Waste management in small urban context - Malawi

By Dora Nyirenda, Research Administrator of the Malawi hub

On January 11th 2020, I had the privilege to visit the Mzuzu (Nsilo) dumpsite located in the Northern part of Malawi. This opportunity arose while making arrangements for the symposium/workshop that was initially planned to take place in Mzuzu, Malawi.

The dumpsite was a project of Mzuzu City Council in conjunction with Plan Malawi, implemented with funding from the European Union. The facility was to be finished and put into use in 2017, but unfortunately, the place started being used without being fully finished, which made it a place that was perfect for breeding flies due to the lack of waste management. This is especially problematic because the facility is close to people’s homes and a primary school and that flies can be a vector of many diseases and infections.

I visited the area where the dumpsite was when the people were protesting on the 10th January 2020. I asked one of the community members why they were protesting, and she said, ’The unfinished facility is breeding and harbouring a lot of flies. We cannot eat or prepare our foods in the open as the flies land in our food, which puts our health at risk.’  It was on that day that the angry and concerned community members set fire to the facility, which has been closed.

This marked the end of the people’s patience. Before the facility was set on fire, the community members were promised that chemicals would be applied frequently to kill the flies, but this was not happening. The dumpsite was close to a primary school, meaning that flies were landing in the school children’s food.

One of the community members said, ‘We were told that the facility would have machines inside that would be processing and grinding the waste, and that the end product would be manure, which would even benefit the community. But this has not been happening as the facility started being used before they finished constructing it.’ This raised the interesting question of whether the community gave a consent to the facility’s construction or if they were even asked for their views and concerns before the dumpsite project was implemented. This is an example of a problematic situation where planners did not consult properly the local communities and where the implementation of the initiatives did not lead to the expected outcomes. Unless environmental initiatives are context appropriate and involve local communities from inception, the impact can’t be guaranteed.

The Malawi hub is working on a project proposal to investigate the local challenges in implementing solid waste management in Mzuzu and to facilitate the identification of potential situated solutions.


A Critical Resource for Ethical International Partnerships

A Critical Resource for Ethical International Partnerships

When we start a new project with partners in a different context, it is never truly a “new start.” Historically it has been experts from the Global North who have studied and interpreted the South. This means that international research partnerships are inevitably imbued with power relations and possibly the assumption that it is northern knowledge that will lead transformations of in the South. Without a clear recognition of that context, it is inevitable that existing inequities, injustices, and imbalances of knowledge and power, will continue to pervade our work.

We designed this resource to help make explicit the practices and dynamics that underpin partnerships, to support the development of more equitable working relations.

Download the resource >

Economic Activities: A Threat to Wetland Sustainability

By Otim Dalton

In Africa, wetlands are of great importance because they are a source of water and food necessary to the survival of microorganisms and humans alike. In their natural state, wetlands provide a range of eco-system services: they regulate water flow, store eroded materials and nutrients, and provide water, food and raw materials. Therefore, the sustainable management of swamps, marshes, floodplains and mangrove forest (which are all classified as wetlands) is of great value to the long-term welfare of many African societies.

Recently, particularly in Africa, wetlands have become a new agricultural frontier. In response, a number of agencies, both local and international, are trying to explore sustainable wetland management as a way of reducing rural poverty, improving food security and strengthening livelihood resilience in the face of climate change. However, farmers have also realized that wetlands depend on well-managed catchment areas, and measures have been identified to improve upland management. These include improving land use through soil and water conservation measures, inter-planting crops with agro-forestry trees, and maintaining areas of natural vegetation, all of which facilitate water infiltration. This water percolates through to the wetlands.

However, with the growing rural population, climate change and the degradation of upland fields due to prolonged farming, wetlands are under increasing pressure as farmers seek out fertile and moist farming sites. The increased flow of water from degraded uplands into the wetlands and the disturbance of natural vegetation by cultivation in the wetlands threatens erosion and damage to these valuable sites.

