Community development in El Mirador, Nicaragua, post Hurricane Mitch: NGO involvement and community cohesion
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
In October of 1998 the category 5 storm, Hurricane Mitch, struck Nicaragua, leaving in its wake mass destruction and devastation. Numerous aid agencies and social organisations poured funds into the country to assist in emergency disaster relief efforts, and to rebuild the lives of those who lost their homes and livelihoods (damnificados). El Mirador in the city of Matagalpa is one example of the many communities built with aid monies after Hurricane Mitch. This thesis uses qualitative data constructed from in-depth interviews with participants (community members in El Mirador) to understand the level of successful community development that has been achieved, the ability for longer term sustainability as a result of community development strategies, and the areas in which community development has failed. Through an examination of the relationship the community has with the NGO the Communal Movement, the question of long term sustainability becomes important. The most telling indicator (that development practice is unsustainable) is the unproductive coping mechanisms of community members as aid and social organisations withdraw leaving members with ineffective social networks and at times uncooperative behaviour. Added into this is the arrival of new members into the community, and squatters, who have only added to the feelings of segregation already apparent, as a 'them and us' mentality develops. This study provides a detailed case specific analysis of community development through disaster relief efforts. It highlights some of the consistent, broad inefficiencies as well as more location and situation specific difficulties of community development. Moreover, it adds to the growing body of literature researching how disaster relief can become more effective and sustainable in the longer term.