by Justice Lee Adoboe
After completing Senior High School about 12 years ago, Fuseini Nurudeen took to buying and selling imported second-hand clothing.
He bought his wares from suppliers in Accra and transported them to his place of birth, New Abirem, in the Birim North District, about 170 km north-west of the capital to retail.
With the marginal profit on each consignment, the now 35-year-old father of two lived from hand to mouth, an extremely challenging situation.
However, salvation came when mining firm Newmont Ghana Gold Limited opened Akyem mines in the Agyenoa-Bepo Forest Reserve to do surface mining in 2010.
Nurudeen?s bid to offer waste management services to the mining firm received approval in 2012 and this has transformed his life and those of his dependants.
His company, Bandeen Limited, also employs 11 other people whose livelihoods have also been impacted by the regular income received at the end of the month.
Besides the 274 indigenes of the Birim South District and 332 other Ghanaians employed by Newmont on its Akyem mines, the company has also made it a policy to offer support to locals in various ways.
This includes certain categories of procurement contracts, support for small-scale farmers and apprenticeship to youths.
Government, with stakeholders, has been discussing how to use alternative livelihoods as the first step in reducing the menace of illegal mining which has devastated many parts of Ghana with major streams suffering pollution.
Newmont secured the license for the Akyem mines in 2010 for a 15-year period where it carries out surface mining in the Agyenoa Bepo Forest Reserve.
It uses the Livelihood Enhancement and Community Development Program (LECDEP) which is fully funded by Akyem mine project to support the mining community to develop new cocoa and other farms.
According to External Relations Manager of Newmont Akyem, Oduro-Kwarteng Marfo, LECDEP is mainly a skills development and business support program for all community persons who are not necessarily affected directly by the Newmont Akyem mine project.
It works through a local Non-Governmental Organization – Organization for Livelihood Enhancement Service (OLIVES) – to offer free agriculture extension services to the communities with technical support from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture.
Skill development in Information and Communications Technology (ICT); Heavy Duty Machine Operation, Soap making, bakery, DSTV installation, tailoring and dress making, mushroom production, bee keeping and plant nursery establishment and management were all part of the LECDEP program.
The program has benefitted 1,905 persons since its inception in 2011, with 1.2 million Ghana cedis or 307 000 U.S. dollars per annum.
There is also the Agriculture Improvement Land Access Program (AILAP), a three-fold initiative intended to ensure increased crop production and food security for Project Affected Persons.
It provides input support such as fertilizer, insecticides and seedlings, while giving financial support for land acquisition((38 dollars per acre), maintenance (34.6 dollars per acre) as well as providing extension services.
?Since AILAP inception in the year 2011, 1,923 farmers out of 2,022 in the database eligible for the program support have been assisted to establish new farms,? Marfo disclosed during a trip by a local media network, Journalists for Business Advocacy (JAB) to the mine site and communities.
The official added that at least 512,000 dollars had been spent on AILAP annually since its inception in 2011.
In addition to these is also the Mmobrowa ? a program that keeps supporting vulnerable people in the communities until their farms and/or businesses established under the initiatives begin to yield tangible fruits.
Besides the corporate procurement contracts awarded locals, an average of 40 local contractors receive very lucrative contracts on these social intervention programs annually.
Marfo asserted that the initiatives, including the apprenticeships for the youth, empowers the people to make alternative means of livelihood, hence they don?t have the desire to go into illegal mining.
?Most of the beneficiaries who are eager to get themselves busy in their jobs will take developing these skills seriously and will not consider galamsey (local name for illegal mining,? Marfo stated.
Besides, the LECDEP program also provides basic logistics after skills development for beneficiaries to start their own businesses.
Paul Apenu, Community Development Manager and Executive Secretary for the Newmont Akyem Development Foundation (NAkDeF), said the locals have become averse to illegal mining and will rather gang up against illegal miners.
He emphasized that although the intention was mainly to create sustainable livelihoods for locals in the mining community, it had turned out to help prevent or at least reduce the potential of illegal mining.
?Really, I would say Newmont?s operations in Akyem have been a blessing for the people,? Paul Aboagye Dadzi, District Chief Executive (political head of the District Assembly) for Birim North, told Xinhua over the telephone.
Apart from the socio-economic benefits mining has brought to the district, the DCE said it had also helped the youth to find their bearing in life.
He said the approach by Newmont, which is worth emulating by other mining companies in the country, had helped curb illegal mining, leaving few such activities in some locations.
?Although this might not be the intention, the livelihood empowerment programs, skills development initiatives and contracts for local people among others have been able to help in dealing with the menace of illegal mining in my district,? he stated. Enditem.