COMMENTARY ON THE THREATS BY EUROPEAN UNION TO BAN IMPORTATION OF COCOA FROM GHANA AND COTE D’IVOIRE AND THE IMPLICATIONS ON THE ECONOMY.
The European Union (EU) has threatened to ban the importation of cocoa from Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire due to massive illegal small-scale mining activities in cocoa-growing areas within the two countries. The threat from the EU was conveyed by the Deputy Chief Executive of the Ghana Cocoa Board in charge of Agronomy and Quality Control, Dr Samuel Agyeman Dwomoh, to participants at the recent National Consultative Dialogue on Illegal Mining in Accra. He told the meeting that, Ghana currently exports about 80 percent of cocoa to the EU market, and the ban if implemented, would not auger well for the country’s cocoa industry. Those illegal mining activities, he said, were eroding the gains made by COCOBOD and called on the participants to help address the phenomenon as far as the extension of galamsey into the country’s forest areas was concerned.
Indeed, this gloomy picture painted by Dr Dwomoh of the country’s cocoa industry is a source of worry to our dear country, considering the huge percentage of export to the EU market. Certainly, it is becoming clear that activities of illegal small-scale miners are threatening the survival of our dear nation which depends largely on cocoa exports apart from gold and other minerals to provide basic infrastructural development in the country. Since 1989 when small-scale mining in Ghana was legalised, a lot of interest has been generated in the sector because of its socio-economic benefits. However, owing to lack of the necessary training and inadequate financial base on the part of the illegal small-scale operators, most operations are poorly managed environmentally. The rate at which these small-scale mining activities are degrading the environment and polluting water bodies, thus endangering the lives of citizens in the catchment areas is not the best for our country.
Since 2016, several attempts have been made by government to minimise if not eliminate the illegal activities in the small-scale mining sector of the economy. A year after the NPP took over the reins of government in 2017, it acted decisively to arrest the declining situation and put up plans to sanitise the small-scale mining regime. That commitment by government to fight this social menace endeared them to the hearts of Ghanaians especially the media and some civil society organisations which spearheaded the fight against the canker. The establishment of an anti-ministerial committee against illegal mining garnered support which to a large extent, halted and reversed the pollutions of water bodies in most parts of the country. Operation Vanguard attracted huge success as far as our lands and the turbidity of our water bodies were concerned, confiscation of large numbers of excavators nationwide and the banning of further importation of new ones provided a great impetus in the control of these small-scale mining activities across the country. That commitment by government to fight this social menace across the country won the hearts of our development partners, and as a result, continued to support the campaign to deal with the situation.
However, such commitment waned at some point when the ban on the activities of these small-scale miners was partially lifted and also the missing of some seized excavators by government. That encouraged these illegal small-scale miners to resume their activities in earnest. That has resulted in the problem we have at hand at the moment. Indeed, the recent bi-partisan consultative dialogue on small-scale mining in Accra will serve as a stimulus to deal with the situation devoid of partisan politics and parochial interest. As President Akufo-Addo boldly stated when he opened the dialogue, it would require stakeholders in the small-scale mining industry to engage in honest and candid conversation to stem the tide of the galamsey menace in the country.
Indeed, mining creates jobs and improves livelihoods but it should not be done at the expense of damaging the environment. We are endowed with numerous natural resources which we should exploit through innovative ways without destroying the environment which is our very survival. Now that the signal has been sent by the European Union, the country’s largest importer of cocoa that we risk a total ban if we fail to check the activities of these illegal small-scale miners in our cocoa growing areas, it behooves us as a country, to intensify the fight vigorously against these galamsayers whose activities threaten our survival as a nation.
This is a timely warning for the country to put its acts together and marshal all the necessary ammunition to deal with the issue at hand before we are overtaken by events. The threat is written boldly on the wall and we must overcome the challenges!
The Script Is By Charles Neequaye, Former Editor, Ghanaian Times.