Tuesday 30 August 2016

Feeling the Heat: Investigating Gas Flaring Activities in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria

By Dr Omosivie Maduka, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria
Cohort 2 CIRCLE Visiting Fellow

Nigeria is Africa’s largest producer of crude oil and the 6th largest producer in the world, with a capacity to produce approximately 2.5 million barrels/day. Oil and natural gas extraction currently account for up to 97% of the country’s revenue from foreign exchange, 20% of the country’s GrossDomestic Product (GDP) and 65% of budgetary revenue.  Nigeria is also blessed with vast deposits of natural gas located mainly in the Niger Delta region of the country. In spite of this apparent wealth, Nigeria ranks among the poorest countries in the world with over half of its population living on less than two dollars a day.

Gas flaring, which is the controlled burning of gases in the course of oil production, is routinely carried out by oil exploration companies in Nigeria, even though it was formally banned in 1984 and declared "unconstitutional" by the Nigerian Supreme Court in 2005. However, despite government bans, the federal and state authorities have been unable to force companies to stop, even in the face of significant hazards to the health of populations exposed to it. It pollutes the air, heats up the atmosphere and releases greenhouse gases.  Although Nigeria pledged to stop gas flaring and has imposed fines on oil exploration companies that are still flaring gas in the country, the practice of gas flaring has not ended. Nigeria ranks as the 5th highest contributor to the flaring of natural gas worldwide with flares of up to 428 billion cubic feet (bcf) of gas in 2013, representing 10% of gas flaring.

Horizontal gas flaring at Etelebu flow station in Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa State
My CIRCLE-funded research titled ‘Gas flaring and climate change: an analysis of the impact on the health and well-being of communities in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria’, explores the health effects of gas flaring on oil-bearing communities of the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. My research team and I conducted field visits to six communities in the Niger Delta region of the country, three of which are host to flow stations that have been flaring gas for the past ten years. We gathered data from these communities including those host to flow stations namely: Mbodo-Aluu in Ikwerre Local Government Area (LGA) of Rivers State, Nedugo in Yenagoa LGA of Bayelsa State and Oton in Sapele LGA of Delta State. One of the things we were eager to do was to get as close to gas flaring locations as possible in these three communities and conduct air quality analysis. We hoped to experience for a few minutes what the residents of these communities have been exposed to for a decade or more. This would be the first time I would be ‘up close and personal’ with gas flares.

My research team and I braving the heat and rain to conduct air quality analysis
At Mbodo-Aluu in Rivers State, we drove as close as we could to the flow station, hoping production activities were in full gear with the resultant flaring of gas. We were disappointed as operations had not commenced that day. We however hit jackpot (imagine being excited about such a health hazard) at Nedugo in Bayelsa State and Oton in Delta state, where we were able to get within 500 metres of horizontal flares from the Etelebu and Sapele flow stations. We felt the heat and smelt the smoke as we conducted the air quality analysis, observing the horizontal flares while we took our measurements.  The analysis included carbon monoxide (CO), Carbon dioxide (CO2), Nitrogen oxide (NO2), Ozone (O3), Sulphur dioxide S02), Hydrogen sulphide (H2S), methane (CH4) and ammonia (NH3). Other gases measured were volatile organic compounds (VOC). Needless to say, most of the readings exceeded the threshold for many of the atmospheric gases. Data analysis is now underway along with work on a manuscript that describes the air quality in gas flaring host communities in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.

