The four-day study tour of the Western region by 15 students of the 2016/17 MA cohort at the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research, ISSER, University of Ghana was a mix-grill episode – a mixture of excitement and downcast and a learning curve.

A visit to two companies – a mining and a gas company – were moments of excitement but visits to two deprived communities took away the shine of excitement and replaced it with disheartening tales of suffering and despair.

But at each turn of event, Dr. Simon Bawakyillenuo Senior Research Fellow at the Institute and Coordinator of the MA Programme reminded the students of the core reason for the trip which was to study and learn through interaction and by asking questions.

At the start of the study tour, the team first paid a courtesy call on the Western Regional Coordinating Council. Mr. Stephen Blighten, Regional Director of Planning and Mr. Joseph Kwaku Adjei, Regional Director, Controller and Accountant-General’s Office welcomed the team at the Residency.

Dr. Bawakyillenuo explained why it was important to first touch base with the Coordinating Council as the seat of government in the region before undertaking the business of the team.

He was happy for the warm reception accorded the team.

The Regional Planning Officer asked his deputy, Mr. Amihere to walk the team through some slides about the region. At the end of it all it was an undisputed fact that Western Region  abounds in natural resources no other region can compare with. Literally, the people of the region sit on wealth.

But a question from one of the students Miss Nancy Adzinyo revealed the other story of the region. Her question was about the deplorable roads in the northern part of the region which happens to abound in cocoa and food crops. She made it known that due to the state of the roads, farm produce are usually sent to Ashanti and Brong Ahafo regions instead of the Western region.

The Regional Planning officer agreed with her point and assured her that the roads will be fixed shortly.

On his part, Dr. Bawakyillenuo wondered why development was ahead of planning and not vice versa and questioned how this could be reversed. “Change the face of development by starting from the hinterland to the cities”, he postulated.

The next day the team visited Ellembelle District Assembly and was received by Mr. Innocent Haligah, District Coordinating Director.

Dr. Bawakyillenuo likened the relationship between the Institute and the Assembly to marriage whose fraternity is so close that students continue to visit the district each year.

He noted that the MA programme is underpinned by practical work and past students work in development related areas in the country.

The Senior Research Fellow disclosed that under the Development Practical Workshop the first semester takes the students to municipalities and districts while the second semester sends them to a region to learn issues around development in practical terms.

The District Coordinating Director lauded the concept behind the trip.

Here, the team was shown slides which revealed the tremendous resources of the district. These are oil, gold, cocoa, rubber and coconut as well as fish. It has seven area councils and covers 1,468 square kilometres of land and a sea coast.       

The District Coordinating Director extolled the natural resources of the district but one of the students, Miss Thelma Abayateve asked about the challenges the district faced.

Responding, Mr. Haligah expressed concern about the deplorable road network, apathy especially in community activities, politics resulting in a massive divide between the two major parties in the country which sometimes affect development.

He revealed that bye-laws are not gazetted and so their enforcement becomes an issue and there is no lawyer for the assembly to guide them through certain aspects of their work.   

From Ellembelle District Assembly, the team visited Adamus Resources Ltd, a mining company in the district.

The team was formally welcomed by Mr. Ellis Koneku, Training Coordinator at the Human Resource Department and Mr. Emmanuel Edusei, of the Social Responsibility Department and taken through safety measures observed by all which are critical to the operations of the mine.

Dr. Bawakyillenuo expressed his deepest gratitude on behalf of the Director, Prof Felix Asante to the entire management of the company for once again accepting to receive the students who were on the study tour.

In his briefing, Mr. Peter Hannigan, General Manager of the company disclosed the mine’s output is 100,000 ounces of gold annually and operates under strict rules of the Ghana Minerals Commission. This, he noted is in contrast to the illegal miners also called ‘galamsey’.

He said they are proud of their work as they seek to manage the environment well, have good rapport with communities around them and also carry out all financial obligations.

Mr. Koneku disclosed that the company undertakes contract mining and currently the area in use has a mining life of three years and for that reason it is doing exploration to increase reserves for mining to continue after the time elapses.

He briefed the team on environmental, production and processing procedures and international standards which the company must adhere to  other areas he touched were waste management, dust control and hazardous material management.       

The company also undertakes mine reclamation where disturbed areas are rehabilitated to the original form. So far, the disturbed area covers 444.75 ha out of which 106.67ha has been reclaimed and re-vegetated.

