Resisting Land Grabs in Ghana: A Success Story

By Johanna Lundahl, AGRA Watch Intern

Unmasking Land Grabbing In Ghana; Restoring Livelihoods; Paving Way For Sustainable Development Goals
Photo Credit: Rose Oppong, CIKOD

In late August Caritas Ghana, a catholic humanitarian organization, along with the National Catholic Secretariat, and the Center for Indigenous Knowledge and Organizational Development (CIKOD) published a joint report called Unmasking Land Grabs In Ghana; Restoring Livlihoods; Paving the Way for Sustainable Development Goals. The report is an overview of the issue of land grabs in Africa generally and more specifically Ghana, with an in depth look at three case studies. The cases show varying degrees of exploitation of the local communities, lack of transparency in the initial negotiations, and the socio economic interests of local people suffering as a result of a corporation’s actions. The final report was compiled by Samuel Zan Akologo of Caritas Ghana, and Bernard Guri, Executive Director of CIKOD.

CIKOD is a member of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), who will receive the Food Sovereignty Prize in Seattle on October 15th, awarded by the US Food Sovereignty Alliance and hosted by CAGJ/AGRA Watch at Town Hall (register here). Bernard Guri, Executive Director of CIKOD, is the Chair of AFSA, and will be in Seattle to accept the prize on behalf of AFSA.

A full chapter of the report is dedicated to the success story about the efforts of CIKOD assisting the Tanchara community in the Upper West side of Ghana in resisting Azuma Resources, an Australian mining company which had been given concessions by the government to prospect for gold in the region. CIKOD began working with this community in 2003, helping advocate on its behalf when the government allocated mining contracts without consultation, or permission from the people who traditionally lived on and used that land. CIKOD’s organizing was key to helping this community resist the company’s plans.

CIKOD used several endogenous development tools that were aimed at strengthening the organizational capacity of the community, to make decisions about governing its natural resources for the community’s benefit, and for the benefit of future generations. With the community’s consent, CIKOD engaged in mapping the community’s formal and informal institutions, assets and resources. Identifying the community’s cultural, social, and spiritual natural resources helped motivate members of the community to preserve what made it unique and strong, focusing on what the community already had versus what it didn’t. The Community Institutional Resources Mapping (CIRM) process helped community members and CIKOD start a conversation about whether mining in the community represented  an opportunity, or a threat.

When local leaders became aware of the mining company’s plans to prospect, they already had the tools to articulate concerns to the community and the knowledge that they had the right to say no. After 2007, CIKOD engaged the community using a Community-Driven Health Impact Assessment Tool (CHIAT), where they mapped the most likely local impacts of mining. Using the intel they had gathered, community members had the knowledge to raise specific concerns at a forum with the mining company, as well as at other community workshops and meetings, where government officials could be present.

CIKOD also assisted the community to produce a document titled the Tanchara BioCultural Community Protocol, where they identified their community goals, using information from the previous community surveys, the CIRM and the CHIAT. The Protocol detailed the local government and organization’s decision making processes, outlining their concerns with the mining plans. The Protocol  explained that the community was aware of regional, and international laws protecting their community institutions, and that they had the right to say no. Armed with clear goals, community leaders met with Azumah representatives in 2013.They presented the Tanchara Protocol, asking Azumah to respect their wishes. Due to these efforts, Azumah did. Since that time, Azumah hasn’t approached the community. CIKOD’s use of tools that strengthened the community institutions in place worked brilliantly. Helping raise awareness, identify objections, and engage local and international forces allowed them to tell the mining company that they were not welcome, stopping a land grab before it could become a story of exploitation.


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