Sunday, May 28, 2017

Responsible Mining in Ghana

Mention the word mining and an apocalyptic scene pops into mind...

Mirny Diamond Mine in Russia

There's no denying that mining has an impact on the environment; it affects landscapes, flora, and fauna. Natural species can be damaged or cause significantly affected animals to flee the area to escape the constant disturbance of the mining activity. Leaving a previously mined area unrehabilitated is poor practice, which has changed in most places. This is a story about good practices in mining and the growing number of companies that return the landscape to its original state in an attempt to leave as little permanent environmental impact as possible. We will examine a closure plan in this blog piece, as it works to remedy some of the environmental impact from mining activity with the purpose of leaving behind a legacy of environmental remediation and post-mining land use for the local communities in which the mine was based. 

SIKA Mining (name changed for privacy) is a unique mine. Throughout its development, SIKA has had 10 mines on its property, both open pit and underground, in the Western Region of Ghana. These mining sites are interspersed between many communities which have both benefited from the mining activity as well as have been affected by it. The mine hires local labour wherever and whenever possible, but highly skilled labour is also brought in from other parts of Ghana. Because of the nature of the mine, SIKA Mining shares its roads, utilities and services with these communities and maintains services for them.
A local woman walking back from her farm through the mining concession

This mine’s life is predicted to end within the next few years and environmental remediation programs are already fully underway.  SIKA Mining has maintained a continuous remediation program of unused areas, but this piece will concentrate on remediation of the SIKA Tailing Storage Facility. SIKA Mining’s goals in reclamation are: (1) the desire to remediate the environmental impact caused by mining activity, which can offset loss of forest, by afforestation projects that are at least equivalent to the size and type lost; and (2) to consider end-use purposes regarding socio-economic improvement: re-establishment of native forest cover, creation of varied wildlife habitat (wetlands, vegetation), and finally the creation of tourist and amenity facilities (roads, buildings) through slope stability, as well as water issues.
In 2016, SIKA Mining underwent an information/consultative period with the surrounding communities to discuss the possible uses of land after closure over a series of 9 meetings. Both the Community Consultative Council (consisting of opinion leaders from the various communities) and the EPA led these meetings regarding ultimate end-use of the tailings pond. These meetings were well-advertised open forums and ultimately community members, Paramount Chiefs, Chiefs, Sub-Chiefs, and Queen Mothers attended.  The decisions taken during these meetings found the end use of the tailing pond should be agro-forestry (mainly cocoa farming), firewood, and re-planting of native plants, trees, and shrubs.
Presently, the area is being prepared for planting. Analysis of the tailings has found that the area has a high potential for phytoremediation. In 2015, an extensive study, conducted by external consultants, was performed on the potential for contamination of plant life by the heavy metals in the tailings, and it was found that most of the species did not absorb any levels of trace elements and was fit for human usage.                 
Topsoil has been placed on the old tailings. The accumulation of topsoil has a minimum depth of 20cm onto one meter of laterite, to help in the establishment of the crop. This is a mechanized process being handled by SIKA Mining using bulldozers and dump trucks for spreading the topsoil.
North and south view of tailings being reclaimed

 While this is going on, residents from local communities are being employed anywhere from 12-18 months to collect local plants and shrubs for soil control. They will also be the ones employed in the planting process of these plants, as well as in the cocoa tree initiative. The total cost of the operations will be absorbed under SIKA MINING closure plan.
 The economy of the region is based on three elements: agriculture, mining, and timber. Agriculture is by far the greatest employer of the region, involving over 65% of the labour force, with cocoa being the main economic driver of the region. Other cash crops include cocoa and palm oil. Planting in the tailings ponds is based on the guidelines established in the Mine Closure Plan, and state that there should be a minimum density of 1000 stems per hectare.
 Land tenure will be reverted to the former owners for their use. When the mining project began construction in 2000, the land that the mine occupies today belonged to the three Paramountcies and the local chiefs from these communities. The land was loaned to the mining company for duration of operation. This land reverts to these owners once mining activities cease and the land has met the criteria for remediation, ensuring that they will be the ones who benefit of the reclamation. Once the land reverts to the Chiefs, they will lease out the land for exploitation of cocoa farming. The farmers will earn their benefit from their labours.
 SIKA Mining is situated in a nature reserve, and exploitation of timber reserves is a portion of the economy. A proposal for growing trees for timber for export in the reclamation plan was abandoned to better reflect the needs of the communities. Most of the farmers live on subsistence agriculture, and their dependence on the two cocoa harvests a year leaves most of the people hunting for food in the forest. Women have small farms for growing staples and to sell in markets. As firewood is the main fuel used for cooking food and foraging for firewood in the forest reserve is common, it was decided to include a measure to plant fast growing trees for firewood using local labour. The benefits from this will go to the communities closest to the tailings storage facility in question.
Hawk hunting on talings pond
The most outwardly segment of the tailings pond reclamation plan called for re-establishing native plant species. As the mining activity has slowed in some areas, birdlife and aquatic life has already returned. At the tailings ponds each day, over a dozen predatory birds hunt for prey. As for the prey, mice, rats, snakes, smaller vertebrates, reptiles, etc., have re-established themselves, and there are also sightings of antelope returning (frequent) and some monkeys (rarely).  Re-establishing the local flora will further help usher in the return of biodiversity to the area. The collection of the local plants and the planting will also be done by paid labourers from the local communities, thereby simultaneously benefitting both the local environment and the communities.
The final use of this reclaimed land for agro-forestry and firewood appears to be appropriate based on the consultative period in 2016 and by expectations of landowners. Once the property reverts to the original owners, it will then provide economic benefits to those owners and subsequent leases.
 Each aspect of the plan does provide non-financial benefits to the communities, as well. The wood primarily intended for burning will also help preserve the surrounding forest. The planting of the cocoa trees as agro-forestry will be in line with the local communities’ economic reliance on the leaving mining industry. The benefit to planting cocoa is that the knowledge-base on techniques already exists in the local communities, so they won’t have to rely on outsiders to help them establish themselves.

