Capsule Review: ‘Development in Practice: Paved with Good Intentions’ by Porter, Allen, & Thompson

This brief book review originally appeared in Volume 1, Number 1 of terra nova (Summer [North] Winter [South] 1991).

Development in Practice: Paved with Good Intentions by Doug Porter, Bryant Allen, and Gaye Thompson. (New York: Routledge, Chapman & Hall, April 1991). 247 pages, $75.00 cloth, $25.00 paper.

Three Australian researchers looked at a major aid project in Kenya funded by the Australian government over a period of thirteen years. The authors note that “the failure of a great many development projects to achieve even their most fundamental objectives is due to a reluctance on the part of development practitioners to appreciate the significance of history. Projects are frequently designed as if time began with the project implementation schedule. Past lessons are seldom examined and still fewer professionals bother to inquire into the historical circumstances of the people their interventions seek to assist.”

To fully explain the failure of this project—the Magarini Settlement Project in Kenya’s Coast Province— the authors look at the 70 years of social, political, and economic history among the Giriama people that preceded the launch of the initiative. They examine the project’s implementation, its review and accountability back home (in Australia), and the effects of the project’s failure on Australian development aid policy.

This book was reissued by Routledge in 2012.