Overlaps Between Oil, Gas, and Agriculture Shed Light on Social Conflicts and Land Competition

By Alex Blair

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WASHINGTON – A new study by Oxfam America and Clark University's Graduate School of Geography maps the intersections between extractive industries and agricultural land uses, illustrating potential social and environmental conflicts.

The study, which focuses on Ghana and Peru because of the recent dramatic growth in their mining and hydrocarbon sectors, depicts in detail the oil, gas, and mining concessions that often overlap with agricultural, indigenous and protected lands.

“Throughout their histories, Ghana and Peru have witnessed conflictive relationships between local communities and extractive operations,” said Keith Slack, global program manager for extractive industries at Oxfam America. “These conflicts are often rooted in small-scale farmers' concerns about negative impacts on land and water. Addressing the causes of these conflicts is critical to ensuring more beneficial outcomes from investments by extractive industries.”

Mining, oil, and gas extraction have exploded across Latin America and Africa in the past decade, driven by high prices for oil, gold, and industrial metals like copper. In many countries, mining and oil activity have come into direct competition with small-scale agriculture. Tensions over control of land and, most importantly, water have led to community protests and violent conflict. Reconciling these two important development drivers has become a critical governance and development issue. Local civil society organizations supported by Oxfam have highlighted the urgency of government action to address issues raised in the study.

“The Peruvian government needs to take urgent action to protect agricultural land from the negative impacts of oil and mining,” said Ana Leyva, a lawyer and environmental officer with Fundación Ecuménica para el Desarrollo y la Paz (FEDEPAZ, Peru). “This includes adopting stronger land-use laws that help protect indigenous and local communities’ health, resources and livelihoods.”

“The Ghanaian government should ensure that the revenues generated from our current oil and mining boom go to support small-scale agriculture and fishing,” said Solomon Kusi Ampofo, extractive industries program officer, Friends of the Nation (Ghana). “Careful monitoring of oil and gas projects is essential to protect our environment and the fisherfolk, farmers and citizens who depend on it.”

The report, a collaboration between Oxfam America and geographers from Clark University, seeks to contribute to productive dialogue on the tensions between extractive industries and agriculture by graphically depicting where these activities overlap in two resource-dependent developing countries: Peru and Ghana. In both countries, Oxfam America has long experience in promoting sustainable agricultural livelihoods and better development outcomes from extractive industries.

The report shows how mining and oil concessions have expanded dramatically in recent years in agriculturally productive areas. Oil was discovered in Ghana in 2007, and since then the majority of coastal waters have been opened to exploration for oil and gas. An analyst recently concluded that oil is “poised to replace cocoa as the main driver of economic growth.” Meanwhile in Peru between 2004 and 2008, hydrocarbon concessions in the Amazon increased from covering less than 15 percent of the basin to nearly three-quarters of it. Policymakers, corporate officials, and civil society should give urgent attention to promoting policy solutions to address the actual and potential conflicts this expansion creates. Zoning land for particular uses, for example, could help reduce conflict by establishing clear rules for how land will be used. Greater transparency and increased investment of oil and mining revenues to strengthen agricultural production should also be a priority for public debate. And greater dialogue between the extractive and agricultural sectors is needed.

“Reconciling extractive industries with agriculture in developing countries will not be easy,” said Slack. “Seeing where these sectors overlap can help reduce conflict and violence.”

“Mapping shows that agriculture and extractive industries are increasingly occurring in the same areas,” said John Rogan, Associate Professor of Geography, Clark University. “Visualizing these overlaps gives us insights into areas of social conflicts, resource restraints, effective governance, and where careful coordination is needed.”

Oxfam America has been involved in extractive industry issues for more than 15 years, supporting civil society engagement with governments, international financial institutions, and corporations to better protect the rights of rural communities affected by extractive industries.

/ENDS

Note to editors:

• The full report is available for download here - http://www.oxfamamerica.org/static/media/files/Ghana-Peru_Report-Final-post-to-web-comp.pdf.

• On Thursday, March 27 from 10 a.m. to noon EDT, Oxfam America and Clark University will be hosting an event at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “Geographies of Conflict: Extractive industries in Peru and Ghana.” The event will be streamed online here - www.oxfamamerica.org/take-action/campaign/natural-resources-and-rights/geographies-of-conflict/.

Oxfam America is a global organization working to right the wrongs of poverty, hunger, and injustice.  We save lives, develop long-term solutions to poverty, and campaign for social change.  As one of 17 members of the international Oxfam confederation, we work with people in more than 90 countries to create lasting solutions. To join our efforts or learn more, go to www.oxfamamerica.org.