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Effects of illegal mining on agrobiodiversity in Ghana

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Mining is an old economic activity that has series of benefits for most countries. Products from mining are used to develop different products and resources that are essential for the development of nations. Think about sand for the construction of buildings, different types of rocks used in road constructions, gold, bauxite, manganese, steel, iron, fuel for our vehicles, just to mention a few. All these are products of mining, which indeed is an engine for industrial growth. Most countries also receive foreign investment from the mining industry which helps to stimulate the economy. Mining, therefore, includes all forms of activities that extract materials from the Earth’s surface. This involves the extraction of metals, oil, quarrying, sand winning among others. Metal/mineral mining in Ghana has received much attention as a historic mining activity that began even before the arrival of the colonial masters. It is reported that mining of gold began around the 6th Century and a large deposit of gold earned the country the name ‘Gold Coast’. Until recently around 2007, the country discovered oil and has started drilling oil along the coast. The drilling of oil in commercial quantities began around December 2010.

To engage in mining activities in Ghana, one requires a mining lease after having a prospecting license to explore the presence of minerals in a geographical area. However, many people have resorted to mining without obtaining a mining lease. There are large-scale and small-scale mining activities and most often, large-scale mining companies, mostly foreign-owned, which obtain mining leases before operating. Small-scale mining activities, which are restricted to only indigenes of Ghana equally requires the acquisition of mining lease from the Minerals Commission. However, a number of small-scale mining companies are operating without the requisite mining leases and permits from other agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and relevant District Assemblies, making their activities illegal. Illegal mining activities in Ghana is popularly referred to as ‘galamsey’ historically known as ‘gather the gold and sell’.

Mining provides a lot of benefits to various countries. It is reported that mining contributes about 9.1% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country and employs about 300,000 people. In as much as the mining sector provides a greater percentage of jobs to people in the local communities especially the galamsey activities, their nature of operations results in degradation of the land which has implications on agrobiodiversity. 

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Agrobiodiversity includes all forms of agricultural activities, thus deliberate cultivation of crops on the land, rearing of animals, fish farming, and other microbial and genetic resources. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) defines agrobiodiversity as “all components of biological diversity of relevance to food and agriculture, and all components of biological diversity that constitute the agricultural ecosystems, also named agro-ecosystems: the variety and variability of animals, plants and micro-organisms, at the genetic, species and ecosystem levels, which are necessary to sustain key functions of the agro-ecosystem, its structure and processes”. Agricultural activities equally offer employment to most people as about half of the population in Ghana is said to be employed within the agricultural sector especially those at the grass-root level. However, agrarian activities are negatively impacted by the illegal miners’ activities as they are indifferent about what happens to the land afterwards, their interest being to get the mineral and sell it for their gains. Hence, they use all kinds of chemicals to mine the metals. They also lack the requisite skills to operate and the nature of machines used is such that they leave vast areas degraded. It is important to note that few people may benefit from these forms of degradation to their economic gain whilst they leave gargantuan devastating effects of agrobiodiversity and all those involved in the agricultural value chain.

Most of the time, these illegal miners will invade farmlands to mine, cutting down the life support of many people and the economy for ages. After their operations, the lands can no longer support plants growth. In cases, where plants survive in such areas, the chemicals in the soil penetrate the crops which have implications on the health of consumers. Lands that could otherwise be used for agricultural activities are destroyed by the activities of galamsey miners which affects crops production. Fish farming becomes impossible as rivers and streams are destroyed and cannot support aquatic life forms. Even though the laws in Ghana frown on mining in water bodies, illegal miners engage in such activities polluting the rivers and streams that support the livelihoods of millions of people especially those involved in the agricultural sector. Both mining and agricultural activities provide employment and contribute to the GDP of a country. However, through such exploitation, no food or water is good for consumption, and it would have implications on the health of residents. They will not be healthy to operate the other sectors of the economy including the mining sector itself. The health of the nation depends on various forms of food which are provided by agrobiodiversity.

