Ghana’s crop compensation rates, which serve as a guide for the computation and payment of compensation to farmers whose land and farms are encumbered by mining, lumbering, oil and gas development activities, as well as large infrastructural projects such as the Bui Dam are currently under review. The rates, which have not seen any adjustment for about a decade are clearly out of touch with current economic realities and have been the source of controversy in the negotiation of compensation packages for communities impacted by extractive sector activities and infrastructure projects.
Several reasons have been assigned by observers in the extractive sector for the rather low rates provided by the Land Valuation Division (LVD) of the Lands Commission. Prominent among them, and of course, which is speculative, is that, because Government itself acquires land for projects, and so required to pay compensation, it is in the interest of the state to keep the rates low. Civil Society activists in the mining sector have argued that, the low compensation rates serve as incentive for multi-national mining companies to cheat landowners and farmers and still look like ‘angels’ as they usually pay a margin higher than the stipulated rates. But the LVD has dismissed this position on the grounds that, government does not determine the compensations to be paid, and does not deal with the affected persons directly, but rather the LVD acts on its behalf.
In an exclusive interview, the Director of the LVD, Dr. Wilfred K. Anim-Odame confirmed that the rates are currently being revised in line with prevailing economic trends but refused to disclose details, arguing that, the early release of those rates that have been revised may cause fear and panic among farmers and landowners. He said the revised rates can be made available only to professional land valuers who may require them for official work.
The LVD director however disclosed that, the rate for economic trees such as teak was reviewed in September, 2010. Cocoa tree was reviewed in October 2008, and oil palm, orange and others were last reviewed in January 2002.
Dr. Anim-Odame indicated that reviews for cash crops are currently on-going and ready to be approved by the end of the first quarter of this year by the Lands Commission, for subsequent adoption.
He explained that, the rates have not been revised for a long period because of the inability of the relevant agencies to collaborate in order to undertake the revision exercise. The agencies include the Ministry of Agriculture, Minerals Commission and the Lands Valuation Division.
“These institutions are not well resourced to enable them carry out the necessary research to come out with appropriate rates over time. These Ministries, Departments and Agencies, he said, depend on government budgetary allocation for their operations and are faced with technical, personnel, resource and logistical challenges in the execution of their mandate.
The director, who came into office last year, says there has been some progress towards the establishment of a research unit in the Division. “Currently the LVD is in partnership with the Minerals Commission and other stakeholders to develop valuation templates that will facilitate regular review of crop rates,” he added.
He explained that they have always used a manual approach which delays the process. The LVD is therefore moving away from that system and adopting a digital system which will make the work easier. “The LVD is also contemplating publishing the crop rates this year, should things work as planned,” he intimated. The Division is also moving away from the former method where the calculation was based only on the number of trees per hectare to a more realistic one where the annual income from the tree crop is multiplied by the number of years it is expected to produce to arrive at the compensation value.
On the issue of compensation payments, with particular reference to Newmont’s Akyem and Ahafo project he stated that the LVD does not negotiate on behalf of communities, but sits in negotiations as an observer and advises affected communities accordingly, but cannot take decision on their behalf. The law, however, provides that in the event of dispute over the amount of compensation to be paid, either of the parties involve could refer the matter to an independent institution for arbitration.
Compensation for disturbance of owner’s surface rights under the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006, section 73(3) provides that “The amount of compensation … shall be determined by agreement between the parties but if the parties are unable to reach an agreement as to the amount of compensation, the matter shall be referred by either party to the minister who shall, in consultation with the government agency responsible for land valuation and subject to this Act, determine the compensation payable by the holder of the mineral right”.
“As of now the LVD is yet to receive complaints from any of the party and therefore cannot intervene on behalf of the communities,” Dr. Anim-Odame stressed.
He advised affected communities as well as individuals to engage the services of professional land valuers to negotiate with either mining companies or government on their behalf when they are deprived of their livelihoods or properties.
He asked the public not to worry about the payment for the services of the land valuers because that is to be borne by either the government or the company they are dealing with.
credit: Public Agenda