Development for Peacebuilding: Four Years of Crisis and Conflict Response

After the explosion in the port of Beirut, emergency and long-term relief efforts are being organized. Credit: Ammar Abd Rabbo / AFD

The Minka Peace and Resilience Fund is France’s official development assistance tool dedicated to crisis situations, armed conflicts and the weakening of states and societies, with one objective: to contribute to the construction of a sustainable peace. Led by the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) Group, it currently covers, via four Initiatives, the priority crisis areas for France’s foreign policy: the Sahel, the Lake Chad region, the Central African Republic (CAR) and the Middle East. Four years after its launch in 2017, it is time for us to look back at its 2020 results.


A change in mentality and timeframe. The Minka Fund marks a real internal revolution at AFD, with substantial financial resources (nearly 200 million euros per year) and increasingly well-trained teams.  The Agency can now remain operational in crisis and conflict zones and is even launching new projects there. The time seems long gone when AFD had to suspend its operations when a zone was in the red and had no dedicated resources. With the constant ambition of responding to the essential needs of populations, AFD wanted to have a more rapid response capacity, with rapidly visible results. The Minka Fund therefore aims to “achieve initial results in the field within three to six months of allocation”.  In 2020, nearly three quarters of the projects financed by Minka meet this objective.

Under the Minka CAR Initiative, the SAMBBA project is an illustration of this new operating mode. Implemented in three months, it has made it possible to support access to food for marginalised populations and peri-urban market gardening in Berbérati and Bambari. 70% of households in the Bambari area have seen their access to food improve [1] and 79,653 animals have been vaccinated in order to strengthen the resilience of livestock owners with family farms in the region. In Mali and Burkina Faso, the mobilisation of appropriate instruments, such as the crisis intervention tools (OICC), supports this rapid approach with an average appraisal time of two months.

New topics. In this vein, AFD has taken on new issues such as prolonged forced displacement and psychosocial care. For example, in Lebanon, the PNSM project provides technical assistance to the national mental health program, a dedicated university degree and the strengthening of community mental health services. Implemented with the World Health Organisation (WHO), Médecins du Monde (MDM) and the Ecole Supérieure des Affaires (ESA), today 1,888 people have been able to access this care.

The same entrance. Minka projects are always identified as close to the field as possible via AFD’s field agencies and Regional Directorates (RDs). In order to benefit from the Fund, the project must be in line with the intervention logic of the Initiative in the crisis basin concerned. In the Sahel, it will contribute to preventing and curbing violent conflicts by strengthening the social link between communities and confidence between populations and their institutions; in the Lake Chad Basin, to curbing violence and strengthening social cohesion by mitigating the vulnerability factors linked to the Boko Haram crisis; in CAR, to accompany the exit from the crisis and support peace-building; and finally, in the Middle East, to mitigate the vulnerabilities generated by the displacement of populations and strengthen the resilience of host countries (to find out more about this initiative, discover its online photo exhibition).

A new way. Beyond these geographies, Minka is a tool for the future. Although the resource is protected for four defined basins, it has made it possible to export methods and procedures to other areas. AFD has developed financing through calls for “crisis and post-crisis” projects (APCC) applicable to any location that has suffered their consequences over the past 12 months. These modalities specifically target support to civil society organizations or non-profit entities.  Within this framework, a call for projects was won by CARE France for Colombia and Ecuador. These tools provide flexibility that was previously inconceivable for AFD – and which remains so for other donors: the possibility of modifying the budget on the basis of a simple no-objection notice from the Agency, or a “miscellaneous and unforeseen” line that is slightly larger than that of classic AFD projects. This approach aims to go beyond the funder/CSO relationship and move towards a partnership model where project co-instruction is the rule.

Projects, all evaluated, in an adapted manner. The Minka Fund places monitoring-evaluation and accountability at the heart of its identity, thanks to the systematic implementation of monitoring-evaluation mechanisms adapted to fragile or conflict-sensitive contexts. With the help of its partners, these systems allow AFD to adapt the frequency of data collection and analysis. They respond to the challenges of volatility: logical frameworks that are more sensitive to the context and dynamics of conflict and increased accountability to the final beneficiaries of projects. In 2020, the estimate is significant: 6 million additional people have seen their living conditions improve thanks to Minka funding.  Initiative-by-initiative accountability mechanisms are also strengthened. For example, in the Middle East, a platform has been developed to monitor the progress of projects with very precise indicators.

