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Opinions of Thursday, 7 September 2017

Columnist: Cameron Duodu

How galamsey gave me a kick in the gut (2)

I had been warned that Suponso [our farm at Asiakwa] had been “destroyed”.

But when I actually set sight on the farm, I couldn't believe my eyes.

The spectacle that greeted me was like what would happen if a creature from another planet was let loose on a good piece of farming land on earth.

The creature wouldn't know what cassava was. What plantain was. What yam was.
What vegetables were.

And the creature would breathe fire on the plants and also use its laser-cum-excavator eyes to turn the ground upside down, leaving ridges, gulleys and small lakes on the ground, in a haphazard manner that would make one recall some of the pictures that have reached the outside world Aleppo, in Syria.

I stood with my mouth open and my brain stricken dead by numbness.

For this destruction had not been wrought by a creature from outer space. It had been done with the collaboration of a person – or persons – of flesh and blood. And most probably from my beloved Asiakwa.

Reader, when you hear of, or read about, galamsey, you get a picture in your mind of rivers being polluted and people whose bodies are smeared with yellowish mud, panning for gold, don't you?

Well, I tell you you will never ever be able to get the full picture until your feet have stood on ground that has been devastated by galamsey.

To begin with, we couldn't even walk through the farm! The ridges and
gulleys and furrows alternated between being deep and high at the same time! And the largish lakes made it impossible for one to walk anywhere without taking the risk of falling into standing water, or being
hurled unceremoniously into a pit! I just walked as far as was safe. Then I stood still and watched.

Someone said, “You see that lake over there with the greenish-blue surface? A school-girl fell into it and died!”

What? Suponso had claimed a martyr?

The sense of evil I felt was overwhelming. I think the area devastated will cover at least four square miles. My companion, Edem Srem, the man whose vivid videos of galamsey have, more than anyone else's efforts, eloquently brought home to Youtube users, the unbelievable damage done to our country's lands and rivers by galamsey, went to the car and brought out a device.

It was a drone!

Edem has used his meagre earnings as a freelance journalist to invest in a drone, and he now expertly assembled it, attached it to his smart phone, and sent it into the air.

The drone flew upwards for about 120 metres and then began to film the area. It filmed “the farm” straight ahead from where we stood. Then it turned left and filmed. And then right.

Whrrrrriiiing! Whrrriiiing! The drone ''droned'' on!

We stood and watched. Non-one could say anything.

“You know something?” an Asiakwa man with us asked.

“They must have come here after someone had told them about this place, gone and slaughtered a sheep to the chief, added some “drink money” to it, and got “permission to look for gold here!”

Another man contradicted this: “But Asiakwa has no chief!”, he pointed out. “The chief is dead and nobody has been enstooled to replace him.”

The first man said, “Ho, they have appointed a 'committee of elders'!”

I got the picture.

I was standing on my own land. And I couldn't walk on it. That's how lawless Ghana has become.

Was this Suponso? Was this really Asiakwa?

So all my assumptions, that all of us had been brought up by our fathers and mothers to respect the land; that because we all enjoyed using the land (as children) for food and bird-hunting and trapping of game, we would, like our parents, regard the land as sacred and thus respect it – all these notions had been mere “fantasies” in my own mind which bore no relationship to reality? A reality that was activated when gold was mentioned?