Resettlement blues in Bissa Gold communities

The Bissa Gold SA mine in Burkina Faso had not begun operations yet when a group of environmental journalists from 11 West African countries visited in 2012.

However, two major communities – Bissa and Sabce, 90 km from Ouagadougou, which have been displaced by the mine and so have been relocated, were already expressing some misgivings and dissatisfaction.

Their misgivings were on the change in their cultural setting in view of the way the resettlement buildings have been put up and also the taking away of their main livelihood, which is farming.

Despite many livelihood improvement projects embarked on by the mine for the indigenes, some are still expressing dissatisfaction because they no longer have farms from which they can feed their families and earn a living.

The indigenes also see the buildings put up for them as very inconvenient because they have very little space and also do not have the traditional and cultural settings they have been used to for many decades.

For now, Bissa Gold SA has put up 350 housing units for 1,250 households in both Bissa and Sabce.

Speaking on behalf of the communities at a forum with the international group of journalists from West Africa who had paid a visit to see at first hand their challenges as a result of the mine, Ouedraogo Tiwodo, the Chief of Nyagale, said although they knew the prospecting was only meant for few years and so were comfortable with the presence of the miners, they had to go into consultation with them when they found gold and decided to mine. He said little did they know however, that they were going to be relocated for them to mine.

Later in an exclusive interview, during which the chief disclosed how the relocation had impacted on their lives, he intimated; “When a man lives with a woman, anytime you want to meet with your wife everyone is aware of it,” referring to the fact that although in their former community the man had a separate dwelling from the woman, they now have to live together in the same building at the new settlement, which is culturally unacceptable.

He stated further; “I had 55 hectares of farmland but they took it from me. I asked for a farmland from acquaintances in other villages but they said ‘no, you have sold your piece of land to the mines so we cannot give you a piece of land to farm.’”

The Chief of Nyagale said it was only his brother who accepted to give him one hectare of land to farm on and that is what he used during the recent farming season to grow millet and groundnut. “And this is not even enough to feed my family,” he exclaimed.

“I have many children and family members so one hectare is not enough to feed them,” he stressed.

According to the community leader, whereas at first there was food security, in that there was enough for all family members with surplus to sell whenever he was hard up, now there is not even enough to go round the family of 12.

Touching on compensation for the crops that were on his farm before the land was taken, Ouedraogo Tiwodo explained that for now, he has only received CFA 7 million for 10 hectares out of the 55, because he has only been able to produce the papers covering that portion, with a promise that as soon as he is able to produce the papers covering the remaining 45, he will likewise be compensated.

The people say they also depended on a reserve for their fuel wood needs which is now part of the concession allocated by government to the mining company.

By Edmund Smith-Asante, back from Ouagadougou

This article was first published in the February 2013 edition of INFO’ a newsletter on water and the environment, a publication by GWP/WA and IUCN.

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