Isaac Nana Ofori-Koree — Kwahu Afram Plains North DCE
Isaac Nana Ofori-Koree — Kwahu Afram Plains North DCE

Poverty in the midst of wealth: Sad story of farmers at Afram Plains

The Kwahu Afram Plains in the Eastern Region can easily be described as the food basket of the country.

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Aside from the vast fertile land conducive for the cultivation of variety of food crops and the rearing of animals, the area is blessed with a stretch of water that can be used for irrigation.

The area hosts two districts, namely the Kwahu Afram Plains North and Kwahu Afram Plains South, with their capitals as Donkorkrom and Tease respectively, accounting for one-third of the total land size of the region.

The major foodstuffs produced in both districts are yam, cassava, rice, maize, groundnuts, beans, among others. Also prominent in both districts are herds of cattle. As a result of the huge water body that separates the two districts from its regional capital, Koforidua, fishermen have created communities dotted along the water for fishing purposes.

The two districts are predominantly occupied by farmers engaged in crop farming, cattle rearing and fishing. Thursdays and Mondays, which are the market days of the North and South respectively, are always flooded with foodstuffs, especially yam, cassava and grains.

In spite of all the aura of wealth around the plains that ordinarily should make these farmers live comfortably, most of them continue to wallow in poverty not because they are lazy but the conditions are simply unfavourable for them.

Challenges

Bad farm roads, the use of the ferry, the low pricing of food stuff, the lack of storage facilities and the rampant destruction of crop farms by thousands of cattle in the area are among the major challenges eroding the fortunes of farmers.

Some herds of cattle that cause clashes between crop farmers and herdsmen

Some herds of cattle that cause clashes between crop farmers and herdsmen

In some of the farming communities, there are no vehicles, aside from the tractors that can access the area. Other means of transportation are the bicycles and motorbikes. Even though the farmers break their backs to cultivate the food crops, the high cost of transporting the foodstuffs to the market centres end up impoverishing them.

In some cases, the farmers sell their entire food crops and use all the proceeds to pay for the cost of carting the food produce to the market centres. Another major challenge for the crop farmers is the cattle herdsmen.

The farmers have accused the herdsmen of always deliberately leading their herds to destroy their farms in search for pasture for their cattle. These have culminated in a number of clashes between the two, leading to armed police and soldiers from the two districts patrolling the area.

Another practice robbing the farmers of their joy is the pricing of the farm produce by the market women who determine how much the foodstuff should be sold.

Concerns of farmers

For Opanyin S.K. Agyekum, a yam and maize farmer in Tease, the absence of storage facilities, especially for yam, is their major challenge for him because of the perishable nature of foodstuffs, farmers are always forced to sell their produce at give-away prices to prevent them from going bad.

Bagged maize for sale at the Maame Krobo Market

Bagged maize for sale at the Maame Krobo Market

He was of the view that a storage facility would enable farmers to not rush to sell their produce during the glut, so that at the appropriate time when the prices appreciated they could sell to maximise their profit.

Mr Agyekum recalled how his farm produce were raided by cattle, leaving him with nothing, and therefore appealed to the government to intervene. He insisted that all cattle be sent to ranches created to prevent constant clashes between farmers and the herdsmen.

Mboyo Johnson, whose farm is at Akroma in the south, cultivate variety of crops such as yam, maize, cassava and groundnuts. He said because the farmers did not have any alternative source of market, the market women who came from the cities determined the prices, citing an instance where a 110 tubers of grade one yam was sold for an average of GH¢2,000

Mr Johnson said the use of the ferry as the main route from the market to the major cities was a big demotivation as the buyers could not buy foodstuffs and return the very day. He explained that because the truck that loaded the yam sometimes had to wait for a day or two for the pontoon, the middle men and market women used that excuse and offered low prices, thereby leaving the farmers poor.

Assurance

The District Chief Executive of the Kwahu Afram Plains North, Isaac Nana Ofori-Koree, gave the assurance that the government had put in place arrangements to address the challenges.

Tubers of yam at the Maame Krobo Market in the Afram Plains South District

Tubers of yam at the Maame Krobo Market in the Afram Plains South District

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He said the government had procured machinery for road construction and rehabilitation to be distributed to every district, and that he was hopeful that the one that would be given to his district would be used to repair the feeder roads.

Touching on the activities of herdsmen in the district, Mr Ofori-Koree described it as an unfortunate annual ritual, where the herdsmen drove their cattle to feed on the farm products resulting in clashes.

He said both the district and regional security coordinating councils had deliberated on the situation, adding that the government had constructed cattle ranches, and as such cattle should be sent there.

Mr Ofori-Koree advised farmers in the district to desist from taking the law into their own hands by attacking the cattle herdsmen or killing cattle found on their farms, “because the laws of Ghana frown on taking the law into one’s own hands.”

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