Below we present the results of the participatory mapping for Abuakwa South Municipality and Fanteakwa South District, respectively, in the order of communities characterized by high farming-high mining, low farming-high mining, and high farming-low mining (Table 1).
Dynamics in Abuakwa South Municipality
The Gyesame Landscape
In terms of composition, the participatory maps of the Gyesame landscape show a predominantly agrarian landscape despite the occurrence of ASM activities in the present and anticipated settlement expansion in the future (Fig. 2a–c). Past mining is mapped as mine pits along water bodies and a major road and in farms in the West (Fig. 2a). These are replaced with ASM in substantial areas along water bodies in the South in the map depicting the present (Fig. 2b). Food crops and cocoa are the main crops in all maps, causing significant deforestation from the past to the present, as no forest outside the forest reserve in the East is mapped in the present. Food crops are mapped along water bodies in the past and in concentrated patches in the western part of the present landscape but have disappeared from the center area where cocoa has expanded. Participants expect this to recover and foresee a mixed cocoa-food crop landscape again for the future (Fig. 2c). Citrus is not mapped in the present (Fig. 2b) but is anticipated to reoccur in the future, while the isolated patches of oil palm in the West (Fig. 2b) disappear in the future (Fig. 2c). Unlike the other crops, coconut was mapped only in 2018. The maps show continuous settlement expansion into farmlands, with participants predicting expansion up to the borders of the forest reserve on the western side. The forest reserve in the West and water bodies and roads remain stable features in the landscape.
In configurational terms, the maps suggest that the Gyesame landscape has moved toward a segregated landscape. Whereas the mapped past landscape shows mixed land use, the present map shows increasing homogenization (Fig. 2b). Different land-cover types are mapped as distinct features, with farmlands and settlement areas being the dominant features. Forests mapped as patches surrounded by food crops and cocoa in the past (Fig. 2a) are converted to cocoa farms in the present, and ASM has replaced food crops and some cocoa in the South (Fig. 2b). The anticipated future shows previously mined lands along water bodies being mapped as food-crop lands again (Fig. 2c), with cocoa dominating in-land and a somewhat less segregated landscape than the present, as food crops and cocoa are mapped in an alternating pattern. Selected as a high farming-high mining landscape based on RMSC (2016) (Table 1), the participatory maps rather reflect an evolution from very high farming-very low mining-very low settlement in the past to high farming-low mining-very low settlement in the present. The expectation is that the landscape will move toward high farming-no mining with moderate settlement cover in the future (see Fig. S1 and accompanying text in the supplementary material for the method used for the landscape categorization).
The Makisa landscape
In the Makisa landscape, the mine pits scattered over the landscape in the vicinity of rivers on farming land with food crops and cocoa are evidence of past mining activities (Fig. 3a). Mine pits are associated with ASM and mapped as such in the current landscape (Fig. 3b). They are expected to disappear in the future. A stretch of raffia palm along a river in the mid-east has given way to ASM and is expected to be school land in the future (Fig. 3c). Changes in the composition of land-cover types reveal that crops grown in the past were mainly food crops and cocoa. Sugar cane and raffia palm, which occurred naturally, and the non-timber forest products cola nut and bamboo no longer recur on the maps for the present and future. In 2035, food and cocoa are expected to grow on previously mined lands. A forest reserve in the Northwest remains a stable feature in the landscape. At the same time, a private timber plantation appears in the present landscape and is expected to extend further toward the East but will lose its southern half of the area to school land.
This school land is expected to cover previously mined lands stretching from a major road to a boundary river on the east. A stand of bamboo shrub in the southwestern portion of the 1986 map (Fig. 3a) is replaced with the underlying marshy land in the present and expected to be part of the settlement area in 2035. The settlement area shows a trend of continuous expansion, taking up nearby farmlands in 2018 (Fig. 3b) and previously mined lands in the future, to become the dominant land cover in 2035 (Fig. 3c). Forest, water bodies, and roads remain fairly constant.
