Well, not exactly, as DIDR (Development Induced Displacement and Resettlement) is but a tiny part of my work, but the rest of the acronyms remain as relevant as they are vague. For my UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme) placement, I have been working in the SAPD (School of Agriculture, Policy and Development), looking at resettlement programmes in sub-Saharan Africa in relation to Climate Change. Working with Dr Alex Arnall, I have spent my time both at the computer and underneath my thinking cap, wading through the vast information available on the internet as part of a literature review and synthesizing it all in relation to on-going resettlement programmes. So far, I’ve researched, read, reflected, represented and written, essentially in that order.
It started with an idea around natural disasters and immobility that had already been established in a comprehensive paper, and so a few days in, we shifted gears back to the original assignment of drivers of resettlement. This phrase indicates how governments justify their implementation of a programme designed to move a group of people. For example, in Ethiopia at the moment, the government is urging those individuals living far apart on vast farmland to come together in villages, a process aptly titled villagisation. What drives this? The research shows, as with so many governmental processes, that the drivers are controversial and highly political. This we are then looking at in the context of Climate Change, as Africa is the second-most affected continent, just behind Asia. Resettlement is likely to increase because of Climate Change as agricultural livelihoods become more difficult, and so our research is relevant in understanding just what goes into the decision-making, justification and implementation, as well as subsequent outcomes, of these programmes.
I asked myself the other day what I would do if I was in the flooded shoes of some of the communities I am researching: What if I were forced to leave my home, where I had lived all of my life because of rising sea levels, and were then not allowed to return to rebuild my life there? What if one day the rumours that had been circulated became true: I was to be given the arguably involuntary option of abandoning my sinking home? Honestly, I know what I would do, in that there is no real choice but to move. So perhaps the question should be how would I feel? When hell or high water comes, literally, to these communities, they are put in this exact position. Hopefully in understanding the drivers of resettlement programmes, the global community can ensure that individuals in this disastrous position receive the support they need.