MANSO YAWKROM, Ashanti Region, Ghana – High mercury contents in the soil and in the air have been identified as the key problem affecting food production and the health of the people in mining communities in the country.
A study conducted by Tropenbos Ghana indicated that mercury in the soil and sometimes mercury in the air which deposits and affects plants systems are known to cause cancer when they come into contact with the human body over time.
The study was carried out as part of the “Securing Food and Ecosystem Services in Mining Plague Regions of Ghana” project.
Soil analysis collected on some crop samples indicated that some of the mined areas have significant amounts of mercury in the soil.
The project which is being sponsored by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) aimed among other things, to create a diversified land use in the mining communities in Ghana, and analyze drivers of artisanal small-scale mining and degradation.
It is being implemented in the Asante Akim Central Municipality and Amansie West District.
Mr Kwame Appiah Owusu, a Project Manager at Tropenbos Ghana, speaking to news reporters, at Yawkrom in the Amansie West District of Ashanti, said under the project, an experimental plant had been planted to remediate the mercury contents in the soils.
These plants are also meant to help reclaim and restore degraded mined sites.
They included acacia, cassia, “emire”, “ofram”, mahogany and “oprono”.
These plants, according to Mr Owusu, would extract some amount of mercury from the soil over time.
He said the experimental plants would help them to advise farmers whether to grow crops in these degraded areas and guide policies on reclamation of degraded mined sites with respect to agriculture and ecosystem services.
Mr Owusu told news reporters that these mined sites were also cocoa growing areas, adding that farmers’ main concern had been regaining lands for cocoa production and other agricultural activities.
The project was therefore introducing cocoa seedlings on an experimental basis and monitoring their growth and performance.
He explained that when these cocoa plants grow up to certain stages, they will take plant tissues and analyze them to ascertain whether mercury and other heavy metals have been accumulated in the cocoa tissue.
If they have not accumulated to a significant level, the project can advise on growing cocoa again without any health implications, he added.
The project recently organized a series of field training on the reclamation of mined sites for some selected members from 18 communities within the project areas.
They were made up of community leaders, small scale miners, farmers, and chiefs.
The training was geared towards exposing these stakeholders, in advocacy for optimized forests and land use, to the degree of destruction of illegal mining and the approaches to regaining soils and fertility.
Mr Owusu mentioned that although land reclamation was possible, the cost involved was extremely high and cautioned mining communities to collaborate with miners to implement and enforce reclamation laws to restore degraded mined sites.