Two hundred women of the Ada Songhor Salt Women’s Association (ASSWA) have held a mammoth demonstration and a media conference at Sege and in Accra concurrently to press home their demand for the collective ownership of the Ada Songhor Lagoon.
The salt winners insist that the lagoon must be maintained as a communal resource open to all salt winners from communities along the lagoon and to every other Ghanaian.
They have also fiercely condemned the construction of huge dykes, popularly referred to as “Atsiakpo” which are reservoir made for water siphoned from the lagoon for the production of salt by some individuals.
At peak levels, the lagoon produces 250 metric tonnes of salt, but that potential has dwindled over the years due to the privately owned dykes that have also caused the destruction of the landscape of the Ada area.
Doris Mensah, a salt winner, who participated actively in the demonstration, was enraged at the destruction of her livelihood and those of several other women.
According to her, “The emergence of the Atsiakpos had driven the once independent salt winners into wage labourers, who are paid a pittance for each pan of salt wined for the owners of the dykes.”
In what can be said to compound the problem and is considered as a worst forms of human rights violation, Doris alleged that on many occasions the private owners of the dykes demand sexual favours from the women before they were allowed to win salt for themselves.
Addressing a press conference in Accra, Mary Akuteye, the President of the Ada Songhor Salt Women’s Association pointed out that the Songhor Master Plan of 1991, developed by the assistance of the Cuban government was the solution to much of the problems surrounding the Ada Songhor Lagoon.
“It is certain, that the Songhor Master Plan of 1991 is the most important document that recognizes our rights as indigenous primary stakeholders and seek to integrate our livelihood needs with government and business interests,” she said.
According to her, although a majority of the salt winners were non-literate, because of poverty and cultural barriers, they were nevertheless knowledgeable about the laws, plans and agreements around the lagoon.
Among several demands packaged in a petition to President John Dramani Mahama, the salt winners of Songhor demanded support in their mobilisation efforts as women and also demanded inclusive, equitable and sustainable development by duty bearers by the endorsement of the Songhor Lagoon as a common resource.
They equally pleaded with the President to abide by the United Nations Declaration of the rights of Indigenous People (UNDIP) and exercise stewardship over the lagoon as a communal resource for the elimination of the private dykes.
The demonstrators also demand that government “proactively and urgently institute policies and effect action to implement PNDC law 287 to “ensure the efficient development of the Ada Songhor lagoon to the benefit of the contiguous communities and the public interest.”
The struggle for the control of the Ada Songhor Lagoon has a long history. On the May 17, 1985, Margaret Kuwornu, a pregnant woman was shot dead by a band of policemen in their quest to drive out some local people who were believed to be mining salt at a part of the lagoon believed to have been given to Vacuum Salt Products Limited, on concession. A statue of Margaret Kuwornu has been erected very close to the lagoon as a reminder of the agony and the continuing attempts at the takeover of the Ada Songhor Lagoon.
Interestingly, the state of the The Ada Songhor Lagoon is no different from that of Keta Lagoon in the Volta Lagoon where the whole stretch of the lagoon has been handed over to Kensington Salt Industries Limited, an Indian company for $30,ooo (Thirty Thousand US Dollars) leading to the dispossession of hundreds of Ghanaians living along the banks of the lagoon and outside of the area who've always relied on that resource for their livelihood.