'Seeing' conflicts at the margins: understanding community experiences through social research and digital narrative in Kenya and Madagascar

Lead Research Organisation: Institute of Development Studies
Department Name: Research Department

Abstract

This project uses participatory visual and audio methods to explore the roles of communities in conflicts in places where new resource investments become entangled with longer histories of resistance, protest and violence. East Africa is experiencing a resource boom as investors seek to access to coveted deposits of oil, gas, minerals and geothermal fields. National governments portray new investments and associated infrastructure as beneficial for growth, transforming rural margins and enhancing livelihood opportunities for communities. Yet, achieving these goals on the ground is often undermined by competition for control of resources, corruption and uneven political power. There is evidence that new extractive operations often worsen tensions at the rural margins by aggravating existing contests for wealth and power and influencing new patterns of conflict. In fact, in many rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), politics around new resource developments are reconfiguring conflict dynamics, even in places with legacies of violence and unrest.

To address these issues, this project bridges the social sciences (social anthropology and human geography), the humanities (history, digital arts and visual inquiry) and community-based participatory research (CBPR) to examine how different 'communities' of actors 'see' and experience resource conflicts in Kenya and Madagascar. We ask how different views, values and strategies for legitimising claims to resources shape relations around resource developments, contribute to conflict dynamics and reflect the changing character of resource conflicts in SSA more broadly.

Conflict, in different forms, is always part and parcel of negotiating among different communities of actors - more so in places where ways of valuing and relating to important resources varies dramatically across different groups of government, private sector and local community stakeholders. While it is unsurprising that new large resource developments could spark new conflicts or renew tensions in places, the concerns and views of people in marginalized communities are often unseen or illegible to a wider range of actors. Governments and investors may introduce local compensation schemes and use local gatekeepers to champion 'development', though often without fully grasping community experiences of and responses to the increased presence and control of the state and non-state actors that is implied in new extractive development.

The central proposition of this project is that varying, 'hidden' narratives of conflict must be recognised, understood, dialogued and shared to develop pathways through which conflict can be transformed from within and thus promote more peaceful outcomes in resource development contexts. Focusing on specific, contested resource development sites in the two project countries through deep collaboration with local researchers, community advocates and diverse members of local populations, the project will use qualitative fieldwork, a variety of participatory visual and audio methods, and textual analysis to document and analyse the views of (and differing perspectives within) different key groups of actors. We also ask how located histories of resistance, protest, co-option, and consent intersect with contemporary conflicts around resource developments. International teams will collaborate with conflict stakeholders to produce multimedia digital narratives, key outputs around which community-level, national and cross-national dialogues on conflict will be convened. Developing shared visions of what conflict is about requires 'seeing' not only as a state (the transformative potential of extractive industries), or as a private investor (need secure local consent through various means), but also the various ways of 'seeing' as someone who lives in a place where resources are found, extracted and resource claims are contested in complex ways.

Planned Impact

Key non-academic project beneficiaries include participants and other residents of communities involved in rural resource conflicts, advocacy-oriented actors, government ministers and employees, investors, and aid and civil society actors with a stake in understanding drivers of conflict and building peace in marginal rural areas of Kenya and Madagascar. More broadly, because our dissemination strategy aims to engage with and realise impacts across a number of different stakeholder groups through unique textual and multimedia outputs, the uptake of practical methods and knowledge impacts from this project may incur benefits for similar actors and groups in countries across SSA in settings facing similar challenges related to rural resource conflicts.

Generating impact begins in participant communities, built in to the participatory project methodologies. Exchanges and discussions of multimedia outputs across the study sites, countries and stakeholder groups will be a key platform to engage communities in comparative analysis and discussion of experiences of and responses to conflicts. Researchers in a number of fields have demonstrated how this process of 'horizontal exchange' of participatory media outputs, which involves learning, dialogue, and knowledge production and sharing, can lead to transformative changes in the lifecycle of conflicts through facilitating understanding of shared challenges and the development of collaborative grassroots engagement strategies across different communities.

