A snippet of the comic reading 'Seeing conflict at the margins' with an illustration of a camera.

Comic: Seeing Conflict at the Margins

Large-scale resource developments can create ruptures at the margins that intensify long-standing struggles around livelihoods, public authority, and environmental justice, and in some cases can spark new tensions and conflicts.

Ordinary people experience and talk about resource conflict, well-being, and aspirations for the future in ways that differ – sometimes radically – from the dominant narratives of states and investors, and indeed from the unversalised conceptions of ‘security’ and ‘development’ that guide policy.

Illustrated by Tim Zocco, this comic explores how this issue has played out in Kenya and Madagascar, as part of the ‘Seeing Conflict at the Margins’ project. The project used mixed methods, including Participatory Video, to reveal the variances among different groups in how they ‘see’ conflict.

Title: Seeing conflict at the margins. A large image of a professional camera. 1 - Crisis is big business. Countries in sub-Saharan Africa have experienced an investment 'boom' likened to a 'new scramble for Africa'. Many new projects are oriented toward 'conventional' large-scale resource extraction of oil and minerals, as well as agriculture and forestry. An image of pipes with 'LTWP' written on the side. 2 - Some seek to capitalised on unregulated zones of artisanal extraction. Still others - exploiting geothermal, natural gas, solar, wind and hydripower - cater to new demands for 'green' or 'low carbon' energy development. An image of pipes and steam. 3 - New investments are portrayed as benefical for national growth, for transforming development and improving life for rural people. An image of a lorry arriving with Maasai looking on. 4 - Yet, achieving these goals on the ground can be undermined by contested claims to resources, corruption, environmental destruction, coercion and dispossession. When a mine or plant moves in, new power dynamics create conflict at the rural margins. This can exacerbate social tensions, inequalities in resource access, environmental problems and forms of exclusion. An image oaf a lake with large extraction structures in and around the lake. 5 - The voices and perspectives of powerful development actors and researchers are easy to hear and see. But how are such developments seen and experienced from the margins, by people who live in places that are geographically, socially or politically 'distant' from centres of power? An image of two Maasai looking up at the shadows of wind turbines.
1 – Whether it is Maasai people who live under the cloudy skies of the geothermal plants in Hell’s gate national park, Kenya…. Or residents of Antsotso, Madagascar, who live in the shadow of a forest that is a constant reminder of livelihoods lost to Rio Tinto’s “Green Grab” for biodiversity offsetting…. People living at the edges of development often find themselves subject to new divisions, struggles and even violence. An image of a Maasai looking towards rocks and trees. 2 – In stark contrast to received wisdom, that the flow of commodities is good for national economies, we often see peoples forced into invidious situations. In the exclusion zone of southern Madagascar, small children labour in mica mines alongside their parents, working to provide the only viable source of income to their families. An image of two young children and an adult digging and sifting through the earth. 3 – Local knowledge of investment sites present both a conflict on our wider understanding of development…. And shows narratives which problematise issues of governance, citizenship, participation, and justice….Undermining any concrete understanding of prosperity and calling into question contentious claims of growth and sustainability. An image shows people walking through holding signs. There is smoke and a wheel rolling along.
1 – Those who shape policy often ‘see’ rural landscapes and development needs of rural communities in universalised terms. This view ‘from above’ often doesn’t resemble the experiences, challenges and aspirations of people ‘on the ground’, whose voices are rarely heard due to inequalities in social and political power. An image of a globe. 2 – This mismatch can lead to a common situation in which development interventions are planned and conceptualised at a great distance from the realities in which they seek to intervene, often ignoring the very people who are targeted as ‘beneficiaries’. An image shows men in suits sat behind the table. 3 – Conflicts in development are often dismissed as disruptive insurgencies or volatilities to be overcome with greater state or private security presence. Documentary films and reporting can frequently reproduce dominant narratives. Their ways of ‘seeing’ are not sensitive to the fact that rural lives and livelihoods are shaped by local ecology, governance institutions, deeply held values, economic opportunities, and often, long histories of violence and neglect by states, companies and development workers. An image shows two soldiers and a journalist with a camera and press jacket. 4 – Many involved in the ‘seeing conflict at the margins’ project have been part of externally formulated programmes that promise positive change but do not actually address the challenges that they face…. Finding themselves all too often stereotyped, represented and treated in ways that are demeaning and counter-factual. Rather than reproducing the same dominant ‘story’ about rural life, poverty and environmental degradation. The aim of this project has been to show the great variety of ways that people see the challenges they face in their own lives. An image shows a photo of a person and another person shrugging.
Title: Why Participatory Video? An image shows a projector with camera film. 1 – The value of local narratives, of vernacular knowledge, in the midst of large scale development is a central focus of our research. What is the lived experience of those at the literal ‘margins’ of state power and accountability? We adopted a participatory research process that transfers the power of the research narrative into the hands of the communities most often ignored, yet most often affected by the reality of development projects. An image shows lots of different photos of scenes. 2 – Working with local teams, who guided the process, we distributed filmmaking equipment across research sites in two countries and developed a training programme after explaining the nature of participatory video, filming ethics and internet distribution and through a peer-led technical skill share, previously unheard narratives are now being generated, documented, seen and shared by the very people who live them. Images show different people operating cameras and another image shows people watching a film in a showing.
1 – Participatory video is about much more than making films. It is a methodology that aims to create spaces for collaboration, extended dialogue, iterative learning, and reflection as part of a research process. An image shows two people working with a video camera. 2 – Participants work in teams to train one another, plan activities, record themselves and the world around them, and then reflect on their stories and messages together after playback. Images show a herder and goats an a woman working in the field. 3 – This can build trust and confidence among team members. It can help to ‘open up’ social spaces to explore sensitive issues and conflicts and bring different views into dialogue within communities. Images show people working together and discussing. 4 – Films can also be used by teams to build awareness and expand spaces of dialogue around contentious issues. They can be used to generate discussion across different communities or with wider stakeholder groups such as government departments, investors, agencies, companies and developers, as well as rights groups, watchdog organisations and the public. An image shows people sat on chairs in front of a screen.