Some of the challenges revealed to the team were the problem of excess water, illegal mining also known as ‘galamsey’, and water in open pits, storm drainage as well as erosion.

On the third day of the trip, the team visited and interacted with some communities at Teleku Bokazo at Ellembelle and Sann’wona where river Ankobra meets the sea. The interaction produced contrasting picture from what was revealed by the miners.

At Teleku Bokazo, fishing and farming community, the Assemblyman Hon Enoch Blay Hemans called the gathering of his people. Present was the head of the community, Nana Abusuakpanye and some elders.

After a brief pleasantry, Miss Adelaide Asante explained the mission of the team to the community and Dr. Bawakyillenuo asked the community members to tell the team benefits they receive from the mining company on their land.

This opened the floodgate of tales of accusations concluding that the miners and those drilling oil were the cause of their predicament – suffering, joblessness, poverty and want.

A rhetorical response from a community member immediately Dr. Bawakyillenuo took his seat was one which sought to find out if he had brought some good news to them and if indeed he has then he should tell them.

This was interjected by one of the leaders whose frank answer was “we have not benefited from the oil and mining”. He said they could not catch fish as before because they have been warned against fishing near the oil rig a situation which has affected their yield and complained about the heavy-duty truck plying their roads which are a disturbance to the community.

Another community leader catalogued their challenges: Gold mining has spoiled our water, we now buy sachet water to drink, no jobs – they employ only graduates and certificate holders and our roads are not good. He queried “May I ask: are the educated the only people who eat?”

A member of the community touched on the resettlement of some members of the community and revealed the deplorable state of toilets built for them which were very close to their houses oozing bad odour. “We have not seen any development”, he claimed.

A young community member was concerned about education and wondered that if their parents continue to remain poor and without hope how were they going to go to school and even continue to higher level.

A passionate community member accused Zoomlion of failing to collect rubbish and revealed there was only one borehole in good use out of two sank for the community.

One of the leaders wondered whether all the discussions will reach the President of Ghana, His Excellency Nana Addo-Dankwa Akufo-Addo

Another complaint was about blasting of rocks by the miners, a situation which has led to visible cracks on their houses. He exclaimed: “they have taken our lands and we have virtually nowhere to farm and also spoiled our water”.

They complained about gas pipelines laid on their land and yet the community received little compensation.

The narration of the litany of woes of the people could hardly be stopped as one person after the other disclosed gory tales that confounded the team. Some students were visibly shaken and remained speechless while a few mustered courage to ask some questions.             

Dr. Bawalyillenuo asked the community members whether the mining company signed any documents with them. The community head answered in the affirmative but the Assemblyman disputed the claim.

At the end of the visit, Dr. Bawakyillenuo said it was disheartening to hear the complaints but encouraged them to take heart and keep hope alive.

The team’s next call was at Sanniwona, a fishing community at the estuary where River Ankobra enters the sea. Its mainstay is fishing and a little farming mainly cassava and coconut.

The group was welcomed by Mr. Paul Amoah, Assemblyman. When discussions got underway, they complained about dwindling fish catch as a result of oil production and activities of gold miners as well as damage caused by the overflow of the banks of River Ankobra. They complained about activities of illegal miners which has affected their water.

When the team leader sought from them their reaction to a resettlement they answered in unison in the affirmative. The caveat they added was on condition they had money.

“We are suffering; the sea is driving us away while the presence of the oil rig is not allowing us to catch sufficient fish a situation that makes us perpetually poor” they contended.

Dr. Bawakyillenuo assured them of his willingness to share their plight with authorities at the least opportunity.

The last leg of the visit was to Atuabo Gas Processing Plant where a team of engineers briefed the team on the operations of the plant as well as a talk on strict adherence to safety measures.

In a brief historical perspective, Engineer Francis Wajah said the plant was established in July 2011 on build, own and operate basis. Its core activities are gathering, processing, transportation and marketing. The plant is now wholly manned by Ghanaians.   

The team was made to understand the area is highly hazardous and strictly manned to ensure safety. “Safety is our priority”, Engineer Michael Mireku had earlier told the team.

Mr. Mireku revealed the plant has had three major shutdowns since 2012. He explained shutdowns are routine plan to maintain the compressor and the good news is that only last two months a new compressor was commissioned.

