In the aftermath of displacement
Himmelfarb, David Karl
MetadataShow full item record
Through the lens of political ecology, this dissertation examines the long-term legacy of displacement and resettlement on the edge of Mt. Elgon National Park. In 1983, the Ugandan Forest Department resettled 30,000 people in a forested area they called the Benet Resettlement Area. In the three decades since, the area has become home to some of the most severe poverty, highest levels of illiteracy and food insecurity, and most intense soil and water degradation in the region. At the same time, some residents have banded together in novel ways and experimented with new technologies to cope with periodic crises and take advantage of new opportunities. The resettlement area has also become the site of intense conflict that has pitted resident against national park manager and resident against resident. Over the past decade, leaders have used claims of indigeneity to secure government recognition of individualized land rights for the residents of the resettlement area. Nevertheless, conflict and insecurity have persisted as national park managers have redoubled their efforts to stamp out encroachment and claim what they perceive as their territory. The political ecological perspective adopted here shows how these particular opportunities and constraints came to be as dynamic conjunctures of ecological, cultural, social, political, and economic processes at local, regional, national, and international scales. The Benet case demonstrates how displacement and resettlement are transformative processes that create new relations of production, which then shape how affected individuals negotiate future political economic change and crisis. In the moving of people, allocation of land, and enclosure of common pool resources, forced migration made tenure security a new and vitally important component of livelihoods, expressed both in people’s decisions and how they think about place. Yet, since the 1990s, protected area managers and their government supporters have enacted formal policies and informal practices that have promoted tenure insecurity, imperiling livelihoods throughout the resettlement area. This research demonstrates that within the economic system enacted by resettlement, tenure security has become an essential precondition for residents to move forward out of the shadow of forced migration and toward more viable and sustainable livelihoods.