Ghana's push to produce a million tonnes of cocoa annually is on course as farmers in cocoa growing communities have embraced new technologies of going about their farming activities.
Farmers in the Mpohor Wassa East District of the Western Region have adopted improved agronomic practices, ensuring that the farms remain cleared of weeds; trees are pruned periodically, while fertiliser application techniques and fermentation of cocoa beans have all seen improvements.
A traditional leader and farmer, Nana Okai Boadu II, told graphic.com.gh at Sekyere Krobo in the Mpohor Wassa East District that farmers had seen tremendous improvements in their harvests after they partnered with extension officers detailed to the community under the Cadbury Cocoa Partnership (CCP).
The CCP is a GB£30-million public-private partnership between Cadbury/Kraft Foods, the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and implementing partners including Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), World Vision and CARE International.
The partnership is funded by Kraft Foods in an effort to contribute to ensuring that cocoa production is sustained in Ghana through multiple interventions such as encouraging farmers to understand farming as business, whipping up the interest of the youth in cocoa farming while discouraging child labour within cocoa growing communities.
Nana Boadu told graphic.com.gh during a media field visit that yields from their cocoa farms got so bad that some people either sold their lands or converted them to rubber plantations.
“I used to get less than a bag of cocoa from my 20-acre farm. But after implementing lessons from Cadbury Cocoa Partnership programme, I now harvest not less than 10 bags,” the chief and cocoa farmer said, adding that he would no longer take kindly to anyone who suggested he cut down his cocoa trees for rubber.
Nana Boadu is not alone in the positive testimony. His colleague farmer Agnes Owuredu, Ms Felicia Yeboah, Mr Richard Domeh and Mr Kobla Hamidu are among those who have seen results on their farms after embracing the various interventions implemented under the CCP programme which started in 2008 and is to end in 2018.
They commended the CCP programme for a number of interventions including the distribution of spraying machines, solar lanterns and bicycles, and called on the government to supplement their efforts with more spraying machines.
Madam Agnes Owuredu, for her part, said the farming communities had also well understood the issue of child labour and no more engaged their children in difficult labour, but rather allow them to go to school.
“Of course they engage in petty work as children helping their parents to carry an item or help with simple errands. We no more engage them in commercial work that bring income to us; no never,” Mad Owuredu said.
The farmers are also happy about the farmer cooperative societies that had been formed in the communities as that was helping them to save and also undertake some projects to help the entire community.
The Sekyere Krobo community for instance has three societies with 200 members who learn about basic book-keeping and management and personal financial tips. The societies have since investment GH¢10,000 in investment instruments and are preparing the ground to convert their activities in a full blown community bank.
However, a 23-year-old Kweku Ampong, a second-year university student from the community, also told graphic.com.gh that the programme needed to target more youth involvement in their activities so as to whip up their interest in farming.
But to respond to such concerns, the CCP has an intervention called the Cadbury Cocoa Ambassador, who are students from tertiary institutions who go into the communities to influence their peers to take schooling seriously but also have interest in the farming activity.
The story was the same at Sekyere Adiemra, where the CCP programme has provided bicycles for use by children of cocoa farmers, who trek miles to and from school.
The programme has also provided boreholes for potable water, distributed solar lanterns and installed solar panels to enable the pupils attend prep in the evenings.
The Programme Director, Mrs Yaa Peprah Amekudzi, advised the farmers to continue to be assiduous, work hard and ensure that they used their incomes in ways that would impact their entire family, especially their wives and children.
She assured them that the programme was on course to putting up teachers’ quarters for some of the communities, including Sekyere Adiemra to ensure that teachers posted to the area become comfortable and stay.
The CCP began work in 100 communities and has since 2011 partnered additional 109 cocoa-producing communities, bringing the number to 209.
A Community Challenge Fund has been set up under the programme and 11 projects in selected communities are being financed at a cost of GH¢1.7 million for the 2010-2012 project cycle.