Activities of illegal miners, who use hazardous chemicals in their operations, have made River Birem unsuitable for irrigation purposes, threatening the production of cocoa seedlings by the Seed Production Division (SPD) of the Ghana COCOBOD at Bunsu in the Eastern Region.
Mr. Asare Anthony, the Principal Technical Assistant of the Bunsu seed production station, told the B&FT that the situation is so bad that his outfit has stopped using the waters of Birem, a situation that threatens cocoa production targets.
“We tried using the river to irrigate the cocoa trees last year and we realised that the trees were burning and we stopped. If by next year the water is normalised we can use it to irrigate the trees, because we have the pumps and the machines there already,” he said.
The Seed Production Division has five Seed Gardens, with the Bonsu Station being the biggest in the country. The division undertakes hand pollination of flowers in its seed gardens for production of hybrid cocoa seed pods.
The station selects sites for distribution to farmers for the rehabilitation of old farms and the establishment of new ones.
Mr Asare Anthony said it is possible for the country to hit the 1million tonnes cocoa production target if the ‘galamsey’ menace is brought to a halt.
Meanwhile, President Nana Akufo-Addo has said his government will not relent on the fight against illegal mining activities in the country.
Consequently, the government has sent security personnel after the perpetrators, who have reportedly devised various means of hiding their activities, including operating at night.
The World Cocoa Foundation and the Sustainable Trade Initiatives in Holland recently said in Accra that if Ghana does not stop illegal mining immediately, the cocoa industry could go extinct.
The United Nations has equally demanded concrete measures from the government of Ghana and other actors to effectively bring illegal mining to an end and protect the environment.
In a statement to mark World Environment Day, UN Coordinator in Ghana, Madam Evans-Knocked, urged civil society, religious representatives, school authorities and traditional rulers to play their respective roles in advocacy, action and accountability to towards achieving sustainable results.
Madam Evans-Klock said a coordinated approach for environmental protection, the provision of alternative livelihoods to illegal miners, and the enforcement of the rule of law had a good chance of rallying stakeholders to work together for the requisite sustainable solutions.