Vacancy: Chief Technical Officer (Geography and Geology)

The School of Natural Sciences is seeking to appoint a Chief Technical Officer Grade 1 to be based in the Disciplines of Geography and Geology. The successful candidate will hold a relevant qualification. The appointee will report to the Head of School or any person authorised by the Head of School to give instruction.

Please see the following PDF for a full description of the position: 0000501397

Closing Date: 12 Noon on Monday, 14th August 2017

Temporalities and spatialities of the problematic impact of oil: the case of Dixcove, a fishing community in the Western Region of Ghana. By Pius Siakwah

The problematic impact of natural resources on development, often referred to as the ‘resource curse’ has been the focus of much research and development policy. It has generated a great deal of research since the 1970s as natural resource rich countries in the developing world seem to perform poorly economically and on development indicators compared to resource poor countries. Researchers and development practitioners have explained the curse in terms of how natural resource windfalls are implicated in a country’s poor economic growth, governance, government borrowing and debt, currency movement, decline in manufacturing and agricultural sectors, environmental degradation and violent conflicts. Though the curse seemed visible in some countries, some skeptics however, argued that whereas the economic growth rate of resource rich economies was erratic, it was similar to the resource poor ones.

The framing of the existing literature on the impact of natural resources on development, and for that matter the curse, is problematic for its methodological nationalism (where it does not account adequately for global and local factors in shaping how resource windfalls impact development and how the curse or the problematic impact of natural resources can manifest unevenly). Such national-scale analysis that pushes questions of the role of transnational actors, agencies and structures and their impact on development outcomes and geographies of the problematic impact of natural resource (oil) across space and class. Indeed, whereas national scale analysis of the problematic impact of oil has been extensive, local level analysis of it, including how it manifestations unevenly and differentiated is limited (except for places like the Niger Delta where oil exploitation has been characterised by conflict and pollution). A ‘localised curse’ can be said to manifest where exploration of natural resources such as oil leads to a disruption of local economic activities due to pollution of rivers and farmlands, conflicts, poverty, inequality and increased local economic vulnerability. An analysis of the impact of oil on livelihoods of fisher-folks in Dixcove, Ghana has helped to bring to the fore the differentiated and temporal/spatial associated with oil-based development.

Dixcove is a fishing community in the Ahanta West District, located at the southern-most part of the Western Region of Ghana (indicated below). It is one of the oldest fishing communities in the district and Ghana. Dixcove is also one of the relatively developed areas in district, with access to social facilities such as roads, schools, and hospitals. There are about 7,500 inhabitants in Dixcove according to the 2010 national population and housing census. Seventy percent of the population live in rural areas, mostly engaging in fishing and farming. Fisheries accounts for 90% of livelihoods for the men in Dixcove, hence any disruption in the sector has implications for the local economy. Most of the women in Dixcove are also engaged in the fish trade through processing, making the area the center of fish trading for adjoining communities.

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 Ahanta West District (Geography Dept., University of Ghana, 2015)

Since Ghana discovered oil in 2007 in the Cape Three Point area, a place that has served as fishing ground for some inhabitants in the area, it seems that stakeholders such as the government, international institutions like the World Bank and NGOs have been more focused on institutionalised approaches, such as state level transparency, in the use of windfalls to avoid the resource curse which has manifested in some resource rich economies in the developing world. While it is important to initiate polices that can help Ghana to reduce or avoid the national scale curse, there is also the need to recognise how local economies and livelihoods are intertwined with and constituted through national and global political economy. There is the need to examine how oil exploitation can also impact local economies and in the process will produce winners and losers. For a fishing-based community such as Dixcove in the Western Region, Ghana, whose economy and livelihood is shaped and embedded in fishing and its related activities, an economic activity such as oil exploitation offshore that obstructs or competes with the fishing industry for space can have adverse consequences for its inhabitants.

Since the discovery of oil in 2007 offshore, near Dixcove, there have been changes in economic activities in the area. The residents, mostly fishermen and fishmongers expected that the oil sector would provide some employment and lead to poverty reduction in the area; but it seems, up to now, that this remains only an expectation. Focus group discussions with some of the fishermen and fishmongers during this study suggest that a decline in fishing and limited employment has resulted in an income decline in the area. Factors contributing to the decline of the fisheries sector in the area include: poor enforcement of fishing laws, unsustainable fishing, such as using small meshed nets, increased number of fishing vessels, inadequate supply of fishing fuel, inadequate supply of parts for outboard motors, and restriction on fishing around the oil rigs. Some of the fishermen suggest that restrictions on fishing due to oil exploration is the main cause of decrease in fish catch in the area since the fish are attracted to the lights at the oil rigs. There are also environmental challenges in the fishing communities.

Dirty environment in Dixcove

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Women waiting for fish from the sea.