In Uganda, the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) was formed in May 1995 under the National Environment Act. NEMA was established with the main intention of protecting the environment. But despite NEMA’s efforts, the wetlands are being reclaimed and degraded due to the economic needs of the people around them and those from other areas. According to the Daily Monitor of 30th August 2018, in Uganda, swamps that have been encroached on include Mpogo in MpPasaana, which lies between Kitauhuka and Kisiitia sub-counties, Karokarungi in Kisiita sub-county and Kabale swamp, which borders Kakumiro and the Hoima district. Other swamps affected are Olweny swamp and Okole swamp in Northern Uganda. In eastern Uganda, the districts affected include Kamuli, Jinja, Mutumba, Kaliro and Mayunge, where most people cultivate rice in the wetlands.

A green rice field (left) and a field that’s ready to harvest (right)

One of the key economic activities carried out in the wetlands is rice-growing, which has slowly brought about wetland reclamation. Rice yields very well in the wetlands since it requires plenty of water. Rice-growing gained prominence in the 1970s following the establishment of the Doho Rice Scheme and the Nakwasi and Lwoba irrigation schemes. These schemes were set up for commercial rice-growing and today, they are dominated by rural small-scale farmers living in areas adjacent to wetlands. Although the soils in the area have largely been described as sandy and are characterized by low organic content, the Doho Wetland is an important ecological flood plain for the River Manafwa, coming from the highlands of Bugisu, where fertile clay and volcanic soils are found.

The 2012 Uganda Bureau of Statistics Report indicated that the Busoga region of Eastern Uganda produces 70% of the nation’s rice, worth Ugx120 billion a year. This is a clear indicator that wetland rice-growing is a viable economic activity that contributes greatly to the GDP despite the devastating effect of wetland reclamations. However, environmental scientists have also noted that human activities like increasing population and urbanization are partly to blame for the alarming reclamation and degradation of wetlands and swamps even in other countries, not only in Uganda.

Through NEMA, the government must continue to educate Ugandans on the enormous importance of the wetlands, and their contribution to the environment and climate. The people should be encouraged to gradually shift from wetland rice-growing to upland rice-growing. Afforestation and good agronomic practices should be encouraged to help improve and maintain soil quality and fertility for continuous upland rice-growing. This action shouldn’t hinder the viable economic activity of rice-growing or impact its contribution to Uganda’s GDP, and it will serve the vital purpose of wetlands conservation and sustainability.


A Call for Funding in Botswana

By Goitsemang Mmeko

In 2017, the Botswana SFA Hub explored the issue of human-wildlife interaction in the Mmadinare area in Botswana. The study was titled Unearthing the Dynamics of Human and Wildlife Interactions: The Case of Mmadinare Community in the Central Region of Botswana. Human-wildlife interaction is a topical issue that affects the development of grassroots livelihood, the tourism industry, food production and wildlife management. In this study, the hub explored human-wildlife conflict between the Mmadinare community and the elephant rampages that destroy crops and equipment in the ploughing fields. The findings of the study revealed the significant need for Sustainable Community Partnership in addressing human-wildlife conflict in Mmadinare. Therefore, a stakeholder dissemination workshop was held in Mmadinare on 14 August 2018 with the aim of creating sustainable partnerships to address socio-economic issues, such as human-wildlife conflict.

From the local community’s perspective, an educational game park was the best strategy to tackle the problem of human-wildlife conflict. While this idea may sound feasible, it requires a lot of resources, including an in-depth needs assessment involving experts on the environment, wildlife and natural resources as well as education. Since sufficient funds are not available, the idea was halted.

Then, on 22 March 2019, The SFA Botswana research team revisited the community of Mmadinare to look into the community assets that are unexploited and can be used to help alleviate the effects of the challenges posed by wildlife on the community’s livelihoods. The following community assets and resources were identified:

• Lehokojwe and Makome hills
• Matlotla-historic monuments/buildings
• Eco-lodge
• Fish hatchery unit
• Leased land/plots
• Letsibogo Dam
• Dikgathong Dam

To maximize the use of these assets to benefit the residents, community asset training would be ideal in order to help locals learn how to best utilize their resources and assets for their own benefit (income, job creation, etc.). However, although a plan has been arrived at to create a reserve in the area, the lack of funds remains a major constraint. The team would welcome assistance from any donor or friend of the SFA Network.


