Post-disaster reconstruction in Dominican Republic

Post-disaster reconstruction in Dominican RepublicThis second contribution to the E-magazine EcoSur series about different experiences in reconstruction projects documents projects of grupo sofonias in the south of the Dominican Republic from 1982 until 1993.

From 1982 until 1993 grupo sofonias built around 300 houses and repaired other 1000 in the south of the Dominican Republic, the most underdeveloped region of the country with a high level of illiteracy and poverty. In 2007 the director of these projects returned with a group of students to evaluate the projects. On this trip back to the past Martin Melendez and his 17 assistants experienced more than one surprise. His observation that “something very typical of the Dominicans is that we do not have the habit to maintain our houses neither repair or rebuild them, and this seems to be more the case in the south of the country”, resumes some of his frustrations. The final conclusion that “poor families did not have to preoccupy themselves each year about whether their houses would be taken away by the river or a hurricane, is itself an achievement.

The projects were developed under the ambit of a catholic church immersed in liberation theology. The priests organized farmers associations and there was a general attitude of “together we can”. The construction was developed using “appropriate” technologies that today we know as “Ecotechnologies”, being economic and ecologically viable. However, the expected level was not always…MicroConcreteRoofing technology was in its infancy, production of fired clay bricks had disappeared (and was reintroduced in this program), wood was imported and of bad quality. These realities together with the communitarian craftsmanship carried out by masons of poor qualification were a handicap for the projects.


Even with these problems, the houses turned out to be safe and secure and have survived from 15 to 25 years without major problems, an accomplishment considering the low or total lack of maintenance in various cases. Especially the houses roofed with fired clay brick vaults tend to be found in their original estate. On the contrary, the community buildings have suffered deterioration and the majority has been abandoned.

This is precisely where the problem is to be found: the socio-educational work was not enough and especially of too short duration. The changed church philosophy that stopped promoting social civic integration, the socio-political path changed from “together we can” to “save yourself if you can”.

The social and educational abandonment has not changed enough and even today among adults over 35 years of age, the general illiteracy and social decomposition is as bad as it used to be.

But not all is negative. Hundreds of families have a secure house, important in a region of recurring hurricane. A risk study reveals positive data. Various of the projects present themselves in an attractive manner, landscaped with trees and flowers, and it is not to forget the houses that have received appropriate maintenance. Everything seems to indicate that the level of maintenance depends on the educational level of the community; this could be an interesting theme to explore. A highlight is that the community that built with adobe, a material not known and mostly discarded in the country, presents the best results in maintenance and development, but also it’s the community nearest to the city and probably with a higher educational level in general...


The report is available in PDF format (spanish only) pdf proyecto_sur_rd_intec 05/09/2008,12:49 1.57 Mb


You are here: Home Past editions Edition 32 - September 2008 Post-disaster reconstruction in Dominican Republic


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