You will never get from reality if not your own representation (DEMO, 2008)

Why this blog today?

This morning, at office, a colleague of mine came to me to discuss on how we value communities land in face of mining project development that are compulsorily removing them from their original place to other resettlement places, while compensating them as for established in the Mozambique law. The Resettlement Regulation (Decree 32/2012) states more or less that when communities are resettled due to development of economic projects, including mining, they must be left with similar or better life standards in the new place of living.

Actually, she (KL) said to have found an interesting (big) book that would help our partners in valuing land. Wow... any reading to me is well come... and I want that one for sure. Although, there is a political establishment on how shelters, trees and lands, for example, are valued in the this country - I replied as a way to give her a bit of context of the Mozambique as she is visiting us. My aim was to dig a bit on our discussion before we reach to the partner next week with 'big thinking from big books'.

Another colleague (AL) in the room shouted "...if you have done a baseline of the project would have solved all this issues...". AL is leaving in Mozambique for 13 years. As AL continued talking she the brought the more exiting point, in my point of view, when she said "... communities don't think about the value of their local resources...". Oh... that is what I call stepping on my toe with a thin heeled shoe, after I joined the Community Life Competence Platform (to avoid redundancy). I could not let her carry on... I quickly replied "say community do not tell us about the resources they have and the how they value them instead of think, as they think as longer as they are humans". Standing up from my chair and getting more closer to both (typical of my political style... ha ha ha...). I produced a thought from Hegel work and tossed "... it is most of the times the tool we use to request information from communities that gives us what we have already in our own minds before reaching them and come up with this kind of conclusions at end, that they are hiding or not thinking...". 

KL, on her turn developed my point saying "trust from community on you, your friendship and goodwill make the key to gain more of the truth from communities". Then AL, came to the ground and shouted an experience she had somewhere in Angola with a project of 'educating' (uff) communities in production of medicinal plants, as she said "only after two years I discovered that the community in which I was working was a national reference of the traditional practice of the herbal medicine... but only when they started trusting me...". At that point, KL added "sometimes [I would say most times] we (development projects) may frighten communities of losing their resources and they just hide them to us".

The conversation went on and on, that in few minutes allot was said, until KL left the room.

My quick conclusions:

1) Baseline are a good idea if it is to start have some sense of knowing our communities, but have several limits. Social reality keeps changing, just like I am different Joao from the one who wrote the first line of this blog, and baselines may draw us to keep thinking that lives and numbers are the same thing.

2) The limited tools (questionnaires, frameworks, time, facilities, etc.) we use when approaching communities may hinder us from getting the wide range of life information communities have.

3) Like the Philosopher Hegel and Sociologist Demo say we usually get less information from reality, that what it is, within the limits of our own previous thinking.

4) Most important, I must keep being an active member of this learning communities as it there is a wide ocean of ideas from different open-minded people (like Rituu, JLL, Sangamitra, Gaston, Mary L, among others) who I must keep learning and get inspired from.

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Comment by Joao Arnaldo Vembane on December 28, 2014 at 7:43pm

Hi JL,

Thank you very much for your valuable input. For sure, that is the best approach. We are currently developing a toolkit that should support raising and using of evidences for advocacy purpose. In fact, the dream dynamic must integrate it. Would you please share with me ( the tool to facilitate the process?


Comment by Jean-Louis Lamboray on December 17, 2014 at 11:21am

Hi Joao!

Thanks for sharing this conversation. To the original question about valuation for people who are to resettle, I would suggest this:

Why not start from the dream of the community? What is their vision of the future? How would they implement the vision? How can the state support the implementation of the vision? 

This process might lead to more meaningful resettlement that the mere compensation for the value of the land they leave.

Warm regards


Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on December 8, 2014 at 4:36pm

Hi Joao,

If you search for participatory action research you will find a lot of material. Using as part of CLC will be useful. Also reading up on participatory evaluation by Robert Chambers will be useful. Am happy to discuss with you on skype. Warm greetings!

Comment by Joao Arnaldo Vembane on December 1, 2014 at 8:40pm

Hi Rituu, thanks for your comment. I totally agree with you. Do you have any tools that I can use for it?

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on December 1, 2014 at 6:22pm

Hi Joao, thanks for your post! Always happy to read your experiences and insights.

Measuring change is one of critical areas of development sector and of personal interest to me. The question is who measures whose change? Its about attribution as well, no? Did the project bring about a change? Self assessment is a valuable tool but in my experience in M&E it is not enough. Participatory self-assessment or evaluation by all actors involved could be a good reflection process and also stimulate action. I would like to do it in the format of Participatory action research.


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