Illegal mining continues to pose serious risk to Ghana’s cocoa farms

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Pictures of conference attendees
Pictures of conference attendees

Illegal mining continues to pose a serious risk to Ghana’s cocoa farms as unregulated activities continue to impact negatively on the sustainability and productivity of the country’s vital agricultural sector.

Pictures of conference attendees
Pictures of conference attendees

Concerns are also growing over the adverse effects of climate change on cocoa production, and the threat posed by illegal mining “galamsey” adds another layer of complexity to the challenges faced by the industry and the nation’s economy.

These challenges were raised at the Cocoa Research Institute Workers Union of the Trades Union Congress (CRIWU-TUC) second delegates’ conference, held in New Tafo in the Eastern Region.

The conference was on the theme, “The Impact of Climate Change on the Cocoa Sector: Adaptation and Mitigation Measures, the Role of the Worker.”

Addressing the participants, Mr. Joseph Boahen Aidoo, the Cocoa Board (Cocobod) Chief Executive Officer, indicated that the cocoa industry was currently grappling with the adverse effects of climate change variability and the detrimental impacts of galamsey activities.

He highlighted the consequences of deforestation and its link to climate change variability compounded by unregulated illegal mining, which has further polluted a substantial portion of water bodies.

He explained that the removal of trees, forests, and grasses had reduced the soil’s ability to convert carbon into oxygen, leading to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions and associated risks.

While acknowledging that cocoa trees absorb carbon, Aidoo clarified that cocoa was not responsible for deforestation.

Instead, he cited other human activities, such as cultivating crops like maize and cassava, which do not allow for vegetation regrowth, as the primary cause.

The CEO stressed the importance of preventing the destruction of cocoa trees and promoting the use of regenerative farming methods.

He also said irrigation should be the best solution for addressing reduced cocoa yields but pointed out that illegal mining activities had caused the loss of substantial water resources, which is affecting irrigation practices.

Daasebre Adusei Peasah IV, the Chief of Akyem Tafo in the Abuakwa North Municipality of the Eastern Region, also addressed the conference and echoed the importance of cocoa as the mainstay of Ghana’s economic development over the years.

He commended the event organisers for coming up with the theme aimed at tackling climate change issues affecting the cocoa sector, saying, “Cocoa is Ghana, and Ghana is cocoa.”

He expressed concerns over the threat posed by galamsey activities to cocoa farms, stating that if climate change were to be effectively addressed, these illicit mining operations must cease in cocoa-growing regions.

He explained that the challenges faced by Ghana’s cocoa sector due to climate change and galamsey activities have significant implications for the industry’s growth and the livelihoods of those dependent on it.

He urged urgent actions to implement effective adaptation and mitigation measures to ensure the sustainability and resilience of the cocoa sector in Ghana’s economy.

Dr. Anthony Yaw Baah, TUC Secretary-General, shared a personal anecdote about the positive impact of cocoa scholarships on the children of cocoa farmers.

As a direct beneficiary of the scholarship, he highlighted how it enabled him to access higher education, thanks to his mother’s status as a cocoa farmer.

He noted that the initiative played a crucial role in uplifting the socio-economic conditions of cocoa farming communities.

Ghana’s cocoa production has recently experienced shortfalls, primarily due to weather patterns leading to inadequate rainfall, and other factors such as smuggling, damage from unregulated gold mining activities, and the devastating effects of swollen shoot disease.

As a result, the nation’s cocoa output was only around 500,000 tonnes, below the targeted figure of 820,000 for the 2023/2024 season.

Unfortunately, experts say addressing these issues and achieving the desired production levels may not be immediately feasible through human intervention alone.

GNA/By D.I. Laary

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