The Life of an Artisanal Miner

By Grace Awosanmi

Artisanal and small scale mining (ASM) accounts for more than 90% of solid mining in Nigeria. The sector is informal and serves as a means of livelihood for more than 2 million people in Nigeria, including women and children. There has been a recent upsurge in workers in this sector as a result of unemployment and poverty. Artisanal miners are uneducated and unskilled, with no legal permit or qualification to work in the mines. They employ crude methods, using local or household implements for mineral exploration. For their daily sustenance, artisanal miners depend on the minerals they find, such as gold, tourmaline, silver, tin, dolomite, emerald, topaz, columbite etc.

The cool breeze brushed my face as I approached an open shed to wait for one or two miners to speak with. It was almost sunset and most miners were returning to their homes. I observed several bag-packs hung on the wall, the bare floor littered with debris and long benches that serve as beds for the miners. Then I noticed Abubakar Mamuda, a 29-year-old artisanal miner from Kebbi State in the Northern part of Nigeria, sitting on a slab of one of the stores in the market. Speaking his local dialect, I greeted him: ‘Ina wuni, yaya aiki,' and he replied, ‘lafia.’ We further exchanged pleasantries as I enquired  and chatted with him about his activities as a miner.

Below, in his own words (minimally edited for clarity), is what he told me:

I had been a farmer all my life before I ventured into mining about 6 years ago. I stay with five other miners in a room rented for us by our Oga [meaning boss]. I leave the room at 6 a.m and it takes me about 25 minutes to trek to the farmland where I work. On getting there, I change into my working clothes, which l always leave at the site. I start digging and keep digging for at least four hours, after which I pack up the soils I have dug up to wash in the river. If I notice any gold deposit in the soil as I wash it, I go back to dig some more. But if the soil is washed and there is no gold deposit, I move to another spot to start the digging process all over again. Since we are into illegal mining, we go into farmlands within the community unlawfully to dig for gold deposits. Whoever is caught by the landowners is charged and sentenced to days, months or years in prison unless help comes from a dealer who’s willing to bail him out.

Before now, miners used to pay a fee of ₦200 to enter anywhere in the town to mine, but that has been cancelled. However, when we find a mineral deposit without getting caught, we inform our Ogas. Then the Ogas look for the owners of the land and buy it off them. Wherever land is bought from the owners, we are hired to sample the land for gold deposits. We are paid enough to feed us for each day of work: an average of $2.86 per miner. I have many Ogas. I was paid ₦200,000 when I found a gold deposit some time ago.

Life as a miner is full of risks and very challenging. A single mistake can end the life of a miner and those of his colleagues at the site; for example there could be a sudden fall of pits as we dig, and other times it could just be part of the pit caving in and causing serious injuries to some part of our bodies. We have lost many miners as a result of this.

There’s no rest for me; rest comes when I sleep in the night. The motto here is ‘until you get money, no rest’. I only rest when I go for lunch since I don’t take breakfast.

Sometimes I don’t go home but sleep on the bare ground at the farmland when l have a lot to do. Some of us spend days and nights on the sites while using burning wood to scare away animals at night. The last time I saw my family was a year ago.

I am not at work today because I am not feeling good.

As we interacted further, many of his friends came around to contribute to our discussion. I realised that it was getting late and I had to be on my way home. But before leaving, I asked if I could take a picture of Abubakar and his friends who had just returned from work. It was then that I noticed Abubakar’s swollen feet and a sore on one of his toes.

‘I have been carrying this wound around for the past three months,’ he lamented.  He remarked that he had no money to go to the Community Health Centre for treatment. It wasn’t part of my assignment, but I couldn’t just leave him the way I met him. I offered to pay for his treatment, which he accepted joyfully. We made our way slowly to the Health Centre, where he commenced treatment after the payment of his bill. I then headed home knowing that he was in safe hands.

The story of Abubakar reflects the lives of over 2 million artisanal miners in various mining communities in Nigeria. Interventions on health and safety issues will be the key to help save people like Abubakar from danger and untimely death.


What will Uganda do if the River Nile runs dry?

By Dr. Richard Kagolobya

The recent apocalyptic environmental news headlines around the world about the drying up of the world famous Victoria Falls (shared by Zimbabwe and Zambia) in Southern Africa left me wondering what Uganda would do if the River Nile were to run dry. One such headline that caught my eyes was by Farai Shawn Matiashe, writing from Harare, Zimbabwe: ‘Victoria Falls, one of the natural wonders of the world, is running dry due to climate change.’ He reported that the long drought in Zimbabwe and Zambia has also led to relentless power cuts in the two countries because of their 50% dependence on hydroelectric power generated at Kariba Dam, which is fed by the River Zambezi. The unprecedented drought has left over five million people in need of food aid in Zimbabwe, coupled with a reduction in tourists who usually visit to have a view of the remarkable Victoria Falls.

