The spate of illegal mining activities, otherwise known as galamsey, could cutback Ghana’s target of 900,000 metric tonnes of cocoa production set for the 2016/2017 crop season if immediate steps are not taken to address the menace, industry experts have warned.
Cocoa production for 2015/2016 crop year stood at 690,000 metric tonnes, falling short by 160,000 metric tonnes of the targeted 850,000 metric tonnes. The deficit among others was attributed to unfavorable weather conditions and weak managerial policies of the Ghana Cocoa Board (Cocobod).
The development is not different from the previous crop season years when the sector saw a decline in its production quite apart from the bumper output of 1,024,552 metric tonnes of cocoa recorded in the 2010/2011 crop year.
Although it is seen that good agronomic practices such as timely supply of fertilizer and other chemicals and improved extension services coupled with the steady investments in the sector could make the projection of the 900,000 metric tonnes attainable, galamsey activities in cocoa growing areas remain a huge challenge.
For instance in most cocoa growing districts such as Amansie West, in the Ashanti region, illegal mining operators have taken over so many cocoa farms and lands.
Programme Manager of Cocoa Rehabilitation and Intensification Programme (CORIP), for Ghana, Mr. Eric Amoako Agyare, observed that galamsey operations threaten efforts to transform the cocoa industry.
He cautioned that if a solution is not found for this emerging danger all the efforts to improve and sustain the cocoa sector could be derailed.
To this end he said a concerted multi-sectorial approach to deal with the situation can provide the platform to solve the increasing threat of galamsey activities on the cocoa sector.
He explained that it does not take only one entity to work on galamsey, but significantly consider the input other ministries like the Ministry of Mines and Energy, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Local Government among others to engage constructively on this problem.
Mr. Agyare, who said these in a chat with B&FT, at the backdrop of a field visit of consortium partners of CORIP and media, to Touton/PBC Rural Service Centre at New Edubiase and EMFED Farms in Assin Fosu, also said professionalizing cocoa farming may pave the way to restore the country’s lead as the global top producer of the commodity.
He said farmers should begin to see that there are opportunities within the sector to improve the quality of their livelihoods, but it could only be exploited if they invest meaningfully in their farming as a business.
The Cocoa Rehabilitation and Intensification Programme (CORIP), is a four years public private partnership programme between private sector cocoa companies with other Non-Governmental Organisations and the Ghana Cocoa Board (Cocobod).
CORIP-Ghana seeks to enhance the service sector in the cocoa industry in Ghana. It aims to contribute towards intensification of cocoa production systems in Ghana leading to sustainable productivity improvements and economic returns for cocoa farmers.
The Programme is pinned on supporting Ghanaian cocoa farmers to implement best agronomic and farm management practices through service obtained from its Rural Service Centers (RSCs) established across some of the cocoa growing regions in the country.
The visit revealed that a number of cocoa farmers are benefiting from not only from the inputs acquired from the RSCs but also the knowledge and capacity building opportunities offered to the farmers.
Records of CORIP shows that about 32,000 farmers have been registered out of which 30,000 of them have received various training programmes while about twenty (20) RSCs have also been established and spread across the Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Central and Western regions.
The consortium of partners are presently made up of seven (7) private sector companies namely Cargill, AgroEcom, Tuoton, Twin UK, Wienco, Olam and Emfed Farms.
Solidaridad West Africa is the organization coordinating the programme, along with International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) and receiving funding from the Netherlands Embassy and Initiatief Durzame Handel (IDH).
The Programme budget is estimated to be about €20 million out of which €8 million was provided as a grant from the funding partners with the remaining amount shared between the participating companies.
Programme Manager of CORIP-Ghana, Mr. Agyare, was optimistic that by the time the Programme, which started in 2013 and expected to end by 2017, comes to an end the lesson obtained could be up-scaled to give the industry a brighter future.