Bui Dam resettlements: Livelihoods and institutional challenges
11/18/2009 8:44:52 PM -
Every decision of every democratic nation is deemed to benefit the people and the nation as a whole, sometimes to gain favour before the people. Even though some economic decisions like mining projects tend to negatively affect the lives of the people, some economic projects like hydropower dam construction, taking into consideration the government and stakeholders involved, go a long way in helping the nation from generation to generation.
The Akosombo dam has been of service to the people of Ghana, and some of its neighbouring countries for some decades now, but just as anything which wears out in its productivity as times go by, or if it is subject too much pressure, so has the Akosombo dam reduced its productiveness to the people of Ghana and neighbouring countries. The Bui hydropower dam project is one of the hydropower dams meant to complement the supply of electricity to the people of Ghana. This project, despite its benefits, has rendered some of the residents of Bui homeless and jobless. Unlike the Volta River resettlement scheme, which 80,000 people were evacuated to 52 newly-created townships, and the Kpong Dam project, which affected about 6,000 people, however the Bui Dam Resettlements would have to relocate 900 people to various sites. From the look of things, compared to the other resettlement projects which entailed thousands of people, the Bui project entailed just about 900 people, which in a way, might make it easier to resettle them. Even though their number cannot be compared to other affected resettlement projects, according to the stakeholders and government agencies involved, they are facing some challenges in the resettlement project, which is preventing the convenience they need to resettle the people.
Bui is a small community, with a population of not up to a thousand, and can be found in the Eastern Region of Ghana. According to the Center for National Culture (CNC) website, the people of Bui are not native Kulanghos, but Nafaana within the Banda Traditional Area of the newly-created Tain District. One can imagine a high Kulangho influence in parts of the catchment area, as it is close to the Kulangho communities in Côte d'Ivoire, where the people can be described as a large and sociologically powerful group. The people of the Bui Gorge area, comprise the Ligbi, the Nafaana, Ntorre Awutu, Degha (Djamo or Mo), Bono, Gonja, Ewe (Tongu) and to a lesser degree Kulangho. The groups listed can be found in communities which they identify as their own within the Bole and Tain districts in the Northern and Brong Ahafo regions respectively. The people of the Bui Gorge catchment area are peasant farmers, and cultivate mainly yam, cassava, guinea corn, groundnuts and bottle gourds for their seeds, commonly known as Ain in Akan. They usually sell their produce at the Techiman Market. They also cultivate calabash plants, and generally keep livestock in communal kraals with common herdsmen who are paid through individuals contributions. Today, there are not many cattle in the area, especially at Jama village where there is not a single cow or goat.
The main foods relished in the area are yam fufu and abetie (Akan), cassava dough steamed in maize porridge, locally called kode and koo in Guan and Degh/Vagli respectively, eaten with soups, ranging from plain sauce through wet and dried vegetables. Until the establishment of the Bui national park, and the enforcement of the wildlife protection laws, the people of Bui depended on fish and game as one of their natural sources of protein. Since then, the people get their fish from seasonal communal fishing. Sometimes during the dry season, they as well go on group hunting on individual community basis for game.
Resettlement of the people of Bui and challenges
The issue of taking care of the affected communities of the Bui hydropower dam project has been one of the central ideas of government and stakeholders involved in the project, and have come to the realisation that there is the need to address the livelihood and institutional challenges for the sustainable development of dams in Ghana. Even though the people seem to be small in number, compared to that of the Akosombo hydropower dam and Kpong hydrodam projects, the stakeholders and people in charge of the resettlement project, as well as the natives, seem to be encountering certain challenges concerning their relocation. At the 3rd Ghana Dam Forum, which took place in Accra, under the theme 'Address livelihood and institutional challenges for sustainable dam development in Ghana,' it was realised that the Bui dam resettlement project had various challenges, which include a problem of access to farmland and farm size. According to them, there are only two acres of farmlands replacing five or more at previous sites. Additionally, the new farmlands are not as fertile as the previous ones. Considering the occupation of the people of Bui, where most of their livelihood depends on farming, therefore the reduction of the size of their farmland, compared to the previous one, is a direct deduction of their livelihood, income and standard of living. Moreover, the fertility of the land, at the verge of turning fallow, will be a big blow to the productivity of their crops.