A dedicated team. Reporting to the Director of Operations, the Fragility, Crisis and Conflict Division (CCC) supports the technical, geographical and agency units in monitoring projects, using a multi-sectoral approach. As co-leader of the Minka Peace and Resilience Fund, its mission is to assist teams in appropriating methods specific to crisis zones and to encourage partnerships with actors specialising in these areas. But its mandate does not stop there. Crises, disasters, conflicts… all dimensions of fragility are dealt with by CCC and all geographies can call on it.

SAMBBA project// Credit : Pierre Terdjman /AFD


In 2020, 460 million people will be living in extreme poverty in fragile countries, i.e. almost 80% of the world total.[2] AFD’s historical presence in many regions (more than 70 years in CAR, 60 years in Mali and Niger, 40 years in Haiti, 22 years in the Central African Republic and the Caribbean) means that it has had to adapt to act before, during and after crises and conflicts.

Prevent, mitigate and rebuild. The Minka Fund fits into this timeframe with one objective: to consolidate peace. Preventing a new outbreak of crises or its spread based on warning signs (such as the expansion of abuses by armed groups), mitigating the effects of conflict on vulnerable populations (such as the situation of protracted mass displacement) and rebuilding in a more sustainable and secure manner (after conflict-related destruction, for example). In Iraq, the PERMA project (’10 million), with Mercy Corps, Triangle Génération Humanitaire and Public Aid Organization, is helping to revive the rural and agricultural economy in the Nineveh Governorate. Today, 15,800 animals have been treated in mobile veterinary clinics and nearly 2,000 farmers will eventually be supported. The Minka projects therefore address both the determinants and the direct consequences of the crisis.

With humanitarian actors, of course. In four years, AFD has made the humanitarian-development nexus a major focus of its efforts. It is now central to Minka projects in volatile contexts and often with strong security issues. 43% of the Minka Fund’s commitments go to French, international and local civil society organisations (CSOs). [3] Humanitarian actors are unique partners in understanding and accessing these territories. This cooperation also allows humanitarian organisations to benefit from multi-year funding (three to four years), to go beyond the direct provision of goods and services, to be part of a long-term dynamic and to strengthen the capacities of local actors.

*Distribution of commitments by project owner over the period 2017-2020

  • French, international and locals OSC : 43%
  • Governments : 32% 
  • French and international operators : 11%
  • International Organisations and other funders : 6% 
  • Others : 4%
  • Private Sector : 2%


Continuous learning. AFD has learned a great deal from emergency actors, which has inspired the implementation of adapted procedures to allow for a more rapid appraisal. AFD and its Fragilities, Crises and Conflicts team evaluate these measures on an annual basis with a view to continuous improvement. The explosion in the port of Beirut in August 2020 is a perfect example of AFD’s reactive response capacity while at the same time being part of a development logic where, in the framework of the Minka Middle East Initiative, AFD mobilized an additional 13 million euros in a few weeks to help the city recover. Moreover, in line with the Humanitarian Emergency Fund’s actions, AFD’s first activities started four months after the disaster.[4] Beyond this major event, in Lebanon, AFD has for example taken over the post-flood emergency action of the Crisis and Support Center (CDCS) by financing a long-term component of a risk prevention project.

AFD platform. In the framework of Minka projects, AFD works in a Group format – alongside Expertise France and Proparco – and as a French team, hand in hand with diplomatic, defense, research, humanitarian and stabilization actors. The CDCS is a key partner: where AFD will have medium- to long-term tools to deal with the protracted consequences of crises and their underlying causes (feelings of marginalisation of certain socio-economic groups, exclusion of youth in a society in transition, etc.), the CDSC will be the actor best able to carry out emergency and stabilisation actions. The final beneficiaries and the funded actors may be similar, but the means and logics of intervention will be different, as they are complementary. Exchanges are regular, from the field to Paris, with the establishment of links between their projects. For example, in Irbid, Jordan, the CDCS financed the first phase of a drinking water programme and the AFD the second.


