Cocoa Awards going to rich and powerful?
Bar Association tells authorities - Give Cocoa Awards to Farmers’ kids ... Not the rich and powerfulThe Ghana Bar Association (GBA) has asked authorities to ensure that cocoa scholarships go to children and wards of farmers’ and not to children from affluent parents who have never set foot on any cocoa farm.
This is to ensure that farmers’ children benefit from the sweat of their parents who have over the years ensured the financial footing that has propelled the nation over the years. The association has accordingly tasked the Kufuor government to put mechanism in place to identify ‘the real farmers’ children for the awards.
This is contained in a forty-point resolution adopted at the GBA 2002/2003 Conference held at Elmina on October 3. The conference was under the theme “Sustaining Good Governance-The Role of the Legal Profession and announced at a press conference in Accra.
Signed by Paul Adu Gyamfi, President and Benson Nutsukpui, Secretary, the communique commended government for its policy on mass cocoa spraying and urged it to time the spraying to enable farmers reap full benefit from the exercise. The association advised the government to make the farmers aware that the exercise is free and that a farmer does not have to pay money to any officials undertaking the job.
Since its introduction after independence, very little can be said about the benefit of Cocoa Board Scholarship to farmers’ wards. Accusations of diversion of scholarships to children of ministers, top public servants and people with connections in high places who have never contributed in anyway to the cultivation of the crop, have been rife and still flying about.
To add to that, the only hospital that has been financed by the Ghana Cocoa Board, called Cocoa Clinic is based in Accra, where there are no cocoa farmers. The timing of the release of grants to the fortunate farmers’ children to have won the scholarship has also been criticised. The practice over the years has been that the funds are sometimes released very late to the extent the recipients derive very little benefit from them.
During the Eastern Regional Farmers’ Day held last week, Minister of Finance, Yaw Osafo Maafo announced that the government had within 18 months increased Cocoa Board Scholarships to farmers’ children. The minister did not mention by how much the scholarship went up, but one legitimate question is to what extent do actual farmers’ children benefit from the scholarships.
Past studies on the cocoa industry concluded that since the 1980s the real gains of cocoa farmers from the crop has been dwindling fast to the extent that many farmers abandoned their crops, which were consumed by fire. The rest resorted to smuggling their crops to neighbouring countries for higher prices. The studies partly attributed the trend to low producer prices and lack of motivation.
It is believed that smuggling of cocoa from Ghana to Cote D’Ivoire is the major cause of Ghana losing her leading producer status to the Western border nation. Ghana is now officially placed third behind Indonesia.
The GBA also touched on President Kufuor’s Zero Tolerance for Corruption, saying that much as the declaration was lofty government ought to institutionalize discipline and accountability in ministers and government officials.
The emerging trends of debate on national issues on tribal lines was also a source of worry to GBA. The lawyers’ body advised government to ensure greater sensitivity to national issues and take measures to promote regional and gender balance as an integral part of sustaining peace and development.
On the Dagbon Chieftancy crisis, GBA advised government to deal decisively with all those found guilty by the Wuaku Commission. While the country is awaiting the report, GBA urges all the factions in the conflict to avoid inflammatory language that would worsen the situation.
GBA said it was alarmed by the increasing violence against women by their husbands and male partners. It called on the Ghana Police Service to strengthen the Women and Children Juvenile Unit of the Ghana Police Service to perform effectively.
The Ministry of Justice and Attorney General’s Department was also prevailed upon to initiate a comprehensive review of obsolete laws in response to internationally acceptable norms of gender equality.