To achieve the sustainable development goals on poverty reduction and environmental quality, it will be important for government institutions such as the Minerals Commission, Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation and other stakeholders to come together to strategize and harmonise on ways to acquire a license and enforcement of mining regulations. The Minerals Commission has lists of those who have mining leases, and so it should be easy to have an idea of those operating without a license. There should be dialogue with these illegal miners, to educate them on the devastating effects of their actions and inactions on the environment and provide them with alternative sources of income. In some cases, alternative activities fetch lesser income as compared with the mining sector so they may be unwilling to engage in these alternative programs. However, with constant education and enforcement of the laws on illegal mining, such attitudes may change. This requires serious government commitment to the fight against illegal mining.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Economics

World Food Programme suspends food assistance to 1.7 million in South Sudan

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Conflict combined with poor weather in South Sudan has led to 7.74 million people facing a hunger crisis.

Despite the country facing food insecurity, the World Food Programme (WFP) has suspended food assistance to 1.7 million people in South Sudan. They require $426 million to be able to feed 6 million people in South Sudan throughout 2022. At the start of 2022, the WFP projected that it would be able to assist 6.2 million people in the country but has failed at achieving this target. This suspension of funding comes at one of the worst times for South Sudan, a newly independent country which not only has been facing internal conflicts for many years but also faced three years of flooding, a localised drought and like the rest of the world, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and soaring global food prices. Therefore, not only is food not available in the country, but it also comes at a much higher price making the country food insecure. This cut also comes at a time where South Sudan is facing lean season, which is the season between planting crops and harvesting them. During this season, food is already scarce.

The suspension of aid by the WFP is due to a funding shortage of $426 million. It is important to note that the primary source of WFP’s funding comes from governments around the world. This funding is entirely voluntary, meaning that the countries have the freedom to cut anytime they wish.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), a human rights group recently ruled that the world’s 10 most neglected crises are all in Africa with South Sudan being the 4th most neglected crisis. The Secretary General of the NRC, Jan Egeland said “The war in Ukraine has demonstrated the immense gap between what is possible when the international community rallies behind a crisis, and the daily reality for millions of people suffering in silence within these crises on the African continent that the world has chosen to ignore,”

The hunger crisis the people of South Sudan face is not new, rather food insecurity has been a challenge for years now. In 2017, South Sudan faced a famine and now another famine is predicted by the WFP this year if funding is not organised. Furthermore, South Sudan has recently been facing unrest which has only intensified the issue, leading to brutal violence upon civilians, including targeted attacks, gender-based violence, kidnappings and murders. This has led to nearly 2.3 million people fleeing to neighbouring countries whilst 1.87 million people remain internally displaced. Displacement continues to exacerbate the hunger crisis in South Sudan as many rely on food from their own land, something which is not possible during displacement. Internal conflict has thus meant that people have had to rely heavily on food assistance.

There have been many attempts for a peace agreement in the country, but so far, all these attempts have failed.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Economics

Is Rwanda a dumping ground for the UK?

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The UK is planning to send its illegal immigrants to Rwanda. In return, the country is paying the Government £120 million in the form of an economic development program. This controversial decision was made to deter any future illegal immigrants from entering the country via dangerous routes.

The East African country suffered genocide and civil war in 1994 and has been trying to recover since. The effort made by the country, however, was halted due to the pandemic.

Only recently, authorities in Rwanda prosecuted opposition members, commentators, and journalists for voicing their opinion. Anyone who doesn’t agree with the government is thrown in jail and threatened, and people have even mysteriously disappeared.

However President Kagame defended his country’s human rights track record: “As far as values are concerned, we don’t need any lessons from BBC or from anyone” adding that no one has better values than Rwanda. He went on to say: “There is nobody in Rwanda who is in prison that should not be there, because we have a justice system that is actually functional, and fair.” 

Rwanda is also one of the smallest countries in the world and the rate of population growth is already more than the country can handle. With 10,000 square miles and a population density of more than 1,000 per square mile, starvation and malnutrition is prevalent because the country struggles to feed its growing population. Accusations abound that the government has burned farmers’ fields that could not produce an adequate amount of crops. The country is obsessed with modernising whilst ignoring its internal issues.

Poverty is a huge concern. Its true extent is unknown as the government has been accused of misinterpreting the actual data. Similarly, the education level of children is low with a high drop-out rate.

Rwanda is struggling with its own domestic problems, and now the UK is seen to be turning the country into a dumping ground for illegal immigrants which could possibly set the economy back. The plan has been accused of being unethical and cruel.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Siobhán Mullally talked about the dangers of increased human trafficking when large numbers of people are transferred from one country to another and how easy it is for traffickers to pick vulnerable victims in this situation when they have no control over where they are going. “People seeking international protection, fleeing conflict, and persecution, have the right to seek and enjoy asylum – a fundamental tenet of international human rights and refugee law,” she said. Even Prince Charles, heir to the British throne criticised the decision made by the government calling it “appalling”.

