About 2,000 farmers in the Upper West Akim District of the Eastern Region have lost their cocoa farms to rubber plantation companies, as rubber investors offer more cash for stool lands.
“The land belongs to the chiefs and these chiefs have released the land to the rubber farmers because they have paid for it. So the chiefs have asked the farmers to pull the cocoa trees down,” The President of the West Akim Farmer Cooperative and Marketing Union, Ohene Boafo, told the B&FT.
According to Mr. Boafo about 2,000 farmers are affected by the decision of the chiefs to pull down the cocoa trees. The affected areas include: Akim Breman, Kuro dua, and Asikasu Odumase all in the Upper West Akim District.
He said when the farmers reported the issue to the farmer union, they tried their best to resolve the matter but it proved futile.
“The farmers reported the issue to the farmer union and we try our best but the problem is not yet solved. Am appealing to authorities to step in so that the remaining farms will be left to the farmers,” he added.
He said since most of the farmers are aging there is the need to make cocoa farming very attractive in order to attract the youth but looking at how the stool land owners are treating the farmers it will discourage the youth in the area from taking up cocoa farming.
He therefore called for a legal backing for the protection of cocoa farms in the country, saying: “If there is a legal backing for cocoa farming, I don’t think the rubber plantation investors will come to their farms and destroy them.”
The Cocoa Life support
Cocoa Life, a programme under Mondelez International, has been providing hybrid cocoa-seedlings to farmers who are under the programme.
The seedling which are nursed by Tree Global, has a maturity period of 18months as against the Tetteh Quarshie seedlings which has over 8 years maturity period.
Ohene Boafo, who is one of the farmers under the programme told the press during a tour on his farm that initially he was able to harvest 2bags from a hectare of land but as a result of the hybrid cocoa seedlings and the good farming practices that Coco Life has been showing him, his yield has improved to eight (8) cocoa bags per hectare.
“Cocoa Life has given us a lot of education through their cocoa extension agents. We were told how to maintain our farms well, in terms of weeding, pruning, spraying and adopting good agricultural practices and in fact I listen to the advice and my yield has increased.
Sometimes, when we don’t have enough rains the yield decreases but the coca life seedlings can survive for some months without rainfall. Cocoa Life buys the seedlings and supply them to us without any cost.
1.5million m/t target feasible
Despite the threats posed by the shift in cocoa to rubber cultivation, and the adverse impact of illegal mining on huge hectares of cocoa farms, authorities believe that the 1.5million metric tonnes (m/t) target within four years is achievable.
Ghana Cocoa Board’s (Cocobod) Board Chair, Hackman Owusu-Agyemang, told the B&FT that: “It is our objective to achieve a targeted 1.5 million tonnes of cocoa bean in the next couple of years. This is doable, we can achieve this within the next three to four year. A study conducted by the scientists at the Cocoa Research Institute has shown.”
It also entails ensuring the quality of planting materials, the adoption of irrigation on farms and the replanting of over aged cocoa farms.
The country is hopeful of exceeding its revised 800,000 tonne target for cocoa production this season due to good rains.
Cocoa purchases in the country, the world’s second-largest cocoa grower, totaled 691,149 tonnes as of March 23, from the start of the 2016/17 season on Oct. 1, a four percent rise on last season, Cocobod dat shows.
The Cocobod, Mr. Owusu-Agyemang said, is revamping its high tech programme by subsidizing fertilizers, both liquid and granular, for farmers to address the soil fertility problems.
“We are mindful of the fact that fertilizers supplied to farmers in the past have followed a blanket formula with rate of application of 150kg/acre, regardless of soil type and agro-ecological conditions.
Although the blanket fertilizer formulas lead to significant yield increase, especially in the second and third years of application, they are not supportive of sustainable cocoa production because they fail to account for the inherent characteristics of the various soil groups and agribusiness of the cocoa landscapes,” he said.
To protect the environment and to optimise returns from fertilizer application, Mr. Owusu-Agyemang indicated that Cocobod is taking steps to ensure that fertilizer formulation for cocoa in the country is made site-specific, and to build up capacity of farmers in integrated soil fertility management for sustainable cocoa production.