Friday, 31 July 2015

Akwaaba to Ghana

By Nana Ama Addae-Boahene, 2nd year MDP student

I am very excited to be back home in Ghana for my final field placement. Over the summer, I have been working with A Rocha Ghana; an environmental NGO providing practical conservation interventions aimed at protecting conserved forest zones in the country.  I joined an all male team working in Kyebi in the East Akyeam District in the Eastern Region of Ghana. A Rocha’s major task in the district is to help protect the Atewa forest. 

The Atewa Range Forest Reserve (Atewa) was established as a national forest reserve in 1926 and was later designated as both a Globally Significant Biodiversity Area (GSBA) and an Important Bird Area (IBA) The forest, which covers a total space of 232,662 ha borders five districts in the Eastern Region, provides water and other ecosystem functions and services to about 5 million Ghanaians living close to the forest and downstream. The Living Water from the Mountain project by A Rocha Ghana is aimed at protecting Atewa’s Water resources.
Over the past few weeks, I have participated in two forest forums bringing together all the stakeholders involved in the Atewa forest to talk about issues affecting communities and how to ensure the continual conservation of the forest. The forum was organized in two different districts bringing together chiefs, community members, The Forestry Commission, The environmental Protection Agency, The Water Resource Commission, the chief Inspector of Police and some Environmental NGO’s.

The major concern and worry of all the participants was the rate of illegal mining activities in the area. Though these activities are not happening within the forest it is still a cause for major concern as majority of the land surrounding the forest area have been completely destroyed without any plans of reclamation. Although a vast number of laws and studies have been conducted to investigate the deterioration of the environment from illegal mining activities, very little details have been provided on the process of reclamation and restoration of mined lands and the importance of this to the environment and the affected community. A Rocha Ghana’s main concern is to help rehabilitate a lot of these places and we are currently putting together various proposals to seek funds to complete this project.

Nana Ama
This platform allowed the various government agencies to share with the communities their roles and responsibilities in the conservation of the forest. The Forestry Commission laid out clearly the various laws in place to protect the forest. The laws surrounding illegal logging of trees and farming in the forest zones were explicitly explained to the communities at the forum. The Water resource commission stressed the need to protect the various water heads in the forest. It has been an interesting few weeks talking to communities and stressing the importance of why we need to continue protecting the forest

Monday, 27 July 2015

Blue Quills - My Journey into Indigenous History: Spirituality, Inclusivity and Respect

By Barbara Gardner, 1st year MDP student

Barbara (L) with Blue Quills students
My field placement this summer is in St. Paul, Alberta at the Blue Quills First Nations College.  It is my belief that as a non-indigenous person in the field of Development Practice with an Indigenous focus, it is incumbent on me to learn all I can, first hand, by living and working within an indigenous community. Prior to my arrival, I had grand plans regarding attending community meetings and participating in social programmes with the ultimate goal being to strengthen my prowess as a researcher.  However, I have come to recognize that there is so much more to the total sum of individuals and therefore, I require more interactions and understanding of indigenous methods to adequately fulfill my goal.

My first interactions with the indigenous community was through their annual Culture Camp which is held annually on the College campus.  In addition to providing information to non-indigenous persons, it allows the indigenous community to reconnection with the environment and their history; refreshing and restoring the mind, body and spirit.                                                 

Cultural camp grounds
At this point in the field placement, what has stood out prominently for me is the collective determination within academia at the institution as well as other indigenous researchers to continually engage and strengthen their community members.  This is demonstrated through the participation of women, including Elders in research circles and academic planning, which are about women and their perspectives on development. Being present in meetings as well as other community gatherings has allowed me to appreciate the caring and nurturing being done in these communities to ensure continuity.  Hearing the views of the Elders, their plans and aspirations for the band members, has provided greater understanding about the need to preserve their cultural heritage and appreciate how this will impact development in the long term.  I was also struck by how inclusive and patient the members of academia, students as well as and the wider communities are regarding sharing information about their belief regarding the environment and their spirituality to aid me in my 
overall understanding of indigeneity. Being able to observe and 
participate in the circles and meetings has added another layer to 
my own development. 

Research circle participants

I am actively engaged in the work of the Literacy Department and my next blog post will provide an update as to my participation in the community workshops and seminars being planned.  This placement is proving a wealth of worthwhile experiences, allowing me to explore various aspects of the culture, how the decisions taken will potentially affect development planning and sustainability and importantly allowing me to experience personal growth outside of my comfort zone. 


Friday, 24 July 2015

Gdo Akiiminaan Ganawendandann Symposium: Part 2

By Jessica Numminen, 2nd year MDP Student

At the Symposium Gdo Akiiminaan Ganawendandann (Taking Care of our Land) hosted by the Anishinaabe Initiatives Division and the Department of Geography & Geology at Algoma University, a research poster entitled: Northern Governance Innovation and Development for Socially Resilient Boreal Communities was presented.  It highlighted an emerging community-university partnership to develop a community-based research project with the Missanabie Cree First Nation. The research project is being led by Ryan Bullock, a former resident of the Sault and now professor in Environmental Studies at The University of Winnipeg. Below is a photograph of the poster that was on display at the conference. 

This project is in its beginning phase. Partners are collaborating to generate preliminary research questions from the Missanabie Cree membership and to determine research priorities, one of which could be exploring non-timber forest products. My placement was a a five-week placement to work on this project and other initiatives at the Missanabie Cree First Nations office. For the duration of my placement Janet Esquimau, Community Economic Development Officer MCFN and project partner Gayle Broad, Director of the NORDIK INSTITUTE at Algoma University, were my mentors and supervisors.

I would like to thank Chief Jason Gauthier and all the MCFN staff, elders and community members for their warm welcome and for this opportunity to work together. I am grateful for the time she spent at MCFN and the different things I learned day to day during my placement! Kinanâskomitin ᑭᓇᓈᐢᑯᒥᑎᐣ Migwetch.

Jessica Numminen (L) and Janet Esquimau (R) along the Chippewa River

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Voices From The Prairies - Part Two

By Ginikachi Obah, 1st year MDP student

As my field placement at Blue Quills First Nations College draws to an end, I would love to say that it has been an amazing learning experience that has inspired and added a lot to my thought process. I would love to share this poem that centres on issues such as climate change, environmental sustainability and Indigenous knowledge.

Environmental Stewards

The sea rises as my mind is flooded with thought
The polar ice dissolves in human desires
The atmosphere is caught on the verge by human technology
The earth is entangled in the threshold of environmental degradation
 Development and prosperity leaves me at the mercy of climate change
I feel swept away by the tide of human development as tar sands and mercury cast shadows in my palace
I am gradually withering away in the oven of green house emission
I am ripped apart and I need compassion
I miss the nation of the buffalo because they built their consciousness round my interest
I am a seeker of life and spirituality but now must battle for survival in the hands of globalisation
I settle like dust in the mouths of human activists but my muscles are weak to human separatists
Hunters resort to mental gymnastics as they sing the hymns of ecological variation
The next generation is denied access to culture as the weather changes like clothes and keeps us on the edge
 The world needs an ethic of continued sustainability but the minds of men focus on continuous wealth
The willingness of humanity to tend to the earth is laid bare by the strings of environmental conquest
I run to the comforting arms of environmental stewards who nourishes my body and soul with ceremonies
Contemporary thoughts have not been able to put asunder where disembodied minds have continued to plunder

Kachi with members of the Indigenous Knowledge Senate