Ghana Agriculture and Rural Development Journalists Association (GARDJA) has called on Parliament to impress upon the central government to ensure that a legislation is enacted to protect cocoa trees and cocoa farms across the country which were currently being destroyed by both legal and illegal small-scale mining activities.
In a three-page petition, signed by the President of GARDJA, Mr Richmond Frimpong, and his General Secretary, Mr Ernest Adu, to the Speaker of Parliament and copied to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology, Ghana Cocoa Board, the group states that “as you are aware, cocoa plays an important role in the economy of Ghana.”
It asserted that reports from Ghana Cocoa Board indicated that the cocoa industry employed approximately 800,000 farm families spread over six of the ten regions of the country.
The petition noted that the crop was said to generate about US$2 billion in foreign exchange annually and thus a major contributor to government revenue and gross domestic product.
“We are bringing to your kind attention a serious development that is negatively impacting the cocoa sector heavily—the destruction of cocoa farms to make way for other non-equally economically sound activities over the last five years,” the petition said.
According to the petition, more than 4,000 acres of cocoa farms have been destroyed by irresponsible human activities in the Eastern Region alone,
“…and according to estimated figures from farmers in communities such as Asiam in the Ayensuah North District, as well as Asikasu and Akim Breman in the Upper West Akim District.”
It further disclosed that hundreds of farmers have been left jobless as a result.
The petition noted that these were conservatively estimated figures from the beginning of the year and we are sure more of such destructions have happened since.
It stated that the lands that were in use for cocoa farming have now been taken over for rubber plantations, most of the times, without the consent of the cocoa farmers themselves.
The petition pointed out that rich people and companies developing such rubber plantations grab the lands from chiefs higher up without recourse to traditional leaders on the ground.
“They then move in and turn the cocoa farms into rubber plantations. In the process, thousands of cocoa trees are destroyed on the land without recourse to the due procedure,” it asserted.
In this country, the petition contended that cocoa farmers were required by law to sell the commodity to the government only through licensed buying companies registered by COCOBOD.
“It is illegal for individual farmers to export cocoa because the government deems it a key commodity that is helping to sustain the economy.
“Government is so protective of the cocoa pod. So, why should we treat the tree that bears the pod with such carelessness to the extent that anyone can get up and go cut down the tree without sanction? This should not be happening in any serious country,” the petition urged.
In the Ashanti Region, it stated that the destruction of cocoa farms, mainly from the activities of illegal miners, was very troubling.
According to the petition, the problem was most predominant in the Amansie West and East districts as well as Ejisu, and the Asante Akyem Central and North districts.
Despite the progress being made with the fight against illegal mining, the petition indicated that such destruction to cocoa trees to make way for illegal mining have continued to date.
It said the implication of the continuous destruction of cocoa farms could be dire for the country.
The petition noted It has great risks for the economy because the country continues to lose foreign exchange which could threaten the very fundamentals of the country’s economy.
“A lot of money from cocoa is pumped into educational, health and road infrastructure in this country annually which will be lost if we continue to destroy our cocoa trees.
“And the environment is being badly damaged as these cocoa trees go down,” it said
The situation, the petition said, was what has informed the decision of the GARDJA on behalf of silent cocoa farmers to call on Parliament to impress upon the government to enact laws to protect cocoa trees and farms.
This law, the petition stressed, should make it mandatory for the requisite permit to be sought from appropriate government institutions like COCOBOD before cocoa trees can be brought down under any circumstance at all.