Sunday, 4 September 2016

Great To Be Back Blogging Again!

This blog has been to hell and back. Since we posted our last article on the 19th of August, 2016, we have been fighting to protect part of our portfolio of freehold farmlands - from very determined illegal gold miners, illegal loggers and illegal sand-winners.

Unfortunately, a number of those wealthy crooks succeeded in using some criminally-minded members of our extended family (Nii Thompson and Elizabeth Thompson) to encroach on the late P. E. Thompson's estate's freehold farmlands at Thompsonakura - five minutes as the crow flies off the Accra-Kumasi highway at Kyekyewre (between Teacher Mante and Asuboi) - and our freehold upland evergreen rainforest property in the Akyem Juaso section of the Atewa Range.

Naturally, we have no intention of allowing those greed-filled conspirators to get away with what amounts to a crime against humanity. Ever.

For participating in the brutal gang-rape of Mother Nature, Messrs Kwame Thompson, John Awuku (aka Red) and the sly and evassive CEO of Hagnella Mining Company Limited, as well as his assigns (all of them thoroughly dishonest individuals to a man - judging by the many barefaced lies they have told police investigators), who are now using a 32-tonne excavator to destroy a gem of nature in the Akyem Juaso section of the Atewa upland evergreen rainforest that has taken millions of years to evolve, will all face the music in due course.

The long arm of the law will eventually catch up with all of them. And, in the end, they will get their just desserts as sure as day follows night - no matter how long it takes and regardless of the number of dishonest public officials they bribe to cover up their criminal activities in our freehold properties.

Naturally, we will keep readers posted on further developments as we battle our way through Ghana's Byzantine system's maze of dysfunctional regulatory bodies, and interact with its small army of hard-of-hearing public officials - to  get justice for what are egregious violations of the laws and regulations governing gold mining and sand-winning.

Just as an aside, talking of our Byzantine system, it appears that that gullible non-thinking-demographic amongst the Ghanaian populace (teeming with millions, who alas wear blinkers permanently, and whose motto in politics appears to be: "My party, my tribe, right or wrong!"), will fall for the empty election campaign promises of the corruption-riddled two major political parties - the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the largest opposition party, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) - that make up the  dissembling NDC/NPP duopoly  so dominant in our nation's politics since the 4th Republic came into being in 1992.

Speaking personally - as someone who has close connections with smallholder farmers - in my humble view, any politician who talks about boosting agricultural production in Ghana, without first giving a firm commitment to end the environmentally-destructive  lawlessness that illegal sand-winning, illegal gold mining and illegal logging represent, neither ought to be taken seriously nor trusted by Ghanaians.

At a time when global climate change is already impacting Ghana's agricultural sector so negatively, the activities of those engaged in illegal logging, illegal gold mining and illegal sand-winning are destroying vast swathes of the Ghanaian countryside - denuding a sizeable chunk of the landscape of the Ghanaian landmass resulting in the loss  of significant forest cover, poisoning soils, streams, rivers and groundwater sources.

How can politicians who give succour to illegal gold miners - by promising them legitimacy should they win power - possibly be taken seriously by discerning folk:  when those selfsame super-ruthless criminals are destroying hundreds  of thousands of acres of farmlands with total impunity today? Does an apocalyptic future not await rural Ghana, instead?

How can we possibly boost cocoa production, for example,  in such circumstances - when countless smallholder cocoa farms are disappearing as a result of the greed and ruthlessness of illegal gold miners, I ask? Ghanaian politicians need to understand that they cannot fool Ghanaians all the time - for we aren't all fools in this country. Luckily, some Ghanaian can put two and two together - and know it equals four: not six.

Furthermore, what reasoning-being in this country of contradictions dos not understand that prolonged drought periods and regular flash floods (resulting from extreme wheather) in an age of global climate change have increased the rate at which dams in the tropics silt up and dry out?

(Incidentally, governments setting up factories in all Ghana's districts and constructing dams in each village in the north, is not a bottom-up developmental model. It is a classic top-down approach to economic development - a costly folly that has failed wherever in the developing world it has been inflicted on those in the base-of-the-pyramid demographic. But I digress.)

