Crops or carats? The unattended tensions between miners and farmers in Africa. – by Stephen Yeboah (Mail & Guardian Africa – August 24, 2016)

The interaction between artisanal (small-scale) mining and agriculture in Africa still needs to be carefully considered by policy-makers to ensure that people’s livelihoods and countries’ export revenues aren’t threatened. It’s also important that the relationship between the two sectors is optimised to mutual benefit.

Mining occurs in the same geographic areas as agriculture. It competes for similar inputs, like land, water and labour. This means there is a significant risk that agriculture will be adversely affected by mining. Both are vital to the survival of most African economies. They both contribute to export revenues and employ a large number of people.

But research conducted in Ghana, sub-Saharan Africa’s largest gold producer and the world’s second largest cocoa producer, reveals some troubling imbalances between the two sectors.

Most of the farmers interviewed preferred ‘crops’ to ‘carats’. This is because farming is more sustainable in the longer term. In addition, farming is, for many, the economic activity they have lived with the longest. But mining also brings in additional revenue that can greatly help farmers improve their outputs. There is nevertheless inherent tension between the two activities.

There is, therefore an urgent need for governments and policy makers to take a critical look into the mining–agriculture relationship. The research provides insights about the interaction between artisanal mining and agriculture in the context of social livelihoods in Africa.

Gold meets cocoa in Ghana

For the past two decades, gold mining and agriculture have contributed consistently to economic growth and development, and sustainable livelihoods in Ghana.

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