Browsing Geography and Development Studies by Subjects
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Contested spaces, new opportunities: displacement, return and the rural economy in Casamance, SenegalCasamance is the southwesternmost part of Senegal, largely separated from the rest of the country by The Gambia to the north and bordering Guinea-Bissau to the south. As the scene of West Africa’s longest-running civil conflict, now some 30 years old, Casamance provides a case of displacement economies on a relatively small scale but of long duration. The focus here is on human displacement, understood as the enforced physical dislocation of people, the dynamics of their return and resettlement, and the economic, political and social effects related to these processes. Much of the long-term human displacement in the conflict has occurred in the relatively narrow band of territory between the south bank of the Casamance River and northern border districts of Guinea-Bissau. Following flight and protracted exile from this border area in the 1990s, however, the 2000s and beyond have mostly seen people return, driven by economic and social desperation coupled with generally improved (though still at times volatile) security conditions, and supported by international aid for reconstruction. Building on field research conducted over twelve years, the chapter considers the emergent economic and political landscape of the border area. It shows how this landscape is the result of layers of displacement over two decades, situated within a deeper historical context of migration. From a theoretical perspective, it seeks to understand these dynamics through the concept of ‘relational space’, formulated in human geography and beginning to be used, if not always explicitly, in studies of displacement.
Displacement in Casamance, Senegal: Lessons (Hopefully) Learned, 2000–2019The paper reflects on fieldwork conducted since 2000 with displaced communities in Lower and Middle Casamance, Senegal, amid arguably West Africa’s longest-running civil conflict. While this is a small conflict in a geographically confined space, Casamance presents a microcosm of dynamics common to other displacement situations in Africa. In this context the paper explores how the understandings, lived experiences and practices of the displaced transcend normative categories used by aid actors to define and manage such situations. Five thematic areas are examined: enumeration of the displaced; complex mobilities, both rural-urban and transnational; historiographic understandings of displacement; political manipulation of displacement situations; and the dynamics of return and reconstruction. The paper concludes by summarising failures of understanding in these areas among much of the aid community, and their consequences. It argues that well-grounded and socially nuanced understandings of displacement may inform more effective aid interventions and enhance the peace process.
Revisiting tropes of environmental and social change in Casamance, SenegalEstablished tropes hold that reduced rainfall across the West African Sahel and savanna from the late 1960s onwards caused migration from rural areas to cities or to better-watered lands further south. It is argued that this in turn caused major shifts in the rural economy, social transformation, disputes over land tenure and use between indigenous and immigrant populations, and violent conflict in places. Alternative analyses, while recognising a role for environmental change in social processes, take a deeper historical perspective and offer a more diverse, nuanced view of causality. This debate is worth revisiting to help prevent flawed, sometimes fallacious tropes from informing development policy and practice. The chapter thus examines paddy rice cultivation in Casamance, southern Senegal, amid broader contemporary contestations about environmentally-induced migration.