There have also been accusations that the UK is not playing its part in its handling of its refugee problem. Chief Executive of Refugee Action, Tim Naor Hilton said that the government was “offshoring its responsibilities onto Europe’s former colonies instead of doing our fair share to help some of the most vulnerable people on the planet”.

Meanwhile, UK-based non-profits run by Congolese nationals in the Diaspora sent a letter to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in which they expressed their fear that the money sent by the UK government could be used to propagate the war in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo instead of improving Rwanda.

According to Phil Clark, Professor of International Politics at SOAS University of London, the government of Rwanda could use this deal as leverage. So whenever the government is accused of human rights violations they can threaten to pull out of the deal. Already once, the country has “threatened to pull its peacekeepers out of Darfur when foreign donors were threatening to pull foreign aid out of Rwanda.”

Whilst the focus is on Rwanda violating human rights, the country is known however, for looking after its refugees well enough. The problem is that the UK is using the country to shed itself of its own responsibility while Rwanda is not equipped to deal with a large number of refugees.

Numerous British celebrities, such as, Olivia Coleman, David Harewood, Robert Rinder, Emma Thompson, Sophie Okonedo, Lemn Sissay and Benjamin Zephaniah have taken a definitive stance with an open letter sent from Together with Refugees, which states: “The prospect of being transported to Rwanda, and African countries like it, is enough to put off even the most desperate people fleeing war and persecution from coming to the UK.

“This tells us much about the British government’s colonial and insulting view of Africa, as a place that is no better than a dumping ground for things – in this case people – it considers a problem.” 

The irony of the situation cannot be lost to global observers as one commentator wrote: “Only a couple of hundred years ago, the situation was reversed. Ships full of Africans were being forcefully deported from their homeland to Britain, Europe, and the Americas. Now, the descendants of slave traders are paying the descendants of their would-be slaves to take a burden off their hands.”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Society

UN: Total Societal Collapse is Looming

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Destruction

The UN Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction assesses systematic risks for the future. Apart from other risks from natural disasters, economic shocks and climate change, the risk of “global collapse” of civilisation has increased even more, it said.

Why is this collapse getting so close now? It is directly linked with the interference of human activities with natural systems, or “planetary boundaries”. The planetary boundary is a concept that involved nine processes that regulate the stability and resilience of the Earth system. If these boundaries are stretched, it will reduce the “safe operating space” for human habitation .

There have been many goals to reduce the impact of climate change and built resilience. Such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030; and the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Most of these goals have to be reached by 2030, and we are dangerously behind the schedule. The result is a world where people cannot survive. 

Too Late to Change?

According to a 2015 report, the world has already gone past the safe operating zone of four boundaries. These are climate change, land system change, biochemical flows, and novel entities. According to Professor Will Steffen of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, two more boundaries are close to reaching their limits. These are ocean acidification, and freshwater use. 

The UN report states “the human material and ecological footprint is accelerating the rate of change. A potential impact when systemic risks become cascading disasters is that systems are at risk of collapse.”

The war in Ukraine and the pandemic due to Covid-19 are just the beginning. If we don’t make immediate changes, the consequences could be much worse. Global risks like climate change are already having a huge impact on the world. Global Catastrophic Risk (GCR) events are more likely to happen now than ever. These are defined as a “larger than hemispheric area and produce death tolls of many millions and/or economic losses greater than several trillion USD,”  

Is this irreversible now? The UN report believes that change is still possible. We just need “to transform systems now. To build resilience by addressing climate change and to reduce the vulnerability, exposure, and inequality that drive disasters,” it says

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Russia-Ukraine

Russia Denies Wrongdoing in Worldwide Grain Shortage

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  • Russia insists the excursion into Ukraine is not responsible for delays or blockades of grain production and delivery.
  • With scattered reports of abandoned farms, damaged equipment and dead livestock, there is a severe scarcity of grain being produced and exported from Ukraine.
  • Russia has instead blamed sanctions imposed by Western powers against its government for the shortage in availability.
  • Impeded grain production in Eastern Europe is also compounded by rising fertilizer costs, key components of which are produced in Russia and Belarus.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Economics

