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Okumaning women cry over dispossession of their lands

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Sat, 17 Jul 2021 Source: www.ghanaweb.com

Correspondence from Eastern region:

About 50 women who are residents of Okumaning–Aboabo in the Kwaebibrem Municipality of the Eastern Region have accused traditional authorities and the Ghana Oil Palm Development Company (GOPDC) of dispossessing them of their farmlands and places of abode.

A number of these women lament that between 2005 and 2015, the authorities stormed their communities and started barricading their communities and asked the inhabitants to vacate their parcels of land.

According to some of them who expressed sentiments to GhanaWeb, apart from dispossessing them of their lands which has rendered them homeless and unemployed, they were not also given the opportunity to negotiate on what compensation they could get on their “confiscated” and “destroyed” properties.

“I am Adwoa Botchway. I am 75 years old. I have five children. My problem is that the land they came to take from us, my husband and I did not get paid our compensation. At the moment, my husband is bedridden. I don’t have any work to do and I do not have anything on me to cater for my family."

“The little money they will pay us too, it is not coming. We do not also have any land to farm on to feed the family. We plead. We want them to give us our compensation or better still build us a decent place to stay. Currently, my hut has collapsed and we may not have a place for shelter. So help us so we can have a place to live in peace,” one of the victims narrated.

According to a 39-year-old Comfort Anaman, one of their community members got a heart attack and died instantly because she was given a paltry amount for her acreage of land.

“When the person went to check (for her land), she got shocked and died. She got high blood pressure at once and died. They did not give us any place to relocate to. I thought they were going to give us a decent place to live or at least give us an appreciable amount to get a decent place to rent.

“Currently, our children have become drunkards as a result of poverty. What else can we say. We are struggling. We appeal that authorities and organisations will come to our aid so we can have fair treatment,” she expressed.

“I have six children. They took our land. Four acres. They only paid me GHC2,000.00. My husband is dead. I have no employment. All my children are unemployed. I don’t understand English, I cannot even tell which year they took the land. They did not give us any room to negotiate. All they did was to call us and hand over the money to us,” 46-year-old Sophia Ayiah also lamented.

Sophia explained that the company, during the compensation payment, suddenly invited the affected inhabitants, presented a cheque each to them and a photograph of them collecting the cheques individually was taken.

She said after taking the cheques, they would ask them to leave the land and never to return, adding that, “By evening time, they would have broken down your property.”

“I had a palm plantation, a cocoa farm and an orange farm. At the moment I am unemployed. I have to go and work as a head porter at Kade market before I can get some money for our daily bread,” Sophia, the one time rich farmer, added.

For 46-year-old Naomi Asante, also with six children, the GOPDC got to their community and took over their land and that since 2015 to date, she and her household have not received a dime from the company as compensation, in the face of unemployment and hardship.

She said, “For me because I am a woman, I did not have the financial muscle to take any legal action.”

Ghanaweb’s McAnthony Dagyenga gathered that, so far, a total of 1,335 community members of Okumaning-Aboabo and other surrounding communities have been dispossessed of their land and presently about 200 of them, allegedly, have not been paid any compensation after many years now.

The GOPDC is an agro-based enterprise company with over 21,000 hectares of oil palm plantations at Kwae and Okumaning areas. The company was initially state-owned but has now become a subsidiary company of the Siat group headquartered in Belgium.

The Siat Group acquired the erstwhile State Farm under the government of Ghana divestiture implementation programme in the early 90s. It initially acquired 80% share of the estate in 1995 and later in 2009 acquired the remaining 20% to make Siat Ghana a 100% owner of GOPDC.

Information suggests that it was around this period that the company, allegedly led by traditional authorities, sacked the inhabitants and took over the land, which has ended up rendering them, especially the women, homeless and unemployed.



Source: www.ghanaweb.com
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