The question is: Are those super-clever politicians promising to construct dams in every village in parts of the north of our nation - particularly when we lack a maintenance culture in this country - not simply  going to end up as case studies in the Ghanaian political world, of winning candidates whose election campaign promises,  turned out to be good intentions used to pave the road to the hellish scenario of hundreds of silted-up and dried-out small dams in villages across the north: with no available cash to rehabilate them? Hmm, Ghana - eyeasem o!

Some of us will take such politicians more seriously if they promised to make soft loans available to enable farmers across the country acquire simple rain water harvesting and storage  systems. Ditto make it possible for the hundreds of frustrated micro-entrepreneurs (who exist in their thousands in all the districts of our country incidentally), whose plans are currently in limbo  because of financial constraints, to access such funds too.

Many of those micro-entrepreneurs are in that unfortunate situation simply because they cannot afford the fees needed to pay for obtaining needed certification from the Ghana Standards Authority, and the Food and Drugs Authority. It wouldn't take much by way of start-up cash to give them a helping hand and enable them lift themselves out poverty by their own bootstraps, would it?

Will the availability of such soft loans not place all of them in a position to enable them start producing and selling the sundry products they are easily capable of manufacturing once the needed certification is obtained, I ask?

Above all, in light of the many challenges facing the  industry, which result from global climate change, politicians across the spectrum ought to understand what is actually needed to boost production in farms and agro-industries nationwide, is to make the entire agricultural sector of the national economy  (not just cocoa farming) tax-free - including all the sector's various agricultural input businesses' value-chains.

Smallholder farmers are fiercely independent and hardworking individuals who don't need handouts from anybody - they simply need government policies that create a conducive economic environment for them to thrive and prosper in: such as the availability of low interest rates for both short-term and long-term loans.

Finally, it is vital that our current leaders take the menace of those committing environmental crimes far more seriously than they currently are - for it is not inconceivable that one day they will become the local allies of terrorist groups looking for new sources of cash to fund their global activities. It was the desire to loot diamonds and timber that fueled the brutal fratricidal civil wars of Liberia and Sierra Leone, let us not forget.

That is why it really ought to be made mandatory that all Environmental Protection Agency and Minerals Commission mining permits, for small-scale gold mining companies, should be issued by those institutions, only after actual site visits to ascertain the facts-on-the-ground, as narrated in Environmental Impact Assessment documents (attached to applications for those selfsame permits and licenses), have been undertaken by their officials.

Those officials ought to be made personally responsible for all fraudulently acquired such permits - and should be prosecuted for same together with those wealthy  criminal syndicate members who obtain them by corrupting public officials: and then go on to use them as 'legal' cover  to engage in illegal gold mining, illegal sand-winning and illegal logging across the country.

Furthermore, why do those in charge of national security not form grassroots volunteer forest protection guards, made up of local environmental activists  in fringe forest communities - such as those at  Akyem Juaso and Akyem Saamang  - who are keen to protect forests: which will work with small mixed detachments from the Ghana Armed Forces' and the Ghana Police Services' Special Forces?

Equipped with UAV drones that have cameras and night vision kit, it will be possible for this government to lay the foundations that will finally enable our country to halt the criminal activities of illegal gold miners, illegal sand-winners and illegal loggers across Ghana, once and for all.

One hopes that the dynamic deputy minister of lands and natural resources, Dr. Mintah Akandoh, whom I met last Friday, and the hard-working minister in charge of Ghana's Eastern Region, Ms. Mavis Frimpong, whom I am yet to meet, will take note of this idea and try it out at Akyem Juaso as an experiment - which if successful can then be replicated nationwide.

One also hopes that both ministers will ask the deputy head of small-scale mining at the Minerals Commission, Mr. Orlands Kofi Tetteh, to give them a copy of the report he wrote when a team from the Minerals Commission, led by its then head, Mr. Aryee, paid a working visit to the P. E. Thompson estate's 14-square mile upland evergreen freehold rainforest property, in the Akyem Juaso section of the Atewa Range, years ago.

It is great to be back blogging once more - and this blog is eternally grateful to the many readers who contacted us during the hiatus to find out if all was well with us. We are very well indeed, considering - and are deeply appreciative of their concern for this cantankerous old foggey. Mu yinaa ye bue!

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