The Deputy Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Mr Edwin Nii Lante Vanderpuye, has advised cocoa farmers to refrain from offering their farmlands in exchange for money from illegal gold mining.
He explained that any move to exchange cocoa farms for such a destructive activity would not only affect the economy of the country, but also destroy water sources and the livelihoods of the people. Moreover, he said, the money they got from mining would not last.
The Deputy Minister, who is also a board member of the Ghana Cocoa Board, was addressing members of a cocoa farmers group, Kookoo Pa, at their annual general meeting and yearly premium payment at Tepa in the Ahafo Ano North District in the Ashanti Region.
The Kookoo Pa Farmers Association has a membership of 7000 people. The farmers are supported by Ferrero and Solidaridad who furnish them with the necessary farming techniques and other motivational packages.
At the meeting, the farmers were paid a total premium of GH¢1.6 million, which translates as GH¢19.21 per cocoa bag. The farmers were also presented with wellington boots and cocoa spraying machines.
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Mr Vanderpuye said although Ghana had discovered oil, the product was limited and as such the country would continue to rely on agriculture, particularly on cash crops.
He said any attempt, therefore, to destroy cocoa farmlands would have serious consequences on the future generation.
He assured the farmers of government’s continued support in both technical and monetary terms.
He added further that the government would ensure that they derived maximum benefits from their toil.
He said the government was determined to move farming in the country from a subsistence level that demanded a lot of endurance to mechanised agriculture with the promise of large scale production.
Mr Vanderpuye urged the farmers to be diligent in their work and put into practice agronomical applications that agriculture extension officers and experts from Solidaridad would teach them to enable them to increase their yields.
The Director of Solidaridad, West Africa, Mr Isaac Gyamfi, announced that climatic changes, activities of galamsey operators, decision by some land owners to sell their cocoa farmlands for mining activities and the lack of interest in farming was causing cocoa production each year to fall short of world demand.
He said global demand for cocoa annually stood at 300,000 metric tonnes but each year, production fell by 150,000 tonnes. He said by the next 10 years there would be a shortage in the supply of cocoa to the tune of about one million tonnes.
To take advantage of the shortfall, Mr Gyamfi said Solidaridad would soon institute a cocoa academy that would train young Ghanaians to take up cocoa production. Those to be trained, he said, would be supported with technical and managerial training as well as land and capital to enable them to produce cocoa on a sustainable basis.