This chapter addresses the discrepancy between the theoretically ideal level of participation by indigenous people and what is actually practised, with a focus on water projects in Sierra Leone. It examines organisation among the Mende, the largest ethnic group in Sierra Leone. Sustainable water reform in developing countries calls for the participation of indigenous people, particularly women, as major partners. In a Western context, organisations exist primarily to carry out production and work towards economic goals efficiently and effectively. The balance between 'aggressive individualism' and the 'aggressive welfare consciousness' characteristic of African communal societies is maintained by 'levelling mechanisms' that operate in the traditional system. Adoption of an interdisciplinary approach to planning reflecting the social characteristics of a people accustomed to a hierarchical, socially sensitive, gender-differentiated framework, true of some 70% of the population of Sierra Leone, can facilitate the implementation of modern projects at grass-roots level.
Indigenous People, Women and Water: The Importance of Local Knowledge for Project Planning in an African Context, in J. Chenoweth & J. Bird (Eds.), The Business of Water and Sustainable Development, Routledge, p. 188-197
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