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Illegal mining – a dire threat to food security

Illegal mining, commonly known as galamsey, poses a grave and urgent environmental and socio-economic challenge in Ghana. While its devastating impact on water bodies and ecosystems is widely acknowledged, its catastrophic consequences for crop production and fish consumption, and the subsequent threat to food security, cannot be overstated. As a staunch advocate of sustainable agriculture, I am deeply alarmed by the potential ramifications of illegal mining on our vital sources of nutrition.

This article aims to shed light on the global examples of the disastrous effects of this illicit activity and emphasises the critical need for immediate and comprehensive action to protect Ghana’s food security, especially as this year’s National Farmers Day celebration’s theme touches on sustainable food security and resilience.

  1. Water pollution and crop contamination – a global menace

Illegal mining operations employ reckless and destructive methods, reminiscent of environmental disasters witnessed in other parts of the world. Take, for instance, the devastating effects of illegal gold mining in the Amazon rainforest. Rampant deforestation, mercury contamination, and soil degradation have wreaked havoc on agricultural lands, rendering them barren and unconducive for crop production.

Similar scenarios have unfolded in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where illegal mining for minerals like coltan has led to widespread environmental degradation and soil pollution, severely affecting agricultural productivity. Ghana must learn from these global examples and take immediate action to prevent such ecological catastrophes.

  1. Depletion of fish stocks – a global crisis

Illegal mining not only ravages terrestrial ecosystems but also has dire consequences for aquatic environments and fish populations worldwide. In Peru, illegal gold mining has caused extensive mercury pollution in rivers, contaminating fish and jeopardising the health of indigenous communities that rely on them for sustenance. The tragedy of illegal fishing in Southeast Asia further emphasises the global implications of this issue.

Destructive fishing practices, driven by illegal operations, have decimated fish populations, threatening the food security and livelihoods of millions. Ghana cannot afford to ignore these global precedents and must take decisive action to protect its precious fish stocks before it’s too late.

  1. Devastating ripple effects on global food security

The impact of illegal mining on crops and fish extends far beyond national boundaries, with severe implications for global food security. The contamination of agricultural produce due to illegal mining practices undermines public health and jeopardises international trade. The European Union, for instance, has stringent regulations regarding the importation of agricultural products containing excessive pesticide residues.

If Ghana fails to curb illegal mining and the subsequent contamination of its crops, it risks facing international trade restrictions and losing its position as a reliable exporter of agricultural commodities. Such repercussions would not only harm the Ghanaian economy but could also aggravate global food shortages and exacerbate the already precarious state of global food security.

  1. Urgent measures for a sustainable future

To safeguard Ghana’s food security, it is imperative to recognise the urgency of the situation and implement robust measures. Ghana must draw inspiration from international best practices and take a firm stand against illegal mining:

  1. Strengthening legislation and enforcement: Ghana’s government must enact stringent laws and regulations to deter illegal mining activities effectively. Law enforcement agencies should be empowered with the necessary resources and authority to crack down on illegal mining operations swiftly.
  2. Heightened public awareness: Educating local communities about the catastrophic consequences of illegal mining is paramount. Ghana must emulate successful awareness campaigns from countries such as Colombia, where community-led initiatives have raised public consciousness about the environmental and health risks associated with illegal mining.
  3. Sustainable alternatives: Encouraging sustainable agricultural practices, such as agroforestry and precision farming, can mitigate the reliance on contaminated water sources and minimise the impact of illegal mining. Investing in responsible aquaculture and promoting sustainable fishing methods can also alleviate pressure on depleted fish stocks and preserve marine biodiversity.
  4. International cooperation: Collaboration with international partners, such as environmental organisations and neighbouring countries, is essential to combat illegal mining. Ghana must seek assistance in implementing effective monitoring systems, sharing best practices, and preventing cross-border smuggling of minerals.

Conclusion

Illegal mining near water bodies is an imminent and dire threat to Ghana’s food security, with profound global implications. The international community has witnessed the catastrophic consequences of this illicit activity, from the Amazon rainforest to Southeast Asia. Ghana must learn from these global examples and act swiftly to protect its water bodies, agricultural lands, and fish populations.

By adopting stringent legislation, raising public awareness, promoting sustainable practices, and fostering international cooperation, Ghana can lead the way in securing its food security and preserving the well-being of its citizens. The time for decisive action is now, before the irreversible damage caused by illegal mining becomes an indelible stain on Ghana’s future.

>>>the writer has over 10 years’ experience in agribusiness. Martin is a trained agriculturist and currently a PhD Business Administration Candidate at the Accra Institute of Technology – Open University of Malaysia. He is currently the General Manager of Newage Agric Solutions Limited, the CIMG Agro-Based Company of the year 2022. He can be reached via nartey.martin@gmail.com and or +233-245907542

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