Companies in the EU Buying Natural Gas from Russia Does Not Breach Sanctions

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The European Union stated that companies buying gas do not breach sanctions, amidst a slew of sanctions against Moscow following the country’s invasion into Ukraine. After overlooking their guidelines, the EU pitched a revision to member states, stating individual companies should issue a “clear statement that they intend to fulfill their obligations under existing contracts and consider their contractual obligations regarding the payment already fulfilled by paying in euros or dollars, in line with the existing contracts.” The EU also stated sanctions “do not prevent economic operators from opening a bank account in a designated bank for payments due under contracts for the supply of natural gas in a gaseous state, in the currency specified in those contracts.” 

This idea proposed by the EU would allow the purchase of natural gas from Russia, fulfilling Putin’s demands. It would also allow companies to open accounts at Gazprombank, a privately owned Russian banking company. However, it does not address Moscow’s requirement of opening a second account in rubles. 

In response to this change, gas prices witnessed losses this Monday. Companies in Europe are indicating compliance with Russian requests, preparing to open a second account with the banking company with rubles and euros. However, they will wait for the guidelines to be solidified before moving forward. 

The EU has already pledged to leave behind Russian fossil fuels in a billion dollar deal, but shows some uncertainty when it comes to natural gas. The controversy behind the EU’s statements is the unethicality of funding a military campaign through Ukraine, a country which the EU would like to join their bloc.  

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Economics

Bank of England: Food Costs After Ukraine will be ‘Apocalyptic’ for the Poor 

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Bank of England

The governor of the Bank of England has blamed the Ukraine conflict for the greatest inflation in three decades, warning that “apocalyptic” food prices generated by Russia’s invasion might have terrible consequences for the world’s poor.

Andrew Bailey, defending the UK’s central bank ahead of the announcement of the steepest annual hike in four decades on Wednesday, told MPs that although he was disappointed with the amount of price increases, 80 percent of the inflation goal overshoot was driven by circumstances outside the bank’s control.

Mr. Bailey said that the bank could not have predicted the Ukraine conflict, which he warned would have ramifications for the UK and the developing world.

Countries such as Egypt and Tunisia depend significantly on Ukraine’s wheat and cooking oil exports, and the governor expressed worry about food supply after speaking with Kyiv’s finance minister during last month’s IMF conference in Washington. “He said he was optimistic about crop planting, but at the moment there was no way of shipping the food out, and it’s getting worse,” Mr Bailey added.

As worry about Britain’s high cost of living grows, Tony Danker, president of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), has asked Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak, to help people who are struggling to feed themselves because food and energy prices are going up.

Official numbers going out on Wednesday are anticipated to show annual inflation rising beyond 9%, with the Bank of England anticipating it to rise past 10% when the energy price ceiling is hiked again in October. The Bank’s nine-member monetary policy committee has hiked interest rates four times in the previous four sessions after increasing its prediction for this year’s peak inflation from 5% to 10%. 

“I don’t feel at all happy and it’s a bad situation to be in,” the governor said after MPs pressed him to explain why the Bank waited until December to intervene.

Following allegations over the weekend that anonymous cabinet officials questioned the bank’s independence, Mr. Bailey said, “This is the biggest test of the monetary policy framework in 25 years. There is no question about that.”

The governor restated his demand for salary restraint in February this year, encouraging Britain’s highest-paid to set an example for lower-paid workers.

“It is unbelievable that the Bank of England has repeated its calls for workers to take a wage hit – while saying virtually nothing about soaring profits at the likes of BP and Shell.” said Paul Nowak, Deputy General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress. “The last thing working people need right now – in the middle of the worst living standards crisis in generations – is to have their wages held down.”

When asked about potential threats to the cost of living, Mr. Bailey said there may be lengthy supply-chain bottlenecks due to disruptions in China or increased energy costs if Russia decides to shut off gas supplies. However, he did say that the bank could not have been expected to predict current developments.

His comments came after the country’s energy regulator, Ofgem, said it planned to change its price ceiling four times a year instead of twice a year.

The RAC, Britain’s largest motoring organisation, said that the average price of diesel at petrol stations had reached a new high of just over £1.80 per litre, and experts warned that prices could go up even more if the European Union’s plans to stop importing oil from Russia are put into action.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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