Even though there may be a number of climate change doubters around the world, the recent dwindling water levels of the River Zambezi and the subsequent water droplets at Victoria Falls should be a glaring wake-up call to all of us to realize the dangers of climate change to all creation on planet earth.

However, as the above was happening in Southern Africa, here in Uganda, some development enthusiasts in recent days have been thinking about generating more hydro-electricity power so that the country is not caught off guard due to the increasing electricity demand in the face of population growth and foreseeable industrialization. These people have been romanticizing the idea of tinkering and destroying the magnificent Murchison Falls on the River Nile, even at the cabinet level! But these hydro-power based industrialization zealots rarely scrutinize the dangers of over reliance on hydro power in the face of climate change, which they also ironically contribute to. For example, in the case of Zimbabwe, due to the unprecedented dry spell, Matiashe reported that the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority introduced an 18-hour load shedding because Kariba Dam has fallen to its lowest water level since 1996, leading to a reduction in its electricity generation. It has also been reported that these issues have been caused by the changing rain-patterns around River Zambezi’s catchment area, which stretches to north-western Zambia, Angola and DRC, thus showing the international nature of eco-systems and exemplifying the far-reaching consequences of climate change and environmental degradation.

Comparatively, what are Kenyans, Tanzanians and Ugandans doing to Lake Victoria? This is important because Lake Victoria receives 80% percent of its water from direct rainfall and 20% from rivers and streams, and the only outflow from Lake Victoria is the Nile, which exits the lake near Jinja in Uganda. This makes Lake Victoria the principal source of the longest branch of the River Nile.

In the case of Uganda, quick places that come to my mind as far as catchment depletion is concerned are the Ssese and Kalangala Islands and the destruction of natural forests and their replacement with palm oil plantations, coupled with wanton timber harvesting and charcoal burning, which may affect the rainfall patterns around Lake Victoria. Another place that vividly comes to mind is the Rwera Swamp, which has been wantonly tampered with by sand mining and rice growing enterprises, yet it hosts several streams that eventually drain into Lake Victoria, and then later nourishes the Nile!

As we interfere with these resources, do we seriously think about the international environmental responsibility that countries that share Lake Victoria have for preserving the source of the River Nile’s water? Mind you, there are other nations like Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt that depend on River Nile for their survival.

Even though from September to December 2019, Uganda was grappling with heavy rainfall which led to multi-location floods, as well as landslides which killed a number of people, destroyed houses, farmland and road infrastructure in Bundibugyo and Bududa districts, the opposite can also be true in the foreseeable future as it was in Zimbabwe and Zambia during that period. Uganda (Tanzania and Kenya) can be bombarded by a lengthy dry spell leading to Lake Victoria releasing  painful tear-drops of water into the River Nile and the later turning into it a mere trickle due to climate change! And yet, Uganda, as it is today, is not at all prepared for such a climate change induced prolonged drought because of its heavy dependence on rain-fed agriculture and oversubscription to hydro-electric power. And as I write, four of the five major power stations that light Uganda’s homes and industries are on River Nile! These are Kiira Power Station (200MW), Nalubaale Power Station (180MW), Karuma Hydro Power Station (600MW) Isimba Hydro Power Station (183MW), apart from the Muzizi Hydro Power Station (44.7MW), which is along the Muzizi River in Kibaale district.

As we wonder about how Victoria Falls was running dry due to climate change, let nations like Uganda also think and plan for the worst case scenarios if nothing is done to mitigate climate change and its consequences. Nations should invest in climate change resilience programmes, one of which is to invest in other renewable energy sources rather than oversubscribing to hydroelectricity, which is at the moment susceptible to climate change. At least Kenya has made strides in that direction by unveiling the Lake Turkana Wind Power farm which consists of 365 turbines with a capacity to allot 310 megawatts of energy to Kenya’s national power grid.

