Ghana: ‘Galamsey’ activities stalling sustainable fishery efforts

Despite an extended government ban on illegal mining and the deployment of a joint task force to curb the menace, galamsey activities persist in communities along the River Pra, impeding efforts to restore Ghana’s dwindling fish stocks.

David Koomson, the Shama District Co-Management Committee Chairman, stated: “Regarding the galamsey issue, I’m unsure if the task force visits here, but they are definitely operating along the Pra River from Obuasi to Shama. I know the DCE, District Director, and Planning Officer have toured these communities to inspect the machinery used in galamsey activities. If the task force is truly here, they should assist us.”

A visit to communities along the Pra Estuary, including Anlo Beach and Shama Apo in the Shama district of the Western Region, revealed the heavily polluted, muddy brown waters of the River Pra where it meets the sea. These communities are currently hosting mangrove restoration and woodlot plantation projects under the Sustainable Fisheries Management Project (SFMP), funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and supported by local NGOs Friends of the Nation (FON) and the Central and Western Fishmongers Improvement Association (CEWEFIA).

Under the SFMP, community members and district assembly representatives have formed a co-management committee to govern fishing practices in the area. Previously, Anlo Beach, a migrant community in the Shama district, suffered from overharvesting mangroves and illegal fishing methods. Mangrove areas serve as breeding grounds for various fish species, and overharvesting disrupts this process, leading to a significant drop in fish harvests, which greatly affects livelihoods.

To address this, the SFMP initiated a restoration project to replant mangroves and protect these wetlands. The project has been fairly successful, with the formation of a local co-management committee regulating fishing practices and establishing woodlots as alternative wood sources for fish processing. However, galamsey activities threaten this progress. The toxic chemicals used by galamsey operators pollute the River Pra, harming the fish that travel from marine areas to the wetlands to lay eggs.

David Koomson noted that galamsey workers often disguise their activities as sand-winning. “The galamsey is led by Chinese people, with the help of community members because they benefit from it. At Nomda, between Atwereboanda and Supon Dunkwa, they are there, pretending to engage in sand-winning to cover up the illegal mining,” he said. He added that the galamsey operators are well-armed and could attack if confronted. “You can’t engage them without force; they will kill you if you try. At Nomda, you can see many Cheng Fen machines used for excavation. As the Pra estuary co-management committee chairman, I’ve visited several times. There’s no police presence, and they point guns at you if they see you,” he lamented.

Koomson called on the government’s joint task force against galamsey, Operation Vanguard, for help, as illegal mining activities threaten their livelihoods. Meanwhile, the government plans to launch the second phase of the fight against galamsey, the Multilateral Mining Integrated Project (MMIP), estimated to cost about $100 million.

Dr. Isaac Karikari, Coordinator of the MMIP, stated that the government task force approach alone is insufficient to end the menace and requires a more concerted effort. The MMIP will include land reclamation, creation of alternative livelihoods for communities involved in illegal mining, dredging of affected rivers, and a review of the legal framework for licensing.

The fisheries sector’s growth has declined over the years, from 5.7% in 2016 to 3.5% in 2023. Ghana imports nearly 60% of its fish, mainly from Europe and Asia, to meet an annual demand of about 1 million metric tonnes. The sector employs 2 million people along the entire value chain, so a decline in growth directly affects employment, especially in fishing communities.

By: Michael Sarpong Mfum 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial