Antony Nyame draws an invisible line with his finger, as he points out, where his land used to be. He clearly remembers the day, when a young boy woke him up in the morning and told him that his land had been cleared and destroyed. Ghana Gas needed the land for the construction of a new gas pipeline through the area. No warnings. No explanations. Nothing.
They had cut down all his crops and left his land for the bulldozers, without giving Antony Nyame any warning.
»The land was very important to me. Even though the piece I lost here wasn’t so big, it was very important to my family. The soil here is especially fertile and suitable for growing sugarcane and cassava,« he says.
The gas pipeline now cuts through the landscape in Ellembelle district as long as the eye can see. Like a giant snake the muddy track twists itself through the green hills. A deserted highway in the middle of the forest.
The land made Antony Nyame able to support his family. Every third month he harvested sugarcane that he could sell on the market, while his family would use the cassava for various purposes. The fundamental livelihood of his family was therefore threatened, when he lost his land from one day to another. He sighs while he points at one surviving cassava plant that still thrives on his old land:
»Initially they told us that we could farm on the land when they were done with the construction, but when they had finished putting the pipeline down here, they forbid us to do so.«
Luckily for his family, Antony Nyame had an additional small piece of land outside the village. The soil here is not suitable for growing sugarcane, so he has now started his own rubber plantation. Growing rubber trees is a profitable business, but it is hard work, and the prizes vary a lot, so Antony is still struggling to support his family.
Antony Nyames situation is not unique. Many people from the neighbouring communities have lost their land from one day to another without being informed in advance. An even bigger issue is that many of the affected community members still haven’t received any compensation from Ghana Gas, for their lost source of income. This is also the case with Antony Nyame.
»Somebody told me that Ghana Gas would come and pay me some compensation for the land, but I never heard anything from them. I don’t know how to complain, so when they did not contact me, I did nothing,« he says.
Small farmers like Antony Nyame find it difficult to stand up against big companies such as Ghana Gas. The major reason for this is that most of the farmers do not know their own rights or whom they can hold responsible for the injustice that have been done to them. Many of the big companies can therefore get away with a lot, since the famers do not have the resources to complain.
UCSOND on the case
The Chief of Antony Nyames community, Avelebo, addressed the issue with the missing compensation, when representatives from UCSOND came to visit the community. The Chief asked if UCSOND could help Antony Nyame to get the compensation that he was entitled to. UCSOND had once before helped the community out with some issues regarding compensation in connection to the big rubber company nearby.
To Antony Nyame, even a small amount would make a huge difference. He is not sure how much income he has actually lost together with his land, since it is hard to measure lost earnings on crops that will continue to generate profit year after year. But now he just wants to get some closure on the matter, so that he can get on with his life.
» If I get the compensation I will be very happy, since it would make me able to send my four children to school. I hope that UCSOND and the other community members will be able to help and support me,« says Antony Nyame.
The representatives from UCSOND promised that they would try to look at the issue and try to get in dialogue with Ghana Gas.