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People are uniting against oil exploration in Togo. The discovery of oil off the coast of Doevi Kope, Togo, was confirmed in 2012 and people fear that drilling opearations could severely impact not only Doevi Kope but also other villages, notably Gbetsogbe and Katanga.

“Where oil is mined, it kills the fish in the sea.”

Togbe Doevi, Chief of Doevi Kope village

When the government failed to inform the communities of the oil discovery, Les Amis de la Terre Togo/ Friends of the Earth Togo alerted communities to the potential drillings and its impacts. Now the Doevi Kope community are united in resisting the possible onslaught of oil exploration. This is their story.

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We did not know that oil was found, the government did not tell us anything. But I thank Les Amis de la Terre Togo. When they heard about the project, they were the first to come and alert us.”

Togbe Doevi, Chief of Doevi Kope village

When oil was first discovered in 2010, the Togo Government signed an oil exploration and production contract with Italian energy giant ENI, unbeknown to the Doevi Kope community. This discovery was certified by the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) conducted in 2012. Thanks in no small part to a widespread campaign organizations including Les Amis de la Terre Togo working with local communities and journalists, this contract was cancelled.

During the campaign Les Amis de la Terre Togo showed the Doevi Kope community the impacts of similar oil extraction projects in Nigeria and Chad. In 2014 the community traveled to neighbouring Ghana to witness these impacts for themselves.

The impacts they witnessed were devastating; oil pollution killing the fish, poisoning farmland and animals and destroying livelihoods.

We saw that Nigeria is the first producer in Africa, but also the poorest. Why are they poor? Because where oil is mined, it kills the fish in the sea and people can no longer fish. In Ghana the same thing happened. Even the land dies. People in the community get sick. People do not work. We will suffer from the same impacts.”

Togbe Doevi, Chief of Doevi Kope village

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“In Ghana, communities told us that despite the exploitation of oil, there is suffering. They had been promised relocation once the operation would begin, but in the end they were not relocated. The children do not go to school because their parents do not have any money. When men go to sea, they find nothing. The community is struck by hunger.”

Madame Kpatanyo Gbadebou, Fish processing woman (smokes and sells fish)

Women like Kpatanyo are as hard hit by reduced fish quantities as the fishermen in communities, since they are responsible for processing and selling the fish. 

Local communities in Ghana were uninformed and promises of employment opportunities and relocation were vacuous.

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“In Ghana, the project was agreed without the community’s knowledge being. No one from the  community works there. Youth in the community are suffering. There is no more farming and no more fish. Women in the community are suffering too, they cannot make a living. There is only suffering. So if they bring the issue here, we will respond that we have seen the impacts. We must make it clear that this is a bad thing.”

Mr. Ametowou Djama, fisherman in Doevi Kope village

The Doevi Kope community were clear: they did not want to suffer from the same harmful effects as their neighbours.

This is not the first megaproject forced on coastal communities in Togo. A harbor was built in Doevi Kope in the 1960s changing tidal patterns which in turn caused coastal erosion. The sea has engulfed land and destroyed houses.

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“I built my first house in Doevi Kope when the sea erosion started. This is the third one we’ve built, which we built last year. The sea erosion has destroyed my house and my family.”

Mr. John Darius Somi, fisherman

The harbor impacted fishing methods, forcing fishermen to go further out to sea, putting them at greater risk. The government has so far ignored the community’s concerns and is now building a new harbor which will only intensify coastal erosion further displacing the community.

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A harbor in Doevi Kope is causing coastal erosion, which is destroying houses and impacting fishing methods.

The fight against oil is far from over either. Since the exploration phase no official information on the project has been released. But Friends of the Earth Togo has learnt that the government, still keen to extract oil, is looking for another company to work with.

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“It will dislocate us, we will not find a place to stay. All this will bring confusion in the community. If they find oil to exploit and the government wants to go head, we will ask you to stand by us to tell them not to. Because when it happened in other countries, it has destroyed those countries.”

Madame Démého Amekoudji, from a fishing family

Friends of the Earth Togo and local communities will not wait for drilling to start. They are prepared; mobilizing and strengthening the resistance to oil extraction.

No to oil exploitation in Togo!

Images: © Komla Atsu Haleluya/Friends of the Earth International