This paper focuses on the Tana Beles area in Gojam, Ethiopia, where in the mid-1980s almost 80,000 people were resettled from different parts of the country. Many of the settlers experienced severe difficulties in adapting to the new environment . These difficulties, combined with the implementation of a large-sc ale infrastructure project with a very top-down approach, resulted in a strong material and psychological dependency on external aid and assistance. Following the suspension in 1991 of all foreign projects in the area, the challenge has been to enhance the transition from emergency aid to self-reliant and self-sufficient development. The paper describes how PRA techniques were used to explore general adjustment problems and constraints, needs and priorities, as well as the expectationsand aspirations of the settlers. It was found that 'in this specific context of general upheaval, PRA represents a particularly useful approach to understand how people react to such disruption and develop new coping strategies'. Furthermore, in development projects characterized by 'project dependency' PRA introduces a valuable external stimulus favouring self-awareness and a crucial means for encouraging people to become self-reliant.