In terms of configuration, the past Makisa landscape was already mapped as somewhat segregated: mixed-use only occurred in the form of mine pits on farming land. In the present, this is more pronounced, with ASM, settlement, and the timber plantation mapped as dominant land uses, and a cocoa stand in the West. The cocoa stand in the Southwest is being interplanted with food crops. The mapped future shows a landscape dominated by a settlement surrounded by a timber plantation and mixed cocoa and food-crop patches. Participants position future food-crop patches on remaining lands around the settlement, including previously mined lands.
The maps suggest a shift from moderate farming-high mining-very low settlement in the past to very low farming-high mining-low settlement in the present, confirming the basis on which this community was selected (Table 1). This mine-dominated landscape is expected to move toward low farming-no mining outside the settlement area in the future, with some farms occurring on previously mined land and food and cocoa occurring in almost equal portions. Settlement cover is expected to be remarkably high in the future (Fig. S2, supplementary material).
The Mudawka landscape
The participatory map of the past Mudawka landscape (Fig. 4a) shows mining pits in the North, which were not mapped for 2018. However, mining is widespread in the 2018 map as mining sites along water bodies, with portions of past marshy land converted to ASM (Fig. 4b). The map of the anticipated future landscape (Fig. 4c) shows that farmers expect ASM to disappear from the landscape and that mining sites will be converted to settlements and farms in 2035. The mapped future shows an underground large-scale mining site in the West, replacing citrus and food crops.
In terms of composition, the most notable change in Fig. 4a–c is how participants perceive and anticipate the expansion of the settlement. They also perceived the disappearance of crops such as sugar cane, cola nuts (Cola nitida), and coffee between the past and present. The maps further show how participants see the growing expansion of cocoa, mainly at the cost of forest and tree cover (‘bushes’) and land for food crops. The food-crop area has expanded from past to present, for instance, on previous marshy land. Still, farmers expect food-crop farming to drastically reduce in the future, primarily because they expect better and more secure incomes from cocoa production.
In terms of spatial configuration, the participants observe growing segregation in the landscape. Whereas the past landscape shows shaded cocoa in the East, after replacing bush with food crops and citrus in the present, the tendency is toward increasing homogenization with cocoa becoming dominant. This increasing segregation is also reflected in the dominance of the settlement and disappearance of bushy and fallow lands. While food crops were mapped as homogenous patches in the past, the map of the present shows more intercropping with cocoa, notably in the western portion of the landscape. While this intercropping remains in the Northwest, food crops disappear from cocoa-dominated areas in the East and Southwest in the mapped future. Instead, they appear in the marshy area and are further concentrated as a few patches along water streams and the southwestern border of the settlement (Fig. 4c).
Based on the relative proportions of land cover, the Mudawka landscape moved from low farming-very low mining-very low settlement in the past to high farming-low mining-low settlement in the present, the latter in line with Table 1. The landscape is expected to retain its agricultural features in the future, but like the Makisa landscape, settlement coverage is expected to increase substantially. Hence a new trend is anticipated for the future, with moderate farming, very low mining but high settlement coverage (Fig. S3, supplementary material).
Dynamics in Fanteakwa South District
The Nanaase landscape
The maps of the Nanaase landscape show a mine-expanding landscape (Fig. 5a–c). Mining in the past is mapped as mine pits in farming land (Fig. 5a). The map of the present landscape reveals the dominance of large-scale mining (Fig. 5b), which is perceived to persist in the future (Fig. 5c). Food crops and cocoa appear in all maps but in decreasing sizes, while taro and oil palm mapped in the past (Fig. 5a) no longer appear on the maps of the present and future (Fig. 5b, c). Participants mapped citrus in the present, but these areas are expected to be converted to cocoa in the anticipated future. A unique feature in the map of the anticipated future is the substantial portion of reclamation sites for oil palm (Fig. 5c), which replaces most of the current large-scale mining area (Fig. 5b). The maps show that settlement is expanding southward at the cost of farming lands (cocoa and food crops). The forest that borders the landscape on the West, water bodies, and roads remain fairly constant.
The participatory maps of Nanaase show a shift from mixed land use in the past (Fig. 5a) to a highly segregated landscape in the future (Fig. 5c). The mine pits in farmlands and along water bodies and taro growing in marshy land are evidence of mixed land use in the past and present. Food-crop land is consistently mapped as homogenous stands: in the past west, south, and northeast of the settlement; in the present, more concentrated in the southern portion of the landscape, seemingly partly replacing cocoa. Food-crop land is virtually absent in the anticipated future, with a small portion remaining on the eastern side as an island surrounded by large-scale mining. In the present and anticipated future, mining and reclamation sites are concentrated on the landscape’s western side.