A capacity to adapt to any situation – even the COVID-19. Minka projects leave no one behind and systematically support actions that benefit the most vulnerable – marginalized groups, refugees, displaced persons and host populations. Strong attention is also paid to the specific needs of women in conflict contexts – 78% of Minka projects have a gender equality objective, making AFD one of the main contributors to the “Women, Peace and Security” agenda. The inclusion of youth is also central. For example, the MediaSahel project (nine million euros) in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, with the French Media Development Agency (CFI), has enabled 169 partner radio stations to broadcast 3 962 programmes in 10 languages to inform and encourage citizen debate. In response to Covid-19, 392 videos and programmes were also broadcast to combat the spread of the virus. The pandemic and the difficulties of accessing the field make inter-actor coordination even more important. Minka projects have taken this into consideration and have adapted. For example, the ADELAC project (10 million euros) in Chad, with the International Rescue Committee (IRC-UK[5]), raised awareness among 27,613 people about prevention measures in the face of the epidemic, in addition to gender-based violence, 79% of whom were women and children.

MediaSahel Project // Credit: Studio Tamani / Hirondelle Fundation

The HDP nexus. Studying ways to implement the humanitarian-development-peace (HDP) nexus in the field, under the best conditions for each stakeholder, is also one of AFD’s challenges with the Minka Fund. In the framework of its actions to prevent conflicts, increase conflict sensitivity and strengthen social cohesion, far from positioning itself as a tool for defence, Minka projects ensure respect for international humanitarian law (IHL) and the constraints of its partners. The definition of this nexus does not always meet with consensus. AFD’s approach is more in line with a humanitarian-development nexus “enhanced” by a dimension of conflict sensitivity. Many examples of its Minka projects are part of this vision: WASH Menaka with the International Rescue Committee, DIZA with Concern & Caritas or RESILAC with Action Contre la Faim and CARE.


“In the absence of rapid, significant and solid measures, the combination of the VCT-19 pandemic and the weight of conflict and climate change will put the achievement of the MDGs and the end of poverty by 2030(1) out of reach.”

Geographically. As the main operator for implementing France’s development policy, AFD has a central role to play in preventing and limiting the consequences of crises and conflicts. The Pathways to Peace report[6]  and many other studies since then have shown how development actors must contribute to this. However, not at any cost: by learning from their partners who have been present in these areas for many years. 653 million allocated since its launch in 2017

Is this enough to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals? The question remains for MDG16, which aims to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, ensure access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. Without coordination, it is certain that we will not.  This is the meaning of AFD’s investment in the Sahel Alliance, its coordination as a French team, with other European and international donors. Minka is a significant means of creating leverage effects. In Lebanon, in addition to the 59 million euros from the Fund, nearly 100 million euros have been mobilized from the European Union.

In line with the CICID commitments, most of the Minka Fund goes to the Minka Sahel Initiative (almost half of its commitments over the 2017-2020 period, and African initiatives account for around two-thirds of commitments). While 2019 was an exceptional year, 2020 saw a decrease in funding, but on the Minka Sahel Initiative, it has been safeguarded. Continued support to continue development actions in this area where the number of internally displaced people has quadrupled since 2019, from 490,000 to more than 2 million, 80% of whom are women and children[7] ; where 8.9 million people have suffered from acute food insecurity; where access to essential social services has decreased: 3,891 schools and 150 health centres were closed[8], or non-functional, in the Liptako-Gourma region alone.

The last third of commitments is for the Minka Middle East Initiative in support of the Syrian and Iraqi crises where, in line with the position of the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, AFD does not operate directly in Syria. The political conditions do not allow for effective development or recovery aid in line with the “do no harm” principle.

At the thematic level. Because the health situation catalyses the consequences of existing crises, particularly on the most vulnerable populations, in 2021 Minka will continue to support health and socio-economic inclusion projects for young people. Because actions in support of the protection of women, the consideration of their specific needs and their participation in peacebuilding projects must remain central, in 2021 Minka will continue to spearhead the “Women, Peace and Security” agenda.

