President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has launched the Cocoa Farmers Pension Scheme, which has been on the drawing board since 1984.
Explaining the scheme, which will benefit 1.5 million farmers from the start, the President said it would enable cocoa farmers to make voluntary contributions towards their retirement, while the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) would make supplementary contributions on behalf of the farmers.
He added that the scheme would guarantee a decent retirement income for cocoa farmers for life and ensure that they maintained improved livelihoods in retirement.
He noted that to ensure the successful rollout of the scheme, COCOBOD had started a census to collect data on farmers to be fed into the Cocoa Management System (CMS).
President Akufo-Addo added that the CMS would hold a robust database of all cocoa farmers in the country and track their contributions.
He added that it would also facilitate the prompt payment of claims to beneficiaries and, therefore, entreated all farmers to sign on to the pension scheme to enjoy the full benefits.
The President said the launch of the scheme was aimed at improving the circumstance of cocoa farmers, and noted that "when we talk of ‘four more years for Nana to do more for you’, this pension scheme is one such example”.
He said there were thousands of cocoa farmers across the country who were responsible for the production of the cash crop that had, for a century, been the mainstay of the economy.
He said the farmers had worked hard to provide the income used to build the nation's infrastructure and its most important educational institutions.
The COCOBOD was mandated, under Section 26 of the COCOBOD Law 1984, PNDC Law 81, to establish a contributor insurance scheme for cocoa farmers within the framework of the social security scheme, so that the farmers could enjoy a decent pension.
President Akufo-Addo said successive governments, for various reasons, could not fulfill the requirement, to the chagrin of cocoa farmers.
Touching on the NPP’s pledge in 2016, he noted that the implementation of the scheme was not only in fulfilment of the law but also in line with the government's plans to improve the living standards of cocoa farmers.
He recounted how, on assumption of office in 2017, he had charged COCOBOD to collaborate with other stakeholders, including the National Pensions Regulatory Authority (NPRA), to implement the scheme.
The President said both the legal framework and the technical structure had been put in place for the smooth take-off of the all-important scheme.
The Chairman of the Board of Directors of the COCOBOD, Mr Hackman Owusu Agyemang, said the launch of the scheme had ended the 36-year journey of establishing a pension scheme for cocoa farmers, saying the scheme would help farmers increase the production of premium cocoa for the world market.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of COCOBOD, Mr Joseph Boahen Aidoo, said the scheme would provide a solid future for cocoa farmers, most of whom were now overage.
He said the current government had invested more than any other government in the agricultural sector.
He said the government was currently dealing with diseased cocoa trees in the Western North Region.
Under the policy, he said, farmers would be paid compensation of GH¢1,000 per acre and would be helped to replant their farms with improved cocoa seedlings and inter-planted with plantain as an alternative livelihood.
The CEO of the NPRA, Mr Hayford Atta Krufi, described the launching of the scheme as very timely and appropriate for the socio-economic development of the cocoa farmers.
He said the scheme would also pave the way for the authority to gain its footing in the informal sector of the pension scheme.