“You’ll die of the dust”, or how SWISSAID is helping stricken locals in Chad

“You’ll die of the dust”, or how SWISSAID is helping stricken locals in Chad

What would life be like in Madiba without the mango trees? The thick foliage of these green giants offers protection form the relentless blazing sun. In the shady village square, men and women have gathered to testify – not about spiritual experiences but about hard facts that are getting everyone worried. The village of Madiba, in southernmost Chad, is in the Dosséo Basin, where Esso believes there is oil. And that usually bodes ill for the people who live above the ground that conceals the “black gold”.

“They drilled a hole over there,” says Ngaba Bertin, pointing to the place in the bush, “not far from the last house”. The village chief laments bitterly: nobody asked his opinion when the test drilling took place three years ago. They just said that a road, 30 metres wide, would go past here to the oilfields, and that “You’ll die of the dust”. Then the “oil men” disappeared again with their equipment “that made the earth tremble”.

The fear that Esso will come back runs deep, but since then, RESAP, an organisation that closely monitors all activities in connection with oil extraction in the Dosséo Basin, has established its presence in Madiba. It carried out an inventory, surveyed the land, counted the mango trees, recorded the size of the manioc fields and the vegetable gardens.Now the farmers know that they have rights and can claim compensation if Esso does commence extraction some day.

Supported by SWISSAID and other international organisations, the NGOs in Chad succeeded in motivating ESSO to increase its compensations massively. Farmers thus received e.g. roughly 1600 US dollars for a torn down mango tree instead of the proposed 6 dollars.

RESAP has set up committees in nearly 500 villages which are cooperating to work out a regional development plan that covers not only the consequences of oil extraction, but also better marketing of their products, irrigation and sustainable use of forests. “The oil has opened the door to comprehensive development,” explains RESAP coordinator Renodji Djimrabaye.

SWISSAID also supports three other organisations in Chad that are fighting to ensure that ordinary citizens will receive more of the oil revenues. These organisations work at local level – with a structure similar to that of RESAP – in and around Doba and other extraction regions. They are also active at national level, gathering information, monitoring the budget and carrying out political lobbying.

A recent study - co-financed by SWISSAID - revealed that the 5 % of the oil revenues to which the population would be entitled to do not fully reach the beneficiaries or are used for projects bringing only little change. Based on these informations, actions can be taken on political levels.