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My study showed that there are temporalities and spatialities to the problematic nature of oil for development. Temporally, Ghana’s government increased borrowing backed by oil seems to be creating a ‘deferred or delayed debt curse’ for the future generation as well as a potential ‘deferred conflict’. Ghana’s experience with oil exploitation shows that the country is not currently experiencing oil-related violent conflict, even though there have been reported cases of clashes between fishermen and oil companies in the country’s western coast due to restrictions on fishing. But since conflicts are not episodic events, but can build over time, the seeming non-violent conflicts between the fishermen and state/oil companies could evolve into violent conflict in the future if the perceive neglect of fishing communities are not addressed. A ‘deferred violent conflict’ might emerge later in Ghana when fisher-folks’ grievances, income decline, and economic challenges are not addressed.

Spatially, whereas oil has had positive impacts on the provision of social services nationally and generation of some employment for the educated, the fisher-folks experienced decline in income due to restrictions on fishing in the sea near their locality. Based on the interviews and the survey with the fishermen and fishmongers in the community, the study showed that whereas the incidence of poverty in Dixcove and its environs in general is not as bad as compared to many other parts of the country, the incidence of poverty is unevenly distributed among the people, with fishermen and fishmongers in the area experiencing a decline in income due to restriction on fishing in the sea space near their locality. Eighty-one percent of the fishermen and fishmongers surveyed indicated during this study that between 2011 and 2015, their incomes declined between 20% and 50%. The problems that oil poses to Ghana’s development are differentiated and manifest unevenly, with temporal and spatial dimensions, and the directionality of incidences of poverty and inequality is not always predetermined in resources rich economies.

Microplastics: a macro-problem for remote islands in the South Atlantic?

Dr Dannielle Green from the Biogeochemistry Research Group in TCD Geography is about to return from an adventure in the South Atlantic where she was hunting for microplastics in some of the world’s most remote islands.

Plastic debris can be found in every country around the world and larger items like plastic bags and bottles can have obvious impacts, such as entanglement, ingestion and suffocation of seabirds, turtles and mammals. But even when plastic breaks down, it persists as small pieces called “microplastics” and in this form can still cause harm to a wide range of marine organisms who unwittingly eat it. Microplastics have been found in marine waters all over the globe but sampling has mostly focused on areas adjacent to large human populations, very little is known about concentrations in remote islands like Ascension Island and the Falkland islands. In collaboration with Dr David Blockley from the South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute (SAERI), Dr Dannielle Green from Trinity College Dublin, Ireland flew out to the South Atlantic to assess the situation.

Eerily desolate but beautiful Ascension island.
Eerily desolate but beautiful Ascension island.

Water samples were taken from a range of sites around Ascension Island and the Falklands and every site was found to contain microplastics. In fact, the concentrations found were surprisingly high.

Taking water samples in the only glass bottles available... Pimm's bottles!
Taking water samples in the only glass bottles available… Pimm’s bottles!

Dr Green presented her work to the Falkland islanders by giving a public lecture at the Chamber of Commerce which was well attended with a mixed audience including government officials, fishermen, the general public and the local television crew. She explained the potential issues of microplastic pollution and a thoughtful discussion about solutions later ensued with input from the audience.

Dannielle presenting her results at the Chamber of Commerce in Stanley.
Dannielle presenting her results at the Chamber of Commerce in Stanley.

Microplastics can absorb toxic substances from the water column. In this way, they can become like “pills” of concentrated toxic chemicals that could be consumed by creatures like worms, shellfish, fish and mammals and can be transferred through the food web.

Pollution of natural habitats by microplastics is a global problem that we are only just beginning to understand, but it is one that is expected to get worse as plastic production continues to rise. Dr Green’s research explores the wider effects of microplastics on marine ecosystems. Through this work, she hopes to provide scientifically sound recommendations that will feed into policy and help protect our ecosystems.

Empowering Women through Conservation Agriculture: Rhetoric or Reality?

TCD Geography’s Jane Maher recently had her excellent research published in a book titled Conservation Agriculture in Subsistence Farming: Case Studies from South Asia and Beyond. Jane contributed a chapter on ‘Empowering Women through Conservation Agriculture: Rhetoric or Reality? Evidence from Malawi’. This chapter sought to examine whether Conservation Agriculture (CA) could play a role in the empowerment of women through agriculture. This was assessed within the analytical framework of the impact CA has on women’s time and labour, agricultural production and household food security, decision-making in the home and social capital.

Book cover Continue reading “Empowering Women through Conservation Agriculture: Rhetoric or Reality?”

Recent Graduates – Lucy Crockford

LucyCrockford

Project: The application of high temporal resolution data in the management of eutrophic water-bodies in agricultural catchments

The project comprised of two specific functions: 1. Identifying the phosphorus (P) loading contributions from diffuse and point sources to a small river in Co. Louth, and 2. the apportionment of P load from catchment and internal sources to a small inter-drumlin lake in Co. Monaghan, both in Ireland.

Continue reading “Recent Graduates – Lucy Crockford”