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.”


Women Environment Programme Wins Nigerian Energy Award

By Deepa Pullanikkatil, Co-Director of the Network

It was a proud moment for Women Environment Programme (WEP) when the 2019 Energy Globe National Awards in Nigeria were announced and they were declared winner. The technological innovation that got them the award was the Solar Tent Dryer, which has helped promote women economic empowerment in Adogo District, Nigeria.

In July 2018, WEP built a solar dryer at Adogo community using locally available materials. The tent was built like a greenhouse, with a short brick wall, tin roof and plastic sheets as walls, with air vents to allow warm air to rise. As the warm air rises, the fruits and vegetables which are laid out in racks made with nets are dried efficiently, while preserving its nutritional value. This technology hygienically and efficiently dries fruits and vegetables using solar radiation, which heats the tent like a green house. Previously, the community used to dry fruits and vegetables out in the open, prone to contamination by dust and flies. They said their pepper crop used to get rotten very quickly. Adogo community now uses the tent to dry chillies and fruits and says they are able to note that the colour and nutrition is better when drying in the tent and furthermore, the produce is preserved and lasts longer.

A simple, yet effective technology, the solar tent was inspired by Solar Fish Dryers built under the Lake Chilwa Basin Climate Change Adaptation Programme, implemented in fishing communities in southern Malawi. Deepa Pullanikkatil, who had previously worked in this project, shared the technology with WEP Founder Priscilla Ackchapa at the University of Glasgow in 2017 and brought a model of the solar tent to Nigeria in early 2018. WEP was able to replicate this model in their Adogo community and customize it to local situation with community participation. Both Deepa Pullanikkatil and Priscilla Ackchapa are members of the Sustainable Futures in Africa (SFA) Network and connected at the University of Glasgow at an SFA conference.

The technology is reducing waste of food produce, ensure availability of seasonal food for longer duration and preserves food, thereby increasing incomes for the community. WEP’s project of Promoting Women Empowerment through Efficient Technology that makes available solar dryer tents in rural communities won the organization he Energy Globe Award, which is today’s most prestigious environmental award. With over 2000 project submissions from more than 187 participating countries annually, it distinguishes projects regionally, nationally and globally that focus on energy efficiency, renewable energy and conservation of resources. Women Environmental Programme (WEP) was presented as the 2019 Energy Globe Award winners for Nigeria on 29th October 2019 on the occasion of the National Day Celebration at the Austrian Embassy in Lagos, Nigeria.

Women drying chillies in the solar dryer built by WEP

Nigeria Hub's Field Visit to Itagunmodi – The City of Gold

By Grace Awosanmi – Research Administrator of Nigeria hub
Revision made by David Gerow

The Nigerian hub recently (April 2019) made a follow-up visit to Itagunmodi, an ancient but underdeveloped community of farmers famed as the “city of gold” in the Atakumosa West Local Government Area of Osun State.

Under the leadership of the Hub Director, Prof. Sola Ajayi, a team of 9 experts were involved in the field activity. They were drawn from First Technical University, Ibadan and Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. The team comprised specialists in Adult Education, Crop Production, Ecology, Geology, Geography, Remote Sensing, Youth Development/Psychology, and a bilingual Hausa-Yoruba-English interpreter.  The primary objective of the visit was to assess social and environmental changes in the community since the 2016 visit, during which time the community had witnessed an unrestricted influx of foreign and local migrant miners engaging in illicit gold mining, mostly coming from the northern part of the country. The assessment involved observations, key informant interviews, focus group discussions and the administration of questionnaires.

In the time between the two project visits, the community had been diluted. The miners who had previously lived outside the community have now settled in and make up about 75% of the population. Consequently, there has been an apparent shift in the social life and economic activities of the community. The new demographics have occasioned a shift in the kinds of businesses that exist, food preferences, music and even language. Rather than the miners learning the local language, indigenes were learning the miners’ language. The impoverished community members were jumping at the opportunity to make money from the miners without being mindful of the consequences. Home and land owners chose to rent out any available place/farmland to the miners, who are offering as much as four times the normal rates, and thereafter relocating to non-mining and safer communities. Particularly insightful were the discussions held with the women’s food vendor group, youths and other key informants in the community. Various concerns were raised over the recent developments: the invasion by artisanal miners from neighbouring communities, states and countries into their community; the negligence of the government; and the poor relationship between the residents and artisanal miners.

