DW AngolaCounting rooftops: Innovative remote-sensing techniques chart poverty in Angola

Counting rooftops: Innovative remote-sensing techniques chart poverty in Angola


IDRC Communications A longstanding IDRC grantee combines satellite observations with old-fashioned grassroots data gathering to measure the impact of Angola's rapidly growing slums on the environment.

Since 2002, when decades of civil conflict ended, Angola has struggled to rebuild. Its planners are hampered, however, by a shortage of reliable data about their own country’s population and environment. During the long conflict, Angola’s cities mushroomed when the rural economy collapsed and many parts of the countryside became unsafe. An influx of poor people settled in the urban districts they could afford — that is, in slums that are vulnerable to flooding or erosion, and that lack
basic services and economic opportunities. Poverty, in other words, has a spatial aspect and a circular effect. The poor are likely to settle in environmentally sensitive areas where their presence is likely to exacerbate environmental damage, thus aggravating their poverty.

If Angolan policymakers were to take effective measures to tackle urban destitution and environmental degradation, they needed a clear picture of the geographic distribution of slum dwellers and of their social and environmental circumstances.

Development Workshop Angola An ambitious IDRC-funded research project, aimed primarily at documenting the environmental impact of encroaching slums, has been painting this picture. The study was conducted from 2009 to 2011 by

Development Workshop Angola (DW Angola), a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Luanda.DW Angola is the oldest NGO in the country. Since 1981 it has worked closely with government and with local community groups to provide basic services to Angola’s impoverished and war-ravaged people. IDRC has supported seven major initiatives the organization has conducted. DW Angola was co-founded and is directed by architect and urban planner Allan Cain, a Canadian who has lived in Angola almost 40 years (and who is Canada’s honorary consul there). Cain has been made an officer of the Order of Canada in recognition of his humanitarian work.