He revealed the plant is self-reliant in all respects – fuel, water, and etcetera and also has a range of pipelines on land and under the sea for different purposes.

“We patrol where our pipelines are laid to prevent intrusion and against activities of illegal miners known as ‘galamsey’”, Mr. Mireku stated.

He itemized the company’s corporate social responsibilities in terms of frequent engagements, tarring of their roads and donation of buses to the three districts around them.

The team was taken round the plant facility by Engineer Samuel Ekuban.

In a word of appreciation, Dr.Bawakyillenuo said “It is an opportunity to learn and also to know there is social cohesion between you and the communities. It is a good thing that such harmony exists and I hope you will continue to do more for the development of Ghana”.

The team returned to Accra riding on the wings of success.           

What do the students have to say about the study tour? Their views are captured as follows:

Seth Mokwah

Everything about the study tour was awesome - Interactions with the regional coordinating council, the district assembly, community members, Adamus Mining Company and the Gas processing company were great, knowledge packed and very revealing. The accommodation and feeding too were classic. 

However, what I am still wondering is what we could possibly have done best to get the sensational and emotional feelings expressed by the community members not to rest only in our books but to reach the authorities for redress.

1. Can we make some authorities aware of this tour so that we can forward their concerns to them for necessary action?

2. Can the tour and some of the revelations be in the news?

Saadatu Lawal

What captivated me the most during our study tour was the interaction with community members of Teleko Bokazo and Ankobra. For me, I think community folks ought to be engaged on issues concerning their development. Considering the diverse opinions given by them, no initiative must be carried without their participation, and without implementing their interests. Also, government officials need to redirect their focus of developmental activities by addressing the needs of these rural areas.

David Nambo

Personally, I think it went well beyond expectation. The food was excellent, we had fun, and we learnt new things that deepened our understanding of development issues. It was fantastic, overall.

Nancy Adzinyo

The tour was not only fun but thought provoking. It brought most of us to the realities of life and for us to see some of the troubles the rural poor go through. This to a large extent will shape us as we embark on the developmental journey we have begun. It was a memorable experience.

Samuel Gordor  

From my perspective, the trip was a very good experience not only because we had fun, ate well and had very good accommodation but the community interaction was an eye opening for me as a Development studies student. The interaction brought to bear issues that I may have taken for granted hitherto. As upcoming development practitioners, I believe the experience will guide us when we find ourselves involved in project development and programme implementation. I am most grateful for the opportunity 

Ayi Ayitey

I would like to seize this opportunity to thank you and your team for taking us on such an important tour.

The study tour made a telling impact on me. Going to the grassroots to see, hear and have a feel of the development challenges and issues in some of the communities in the Ellembelle District was a real eye opener.

It is easy for development planners, practitioners and politicians to sit in Accra and try to theorize about what people are really going through. The big lesson for me was that we should undertake development to meet the needs of communities in Ghana based on what the target groups see as their most crucial development needs. My fear is that if we don't do something fast as a nation, the people of Ghana may one day revolt against political leadership.

Adelaide Oppong-Otoo

It was an opportunity to have a real exposure to developmental issues in the Western Region which was quite unique; some resource endowed areas lack basic amenities.

The visit to Adamus Resource Ltd, a mining company, would have been more interesting if it came after the interaction with the local community folks since they had specific questions directed at the mine officials.

The hospitality was warm and it was a good opportunity to learn.

Priscilla Adu Gyamfi Boadi

The study tour was very educative as we got the opportunity to learn new things and to experience the practical aspect of development studies.

Paa Kow Acquah

The trip was very educative and fun as well as. I really enjoyed it and I am grateful for the opportunity. I would like to add that the opportunity given us to interact with local people in their place of comfort was as well priceless since it brought a lot of issues I had hitherto taken for granted. The hospitality I enjoyed from hotel and its staff is also very much appreciated.

Rahama Abukari

The trip was a fun-filled one. The food and accommodation was excellent. I had the opportunity to visit some deprived communities where they shared their problems and challenges. I was also exposed to real life situations.

Eunice Naa Densua Darku

I thought the trip was very well organized and I appreciated the services at the hotel and also the hospitality of our hosts at the various places we visited. I think this trip was helpful in revealing the state of development in places outside of the capital and how people in rural areas experience negative externalities of development.

Thelma Abayateye

The study tour to the Western Region was very educative and eye-opening.

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