Tuesday 23 August 2016

Report from the 5th Climate Change and Population Conference on Africa

By Dr Eunice Thomas, University of Ibadan, Nigeria
Cohort 2 CIRCLE Visiting Fellow
The 5th climate change and population conference on Africa was held in Ghana from the 19th of July to 21st of July, 2016. The theme for the conference was “Building Bridges and Research –into – use.” Among the invited Guests were:  the ambassador of the royal kingdom of Morocco, her excellency Madam Nezha AlaouiM, Hammdi; Special UN Secretary General Envoy on climate change, His excellency John Agyekum Kufour; and Prof Ebenezer Oduro Owusu,  the provost of the college of Basic and Applied Sciences and the Vice chancellor of the University of Ghana, Prof. Ernest Aryeetey.
In the welcome address, the Vice Chancellor and chairman of the day emphasized the need to live in a sound environment and develop a legacy for the future generation. As such, there is a need for vigorous discussion of issues at conferences of this sort. Passion and commitment should be divorced from any differences, including academic warfare, with the focus instead on society and development. The third day of the conference was heralded by a plenary session, titled Gender based flood early warning systems, by Dr Delali B. Dovie (the 2016 Global Innovation Gold award) from Legon and Dr Raymond Kasei from the University for Development studies, Ghana. They talked about how haphazard development and global population growth had paved the way for increased demand for housing and industries, which in turn had exposed several lands to increasing flood risk. They showcased how the drone that came with the award will be used to monitor early flood warning so that adequate preparation can be made to avert it.
Dr  Eunice  Thomas  presenting her research paper
The oral presentations kicked off after the plenary sessions and I had my presentation in the afternoon, titled “Soil Organic Carbon Variations and Soil Chemical Properties in Rubber Plantations and Other Land Use Types in Benin (South-Southern Nigeria).”  The paper was borne out of the recent concern about greenhouse gases and their damage to the ozone layer, which had increased the need for studies on the inputs, outputs and carbon storage in different terrestrial systems.  As the largest C pool in the terrestrial biosphere, even a minor change in soil carbon stocks could result in a significant alteration of atmospheric CO2 concentration (Davidson and Janssens, 2006; Trumbore and Czimczik, 2008). The study therefore aimed at quantifying soil organic carbon and some selected soil properties in order to predict their changes in response to different land use (rubber plantation versus fallow/forest and arable farming land).  The study recommends that farmers should engage in practices that will sequester carbon in soils, using methods such as crop rotation, leaving the land to fallow and adding organic manure at a specific ratio to the soil.  This will also help to mitigate climate change.
CVFs from cohort 1 and 2 at the conference; from the left is Olga Laiza Kupika, Sandra Akugpoka Atindana, Sylvia Ankamah, Catherine Mungai, Daniella Sedegah and Eunice Thomas
Other CIRCLE fellows had oral presentations, such as Olga Kupika (from cohort 1), Catherine Mungai and Sandra Atindana (also cohort 2 members). Daniella, D Seddgah and Syvia Ankamah and Dr Zahor  Zahor  were also in attendance. Sandra Atindana’s paper titled “Gender – Disaggregated Perceptions of Smallholder Crop Farmers on Climate change Adaptation Strategies in the Kintampo North Municipal District of Ghana”, discussed a district which is a transitional forest zone that is being gradually converted to a savannah zone and so is more prone to the adverse effects of climate change factors, hence the need to take steps to mitigate it.
Dr Eunice Thomas  receiving the certificate of participation
At the end of the conference I felt better equipped with different methods to communicate my findings to different policy makers, including proper and adequate communication approaches and ways to involve them from the onset of the research work.
Latest developments at Regional Institute for Population Studies (RIPS), University of Ghana
Among a few remarkable steps being taken by climate change ambassadors, such as CIRCLE and many others, RIPS have taken a step ahead of national efforts to develop a drone that is being put in place to monitor and signal future occurrence of floods to help save lives. A representation from the Ministry of health, Ghana in collaboration with RIPS are developing a drone  (called Dr. One) to enhance the transport and distribution of drugs  and other logistics to remote health care centers in Ghana.

Tuesday 2 August 2016

My CIRCLE Adventure So Far

Dr Phyllis Bernice Opare, University of Energy and Natural Resources, Ghana
Cohort 2 CIRCLE Visiting Fellow

Dr Opare spent her fellowship year at Makerere University, Uganda. Here, she reflects on her time on the CIRCLE Programme.

When the email came announcing that I had been selected as a CIRCLE Visiting Fellow, cohort 2, I was ecstatic. I knew this year would be a life changing year for me, and so far it has been phenomenal. I worked like a maniac to get all my scripts graded, scored and upgraded before the end of 2015. This in addition to a full Christmas calendar of services and other events was scary, but I was able to get everything done by the 28th. I left my home, Sunyani, to travel to Accra on Sunday 3rd December 2015 to begin the first leg of my CIRCLE journey.

Experiences at the Host Institution

I left Accra on 9th January and arrived at Entebbe on January 10th, 2016. My time in Uganda has been very nice and peaceful. The CIRCLE Coordinator at Makerere arranged a taxi and place of residence for me before I got to Entebbe, which made things very easy for me. With Kampala being on a much higher altitude than Sunyani, plus the fact that Uganda is three hours ahead of Ghana, I had one of the worst cases of jet lag when I first arrived. Every little effort had me huffing and puffing. I slept a lot, mostly in the daytime. The room I got in the student hostel was near to their TV room and since some international soccer tournament was going on in January I was kept awake most nights and of course I slept in the day (a vampire in the making if I had stayed).