Moreover, there is a problem of housing facing the resettlement project, according to them, there is the issue of housing, as the houses available are either inadequate, of poor quality or inappropriate. It was reported recently that out of the seven communities affected, about four have been relocated, however one of the communities is not satisfied with the nature of the houses, as they claim that they are smaller than their previous houses. Indeed, when the Ghana Dam Dialogue (GDD) went round monitoring, they seconded the fact that the houses were small and too close to each other, and that it does not look like housing for communities, but rather camps.
For every community to survive, the presence of social amenities and basic infrastructure go to the extent to improving every aspect of its livelihood. In as much as these things are important, it is one of the major challenges facing the resettlement issue of the Bui hydropower dam project. According to them, there is the absence of portable drinking water at the places of relocation. As water is a very important asset to mankind, it would make the stay of the relocated people very difficult. Additionally, the absence of electricity will make it difficult for them to engage in activity that needs electrical power. Since they are about to get used to not having electricity, apart from them being in darkness and their activities stacked up at night, they will also have to go through the plight of they not getting abreast with information, especially that of television. Even though stakeholders have done their best, by providing electricity from solar energy for lighting, but the relocated cannot afford the cost of light bulbs, and solar is the most expensive source of energy.
As if these challenges are not enough, the relocated have to face the situation of entering into new livelihood skills after relocation, that is to say the farmers have no choice than to change their farming occupation into fishing, and are not abreast with the skills needed. Others have no choice than to focus their attention to the acquisition of new skills and vocations.
At the forum, it was made that clear that the challenges of Bui, were not the only challenges faced when resettling dam affected people, but the Volta River Resettlement Scheme had challenges such as the absence of access to farmlands and farm sizes. That is to say, these are small farms, compared to previous farms prior to relocation. The houses were inadequate, inappropriate, and lack technical know-how for the maintenance of such housing families. There were as well, absent or inadequate basic infrastructures such as roads, schools, clinics, electricity, water, etc. Stakeholders, as well as the government, have thought it wise that resettling the people of Bui to a location without or with inadequate basic infrastructure, could pose a threat to their living conditions.
Moreover, there was environmental degradation, that is to say the top soil was destroyed by the wind, serious erosion, and forest vegetation turned to savannah. The small farm sizes affected incomes. The change from forest crops to savannah crops and poor roads affected marketing, barter trade 25 years after construction of the dam. Furthermore, they encountered the issue of inadequate consultation - wide range of key stakeholders, governance, equity, participatory approach to the planning process. The authority as well faced institutional challenges such as inadequate funding for the Volta Basin Research Unit at the University of Ghana. Engaging international experts in resettlement projects - to what extent should they be involved as against local participation of local know-how?
t was therefore thought wise that in order for these challenges not to re-surface in the near dam resettlement project, there ought to be ample time for them to build houses for the relocated, as one of the challenges they faced was inadequate time for the constructions which could affect the quality of housing. Availability of time will give them ideas on rectifying a mistake in their construction, in case a mistake occurs. They as well attributed the rise of these challenges to the non-involvement of the people in the provision of housing. In avoiding this situation in the near future, there is the need for them to involve the people affected, in every decision making, right from the very onset.
The resettlement of people is a situation which greatly affects the way of life, and livelihood of the people involved. It would therefore be of importance if the project of resettlement is given a holistic approach, so as to make relocation not a difficult time for the affected people. Stakeholders should make planners aware that there was the need for them to involve the district assemblies in the projects, including ownership, more involvement of affected groups in resettlement decisions, and a continuous monitoring of resettlement schemes will help prevent future challenges. Likewise, there ought to be monitoring and evaluation of resettlement projects to improve approaches to resettlement, and strengthen the capacity for doing so, and all stakeholders should be brought on board at all times, as well as more coordination of the activities of the various stakeholders. If the planners make good use of their role in the project of resettlement, then the people affected and stakeholders of the project will not go through any kinds of inconvenience.