– the impact of galamsey on agriculture
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 a question of sustainability for 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 country’s development trajectory.
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 question whether the country is not trading its strong agriculture potential ‘green gold’ for its non-renewable metallic ‘yellow’ gold.
The danger of Galamsey to the environment
Galamsey has undoubtedly gained notoriety in Ghana and is impacting negatively on the overall well-being of citizens in the affected areas. There are many instances showing the destruction of water-bodies and farm lands, 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 percent of the country’s current GDP.
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 set-ups among others. However, it does appear that, if not well-managed, the cost of illegal mining practice far outweighs its benefits.
The first effect of galamsey in some of places is pollution of water-bodies. It needs to be noted that many water-bodies provide sources of livelihood 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; thereby affecting people’s livelihoods. Those who use the water for irrigation and other domestic purposes are also affected negatively.
Aside from the water pollution by galamsey, farm lands are affected too. It needs to be underscored that agriculture is the mainstay of the nation’s economy; hence, a threat to farm lands 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 which are left uncovered and pose a threat to farmers who try to farm around such areas.
In terms of employment, agriculture represents a fine avenue for absorbing the many unemployed youth. However, observation suggests galamsey is pushing many of them from providing agriculture labour into galamsey pits, because they find the practice more lucrative and financially rewarding than farming.
The resultant effect is reduced farm labour and an aging farming population. Coupled with low mechanisation of the Agriculture sector, reduced farm labour could further reduce the agriculture sector’s contribution to the nation’s economy.
In light of the above, there is need for urgent steps to be taken in addressing 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 necessary political will and commitment, can any progress be made from such consultations?
To start with, there is a need for government to put in place special funds 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 facilitate the fund to help citizens acquire the necessary credit to go into Agriculture-related businesses.
Secondly, the issue of providing skills-training for youth in the area of Agriculture is important to help them venture into Agricultural 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 programmes 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, so as to improve the agricultural sector and the environment.
Finally, there is 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 which comprise the chiefs, police, military, youth and all relevant stakeholders. Such a platform working in tandem with the relevant state agencies would ensure the issue of galamsey is well-tackled.
In conclusion, unless the government of Ghana takes 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, for gold – a non- renewable resource. The end result would be a worse economy than Ghana has now.
>>>The writer is a policy advocate & consultant in agriculture and international trade
0249731699/0209029686 Email: [email protected]