Over the past decades, the mantra among nations relying on hydro-electricity power was that it is the most reliable and sustainable renewable source of energy. This is somewhat exemplified by Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited’s mission statement: ‘Sustainably generate reliable, quality and affordable electricity for socio-economic development.’ Yet such companies rarely think about hydropower’s dependence on environmental and climatic factors and scarcely invest in environmental sustainability projects in the face of climate change. However, going by the Zimbabwe-Zambia scenario, one would suggest that governments and private companies that have heavily invested in hydropower generation should be the chief advocates of environmental protection, preservation and renewal in the water catchment areas that feed the rivers on which the power stations are constructed. Otherwise, the escalating drought-spells leading to rivers and falls running to a trickle due to climate change may put to waste multi-billion hydro-power installations around the world.  And for the case of Uganda in particular, one would recommend that instead of gambling with the destruction of the much beloved Murchison Falls, the time is now to think about energy source diversification rather than over relying on hydroelectricity power on the River Nile. Otherwise, what will Uganda do if the Nile runs dry this time tomorrow?

Dr. Kagolobya works with Makerere University and is a Member of Sustainable Futures in Africa; an international consortium of multidisciplinary environmental sustainability researchers and enthusiasts.


Cooking up a Sustainable Solution to Malawi’s Energy Crisis

By Deepa Pullanikkatil and Dave Gerow

Cooking is one of the key contributors to Malawi’s significant energy crisis. At present, nearly the entire population uses firewood or charcoal to cook their meals. This has resulted in rapid deforestation, damaging agricultural activities and ultimately intensifying poverty. It’s also linked to serious health problems because of air quality issues associated with burning wood and charcoal indoors.

Malawi’s dependence on charcoal and firewood as fuel has only grown with the effects of climate change. Frequent droughts have resulted in the loss of thousands of fishing jobs and hurt the country’s ability to produce hydroelectric power, all of which increases the people’s dependence on coal and firewood for both fuel and employment. The result is that Malawi has the highest deforestation rate in southern Africa, with children and women engaged in the difficult labour of firewood collection. Now more than ever, there is a vital need for sustainable and clean cooking technologies in Malawi.

To address this need, the Scottish government announced a competition in October 2019. The winners of the Climate Justice Innovation Fund were a consortium including the University of Glasgow and several partners in Malawi: Lead Southern and Eastern Africa, Abundance, FAB Engineering and Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR). The project, which builds on earlier research on energy fuel conducted in Malawi by the University of Glasgow in collaboration with Abundance, will last 16 months with a total grant of £122,583. The team consists of engineers, industrialists, entrepreneurs, environmental scientists and local activists, and is led by Principal Investigator Dr. Nader Karimi of the Engineering Faculty at the University of Glasgow. The team members met through the Sustainable Futures in Africa (SFA) Network and previous collaborations.

This project aims to create a solution to Malawi’s cooking problem by using agricultural and municipal waste to produce bio-fuels which are then burned in a novel gas cooker. The key objectives are:

1- To deliver a ‘Bioenergy Kit’: a sustainable biofuel production (biogas and biosyngas) and utilization unit for clean and efficient cooking.

2- To manufacture and maintain this Bioenergy Kit in Malawi and attract attention from local businesses.

This innovative project combines two methods of biofuel generation to widen the range of biomass that can be used for fuel production. It further introduces a novel, robust cooker technology that can greatly reduce the cost of fuel processing, making the technology economically viable. Local manufacturing, maintenance, operation and marketing of the Bioenergy Kit will create local jobs, contributing to the empowerment of communities and the alleviation of poverty.

The Bioenergy Kit will be created at the University of Glasgow in close collaboration with the Malawian partners and will be engineered specifically for the Malawian situation. In line with Malawi’s waste availability, both dry waste and wet waste can both be used as fuel. The technology will be completely smoke-free, with a chimney that will be adapted based on users’ input. It will be piloted at a lunch kitchen in a primary school in Mbando village, where Abundance has been working since 2016. With this technology, the team hopes to collaborate on a sustainable solution to Malawi’s pressing energy crisis.