The maps of the Nanaase landscape suggest an evolution from a high farming-low mining-very low settlement landscape in the past to a moderate farming-moderate mining-low settlement landscape in the present (Fig. S4, supplementary material). The latter somewhat deviates from the typology in Table 1 as high farming-high mining. Participants mentioned that areas marked as reclamation sites in 2035 are to be reclaimed with oil palm. This reclamation is anticipated to increase areas under farming, which would push Nanaase toward a high farming-very low mining landscape in the future with moderate settlement coverage.
The Wanoiso landscape
Mining in the past Wanoiso landscape is mapped as mine pits in food-crop land (Fig. 6a), with most of them converted to ASM sites in the present (Fig. 6b). No traces of ASM are mapped for the future, but a mining concession is expected instead (Fig. 6c). Participants expect mined areas and farmland on the southeastern side in 2018 to be converted to marshy land in 2035 due to the prevalence of water bodies and the effects of mining. Cocoa, citrus, and food crops remain constant in the landscape, while a fishpond, raffia, and oil palm are mapped only in 2018 (Fig. 6b). The anticipated absence of oil and raffia palm in the future is attributed to the expansion of mining and settlement (Fig. 6c). Water bodies and roads remain relatively unchanged.
Regarding spatial configuration, participants mapped the past as a mixed land-use landscape, with mine pits in farmland and food crops in cocoa farms, and food crops mapped closer to the settlement than cocoa (Fig. 6a). In the inhabitants’ perceptions, the Wanoiso landscape is moving toward a segregated landscape with the spatial impact of ASM seen along water bodies and farmland. Significant portions of farming land in the present landscape are mapped as mining sites (Fig. 6b). The anticipated future landscape is entirely segregated and dominated by the expanding settlement and mining sites and concessions, with farmland substantially reduced and appearing only in the North (cocoa) and Southwest (food crops) (Fig. 6c). Remarkably, future food crops and citrus cultivation only appear in and around the mining concession in the Southeast. Citrus appears consistently across the three periods, but its location changes from predominantly in the East in the past to patches in the Southwest and center North in the present and a patch in the Southeast in the anticipated future.
From a high farming-low mining-very low settlement landscape in the past, the present Wanoiso landscape is seen as a mine-expanding landscape with moderate farming-moderate mining and is expected to transform into a moderate farming-low mining-high settlement landscape in the future (Fig. S5, supplementary material). The community perception of the landscape differs from the low farming-high mining characterization on the basis of which this landscape was selected (Table 1).
The Osau landscape
Like Nanaase, Osau is a mine-expanding landscape. Mining in the past landscape was mapped as mine pits located in food-crop land along water bodies (Fig. 7a). In the present, mining occurs on a large scale and is the prominent land cover (Fig. 7b). Large-scale mining is perceived to be significant in the future landscape, as a concession in the Northeast and as hard-rock mining in the Southwest.
Regarding composition, food crops and cocoa are mapped as the dominant crops in the past and present, with citrus and a tree plantation appearing in 2018 (Fig. 7b). The latter two are expected to be converted to settlement and large-scale mining in 2035 (Fig. 7c). In 2035, a mining settlement is mapped separately from the main settlement area. That makes settlement areas, together with large-scale mining, the dominant land cover in the anticipated future. Oil palm appears on previously mined lands in the West as a result of reclamation. Water bodies and roads remain fairly unchanged.
In terms of configuration, the participatory maps reveal mixed land use in the past, as evidenced by mine pits in farming lands and food crops in cocoa farms. However, cocoa and food crops are mapped separately, suggesting some degree of segregation. The maps of the present and anticipated future show a highly segregated landscape. In the present, farmland mapped on the western side appears as islands due to large-scale mining around them. Food crops in the present are mapped as a small patch northwest of the settlement (next to a timber and citrus plantation). Their area expands again in the anticipated future, notably in the South and Southeast.
