Kwaku Asare grabbed his machete and trekked through the bush to his cocoa farm—through winding pathways and hills, past ominous pits of muddy water, and underneath the low-hanging canopy of dried cocoa leaves. But the trees were bare. A few rotting cocoa pods littered the ground, while other stunted pods refused to ripen on the branches.
“When the Chinese came, they told me that my plants were not yielding anymore because there was so much gold under the soil,” Asare said. After a few years of low production, he sold his 14 acres to a group of small-scale gold miners, also called galamsey miners, with a Chinese sponsor. The money is gone now and Asare’s land is poisoned.
Kwaku Asare’s story is not uncommon in Denkyira Asikuma, a small farming village nestled amongst cocoa plantations outside of Dunkwa in Ghana’s Central region. At least 30 cocoa farmers in the village have sold their land to miners who quickly excavated, pumped in water and chemicals, and abandoned their pits when the work was done or when soldiers chased them away.