The field visit afforded the hub an opportunity to pre-test the questionnaires designed for a socio-economic and demographic survey and to strengthen relationships with the community through the identification of community representatives.


Impact Story: A Solar Dryer Tent to Support Farmers in Nigeria

The Problem

For the farmers of Adogo, a community in Nigeria’s Mbaya district, sun drying was the only way to preserve produce. Local women would lay fruits and vegetables on the ground to dehydrate them for future use. But sun drying brings problems: it’s weather-dependent, it exposes the food to contaminants like dust and insects, and it’s surprisingly time-consuming, as the women need to guard their produce from scavenging animals, both wild and domestic. In Adogo, where the majority of Benue State’s peppers and tomatoes originate but which has no nearby market or processing industry, the smallholder farmers faced a lose-lose situation: either inefficiently dry their produce in the sun, or sell it at giveaway prices before it rotted. All too often the food went bad, just because the farmers lacked a safe, sanitary, reliable method of preserving their produce.

The Idea

Enter Pricilla Achakpa, a celebrated environmentalist and Executive Director of Women Environmental Programme (WEP) in Nigeria. In 2017, Achakpa was invited to the University of Glasgow for a meeting of Sustainable Futures in Africa (SFA). There she heard a fellow SFA member, Dr. Deepa Pullanikkatil, present on climate change adaptation technologies that were used in a project in Malawi. One technology mentioned by Dr. Pullanikkatil made a particular impression on Achakpa: the Solar Dryer Tent. Here was a simple construction, similar to a greenhouse, that would not only allow produce to be dried quickly, safely and hygienically, but which had already been successfully implemented in Malawi, where it was used to dry fish. Achakpa knew at once that she was on to something that could change lives in rural Nigerian communities like Adogo.

CONSULTATIVEMEETING

Three months later, Achakpa and Pullanikkatil met again, this time at an SFA conference in Nigeria. This time Pullanikkatil brought along a model of a Solar Dryer Tent as well as a how-to construction video. Achakpa brought these to Adogo, where the farmers responded with overwhelming positivity. They recognized a priceless opportunity to stop their produce from rotting, meaning they would be able to dry enough food to last all year, and also to sell preserved goods at fair prices rather than offloading it dirt-cheap before it rotted. With the community whole-heartedly on board, WEP delegated a team to strategize with the villagers in a consultative meeting.

The Project

The people of Adogo committed to providing land for the tent as well as labour, wood, sand, water and cement. WEP would provide the necessary funds as well as bricks, tin roofing sheets, plastic sheets, nets and other materials. To oversee the construction of their tent, the community formed a project Implementation Committee consisting of local masons, carpenters, church leaders, enthusiastic youths and the community head, Zakki, who mobilised people and played a supervisory role.

Carpenters

Construction began in July 2018 and was completed a month later. The result was a tent built 21 feet wide and 32 feet long, with a 2-foot deep foundation. The walls, made of burnt bricks, stand 5 feet high, giving the tent a strong foundation and protecting it from animals, wind and flooding. The wooden pillars bring the height of the tent up to 7 feet, with galvanized aluminium sheets used for roofing. These sheets absorb sunlight, and the heat they generate is retained by hard polythene sheets used as walls, with vents for circulation. Inside the tent are double-decker racks, each 4 feet wide and 22 feet long, covered with polythene and netting on which produce can be left to dry with minimal monitoring from the farmers, freeing them up to tend to other duties.

HANDOVER

The Impact

The community have reported that their produce dries faster in the Solar Dryer Tent than it did outdoors, and that the nutritional properties of the produce are better retained. The Solar Tent Dryer is cost-effective, easy to build (requiring only semi-skilled labour), and suitable for rural areas of Nigeria where subsistence farming is highly concentrated. The widespread use of Solar Dryer Tents would have a huge impact, enhancing the storage of produce during harvests and reducing post-harvest losses, all of which means an increase in the availability of food and a major reduction in food waste.

PEPPER

Safer, healthier, more abundant food for the people of Adogo to consume and sell, and a permanent structure to ensure continued success into the future. It’s easy to see why Zaki Linus Asorzwa, the district head of Adogo, called the Solar Dryer Tent a “momentous milestone for the good of the community” as he expressed his gratitude to WEP for their efforts. But it was not WEP alone that turned the tide in Adogo; it was the result of a collaboration between WEP and the community, as well as a fortuitous meeting between Achakpa and Dr. Pullanikkatil. Thinking back on it, Pullanikkatil says, “It is heartening to know that a simple conversation and meeting through SFA in Glasgow helped transfer this technology to Nigeria and is now helping communities there.”

