There are still villages in the process of being resettled from the Limpopo National Park. From my research I have reached three recommendations for future resettlement practice.

1)   Each family needs to be provided with secure tenure to more land.  

According to my research, in the traditional cropping system of the region, each person needs 1.25ha of land to be able to grow enough food to cope with the adverse climatic conditions, including cyclical droughts and floods (Milgroom et al 2013). In this resettlement project, each nuclear family is given one field measuring1ha. 

Before resettlement, most residents engaged in a diverse set of activities to make sure that they had enough food to carry themselves over the dry spells.  One of the strategies used was to produce enough food when it did rain to last for at least two years.  They produced this food by planting extensively every time it rained on different fields in diverse parts of the landscape. A family of 8 (the average family size) needs between 6-10 ha, depending on the location and soil type of the fields and on the weather pattern in a given year, to produce the food that they need for two years. Remaining land is needed for soil fertility regeneration. 

Providing each nuclear family with 1 field measuring 1ha leaves resettled families vulnerable.  In the post-resettlement conditions, resettled people cannot recreate the coping strategies that they used in their original land to protect themselves from cyclical drought; they are struggling to secure fields in the host village and borrowed fields come with insecure land tenure.  

The compensation package is designed to replace the loss of rain-fed land with cash and irrigated plots.  However, the cash gets rapidly spent (what happens to cash compensation) they have largely been a failure so far (Is irrigation the answer?). Very few other income-generating activities are available in the area, except for poaching.  Until viable alternatives are found, people must be provided with sufficient land to be able to provide for themselves.  

2)     Resettled villages must be allocated ample and adequate common land.

This means that beyond providing individual fields and household plots to each family, an ample area (quantity) of adequate (quality) land that is used and managed collectively and exclusively by the village must also be provided.

Social disarticulation is a common phenomena brought on by development-induced resettlement.  My research suggests that social disarticulation is driven by a change in the material relations through which people gain, maintain or control natural resource access.  When villages are not provided with ample and adequate common land, the leader can no longer provide for his village. As resettled residents realise that their leader cannot facilitate the access to resources that they need for their livelihoods, they turn to other leadership figures, such as the leader of the 'host' village. Leaders, therefore, lose authority and legitimacy in practice, while formally they retain their position. Furthermore, villages are perpetually under the jurisdiction of another leader if they depend on land and resources over which they do not have control.  This leads to the breaking down of authority structures in the resettled village, to marginalization, and to social disarticulation. To prevent the breakdown of authority relations during resettlements, local authorities should be given control over access to ample and adequate common land. 

This raises an important question: are existing authorities representative or just? In designing resettlement it is crucial to observe whether existing authorities serve village interests while also considering how control over access might be used to build stronger and more representative forms of authority.

This recommendation is based on an article that will be published in 2018.   

3)     Resettling villages must have a high degree of control over the resettlement process and the post-resettlement conditions.

Residents had significant leverage to negotiate certain details such as the size of their houses, but they could not negotiate about the resources crucial to their livelihoods such as the amount of cropping and grazing land (Negotiation VS Participation). The villages that have been resettled so far have had difficulty accessing the resources that they need (Milgroom et al. 2014).  The irrigated plots have not been able to replace the cropping land that they need to produce food, and there are insufficient sources of income-based livelihoods. Resettled people have been left vulnerable, worse off than they were before.  

While handing over control to resettling people may seem like a near impossible proposal to carry out in practice, stipulating that the negotiation process include decision making about access to resources and other important conditions is a minimum. Resettling people know best what they need.  The resettlement will be more sustainable and successful if the same logic people use in their day to day lives is used to design the resettlement. The concept of 'development' as seen by agents of the World Bank or government officials may differ considerably from the way it is seem by residents of a resettling village.  To tailor the resettlement to what works for resettling people, rather than to an externally imposed idea of development and to apparent simplicity of the project would significantly improve the resettlement outcomes. Resettlement is complicated and expensive.  If it cannot be done properly, it should not be done at all. 

This recommendation is based on an article that will be published in 2018.

Jessica Milgroom