Small-scale mining and livelihood dynamics in north-eastern Ghana: sustaining rural livelihoods in a changing environment

 by Issaka Kanton OsumanuDepartment of Environment and Resource Studies, University for Development Studies, Wa, Ghana

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Artisanal small-scale mining (ASM) causes environmental and health related problems that harmfully affect residents of mining communities (Amponsah-Tawiah and Dartey-Baah, 2012; Armah, 2013). Whilst there is a clear need for enhanced sustainability in the sector, ASM plays a critical role in poverty reduction in rural areas of sub-Sahara Africa (SSA), and contributes significantly to household livelihoods. These contributions have been highlighted by several studies (e.g., Banchirigah and Hilson, 2010; Kelly, 2014; Hilson, 2016). However, so far, this evidence on the contributions of ASM to rural livelihoods has been at the macro-level and is somewhat scattered.

The rural livelihood frameworks capture the complexities of subsistence farming and the prospects and challenges it present (DFID, 2003; Buechler, 2004; Scoones, 2009). These prospects and challenges are influenced by several factors, including: global or national level policies and regulations over which rural dwellers have no control (and may likely be unknown to them); local practices and institutions; and the opportunities available for households or individuals to diversify their livelihoods. So far, though, rural livelihoods debates in SSA have overlooked the emergence of ASM as an alternative livelihood of choice for many rural subsistence farmers.

This paper contributes to addressing this gap by examining the dynamics of rural livelihoods in north-eastern Ghana. Here the small-scale mining sector has remained largely informal. The paper investigates the dynamics of ASM including the factors driving its growth, how it impinges on non-mining as well as mining households, and what it means for the vulnerability and resilience of rural livelihoods in ASM communities. In doing so, the paper brings together analysis of the problems and opportunities presented by ASM and situates this phenomenon in the sustainable rural livelihood policy debate.


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