Illegal mining, or galamsey as it is called, is causing havoc in Ghana's countryside. Our columnist returns to his old favourite farm to see the havoc caused by this activity. How serious is the government in tackling this galloping disaster?
I couldn't believe my ears when my sister told me that her son, Kwaku, wanted to use our family farm "for galamsey".
Not just any farm either, but the most valuable of all for the family. Sited less than a mile away from town, this farm enabled us, when we were school children, to go and collect foodstuffs quickly to cook and eat, before we went to school.
It was a most fertile piece of land. And it had a stream running near It, with crystal-dear water that flowed from nearby hills. It always tasted chilled; water so clean that it could be drunk directly by using a special leaf as a cup.
That was not all. The bio-diversity in the area was unbelievable, including cassava trees whose tubers were as sweet as yam and provided an additional bonus, in that they also attracted numerous colourful birds that sang heavenly melodies. Another thing--because cassava trees don't grow tall, we could sit very still under their canopy and closely watch the birds.
Excellent game animals like grass-cutters and antelopes also abounded on the farm. My father caught some in specially constructed snares made out of tough rope from a creeper plant.
Suponso! It was an ideal farmer's treasure! For it also provided us with cocoyam, plantains and bananas; bananas so sweet when ripe that we called them Suponso bananas to distinguish them from 'ordinary' bananas!
This was the farm someone wanted to dig up in search of gold?
I was so stupefied at the idea of wrecking this gift of nature to us that I became uncharacteristically aggressive towards my sister. "Tell him that if he touches that farm, I shall personally see to it that he goes to jail!" I threatened.
This was the worst thing one could say to any mother, for in Ghana, we regard going to prison as a major calamity that carries with it, disgrace to both one's family and community.
I was never able to ascertain whether my sister did convey my message to her son. For shortly after our conversation, she sadly passed away.
Next, one of my sons floats the idea that he wants to cultivate cassava and use machinery to process it, both for the local and export markets.
"Oh," I said gleefully: "We have a farm at a place called Suponso that would suit you ideally. It is very...