Residents of the communities affected by the Bui hydro-electric power project have appealed to the Bui Power Authority (BPA) to train them in economic empowerment to enable them to properly invest the compensation due them.
The residents believed it would be beneficial for the BPA to go beyond the payment of compensation to giving them skills training so as to establish and manage small scale business ventures to generate income.
Citing the experience of communities like Kenyase in the Asutifi District, the residents observed that because some people could not utilize their compensation judiciously, they were now languishing in poverty.
Nana Kwadwo Wuo, Chief of Bui Village, made the appeal on behalf of the residents at Bui in the Tain District of Brong-Ahafo Region during a day’s Validation/Dissemination Forum organised and sponsored by ActionAid-Ghana.
It was based on a report on the study of the potential impact of the Bui Dam Construction on the socio-economic development of the communities in the area.
The study, commissioned in November 2010 by ActionAid, sought to assess the socio-economic and environmental opportunities and threats of the Bui hydro-electric dam project on livelihoods.
It was to assist the organisation to advocate for the realisation of the social, economic, cultural and political rights of the people in the dam catchment area and the Tain District as a whole.
The 45 participants, including traditional and community leaders, were drawn from villages such as Dokyina, Babato-Akanyakrom, Bongase (Bui village), Bui Camp and Banda-Ahenkro.
Nana Kwadwo Wuo said beside the payment of monetary compensation, the BPA, as part of the resettlement package, must not just allocate farm lands for their farming activities but should train them on modern agricultural methods and mechanisms such as mixed cropping or crop rotation to increase yield.
He called on the researchers who conducted the study to assist them by suggesting the realistic amount of compensation to be paid.
The chief’s suggestion attracted a spontaneous applause from participants as they claimed they had been kept in the dark by the BPA on the determination of payment and the specific amount each individual would receive.
Mr Samuel Jones Tawiah, District Chief Executive (DCE) for Tain, commended ActionAid for the provision of socio-economic services to deprived areas in the district, emphasizing that the organisation had made positive impact in the lives of many.
Mr Tawiah said the organisation had constructed two-unit classroom blocks at Adamu and Njau at a cost of GH¢70,060.90 whilst it had also provided dual desks and teachers’ furniture to the Adamu Community School valued at GH¢1,280.00.
The DCE announced that Banda Senior High School, privately-owned with financial support from a group of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and philanthropists would soon be converted to Government assisted institution under a new name Bandaman SH/Technical School.
He said the objective was to give the youth skills training to gain employment from the Bui-Dam project, explaining that the project was likely to open up the area through the establishment of small, medium and large scale industrial businesses.
Ms Christina Amarchey, Programme Manager of ActionAid (Brong-Ahafo Region), said the organisation recognized that major projects like construction of large dams, notwithstanding their importance in national development, may be a source of human rights abuse if proper plans and strategies were not put in place to address emerging issues.
She said the process of the acquisition and management of land and other natural resource of affected communities had been found to be problematic in many instances across the world.
The lack of participation in those processes had often generated more hunger, poverty and misery for affected communities which consequently turned the blessing of a natural resource into a ‘curse’ Ms Amarchey said.
She stated that ActionAid’s vision; “Is a world without poverty and injustice in which every person enjoys the right to a life with dignity” whilst its mission “is to work with poor and excluded people to eradicate poverty and injustice”.
She therefore called on BPA, Tain District Assembly, traditional authorities and community and family leaders to make the processes of resettlement more transparent and participatory for all community members.
Nana Sie Longo, Abakomahene of Banda Traditional Area, who presided on behalf of Nana Kwadwo Sito I, Paramount Chief of Banda, appealed to the BPA to build separate palaces for each of the three chiefs of the newly settled towns.
He explained that the three chiefs of Dokyina, Babato-Akanyakrom and Bui Village could not use one palace as that would not allow them to exercise independent traditional and leadership authority over their respective areas.
Nana Sie also appealed to the BPA to institute a scholarship scheme for the community to promote education.