Title: Lake Turkana and wind power. In Northern Kenya, Africa’s largest wind farm consisting of 365 turbines has sprouted across 40,000 acres of rangeland to the east of Lake Turkana. An image shows a wind turbine with ‘Lake Turkana’ written on it.  2 – 200km from the nearest tarmacked road, for generations these rangelands have sustained herds of camels and goats belong to Turkana, Samburu and Rendille pastoralists. An image shows camels carrying luggage being led by a person. 3 – Seeking to harvest a different resource – wind…. A consortium of global investors funded by the Lake Turkana Wind Power (LTWP) development – feted as the largest private investment in Kenya’s history. A flagship project of the country’s vision 2030 development strategy, LTWP began supplying power to the National Grid in 2018, further elevating Kenya as a global leader in green energy production. But seen by the region’s herders, the wind farm is less a totem to green growth then it is a testament to large ‘development’ that spurs local struggles. Images show the LTWP infrastructure and pastoralists and their dwellings. 4 – Many residents regard LTWP philanthropy like building classrooms, drilling boreholes, and providing casual work opportunities, as poor substitutes for sustained improvements in their lives and livelihoods or adequate compensation for disruption caused. Pastoralists contest the deal that saw a far larger area – 150,000 acres – leased to LTWP. Although not fenced, the leasing of ancestral rangeland is felt as a hindrance to grazing patterns. A case brought by area leaders challenging the land acquisition is slowly making its way through Kenya’s courts. Images show businessmen cutting a ribbon with big scissors and also a herder with goats. 5 – ‘Our political leaders have been our downfall’ complained a mother from Loiyangalani, one of the area’s larger settlements. Most residents blame poor representation by area leaders for what are perceived to be failings of processes of consultation and engagement. An image shows a man standing under a tree over a group of people sitting down. A woman says ‘we now want people from our community to protect our interests’.
Title: Ol Karia geothermal. Maasai living in the Ol Karia area, south of Lake Naivasha, have known about geothermal for generations – long before it was industrially exploited to make electricity. They traditionally used the hot springs and steam of the volcanic rift valley for medicinal and other purposes. They also believe the ‘steam holes’ to be sacred. An image shows a Maasai standing on a rock looking out over a valley. 2 – Geothermal exploration started here in the 1950s. But it wasn’t until the 1970s that drilling began in earnest. Ol Karia I was the first geothermal plant in Africa. Today there are four plants in the area, some of them in Hell’s Gate national park (creatd 1984). More are planned, following the line of the Rift Valley. When plans were made to build Olkaria IV, Maasai living in four villages were told they would have to move to make way for it. They didn’t want to. But felt they had no choice. Talks took place, also involving big funders like the World Bank. But people say they were not properly consulted. And didn’t fully understand the implications. An image shows pipes and smokes from a power plant. 3 – Some 1000 Maasai (350 households) were forcibly relocated in 2014 to a purpose-built village called Rapland. They swapped 4200 acres for just 1700. Though the migrants were given new houses, there were lots of issues with the new site: it is less habitable, prone to soil erosion, full of steep gullies which cows fall into, poorer pasture, and so on. Not everyone was given a new house. Some are still squatting with relatives. People say the move has made them poorer, partly because Rapland is so far away from workplaces, towns, shops and vital services. An image shows two women in front of a barbed wire fence and a tree bare of leaves. 4- Maasai complained to the banks which funded Olkaria IV and rapland. Their complaints were formally investigated, The banks and operating company, Kengen, were found to be at fault in several respects including failure to identify Maasai as indigenous people, who are entitled to special protection in law. An image shows men marching with placards. 5 – As a result of the complaints and investigation, Kengen has made some improvements, e.g. to roads and water supply. But the villagers are still not happy, not least because they were promised land title. There are problems with the ‘title’ they have been given, which is only an expensive leasehold. They ask, why should we have to pay for land which is ancestrally ours? An image shows a large rock.
Title: Base Toliara. Mineral sands are big business in Madagascar. Locally they are called Fasymainty (black sands) because deposits of ilmenite and rutile – titanium oxide ores – appear as black patches in the sands of coastal areas. The ores are refined to make the stark white pigment titanium dioxide, so ubiquitous in our foods and built environments that we rarely think of where it comes from. Base Toliara is a mineral sands development in a rural agricultural region of southwestern Madagacar. Before base resources took over in 2018, ‘Toliara sands’ was held by a number of international mining companies over the years. By 2018, the development already had a contentious history in the region that the new operators were not prepared for. Early on, many Malagasy people living in the region felt that the Toliara sands was an important opportunity for much needed regional development – improved infrastructure and jobs. But Toliara Sands has always been controversial due to competition for local land and water resources as well as potential threats to rural livelihoods, rich cultural landscapes and rare forested ecosystems. The proximity of mining concessions to several conservation areas has led to long-standing criticism from conservation researchers and environmentalists. An image shows rhinos and a jeep in a landscape of yellow and green. 2 – For example, in the 2000s, the boundaries of the planned Mikea forest national park were redrawn several times in order to accommodate mining areas. An image shows a pen and a hand drawing on a map. 3 – For most of its existence, Toliara Sands was a map of concessions and plans no paper, with a few testing sites and some limited social engagement activities. The project was granted a mining license in 2012. But active mining was delayed by national policy reforms. Ven so, it had important effects with little concrete information available to residents, surveying activities fuelled rumours that large swaths of agricultural land had been sold to foreigners without consultation. International activists have criticised the operation for land grabbing and a mining plan that will violate the rights of indigenous people, destroy forests and expose rural populations and ecosystems to high concentrations of radioactive elements from mine tailings. While some local politicians strongly support the mine, there is also resistance by powerful clans, political leaders and celebrities from the region. An image shows a differ with three men sat by its wheels. 4 – Popular Masikoro musician Theo Rakotovao, who uses the stage name ‘Mikea’ criticized the project on his album Hazolava… and has led protests against the operation. An image shows a guitarist and musical notes. 5 – In addition to fears about negative effects on rural livelihoods that involve community forestry, hunting and gathering, farming, livestock grazing and marketing. An image shows two cows and a person. 6 – The mining area includes important cultural landscapes, and many ancestral tombs belonging to local, Masikoro and Antandroy people who exist within, the mining areas. An image shows carvings in a rock. 7 – People living near the Ranobe mine site feel that operators have ‘tricked’ or taken advantage of villagers. An image shows a women speaking ‘We women at Ranobe, we can’t read and have been manipulated. We work for free, without enough food for our children.’ 8 – This legacy has led to factionalisation and conflict within villages and in the regional government, and allegations that operators have paid some villagers and politicians in cash or goods to advocate for the company in order to divide opposition. Base has initiated yet more consultations and made more promises to people who are by now well acquainted with these cycles of attention and neglect. An image shows people painting over a sign saying Toliara Sands and painting a new sign that reads Base Toliara.

