Ghanaian farmers are trading cocoa lands for gold money

Farmers in the Western region say it makes economic sense to sell their cocoa farms to buyers interested in exploiting it for gold.

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The farmers in the Wassa Amenfi East District of the region say it is unprofitable to go into cocoa farming because it no longer provides economic returns worth their time and energy.

A farmer, Kwesi Nyarko, told Radio Maxx that, after years of cocoa farming, he is still unable to cater for his wards educational needs.

"I have not been able to put up a single room all these years after farming," he said after he sold off a portion of his land for GHC30, 000.

Reports say, a land with higher prospect for gold can go for GHC40, 000 while lower prospects go for 10,000 cedis.

The farmers determine the prospect by examining the distance between the lands and the nearest gold mining site.

The capitulation in the face of Chinese cash has seen a disturbing destruction of cocoa farms to the more rewarding work of finding gold.

And gold is rewarding. In 2015, gold brought in $4.33 billion. Cocoa beans grossed $1.98b. And so it appears, a golden stone is better than a golden pod.

Another farmer Kwesi Narko also says although he can boast of 20 acres cocoa lands, he struggles for fertilizers for his farms.

The fertilizer politicization in the cocoa sector is part of the reasons why he is gradually hanging his farming boots for a one-off buy-out of his cocoa lands.

He says he last got 18 bags of cocoa fertilizer but pointed to some others who got as much as 100 bags of fertilizers.

According to the Lands and Natural Resources Minister Ghana lost 2.3 billion dollars’ worth of gold through illegal mining popularly known as galamsey.

In Ghana, it appears economy is more important than ecology and so destruction of the environment appears not to be an alarming reason to halt illegal mining.

But the danger from ecological destruction has escalated to a sanitation crisis. Rivers are now too polluted to serve as sources of water for water treatment plants.

The rivers, hitherto colourless have now turned into a substance too harmful. Gold is a good colour for jewelry but a cancerous colour for drinking.

And so in the Eastern region where river Tano is found, water is fast becoming a scarce commodity in surrounding communities.

While the take-over of cocoa farms in the Wassa Amenfi East District is peaceful even if detrimental, the take-over of cocoa farms in Goaso in the Asunafo North Municipality of the Brong Ahafo Region is nothing short of violence.

Galamsey operators there have destroyed three cocoa-growing communities - Manukrom, Atoom and Tipokrom.

They secretly move under the cover of darkness.

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