Efforts to tame illegal mining, popularly known as ‘galamsey’, have failed to yield results in the Ahafo Region, as the menace continues to attract a significant number of youth to wreak havoc on the environment with impunity.
The galamsey menace is rife in communities like Ntotroso, Gyedu, Kenyasi, Hwidiem and Nkaseim. The prevalence of illegal mining in the communities has been detrimental to the growth and development of traditional agribusiness activities. Though highly risky, the youth prefer illegal mining to farming.
B&FT has learnt that some authorities in the affected communities are allegedly complicit in the act. Sources say they are either secret financiers or beneficiaries of the destructive activity, hence their lukewarm attitude toward fighting against the menace.
One of the worst-affected communities is Nkaseim, a predominately farming community in the Asutifi South district of the Ahafo Region. Traditionally, residents of Nkaseim and its adjoining villages like Ata Ne Ata and Amanfrom are largely noted for the cultivation of crops such as cocoa, oil palm, ginger and rice.
However, the dynamics of socioeconomic activities at Nkaseim have been revolving in the last 15 years due to the advent of galamsey. A large number of youth there have shifted their focus to illegal mining, which they say is more lucrative than other available economic activities. The trend is seriously threatening sustainability of agribusinesses like the oil palm subsector at Nkaseim.
An illegal miner who spoke on condition of anonymity said: “Senior man, galamsey is what I prefer doing; it fetches me enough money for my upkeep and the family as well. Farming is not an alternative to this rich business. I’m aware of issues such as post-harvest losses and climate change disturbing farmers. The government should rather think of regularising galamsey to employ the teeming youth instead of advocating youth in agriculture; it’ll not work”.
When asked about operations of the Anti-Galamsey Taskforce, he alleged: “Boss, they are also human beings who need more to cater for the families. We negotiate and sort them out with money or gold, but there are a few of them who sometimes reject our offers”.
Impact on oil palm
The spokesperson of Nkaseim Oil Palm Processors Association, Lucy Kwarteng, in an interview affirmed that illegal mining has become a cash-cow for the youth – thus leaving the highly labour-intensive oil palm extraction for old women.
She said: “The youth in this town are no more interested in the oil palm business. They claim galamsey pays far better than our trade. Averagely, they earn not less than GH¢100 daily at galamsey sites; we don’t have the resources to even pay half of that money for labourers”.
Other operational challenges
The oil palm extractors mentioned lack of funds to sustain the business as another pressing issue, saying that they rely solely on plough-back profit to run the business. The situation, they explained, has incapacitated them [oil palm extractors] from buying a substantial quantity of raw material [oil palm fruits] for processing, thus defeating the principle of economies of scale.
Madam Kwarteng further revealed that the inability of processors to buy the palm in large quantities and pay in advance has discouraged some farmers from continuing with oil palm production. “The farmers are not keen to expand their farms or replant moribund trees; they instead grow ginger or leave the lands fallow.”
Lack of modern industrial equipment for the extraction is another bane of the women. They are force to resort to manual processes, which eventually affects productivity.