Coping Strategies of Rural Workforce In Communities Affected By Oil Spill and Gas Flaring In Rivers and Bayelsa States, Nigeria
Oil and gas extraction spawns huge financial resources for countries endowed with the resource. But it also poses a threat to local workforce. Access to other resources of the environment such as rivers, soil, forests, mangroves and so on, on which local community people often derive employment through farming, fishing, hunting and craft, face a risk of decline, due to negative impact of oil spill and regular gas flaring. This is an assessment of coping strategies of the rural workforce affected by years of oil spills and gas flaring in selected communities in Rivers and Bayelsa States of Nigeria. The study which deployed qualitative design, and utilized primary and secondary data from questionnaire, documents and in-depth interviews, pursued three objectives, namely, assessment of impact of oil spills and gas flaring on rural workforce in the Niger Delta; impact on livelihoods of men and women; and coping strategies of people. The study found that oil –related pollution in the Niger Delta has displaced local workforce, especially women and youth. In addition, fishing, farming and hunting (residually attractive as key economic activities) have declined in communities, leading to struggles by people for alternative sources of livelihoods. Decline in yields and failure of these economic activities to meet local or household needs for food and income are serious enough. As coping strategies, few young men and women continue to farm and fish especially in areas not directly affected by oil spills. Seasonal sand diving for the riverine communities, motorcycle riding, civil service jobs, petty-trading, and local craft are equally common. A lot more are prone to criminal activities of armed robbery, cultism, and kidnapping. Add to this, the ease with which young females become victims of prostitution. Among other recommendations, the paper charges government to focus on rural development and promote entrepreneurship opportunities in the areas of manufacturing and provision of services.