These methods can also contribute to transformative impacts on wider public and policy debates and influence practical approaches to conflict and peace building. To do this, our broader impact plan is implemented through a unique international partnership and communications strategy designed to engage policy, advocacy and activist networks, in the project countries and internationally, who are addressing related issues of conflict prevention, peacebuilding, social justice and minority rights in rural development contexts. In the inception phase of the project, the research teams will complete stakeholder mapping, Participatory Impact Pathways Analysis (PIPA) and local and national key informant interviews to narrow the range of key stakeholders and identify the most effective types of engagement based on their interests and objectives. The stakeholder maps and PIPAs will be discussed at community workshops / reflection meetings meant to assess the research objectives, capture key findings as they emerge and integrate these findings into plans for ensuring the project's longer-term impacts. Based on this process, we will be able to plan highly accessible textual and multimedia outputs and engagement events. These include an immersive online storytelling website, online events, policy briefings and roundtables, digital multimedia exhibitions and blogs that are specifically designed for the needs of and accessible to different stakeholders.

These accessible outputs will contextualise larger policy and economic trends in deeper histories and socio-political dynamics of conflict. Thus, beneficiaries gain new understandings and a better grasp of 'vernacular' perspectives and the complexities at play in conflict settings. This is useful to stakeholders interested in 'lessons learned' and in identifying broader trends at play regarding conflict dynamics in similar settings throughout SSA. Thus, the empirical knowledge and policy evidence that we generate can support and strengthen efforts to promote accountability and redress mechanisms for communities affected by large development projects. At the same time, our methods could result in greater opportunities for historically marginalised actors to amplify their voices to articulate their interests, perspectives and needs, make appeals and settle disputes, and improved opportunities for substantive participation in policy and project planning.
 
Title Beyond Despair video 
Description 'Beyond Despair' is the first video output of research undertaken in Kenya. It highlights the varying experiences of residents of RAPland - a village established by the Kenya Electricity Generation Company for mostly Maasai peoples displaced as part of geo-thermal developments in the area. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact The video is being used by members of the Narasha Community Development Project - a local pressure group advocating for Maasai rights - as well as the Pastoral Development Network of Kenya (PDNK) national advocacy programme. The video is one of the featured outputs on the newly launched website for the 'Seeing Conflict at the Margins' project. 
URL https://vimeo.com/322062459/781d01ec38
 
Description The project began in early 2017 and fieldwork continues in the field so therefore there are no written findings. However, at this early stage, there have already been some non-academic impacts. In Kenya and Madagascar, where the research is focussed, the project has provided interdisciplinary methods and fieldwork training for community research teams working across four locations (two sites in each country). The skills the teams have developed have been of use in other advocacy and community organising work. One example is in Ol Karia in Kenya. The community research team members mobilised to provide written evidence to Nature Kenya, which is coordinating a response to an Environmental Impact Assessment of a proposed new geo-thermal development. Follow-up training for Kenya team members, including accompaniment to the field by trainers, in October 2018 focussed on video production methods, building on earlier training and learning that had happened in the first phase of fieldwork. Using these skills, members of the Ol Karia team were able to document and capture the firsthand accounts of residents from a village adjacent to a new proposed geothermal development that was set alight in mysterious circumstances in February 2019. At the time of writing, the video is being edited to feature on the project website that was launched earlier in 2019.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Environment
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Title Development of Integrated Research Process for investigating community experiences of and responses to large-scale resource development 
Description Jeremy Lind and Jackie Shaw developed an 'Integrated Research Process' - a two-week programme of exercises and activities incorporating both qualitative and participatory video tools and approaches. The programme is meant to be delivered by community research teams in areas affected by new large-scale resource developments. The novelty of the method is that it couples qualitative and participatory video techniques in an iterative way, with each exercise building on the preceding one in a way that fully integrates the methods rather than using them in parallel. By proposing an integrated plan that covers two weeks, the method also suits contexts where it is often difficult to find participants who can commit to lengthier participatory video processes. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Teams at sites in Kenya will implement the Integrated Research Process between January and May 2018. Thus, it is too early to describe the impacts. 
 
Title Documentary film training in Madagascar 
Description A documentary film training course was developed and delivered to research team members based in Madagascar. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Researchers report improved competency with media production, and with using film outputs to communicate among members of communities, political and security officials in the southern region. 
 
Title Photoessay training in Madagascar 
Description Field-based training protocol for creating photographic essays around particular issues or events was developed and carried out in July of 2018 in southern and southwestern Madagascar. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Research team members report success in using photo essays to generate reflexive discussion in focal communities, and in using these essays to generate dialogue with policymakers. 
 
