A year after Civic Response published a documentary on the Impact of APSD Plantation on Communities near Atebubu in the Bono East Region of Ghana, residents say they still suffer human rights abuses at the hands of APSD guards.
The African Plantations for Sustainable Development (APSD), a Norwegian company, established an industrial eucalyptus plantation in the area to produce electricity (biomass fuel). The company secured 42,000 hectares of land with 50-year leases which can be renewed.
Speaking on the sidelines of a workshop held in March 2023 to build the capacity of community members on their land rights, community representatives from the area revealed that human rights abuse continues.
“There has been no change, the situation is still the same,” Joseph Mensah [not real name] a representative from Garadima community confirmed.
The main road through the community remains barricaded and locked.
“It now takes some farmers between two to three hours to get to their farms,” Joseph added. This journey could have taken about 30 minutes when travelling by motorbike through the blocked road.
Due to the long distance, affected farmers now go to the farm on Mondays and return on Thursdays.
Residents of Garadima, just like the other affected communities, now needed to apply for a pass from the APSD office before being allowed to use the path.
Trespassers are punished.
Joseph narrated how 24 people including a 12-year-old school boy were arrested for trespassing because they were unable to obtain approved passes from APSD. Eight of them ended up in the hospital after being beaten by security guards. One of them sustained head injuries after being hit with the butt of a gun. He had to be stitched. The arrested persons were held in the Kwame Danso Police Station cells for about 21 hours before being granted a total bail of GHc2,400.00 with each person paying a hundred cedis. This incident happened about three (3) years ago.
According to Frank Yeboah [not real name] from the Bye-Bye community, his stepfather was asked to manually push his motorbike out of APSD territory after being sighted by APSD security for using the road without an approved pass. He pushed the motorbike for an hour and a half.
Community members in the Bye-Bye and the Abugri communities no longer have access to portable water which now falls within APSD territory. They have to sneak into the concession and hope they don’t get caught by APSD guards in order to fetch clean water for their chores.
Residents in the Akwasi Donkor community are not that lucky. They have to resort to fetching contaminated ground water as seen in the video documentary produced by Civic Response.
Akosua Bruwaa, a farmer in the Akwasi Donkor community, can be seen in the video describing how APSD has destroyed the community’s source of water and they now have to walk for about four miles to fetch unclean water for their chores.
The Ghanaian tradition of cooking meals on the farm is now a luxury farmers in these communities can no longer afford. Farmers are subjected to body searches by APSD security guards to ensure that they don’t sneak in matches or lighters to the farm with the excuse that they would set fire to the plantation. Farmers have to carry food to the farm. Coupled with that, farmers and residents alike have to travel longer distances to get to their farms and back due to the blocked roads.
In all these communities, APSD failed to fulfil its promises to the people. In Mokokwai for instance, APSD promised to construct a road and build a school for the community. That has not been fulfilled.
Communities were also not adequately compensated for their lands and destroyed food crops but they felt there was nothing they could do about it.
It was in this vein that Civic Response, with support from Rights and Resources International, organised a training workshop for the affected communities to build their capacity in the new Land Act 1036 (2020). At the end of the training, community representatives admitted that they now know better.
“We used to be afraid of the security guards but we now know there is a way out”, Frank said.
The community representatives resolved to use the knowledge acquired from the training to solve any issue that arose in their various communities.
Watch the full documentary here:
By: Belinda Boator│Civic Response