Because 2021 is a key year for living together and for peace, the promotion of human rights and justice, and the achievement of the MDGs, the French Development Agency will be there with the Minka Peace and Resilience Fund, alongside its partners.

Jean-Bertrand Mothes, Head of the Fragility, Crisis and Conflict Division (CCC) of the French Development Agency


[1] Percentage calculated on the basis of their Food Consumption Score (FCS)

[2] OECD (2020), Fragile States

[3] These figures total AFD’s consortia lead partners. The share of funds channelled through French, and especially local, NGOs is underestimated.

[4] Main financial instrument of the CDCS

[5] IRC-UK is leading a consortium of NGOs formed with COOPI, I&D and PADIESE.

[6] 2018 International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank1818 H Street NW Washington, DC 20433

[7] UNHCR (2021)

[8] OCHA (2020)

How can anthropology and humanitarian action be better combined?

This article does not mark the difference between humanitarian and development. However, these two fields of action have different times and objectives. While humanitarian action aims to meet the vital needs of the most vulnerable people, development thinks its action in the long term with the will to accompany social change.

The following remarks on the interest of anthropology and the ways of integrating it into humanitarian and development actions should therefore be adapted according to the situation on the ground – more or less urgent, conflictual, unstable. For the humanitarian field, anthropology is perhaps of greatest interest when emergencies become chronic and in the post-crisis and reconstruction phases.

The terms international aid/international action/ aid actors are used to refer generally to development and humanitarian actors and action. However, it is important to be aware of the distinction between these actors and modes of action when reading this article.

How to better marry anthropology and humanitarian action

Anthropology has long integrated development mechanisms and humanitarian actions into its field of study. It brings an often-critical view of the power logics specific to the international action of NGOs. Many anthropologists have studied these questions and it is now agreed that there is indeed a “development anthropology” or “humanitarian anthropology”. The reverse – the integration of anthropology into humanitarian action – is also true, but to a lesser extent.

Indeed, anthropology is not always integrated in the setting up of aid programs or in the reflection of NGOs on their own action. However, the interest of this discipline for humanitarian action is widely agreed upon[i]. i] The anthropological study of populations targeted by international action would make it possible to better understand the populations, the logic of power within groups, and the knowledge and practices in place. This information, once taken into account by aid actors, would make it possible to better target projects and strengthen their adoption by the people targeted. So, what hinders its integration and what solutions are available to humanitarian actors?

Ati Regional Hospital, Batha region, Chad – August 2018, ©Solidarités International
  1. What hinders the use of anthropology in humanitarian work?

a. Opposite modalities of intervention

Anthropology and humanitarianism have completely different modalities of intervention. While the former aims to describe the world with the least possible alteration to its object of study, the aid sector assumes a modification of its field of action and, in the case of development, aims to accompany social change.

These two disciplines operate in opposite temporalities. Anthropological study, because of its ethnographic method, has a long-time frame. It is necessary to understand the logics of actors in depth, and to share their experiences. Conversely, development and humanitarian work are part of a shorter time frame, often defined by the funding granted by donors. Action must be effective – achieving its objectives in a short time – since the NGO is accountable to both institutional and private donors, donors and beneficiaries.

Finally, because of these two characteristics, anthropology and humanitarianism have distinct approaches to reality. Anthropology, which tries to understand the complexity of social relationships, is based on the logic of actors. Conversely, humanitarianism sees reality from its programmatic logics. The latter sometimes requires a simplification and homogenization of social reality.

These very different ways of working make joint work difficult. There is sometimes a misunderstanding between these two working cultures and their respective actors. The anthropologist would be too academic and detached from the “field reality” of humanitarians. His or her work does not fit in with the time of the developer and is not sufficiently operational. The humanitarian is at the service of action and cannot take the necessary distance for more abstract reflections far from the field.

b. A project logic that prevents long time

The integration of anthropology into humanitarianism is made difficult by the very functioning of the aid sector. NGOs have little time between the call for projects and the first response they have to provide. This lapse of time does not allow them to conduct a real study of needs upstream of the definition of activities and expected results.

