Sustainable Alternative Livelihoods via Mining Biodiversity Offsets

Nine people in hard hats and safety vests stand on a platform overlooking a large gold mine in Ghana.

In December 2023, the team was tasked with exploring how Newmont Mining might achieve its biodiversity offset goals in the Atewa Range Forest through the development of sustainable alternative livelihoods within a 10-year time frame. The team recommends that Newmont pursues this goal by facilitating a collection of environmental and economic investments that develop sustainable economic livelihoods and establish best practices.

The team’s final recommendations are informed by their time with the partner throughout the semester and our two week visit in three communities within the Atewa Range: Dwenase, Kobreso, and Obuoho. Each community had its own distinctive traits, but five commonalities were identified among them: (1) a need to increase household income; (2) a desire for education; (3) a pre-existing foundation for economic development; (4) a desire for financial stability; and, (5) a respect for traditional authorities. Another key finding from the team’s time in the community is that an investment in ecotourism is not currently in alignment with Newmont’s goals for the project.

Instead of an investment focused on ecotourism, the Frontlines team recommends an investment in a three-pronged approach consisting of Agribusiness Development, Capacity Building, and Raising Awareness. A collection of the three components is essential to address and decrease the propensity of galamsey, the root cause of forest degradation in the Atewa Range. For investments to be meaningful, effective, and have long-term, sustainable impacts, a collection of all three approaches is required.

The Agribusiness Development prong consists of a long-term vision of sustainable agroforestry with short-term investments that improve the value chains of crops that are complementary and endemic to fringe communities. This approach is called “Agroforestry+.” The Capacity Building prong consists of various education and training programs to increase community resilience through human capital development. The Raising Awareness prong includes the development of initiatives that focus on the long-term environmental, health, and safety risks that galamsey poses.

To elucidate what the Team’s recommendations may look like in practice, a site evaluation framework was developed and applied to the communities that the Team visited while in the field. The Team also conducted a preliminary assessment of prospective partners with whom Newmont can collaborate moving forward. Finally, the Team addresses potential cultural, governing, and environmental challenges and risks that may arise from pursuing the recommendation investments.