Accepted paper:

Thirty Years after Resettlement: Perspectives and Standards of Living among People Displaced by the Manantali Dam in Mali


Dolores Koenig (American University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper looks at perspectives and standards of living among those resettled by Mali's Manantali dam in the mid-1980s. Many elderly still lament their losses, but the standard of living has improved. National changes enhanced the effects of resettlement, leading to greater political voice.

Paper long abstract:

In 1986 and 1987, 8000 people were resettled by the Manantali dam, built in an isolated part of rural Mali. A resettlement project provided people some land, built new villages and housing, and deep wells. A research project carried out by this author and scholars at Mali's Institut des Sciences Humaines in 2016-18 looked at the question of how people's lives have changed in the interim. Approximately 110 households were followed through studies in the mid-1980s as people were moving, in 1993-94 several years after people had resettled, and again in 2016-18. Thirty years later, many people still do not conceptualize resettlement villages as their homes, and many elderly people lament what they see as the loss of lives of abundance in the old sites. At the same time, it is quite clear that the standard of living, measured by commonly used indicators, such as education, income, health, and access to goods and markets, has improved. Some changes were brought about by dam construction and resettlement, but many are the result of larger changes instituted by the Malian government, occurring throughout the country. In Manantali, they interacted with changes brought about by the resettlement to transform local conditions. The road built by the dam construction company opened the zone to markets and transport; recent government initiatives paved the roads, enhancing national integration. Constant negotiation with resettlement authorities honed local political skills, and national decentralization some 10 years later gave people a forum to express their new political voice.

panel Econ03
The afterlife of development