Title: QMM. The case of the Rio Tinto QMM Ilmenite mine in Southeast Madagascar shows that extractive conflicts don’t just come from negative social impacts; they are increasingly entangled with environmental politics and effects can ripple across landscapes far from the mine site. Like Toliara Sands, people dispossessed by the QMM Mandena Mine and its infrastructure discuss consultation failures, poor compensation, disrupted lives, lost livelihoods and broken promises of good jobs and ‘development benefits’. An illustration shows a boat and building. 2 – Construction of the new Ehoala port alone economically devastated hundreds of people, including farmers, herders and fisherfolk who have fought the government and QMM for compensation for years. An illustration shows a big industrial boat in the harbour. In the foreground a man sits on a canoe boat on the shore looking upset. 3 – ‘near displacement’ – villagers at Ilafitsinanana live with constant reminder of their loss of homes and livelihoods to make way for the quarry that produced the stone to build the port. An illustration shows a shadow of a person looking out on a mining truck. Conservation and biodiversity offsetting (BDO) are increasingly tangled up with the expansion of mining worldwide, and Rio Tinto has styled itself to shareholders as a a pioneer of so-called ‘green’ mining, making a ‘net positive impact’ in the places it operates. In practice, this is full of contradictions, and ‘greening’ has increased the extent of mining’s negative social and landscape impacts and intensified conflicts within communities. Ilmenite is extracted by processing massive amounts of sand to separate the ore from other materials. QMM’s Mandena extraction site spans 2000 hectares of what was once rare rainforest, no cleared of vegetation in order to access the sands. Backed by global environmental NGOs QMM promises to ‘restore’ Mandena’s dead ecology and even ‘enhance’ its biodiversity, using private conservation areas near the mine as a ‘biodiversity gene bank’. Not only is this claim of restorability questioned by experts, but conservation has criminalised forest dependant people while pushing management obligations onto locals without pay. 4 – A day’s travel north from Mandena by 4x4, people in Antsotso have borne the greatest costs of QMM’s claims to ‘net positive’ impact through ‘compensatory offsetting’. By financing a new conservation area that excludes Antsotso’s farmers, QMM claims to have created more benefit for nature than it has destroted through mining. An illustration shows plants behind a fence.