In spite of all that, I got to find my way around Makerere campus, and together with CVF Abimbola Oluwaranti form OAU, Nigeria, we managed to find new accommodation on the compound of Makerere University’s Agricultural Research Institute at Kambanyolo, about 35 minutes’ drive from the main campus (that’s on a good day with no traffic, we have actually spent 2 hours en route at one time). During this time, with the help of staff from the Coordinator’s office, we also managed to find our way around Kampala city, discovering most of the major shopping malls.

Culturally, there are many similarities between the people of Uganda and Ghana, but most importantly, there is the warm sense of welcome wherever I go. The people are very nice and welcoming, very eager to extend assistance when needed. I find that we have most of the same foods so eating has not been a problem – though I have to add a little bit more pepper to mine for some pizazz. I am doubly happy that fruits and vegetables are in abundance and fairly cheap. The meat and dairy products are more affordable here than in Ghana. Most fresh milk in Ghana is imported, so it is made shelf stable, hardly fresh, but in Uganda fresh milk is everywhere.

We also had access to the university library when we were living in town. At Kambanyolo, where we now live, the Continuing Agriculture Extension Education Center Staff has opened their kitchen to us so we can fix whatever we like. We also have access to internet here, and just recently I was given a key to a small computer lab with internet access so I can work in a place other than my room. In all, my stay in Uganda so far has been a positive experience.

Research and Data Gathering

I decided to work with small holder farmers in Ghana since they are among the groups most affected by climate variability.  After much consultation with my supervisor, specialist advisor, mentor and officials from the ministry of food and agriculture in Ghana I decided to work with three villages within the Sunyani east Municipality. These communities are Atronie, Nwowasu, and Benue Nkwanta (I will also be talking with my supervisor about replicating this research in at least one farming community in Uganda for comparative analysis). In all about 150 farmers took part in the study and they have been encouraged and challenged to begin Climate-smart farms that can be used as model farms for other farmers.

A section of Nwowasu Village
The timing of this research can only be considered propitious since Ghana experienced one of the worst dry seasons in recent history during the last harmatan. This coupled with some significant bush fires and other farming practices has resulted in significant food shortages, particularly in local staples like cassava, cocoyam and plantain. As a result, the farmers were very interested in finding out why the climate is changing and what they can do to adapt in the face of variability.

Initial meeting at Atronie, sharing the overview and objectives of the research with farmers
I employed several CCFAS Gender and Climate change research tools, with some of the tools modified for this study. The tools employed included:

I. Climate analogue tools:

  • The village resource map
  • The seasonal calendar
  • Daily activity clocks
  • Capacity and vulnerability analysis matrix

II. Weather forecast tools:

  • Seasonal food security calendar

III. Tools for understanding and catalysing gender sensitive climate-smart agriculture initiatives:
  • Changing farm practices
Young women at Nwowasu busily participating in developing a seasonal calender for their village
Key observations:

  • Farmers in the Sunyani East Municipality are very aware of climate change and climate variability
  • Farmers tend to adopt certain technologies very quickly, especially when it is considered to ease labour, without adequate understanding of the long term implications.
  • Farmers are very concerned with making a livelihood in agriculture in the face of climate variability
  • Farmers lacked the capacity to make proper commercial decisions that will help them maximise profits on their produce. Many of them barely break even.
  • Many farmers were willing to adopt climate-smart agricultural practices. However, those farmers who were only renting or working the land for others felt powerless to initiate too many changes without the land owners’ permission/cooperation.

Detailed reports and videos will be disseminated in due course. It should be placed on record that an agricultural extension officer was part of the research team and he has indicated his willingness to continue to work with the individual farmers in adopting CSA practices. Additionally, some financial institutions have been contacted on behalf of the farmers to bring banking services to these communities and to organise entrepreneurship capacity building training for the farmers and others in the communities to help improve their livelihoods.

Overall, the time spent with the farmers was very fruitful and it is anticipated that there will be continuous collaboration to ensure widespread climate-smart agriculture adoption in the district that will spread to other parts of the country.

Now I am back at Makerere, ready to get down to writing.