Cocoa farmers in the Juaboso constituency in particular and the Western North Region in general, are wailing over what they claim to be failure of their Cocoa trees to yield the maximum fruits this cocoa season.
Affected farmers, who claim that this season’s produce fall far below those of last year’s and previous year’s attributed a number of reasons to this phenomenon. Among these assigned reasons are, long draught, late but heavy fall of rains and lack of imputes-agro chemicals, and their untimely supply. But according to Mr. Godfred Dankyi Frimpong, the District Cocoa Officer CHED, COCOBOD at Juaboso, the phenomenon has come about as a result of disease and the cutting down of large hectors of affected cocoa farms for rehabilitation. He was however quick to point out that Cocoa production in the country has exceeded over one million metric tonnes in recent years, thus making an unprecedented record since independence.
SWOLLEN SHOOT IS THE PROBLEM.
Speaking to this medium Mr. Dankyi maintained that the Cocoa disease of swollen shoot, which had gone endemic, had affected large tracks of Cocoa farms in the Western North Region and the Juaboso District in particular.
“The disease, having gone viral, has become endemic in the District!” he stressed. He noted that over 80,000 hectors of cocoa farm lands have been affected and have been cut down for rehabilitation by COCOBOD through the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA).
2012 BEST COCOA FARMER SUFFERS
According to the Cocoa Officer with the pandemic nature of the disease, the 2012 Best National Cocoa Farmer, in Nana Agyenim-Boateng of Dangermu Akaatiso has not been spared the phenomenon. He revealed that the Best Farmer, who could produce over 6000 bags of cocoa, i.e 375 tonnes a year, is now struggling to produce 300 bags as a result of the disease. He pointed out that about 100 heactors of his cocoa farms will have to be out for rehabilitation.
WAY FORWARD IS REHABILITATION
The cocoa officer argued that the way forward is the rehabilitation programme embarked upon by government. This programme, started about three (3) years ago, has choked about 85% success. He indicated that in this exercise, affected farmers are compensated with 1000 Ghana Cedis per hector. Also, the programme employs labourers to do the cutting, while free plantain suckers are also supplied to the farmer, with the planting and weeding of the farms are handed over back to the affected farmers after three years. Mr. Frimpong indicated that since Cocoa seedlings so planted are hibride, it takes between 24 and 35 months to yields.
The Officer pointed out that the exercise has not gone without challenges with the main ones being resistance and politics. While arguing that the disease has no political colours, he urged farmers to eschew this and join the exercise for the betterment of themselves and the country. He also called for education in this regard to get farmers on board, maintaining that a time will come, when government hold on the exercise could be transferred to individual affected farmers following change in government policy.
FARMERS POINT OF VIEW
On his pent Mr. Francis Boadu, District Chief farmer, Ghana Cocoa Coffee and sheanut Farmers, speaking for farmers, assigned three (3) reasons for the under production of Cocoa farms this Season. These he indicated are, Climate Change, Dead Cocoa Trees and Chemical Aspects.
Expatiating, Mr. Boadu noted that due to climate change the rainfall pattern in the country has changed. Subsequently, rains do not come at the expected time, while draught also prolongs, thus affecting cocoa production.
The chief farmer was also quick to point out that as a result of the swollen shoot disease in the district, most cocoa trees have been affected and have to be cut down for rehabilitation.
On chemical side, the chief farmer noted that agro-chemicals are mostly unavailable and reach farmers at wrong times. He said that it is in respect of this that farmers co-operatives have been formed to correct this problem. He pointed out that members of these co-operatives stand to benefit as data is taken from them by the various society heads (about 15 of them) to enable them supply the required farming inputs to member farmers.
GOVERNMENT IS DOING WELL.
The chief former was full of praise for Government in this cocoa rehabilitation of deceased cocoa farms. According to him, through CHED labourers are employed to cut down affected trees, plant plantain suckers and cocoa seedlings, weed around them for three (3) years before handing over to the owners. He also pointed out that government compensates farmers for farms cut.
MAINTENANCE OF REHABILITATED FARMS
According to Mr. Boadu, after about three years, when the rehabilitated forms start to yield fruits, they are handed over to their rightful owners. However Mr. Dankyi Frompong, District Cocoa Officer, maintains that maintenance of the rehabilitated farms becomes a problem because most of the affected farmers are settlers, and since they could not withstand the death of their cocoa trees en mass, they had to go back to their various destinations. He therefore called for the partnership between government and such farmers towards the maintenance of such farms so as to boast cocoa production in the country.
WOES OF THE CHIEF FARMER
According to the Chief farmer he has held this position for well over six years. However, it has been with difficulties all this while. He indicated that doing the work with passion, he has endured these difficulties all these years to an unbearable stage. He mentioned that his large catchment area comprise over 15 societies. This, he said need constant visit to all of them occasionally for various reasons. Sadly enough, he has to do this at his own expense by footing his bills and even hiring cars on such trips. He subsequently appealed to government to come to their by way of cars and cash for effective monitoring to boast cocoa production once more in the country.
By S.O. Ankamah