Year

1999

Degree Name

Doctor of Public Health

Department

Graduate School of Public Health

Abstract

This thesis introduces a new perspective on development in Lebanon, that of lay people in rural communities. Lay views have been missing from development literature and practice around the world. Development projects which emphasise economic development and infrastructure are often described by development professionals in terms of their achievements and tangible benefits. However, concerned researchers are dissatisfied with the outcomes of many development projects and their effects on people and their environments. The perspectives of the recipients of development projects is the topic of this research.

In Lebanon, funds for development projects during and after the recent war (1975-90) have stressed economic development and infrastructure. The governmental and non-governmental agencies carrying out these programs are driven by donor accountability and the need to apply for further funding. As a result, they have tended to overlook longer term social needs. A significant omission in official development reports are the views of project beneficiaries. It is this omission that this thesis seeks to remedy.

The study provides an ethnographic account of people's viewpoints on development in two typical rural villages in Lebanon. They are situated in Akkar which has received much development assistance over the past two decades. The ethnographic approach, similar to that used in anthropology, was used for its ability to uncover in-depth information using multi-methods of data collection. The thesis presents a detailed description of the layout and social organisation of the two villages. In many respects, these do not differ significantly from descriptions in the earlier literature which dates from the 19th century, although outside contacts, for employment, education and political activity are now more frequent.

Villagers were asked about their views of development, what they valued about their village and their experience of development projects. Their views were found to reflect their gender and position in the village hierarchy. The male leaders, who see themselves as initiators of development projects and use them to further their political ambitions, hold similar views to development professionals and use the same vocabulary. Other, less powerful men and the women hold different views, use different vocabulary and tend to talk more about the Hi-effects of projects. The religious leaders espouse an Islamic viewpoint which is similar in some ways to that of the women but their activities mirror those of the other male leaders.

No development project which has been undertaken in either village could be considered to have been successful. A detailed investigation of a water project in one of the villages shows why this is so. Lack of success has to do with factors internal to the village, as well as the project approach favoured by development agencies.

The findings indicate that there are gaps in development practice at both a state and development agency levels. Complex village social relationships, particularly internal and external power relationships, affect development projects and outcomes. These favour involvement of key male figures in development initiatives rather than all the community. Such issues point to the need for training in gender awareness and participatory approaches for the professionals as well as the need for equitable resource distribution at a countiy level. Although the research was liniited to two villages in Akkar, the implications for practice and further research are nationwide.

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