The ministries of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) and Lands and Natural Resources are developing a programme that will protect cocoa farms in the country from the operations of small-scale and illegal miners (‘galamsey’).
The move, according to a Deputy Minister designate for Food and Agriculture, Mr William Agyepong Quaitoo, had become necessary because the country was fast losing its cocoa lands to the activities of miners.
He announced this while answering a question on his ministry’s plans for the cocoa sector during his vetting in Parliament last Monday.
Mr Quaitoo was among two other ministers designate who appeared before the Appointments Committee of Parliament (ACP).
The two others were a deputy minister designate for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Ms Gifty Twum Ampofo, and a deputy minister designate for Regional Reorganisation, Mr Martin Kweku-Adjei Mensah Korsah.
Outlining some of the plans MoFA intended to implement to enhance the income of farmers, Mr Quaitoo mentioned a farmer census where market would be provided to various farmer groups producing particular food crops.
"It is difficult to plan for the farmers because we do not have any data as to the number of farmers producing a particular product. If we can come up with that, we will be able to help them by creating the market for their produce," he stated.
Mr Quaitoo said other sectors such as cashew and oil palm would be developed.
"We need to pay attention to cashews and oil palm because these sectors can fetch twice more than cocoa offers us," he noted.
Mr Quaitoo also lamented the lack of support and funding for researchers to undertake research activities in the agric sector, saying most of the research conducted in the sector were internationally funded to serve the purpose of the sponsors.
"A lot of researchers are leaving the field because of lack of funding," he emphasised.
During her turn, Ms Ampofo mentioned women empowerment as one major focus of her ministry.
According to her, most women needed to be trained and equipped to enable them to improve their well-being.
“What women need is not only financial support but more training to enable them to find where they can grow and build a better life for themselves. My minister is so determined to make sure issues that hamper the well-being of women are addressed,” Ms Ampofo stated.
Asked about the ministry’s plan for ‘kayayei’ (head porters), she said: “I will give all my support to my minister to develop programmes aimed at helping them.”
For his part, Mr Korsah said the government’s decision to create a specific ministry to oversee the creation of new regions was proof that “the President is ready to spread the country’s resources equally”.
"Most people think the state resources are not shared equally and that some regions get more than others. The creation of this ministry would help address such challenges," he added.
According to Mr Korsah, "There will be the need for a stakeholders’ engagement and public education to throw more light on the programme. People must be made to be part of it from the word go, else it will be extremely difficult to go ahead."