Food Shortage Looms In Nzema

Residents of Ankasa in Jomoro District of the Western region have warned about a looming food shortage in the area if immediate steps are not taken to halt the activities of illegal miners which they say have destroyed vast fertile farmlands and water bodies as well as forest reserves.

The residents fear that should the destruction of farmlands and water bodies continue at the current rate, they would soon be forced to move outside their communities in search of foodstuff and potable water.

The people of Ankasa, a major gold mining village where illegal mining (galamsey) is rife, disclosed to Today at a consultative meeting in Tema that the activities of illegal small scale miners posed a major security threat to them and to the people dwelling in the surrounding communities.

The consultative meeting brought together stakeholders drawn from the communities affected by mining in Ghana.

Sharing their views about the problem, the residents expressed worry over the damage the galamsey operators had caused to the Ankasa forest reserve and fertile farmlands, including the pollution of major rivers such as Pra, Ankobra, Boerie which serve as sources of drinking water for the people.

Residents of communities who rely on the Pra, Ankobra and Boerie for drinking and other purposes lamented that they could not make use of water from the two rivers again because of the high level of pollutants in the water bodies.

They complained bitterly that all the gold mining operating towns and villages in the Western region were entirely relying on water from boreholes.

According to them, other aspects of the problem included damage to large tracts of farmlands and Ankasa forest reserve which has rubber and oil palm plantations.

The residents alluded to the fact that the miners employed bulldozers in their work and as a result destroyed large areas in a relatively short period.

Under the circumstances, they stated that the ecology of the Ankasa forest reserve has been badly affected by the mining activities.

According to them, scores of illegal mine workers at Ankasa told the people in the community that, they were aware of the destruction their activities were causing, but they also had to make a living.

They disclosed that the land on which the ‘galamseyers’ operated belonged to their bosses who had bought them specifically for the mining projects.

According to them, galamsey was on the ascendancy because there were no jobs.

In some communities, the residents disclosed that the galamsey operators had dug so close to people’s homes.

However, Today in its investigations can confirm that Western region could face looming food insecurity in the coming years due to a decline in the production of basic food crops.

According to a Human Development report on the region and published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) recently, seven districts namely, Wassa Amenfi East, West and Central, Juaboso, Aowin Suaman, Sehwi Akontobra and Sehwi Wiaso have seen a decline in the production of food crops such as maize, plantain, yam, cassava etc.

According to the report, the problem has to do with the mining activities of galamseyers and the deteriorating road network linking them to the urban centres like the Sekondi-Takoradi metropolis.

Some of the participants at the workshop who spoke to Today revealed that farmers in the area were mostly above the age of 45 whereas the young men in the area were engaged in illegal mining activities.

That, they said, was because young men saw agriculture as an unattractive venture.

They disclosed that initially farmers in the area were producing cassava to the tune of 36,000 metric tons, plantain 6.5 metric tons and maize at about 15,000 metric tons but due to the problem of galamsey there has been a huge decrease in the production of these food crops.

That, according to them, was also as a result of the massive investments by oil related businesses like the Plant Pool and estate developments as well as galamsey activities.

They stressed that if activities of galamsey operators were not checked, it would continue to hamper the progress of food security in the country.

Today discovered that traditional authorities in some of the gold mining towns and villages in the region were dismayed about the massive destruction of forested lands and water bodies and accused multi-national mining companies operating in Ghana of promoting water pollution, degradation of forested lands through illegal mining operations.

According to them, though these mining giants were not directly involved in the illegal mining, they benefitted from it through the buying of tailings from the illegal miners.