Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Quick Update on Life

While I was in Ghana I had the chance to meet up with some fellow EWBers. Sarah, Trevor and I attended the National Farmer’s day celebration for the Northern Region.

Here are Trevor and Sarah in their Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) outfits.

The event is organised by the ministry and prizes are handed out to outstanding farmers in different categories (sorghum, maize, millet, pigs, tomatoes, etc…). It was also an opportunity for politicians to get on their soap-boxes (Ghana’s next federal election is in 2008 – of which I was made keenly aware)

The winning Sorghum farmer and his prize

I’ve been back in Zambia for one week trying to catch up on the world of sorghum but being seriously distracted by the pending arrival of my boyfriend Scott! Yippee.

Happy Holidays to all!

Here is a photo of me and Lolita (daughter of a Malawian farmer - I love her expression!)

PS. I just posted two updates - so don't forget to check out the one titled 'Activists'

Activists in Ghana

I just spent two weeks in Ghana as a guest speaker at a retreat for activists (self professed) working with communities affected by the extractive industries. I felt a bit nervous going in but also pretty excited about the opportunity to learn about their work.

I was asked to put together a brief talk about the mining industry. I mentioned the difficulty and expense associated with finding an economic ore deposit, the huge up front capital costs of opening a mine, the risks associated with commodity volatility and political instability, the technical decisions in selecting the mining method and the challenges with regards to waste management. Not to mention modern society’s complete dependence on products derived from mines. (thanks JP & S)

The activists spoke about the affects of waste dumps on agricultural land, the relocation of communities, the impact on water and air quality, the lack of jobs for local community members, the disruption caused by blasting and heavy equipment, examples of aggression and coercion by mining officials, insignificant revenues to local and national governments.

Of course there is a middle ground, where the mining company can mitigate the negative environmental and social affects, benefit the local and national economies AND make enough of a profit for the mine to be worth developing. But it seems like reaching that middle ground requires some form of social pressure, and in certain cases activism is necessary.

The folks at the conference were intelligent, pragmatic and dedicated. I know I don’t have the communication skills, persuasion skills or political savvy to accomplish what they set out to achieve. I respect the work they are doing and for the most part the methods they use. I learnt a lot and gained a new respect for the work of an ‘activist’.