GPS as a political tool
Calculating compensation for resettlement was a highly contentious process. Resettling families were not informed beforehand about how much they would each receive in compensation for all that they were losing. Park officials had interviewed them about their assets, measured fields and assessed each family’s situation in order to make the calculation, but it was a closed door process and the results had not been shared. The residents of the resettling village were simply called to the park office to receive their cash and asked to sign official documents.
This meant that they had to sign in order to get the cash, but they did not have the opportunity to evaluate if the calculations reflected their assets. Once signed, it was much more difficult to contest the calculations.
I had measured many of the fields in Nanguene by walking their perimeter with my GPS device, or walking with the owner of the field as he or she held the GPS. Our measurements and those of the park officials differed considerably. When the residents came back to Nanguene with their cash and signed papers, they asked me to check them over. In some cases there were missing fields or the size of the fields were inferior to what we had measured together.
Angry that they had not been adequately compensated, the leader of the village told the park officials that they would not resettle until they were properly compensated. They used the GPS data as leverage to argue for their case.
Shortly after this event, I was asked to leave the park and my research permit was rescinded. I was able to resume my research in the new location after the resettlement was complete.