Internally displaced pastoralist with his children at a village in Wajir District, Kenya - Panos London
Every year millions of people are displaced by large-scale development projects such as roads, dams, and coalmines. Many never regain their former quality of life, and pay the price of social and cultural disruption as well as economic upheaval.
- Read more about the methodology for this project, Voice
- Read more about the book: bringing the collections together
“How could we be asked to leave a land that was ours? Everyone was crying. It was not just the pain of leaving the village; it was the uncertainty of what lay ahead…”
– Gul Bibi, displaced by Pakistan’s Tarbela Dam in 1976
Panos’ resettlement project aimed to contribute to greater understanding of the resettlement process and its aftermath, by providing first-hand accounts from the resettled themselves- those with the most direct experience of forced relocation, yet with the least influence on policy. Their stories confirm that, in addition to economic hardship, one of the most far-reaching and damaging effects of forced relocation is being impoverished socially and culturally.
Planners and policymakers acknowledge that economic compensation alone is not enough for successful resettlement and that a greater understanding of its less visible impacts is needed. Social institutions, relationships of mutual support, traditional health and knowledge systems, local custom and governance- all are disrupted and changed by the resettlement process. Yet how do you recompense people for the loss of social networks and identity, community history, or for land with cultural or spiritual value?
These accounts – from India , Pakistan, Lesotho, Kenya, Zambia & Zimbabwe, and Botswana & Namibia – while full of loss, anger and disappointment, also reveal ideas for moving forward and hopes for the future. They reflect a desire by the displaced to tell others of their experiences and increase understanding of the myriad effects of resettlement.
Oral testimony is well suited to exploring some of the more complex and longer term changes undergone by communities and individuals as they adapt to new environments. Between 1999 and 2004 Panos worked with partners in eight countries in Africa and Asia, gathering oral testimonies from the displaced.
Each project involved a training workshop for interviewers, followed by testimony collection in the field, transcription of the tape-recorded interviews in the language of interview and, later, translation into English as well. Interviewers were members of the displaced communities or fieldworkers working and living with the resettled.
A range of community and national activities have communicated the testimonies in local and national languages, including policy roundtable meetings, community debates and press conferences. Various publications based on the testimonies have been widely distributed, and some are available online.
The book: Bringing the collections together
In May 2012 a new phase of the project took place with the publication of Displaced: the Human Cost of Development and Resettlement by Palgrave Macmillan, in their Studies in Oral History series. Written by Olivia Bennett, founder of the oral testimony programme of work at Panos, and based on the Panos archive of interviews, the book brings together for the first time the different country collections, allowing the reader to look at the whole range of circumstances and experiences. Filled with extensive extracts from the interviews, it contains detailed background to each form of displacement, and analysis of the varied impacts of resettlement on individuals, families and communities. Above all, it gives voice to those directly affected, and by adding a new dimension to the debate, highlights the complex social effects of displacement.
“Here, where I have built, is a place where I have lived well… It will remain as a rock on my heart when I think of the place that I am being removed from.”
– Maseipati, displaced by Lesotho’s Mohale dam in 1999