- GAWU signals COCOBOD to act or miss 900,000 tonnes target
- Sefwi, Juaboso, Akotombra farms at big risk
- Forestry Commission, chiefs, district assemblies sit aloof
Every week, illegal mining activities or ‘galamsey’ destroys at least 20 acres of cocoa farms in the Sefwi-Wiawso, Juaboso, Bia and Akotombra areas in the Western North Region, an area that constitute the largest percentage of Ghana’s cocoa production, the General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU) of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has said.
The GAWU has thus sent a distress signal to Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) to swiftly intervene to stop the large-scale destruction of cocoa farms by illegal miners or risk missing out on its ambitious target of producing 900,000 tonnes of cocoa beans for the 2020/21 crop season.
Deputy General Secretary of GAWU, Andrews Addoquaye Tagoe, told the B&FT that the fight against illegal mining in cocoa farms, particularly in Sefwi and its adjourning towns is having ravaging effects on the livelihood of farmers.
The farmers, who are already losing their lands to galamsey activities, are also battling contaminated mercury and cyanide polluted water in irrigating their farms.
During a meeting by the Alliance of Civil Society Organizations in Agriculture, in Accra, the Landscape Management Board, an agriculture cooperative group in Sefwi, Juaboso, Bia and Akotombra with a membership of more than 1,500 cocoa famers, has confirmed that, more than 20 acres of cocoa farms in the area are destroyed every week by galamsey activities.
The Board, which also advocates sustainable cocoa farming practices in Sefwi, Juaboso, Bia and Akotombra and oversee anti-illegal lumbering activities in the area, has said the Forestry Commission, traditional leaders and the district assemblies have denied knowledge of permits for mining activities in the farms.
“We have appealed to the chiefs and made approaches to the Forestry Commission and the district assemblies to ascertain and implore them to order the illegal miners to stop; but the authorities deny knowledge of permits to these miners as the scourge continuous,” Elijah Kofi Owusu, Chairman of the cooperative, told the BFT.
He revealed that a sizeable number of excavators in the area have been moved in the past weeks to Ivory Coast for fear of being burnt by the government taskforce, adding, “some are still coming back in spite of the threats.”
But GAWU, solidarizing with the farmers, maintains that the fight against galamsey in cocoa farms must not be spearheaded solely by the farmers. “Despite having presence in these cocoa areas through the work of its agriculture extension agents, COCOBOD must still intercede for the farmers through engagements with the traditional leaders to protect the lands,” Mr. Tagoe advised.
The Chamber of Agribusiness Ghana, however said the pragmatism of policies that are being implemented to stop mining in farms, may not be effective as COCOBOD has been sidelined.
Chief Executive of the Chamber, Anthony Selorm Morrison, said COCOBOD is to blame for being sidelined because of its inability to be proactive in these issues that concerns farmers. “The Chamber recently drew COCOBOD’s attention to the scourge of mining in cocoa farms and the only respond we had from the CEO, was that COCOBOD don’t own the lands,” he disclosed.
The Alliance of Civil Society Organizations in Agriculture comprising entities such as Oxfam, Rainforest Alliance, GAWU, Chamber of Agribusiness and others, are worried that persistent galamsey in cocoa growing areas, will continue to increase forest loss, destruction and contamination of water sources for irrigation by stallholder farmers and total collapse of the agriculture value chain.