In Ghana’s Western Region, amidst the lush green hills, tropical forests and fertile farmlands, there are some of the largest gold mines in all of Africa. Traditional rural villages sit adjacent to huge mining operations and processing plants; giant trucks make their way past the villagers, and across the region’s beaten-up roads, on a daily basis. In fact, Ghana, known prior to its 1957 independence from Great Britain as the Gold Coast, is the second largest exporter of gold in all of Africa, just behind South Africa.
The industry is a vital source of income for the country, and the sector is growing rapidly, but the impact on local communities is not always beneficial.
Sensing a need for change, World University Service of Canada (WUSC) and the Centre for International Studies and Cooperation (CECI), partnered with Farm Radio International to implement the West Africa Governance & Economic Sustainability in Extractive Areas, or WAGES, project in the Western Region.
The mining sector in Ghana
In 2017, the mining sector in Ghana grew at a rate of just under 50 per cent, following a decline in 2016, according to a report from the Ghana Statistical Service. It accounts for five per cent of the country’s total GDP, and just under 40 per cent of its total exports – an enormous proportion.
Mining workers are well paid and the government generates significant revenue from the industry. But despite the benefits, many problems persist. The wealth does not trickle down for most, and mining leaves many areas of the country heavily polluted. Resources are often managed inefficiently and local communities become overly reliant on mining without exploring alternative economic opportunities. Many residents resort to employment in illegal surface mining operations, which are often shut down by the government, leaving them without an income.
The project aims to break the cycle in which local people, especially women and youth, are excluded from the benefits of mining investments. WAGES works in partnership with local and national governments, mining companies and civil society to ensure that local communities have a voice in development activities. The project promotes engagement, transparency and accountability in the local governance of mining resources.
Radio addresses local governance
For Farm Radio’s portion of the project, we partnered with two radio stations in the area, Skyy Power FM and Fact FM, to help produce a 12-week participatory radio series, aimed at promoting involvement in issues of local governance and inclusive economic growth. The show is called Yen Mpuntuo, which translates from the local language Twi into “Our Progress.”
Each show tackelled a different subject on mining and governance in the areas. Some explained to listeners how to create a Medium Term Development Plan, others on waste management systems, and still others explained mining laws and the economic opportunities available to them. Interactive voice response systems polled residents about the different topics, giving radio hosts more topics to speak about in upcoming programs.
Residents see success
Many residents have reported enjoying the program.
Osei Bright, from the town of Bogoso, participated in the radio program during a quiz competition, which he won. He is currently looking for a job, and says the program helped him in his search.
“The office for registration was new to me during the episode on business registration,” says Bright. “I knew of just one place, but now my eyes are open to more places and it’s very good. My problem hasn’t been solved completely, but it will be soon. So in this regard you help solve people’s problems.”
Radio program listeners are also participants in the development process. Through radio programs, alongside activities from our partners, listeners are encouraged to appreciate their role in development. Residents in the region have a keen interest in the management of the Mineral Development Fund, a fund established by the Ghanaian government to sponsor and support development activities within communities impacted by mining. The radio program encourages listeners to demand accountability from the duty bearers who manage it.
Radio encourages participation
A program on the fund would use vox pops (individual voice recordings of members of the community collected by broadcasters) as a sampling of opinions on the topic: whether community members were aware of the policies, their opinions on how it could support their needs. Broadcasters would then analyse the response with a resource person — anyone from a Mineral Commission member, to a traditional authority. Then the presenters would host a panel discussion including a community member, a Mineral Commission Official, a representative from a mining company and local governments to discuss the issues at hand – how the fund could be improved, what it does,or how it could involve the community better.
The shows also included phone-in segments, where community members could ask the panelists questions about the topic.
Additionally, radio programs publicize alternative economic activities in the mining regions, to promote multi-faceted development.
Another man, Ebo Haliks, from the Wassa East District, said that one episode on waste management was beneficial to him personally.
“[The program] was on how to keep your house or environment clean,” says Haliks. ” The program is a good one, which will help the Wassa East District only if we put to use the lessons from the radio program.
The WAGES project
The West Africa Governance & Economic Sustainability in Extractive Areas (WAGES) project aims to break the vicious circle in which local communities, especially women and youth, are excluded from the benefits of mining investments. Through WAGES, World University Service of Canada (WUSC) and the Center for International Studies and Cooperation (CECI), work in three regions of Burkina Faso, Ghana and Guinea impacted by extractive industries. The project works to empower local communities, and specifically integrate women and youth, to participate fully in local governance, economic opportunities and the sustainable development of these areas. The project collaborates with local and national governments, select mining companies, as well as small and medium-sized businesses and civil society organizations to attain those objectives. Global Affairs Canada funds the implementation of WAGES from 2016 until 2022. Farm Radio International was a partner in the project in Ghana in 2018.
About the author
Connor Oke is a journalism student at Carleton University. He was a communications volunteer at our Ghana office through the Uniterra program over the summer of 2018.