The Plight Of “A Rich But Tattered” Iron Ore Community-Shieni

Residents of Shieni, a community in the Tatale/Sangule district of the northern region and also shares boundaries with the western part of Togo, on daily basis continue to face life’s toughest challenge as they struggle to make a living. Sheini, and its cluster of villages, has a population of about 25,000 – mostly peasant farmers and hunters.

The community lacks basic facilities such as potable water, health facility, good roads, electricity amongst others.  However, the community is endowed with bountiful  natural resources which could be mind on daily bases for hundred years without finish.

Residents of Shieni and surrounding communities are known to be yam farmers unfortunately their produce are left to rot and they continue to wallow in abject penury because there is no access to market due to the deplorable nature of roads leading to the communities. Students go to school without uniforms and/or sandals because their parents cannot afford.

The people of Shieni, have to trek for 13 miles to Zabzugu to access health facility while pregnant women are carried on motorbikes or in tricycles to health facilities notwithstanding the deplorable nature of the road. This result in the death of pregnant women and/or their babies in their quest to get a health center for save delivery.

Efforts by government and development partners to reduce maternal mortality under the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be in vain if health facilities continue to be in scarcity for some communities in the country.

During my visit to Shieni community, I met Madam Asana Wumbei who was returning from the hospital with her two-day old baby on a motorbike together with her husband and an aunt, all on the same motorbike including their luggage which they had taken to the Zabzugu health facility where she was delivered of her baby boy. She tells me two years ago, she lost her baby as a result of prolonged labour.

‘Because the journey is far, when I started experiencing pains in my abdomen, I started walking to Zabzugu because my husband had travelled and all our neighbours had also gone to farm with their motorbikes and tricycles.

But half way the journey, I could not move any longer n had to rest under a tree, the next moment I open my eyes, was in the evening and I noticed I was in the hospital and my pregnancy was no longer there. Moments later, I was told I lost my baby”. I was told a tricycle bought me to the facility, Madam Asana added.

An elder in Shieni, Mr Pogma Moses bemoan the situation and described it as unfortunate. According to him, the feel left out in the distribution of national resources. Their plight has started getting worse as mining companies enters there to start the mining of iron ore at the Shieni Hills which was discovered in 1960. Sheini has three hills of which all of them are iron rich.

In 2009, a Canadian mining company herein referred to as Cardero Ghana Limited and Emmaland Resources Limited were jointly granted the licenses to explore Iron Ore around Sheini and its environs and develop the concession if necessary. The people in the affected communities are yet to come to terms with the devastating effects of the mining activities even at the exploratory phase of the project.

The mining operations have polluted water bodies, including the Nkunibun River (Elephant River) which remains the main source of water for domestic and agricultural purposes, destroyed farm lands and general loss of livelihoods.

Some communities have been disconnected from others due to the destruction of the only bridge linking Shieni and other communities such as Sangbaa, Wajahdo Campuni, Adjeidom, Kandin, Kutiebu, Nakando and Lakpale. This, most people in the communities say was as a result of the operations of the mining company.  in the rainny season, activities including the education of their stand still as they cannot cross the river.

Free, prior and informed consent is an international convention which mining communities are supposed to uphold. The convention gives them the right to be informed, involved and consented to mining activities.

Ghana is a signatory to the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP). Article 19 of the UNDRIP says: “States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent (FPIC ) before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.

The FPIC process is the main means of ensuring that potentially affected communities have all necessary information at their disposal in order to negotiate on equal terms with project proponents.  Balanced negotiation demands education of stakeholders (governments, proponents, affected communities) on their rights and responsibilities.

The chief and people of Sheini say: “The only opportunity we had to meet with the managers of the companies was when the District Chief Executive and some government officials came to introduce the miners to us.”

The communities complained bitterly that when the companies were constructing linking roads to the mining site, farm crops and teak plantation were destroyed. However no compensation was paid to any of the affected farmers in spite of complains.

The communities fear their plight maybe worse off than their counterpart communities in the Southern part of Ghana that have already hosted mining companies. Although the discovery of iron ore is very important development, which presents another opportunity for Ghana to increase revenue from the extractive sector, it also poses significant threat to the environment and livelihoods of members of host communities and national infrastructure if not properly managed.

until an urgent and decisive action is taken, the people of Shieni and its surrounding communities would continue to leave in isolation and their living conditions, deteriorated.

Source: Alima Bawa Tamale

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