Ghana’s position as the shining star in Africa is in no doubt. As the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence, the country has earned for itself a good image. However, there is the question of the sustainability of this great image. Years of systemic and poor implementation of policies in managing its environment has put the country on a path that if not checked could undermine the development trajectory of the country. The issue of unsustainable and illegal mining practices popularly called galamsey poses a serious threat to the nation’s environment. Galamsey as it is called is the pidgin form of “Gather and Sell” and is used to refer to those who engage in illegal mining. The practice has made many to question whether the country is not trading its strong agriculture potential “green gold” for its non-renewal metallic “yellow” gold.?
The danger of galamsey on the environment
Galamsey has undoubtedly gained notoriety in Ghana and is impacting negatively on the overall well-being of the citizens in the affected areas. There are many instances of the destruction of water bodies, farmlands, and misuse of chemicals like mercury among others. Indeed in 2018, the minister of environment, Professor Frimpong Boateng mentioned that Ghana will need over US$29billion to reclaim all destroyed lands. This amount is about 50 per cent of the current GDP of the country.
Effects of Galamsey on Agriculture
Mining in all its forms comes with benefits to the communities. Some of these benefits include foreign exchange earnings, employment, and local business setup among others. However, it does appear if not well managed, the cost of illegal mining practice far outweighs the benefits.
The first effect of galamsey in some of the places is the pollution of water bodies. It needs to be noted that many water bodies provide sources of livelihoods to millions of people. Whereas people use the water for drinking and other purposes, it provides a major source of livelihood for those who are into fishing. But as a consequence of galamsey activities in and along some rivers, it renders them incapable of producing fish in such areas and thereby affecting their livelihoods. Those who use the water for irrigation and for other domestic purposes are also affected negatively.
Aside the water pollution by galamsey, farmlands too are affected. It needs to be underscored that agriculture is the mainstay of the nation’s economy, hence a threat on farmlands equally constitutes a threat to the nation’s agriculture. Therefore in areas where galamsey is rampant the land is not able to support any meaningful farming. This is as a result of the pits that are left uncovered and which poses threat to farmers who try to farm around such areas.
In terms of employment, agriculture presents a fine opportunity for absorbing the many unemployed youth. However, observation suggests galamsey is pushing many of the youth from providing agriculture labour into galamsey pits. Because many of them find the practice more lucrative and financially rewarding than farming. The resultant effect is reduced farm labour and an ageing farming population. Coupled with the low mechanisation of the Agriculture sector, a reduced farm labour could further reduce the contribution of the agriculture sector to the nation’s economy.
In the light of the above, there is the need for urgent steps to be taken to address the negative impact of galamsey on the environment. It is therefore heart-warming to note that the Government of Ghana is holding national consultations on finding better ways of addressing the galamsey menace. But without the political will and commitment, can any progress be made from such consultations?
To start with, there is the need for Government to put in place a special fund for districts, communities and localities where galamsey is rampant. Such a fund could be used to finance alternative livelihood programmes in Agriculture for the youth who are into galamsey to adopt Agribusiness. To this end a credit scheme could flow the fund to help citizens to acquire the necessary credit to go into Agriculture-related businesses.
Secondly, the issue of providing skills training for the youth in the area of Agriculture is important to help them venture into Agriculture entrepreneurial activities and be self-employed. Most individuals who go into galamsey are either JHS or SHS leavers as well as those without any form of education. More intervention programs like the presidential pitch could be directed to train the youth to go into Agric entrepreneurship. This can help reduce and eventually prevent galamsey activities in our country to improve the agricultural sector and the environment.
Finally, there is the need to adopt a non-partisan multi-stakeholder approach to deal with the issue of galamsey. This calls for forming regional, district and community multi-stakeholder groups that comprise the chiefs, police, military, youth and all relevant stakeholders. Such a platform working in tandem with the relevant state agencies could ensure the issue of galamsey is well tackled.
In conclusion until the Government of Ghana take urgent steps to enforce the laws and adopt measures to curb galamsey in the country so as to protect and sustain our natural resources, Ghana could end up trading its green gold, which is Agriculture with gold a non- renewal resource. The end result would be a worse economy than Ghana has now.
Emmanuel Wullo Wullingdool
POLICY ADVOCATE & CONSULTANT IN AGRICULTURE AND INTERNATIONAL TRADE
0249731699/0209029686 Email: wullingdool@gmail.Com