Monday, December 5, 2011

"Will Global Rights Teach Us?"

Abi Baiyewu, our Nigeria Country Director, just sent us photos from her assessment trip last week to Dareta and Abare communities in Zamfara state, a resource rich state located in the northwestern Nigeria. 

The spot where the mine collapsed
 When I saw the photo of the collapsed gold mine in Dareta where four artisanal miners were buried alive in October I shuddered.  Then when Abi told me that the government did nothing to rescue them and has done nothing since to address the safety of the workers, it was clear to me how important Global Rights new project in Zamfara State is going to be. 

Last month, Global Rights launched a project to build local civil society capacity in Zamfara to improve the transparency and accountability of state and local government resource management governance.

To give you some background, commercial quantities of gold deposits were found in Zamfara in 2002.  This discovery ordinarily should have been a blessing to the rural, poor community which lives on less than a dollar a day.  Unfortunately, this discovery has been more of a curse than a blessing.

The Nigerian government has granted licenses to foreign mining firms which do not conduct the actual mining, but purchase semi-processed nuggets from artisanal miners. The mining companies get a good bargain for these nuggets from miners who risk their lives daily in unregulated and dangerous mines.

The mining has also had devastating impact on the community at large.  The unregulated artisanal gold mining has led to lead poisoning, which was brought to light in March 2010. The poisoning has affected over 18,000 families, killing more than 1,000 children and 500 adults.  Just two weeks ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded that the lead poisoning is still impacting surrounding communities.

Despite the ongoing tragedies, the Nigerian government continues to neglect the welfare and safety of gold miners and the local communities.

Children in Dareta
In Dareta, Abi was told that 79 children died in three weeks during the peak of the poisoning.  One mother asked Abi:  “We keep appealing to international donors to assist us obtain clean water, make our environment safe enough for our children and teach us how to recognize poisoning symptoms; but there is also a lot our government can do. Will Global Rights teach us how to access assistance from government?” 

The answer is yes.  And the key to her question is “teach us” because we know that change and accountability must come from the community.  We will build our local partners’ capacity with targeted toolkits and trainings to build their knowledge and skills to help them seek greater accountability from their government.  Abi and her team will also work with its partners to develop an advocacy campaign to engage government at all levels to demand transparency and accountability to protect their rights.

We appreciate the Ford Foundation’s support for this critically important project to improve government accountability in Zamfara.  We will keep you updated on our progress with our local partners in Zamfara State to improve the lives of those who live in the communities affected by gold mining. 


Posted by Susan M. Farnsworth

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