The project validated by the donor is already complete and includes a needs analysis, baseline study, planned activities, deliverables and targeted results. Once the funds are released, the project can begin. The anthropological study, when it can be integrated into the project, is often located in the need’s assessment phase, which is integrated into the project. This is the problem here: the evaluation phase takes place once the activities have already been defined and approved. However, once the terms of the project have been validated, it is not easy to modify them.

However, readjustments are sometimes essential, as shown in this example in Chad, detailed by Florence Chatot[ii], Groupe URD research officer, during a telephone interview. Groupe URD works in partnership with an NGO that combats female genital mutilation and has carried out operational research focused on analyzing the dynamics and social norms linked to this practice. One of the activities planned by this NGO aimed to retrain female excisers through the implementation of IGAs to compensate for the loss of income linked to the abandonment of the practice. The study revealed that such a strategy was far too simplistic to respond to a problem as complex as the practice of excision. In reality, far from being limited to a strictly feminine “excisor/excised” interaction, the study revealed the existence of a real economy of excision bringing together multiple community actors with divergent interests and who legitimize, by their social function in the practice, its persistence. In fact, one of the recommendations of the study was to reinvest the budget initially allocated to IGAs in prevention activities.

This example points to the need for precise studies, carried out by people who are already familiar with the theme, upstream of the definition of activities in order to avoid readjustments whose costs – organizational, human, financial – can be imagined.

Some associations have the capacity to conduct socio-anthropological studies prior to calls for projects. Médecins du Monde, for example, has even integrated an anthropological skill within its head office in a “Research and Learning” department. The computer graphics below, taken from their website, indicate the location of the socio-anthropological study in the association’s program cycle. This organization is made possible thanks to the relative freedom of Médecins du Monde, which has its own funds that are not earmarked for a particular project.

  1. What kind of anthropology do we need for humanitarianism?

The interest of the humanitarian community in anthropology is real, but the meeting between the two disciplines is not so simple. The researcher is presented as an academic who is too often critical rather than proactive or idealized as the “rescuer” of a failed project.

What kind of anthropology do we need for humanitarianism? The argument put forward in this article is that anthropology must be at the service of action. It must not be subservient to it, but must keep as its objective the improvement of humanitarian action.

a. Making the logic of local action intelligible for international action

Anthropology is interested in precise social functions, always trying to grasp the vision of the people who live the phenomenon in order to understand it. Humanitarian action is often carried out by multinational actors – the UN and its agencies – or non-governmental actors acting outside their borders – international NGOs. The interest of anthropology here is to make the link between this local scale and these international actors. It makes the social exchanges of the one intelligible to the other. It can be mobilized both to help the “global” – the international actors – and to support the “local” – the populations targeted by aid programs.

This is what is put forward by Sharon Abramowitz in her article “Ten Things that Anthropologists Can Do to Fight the West African Ebola Epidemic” (2014). She sets out 10 actions that anthropologists can implement to be useful to humanitarians in the fight against Ebola in West Africa in 2014. I will use here three of its proposals.

1/ Anthropologists can observe, report, interpret and explain local perspectives on external action. The point here is not to understand for the sake of understanding, but to operationalize one’s understanding in order to propose arrangements, adapt humanitarian action and make it acceptable to local populations.

2/ Anthropologists can identify local health capacities and local structures that can participate in the epidemic response (here, Ebola). For the anthropologist, this means not only sharing “objective” knowledge of existing health structures, but also knowledge of social constructions that could be useful for the humanitarian response in place. When faced with a disaster, populations invent and implement means to respond to it and mitigate its effects. The interest of anthropology is to identify these structures, to put them forward so that international action works by integrating them into its response strategy.

3/ Anthropologists can share their local contacts with global health experts who coordinate the response. Whether they are researchers, members of civil society or leaders in the public or private sectors, these people can help and communicate with the actors of international action. Humanitarian response targets different scales and therefore needs contacts at these different levels – local, national, international.

Anthropologists can also make the international humanitarian response intelligible to local populations. They have a role as “cultural mediators”[iii] with the targeted populations.

