More than twenty members of the Asemdasouzo community, in Ellembelle district, showed up on the 11th of September when UCSOND had called them in for a meeting. The Australian Government had shown interest in assisting local communities in the Western Region of Ghana with livelihood support. UCSOND therefore asked the community members about which issues they where facing in their everyday life. Program coordinator for UCSOND, Michael Nyarku, explained to the community members about the importance of the meeting.
»The Australian government is interested in hearing about what problems you are dealing with. We will collect this information and send a proposal to them. We cannot guarantee you that they will provide any support, but it is a good thing that we address and discuss the issues you are facing,« he said.
It quickly became clear that unemployment was a major issue for the whole community. So far the community had based its livelihood mainly on farming and fishing, but due to the blooming gas and oil infrastructure in the area, the community was now facing rapid challenges both economically and socially. The members of UCSOND therefore tried to inspire the community members to think in different ways on how they could create new jobs for themselves.
Impact of oil and gas
Ghana Gas is constructing a processing plant close to the community of Asemdasouzo. This has meant that a lot of the community members have lost their land. Either they have been forced to sell it, or been subject to land grabbing. Fishing has also become more difficult since the pipelines that are transporting the gas have restricted the movement of the fishermen, and they fear that the noise from the pipelines will affect the amount of fish in the area.
The community members are also afraid of the assumed environmental impacts that the presence of the oil and gas companies might have, once they start with the production of gas. The massive exhaust emission could result in land pollution and loss of soil fertility due to acid rain. Wrong disposal of waste and noise pollution could in worst case, cause ecological disturbances of the whole area that will have a huge impact on the community.
The construction of the processing plant is by most part being done by Chinese contractors. Most community members, and especially the young women, do not have the needed skills to be employed at the processing plant, and are therefore facing huge livelihood problems. The representatives from UCSOND therefore addressed the possibility of utilizing the presence of the processing plant in another way.
Ideas for the future
The community members had a hard time coming up with new ideas of changing their livelihood, but after some time the ideas began to flow. A member of the community mentioned that establishing a Livelihood Training Centre, where the community members could develop and learn practical skills in terms of craftsmanship, would be a big help for the whole community. A woman had a dream of starting her own hair dressing salon, while a young man wished to learn how to make shoes.
A Livelihood Training Centre could help the community in creating new jobs for themselves. Using the locally available materials, the community could take advantage of the presence of the oil and gas companies in the area and benefit the whole community. They could sew the uniforms for the workers at the processing plant, or supply them with food and other products or services.