News Commentary On Destruction Of Cocoa Farms By Illegal Gold Miners: Time To Curtail This Menace
Cocoa is the Chief agricultural export of Ghana with the country being the second largest cocoa exporter in the world after Cote d’Ivoire. Ghana’s cocoa cultivation, however, is noted to be one of the most modelled commodities and valuables. Throughout the country, cocoa is mainly produced in family-run medium sized plantations, extending on an average of two to three hectares of land, mostly across six regions, namely – Western, Eastern, Ashanti, Bono, Ahafo and Central. As many as 800 thousand people work directly on cocoa plantations, but nowadays, many more are involved across the commercial, industrial and service sectors of the economy. Due to fluctuating rainfall patterns and decreasing fertility of the soil, the Western region is now Ghana’s main producer of cocoa. Cocoa production has rapidly declined due to climate change, pests and poor soil health. But consumer demands for sustainable cocoa, is necessitating an increase in its production. In Ghana, millions of cocoa farmers continue to work under extremely hard and grueling conditions and yet do not earn the deserving income. On average, cocoa farmers earn just six percent of the final value of a bar of chocolate. Currently, cocoa farmers in Ghana receive about GHc 12,800 per ton or GHc 800 per 64 kilogram a bag for the 2022/2023 planting season, which began in October last year. The main importer of Ghana’s cocoa is the United States of America, with other countries such as Spain, Japan, France, the Netherlands, Germany, and the United Kingdom, also patronizing our product.
Tetteh Quarshie, a Ghanaian farmer was recognized widely as the one who brought the cocoa seed from Fernando Po, an island off Equatorial Guinea in 1870 into the former British Gold Coast now Ghana. But in recent times, the country’s cocoa industry has come under severe threat ever, as illegal gold miners continue to unleash a relentless onslaught on cocoa farms, including those recently rehabilitated under a national rehabilitation program. The Ghana Cocoa Board has warned, that the industry will face a possible disaster if these illegal activities are not brought to a halt. The Executive Director of Cocoa Health and Extension Services, Rev. Edwin Afari, has sounded the alarm bell, saying that the National Cocoa Rehabilitation Program being undertaken by the government at a cost of about GHc 4.8 billion was under serious threat from illegal mining or galamsey activities. He said recently, he was around the Bonso area in the Aowin Municipality of the Western Region and about 36.5 hectares of land of cocoa trees had been cut down for galamsey activities. According to him, the situation had gone from bad to worse over the past 10 years and consequently appealed to the Minerals Commission to refrain from giving mining concessions to miners in cocoa growing areas, while urging all stakeholders to help curb the negative impact of galamsey on cocoa production in the country. It is a fact that illegal mining activities are so alarming in the Western-South cocoa region, including the Wassa Akropong corridor and parts of Ashanti Region, including Manso Adubia, Antoakrom and Anyinam in the Eastern Region, where several hectares of juvenile cocoa farms are destroyed daily on regular basis.
The National Cocoa Rehabilitation programme was launched in September, 2020, at Sefwi Wiawso in the Western Region, with the tacit objective of rehabilitating farms affected by the cocoa swollen shoot disease and therefore, had become unproductive. After piloting the program in some of the worst affected cocoa growing areas in the country, the programme was extended to various cocoa growing regions. Under the Rehabilitation programme, COCOBOD bears the full cost of the two-year long rehabilitation process, which involves the cutting down of diseased trees, treating the farms and replanting with disease-tolerant, easily bearing high yielding cocoa varieties. In addition, COCOBOD, gives GHc 1,000.00 per hectare to each farmer, whose farm is affected by the disease, while in the case of tenancy, farmers and their landowners are duly compensated. It is significant to note, that many forest areas where cocoa have been cultivated had been encroached upon by the illegal miners and in some cases, the galamseyers were said to have bought huge tracts of land meant for cocoa farming for illegal mining. As clearly pointed out by Rev. Afari, if stringent measures are not taken to reverse this obnoxious practice, national cocoa volumes produced would be greatly affected and the country would suffer.
Indeed, this is the time for the government to take steps to ”nib in the bud” the wicked and atrocious behavior of these illegal small-scale miners, whose activities tend to affect the major cash crop and foreign exchange earner for our dear nation. It is quite unfortunate that, while steps are being taken to revamp the country’s ailing economy through a bailout from the International Monetary Fund and other bilateral partners and foreign interventions, there are other wicked and unconscionable individuals and organizations, who are bent on derailing the process. By now Tetteh Quarshie of blessed memory, through whose toils and sweats enabled Ghana to be on the limelight and at the forefront when it comes to cocoa production, will be turning in his grave due to the massive destruction being caused to cocoa farms by these illegal small-scale miners. Something must be done and done quickly.
By: Charles Neequaye, a Journalist.