Istanbul in 1996.

Angola - Water and Sanitation
DW is the leading actor in the water and sanitation sector in Angola, with ongoing programmes in Luanda, Huambo, Bie, Cunene and Cabinda. DW has been involved in both programme implementation research and policy development in the sector since 1987. DW has been commissioned to do major studies for the World Bank in the sector in 1995, 1998 and 2008 and has an ongoing collaboration with the National Water and Sanitation Directorate as part of the "Water for All" programme. DW has been working in partnership with government, water authorities and local consumers to successfully enhance the quality and quantity of water and make it more affordable for communities in both peri-urban and rural areas. Over 1500 water systems have been implemented with local communities and currently DW is working to support the Government in building capacity in community water management across the country.

Burkina Faso - Women’s enterprise development
Nearly every small dusty village in northern Burkina Faso is home to groups of women potters, producing ceramic water jars, pots to store food and other domestic objects. Selling their products provided a scarce source of non-agricultural income. Pottery is one of the very few income generating activities available to women that fits in with domestic tasks and work in fields. However, traditionally pottery was fired in shallow pits partially open to the sky. Efficiency was very poor, and losses from breakages high. Most of the heat generated escaped to the open air and gusts of wind changing the temperature cracked pots. Overall this was a huge waste of energy and effort. In 1998, noticing the inefficiency of this traditional firing process, DW designed a mud brick vaulted kiln for the women potters to test, built by trainee masons in the DW Woodless Construction programme. As a result, energy saving was over 90% and breakages reduced to almost nothing. The kiln meant that pottery in Burkina Faso could finally be a profitable activity. Since the first kiln was built, over 6000 women in villages have seen for themselves dramatic improvements in output, quality – and above all in their income. With the kilns, the women potters have added new products, including  gutters, terracotta floor tiles, ceramic shelters for housing baby chicks and fuel efficient stoves, and production can continue through the rainy season. DW has supported the establishment of many registered women’s economic interest groups, each sharing their kiln, in a programme that has required a minimum of investment reaching out to thousands of women.

Climate change and settlement adaptation
In the coastal cities of Angola, the intensity and variability of climatic events such as rainstorms and floods have more than doubled over the last 60 years. For much of that period, conflict in the interior provinces was driving people to the relative safety of coastal cities – namely Cabinda, Luanda and the twin cities of Benguela/Lobito – where most settled in marginal and environmentally fragile land at the urban periphery. The growth of these settlements has resulted in the occupation of high risk, low cost land in river basins and swampy coastal locations. Cholera, malaria and other diseases are increasingly serious problems, linked to a lack of safe water and adequate sanitation. Increasing climate variability has compounded those problems, with rainfall tending to come in intense storms, causing flooding. In pilot municipalities of Angola, participatory methods have been developed by DW have contributed to improved water governance, resulting in significant changes in the management of public water points, widening access to clean water and reducing water costs by 90% (from US$0.50 to $0.05 per bucket). The Angolan government has replicated the community management model across the country, ensuring that ongoing maintenance is financed by locally elected committees who collect fees for services and promote hygiene and basic sanitation.

Egypt - AA III World Group Study Trip 1973 in Cairo and in Old & New Gourna
At the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, UK in early 1973, this field work trip was part of the student initiated course on Third World Studies in the AA Diploma School. The participants, amongst which were the founder members of DW, organised a seven week study with the aim of increasing our understanding of traditional living patterns, planning and design concepts and traditional building technology, in the hope the findings would guide their and other people’s thinking about the relevance of indigenous practice to meet modern human settlements and building needs. The study covered much ground: Climatic analysis of traditional courtyard houses in Old Cairo; a survey of Old Cairo’s living, working and planning patterns to inform on lessons for today’s planners; a climatic study of six experimental houses in Cairo Building Research Centre, built by architect Hassan Fathy; a comparative study of Old and New Gourna in Upper Egypt, the later designed by Hassan Fathy, and of neighbouring villages; and the training of and building by the group of a vault and dome roofed building with mud bricks using techniques dating back 3500 years in Upper Egypt and Nubia. DW went on to develop these building techniques to meet today’s building needs in the Sahel region of Sub Saharan Africa, facing increased scarcity of available local materials (see Woodless Construction Programme). Our critical study of Fathy’s Gourna led to further work with Hassan Fathy, one of DW’s very early mentors taking them to work and study the indigenous building of Oman (See Oman: The problems and potentials of the indigenous built environment of a developing country), Dubai and Lebanon in 1973. The findings of the Field Study profoundly influenced future actions and partnership of DW founding members.