 Soil remediation is a benefit to the community, as well as fulfilling SIKA Mining’s legal responsibilities and ensuring tailings will not pose health threats to inhabitants. The reintroduction of native species in the area is by far the most beneficial to the rebuilding of biodiversity. Mining operations have impacted the area for over 10 years, but with the efforts of restorations have already seen the return of predators and prey alike. This Mine Closure Plan does attempt to mitigate not only the environmental impact mining activities have had on the area but restore the land to its rightful owners for economic growth and help revive animal biodiversity.
Spontaneous re-vegetation on south parameter of the SIKA Tailings Pond (nitrogen-rich plants inserted for soil enrichment)

This week's blog and photos kindly provided by Gisèle Fortin. Gisèle is a Canadian who has been living in Ghana since 2012. She runs the NGO Sefwi Health Initiative in the Western Region of Ghana, and is presently studying a Master’s in Community Change and Conservation at Future Generations  University.

For more on Gisele, please visit:

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Gender Dimension: Women and Wildlife

What do women and wildlife have to do with one another? Future Generations faculty member Teri Allendorf explains why this is an essential enquiry surrounding the preservation of tigers in Chitwan National Park in Nepal.

Original text and images published in an article by Teri Allendorf for Community Conservation newsletter.

More and more frequently, attention is being given to the involvement of local communities as a factor in the success of conservation efforts around the world. As with all communities, men and women have different relationships with their environment due to the level of involvement that is customarily permitted. How does this factor into wildlife conservation? As put by Teri Allendorf and associate Neil Carter:

"The survival of many populations of threatened mammals depends on the willingness of human communities to coexist with them."

Allendorf and Carter have found that women generally show more concern for wildlife, humane treatment, and support for species conservation. This is thought to be based from their caretaking and nurturing characteristics, as compared to the value traditionally placed by men on traits such as competition and autonomy. However when presented with contexts of daily negative wildlife impact, such as crop raiding and livestock depredation, women are more likely to have a negative attitude towards wildlife conservation and protection than men.

Experience shapes view. Tigers occasionally prey on livestock and attack people. These negative occurrences influenced the differing in opinion between men and women when asked how they felt towards tigers. Based on Carter's previous research in Nepal, 84% of men expressed positive attitudes about tigers, while depending on the question, only 64%-73% of women felt similarly. This shift in attitude is proposed to be a result of greater direct costs of wildlife to women, women's greater fear of wildlife and heightened perception of risk, and women's lack of information and knowledge about the conservation of wildlife. The gendered division of labor also contributes to this divide. Women are often primarily responsible for the collection of natural resources, such as fuelwood and fodder for the household, and so are disproportionately exposed to dangers from wildlife.

These findings may seem to be contrary to one another, but Allendorf and her collaborators have found that this is a common gender gap driven by differences in belief and experience. Because women in communities such as those near Chitwan National Park in Nepal have traditionally not been included in conservation efforts, they have a lack of knowledge regarding the value of ecosystems and the protection of them. Based on a survey of 499 people, Allendorf and Carter found that the difference of opinion regarding tigers in Chitwan was a direct result of women having less knowledge about the involvement of tigers in promoting a healthy ecosystem. This then lead to less positive feelings towards the tigers in general. Accordingly, Allendorf suggests that addressing the impact of women's access to information may be one way of closing this crucial conservation gap.

"People who understand interrelationships between natural and human communities value protected areas more."

