The Effects of Illegal Small-scale Gold Mining in Ghana: A Threat to Food Security
Ghana has an abundance of mineral and agricultural resources. Gold, bauxite, diamonds, and manganese are among the commercially mined minerals. Others, such as kaolin, salt, limestone, mica, and feldspar, to name a few, are either underutilised or completely unutilized. The major agro-ecological zones also happen to correspond with the largest mineral resource reserves. Illegal small-scale gold mining (galamsey) destroys fertile land in agro-ecological zones, lowering agricultural output and jeopardising food security in Ghana. Using secondary data such as Ghana’s agricultural productivity records, consumer price indices for food commodities, and national food import statistics, this article examines the impact of illegal small-scale gold mining in Ghana through the lens of a conceptual model that links galamsey and agricultural productivity, in terms of the realistic threat to food security. The data demonstrate that over the last few years, key galamsey regions (Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Eastern, Central, and Western) have seen progressively worse food productivity and, as a result, higher Consumer Price Indices than the national averages (from 2012). Agriculture’s contribution to GDP fell in lockstep with mining’s throughout the same time period. Galamsey by surface mining is largely responsible for low food production, food price spikes, and high cost of living, especially in galamsey-prone regions of Ghana, by degrading arable lands, contaminating water bodies, polluting the air, shifting labour from food crop farming to mining, and displacing farmers. However, if reclamation is done well, surface mining can be a short-term land use that can be followed by profitable cropland. Land reclamation from degraded open cast mines will increase agricultural productivity and eliminate yield gaps in crops, allowing the government to achieve food import substitution for major food staples such as rice and wheat. As a result, national food import dependence, food import bills, food price rises, and the cost of living will be reduced. As a result, reclamation of degraded galamsey-mines is critical to achieving all three dimensions of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (social, economic, and environmental), particularly goal two of the Post-2015 Agenda (end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture). As a result, the author proposes mandatory reclamation of degraded surface mines for arable use as a long-term solution to Ghana’s food insecurity problem. Food insecurity is a real and present danger!
Coconut Research Programme, Oil Palm Research Institute, P. O. Box 245, Sekondi, Ghana.
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