The assumption of enduring sustainability is a basic premise, built into the rationale of every conservation/environmental program and of development investment programs. Such interventions are assumed not only to generate improvements, but also to make these improvements lasting and self-sustainable. The author examines critically this assumption in the perspective of risk analysis, in particular of the IRR (Impoverishment Risks and Reconstruction) model for resettling displaced populations, employed as a theoretical and analytical framework. The paper’s focus is on three categories of projects that entail involuntary displacement and resettlement. The cases considered are from Africa: (a) projects creating national conservation parks; (b) projects for building hydropower dams; and (c) projects in the mining sector and extractive industries.The paper points to an important conceptual shift over the last decade in the research apparatus on resettlement, broadened considerably by the use of a risk-related perspective. Employing an analytical risk-lens, the author explores how the risks intrinsic in such interventions affect communities, families and individuals. When this occurs, the impacts of these projects on the sustainability of people’s livelihoods may be negative.Answering the question in the paper’s title – “Can poor Africans become even poorer than they are?” – the author’s response is that this is precisely what happens when ongoing projects do not protect effectively against the impoverishment risks inherent in forcible displacement. The paper suggests how such situations can be prevented or mitigated. It argues that the general benefits from development projects, should not be paid in the coin of risks and losses to the immediately affected communities.