Oman: The problems and potentials of the indigenous built environment of a developing country
Following studies in Cairo on the performance of buildings using traditional design principles in Cairo in early 1973 (see The AA III World Group Studies Trip to Egypt: Climatic performance of traditional and experimental buildings in Cairo), at the request of the Sultanate of Oman’s Ministry of Development, Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy asked the founders of DW and architect Omar el Farouk to carry a similar study of certain traditional buildings in Oman to assess what lessons could be learnt that could be applied to new building projects. The study carried out in late 1973 was expanded to cover six of the eight regions of Oman: The Northern Batinah Coastal Plain, the Northern Uplands, The Buraimi Oasis, Muscat/Mutrah and Ruwi, Sur, and the Southern Coastal Plain – Salala. The remaining two areas were either uninhabited or unsafe. Over three months surveys of the indigenous built environment at the level of settlements and houses were carried out in over 20 towns and villages, considering the socio-economic environment context and needs of communities and families, the climate and how the indigenous built environment could achieve comfortable living conditions, and the materials and technologies that were available and how they had and could be used to meet contemporary needs.

After the field studies, Farokh Afshar, Allan Cain and John Norton analysed the results and produced a comprehensive report on the problems and potentials of the indigenous built environment in Oman. For each region there is a detailed description of the physical area and the three major factors shaping the built environment: socio-economic context, the climate, and the available materials and technologies, and considers these at the level of settlements and the house. Finally the study provided proposals, divided into three sections. The first is on a general development strategy for Oman that DW believed to be relevant to the study and its approach. The second part deals with a general policy for the built Environment within which we located this particular study on Oman. The third part made specific proposals on use of materials, technology, climatic design, water supply and sewage disposal and the design and organisation of health risk areas such as water collection and washing points (falaj), food selling in markets, cooking areas and lavatories. The challenge in 1973 to 1974 was to extract at that time the principles of design inherent in the still intact vernacular building and urban planning of Oman and to propose who these could be applied to modern design needs and to the country’s projects for rural and urban design at a time when Oman was emerging as a rapidly developing country. 

Woodless Construction/Construction Sans Bois
"Woodless Construction" was introduced by DW in 1980 to the Sahel countries of West Africa and expanded over the next four decades into a region-wide programme of builder training and associated skills and institutional development, describes the use of Egyptian and Iranian and techniques for building vault and dome roofed buildings using sun dried mud bricks, techniques adapted over years to suit the Sahel’s varied conditions and local needs. These techniques enable local builders to achieve complete houses and other buildings only using locally available earth and seasonally available water - no cutting of trees, no cement, no steel. The Woodless Construction Programme addressed on one hand encroaching desertification and the scarcity of timber for roofing, and on the other the inaccessibility of costly non-local construction materials. DW worked in the towns and villages throughout the Sahel, training local builders in the Woodless Construction techniques, in a programme that contributes to developing the local economy and to reduce poverty and pressure on the natural environment. A core feature of the Woodless Construction programme: training had to be fast, so that after three week training by DW teams of local trainers, trainee builders were able first to build their own homes as part of their training and then do so for their neighbours and to meet the need for a large variety of public buildings. The promotion of woodless construction in Niger, in Mali and in Burkina Faso was recognised by winning the World Habitat Award in 1998, and awarded a 1992 UN Habitat Scroll of Honour.