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Escalating Conflicts Over Resources Threaten Northern Ghana’s Peace

Study Calls for Immediate Intervention in Resource Disputes

by Adenike Adeodun

A comprehensive study has unveiled the precarious situation in Northern Ghana, where conflicts over natural resources span across 45 communities and 19 districts within the five northern regions. This research, conducted by Tama Foundation Universal in partnership with the Faculty of Natural Resources and Environment at the University for Development Studies (UDS), delineates a complex web of disputes that, while some have seen partial resolution, many remain active with the potential to escalate into violence.

The study reveals a diverse array of conflict types related to natural resource exploitation, with gold mining conflicts leading at 28.1%, followed closely by farmer-herder disputes at 23.4%. Other significant sources of contention include issues related to sand and gravel extraction, charcoal production, illegal tree felling, and farmland disputes, among others. Less common but equally concerning are conflicts arising from encroachments on protected areas, failures in fulfilling social responsibility agreements, group hunting conflicts, and tensions with migrant farmers.

At the heart of these disputes are fundamental issues such as land use, ecological degradation, and a clash of interests among multiple stakeholders. Dr. Hamza Issifu, a Senior Lecturer at UDS, emphasized that these conflicts are often exacerbated by inadequate community engagement and consultations. An example cited is the Zongoyire conflict, which erupted between local youth and the Chinese mining company Shannxi Mining Company (locally known as Rich Power) over inadequate dialogue and understanding before the company’s operations commenced in the area, despite having a prospecting license.

These conflicts are not just local disputes but represent a significant threat to the security and stability of the regions involved. Dr. Issifu called for urgent interventions to address these issues, highlighting the necessity for the stringent enforcement of natural resource regulations and laws. Such measures are crucial to ensuring that resource exploitation is both efficient and beneficial to the local populations.

Furthermore, Dr. Chrys Anab, the Executive Director of Tama Foundation Universal, underscored the research’s objective to shed light on the escalating natural resource conflicts that threaten to undermine security and hinder the effective utilization of resources in Northern Ghana. Funded by the Ford Foundation, this research is a part of the larger Natural Resource Accountability in Northern Ghana (NaRAING) project. This initiative aims to promote the judicious, transparent, and accountable management of mineral resources in the region.

The findings from this study offer a critical insight into the complexities of natural resource conflicts in Northern Ghana. With gold mining and farmer-herder conflicts at the forefront, the report draws attention to the myriad challenges that stem from competing interests over natural resources. These disputes are not only about the resources themselves but also reflect deeper issues related to land rights, environmental preservation, and the socio-economic dynamics of the communities involved.

To navigate these challenges, the study advocates for a multi-faceted approach that includes enhancing community engagement, strengthening regulatory frameworks, and fostering a culture of transparency and accountability in resource management. By addressing these underlying causes, there is a potential not only to mitigate the current conflicts but also to lay the groundwork for sustainable development and peace in the region.

The urgency for action is clear. The study serves as a call to all stakeholders, including government agencies, non-governmental organizations, community leaders, and the private sector, to collaborate in finding lasting solutions to these conflicts. Only through concerted efforts can the communities of Northern Ghana move towards a future where natural resources are a source of prosperity and peace, rather than contention and conflict.

Source: Graphic Online

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