Assessing the Impacts of Ghana’s Oil and Gas Industry on Ecosystem Services and Smallholder Livelihoods
This study combined multiple theoretical perspectives in an attempt to understand complex interlinkages that underlie the almost inevitable negative outcomes associated with natural resources exploitation in developing countries like Ghana. The project further sought to evaluate the possible decline in critical local ecosystems and its impacts on the livelihoods that are dependent on them, in ways that are perceptible and not so easily perceptible. Finally, the study sought to understand how any such decline in ecosystem services and livelihoods may result in negative social and cultural outcomes. The study employed primary and secondary data which were analyzed both qualitatively and quantitatively to assess the magnitude of these adverse impacts. The study used Remote Sensing (RS) and Geographical Information System techniques to assess land use change in the areas of the oil and gas exploitation. Surveys and interviews were conducted for local farmers and fisher folks to understand how exploitation activities impact on their livelihoods. Data obtained from the study were quantitatively and qualitatively analyzed. The oil industry has without doubt contributed to the status of Ghana being one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and has provided employment opportunities for many around the country. However, for local livelihood dependents, the consequences of the oil industry seem to be very different. The results show that the oil industry has adversely affected livelihoods of both farmers and fisher folks, alike, without alternative livelihoods. About 23 km2 of agricultural land has been converted to urban purposes since 2001 in the Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolis, with nearly half has occurring between 2009 and 2016. This is against a general increase in agricultural land area through the entire country. The oil industry-accelerated agricultural land losses have directly affected about 25% of the total surveyed farmers, deepening local poverty and food insecurity. Similarly, the livelihoods of fisher folks have generally declined due to primarily due to the implementation of exclusion zones that limit access of fishermen to fertile fishing grounds. The study also revealed that loss of livelihoods and the complex migration dynamics, accelerated by the oil industry, have led to deterioration the sociocultural wellbeing. The oil industry has driven an increase in cost of living and high levels of local unemployment, which has imposed on local communities, consequences such as increased rates of vices, school dropouts, and teenage pregnancies, as well as number of conflicts. For Ghana to reap maximum returns from the relatively new oil and gas industry, it is essential to take a cue from other countries that have had to grapple with severe environmental issues relating to oil and gas exploration in order to forestall potential conflicts.