ADI calls on govt to establish US$1.5b commodity diversification and livelihood programme for farmers

BY: Elikem Mensah
 Cocoa is a major foreign exchange earner for the country
Cocoa is a major foreign exchange earner for the country

The Alliance for Development and Industrialisation (ADI) is asking the government to establish a US$1 billion commodity diversification and alternative livelihood for cocoa farmers, as well as the non-traditional export sector in the country.

This commodity diversification could triple the country’s agriculture export income within three to four years. As the country’s export earnings increase, it would stabilise the fiat currency, which is the cedi, as well as improve the lives of the people and also guarantee food sufficiency.

The government this week maintained the Freight on Board (FOB ) price for cocoa for the next crop season ,which has generated a lot of backlash, but ADI believes that this US$1 billion commodity diversification and alternative livelihood initiative for cocoa farmers, which could be done through Private Commercial Cocoa Management Company (PCMC), would supplement and improve the income for farmers.

Cocobod, in partnership with the farmers, would integrate the services of PCMCs and these companies would have a clear mandate of facility technology and provide services such as automated farm management services.

The government should consider investment in seed material multiplication and distribution to increase output for commodities such as avocado and cashew. It is estimated that only 150,000 hectares of avocado can generate more revenue than cocoa.

ADI explains that the PCMC would be tasked by the government to manage all the cocoa farms in the country on behalf of the respective farmers-this was piloted some time ago by the Master Card Foundation and has proven to be successful.

This means that the government, in partnership with PCMC, will now provide a technology driven management service which includes motorise pruning, slashing services as well as the current normal hand pollination introduced by the Ghana Cocoa Board (Cocobod) on the various cocoa farms in the country.

“So the government would partner with the private organisations in the cocoa production while farmers could now concentrate on their alternative livelihood”, ADI said in a statement issued in Accra.

 The ADI has proposed three stages for this alternative livelihood programme for the cocoa farmers which are the short, medium and long term.

 For the short term, crops that can be grown to show income within three to 12 months include sweet potato and cocoyam.

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Additionally, rabbit and piggery rearing, poultry, as well as fish farming could also be done.

  For the medium to long term, which is from nine months to three years, plantain could be considered, as well as avocado which gives US$2000 per hectare within the first three years of cultivation.

An alternative livelihood of this nature is expected to create food security which would create long-term sustainable path for food sufficiency and commercial agriculture in the country.

As much as cocoa is becoming less profitable on the international market, the ADI is of the view that it will be prudent for farmers to partner PCMCs which is supposed to have Key Performance Index (KPI) with the cocoa farmers.

This will create employment and a revenue sharing module between the cocoa farmer and PCMCs.

This will also create opportunity for the young ones who are eager to enter into the cocoa industry and will now remedy the prevailing situation where the average cocoa farmer is 52 years- this will give an opportunity for the young generation to take over.

To this end, the ADI is requesting the government to invest in the PCMCs programmes to achieve the objective of providing alternative livelihood and income improvement for the farmers in the country.
 
The PCMC module should clearly be private sector driven and partial liberalisation of cocoa management industry.

This module should also be replicated in other sectors of the economy.

The ADI is also asking the government to look out for modern commodity trends and see how Ghana can lead with the prevailing suitable climate condition crops such as sweet potato, avocado, lime and lemonade, tiger nut, annatto, miracle berry, herbs and spices, passion fruits and plantation, as well as other tropical crops.

The ADI, in its press statement, is challenging the government to make this a leapfrog in the agric sector. It is also calling on the Internal Development Agencies (IDAs) to assist Ghana to champion these laudable initiatives.