Displacement and Resettlement
The Livelihoods of Resettlers and Hosts in Western Oromia, Ethiopia
Wayessa Gutu Olana
The broad objective of the study was to explore the dynamics of displacement and resettlement, and their impacts on the livelihoods of resettler and host populations. The specific objectives were: (1) to assess the policies and practices of the resettlement program carried out during the tenure of the current government; (2) to analyze the livelihood outcomes of the resettlements for resettlers and hosts in terms of changes in access to livelihood resources and social services; and (3) to examine resettlers’ and hosts’ perceptions of and attitudes towards the resettlement program. The theory of impoverishment risks and livelihood reconstruction (IRLR), the sustainable livelihood framework (SLF), and political ecology constitute the pillars of the theoretical framework. Primary data were collected in 2009 through a survey of 630 households in eight resettlement sites, and 68 thematic (group and individual) interviews in 13 resettlement sites. Several interviews were also held with government officials. Households were selected for the survey through stratified random sampling, whereas informants were selected for the interviews purposively. The primary data were complemented with relevant secondary data. The study is interdisciplinary, and combines both qualitative and quantitative methods through a concurrent mixed-methods design. Qualitative methods were used to address how and why questions through thematic analysis of the interviews and policy documents, thereby illuminating the substantive significance of the issues at stake. Quantitative methods were employed to quantify changes and establish the statistical significance of variables of interest. The quantitative methods used include descriptive statistics, such as percentages, means and cross-tabulations, and inferential statistics, such as logistic regression, mean comparisons using non-parametric tests, factor analysis, Chi-square tests, and loglinear analysis. The complementary relation between the two methods has proved useful in understanding and explaining the processes and the outcomes of the resettlement scheme. The research illuminates the causes, the processes, and the outcomes of the current resettlement program in particular, and critically analyzes the assumptions underlying the resettlement policies of the current and the previous regimes in general. Multiple causes and assumptions underlay the resettlement scheme, most notably land and rainfall shortages in resettlers’ areas of origin, and the government’s claim of land abundance. This last assumption has been persistently made by regime after regime, despite empirical counter-evidence, as also shown in this study. By revealing that the scheme resulted in the displacement of the host population to make way for resettlement, that the resettlers were given less land than promised, and that the relocation led to serious conflicts and disputes over land between resettlers and hosts, the study challenges the state’s supposition and rhetoric of “ample land.” The evidence also illuminates the relocation’s glaring lack of inclusiveness of both resettlers and hosts, despite the benign principles of “voluntarism” and “consultation.” The outcomes were multiple, leaving some better-off, others worse-off, and still others with no noticeable livelihood deterioration or improvement. In cases where old problems were alleviated, new ones emerged in a context of little plan and capacity to meet contingencies. This calls into question government propagation of generalized “success” in the resettlement scheme. Although little is known about the sustainability of the improved outcomes for some resettlers in some resettlement sites, the evidence from this study also counteracts the depiction of the scheme as a general “failure.” The findings suggest that the relative importance of the risks experienced by the resettlers and the hosts varied between the two population groups, and among different resettlement sites. The resettlement sites were widely differentiated in terms of biophysical factors, notably soil fertility and the availability of grazing land. This has serious implications for the resettlers and the hosts as their livelihoods are almost entirely based on agricultural activities. Moreover, historical issues, wider socio-political structures, physical infrastructure, and resettler-host relations are crucial for the understanding of how people’s access to livelihood resources and social services is shaped. However, resettlerhost relations should be seen in a broader context of state-society relations, as the state is a key actor in planning and implementing the resettlement programs. An important policy lesson from this study is that when one focuses on certain livelihood aspects, one also needs to be aware that other potential livelihood components not evident today may become vital in the future. This awareness should motivate adaptive planning and management to meet contingencies in a way that reflects the multifaceted nature of livelihoods.