‘Crops’ or ‘Carats’? Gold mining and cocoa production in Ghana

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By Stephen Yeboah, Research Fellow, Africa Progress Panel

For the past two decades, gold mining and agriculture have contributed consistently to economic growth and development in Ghana. In 2013, gold mining contributed US$3,673 million in exports. Agriculture employed about 60 per cent of the active labour force and cocoa, the leading cash crop, contributed an estimated US$1,731 million in exports in 2013 (Government of Ghana 2013). While farming is the traditional source of livelihood, artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) has emerged in communities endowed with natural resources as a lucrative activity due to its remarkable income-generating potential.

Mining and agriculture may co-exist and interact to generate economic and social benefits, but at the same time they compete for land, water resources and labour. On the one hand, land is seized for mining that otherwise could be used for farming; labour is attracted away from agriculture into mining; and mining pollutes water needed for farm irrigation. On the other hand, mining generates money that supplements the income of farmers who branch out into mining, allowing them to improve the productivity of their farms through buying inputs like fertilizers, and hiring labour (see: Hilson and Garforth 2012; 2013). Despite the importance of mining and agriculture to socio-economic development, the dynamics of their interaction have seldom received attention and are sometimes underestimated by scholars, governments, corporate entities and donors. There is a need for greater understanding of the mining–agriculture nexus to ensure that the two interact in a positive and balanced manner, producing social and economic development without disrupting the livelihoods of rural people whose lives are tied to farming. Read the rest of this entry »