In this post we will explain the background of GSOPP, meet some of the key collaborators behind the enterprise concept, including those who molded its development along the way, and give you the opportunity to hear the stories of the small-holder farmers, plantation workers, and other local community members benefiting from this large scale, not-for-profit business.
The Golden Star Oil Palm Plantation was established in April 2006 as a non-profit subsidiary of Golden Star Resources. GSOPP, in partnership with the Traditional Authorities, affected farmers, and the agro-forestry industry, promotes the development of oil palm plantations amongst our catchment communities, using the smallholder concept.
Funded by Golden Star through US$1 per ounce of gold produced, to date we have directed over $5.3 million to this important initiative. Through GSOPP, we continue to advance the Company’s objectives of reducing poverty through employment generation, and promoting wealth creation through sustainable agri-business.
So how does GSOPP work?
GSOPP has developed a unique approach to land acquisition. Through extensive community engagement and consultations, GSOPP solicits lands from the local chiefs and landlords, who benefit directly from the oil palm cultivation in return. This is a form of partnership arrangement which promotes more productive use of the land, resulting in long-term employment and income generation in the catchment area. To date, approximately 6,700 hectares of land have been pledged by the chiefs for oil palm development.
It takes 4 years of development under the direct management of GSOPP before the plantation reaches income level. Each selected farmer is then given a 4 hectare plot to maintain as their own. GSOPP continues to provide support, management and agricultural extension expertise to the farmers and the farmers receive an interest free loan to develop their plantation. The selection of beneficiary farmers is based on impact and resident status within the host community. To date, 305 smallholder farmers have been fully inducted into the GSOPP scheme.
Tenancy agreements are then established with the selected farmers, incorporating loan re-payment, obligations for maintenance, harvesting and sale of farm proceeds. The interest-free loan repayments are directed back into GSOPP for the continued operation and expansion of the program.
With this concept of partnership, the major issues confronting land tenure associated with large scale agricultural developments are minimized to a greater extent.
What has been the impact?
The first oil palm fruit was produced in 2010, which was harvested from the initial 2006 plantings. In that first year, GSOPP produced a modest 529 tonnes, but by 2015, production had increased over 20-fold to 11,270 tonnes. Since 2010, a total of 36,000 tonnes of oil palm fruit have been produced and sold. With much of the plantations having reached fruiting maturity, fruit production in 2015 had increased by 46% on 2014, providing a good income to the smallholder farmers.
In the context of Ghana as a whole, what do these metrics mean? At GSOPP we are achieving a smallholder plantation yield of 18 tonnes of oil palm fruit per hectare, compared to a national average of just 6 tonnes per hectare. This is three times the national average for smallholders and these significant achievements are attributed to the application of best agronomic and management practices by GSOPP. But don’t take our word for it, here is the view of some GSOPP participants…
Daniel Kwaw Wiredu, GSOPP Farmers Association Chairman
"This sustainable initiative initiative by Golden Star Resources has been very beneficial to us. We receive a reliable income every month and that has transformed our lives and our standard of living. We are able to finance our children’s education to the tertiary level.
"Before GSOPP, most of these farmers were living in mud houses and now they are able to afford concrete block houses. We have a better way of living and have brought joy to our families.
"Formerly, everyone looked to Golden Star for direct employment but as farmers, we didn’t have the skills to work on a mine. With the GSOPP project, we are each given 4 hectares of a well-managed oil palm plantation and we are self-sufficient. Some of the youth in this community who used to undertake unsafe illegal mining have also been employed as field workers by the project.
We are very grateful to Golden Star for bringing this sustainable livelihood project into our lives."
Beatrice Amenu, contract worker
"I am a resident from the Bogoso community, close to Golden Star’s Bogoso/Prestea mine, and I have been a GSOPP field worker for the past four years. I receive wages every month and as a single parent, I am able to support my family and save some money for the future. I take care of my child myself and pay his school fees.
"Through my little savings, I have built a one bedroom house and also a small kiosk where I do small-scale trading after work. My livelihood has been transformed and now I don’t depend on anyone.
On behalf of all the field workers, I say well done to Golden Star."
In 2008 Golden Star was awarded the prestigious Nedbank Capital Green Mining Award in recognition of the creation of and continuing efforts of GSOPP. Golden Star was the first non-South African company to receive a Nedbank Capital Green Mining award in any category.
