ANT 352

352 Readings


What do we mean by a problem?

Conditions, circumstances, situations, or issues that negatively affect a significant number of people.
These may of course be experienced in ‘developed’ nations, too, but by fewer people.
These can be of long standing or recent.

Infra-structure problems

Poor communications (phone, internet/computer, telegraph, etc.)
Roads bad or non-existent; bridges poorly maintained
Bad transportation
Little plumbing in rural areas (piped water, sewage system, treatment)
Limited electrification
Poor waste management
Some places are impossible to reach by car

Resource problems

Clean, potable water, or any water; in some areas, too much
Wood and forest resources
Arable land
Pasture for animals
Materials for manufacture
Capital cities suck resources from countryside
People have to go a long way for water

Environmental problems

Loss of land area in islands and coast
Loss of tropical rainforest (deforestation) and savanna to desert (desertification); drought
Salination of rivers
Extinction of species
Polluted land, air, water
Resource extraction and plantation economics have wrecked nature

The Sahara is expanding

Financial/economic problems

Bad balance of trade; national debt
High inflation rate, high unemployment
National currency low value
Personal savings very low; low wages
Investment low
Insufficient protections for labor
Widespread poverty (per capita income below $300 per year)
Public institutions poor or absent (no safety net)

Poverty means

Insufficient food, poor quality food
No disposable income
People are ill-housed or homeless, ill-clothed, no protection against natural disasters or climate extremes
All decisions on the basis of survival
Dependent on charity and public institutions
Poverty is relative


Many one-crop states fail when market for crop collapses
Producers faced with monopsony situation in which they have little control; farmers may not control factors of production (even seed)
Plantation economy and raw material extraction still in place; little transformation
Subsistence agriculture no longer possible
Poor storage, distribution and marketing

Traditional subsistence systems co-exist with the modern sector.

Political problems

Client state phenomenon; dependency
Prey to dictatorial leaders
Weak state, over-centralized, lacking resources; corruption, nepotism, poor training, and patronage mean that few things are well-managed
Human rights abuses
One party rule
Suppression of civil liberty; military rule
Lack of representation and participation in international institutions (U.N. security council)
Strong informal economy (extra-legal)
Displaced and refugee populations large
Land tenure and reform issues

Social/cultural problems

Gross economic inequality vitiates social problems
Gender inequities; women’s status actually worse than in traditional times, in some places
Migration of labor force
Disruption of family and kinship traditions
Child labor and trafficking
Religious conflict
Nationalist movements becoming fascistic

Social control

Traditional patterns of authority (age, kinship, secret societies, ritual leaders) and decision-making were disrupted by colonialism and replaced by ineffective government
Informal social controls also were shifted from age, gender, kin group pressures to ineffective legal and socioeconomic constraints
The family remains important, but is often dispersed and without resources
Intrusive NGOs, foreign companies, researchers often conduct careless, thoughtless, and/or illegal operations
Zimbabweans and a few others face a society in utter collapse


Low mean and median age of population
High birth rates; high growth rates
High mortality and especially infant mortality
In HIV/AIDS areas, decimation of reproductive age population
Child-headed households

In some areas, old people and very young people are the work force.


Epidemic diseases, especially in tropics
Poor availability of primary health care, except traditional healers
Customary rites exacerbate medical problems (FGM)
Poor pre-natal care
Wounded from conflicts (LRA)
Slash-and-burn agriculture causes lung problems


Low literacy rate, especially women and rural populations
Lack of teachers, instructional materials, facilities
Issues about language of instruction
Conflict with religious education in some areas

War and conflict

Many nations have internal on-going violent conflicts – rebellions, insurrection, civil wars, state terrorism against citizens
Border wars and disputes
Genocidal conflicts
Oppression of indigenous peoples
Hostility between nations
May have foreign army in occupation (U.S., former colonial ruler, U.N.)
Some corporations employ private militias (Dutch Shell in Nigeria) or use the national army to patrol their operations and housing
A walled town in Northern Nigeria bears witness to the old, old story of the need for defense against one's neighbors.

352 Readings