Ghana is one of the top 10 producers of gold in the world. Illegal mining “galamsey” activities abound across the length and breadth of Ghana, including the Ashanti Region.
Paradoxically, the Manso enclave in the Ashanti region of Ghana is arguably the second largest mining enclave after Obuasi, all in the Ashanti region. All the streams that flow into the two major rivers in the Manso enclave; the Offin River and the Oda River, are gold bearing streams and because of that, their valleys are also full of gold yet, it is not a good specimen of such associated expectations of community development expected in gold bearing towns.
These expectations I hoped to see included employment opportunities for the young men and women in the town, development of roads with road signs and markings, hospitals, schools and community centers and other livelihood opportunities, that comes together to better the lives of the locals and symbolizes their richness.
Sadly, I was surprised to witness that in spite of the billions of wealth generated from mining activities in Manso, host communities still persist in lifestyles of abject poverty seen in deteriorated livelihoods and inadequate housing and road infrastructure. Manso Abudia, Manso Takorase, MansoNkran amongst other towns in the Manso enclave are amongst some of the poorest towns in the Ashanti region. These areas can’t boost of a single natural water body fit for human use.
The increased prices of foods stuff and reduced tonnage of cocoa production have a direct link to the activities of illegal mining. The effects of illegal mining in the Manso enclave extend to cocoa farming. Ghana’s cocoa production after hitting a million tonnes in 2011 has been fluctuating downwards and upwards, from 835,000 in 2013, 897,000 tonnes in 2014, 740,000 tonnes in 2015 and the increased to 840,000 tonnes in 2016.
We cannot achieve another million tonnes of cocoa production if we keep to this toxic status quo.
The evidence of Okada-related deaths in another sad chapter in the lives of people in Manso enclave. Not a single day goes by without an Okada accident. Many have been maimed and buried because of the reckless driving of the riders, aided by the deplorable state of roads.
The teenage girls in Manso are getting pregnant at tender ages. In 2014, 3,000 teenage pregnancies and 619 abortions were recorded. We need to flip the script and change this.
Manso Adubia has a single small-size electricity transformer that powers the Adubia township, adjourning communities and the Mansoman Senior High School. Residents say not a single week passes by without the transformer catching fire with sparks. Pregnant women and people in need of medical emergencies have to travel several kilometers on these impious and rough roads behind motorbikes or in “aboboyaa” to seek medical care.
If we sit in Accra and pretend to be fighting illegal mining, the turbidity, visibility and forest shape will expose us.
Going forward, the mining company doing the macro mining should do more. It is not fair for a mining company to give $2 as cooperate social responsibility off an ounce of gold, selling at $1,900. We need to review these pitiful deals as a country. We cannot keep to the same script after 64 years of self-rule. For is it the resentment towards such deals by the local people that sometimes occasion them to unleashed on these mining companies through encroachments of concessions and illegal mining. They cannot lose the lands of their forebears that bear wealth and live in poverty. It’s a matter of livelihood and survival.
Government as a matter of urgency must focus on the rural and local community development drive, by re-directing foreign direct investment, to remedy the deprivation situation in the countryside because we are losing our vegetation and water bodies. We need to stop the Accra-hyperfocus and begin to spread the tentacles of development to other parts of the country, especially the hinterlands.
The precarious situation of mining communities must change. It must change now for our future looks blink. It must change because we have ruled ourselves for 64 years.
Source: Eugene Osei-Tutu (Focus FM)