From a cocoa hub to a galamsey haven

Odaw river-Credit Citinewsroom

…the sad story of Jacobu in the Amansie Central District

By Naana Nkansah AGYEKUM

I once asked my aunt, on one of my visits to my hometown, why chop bars and eatery joints are booming compared to my childhood days. Her response, “because people can’t afford to cook their own food”, “it is expensive”. Then one day I went to the market myself.  From plantain, cassava, vegetables to fish; everything was just too much for me. I came back frustrated with empty hands.

I gave the money back to my aunt to sort things out as I couldn’t figure out what to buy with everything just too expensive in a supposedly farming town like mine. She then retorted: “imagine someone without a farm, which is the case of most people now, buying everything in order to afford a decent meal.” That was when reality dawned on me.

My grandmother’s cocoa farm

But the question is how did we get here? In the 90s when I was schooling there, my house had so much food that sometimes I invited my schoolmates to come and take some away before they were wasted. We had everything in those days. Yam, all the varieties, plantain, and above, all cocoa farms in the thick forest of Jacobu and its environs. All you needed to have a sumptuous meal was a few coins to get fish or meat and every other thing was there in abundance.

Shockingly, market queens now source their foodstuff from Obuasi to sell in Jacobu. The constituency was not named Odotobri for nothing. ‘Odotor’ is a thick forest and indeed it was that thick forest for the cultivation of everything before our common enemy, galamsey reared its ugly head. Since galamsey gained ground over there, everything has been on the reverse. The youth are heavily implicated in the whole galamsey mess and would trade their education for a quick ‘gala’ money. Cocoa farms are being turned into galamsey pits everywhere.

I had a trip about a year ago from Jacobu to a nearby cocoa community. The boldness and conspicuous manner the illegal miners were operating along the road clearly showed there is more to this galamsey menace than meets the eye. How can people openly operate in this illegality if they were not backed by other powerful authorities?

All the drumming most media houses have done about galamsey and the heart wrenching videos and pictures of the wanton destruction of our water bodies and forest should have yielded some results by now. If you got to see Jacobu then and now, barely any major or even minor infrastructural development has taken place except, of course, the massive loss of our farms and green pastures.

The last time I saw the ‘Odaw’ river at Anwia-Nkwanta (along the Kumasi-Obuasi highway) was a sad sight to behold. This river used to be the source of drinking water when I visited my grandmother’s village some years ago. Now, anytime I see images of this river my heart bleeds. I once told someone that river was a source of drinking water in my grandparents’ village and the person screamed.

Why should we be concerned? World cocoa prices are record high but where are the cocoa beans? The recent 58percent increment of cocoa prices from GH¢20,928 per tonne to GH¢33,120 (still lower than what our neighbour, Cote d’Ivoire is offering) should have at least brought some joy to cocoa farmers. When I curiously called my aunt to tell her, she was just unperturbed. Her initial response was “we don’t even have the cocoa beans.”

I am not oblivious to the other factors that have contributed to this decline in production. My concern is, however, the fast rate at which our cocoa farms are giving way for galamsey activities. The situation is akin to having double slaps on the same cheek. The farms are shrinking on one side and the yields are reducing due to other factors. Our cocoa farms are seriously competing with galamsey for space.

I feel for my people at Jacobu. I wail for the youth who are being used for the meager coins while the high and mighty enjoy their booty. Cost of living is rocketing in a town that was noted for its high cocoa production and foodstuff. Can we continue to watch helplessly for our cocoa sector to go into history books like other sectors?

So, what can we do, you ask? That is the dilemma we are all facing. It’s an open secret that the people who are supposed to fight galamsey are the very ones perpetuating the act. That is the debacle we find ourselves in.


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