Abandoned tractors, Kpachaa, Northern Region, Ghana.
Biofuel Africa Ltd came to Kpachaa in 2007, claiming — according to the people of Kpachaa — that they would bring employment to the community for years to come. They came to farm the jatropha plant, used as a fuel alternative. By 2009, they were gone — the most common reason given for their departure is the global economic downturn. They left behind a few large tractors, other odds and ends of foreign machinery, and thousands of acres of land that now cannot be farmed on. Alhassan Abubakari, a teacher in the area, says they made four promises when they arrived, and kept none of them:
“The first one, we are all farmers here. As I’m here, for example farming, and the jatropha farmers are coming to me, and I know that I won’t work with the jatropha people, I will like to be farming my own, then they will ask you to show your land for farming, and they jump you. One.
The second one, if I’m farming here and I need the jatropha, I need to work with them, then they will use my land and pay me to work for them. I will just leave my farm to them and they farm, so that I will work jointly with them, and they will pay me monthly. That is the second one.
The third one is that they will compensate you. So, you will leave the land and go to another place, not Kpachaa here, they will compensate you, and you will go and do your thing.
And the block farm is the fourth. We will all gather in one place, and they will use their tractors and farm everything for us. We will be there farming our own, and leave their place for them to be farming their jatropha.”
But, says Mr. Abubakari, instead of any of these four options, the company simply farmed the entire area. Now, with them gone (but still legally having leased the land), the village has decreased by half the size, as many people travel to other places to find new land and a return to subsistence farming. They also promised to improve an old school building and pay teachers, something Mr. Abubakari, a volunteer teacher, would have benefitted from greatly. But, he says, that was another promise they didn’t keep:
“No one paid me. This company just bossed me like this and then threw me away. So me too, I left the school. If you go to the school, the building is there, but it’s not a school anymore. That’s why I’m just in the farm. The building too they said they will improve the structure, but no, they didn’t do anything. Nothing.
I won’t work with them again. If they come back here, no one will want to see them.”