Hannah Owusu Koranteng
I was trained as an agriculturist and have worked with farmers all my life. I started to see how mining competes with agriculture for land and how it devours community land.
I also witnessed the differences in development and education – so many rural communities do not have a voice and do not understand what will happen to their lives when so called “development” choices are taken. Communities in mining regions were being displaced from the lives they had always known and losing their livelihoods. Once you take away land from people, you are preventing them from their lives. Women weren’t eating, just so that the little they had went to their families.
My husband was also trained as an agriculturist, he was monitoring policies and how they affect farmers. We saw that farmers were losing out because of some of the mining policies, so we thought it was an opportunity to provide at least some information on rights. The only reason farmers weren’t protecting their rights was because they didn’t know their rights.
We needed to build capacity, so we found people trained in mining policy and got them together and formed a group to understand what it was all about. When we first started mobilising and organising communities we worked with two communities. Within three months we were working with eight communities who were engaging with eight different multi-national companies. Perhaps if we had known the magnitude of what we were getting ourselves into we might not have done it, because what we were getting ourselves into was huge!
I work with communities that are affected by mining and provide them with information so that they have the right to know and the right to decide. Some of the people in the communities might not speak English, but they’ll go to town meetings and quote the relevant sections of the National Mining Act. Communities are saying no to mining in their area, simply because they don’t feel that they have all the information. I don’t see ourselves as fighting on behalf of the communities, we’re just helping them get access to the tools they need to fight for themselves; information is a form of empowerment.