agriculture, construction, contamination, education, employment, entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship, environment, Food, Ghana, health, livelihoods, mining, politics, pollution, quarry, rivers, small scale mining, society, Tourism, water, youth
The menace of illegal mining in Ghana has been a bane for authorities recently. Illegal mining, popularly called ‘galamsey’ in Ghana, is a type of mining carried out with basic implement by mostly local people in search for gold or other minerals in the earth crust. The proliferation of small scale illegal mining is creating heaps of problems for the whole nation, especially the water bodies and their various localities. ‘Galamsey’ brings with it, heavy toll on the individuals involved in the activity and the society as a whole. Individuals sustain various degrees of physical injuries and other respiratory diseases while the society suffers from pollution of water bodies and an increase in social vices around the mining town. There have been several calls from various quarters about how the community can assist in halting these nefarious activities but only a few have wondered unto how these miners would survive after their activities have been stopped. I raise this concern to draw everyone’s attention to the fact that the majority of youth in these mining areas is involved in this illegal act because they see it as their major source of income and are probably (or possibly) unwilling to end this illegal practice if they see it as their only means of survival. I have explored possible other forms of income generation activities that these miners could consider, to earn a living from their various localities.
Building and construction industry is a good avenue to absorb illegal miners in the country. The work of a miner is somewhat analogous to workers at a construction site and with little training they could work in companies involved in building private and commercial properties either in their localities or elsewhere. These miners could consider shifting their energy into assisting experts in the construction sector so they could earn decent and reliable income. Due to the nature of building and construction in the country, workers who are strong and resilient are likely to thrive in such field and I believe local miners could also be trained to take up leadership positions in such fields. Governments and multinationals company could assist by granting contracts to local contractors and also insisting that contractors involve local labour and experts in executing their contracts. This would greatly reduce the number of local labourers participating in ‘galamsey.’
Various groups leaders in illegal small scale mining teams could come together to form a quarry company to distribute stones and sand to building contractors and private developers. This type of business has proven to be lucrative for the youth who are into it. There are numerous sites located across the nation where legal permit could be obtained so they could start working. It could be argued that venturing into quarry business is capital intensive, but I must say that some of these mining techniques also involve an equivalent capital injection to yield similar return. So, instead of spending huge capital polluting our environment, it could be channelled to other activities that could assist in our nation building.
Agriculture is also a major area illegal miners could focus to obviate their need to degrade the environment. Agriculture activities, in both crops and animals earn considerable income in Ghana, and are a good venture for the youth with support from both government and the private sector. Instead of the youth degrading the environment they could turn around to assist mother earth in the form of crop farming. Growing, harvesting and selling of cash crops, like cocoa, shear nuts, coffee are all good areas that these illicit miners could venture into. Also, vegetable beds could be built along river banks to undertake vegetable farming. Alternatively, they could also go into fish farming using submersible nets on the rivers to produce fish for sale. This would force them to ensure the rivers are not polluted. Moreover, animal rearing is a good venture for the youth to channel their energy and skills into it. Poultry has contributed immensely to the bridging the gap in protein need for the country. Poultry generate both eggs and meat and their droppings could also be used as manure in crop production. There is excess demand for poultry and other meat products especially during festive seasons. Other non traditional agricultural venture like, mushroom farming, snail, rabbit and grass cutter rearing are all major income earning avenues for illegal miners in the country.
Manufacturing is another means to employ the youth currently engaging in illegal mining in the country. Majority of the activities in manufacturing companies might not need much specialization or skills; this makes it easier to gain employment in such companies most importantly if you have some soft sills. Also, many of the small scale processing of local produce does not require much capital to start. ‘Galamsey’ operators could channel their funds to purchase these machines to process agricultural produce at the local level. ‘Galamseyer’ operators can consult training institutions to assist them in training, so they could acquire skills in small scale manufacturing in the forms of soap making, shear butter processing, catering and baking. Undoubtedly, agro processing would be a great source of income for these illegal miners. This is because majority of the equipment and machines are basic and they can be manufactured and repaired locally. Aside their ease of use and locally sourced, most of the raw material used in the production are readily provided by local farmers at affordable prices and are available year round. Aside generating income for themselves, engaging in manufacturing could help add value to locally manufactured goods to reduce reliance on importation and even for export.
Mining sites could be converted to resort and tourist site to attract visitors to such areas. These would yield considerable income for the site/land owners instead of exploiting the land. Majority of the labourers could be picked and trained as tour guides and security personnel to guide and guard tourist who will visit the area. Aside from preserving the land, venturing into tourism could potentially force indigenous citizens to espouse their culture so they could sell it to others tourists, whether local or foreign.
The negative consequences of ‘Galamsey’ in the country is very glaring and the earlier we all assist to solve the problem the better for the nation in particular and the world as a whole. State and local governments should carve out models to assist youth in these mining areas to help them focus on alternative work avenue so they are not used to perpetrate the crime of illegal mining. Also local and international NGOs should assist the youth with counselling and skill training to make them employable. I believe in most cases there are push and pull factors that motivate or inhibit crime. Majority of our resources should not only be channelled into identifying only the negative effects but also portions should be dedicated to finding solutions to the problem and one of the solutions we could give to illegal mining is to offer alternative sources of livelihood for those involved.
This is a guest post from Nana Ameyaw-Addai (firstname.lastname@example.org) The post has been previously published in the Goldstreet Business Newspaper on Friday 5th May, 2017.