GSOPP continues to go from strength to strength and as part of the 30th National Farmers’ Day celebrations, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture awarded the Golden Star Farmers’ Association (Bogoso branch) the Best Farm-Based Organization Award for the District. At the same award ceremony, a GSOPP participant farmer, Mr. Tuffour Quaicoe, was named the Best Oil Palm Farmer.
Mr. Tuffour Quaicoe, award-winning smallholder farmer
"I am a beneficiary of a 4 hectare palm plantation under the GSOPP project. For the past four years, I have received a monthly income and that is what I depend on to support my family. All my three children are in school and I have also been able to empower my wife in small-scale trading. I used to live in a rented house, which cost me a lot of money because we live in a mining community and demand is high, but recently I have been able to build a house for my family.
"I was farming before I became GSOPP farmer but I was not making a meaningful income. The GSOPP management team has taught us the best agronomic way of farming to increase productivity. In 2014, I was named the Districts’ Best Oil Palm Farmer during the nationwide farmer award celebration. In 2015 I had an average yield of 23 tonnes per hectare from my farm, bringing my total yield to 69 tonnes of oil palm fruit from my 4 hectare farm. The tremendous yield and the income I am getting have significantly raised my social status. I commend Golden Star for bringing light into my life."
From little things, big things grow…
Golden Star identified oil palm cultivation as a leading sustainable economic venture within its areas of operation, as part of its Alternative Livelihood Program. Back in 2006 when it was founded, the Government of Ghana had a policy to encourage mining companies to establish alternative livelihood programs to ensure restoration of natural resources and enhance socio-economic conditions during the lives of their mining operations and once they had finished production.
A study by the Oil Palm Research Institute confirmed the suitability of the area for oil palm production - our operations are situated in what is known as the oil palm belt of West Africa – and as a result, a Memorandum of Understanding was executed between GSOPP, the Traditional leaders and Benso Oil Palm Plantation Limited (BOPP) in 2006, in which the parties agreed to collaborate in establishing a smallholder oil palm plantation to benefit community members.
Under the MOU, BOPP provided technical and advisory services to GSOPP to ensure the successful implementation of the scheme. BOPP also purchases the oil palm fruit and it will continue to do so until GSOPP is in a position to establish its own plant for downstream processing.
Mr. Sam Agyemang, former Sustainable Alternative Livelihood Project Manager for Golden Star Resources
"When I look at what started in the first year with just 5 beneficia
ry out-growers, then 30, then 100 and now over 300 beneficiary out-growers, the rapid growth and transformation of this limited liability plantation for farmers of the catchment, it pleases my heart.
"I am overjoyed about the fact that GSOPP has remained true to its original goal of serving as alternative source of livelihood for Golden Star Resources’ catchment communities whilst also generating social peace in the local areas.
"What I hope to see is for GSOPP to move to the phase of processing the oil palm fruit within the catchment communities to add value and allow the processing employees and farmers to see additional benefits."
The future and sustainability
When conceptualized, the establishment of GSOPP and maintenance of the project to maturity was identified as the first stage of implementation. Key aspects of the project’s sustainability have included:
- Regular capacity development and technical training for farmers
- Routine communications and engagement on progress against annual action plans
- Agricultural extension support provided by BOPP and Solidaridad West Africa
- Conduct of a poverty impact assessment and baseline study for the project with the technical expertise of Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)
- Further support of GIZ in agricultural capacity development, and support in the establishment of farmer business schools (covering aspects such as savings and pension planning and other financial management skills development)
- GSOPP is undertaking the process of gaining certification for good plantation management by the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)
Peter Addai, GSOPP Operations Superintendent:
"From its humble beginning in 2006 to the present day, over the past 10 years GSOPP indeed has a story to tell. Although GSOPP is still on the path to attaining its full goal, I am overwhelmed by the achievement so far. GSOPP remains a significant flagship livelihood program for Golden Star and indeed the mining industry. The immense socio-economic impact the project has brought into the lives of the people within the catchment area and beyond cannot be overemphasized. The remarkable investment of $5.6m by Golden Star makes GSOPP a livelihood project the communities can rely on now and after the mines eventually finish production. We are now in the process of securing a processing plant to ensure GSOPP can attain its full potential in the coming years."
If you'd like to find out more about Golden Star and its approach to CSR, please visit www.gsr.com/responsibility.