The Osau landscape belonged to the high farming-low mining-very low settlement category in the past and has changed to a moderate farming-high mining-low settlement landscape in the present, contrasting the classification in Table 1 as high farming-low mining. In the anticipated future landscape, large-scale mining remains invariably high, while farming is expected to further decrease and the settlement to expand. Hence the qualification as a low farming-high mining-moderate settlement landscape in the future (Fig. S6, supplementary material).
Explaining the Trends and Discussing Effects
In 1986, farming lands dominated the landscape. Their dominance in that particular year is an after-effect of an intense famine caused by a prolonged drought and a nationwide bushfire in 1983 (Dei 1988; Arthur and Arthur 2011). The fires had widely cleared the land from its vegetation, facilitating its preparation, while the return of rains and extra labor from Ghanaian returning from Nigeria facilitated the expansion of food-crop land (Asante et al. 2017).
‘After the 83 bush fires, food became abundant because there was no need for land clearing and preparation. You just planted, so a lot of people went into farming’ (Workshop participant Makisa, June 2019).
In the past, mining was an insignificant land use due to simple tools, low capital and technology investments, and low production and efficiency levels. Artisanal mining did not allow for massive gold exploitation because it required several months to dig deep and accumulate gold-bearing rocks without guarantees of finding deposits. As a research participant explained:
‘Galamsey became well known in the community in the late 1980s, but it was not like what we see now. It was [done by] individuals using their shovels, head pans, and pickaxe to look for gold in old mine pits’ (Workshop participant Nanaase, May 2019).
The stretch of the Atewa forest reserve that bordered some communities (Figs. 2, 3, and 5) remained a permanent feature in the landscape due to its fully protected status as a so-called Globally Significant Biodiversity Area (Weber and Fahr 2007; see also Somuah et al. 2021 this issue).
In the 2018 maps, both ASM and large-scale mining have become a prominent feature. The mining activities are mapped in places where old mine pits exist, suggesting that the latter are used as ‘gold trackers’. This is based on the general belief that the old mine pit system of gold mining was unable to exhaust all deposits:
‘The galamsey people continue with what our grandfathers did. They look for remnant gold in the old mine pits found in farming land and clear most lands with these old mine pits because they know that there is gold wherever these old pits are. The galamsey method could not have taken all the gold in the ground’ (Workshop participant Nanaase, May 2019).
Mining, food cropping, and settlements compete for space mainly along water bodies. Rain-fed food-crop farming is mainly done along water bodies because it facilitates easy watering (Kyei-Baffour and Ofori 2007). Many of these food-crop lands are transformed into mining sites because of the alluvial nature of gold deposits. Moreover, farmers prefer giving up their food-crop lands for mining rather than their cash-crop land (reflected in Figs. 4a, 6a, and 7a, but not 5a), due to the economic importance of the latter and—specifically in the case of cocoa—cultural attachment (Ataa-Asantewaa pers. comm., 2020).Footnote 4 Farmers also consider the compensation package for damage to cash crops inadequate in most cases, while miners are somewhat cautious regarding mining in cocoa farms because compensation payments are higher than for food crops.
‘They (mining operators) paid GHS 1000 for an acre of a cocoa farm; GHS 900 to the farmer and GHS 100 to the chief, but for food cropland, they paid GHS 500, of which GHS 100 was given to the chief. Those who sold their lands lost their land and could not do anything with the meager amount they were given. I refused to sell my land, and I have been able to take my kids even to tertiary school’ (Workshop participant Nanaase, May 2019).
Another reason why farmers prefer food-crop land rather than cocoa to be converted to mining is government support for cocoa production. This includes seedling distribution, a free pest, and disease control program, a guaranteed price and market, the introduction of higher-yielding hybrid species, and improvements in road infrastructure in cocoa areas and marketing infrastructure (see also Laven and Boomsma 2012; Wessel and Quist-Wessel 2015). Cocoa farms are also regarded as property that can be used as collateral for credits (Wessel and Quist-Wessel 2015).
‘Now, a farmer can plant several acres of cocoa because we use weedicides and other farm inputs, making farming relatively easier. The government also supports cocoa farmers with inputs, and we sell our cocoa with almost no difficulty’ (Workshop participant Gyesame, May 2019).
