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27.09.2019 Feature Article

Can The Production Of Ecocoboards From Waste Coconut Husks Replace Cocoa As Ghana's Biggest Foreign Exchange Earner?

Can The Production Of Ecocoboards From Waste Coconut Husks Replace Cocoa As Ghana's Biggest Foreign Exchange Earner?
LISTEN SEP 27, 2019

Recently, the Okyenhene, Osagyefo Amoatia 11, expressed his doubts about the wisdom in using the community mining initiative idea as the solution to rural youth unemployment. He suggested that the government's agricultural sector initiatives, such as the planting for and jobs programme, were better and more sustainable solutions to the problem of rural youth unemployment.

The Okyenhene is absolutely right in saying so. In one's humble view, the planting for export and rural development programme, for example, could transform our national economy in less than five years. The production of ecocoboards from coconut husks, for export, could fetch Ghana a great deal more foreign exchange, than cocoa currently does - creating jobs galore and fabulous wealth that stays locally.

The brutal reality on the ground, so to speak, is that the community gold mining initiative simply provides legal cover for crooked gold miners - as it empowers them to divvy up their mined out concessions and sell them on to galamsayers, who then carry out their mining operations openly with impunity: cloaked with apparent legality. The small-scale miners were instrumental behind the scene in the creation of that abomination for that reason.

As it happens, few journalists in Ghana can rival my personal experience of the effects of illegal logging and illegal gold mining on the psyche and well-being of forest-belt fringe-forest farming communities. My family owns a total of 14-square miles of freehold land, in the Akyem Juaso section of the Atewa Range upland evergreen rainforest. We are acutely aware that our inheritance is a rare privilege and blessing - and therefore take our stewardship of it very, very seriously as a family.

Our freehold forest property, is heavily-wooded land on the slopes of the Atewa Range. A total of 99.6 acres of our land actually lies inside the government-owned Atewa Forest Reserve - and is land to which we have legal access and is referred to in Forestry Commission jargon as an 'admitted farm'. It is one of the most beautiful places on the surface of the planet Earth. The environmental activists in my famIly feel strongly that we have a moral obligation to protect it for future generations - and are therefore determined never to allow it to be degraded under any circumstances in our lifetimes.

Alas, that commitment to protect Mother Nature, in what is a designated Globally Significant Biodiversity Area (GSBA), has become increasingly difficult to sustain. Over the years we have fought running battles with illegal loggers and illegal gold miners - all of them backed from the shadows by super-wealthy, politically well-connected 'legally registered' small-scale gold miners: criminal-types to a man who don't care a whit about the effect of their actions on their fellow humans and on Mother Nature.

Just as by definition there is no such thing as a virtuous prostitute, so also is there no such thing as an honest small-scale gold miner with a moral compass, by definition. Virtually all their permits and licenses are obtained by bribing regulatory officials - who then fail to enforce the mining laws of Ghana when those legally registered miners egregiously disregard those selfsame laws: par for the course phenomenon that needs pointing out to the world.

Based on what one knows, the Ghanaian nation-state ought to ban all small-scale gold mining in which excavators are deployed. Those heavy-duty machines cause damage on an industrial scale - meaning that miners' 25-acre concessions are exhausted in a matter of a few weeks - leading to their violent-pillaging of lands belonging to poor farmers scared stiff of wealthy individuals who regularly kill those who cross them.

Luckily for Mother Ghana, the humble and ubiquitous coconut tree, actually has the potential to replace cocoa as Ghana's biggest foreign exchange earner, and leading creator of wealth and jobs - through the production of ecocoboards from waste coconut husks:

Finally, I know for a fact that the Wageningen University and Research Institutes' Dr. Jan van Dam's faculty is willing and happy to help Ghana become a leading manufacturer of ecocoboards, if officially approached by the authorities in Ghana. That is the best way forward - if we are to reach Ghana beyond aid with our forests intact and thriving. Let's do it. The production of ecocoboards from waste coconut husks can replace cocoa as Ghana's biggest foreign exchange earner.

Kofi Thompson
Kofi Thompson, © 2019

The author has 690 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: KofiThompson

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