, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 435-464

‘Agricultural Poverty’ and the Expansion of Artisanal Mining in Sub-Saharan Africa: Experiences from Southwest Mali and Southeast Ghana

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Abstract

Why do people engage in artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM)—labour-intensive mineral extraction and processing activity—across sub-Saharan Africa? This paper argues that ‘agricultural poverty’, or hardship induced by an over-dependency on farming for survival, has fuelled the recent rapid expansion of ASM operations throughout the region. The diminished viability of smallholder farming in an era of globalization and overreliance on rain-fed crop production restricted by seasonality has led hundreds of thousands of rural African families to ‘branch out’ into ASM, a move made to secure supplementary incomes. Experiences from Komana West in Southwest Mali and East Akim District in Southeast Ghana are drawn upon to illustrate how a movement into the ASM economy has impacted farm families, economically, in many rural stretches of sub-Saharan Africa.