The District Chief Executive for Atwima Nwabiagya, Nana Asare Bediako, says he is worried about the sale of cocoa farms for use by illegal mining (galamsey) operations in parts of the country.
He cautioned that if landowners and farmers did not desist from that practice, cocoa and food crop production would dwindle and that would have a disastrous consequence on the economy.
Nana Bediako gave the caution at the premium payment and annual general meeting of Kokoo Pa, a farmer-based organisation, at Toase in the Atwima Nwabiagya District last Saturday.
The 8,600 farmers were presented with a cheque for GH¢1.4 million by the Transmar Group as their premium for the 2014/2015 cocoa season. Premiums are paid to farmers as bonus for adhering to best farming practices.
Nana Bediako told the gathering that money earned from selling cocoa farms to the galamsey operators could last for at most five years, while the farms could last for decades.
He said the benefits derived from cocoa farms could also transcend generations and impressed on farmers and landowners to always consider the benefits of cocoa farms to themselves, their families and the country when people approached them to buy their farms.
To deal with the problem in the district, he said, a permanent team had been set up to flush out galamsey operators and asked the farmers and land owners to report those who offered to buy their lands for illegal gold mining to the district authorities.
On the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) scholarship scheme, Nana Bediako appealed to COCOBOD officials to ensure that only the children and wards of cocoa farmers whose sweat and toil had sustained the economy over the years benefitted from the scheme.
He stressed that the purpose of the scheme was to give cocoa farmers a reprieve by offering their children and wards educational scholarships and also reward the hard work of the farmers.
Mr Eric Amoako-Agyare of Solidaridad Africa spoke against cocoa farmers who were encroaching on some forest reserves, as well as those who engaged in child labour, as the latter practice affected the development of the children.