Don’t politicize Songhor salt mining – Locals warn politicians

Ghanaian politicians have been warned to desist from politicizing the mining of salt in Ada. This warning comes in the wake of inconsistent strategies adopted by successive governments after the reign of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) which drafted the Master Plan to develop the Songor Salt resource.

This warning was given out of frustration expressed by the communities in the Songor Salt Mining catchment area at their second community consultative meeting held in Lolonya, a suburb of Ada over the weekend.

At this meeting, Kposem, Kportitsekope, Okorhuesisi, Wokumagber, Azizakpornya, Goi and Lolonya communities were represented

“The Master Plan must be implemented, anything other than the master plan will bring hardship to women in the area,” the Vice President of the Management Committee of Ada Songor Cooperative Salt Mining Society Limited, Rebecca Narh advised, citing the fact that, salt mining is the livelihood of the people especially women in the area.

Three salt development policies have been developed since 1990. They include, the Master Plan for Salt Development in Ghana, the Land Use Plan for the Songor Area and recently, the Ghana Salt Strategy developed in 2009. The three plans propose diverse strategies for the development of salt resources in Ghana and especially in Ada.

Though not implemented till date, the master plan is a balance between local salt production cooperatives and private commercial production.

The Land Use Plan for the Songor area which was developed in 2006, makes private sector the core of production with plans for making Ghana a hub for salt production in the West African sub-region.  This plan the community says, does not make provision for local participation. The communities have also argued against the relocation of affected communities as a result of expanding the Songor lagoon to serve as an extended brine source for salt production.

“We are against this idea, the lagoon represents our cultural heritage and it is the place where all Ada chiefs make declarations before they ascend to their respective thrones,” Nene Tei Ashiagbor, the Chief of Lolonya said.

A third plan developed for Salt production in Ghana is the Ghana Salt Strategy.  This was developed in 2009 by the Private Enterprises Foundation (PEF). This strategy establishes a business front to the land owning clans to productively engage in salt operation in the Songor.

Presently, only one of such companies has been created and it is fraught with issues.

“They say they will give us lucrative alternative livelihood. We are traditionally fishermen, salt miners and vegetable farmers. Nothing can replace our livelihood,” said Albert Apetorgbor, the Secretary of Ada Songor Cooperative Salt Mining Society Limited.

All the affected communities in the area numbering about 45 representing about 90, 000 people have began a process to register their call for inclusion in the Salt mining business.

They propose among other things that, government should recognize that fish and salt is their livelihood and not a mineral and therefore fashion out a law to this effect, government should also come out with a law that respects their culture, they stated.

They argue that, the Asafotufiam festival originates from their first settlement area which is Songor. And this is where their new kings pay respect to their ancestors before they ascend to their various thrones.

They also want government to pass a time tested law that will shield the people from political tricks to prevent the issue of ‘new government new salt law’. They also want majority representation on the Songor Salt Mining Board to show that they are owners of the salt and not servants.

According to the people, they believe in private partnerships and therefore companies should sign agreement with land owners.

“Majority of Songor Salt Mining workers should be natives, they should be allowed to own mining spots, modern salt mining equipment that is not detrimental to the environment should be used to mine the salt,” they demaned.

It is believed that, Ghana has the potential to produce 2.5 million metric tons of salt annually with the bulk coming from the Songor and the Keta lagoon areas and other coastal communities.

The Ghana Export Promotion Council has estimated that existing production capacity which falls below the huge potential of the resource stands at 250,000 metric tons while total exports in 2007 was a mere 60,000 tons. They also admit that records could be much more than what was recorded due to the large non-formal salt production by local communities.

By Pascal Kelvin Kudiabor

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