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Opinions of Friday, 4 August 2017

Columnist: Alex Blege

Missing link between taskforce and the galamsey scourge

In recent times, one of the challenges that have hindered the development of this nation is galamsey. Its impact on the environment and livelihoods of the affected is an evidence of the existence of a problem.

In solving a development challenge, there is the need to involve those at the centre of the problem in the designing, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of the problem and its consequent solutions – that’s meaningful development.

It’s important to take a cue from the Columbian-American anthropologist, Arturo Escobar who defines meaningful development as engaging the intended beneficiaries in decision making with regards to planning and implementation of policies.

Various efforts have been made by government to bring an end to this challenge and the media has been at the fore front of these efforts through its reportage. The latest of these efforts is the setting up of a combined military and police task force to bring a lasting solution to the albatross around the neck of this nation.

It’s a terrific idea. But, what kind of message is this sending to those involved in galamsey? It’s worthy to note that right from the beginning of the fight against galamsey, those involved – both small scale miners and illegal miners have not seen eye to eye with the government and the media; albeit, there are media reports of some illegal miners who have voluntarily surrendered their tools and stopped their activities.

What then is the missing link between the setting up of a taskforce and the solution to the galamsey scourge? The answer is communication, not just communication that is based on a top down strategy; instead, participatory development communication – a term that was first used by a development expert, Guy Besset in 2004. Participatory Development Communication (PDC) is simply defined as the use of communication to facilitate community participation in a development initiative.

PDC focuses on facilitating exchanges between different stakeholders to address a common problem rather than informing and persuading people to change their behaviour – and this is why it’s the missing link in solving the problem.

It’s a powerful tool that facilitates the process of development and it’s appropriate in development projects such as land and water conservation as well as poverty alleviation through the sharing of knowledge. PDC becomes successful when those at the centre of a development problem actively exercise a sense of shared responsibility in embarking on a solution to the problem.

In relating this to the issue at hand, there should have been a deeper dialogue among stakeholders – this includes the communities, NGOs, and government – before the setting up of the task force.

The setting up of the task force is subtly sending the wrong message – it’s us against them. Also, non-participation of communities will lead to widespread apathy towards the efforts of the task force in bringing an end to the phenomenon.

Galamsey is a common problem. Communities, where galamsey is rife, must actively and positively participate by exercising a sense of shared responsibility to bring an end to this phenomenon once and for all.

The writer is a freelance journalist.