Although wildlife conservation has traditionally been dominated by men, the research conducted in Nepal by Allendorf and Carter about tiger preservation around Chitwan National Park shows that the perspectives of women are beginning to merit more value. Their findings present that the importance of women in this effort may be of crucial importance for several different reasons, the most important of which are: (1) women may be more vulnerable to environmental change and so could be more supportive of conservation as a result, and (2) women can be active agents of change for conservation efforts; by ignoring them, half of the population that can actively help to affect change is being overlooked.

This is supported by statistics that show that natural resource management groups that include women have demonstrated greater collaboration, solidarity, and conflict resolution characteristics that those with only men. These factors then in turn contributed to better, more sustainable outcomes. For example, the inclusion of women in forestry groups in India and Nepal has been directly correlated with better overall conditions and faster forest regeneration as a result of the better monitoring and rule enforcement they brought.

In Chitwan, this has held true in a most impressive way. Around 300,000 people live in the valley surrounding Chitwan National Park, and it's become one of the success stories in tiger conservation for the globally endangered Panthera tigris. The population of tigers there has risen from approximately 50 in 1998 to 125 in 2015. Most importantly, it's one of only 28 reserves in the world that can support at least 25 breeding female tigers.

"Unlike women in China and Myanmar, women in Nepal are not more negative toward protected areas, despite having less knowledge."

Allendorf and Carter propose that this may be the case because, unlike with women in China and Myanmar in similar situations, Nepal has made more efforts to include women in buffer zone projects over approximately the last 20 years. Although the gender disparities still exist, Nepal enacted policies that recommended the inclusion of women on elected committees, which in that area often includes community forestry and buffer zone committees. Though arguably not enough to even out the gender divide, these actions have contributed to men and women being equally likely to understand the benefits of the park and what contributions the presence of tigers contribute to a healthy ecosystem.

These findings are important because they highlight potential pathways to increase community support for and involvement in wildlife conservation. Knowledge could be all that underlies the difference in gendered attitudes regarding wildlife management, and access to information is one of the easiest things to increase, particularly when considering the benefit it may yield. This could include initiatives such as outreach programs targeted at women to increase knowledge about particular species and their role in the ecosystem, which could in turn improve the general community attitude towards the species overall. Women could furthermore influence the decisions to poach, as well as create more long-term implications for conservation efforts by influencing their children to have positive attitudes regarding conservation and providing them with the knowledge that supports it. By including everyone in the dialogue, we move forward together for a brighter tomorrow.

Original study presented in Biological Conservation journal:

Carter, N.H. & Allendorf, T.D. (2016). Gendered perceptions of tigers in Chitwan National Park, Nepal. Biological Conservation; 202; 69 DOI: 10.016/j. biocon.2016.08.002.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Celebrating Mothers: Health in the Hands of Women

To celebrate Mothers´ Day today, and every day, Future Generations Peru happily agreed to share with the Future Generations community some basic information on their project called  “Health in the Hands of Women” (MAM Project).

The MAM Project was implemented in four rural districts of the Huánuco region in Peru from 2010 to 2014 in a population of 92,000 inhabitants in 180 communities, served by 27 primary health care facilities (HF).  The area is located on the eastern slope of the Andes mountains facing the Amazon basin, nine hours by bus from the capital city, Lima.
The stated project goal was to contribute to improving the health of mothers, newborns, and infants, and to reduce chronic child malnutrition.   We wanted to demonstrate to the Peruvian Ministry of Health that it could effectively and sustainably implement at scale a model of primary health care organization and management in rural areas that could successfully support at scale a community-oriented system of health promotion that would reach mothers in the home to improve their home health knowledge and behaviors and improve maternal and child health status.

The project design centered on two over-arching strategies.  The main strategy was the SEED-SCALE methodology of Future Generations which was used to first develop and then strengthen sustainability and replicability of successful interventions.  As we all know,  SEED-SCALE emphasizes building on successes, three-way partnerships, and using local data to make local action plans.   
The second over-arching strategy for the MAM Project design was the Sectorization Strategy, which guides the reorganization of primary health services to focus on community health.  It was expected that this strategy would be sustained and expanded by the regional Ministry of Health. 

A major component of the MAM Project strategy was the Modular Program for Training Female Community Health Workers (CHW) in Maternal, Neonatal, and Child Health.   This was a behavior change strategy that introduced innovations in the Peruvian health sector for CHW trainers (primary health care personnel), supervisors and supporters of CHW (Community Facilitators who were community members), older community women as CHW, with teaching and training materials (flipcharts and facilitator manuals), and a CHW learning/teaching method (“Sharing Histories”).
The MAM Project team of Future Generations trained the trainers (health personnel) and provided training modules and educational flipcharts for teaching mothers.  We also provided checklist-type tools that we had developed to help guide CHW to conduct home monitoring of mothers and children and to report on their activities.  
In health facilities, health personnel trainers provided monthly training workshops to female CHWs and Community Facilitators.   In communities, Community Facilitators supervised and supported CHWs.    CHWs did home visits to pregnant mothers, newborns, and children under age two to share histories with mothers, teach mothers new information with flipcharts, observe mothers´ practice of new behaviors, and detect any danger signs for referral of mothers, newborns, and infants to the nearest health HF.

