Australia Awards recipients return home with new ideas, knowledge and the ability to make a significant contribution to their home countries as leaders in their field. Cameroonian Alumnus, Arnaud Tonang Zebaze, currently the Head of Services of Mines, Geology and Mining Cadastre of Adamawa, says the skills and knowledge he gained through Australia Awards enabled him to geo-localise mining sites on maps and on the ground. “My knowledge allowed me to make an itinerary map of each mining site and to see, through satellite images, the impacts of artisanal mining on the environment,” he adds.
Arnaud, who completed an Australia Awards Fellowship in Geospatial Information Systems at the James Cook University in 2013, worked on “sensitisating miners on rehabiliting mining sites and promoting youth education for sustainable development” from November 2014 to April 2015. The project, funded by the Australia Awards Small Grants Scheme, sought to sensitise artisanal miners on environmental rehabilitation and promote education for sustainable development in the Fel, Legal Goro and Maloum villages in the Adamawa Region of Cameroon. “To achieve this, we did three things. We exposed the negative consequences of artisanal mining activities. We conducted educative talks on corrective measures for the preservation of the environment in mining sites. We established a demonstration plot to train artisanal miners on the rehabilitation process,” says Arnaud.
He explains: “The Cameroonian government’s policy is for its mineral resources to contribute to growth and development by 2035 and not at the expense of the environment.
Nearly 20,000 individuals throughout the country, with about 4,000 in the Adamawa Region, are taking part in panning for gold (panning is a type of artisanal activity that is labour intensive and is carried out with uncertified equipment). In the mining sites, it results in high human pressure on the natural environment, which causes major ecological disruptions and negatively affects environmental sustainability in these areas. Once the area has been vacated, numerous holes and mine workings are abandoned, thus promoting an ecological imbalance.”
The impact of panning is not only environmental. Children often drop out of school to work in these mining sites. The project therefore sought to engage a broad range of stakeholders in the project area. These included artisanal miners, children, women and local authorities. It also disseminated tools and information to support land rehabilitation. Local students were trained as trainers to facilitate tree planting. This training was provided by the National Forestry Development Support Agency (ANAFOR).
He says that, according to the culture of the targeted villages, women were not allowed to participate in the same meetings with men in two of the three villages. “To guarantee gender equality and efficiency in our activity, the team struggled, with the permission of the men, to meet some of the women in their households, and to sensitise them on the importance of education for their children and the rehabilitation of abandoned mining sites. During the educative talks, men were encouraged to collaborate with their wives for more impact. In sum, about 102 women, 783 men and many children were reached directly by the project.”
Arnaud says that, according to a survey that was conducted, there were notable results after a month of the project, where over 90% of the artisanal miners are now aware of the importance of sending children to school instead of taking them to mining sites. “All holes had been covered in the experimental parcel (about 400 m²) and 80% of that area had vegetation planted on the mining area that was rehabilitated during the sensitisation process.”
There is, however, a need to continuously monitor the area to ensure that it is still being rehabilitated and that children are attending school.
Click here for Arnaud’s case study.