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Experts warn destruction of cocoa farms could endanger economy

Business News of Monday, 2 April 2018

Source: Myjoyonline.com

Coconut Farm Being Destructedplay videoCommunities in the Eastern region have raised concerns over destruction of 4000 acres cocoa farms

Agric sector experts are warning the recent spate of the destruction of cocoa farms could endanger the country’s economy.

Communities including Asiam in the Ayensuah North District, as well as Asikasu and Akim Breman in the Upper West Akim District in the Eastern Region have all recently raised concerns the destruction of cocoa trees which they estimate to have affected more than 4000 acres of farms.

“They destroyed the cocoa trees at a time we were not expecting. Now I am suffering. My children have dropped out of school. Now, how can we survive in this town without the cocoa? It’s as if they want to drive us out of the town,” Blankso Offei, a farmer in Akim Breman told Joy News’ Joseph Opoku Gakpo for the Hotline documentary Plastic Chocolate.

“We don’t have money. We are not getting food from anywhere. They have destroyed our plantain, yam and other foods. They say the chief made all the arrangements and they were giving us ¢7,100 for each acre of cocoa.

"Then they will destroy the trees for life. We will not allow this to happen,”55-year-old farmer Kwesi Acquah whose farm has also been destroyed said.

They accuse the Ghana Rubber Estate Limited (GREL) of acquiring already leased cocoa lands to develop into rubber plantations, risking the economy of local communities.

Chairman of the Concerned Cocoa Farmers Association Nana Oboadie says the situation is not in the best interest of the country.

“Since cocoa supports Ghana's economy more than any other crop, it would not be wise enough to cut down an existing economic crop to plant another economic plant,” he said.

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In the Ashanti Region, cocoa fields are equally under massive destructive pressures. Mainly from the activities of illegal miners who continue to bring down cocoa and other farms with impunity.

The problem is most prevalent in the Asante Akyem, Ejisu, and Amansie West Districts. Member of Parliament for Manso Nkwanta Joseph Albert told Joy News the situation is worrying.

“Cocoa is the backbone of this nation. That is what is saving this economy. But the situation, is all our cocoa farms are going. Year by year, we don’t get the cocoa output target. And this is very serious. Illegal mining farmers are attacking us….,” he told Joy News’ Joseph Opoku Gakpo.

MP for Kade and Member of Parliament’s Agric Committee, Ohemeng Tinyaase, says the situation is same in his constituency. “Anytime I go around my constituency, I am really saddened by the fact that a lot of cocoa trees are going down and a lot of environmental degradation is happening.

"And I am saddened that the once crop that was the livelihood of families in my constituency is going to die. And livelihood is going to be difficult for my people,” he said.

“And I wouldn’t be surprised that very soon, we wouldn’t have cocoa in my constituency. Because they are really destroying the cocoa base and all the farms and say they are making money in terms of gold.

"But I feel cocoa has a long-term existence. Cocoa trees could last for about 40 years. But same cannot be said of gold,” Mr Tinyaase added.

Deputy Minister for Employment and Labour Relations, Bright Wereko Brobby is worried about how a lot of communities have been convinced into the thinking that their lives will be better off growing the rubber tree.

“Lands which otherwise could have been used for cocoa plantations are now being re-channeled to be used for rubber and for me this is quite worrisome because revenue from cocoa to the nation is so significant and this is something we need to look at,” Mr Wereko Brobby told Joy News.

The effect of these destructive activities is yet to be fully felt. But the MPs warn once the impact hits, the consequence on Ghana’s economy will be devastating.

“Revenue for roads, scholarships, employment and even our international reputation as producers of cocoa will go down”, Mr Ohemeng Tinyaase said.

“If the trend becomes like this, it is a threat to the growth of our nation generally. Because we depend on cocoa for education, health and so on, so it should be a source of concern for all,” Mr Wereko Brobby told Joy news.

There is a general sense that cocoa production is not profitable enough hence the decision by chiefs to rather turn the lands over to rubber plantation companies.

COCOBOD holds up to 30 percent of the amount it earns from selling cocoa on the international market with a promise to provide necessary inputs to farmers for free. But these farmers say the support has not been forthcoming.

“It’s not up to satisfaction. For the mass spraying, we used to spray the cocoa three or four times. But now, you get for only one year. Farmers have more problems and so you don’t have money to buy any of the equipment you will need your activities,” Ernest Obuoba, a cocoa farmer told Joy news.

“In 2016, the fertilisers came but it wasn’t sufficient. In Hermang, only five percent got the fertilizer. I didn’t get some,” Michael Appeanteng a cocoa at Twifo Hermang in the Central Region explained.

Public Relations Officer of Ghana COCOBOD Noah Amenya says they remain committed to protecting the country’s cocoa fields. “Where we know that this is happening, we talk to the chiefs, opinion leaders, and even the farmers themselves…..” he said.

“We tell them don’t give your farms out to be cut for such plantations because cocoa has helped this country for a very long time and if you cut it down, we are depriving the country of the necessary revenues which cannot be compared to what rubber, for instance, is doing for the country”, he said.

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