In Kenya and Madagascar, local film screenings opened spaces for critical reflection and dialogue around issues like informed consent, land and resource rights, benefit sharing, and compensation for disruption to lives and livelihoods. But these ways of ‘seeing’ also matter to stakeholders at multiple levels of governance and decision making. An illustration shows people watching a film together. 2 – Collaborators in Ol Karia, working with wider civil society in Kenya and international human rights actors, alerted the European Investment Bank (EIB) to forced evictions of a community squatting on land owned by a geothermal company. They also raised concerns directly with the company itself as well as in Kenya’s national and social media. These advocacy efforts culminated in an EIB decision to withdraw a large loan to the geothermal company. An illustration shows a worker standing with his arms folded in front of steaming pipes. 3 – In Madagascar, participants prepared dossiers, including official letters and a DVD of their films, that they hand-delivered to regional elected officials, national ministers, and corporate offices. In the national capital of Antananarivo, an exhibition of the films and photo essays from the project fed into a national dialogue on mining and environmental justice, and attracted high-level politicians, diplomats, corporate representatives, civil society organisations, university researchers and national and international media. An illustration shows people in marquees looking at exhibition panels.
Conclusion. Large-scale resource developments can create ruptures at the margins that intensify long-standing struggles around livelihoods, public authority, and environmental justice, and in some cases can spark new tensions and conflicts. Ordinary people experience and talk about resource conflict, well-being, and aspirations for the futures in ways that differ, sometimes radically, from the dominant state and investor narratives, and indeed from universalised conceptions of ‘security’ and ‘development’ that guide policy. Participatory video is a methodology that can create spaces for reflection and potentially transformative dialogue, amplify the voices of people often marginalised in decision-making and help researchers and policymakers learn how to better listen and respond to the great variety of ways that people navigate the terrains of resource struggles, conceive their own security and insecurities, and imagine possibilities for the future.  Acknowledgements. This comic was illustrated by Tim Zocco with contributions from Amber Huff, Jeremy Lind, Lotte Hughes, Jackie Shaw, Barry Ferguson, Dr Mampiray Miandrito Mbola, Patricia Hajasoa, Dr. Tsiazonera, Dr. Jaovola Tombo, Soanahary Gerard, Hanitra Raharimanana, Hermann Randria, Junassye Rabemazaka and other members of research, PV facilitation and technical teams in Kenya and Madagacar for the ‘seeing conflicts’ project. This project represents a unique international collaboration among residents of towns and villages near resource investment sites, community-level facilitators, advocacy organisations, artists and scholars. In Kenya this includes participants of peer research groups and residents in Suswa, Naraha, Rapland, culture centre and Olomayiana in Ol Karia, and Loiyangalani, Palo, Sarima and South Horr in the LTWP area. Friends of Lake Turkana, the pastoralist development network of Kenya, Nadumu Africa and the British Institute in Eastern Africa provided critical institutional support. In Madagascar, this includes PV teams and residents in the villages of Antsotso, Besakoa Ambany, Esomony and Andranondambo in Anosy region and Bevondrorano, Ranobe and Anketrake in Atsimo-Andrefana region. This work would have been impossible without collaboration of local NGO Andry Lalana Tohana (ALT-MG) in Fort Dauphin and of Malagasy researchers and students associated with l’Universite de Toliara through the centre de documentation et recherche sur l’art et les traditions orals a Madagascar (Cedratom) in oliara and the centre universitaire regional d’Androy (Cura) in Ambovombe, and many thanks to Dr Razafiharison Andriamanantena, Dr Sylvia Adnriamampianina and Dr Barthelemy Manjakahery for facilitating these collobarations. Thanks to Dr Phil Boyle, British Ambassador to Madagascar, for his assistance and support. Funding is gratefully acknowledged from the partnership for conflict, crime and security research (PACCS) of the AHRC and the ESRC, with additional support provided by the Global Challenges Research Fund. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the funders, collaborating organisations or the institute of development studies. Project website: https://seeingconflict.org.

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