You can see the announcement of the grant here: https://www.corra.scot/grants/international-development/


A Cry from the Wetlands of Africa

By Anthony Kadoma, PhD Student and SFA member

Wetlands oh wetlands! Here we are, the wetlands of Africa, hear us on our World Wetland Day - https://www.worldwetlandsday.org

God created us to serve the needs of humans and their surroundings. We meet almost all their needs: Fresh drinking water we give, food we give, clean air to breathe we give. This enables them not only to live healthy, but happily as well.

We have given that and more forever, diligently and without complaining. But humans seem not to value and appreciate the goods and services derived from us.

‘Why, why?’ we ask ourselves.

Humans started by encroaching on us because they wanted to expand grazing land for the domestic animals, and we accepted. We supported seasonal vegetables such as cabbages and rice which do well in our fertile soil and conserved water, now we have been over-harvested over the years. We have endured the shame of being stripped naked until it’s too much for us to bear. That was not enough to satisfy the needs of human beings: Oh, who will ever satisfy human needs?

Because of your need to expand housing and factories, we have become the first victim and now we are being denied our original role and reason for existence; you are filling and dumping  in us soil and other debris as if there are no other places left for that. You don’t show any care or respect to us!

With your increased greed you have now decided to eliminate us! Completely ignoring the rights of the other peaceful and harmless organisms that live in us by directing your industrial wastes to us which chokes us badly. Oh, what did we do to you to deserve this?

Because of the pressure and burden you have placed on us, we have had to let go of some of our functions such as controlling floods, and now humans are crying that we no longer care. Harmful weeds and pests have occupied us because we can’t fight them as our capacity has reduced to fight for ourselves. However, we are blamed for that as well and some even suggest to completely do away with us in order to protect humans from vectors that cause disease, especially malaria.

We still want to exist and serve you as we have done before – you and your generations to come. All we are asking is that you show some care for us, help us to regenerate and use us wisely. Do not over-harvest us and leave our surrounding environment bare as this makes us too weak to defend ourselves and to support you well. Help us to restore and we will forever be your obedient servant, offering you your essential goods and services. Hear our cry, oh humans of Africa.

 

Anthony Kadoma is a University of Glasgow PhD student focusing on Environmental Sustainability and a member of Sustainable Futures in Africa Network.


Reporting on: Future Experiences | Glasgow School of Art (Expert Day 2)

By Vanessa Duclos, Research Manager of the SFA Network

Today (Nov 7th, 2019) was the second opportunity for the emerging designers to engage with the experts in Sustainable Development & the Global South. For more information about the project itself, please read this post.
The students presented the concept scenario they had developed as a team, as well as their individual direction which is a specific aspect of the future world they have created. These individual parts will lead to the design of distinct, imaginative and interrelated products, services and experiences. While designing, the students must keep in mind who they are designing for – future workers/future citizens – with consideration for how Sustainable Development work might evolve to enable/afford/alter the dynamics of people, process and practice in the Global South.

As most of them have never travelled to a destination in the Global South, they largely rely on the experts’ lived-experiences to grasp the reality of those living in developing countries. I was pleased to realise that as the emerging designers broaden their research and interact/interview the experts, they also start integrating what working across difference means, that there is more than often no “right” or “wrong”, “bad” or “good”, “them” and “us”, which are too easy and simplistic labels used to describe the disparity between the North and the South. I notice that they all felt more comfortable exploring the grey zone between both worlds where ideas and concepts can emerge, instead of stagnating in a criticism loop. While they learn from our experience, we also greatly learn from their creativity, flexibility, and open-mindedness which are skills that requires time and exposure to develop but which seem to be well built-in and natural for this group.


Impact Story from Nigeria: Policymakers Engagement on Artisanal Gold Mining

By Grace Idowu Awosanmi and Deepa Pullanikkatil

Dr Sola Ajayi, a Professor of Agricultural Science in Ile-Ife, Nigeria, got interested in agriculture through his experiences and observations growing up in a farming community. He is now the Director of the Nigerian hub of the Sustainable Futures in Africa (SFA) Network, a global network comprising members from the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Uganda, Malawi and Botswana. “Being auniversity teacher and a Professor of Agriculture gave me the desire to understand communities in a holistic manner,” says Ajayi. “I look at the issue of community development more than just that of agriculture because I know that the development of communities is a result of so many interwoven factors. This was my attraction for joining SFA.”

