Graphic Online

Graphic Online 

Restoring livelihood of mining communities

BY: Timothy Ngnenbe
Mr John Peter Amewu looking closely at the blossoming palm seedlings
Mr John Peter Amewu looking closely at the blossoming palm seedlings

It was a three-hour drive from Kumasi. The road was bumpy, dusty, rugged and rough. The V8 vehicle in which we had travelled bumped into one of the big potholes, causing a flat tyre. My backbone ached, just as did my joints.

We finally got to our destination – Richie Plantation, located at Dunkwa-on-Offin in the Upper Denkyira East municipality of the Central Region at about 3 p.m.

I was among the journalists who went on a tour of the facility with the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr John Peter Amewu.

The mission was to assess the progress of work on the palm-seedling project that had been initiated by the government with the aim of providing alternative livelihood to the residents of communities that had been hit hard by illegal mining activities.

The first time I went there with officials of the ministry and the Lands Commission was in December, 2017.

At the time of visiting, the site for the Alternative Livelihood Project, about one million palm seedlings were being nursed under the GH¢ 10 million initiative with funding from the Minerals Development Fund (MDF) in collaboration with the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources.


Lives touched by Richie Plantation

The May 21, 2018 tour of the project saw the plantation growing in leaps and bounds because the seedlings had increased to two2 million, with most of them ready for transplanting.

Richie Plantation has about 1,000 casual workers and 64 permanent employees who work on various aspects of the plantation to give it life. Among the workers were some ex-illegal miners who now make a living from the work they do at the palm seedling project.

The all-female casual workers fill poly sacks with manure while the permanent staff nurse the seeds and carry out other cultural practices such as watering, weed control, transplanting and transportation of seedlings to beneficiary farmers.

Some 15 agriculture engineering students from Texas University in the United States (US) and 20 of their counterparts from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) had come to the project site to have practical experience of the technology being used and to share their knowledge and best practice with the local people.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the plantation, Mr Richard Ekow Quansah, explained that he had been given the mandate to nurse and distribute eight million seedlings to farmers by the end of 2020. This means that two million seedlings will be nursed and distributed every year to meet that target.

He disclosed that more than 4,000 farmers have been registered to be supplied with the palm seedlings beginning the third quarter of this year, adding that the entity had the capacity to distribute 20,000 seedlings a day and 120,000 a week to farmers.

"By 2022, this area would have been turned into an industry because I am planning to establish a mill here for the processing of palm oil and palm kernel. When this is finally done, more lives will be touched because many jobs will be created along the chain," he said.

Per the explanation he gave, 60 seedlings will be planted on each acre of land. What this means is that by the end of the fourth year of the project, about 134,000 acres of land will be hosting oil palm plantations.

When this feat is achieved, the road map to restoring the forest and the vegetation would be given a big boost, while more lives would also be touched in terms of employment opportunities.

Galamsey: Current situation

Illegal mining popularly known in Ghana as “galamsey”, has left devastating footprints in mining communities across the , with regions such as the Eastern, Western, Central and Ashanti being the hardest hit by the menace.

Farmlands, rivers and the forest have been destroyed by the menace, leaving the country to hunger and thirst for these resources for its development. For instance, it is estimated that about 342,000 hectares, representing 1.5 per cent of Ghana’s 228,000-square-kilometre land has been destroyed by galamsey.

Reclaiming a hectare of the destroyed lands is estimated to cost about GH¢ 70,000, which means that a total of about GH¢ 20.5 billion is needed to heal the land.

Many of the youth who could have contributed their quota to build the country now lie in the belly of the earth as pits collapsed on them while illegally searching for gold. The use of mercury, heavy-duty machines and other chemicals for galamsey in water bodies has left the Pra, Offin and other rivers polluted to the extreme.

Last year, there were concerted efforts by the government, the media, chiefs, security agencies and other stakeholders to clamp down on the activities of these galamseyers. The formation of the Media Coalition against Galamsey fueled the efforts by the government to tackle the menace.

A ban was placed on small-scale mining in February, 2017 as part of measures to sanitise the mining sector while a military-police detachment known as Operation Vanguard was also despatched to notorious havens for illegal mining.

Current figures show that the Operation Vanguard team, with the support of other para anti-galamsey groups, have made 1,247 arrests and seized 111 weapons from the galamseyers.

The multi-sectoral mining integrated project (MMIP), a document that spells out the road map for the implementation of alternative livelihood projects and initiatives to sustainably address the challenge posed by the illegal mining menace has also been developed.

Call

One of the questions that lingers on the minds of many a school of thoughts is how the country will pick up the pieces in the aftermath of the galamsey fight. Specific concerns have also been raised about mechanisms that will ensure that the youth who quit galamsey have alternative sources of livelihood.

The alternative livelihood project is one of the multifaceted initiatives by the government to heal the vegetation and also restore sustainable livelihoods to residents in mining communities who have been hard hit by illegal mining, popularly called ‘galamsey.

The oil palm plantation project is expected to be scaled up to cover residents of mining communities in the Ashanti, Eastern, Western and Brong Ahafo regions to give hope to affected people.

Chiefs, local government officials and opinion leaders in mining communities ought to encourage residents of these communities to take the oil palm plantation project seriously since it is a viable source of livelihood.

This is a step in the right direction because the initiative will be a case of killing two birds with a single stone – healing the environment and providing livelihood to people.