You can see a short documentary about Adogo’s Solar Dryer Tent here: https://youtu.be/jT4usNwpSkg


After Lagos: Reflections and New Horizons in the SFA

The line between the personal and the professional is one that is more defined for some than others - what we feel versus what we think, what we love versus what we do. The line between the past and future is also held (in the present moment) differently from person to person. For some, the present is contingent on the past, seen through the eyes of, and felt through the experiences of, the past. For others, the present is made up of what is seen around you now; and is a stance that is looking towards the future, able to see it best if looking directly at it, with one’s back to the past. As I reflect on my work in international contexts, with development and sustainability related projects and partners, and in particular with my colleagues across the Sustainable Futures in Africa Network over the past weeks and years, I realise that those lines between personal and professional, and between past and future, become ever harder to make out, ever more slippery. My personal, my history and inheritance, my instincts and emotions, my profession and my expertise seem entirely entangled. It is with this recognition that I share the following statement, taken in part from an opening address to our recent symposium, and in part from a period of reflection in the immediate aftermath.

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Prioritizing the Challenges to the Development of Mining Communities in Nigeria

Prioritizing the Challenges to the Development of Mining Communities in Nigeria.

Sustainable Futures in Africa researchers from Obafemi Awolowo University and Women Environmental Programme headed to Komu-Igbojaye-Babaode Mining Communities in Oyo State to experiment methodologically  to uncover the socio-ecological impact of the mining on the local community.

You can find a snapshot of the trial below, where a drone was used to gather geographical information to support the data analysis.

A detailed report from our last research trial is here for more information: https://sustainablefuturesinafrica.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/itagunmodi.pdf


SFA researchers from Obafemi Awolowo University and Women Environmental Programme conducted field trials in the Isoya Community, Western Nigeria to explore the use of rituals in agriculture:  the indigenous practice of using dead dogs to control termites in cocoa farmlands.

Cocoa is the leading agricultural export of Nigeria, the country is currently the world's fourth-largest producer of cocoa, yet termite control becomes the major challenge for the plant cultivation. Though existent agricultural practice provides a range of plant protection solutions, the Nigerian farmers prefer to employ native rituals.

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Various beliefs guide the norm of ritual practice in Nigeria. The tradition of using the dead flesh in agriculture has been restricted in the country, yet farmers claim this method to be the most effective to prevent termites invasion and keep on practising this ritual through the restriction.

For the local farmers, this practice has a dual meaning: rational and spiritual. Rationally, they use decaying flesh to bring ants to the field in order to exterminate termites.  For this, the farmers palm-oil dead dogs and bury animals on every corner of the field. Spiritually, the farmers believe in a mysterious connection between dogs and termites that adds particular significance to the practice.

An interdisciplinary analysis will be conducted on this data during the upcoming Symposium and results will be shared shortly.

Scoping Trial, Nigeria

Scoping Trials

Sustainable Futures in Africa is an interdisciplinary collective aiming to build understanding, research, and practice in socio-ecological sustainability in Africa. In order for relationships to be built, methodologies to be explored, and to achieve the shared understanding that is aspired for, the SFA network is running trial research projects. These are being run with an emphasis on the trial and error aspect, for researchers to explore the unfamiliar, social scientists exploring hard science and vice versa. Furthermore colleagues in Glasgow will take every opportunity to work with the projects in Nigeria, Uganda, and Botswana as they develop.

The Nigerian research trial will take place in Autumn 2017 with a collaborative partnership including:

The Research Question has been defined as: Prioritizing Challenges to the Development Of Mining Communities In Nigeria: The Case of Itagunmodi (Osun State) and Komu-Igbojaye-Babaode (Oyo State).

Research Trial update, Nov 2017

The Nigerian research team is on the move again. After the exciting and memorable visit to Itagunmodi Atakumosa West in Osun state in July. The team is paying another visit this winter to other mining communities situated at Oyo State in the Southwest Nigeria, namely Igbojaye - Komu and Baba-ode, where we will be familiarizing and interacting with the community members and stakeholders.

The aim of this research is to experiment methodologically in trying to uncover the socio-ecological impact of the mining on the local community. You can find a detailed report from our last research trial here for more information: https://sustainablefuturesinafrica.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/itagunmodi.pdf

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