Since 2014, Ajayi has been researching the nexus between artisanal gold mining and agriculture. He has conducted several field visits and partnered with other universities (notably Goethe University in Germany and Murdoch University in Australia) on issues relating to mining, community relationships and social engagement. So at the inaugural SFA meeting in Botswana in 2016, where hub countries were offered seed grants and asked to come up with projects, Ajayi presented the idea of ‘Prioritizing developmental needs in agrarian and mining communities’. The research question was: What is the priority for artisanal mining communities in the face of limited resources? A variety of methods were used by Ajayi and his interdisciplinary team, which included Prof. Akande from Adult Literacy and Lifelong Education and Prof. Torimiro from Agricultural Sociology.

Ajayi recalls, “As we progressed, there came an escalation in the problem of artisanal mining per se, which also extended to both my immediate environment at Ile-Ife and to the community where I was born. The issue of artisanal mining in Nigeria spiralled to become a security issue that was also threatening the social fabric of communities where these issues were taking place. Therefore we decided to narrow it down and then look at it in context.”

Prof Sola Ajayi meeting with youth

Mining in Itagunmodi

About a year after the start of the SFA project, the government of Nigeria came up with the idea of changing its developmental paradigm to focus on agriculture and mining. They wanted to reduce the dependence of the Nigerian economy on oil, targeting other aspects of the economy instead. This prompted the SFA team to ask, “If the government considers mining and agriculture to hold the key to economic diversification, why are the communities where these activities take place poor?”

Their interest in this question led them to the village of Igbojaye, located in Oyo State.  The community is strategically located within a strongly traditional institutional environment. Itagunmodi is less than 20 km from Ile-Ife, which is regarded as the source/origin of the Yoruba race. However, with the rise of mining and the influx of migrants it brought to the area, the Itagunmodi Kabiyesi (king) had been displaced and had to leave the community. The Yorubas are predominantly farmers, traders and learned people. Therefore, migrants from the north of the country came for the jobs, displacing the original members of the community. Two in every three occupants of the community is a migrant Northerner who does not speak the local language. Prof Ajayi recalls an instance in Itagunmodi when the Jumat prayer was spoken in the migrants’ language. “The migrants were no longer learning the native language. Rather the few natives that were there were learning the language of the migrant miners. We also saw a shift in the kinds of business activities, in the kinds of food in circulation, culture and even the music played on the street. All these no longer reflected the culture of the people.” It was alarming to the locals that Itagunmodi was now being taken over by people of another tribe, and it was seen which was now a major security concern.

As tensions rose in Itagunmodi, Prof. Ajayi spoke with various concerned parties, including the Honourable Commissioner for Environment and Community Leaders and Traditional Rulers, the Deputy Governor of the State and the Chief of Staff of the State. The Chief of Staff was very glad that the SFA team had come to provide research-based perspectives and to draw the government’s attention to the issue, and eventually some of the information they provided led to the convening of a security meeting.

Ajayi also spoke to the Commissioner of Police for Osun State, who was not aware of the security implication nor that the situation had degenerated so much. The Commissioner later informed Ajayi that there would be a Security Summit, which was widely covered in the national dailies. Ajayi also spoke to a very significant and influential indigenous personality, who is presently the Director-General of the National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (and was previously Nigeria’s ambassador to Australia), whom he had met during a research project collaboration. This led to the SFA group being put in charge of mining-related issues for the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

At that time, the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission, a group tasked with the sustainable development of the predominantly Yoruba-speaking southwest region, asked the SFA hub to prepare a presentation that would inform the policy of the commission on the issue of mining and artisanal mining. Ajayi is happy that through SFA, he has been able for the first time to engage with policy makers and provide empirical evidence that can form the opinions and positions of both government and traditional institutions. He says, The goal of the project is not just research. The way I understand it, research is not an end in SFA, research is a means to an end and the end is the development of the community. We want to facilitate development not just as an academic exercise but as a daily experiential activity. So research is only a component of it to the extent that it serves to provide solutions, understanding and index analysis that will bring out solutions to problems. The development will involve members of the community, whether they are natives or migrants. Everyone that lives, everyone that transacts, everyone that has a stake in the community is a stakeholder so they need to be actively engaged. It will involve regulatory authorities, government authorities, traditional institutions and the people. It is important to engage people since the facilitation of development is something that can not be done alone.”