This work can help defuse social tensions, as Faye has shown in the case of the burial of women who died pregnant in Guinea[iv]. Among the Kissi in Forest Guinea, it is forbidden to bury a pregnant woman with her child in her abdomen. The fetus is to be removed from the woman’s body and the two are to be buried separately. In the context of the Ebola epidemic, it was not feasible to operate on the woman to carry out this separation. Faye explains that “if for some reason it was not possible to remove the fetus from the mother’s womb, it must be sacrificed to a rite of reparation consisting of offerings and various ceremonies. And so the burial took place.

b. Operational research makes it possible to issue recommendations.

Action research”, or “operational/participatory research”, is used to bring together actors in international action (development and humanitarian) and researchers. It is not a question of erasing the specificities of these two disciplines. On the contrary, as stated by Jean-Pierre Olivier de Sardan, “all action-research must submit simultaneously to the rules of research and those of action, otherwise it will be nothing but bad research and bad action”[v].

Thus, action-research must respect academic criteria such as the recognition of the researcher’s involvement in the subject under study and the taking into account of personal and subjective biases. This is all the more relevant since anthropology values participant observation, in which the researcher has an active role in what he observes.

New constraints apply to “action research”: the delimitation of a more restricted subject, a shorter time frame and more accessible written material.

Jean-Pierre Olivier de Sardan emphasizes that research is subject to the same principles of selection and detour as development projects. The people targeted by the study select what they share in order to best serve their objectives. The researcher must be able to identify and integrate these processes.

Action research helps to guide action so that it is in line with the logic of the target populations.

The case detailed during a Médecins du Monde seminar[vi] on unwanted pregnancies in Côte d’Ivoire shows how the project was guided by the socio-anthropological study that preceded it.

The study aimed to “understand the difficulties of adherence of Ivorian middle and high school students to the prevention messages distributed in schools”[vii]. vii] It showed the coexistence of two opposing discourses that trapped high school students and reduced their capacity for action. The first, conveyed by peers and social networks, encourages “early sexuality and a multiplication of partners”. The second, carried by adults and certain Ivorian institutions, makes sexuality a taboo subject and presents many barriers to access to contraception.

The approach described made it possible to involve all stakeholders (social, educational, health) in questioning their perception of sexuality, taking into account their position in society and their capacity for action. Young people were integrated into the project by hosting radio programs to support behavior change. Community agents were recruited to reduce the gap between young people’s lived sexuality and the communities’ perception of it.

Goundam, Timbuktu region, Mali. The Solidarités International association has been present in Mali since 2012 and works as close as possible to the people / ©Solidarités International
  1. How to articulate anthropology and humanitarianism? The example of the “contractual model” of Jean-Pierre Olivier de Sardan

a. Three areas of preferential interactions

In order to link and make anthropology and development cooperate, J.-P. Olivier de Sardan presents the solution of the “contractual model” where “researchers and operators agree to define a clearly circumscribed zone of interaction and collaboration, without renouncing their specific identities”[viii]. viii] This way of thinking about the anthropology/humanitarian articulation is both broader and more specific than action research. The author details three “zones of preferential interactions”.

First, the training of development agents in the method of ethnographic inquiry, which would allow them to avoid certain clichés. Then, the prepositioning of anthropologists to monitor project drifts. Finally, the contribution of new types of surveys, neither quantitative nor qualitative.

b. What type of survey?

i. Anthropo experts

J.-P. Olivier de Sardan proposes three ways to alleviate these investigative problems. The first method is to call upon socio-anthropologists as “experts”. These researchers are specialists in a given theme or region within a research framework and bring these skills to the development framework and the constraints that accompany it – constrained subject matter, speed of action, efficiency. The richness and accuracy of their contribution to the world of development is nurtured by their knowledge, which has been built up over a long period of time in an academic setting.

This is what Desclaux and Anoko (2017) describe during the epidemic of Ebola virus disease in West Africa in 2014. The WHO is calling on anthropologists, including some of them already mobilized during the 2000-2001 epidemic in Uganda, 2003 in Congo, etc. The WHO is also calling on the services of anthropologists, including some of them already mobilized during the 2000-2001 epidemic in Uganda, 2003 in Congo, etc. The scientists mobilized during these different episodes collect and create knowledge on “the medico-technical aspects [of the disease], biosafety constraints, the history of the populations’ reactions during previous epidemics, and the institutional dimensions”[ix].

