Subsistence cash crops, blog 3

After the fiasco of Jason the contracting company for whom I worked decided to interfere more. Bill became distant as he sensed his own position coming under threat. I was packed off to work in the underground, a place where Bill seldom visited, so our paths never crossed except for an occasional beer in the evening.

My lasting memory of Bill was of a trip into the jungle. Our journey took us through small settlements where men and women stared from beneath ramshackle roofs and barefoot children ran alongside our pickup shouting words that were incomprehensible. We reached a clearing where a group of men emerged from the flanking forest holding bush knives tilted up and away from their body, expressions hidden in shadow.

A substantial subsistence crop had been bulldozed to make way for a drill rig. Nearby the Exploration Manager was laughing, surrounded by his sycophantic staff. Bill was beside himself with rage, tore three strips off the man, humiliated him in front of his men, then got back into the pickup and drove off.

Later, when he’d calmed down, I asked him why the Exploration Manager had been so insensitive as to destroy a valuable crop. “You’re thinking that these are simple agrarian people living a blameless existence as subsistence farmers. Well they’re not, they’re the Galamsey, illegal miners. The area was not cleared and planted at random, the Galamsey are better prospectors than me, the Exploration Manager or those dickheads with whom he surrounds himself. The crop was put there for a reason, but that does not give him the right to bulldoze it away. It’s a cat and mouse game. The Galamsey don’t have the money or the technology to get at the gold, but they can claim compensation for loss of the crop.”

He ruefully scratched his chin. “I once suggested the mine employ the Galamsey to look for gold. They don’t need expensive, state-of-the-art equipment and they can live for days in the jungle, surviving off rats’ urine, spiders and beetles. No need to fund expensive expeditions.” He smiled suddenly and started to laugh “Never told the Exploration Manager what I’d recommended. Wouldn’t want to yank his plonker too hard in case it came away in my hand. He hasn’t much of a sense of humour.”