The socio-cultural and economic impact of refugees on the host indigenous communities in West Africa

Report from Kwame Boamah-Gyau, Master in Indigenous Studies, University of Tromsø
Project 200700333-5

Financial support to the project:
Topic: The Socio-cultural and economic impact of refugees on host indigenous communities in West Africa: A case study of Liberian refugees at Buduburam community in Ghana.

The consequences of hosting the Liberian refugees are worth considering. It is widely believed that influx of refugees in a community can place considerable stress on natural resources especially land.

Fieldwork in Ghana

Fieldwork in Ghana


The presence of the Liberian refugees in Buduburam community has had both negative and positive economic and social tendencies on the people of Buduburam since the arrival. The fact that the refugees outnumber the host community seems to pose threat to the livelihood of the community as well as norms and values. The pressure on the land and the impact of this pressure on food production as an economic activity that the host community was involved prior to the influx of refugees is another issue that needs an indepth study.

With the increased local market, there has been an upsurge in business and trade conducted by both host community and the refugees have made many natives shifting from farming to trading. However, the standard of living seems to be high as compared to other villages in Ghana. It is further contended that since the refugees may one day leave, the long-term consequence of the substitute of farming for trade, the host community is expected to bear the consequences.

Given all the above background, the world is not left with only the issue of hosting, feeding, clothing or educating the refugees but also their impact on the host, who in most cases are left with the burden of seeing to the survival of these refugees. This was my motivation to do an in-depth investigation into the refugees’ impact at Buduburam community in a bid to contribute to this line of inquiry by examining the costs and benefits associated with the refugees’ presence.

My primary method of the research was informal interviewing and observation. During the engagement I took on the role of listener and asked the natives about the impact of the refugees since the arrival and their current situation, which was followed up with questions, that seemed important to my topic. Relying on qualitative approaches to data collection such as participant observation and semi-structured interviews and focus group discussion seemed a more appropriate way for my data collection. Data from my fieldwork comes primarily from Buduburam natives as well as Liberian refugees whose comments have informed my research. It should be made clear that my informants were selected based on the reliable information I had from my field assistants and not just selected randomly. I sometimes lived with the people in the community and spent a lot of time with both the natives and the refugees.

The researcher at the field

The researcher at the field

The research was conducted with an input from field assistants recruited within the community. Intensive fieldwork was conducted in the Buduburam community over a period of two month (May – July 2007). The financial support from the Sami Centre indeed helped me so much because I was able to get almost all my research tools and materials which enabled me to have effective fieldwork. Not withstanding that the funding also helped me in taken care of some of my traveling, food and living expenses as well as books which would have been difficult to have a successful research. I am very grateful for the support.

Read the thesis online – Munin

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