When the epidemic began in Guinea, the WHO immediately called upon these experts to “implement the humanization of public health measures, to clarify people’s interpretations of the disease as well as the social logics underlying their reactions.” [x].

ii. Mixed research

J.-P. Olivier de Sardan then proposes to set up PhD themes in which development and research actors are involved. They would jointly define the research theme and the development actors would commit themselves to making a plot of land available to the doctoral student.

These research techniques have proven their effectiveness. This was the case for the research fellow, Florence Chatot, who worked in Niger on a water access program. Upstream of the project, she conducted a needs study in pairs with a water, sanitation and hygiene engineer. The study showed the importance of traditional wells for the targeted people and highlighted the difficulties, particularly financial, linked to the maintenance of boreholes.

Thanks to the integration of social sciences into technology and vice versa, the association has adapted its activities by proposing improved traditional wells that do not necessarily meet international standards but correspond to the needs expressed by the interviewees.

Linking technique and social sciences allows to find technical innovations adapted to the field.

iii. Combination of surveys

Finally, it is possible to implement a combination of individual and collective surveys in the medium and short term in order to generate relevant observations in a time frame acceptable to aid actors. The ethnographic survey, which focuses on the individual over a long period of time, can be carried out in conjunction with rapid collective surveys such as MARP (Accelerated Method of Participatory Research).

J.P. Olivier de Sardan proposes with Thomas Bierschenk the ECRIS method or “canvas” (Enquête Collective Rapide d’Identification des Conflits et des Groupes Stratégiques) [xi]. This comparative analysis approach on several sites aims to capture “from within” the local conflicts, contradictions and issues in order to build qualitative indicators adapted to the field and the theme of the survey.

This methodology makes it possible to introduce non-standardized qualitative indicators and common work tracks that then guide the researchers’ individual field.  It is useful for comparing several sites, but also meets needs related to the “preparation, monitoring or assessment of development operations”.

The proposals outlined in this article to facilitate the integration of anthropology into humanitarianism respond to a constant objective of humanitarianism to improve the quality of its programs. Anthropology, with its ethnographic method, and the anthropologist, with an external view, make it possible to highlight the complexity of the world that both the humanitarian and the developer look at. Anthropology thus brings a useful new perspective to humanitarian action, although sometimes difficult to integrate.

Madeleine Trentesaux

Who is Madeleine Trentesaux?

Interested in humanitarian and public health issues, Madeleine Trentesaux is currently finishing her master’s degree in “Human Rights and Humanitarian Action” at Sciences Po Paris. Previously, she completed a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology at the University of Paris Nanterre. She worked for one year as an intern at Fondation Mérieux and participated in international solidarity and development projects in France, Armenia and India.

Madeleine Trentesaux on LinkedIn

[i] Numerous publications exist on the interest of anthropology for humanitarian work. For example, the dossier “Anthropologists and NGOs: fruitful links? “directed by Laëtitia Atlani-Duault.

[ii] Chatot F., 2020, ” Dynamiques et normes sociales liées aux mutilations génitales féminines dans le Mandoul ” [accessible online], Groupe URD, URL :

[iii] Anoko J., Desclaux A., 2017, “L’anthropologie engagée dans la lutte contre Ebola (2014-2016) : approches, contributions et nouvelles questions” [accessible online], in. Santé Publique, Vol. 29, n°4, pp.477-485. URL:

[iv] Fassasi A., 2014, “Ebola: anthropologists, a key component of the response” [accessible online], URL:

[v] Jean-Pierre Olivier de Sardan, 1995, “Conclusion”, in. Anthropologie et développement. Essai en socio-anthropologie du changement social, Paris, ed. Karthala, p.192.

[vi] “Les recherches socio-anthropologiques à Médecins du Monde : quelle utilité dans l’action ? “2019. Available online:

[vii] Magali Bouchon, 2019, ” Innover dans les pratiques humanitaires par la recherche en socio-anthropologie “, in. Alternatives Humanitaires, n°10, p.3.

[viii] J.P. Olivier de Sardan, ibid, p.194.

[ix] Anoko J., Desclaux A., ibid, p.479.

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Jean-Pierre Olivier de Sardan, ibid, “Arènes et groupes stratégiques”, p.180.