A key project activity was the implementation and testing of the innovative teaching method for CHWs, called “Sharing Histories,” that empowers mothers through the sharing their own memories of their childbirth and child rearing experiences, hearing other´s experiences, and learning best practices by analyzing what was done correctly or incorrectly in the past.   Female CHW gained self-confidence to speak in front of others, took ownership of their own experiences, and became more effective in their home visits to other women teach them better health practices.  The MAM project tested the effect of the “Sharing Histories” teaching method as an embedded operations research project using a cluster-randomized controlled trial.

MAM worked to improve the quality of care in health facilities (HFs) by changing health staff attitudes about community health outreach and guided the development of management teams in each HF to work together on community health plans and actions.   We worked with them to do an initial self-evaluation and self-planning exercises for both of those purposes.

The final evaluation studies of the MAM Project in 2014 were compared to baseline studies conducted in 2010, major findings showed major improvements in  knowledge and practices of mothers related to health and nutrition of mothers, newborns, and children.   
Some of the key accomplishments of MAM Project include:
  • Significant reduction in chronic malnutrition in children 0-23 months of age whose mothers received one or more visits from a CHW, among mothers who could read.
  • Significant increases in knowledge of pregnancy, post-partum and newborn danger signs by an average of 16 to 48 percentage points.
  • Significant increase in newborns that were wrapped and dried immediately at birth (76% to 98%)
  • Significant increases in good hygiene and sanitation practices, including hand washing, disposal of infant feces, water treatment at the point of use, and reducing in-door breeding in dirt-floor kitchens of small animals (such as guinea pigs which are served for special meals).
  • Significant increase in the percentage of HF managed by CLAS Associations (43% to 70%).
  • Development of a new cadre of human resources for community health called Community Facilitators.  All 47 of them continue to be paid stipends directly by the municipalities in 2017 for their work to support and supervise female CHW.
  • Community Facilitators and female CHWs are recognized by health workers as being  key components for the HF-community health strategy.
  • Community Facilitators and CHWs are recognized by community authorities and municipalities as playing a critical role in improving community health.
  • The Huánuco Regional Health Directorate officially established a permanent “Center for Development of Competencies in Health Promotion” in the Acomayo Health Center which serves to sustain the new approach to community health promotion by guaranteeing the on-going training of trainers so they can continue the training and support to Community Facilitators and female CHWs on a wider scale.
  • Municipalities are increasing support to HFs by continued financing to the Community Facilitator stipends, training costs for monthly workshops, and non-cash incentives for CHW and Community Facilitators.  Municipalities expanded their investment in contracting extra health personnel, constructing and remodeling infrastructure for health posts, providing equipment, implementing services (laboratory, maternity waiting homes), and providing fuel for motorcycles or bus fare for health personnel supervision to communities.
The strategy for reorienting health services to work in communities was presented in our publication, Methodological Guide to Sectorization for Health Promotion in Co-management with the Community, which was approved by the Huánuco Regional Health Directorate (the sub-national office of the Ministry of Health) and published by Future Generations in September 2012.   A Directorate Resolution declared the Sectorization Strategy as an official policy for the Huánuco region, to be scaled up to every primary health HF in the region (about 400).
The MAM project built on the new CLAS law on collaborative management of health facilities with citizen participation to strengthen linkages between community, HFs, and municipalities. This included incorporation of community priorities in a participatory budgeting process and coordination for additional sustainable health financing from both CLAS and municipal governments.
Future Generations Peru continues with this work in a variety of ways, and currently has the signed support of the Minister of Health to significantly expand this work in Peru in support of the National Plan for Reduction of Anemia and Chronic Child Malnutrition 2017-2021.

*CLAS are Local Health Administration Community Associations – private non-profit community organizations that collaboratively administer primary health care facilities under contract with the government.


This week's blog post and accompanying photos are kindly shared by Dr. Laura Altobelli, Future Generations University's Professor of Equity & Empowerment (Health) and Director of Future Generations Peru. She has more than 30 years of experience in research, evaluation, and public policy innovation and advocacy, and uses these skills to bring scalable solutions for strengthening public health systems in developing countries.

For Dr. Altobelli's full biography, please visit: .html

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Voices of Future Generations: Life in the Isle of Skye

By all counts, the Isle of Sky is an isolated and rugged place. In this episode of Voices, we hear about it from someone who grew up there.

"When people aren't near services, you might tend to make more of an effort to do things together," she suggests, while describing the community events and pastimes on the island.