This is not to say that no cocoa farms are converted to mining sites. It is worth the deal for both parties if gold deposits are promising.
Crops cultivated near mining sites are highly contaminated with mercury, lead, uranium, and arsenic, with detrimental effects on growth (e.g., Attiogbe et al. 2020). This—together with the conversion of marshy lands to mining sites—explains the disappearance of taro, bamboo, and sugar cane that occur naturally in these areas. Tree crops such as coffee (Coffea spp.) and cola (Cola nitida) also disappeared from the maps due to market failures. Although farmers combine cocoa with citrus to diversify their tree crops (Michel-Dounias et al. 2015), the occurrence of citrus is inconsistent across time, which can be attributed to pest and diseases as well as market failures (Brentu et al. 2012; Asare-Bediako et al. 2013; Asubonteng et al. 2021, this issue). Referring to oil palm, farmers explained that these were old stands that were tedious to maintain; new stands to be planted in reclamation sites were still to be planted.
The anticipated future landscape is dominated by settlement areas due to urbanization and infrastructure development, based on the expectation that mined lands are more suitable for infrastructure and settlement development than for farming. At the same time, some miners tend to invest their income in housing to sustain their wealth. Also, the on-site housing of large-scale mining workers in the Osau landscape is expected to contribute to settlement expansion. Despite the anticipated increase in food-crop area compared to the present, the future landscape is expected to face land scarcity for food cropping. The remaining fertile lands are destined for cocoa. Farmers expect to maximize the productivity of their food crops through intensification.
There are no mapped ASM sites in the future. Only large-scale mining of rock and underground mining is anticipated to occur in some areas. Participants explain this by the depletion of gold deposits that can be mined with ASM technology. Large-scale mining is anticipated to occur in already demarcated concessions, confirming reports that large-scale mining receives more government attention than the ASM sector (Banchirigah 2006).
Although the maps show a few oil palm stands in the future, in reality, these areas may become more prominent. Oil palm does well in poor soils and is, therefore, the preferred crop used in the reclamation of mined lands (pers. comm. Assistant Municipal Chief Executive April 2019; pers. comm. representative of the Okyehene Environmental Foundation, October 2019). The suitability of the area for oil palm is evidenced by land cover in the adjoining districts, where oil palm is the second major tree crop and appreciated by the farmers for generating a steady income (Asubonteng et al. 2018). However, participants in Nanaase have no hope in these reclamation efforts due to some unpleasant experiences:
‘You cannot do anything on the land they leave behind. They say they are doing reclamation. Go and see what they call reclamation. They say they are planting oil palm. It is nothing to be enthused about. Mining did not come to help us at all’ (Workshop participant Nanaase, May 2019).
The participants further discussed the consequences of landscape dynamics. First, they fear rising food prices due to the conversion of food-crop land to mining sites, cocoa farms, and settlements. Second, they are aware that the quality of food crops is compromised due to water and soil pollution caused by mining and excessive use of agrochemicals and tuber rot in cassava grown on mined land and near mining sites. Third, uncovered abandoned mine pits grown with weeds pose several health risks. They are death traps to farmers on their way to the farms, breeding grounds for mosquitoes, increasing malaria incidence in the communities, and hiding places for snakes. Fourth, the participants anticipate a declining farming population due to less availability of food-crop land. Moreover, the risks have made farming unattractive, particularly for the youth, who see better prospects in mining where they can make “quick money”. Fifth, the trend toward segregation was of concern to the study participants because of livelihood impacts associated with declined availability of non-timber forest products from forests and fallow land.
Last but not least, the mapping process and validation meeting provoked discussions on actions to be taken.
‘We as farmers should unite and not give our lands to miners. You think it is only your land you sold, forgetting that they (miners) will have to pass through your neighbors’ farms before they get to yours and even channel their wastewater through farms they have not purchased’ (Workshop participant Osau, May 2019).
‘It is about time we become inquisitive about everything that happens in our community and stop leaving everything in the hands of community leaders. We should question happenings in our community we do not understand and hold our community leaders accountable (Workshop participant Makisa, June 2019).
Hence, the mapping process triggered participants’ awareness of the need to engage and play a role in landscape governance.