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1 February 2000 Panos Oral Testimony Mountains Project
Olivia Bennett
Author Affiliations +

Panos is an independent information organization working with journalists, media, and community groups in Africa, Asia, and South America to generate, publish, and disseminate information on development issues. A constant theme that emerges from all our information activities is that, for development to be sustainable, it must reflect more closely the values and priorities of the people it is designed to serve.

The Oral Testimony (OT) Program is designed to gather, publish, and amplify the voices and opinions of the beneficiaries of development—people who want to speak for themselves and not be heard through the medium of outsiders, journalists, or experts. Oral testimonies are the result of free-ranging interviews on a series of topics, drawing on direct personal memory and experience. Vivid, human, and direct, they challenge the generalizations of development literature, and they can enlighten planners and policymakers about the realities of development.

The OT Mountains project is working with local groups to explore the changing environment, culture, and history of mountain regions through the direct testimony of those who live there. Each collection is but a snapshot and does not claim to be representative of entire mountain groups. But the range of individual voices does provide a vivid picture of highland societies, their changing physical and social environments, and their concerns for the future. Collections are being/have been gathered with communities in the Central Andes (Peru), Mount Elgon (Kenya), the highlands of Ethiopia and Lesotho, southwest and northeast China, the Himalaya (India and Nepal), Sierra Norte in Mexico, and southwest Poland. We train local people to carry out interviews, which are recorded and transcribed in local languages and also translated into English. Our partners use the testimonies to develop information activities for local and national audiences such as booklets, exhibitions, educational and advocacy materials, and round-table meetings.

Panos works with the English translations of the linked collections of testimonies and disseminates them internationally. Activities include contributions to journals, seminars, and conferences and a series of booklets, one for each country collection, to be produced in 2000–2002. We are also designing a web site for the Mountains OT archive, which will contain background information on each collection, an overview of the key themes and issues covered, plus quotes and summaries of every interview (which can be accessed by theme or region). Access to the original interview transcripts will require contacting Panos so that we and our partners can monitor usage. A pilot version of this should be up and running early this year (2000), accessible via the Mountain Forum and Panos web site.

To find out more about Panos, its publications, and the Oral Testimony Program, you can visit If you have any initial views on how useful the web site might be to you, which perhaps we could reflect in its design, please contact us by e-mail ( or post at Oral Testimony Program, Panos Institute, 9 White Lion Street, London N1 9PD, UK.

Information and communication for sustainable development

Olivia Bennett "Panos Oral Testimony Mountains Project," Mountain Research and Development 20(1), 97, (1 February 2000).[0097:POTMP]2.0.CO;2
Published: 1 February 2000
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