Cocoa shortage is looming in Ghana as illegal diamond and gold mining activities are killing cocoa farms in mining communities in the country, Today investigations have revealed.
Farmers from cocoa growing communities in Ashanti, Western, Brong Ahafo and the three Northern Regions—Northern, Upper East and Upper West— told Today that they are being forced by their chiefs and landowners to sell off their cocoa farms to both local and foreign registered and illegal miners as destruction of land and water resources there intensify.
According to them, “some of our chiefs go to the extent of taking as low as GH¢20 before illegally awarding lands to these foreign illegal miners such as who are Chinese, Indians, Russians, Spaniards, Burkinabes and other West African nationals operating in their areas.”
The development, Today understands, has compelled both licensed and illegal diamond and gold miners to invade million hectares of cocoa lands in cocoa growing communities in Ghana, destroying large tracts of cocoa farms in the process—all in their quest to explore for gold and diamond.
The practice, which could spell doom for the country if not immediately halted, is common in parts of Western, Ashanti, Western, Brong Ahafo and the three Northern Regions, where illegal mining has become the order of the day.
There have been calls by the general public and civil society organisations, particularly Wacam, for a common platform to collaborate and develop prudent ways of developing possible linkages between mining and farming to bring about the needed growth and development.
Obviously, there are indications that cocoa growing regions in the country are under siege, following activities of illegal miners, particularly in Bogoso, Prestea, Tarkwa, all in the Western Region.
This accounts for the severe poverty hitting cocoa farmers in the face, and the subsequent practice where majority of these farmers exchange their cocoa farms as concessions to illegal gold miners for cash.
The development has come about because indigenes in these communities are gradually losing interest in farming as they see returns on mining activities as more attractive and far rewarding.
Available statistics to Today indicate that every year the country experiences a reduction of about 100,000 tonnes in production of cocoa, with global reduction trends expected to hit about one million.
Last year, Ghana’s cocoa production declined from one million tonnes in the previous year to 800,000 tonnes, while the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) this year has projected a production target of 830,000 metric tonnes which was later revised upward to 850,000 tonnes.
A visit to some mining and cocoa growing communities which are Bogoso, Prestea, Tarkwa, Kenyase and Obuasi among others revealed how activities of illegal small-scale gold miners were impacting negatively on cocoa farms. And that was compelling the indigenes to abandon their crop farms in search of gold.
The story of killing of cocoa farms by illegal small-scale gold miners was different in the outskirt of the Obuasi airstrip—Manso-Akropomg, Manso-Nkwanta, Petrensa and Kremokromas. In these areas the effects of illegal mining were devastating.
Forest vegetation was also giving way to deep pits, water logs, muddy pools and hips of sand scattered all over.
In areas like Korbro and Akutuase in the Amansie Central District, cocoa farms have become wasted lands.
“Farmers here have financial challenges and they also look at the location of farms to sell. They pay GHC2,500 for an acre of cocoa farm but many of these miners do not pay, saying there were no deposits in the area.
“Many of the farmers have been impoverished as a result. And all these are fuelled by the chiefs,” a farmer complained.
In the Amansie Central District, Today learnt that there were over fifty (50) licensed small-scale miners operating in the area with little or no regulation on their activities.
The most devastating effect for these people in the communities was child casualty due to the presence of open pits.
“Two children drowned in these pits. They should have covered the pits but government taskforce drove them away and they left the pits uncovered,” the famer said.
Forest reserves in the Amansie Central District have also not been spared the destruction and the residents have accused forestry officials and traditional authorities of complicity.
Today further observed that a number of the open pits had taken over some cocoa farms, with farmers seriously neglecting their cocoa farming activities for illegal mining.
A member of Wacam in Prestea, Mr. Dominic Nyame, called for concerted efforts to tackle the threat posed to the nation’s cocoa production by illegal gold mining.
He said the danger was real and must never be underestimated, adding that a decisive action must be taken to deal with it.
Mr. Nyame said the situation where cocoa trees were felled to make way for digging precious mineral will undoubtedly hurt production levels.
The nation will pay the cost for disturbing the vegetation, he warned.
According to him, apart from forcing farmers to sell their farms because of high deposit of mineral resources, some of the miners forcibly entered the land to undertake surface mining without the consent of farmers.
The situation, Mr. Nyame said, requires a holistic approach to redress it, adding that as a result of rampant and haphazard activities, most of the farmers were losing their lands.
He said farming activities have been reduced to zero in some cocoa growing areas, because the entire nutrients that feed the trees have been destroyed, therefore rendering such areas unfertile for farming.