Title Thematic content analysis and video production training 
Description Jeremy Lind and Jackie Shaw developed a training programme encompassing thematic content analysis of material generated by research teams in the Integrated Research Processes (IRPs) carried out in phase I of fieldwork in Kenya, as well as video production techniques. The approach incorporates various collective sense-making exercises carried out with the research team members from different sites, including play-back of a selection of video material that captures the key issues and varying perspectives on these issues as shared by members of small groups who participated in IRPs. The collective sense-making was used to identify broader themes and deeper meanings that could be used to make videos for wider audiences. Jeremy and Jackie then instructed the teams in a simple video production approach, including story boarding, interviewing community residents to collect personal stories/experiences, collecting visual sequences, and editing. The training and approach, thus, seeks to extend the IRP method by developing community research skills in thematic content analysis and production of videos that capture critical community experiences of and responses to conflict. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The method was first used in late 2018. Members of research teams in Kenya are currently using the methods in the second phase of fieldwork. The method will be written up as an academic article later once learning from the practice of the methods is gathered and analysed. 
 
Description Collaboration with Andry Lanana Tohana (ALT) for supervision of participatory multimedia activities in Madagascar 
Organisation Andry Lalana Tohana
PI Contribution Amber Huff (IDS) and Wilma de Jong (Sussex) organised and carried out a training course on documentary methods and participatory video in August 2017 for members of ALT to come together with other members of the Madagascar-based collaboration, share experiences and learn new skills. This included intensive lessons on how to use project equipment, frame shots and edit film. Huff and De Jong, along with a student photographer from the University of Sussex, accompanied members of ALT on a 'contextualising' trip through rural southern Madagascar in July of 2017.
Collaborator Contribution ALT has provided institutional and logistic support to the collaboration, as they bring a decade of experience using participatory methods for community advocacy in southern Madagascar, as well as experience using radio and other forms of communication to disseminate findings. Through contributions to the design of the regional and national impact plans, ALT is contributing to practical influence and uptake of the research findings in community and policy networks in southern Madagascar.
Impact This is a new collaboration so there are no outputs and outcomes as yet.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Collaboration with CEDRATOM, Université de Toliara, Madagascar 
Organisation University of Toliara
Country Madagascar 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Amber Huff (IDS) and Wilma de Jong (Sussex) organised and carried out a training course on documentary methods and participatory video in August 2017 for members of CEDRATOM-based team to come together with other members of the Madagascar-based collaboration, share experiences and learn new skills. This included intensive lessons on how to use project equipment, frame shots and edit film. Huff accompanied members of the CEDRATOM research team on a field training trip in rural southwest Madagascar in August 2017.
Collaborator Contribution Collectively, the members of the CEDRATOM research team represent the foremost experts in the geography, anthropology, informal economy and oral history of rural southwestern Madagascar. In addition to contributing their knowledge, expertise and research skills, the team also contributes to logistics and planning for field research and of identifying appropriate community liaisons in the areas where we are working.
Impact This is a new collaboration so there are no outputs and outcomes as yet. The collaboration is multi-disciplinary, involving geographers, historians, and social anthropologists.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Collaboration with CURA, Université de Toliara 
Organisation University of Toliara
Country Madagascar 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Amber Huff (IDS) and Wilma de Jong (Sussex) organised and carried out a training course on documentary methods and participatory video in August 2017 for members of CURA-based team to come together with other members of the Madagascar-based collaboration, share experiences and learn new skills. This included intensive lessons on how to use project equipment, frame shots and edit film. Huff attended meetings with members of CURA faculty and students in Ambovombe in April 2017.
Collaborator Contribution Collectively, the members of the CURA research team represent the foremost experts in the cultural geography and ecology of the Androy and Anosy regions of southern Madagascar. In addition to contributing their knowledge, expertise and research skills, the CURA team also contributes to logistics and planning for field research and of identifying appropriate community liaisons in the areas where we are working.
Impact This is a new collaboration so there are no outputs and outcomes as yet. The collaboration is multi-disciplinary, involving social and natural scientists and students.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Collaboration with Friends of Lake Turkana (FoLT) for community-level integrated research 
Organisation Friends of Lake Turkana
PI Contribution Jeremy Lind along with Jackie Shaw (both IDS) organised and carried out a training course on mixed-method research (qualitative, ethnographic and participatory video) in November 2017 for FoLT affiliated community researchers. These included Makambo Lotorobo, Opilo Cosmus, Ekilista Epeyonon, and Arok Galoro. Jeremy and Jackie also accompanied the team to the field to practice the techniques and trial these with other community members in Loiyangalani. They returned to Kenya in October 2018 to undertake thematic content analysis of phase I fieldwork materials, and accompany members of the FoLT-affiliated team to Loiyangalani and other villages near to the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project development.
Collaborator Contribution FoLT has provided institutional support to the collaboration. They are organising the logistics and paying researchers (with project funds) in Loiyangalani. They attained research permission from Marsabit County officials. They are also providing an avenue to practical influence and uptake of the research findings in community and policy networks focussing on benefit sharing and governing large-scale resource development projects in northern Kenya. They are helping to facilitate planned fieldwork by Jeremy Lind in Loiyangalani in May 2019.
Impact This is a new collaboration so there are no outputs and outcomes as yet.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Collaboration with Pastoral Development Network of Kenya for community-level integrated research 
Organisation Pastoral Development Network of Kenya
PI Contribution Jeremy Lind along with Jackie Shaw (both IDS) organised and carried out a training course on mixed-method research (qualitative, ethnographic and participatory video) in November 2017 for PDNK affiliated community researchers. These included Jackson Shaa, Daniel Salau, Everline Parkire. Jeremy and Jackie also accompanied the team to the field to practice the techniques and trial these with other community members. They returned to Kenya in October 2018 to undertake thematic content analysis of phase I fieldwork materials, and accompany members of the PDNK-affiliated team to Ol Karia, and specifically to RAPland - a resettlement village created by the Kenya Electricity Generation Company for Maasai displaced by geothermal developments.
Collaborator Contribution PDNK has provided institutional support to the collaboration. They are leading the application of research permission in Kenya. They are organising logistics and paying researchers on the ground. They are also providing an avenue to wider influence in research and policy circles in Kenya.
Impact This is a new collaboration so there are no outputs or outcomes as of yet.
Start Year 2017
 
