Foreign mining company takes over 150 hectares of rehabilitated cocoa farms

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Over 150 hectares (375 acres) of rehabilitated cocoa farms at Brahabebome, Apuoyem, Brosanko, Nkontomire, and Ouagadougou in the Atwima Nwabiagya South Municipality, are under siege.

This is because a foreign mining company, MIGOP Mining Limited has taken over these farms for its mining activities.

The company, which claims to have acquired a licence from the Minerals Commission for prospecting has been destroying vast portions of the rehabilitated farms, despite resistance from the farmers.

Some of the affected farmers who spoke with the Ghana News Agency, said the company had erected barriers in the area as part of its prospecting and development activities, denying them access to their own farms.

They said the company had also deployed excavators and other earthmoving equipment ready to pull down all the newly rehabilitated cocoa trees and other vegetation to pave way for their mining activities, they said.

The affected communities were beneficiaries of the Cocoa Rehabilitation Programme (2021-2023) undertaken by the government through COCOBOD.

Prior to the intervention, cocoa production in the area had taken a nosedive due to the outbreak of the Swollen Shoot Disease.

However, just as a semblance of life and hope appeared to be returning to the communities following the huge investments made in the diseased and moribund farms, they land had been given out as concessions for the mining firm to explore for gold.

Although the farmers had rejected the GHC 10,000.00 per acre of land payment offer by the company, it was not ready to give up, but was rather busy preparing the grounds to start its mining prospecting, the farmer said.

Following distress calls for the intervention of COCOBOD from the farmers, a team of officials from COCOBOD led by Professor Michael Kwarteng, the Head of Anti-illegal Mining Unit, visited the area to ascertain the level of destruction of the farms.

The team, prior to inspecting the farms, engaged farmers in the area for first-hand information on the situation to inform their approach to the menace. Clad in red armbands to signify their displeasure of the wanton destruction of their farms, the farmers took turns to pour out their frustrations on how they could lose their livelihoods if steps were not taken by the authorities to halt operations of the mining company.

They asked why the government would invest huge funds in rehabilitating their farms, only for it to be given out for mining purposes.

“They are forcefully taking over our farms despite our rejection of the paltry GHC 10,000.00 they are offering,” Mr Kwasi Gyan, one of the aggrieved farmers said.
The farmers said they felt intimidated by the presence of security men of the company who were usually armed to the teeth in a harmless environment basically for farming activities.

They called on COCOBOD to take swift action to safeguard its investments and by extension protect their livelihoods which they had toiled to build.
Prof. Kwarteng after the inspection of the farms, said he was disgusted by the level destruction of cocoa trees by the company which had created access roads through the farms.

“As you can see, they have destroyed most of the cocoa farms and we at COCOBOD are not aware of what is happening,” he told the media in an interview.
He said section 18 of the Minerals Mining Act stipulated that mining companies were supposed to contact the regulators of resources that could be affected by their activities.

“So, they are violating that aspect of their own laws, and the mining companies are taking advantage of the system destroying our cocoa everywhere,” Prof. Kwarteng said.
He served notice that COCOBOD would take the necessary steps to protect the farms under the Economic Plant Protection Act.

He said about 4,500 hectares of cocoa farms within the Nkawie Cocoa District could be affected if urgent steps were not taken to stop the company, to serve as deterrent to others.

Mr Richard Gyasi, the Community Relations Officer of the Company who rushed to the farm after learning about the visit of the COCOBOD officials, rejected the allegations levelled against them by the farmers.

He said the company, which was duly licensed by the Minerals Commission was only prospecting for gold and that they paid adequate compensation to farmers whose cocoa trees were affected.

By Yussif Ibrahim, GNA

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