Description 'Good governance', bad politics: contested security and conservation governance in southwestern Madagascar 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Presentation at BIOSEC workshop: Conservation in Conflict and Militarised Areas, 7 & 8 November 2017, The University of Sheffield, Politics Department
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Contested securities at the margins: understanding environmental insecurity and environmental 'conflict' in rural southwestern Madagascar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Presented at the annual meeting of the British International Studies Association, Brighton UK
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Panel discussion: Can mining contribute to sustainable development in Madagascar? 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Convened on 13 March, 2019 by the Ango-Malagasy Society in London, UK, this panel discussion explored case studies of mining in Madagascar, including Rio Tinto and Toliara Sands, which are part of the 'Seeing Conflicts' project and both of which have been part of 'Governing the Nexus' research. The panel discussed pressing social and environmental challenges that extractives projects present to the island and its citizens, including enquiry around the regulatory, legal and economic frameworks and how these support or undermine the value of the extractive industries' contribution to the public purse and the realisation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Project members Gregg Smith (research officer, Governing the Nexus in Southern Africa fellow) and Yvonne Orengo ('Seeing Conflicts' project advisory group) participated in the panel.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://www.anglo-malagasysociety.co.uk/programme.html
 
Description Seeing Conflict at the Margins project website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A project website was finalised in early 2019. The website is due to be formally launched in March 2019, featuring the first video generated by the research team in Kenya ('Beyond Despair'), a captioned slideshow that introduces the broad research focus in Kenya, as well as a blog by a Kenya research member on the Ol Karia geothermal development and community experiences and responses to it. Other material has been prepared for the website and will be added to the website on a monthly basis in order to encourage return visits. A Flickr account has also been established alongside the website, and includes a number of galleries highlighting field sites and fieldwork practice. In time, these will be linked to the website, alongside embedding videos generated by the teams in both Kenya and Madagascar.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://www.seeingconflict.org
 
Description State-Corporate Alliances and Spaces for Resistance on the Extractive Frontier in Southeastern Madagascar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation at the Emancipatory Rural Politics Initiative conference, Authoritarian Populism and the Rural World, convened at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in The Hague, Netherlands, March 2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.iss.nl/en/authoritarian-populism-and-rural-world